Even as tales and whispers of the bygone era of Polo’s heyday in Madras in the 1960s and 70s begin to fade away, a group of equestrian enthusiasts have taken it upon themselves to revive this pride of the city. RITZ catches up with Irshad Mecca about his newest venture in the field of sports on the sidelines of a Polo training match.
While Irshad Mecca may be known for many things, like his flourishing business under the Farida Group, his enterprise and his impeccable gentlemanly demeanour, Irshad also has quite the exquisite taste in sports. Though, a late entrant into the sport, the man thrums with all the excitement of a Polo aficionado. “I used to watch the kids take part in Dressage and Show Jumping; horse riding looked enjoyable and so I decided to give it a try,” he says.
In a bid to bring this sport back into vogue in the city, Irshad along with sporting veterans like AC Muthiah and Kishore Futnani were part of Polo 2.0 Chennai. Polo 2.0 marked the return of the sport after a hiatus of about 30 years. “The tournament which created a remarkable buzz was the result of a Friday evening discussion. The following Sunday we had the match,” Irshad reveals.
Describing the game as tactical as playing chess while galloping on horseback, the gleam in Irshad’s eyes as he talks about Polo is unmistakably one of love for the sport and the adrenaline rush that it offers. “The dynamics of the game are completely different from all other equestrian sports. Polo is an intellectually stimulating game and game strategies change with every passing second.
Even as most sporting formats have evolved over the years, Polo is today a T20 version of the game. “Polo has become more of a spectator sport. Unlike the earlier version of the game which was played on a 10-acre field, arena polo is much more engaging.” Talking about his game plan to revive the sport, Irshad admits that fresh blood is the only way to popularise the sport. “In order to sustain the sport we need more young people to participate. We are trying to expand into colleges. We have managed a tie up with Hindustan University.”
But doesn’t such accessibility mean polo loses its ‘niche’ tag which adds to the sheen and glamour of the sport? “I personally think that it doesn’t have to be such an elitist sport,” Irshad says. We are joined by Irshad’s fellow polo enthusiasts who back his personal take. “Horses are the most beautiful animals in all Creation. Just watching a herd of horses running is probably the most exotic sight that there is. You don’t need to add any more sheen, they offer you the ‘glamour’ of the sport,” they laugh. We are in agreement.
Irshad who was part of the polo team that won a tournament in Hyderabad, plays at least 4 days a week. “I’d play through the week if I could,” he smiles, while hinting at a large scale event in the city sometime soon. N.V. Ravi, President of the Madras Riding School reveals that a tournament is on the calendar, most likely, during the first week of June.
As we end our little chinwag to divert our attention to the practice session, Irshad says, “This game is not just about strategy, it also allows you this bonding between horse and rider. Your horse literally gives you its all till its last breath. That’s what makes it, the Sport of Kings.”