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ACTION

KARIM KHAN AFRIDI MEMORIAL, ISLAMABAD POLO CLUB, PAKISTAN, NOVEMBER 2014

On 9 November, an English team comprising Michael Howe (captain), Roderick Vere Nicoll, Ed Winterton and Marcus Hancock took to the pitches at the Islamabad Polo Club in Pakistan for the first match to be played at the club by a visiting foreign team. Team Pakistan was made up of Maj Gen Isfandiyar Pataudi, Lt Col (retired) Raja Nadeem Shafiq and Arsalan Najeeb, and captained by Shaukat Malik.

Said Vere Nicoll: ‘It was a memorable trip. There was a new Battro field, good food, friendly people and an interesting culture – all very different from how it has been portrayed in the media!’ These sentiments were echoed by all who participated in the Karim Khan Afridi Memorial Polo Match, played in memory of Cristina and Tariq Afridi’s 19-year-old son, who sadly passed away last June. Tariq – who has represented Pakistan at the Polo World Cup – and Cristina are currently setting up the Karim Khan Welfare Foundation, which aims to help young people cope with the challenges they may face in life. Established in 1968, the Islamabad Club is one of the top sporting facilities in Pakistan. Its 346 acres include an Olympic-sized outdoor pool, 27-hole golf course, squash courts and a shooting

range, as well as its equestrian area. The latest additions include two polo grounds, a floodlit arena (where the first Pakistan Arena Polo Championships were held), an exercise track, paddocks and grooms’ accommodation. Designed in collaboration with Argentine experts Battro Polo Fields, the Tifton-grass grounds were built to lead the way for the sport in southern Asia. England captain Michael Howe believed the money was well spent, because the pitches played extremely well. The environmental impact of such a venture has also been taken into consideration, with irrigation supplied by rainwater from a purpose-built lake.

Inaugurated by the President of Pakistan last March, the club has welcomed key players from the world of polo, including Maj Gen Isfandiyar

We’d be honoured to develop a strong bond between the HPA and Islamabad Polo Club

Pataudi and Augustin Canale, as well as some familiar faces often seen on English polo lawns, such as Hissam Ali Hyder, Raja Temur Nadeem and Oli Hipwood.

With the aim of increasing interest in the sport in the country and creating opportunities for a new generation of polo players, an academy is run at the club by Marcus Hancock, who currently has 50 students under his tutelage. As Howe explains, ‘Marcus encourages children in polo, building their confidence rather than disciplining it out of them. The approach they take at the academy offers the best opportunity for a talented kid to excel.’ The scheduled matches between England and Pakistan did come up against the unfortunate phenomenon of ‘weather conditions’, with just one match being played on the Sunday (resulting in an 8–7 Pakistan victory), but this did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the visiting players. As well as the polo, they enjoyed dinners hosted by friends of the club and trips to some stunning locations in both the hills and the ‘real mountains’ (that is, the Himalayas), not to mention the chance to witness racing bulls and dancing horses. After the match, Nadeem remarked, ‘Despite a shortfall of horses, I hope the English have good

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