Iranian Amazons reclaim the thrice millenary Persian game of Polo

Iranian Amazons reclaim the thrice millenary Persian game of Polo ...
efe.com 14/08/2016 Sports

Keywords:#Australia, #Buenos_Aires, #Efe.com, #Farsi, #France, #Golnar, #Guilan, #Iran, #Iranian, #Isfahan, #Islamic, #Islamic_Republic, #Islamic_Republic_of_Iran, #Persia, #Persian, #Persian_Empire, #President, #Safavid, #Tehran, #UNESCO, #US, #Vakil, #World_Heritage

Iranian Amazons reclaim the thrice millenary Persian game of Polo
Tehran, Aug 13(EFE).- Nearly 3,000 years since the game of polo surged in the region currently occupied by the Islamic Republic of Iran, a small but enthusiastic group of Iranian women maintain this equestrian ball game alive and seek to make it popular "in its own country" again.
(FILE) An archive image dated 2016 shows an Iranian female Polo player. Nearly 3,000 years since the game of polo surged in the region currently occupied by the Islamic Republic of Iran, a small but enthusiastic group of Iranian women maintain this equestrian ball game alive and seek to make it popular "in its own country" again.

* * * Equipped with their polo helmet, long-handled mallet, solid woooden ball and all the apparel required to play "Chogan" (polo in Farsi) plus the hijab, the compulsory veil all iranian women must wear in public, the female Iranian players compete in "five or six" increasingly popular tournaments. Their followers see this as a "prosperous moment" for Iranian polo.
"Fortunately, polo has flourished once again. Iranian women have been playing polo for the past 15 years and their numbers increase every day. The sport has returned to its own country" explained Golnar Vakil Guilaní, president of the Iranian Polo Federation to EFE.
Nowadays there are "around 24 or 25 women" that play polo in the country; a sport traditionaly considered "unladylike" but which Iranian women see as a way "to demonstrate their skills on the field and on a par with male players" added Guilani.
"For me, it is a good, exciting game. It may be a rough sport but I find that attractive as it forces the player to face the challenge and play the field. Wearing a hijab doesn't affect our game at all" pointed out the Iranian Polo President.
For now, this sport has the approval of Iranian authorities and the matches receive some media exposure although the sport's inner core is strictly amateur and expenses are still covered by players.
Katayu Inyalayi, Iran's top polo player, is a mother of two and has been "in love" with the game for the past 20 years and, apart from Iran, has played in the US, Australia and France. Speaking to EFE she said that she was "very happy" that people discovered that female polo exists and looks forward to more women players in the future.
In any case, regardless of their enthusiasm, their handicap remains low and the Chukkas' (time periods a polo match is divided into) gallops, speed and power are light years away from what can be seen at the Buenos Aires Campo Argentino de Polo, where the World's best polo is played.
Most Iranian female players come from Polo-related families: their fathers, brothers or husbands are either players or horse-breeders.
This evidences also the "aristocratic" nature of the game although Inyalayí points out that "Irán is possibly the World's cheapest place to play Polo" as the Polo Clubs and Federation own most of the competition horses so members have only got to pay their member's quotas.
The origins of Polo probably go back Millenia somewhere in the Asian steppes, but the first historical record is around 6th Century BC Persia when it became a national sport under the patronage of the Sha's family and nobility.
As a fact, the impressive Naqsh-Jahan Square in Isfahan, capital of the Persian Empire and one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, was itself a monumental polo field for the Sha and his court, where you can still see at both ends of the square its marble goalposts. In line with this long tradition, many paintings from the Safavid dynasty (1501-1722) often show polo matches, some of them played by women.
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