Organizers of the prestigious Ibadan annual polo tournament have promised that the 2021 edition of the glamorous fiesta will make the western region capital city come alive with the guaranteed presence of some of the best players from within and outside the country.
The tournament, well known for its exciting atmosphere and relaxed setting is scheduled to gallop off from May 18 through May 23 in the sprawling city of ancient Oyo Kingdom.
Traditional venue of the grand fiesta remains the foremost Eleyele Polo Ground which is currently undergoing massive restoration, with its own natural and inviting appeal that offers world-class sports venues in a casually elegant environment to play and observe the dramatic and artistic sport of polo.
Bola Adeyemi, the Ibadan Polo Club Captain, confirmed that arrangements are in top gear to ensure that the event will remain an epoch that will linger in the memories of all participants, invited guests and enthusiasts of the king of games.
“We would have teams featuring players as young as 15 years during this year’s event and this is as a result of the club’s many efforts to increase the awareness for the game among younger people,” declared the captain, adding the fiesta will be hosted under strict compliance with COVID -19 safety protocols.
Adeyemi also disclosed that over fifteen teams coming from Kano, Kaduna, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Lagos and host Ibadan have indicated interests to participate as the best players and patrons in the country set their sights on Ibadan.
Meanwhile, teams will battle for three major trophies, which are Ibadan Cup for players with handicap +8 to +12 as well as Brig. Gen. Rotimi Cup for players with handicap +3 to +7 and the Ade Alakija Memorial Cup for players in the -2 to +2 handicap category.
The Ibadan Cup presented in the early 1930s by Colonel R. Petit of the 9th Lancer of the then British colonial masters, remains the biggest and the most wanted Ibadan polo laurel for over 60 years now.
Winners and runners-up of Ibadan’2021 festival to be sponsored chiefly by the Oyo State Government with corporate and individual benefactors, would also cart home subsidiary prizes like the Professor Jide Owoeye Cup, GOC Cup, HST Cup and Shoreline Cup, among others.
“We are ready for our tournament with the right frame of mind, having picked up a few tricks from our Xmas mini tournament last December,” former Captain Koyin Owoeye warned.“ Anybody who stands on our way in any of the cups we are targeting would pay dearly for it.”
Yet pundits would be hard pressed to pick the winning contingent at the forthcoming even with the presence of the usual strong Lagos, Kaduna and Kano contingents who will be on hand to rekindle their age-long rivalry and not ruling out from the new entrants from Abuja.
Incidentally, the event that was washed off last year due to the outbreak of COVID-19 as such Ibadan 2021 Polo Fiesta would not only be exciting but competitive in years being the first national polo tournament to be held this year
In the mix would be Nigeria’s top rated professional and Kaduna talisman Bello Buba and he reckoned that Kaduna would be up to the billing when the battles for honours gallop off next weekend, warning host Ibadan not to count their chicks just yet as visiting teams would not be pushed overs.
For the benefit of new enthusiasts, the oldest polo clubs in the country, Ibadan Polo Club which is nestling on a part of Eleyele Army Barrack was established by the Nigerian Army in the early 1930s as such officers form the largest number of playing members alongside European expatriates and affluent Nigerians.
It is on record that with this eminent position as one the first generation polo clubs in the country, the club is revered as one of the most exclusive clubs where families, friends, and neighbours can relax and enjoy the afternoon watching polo or socializing on a regular basis.
With the game at its core, Ibadan polo tournaments over the decades have become not only a time of action and exhilaration on the field, but also of celebration and reconnections with friends and family off the field.
Already, the ancient city is in a buoyant mood and this prestigious polo carnival that annually draws the biggest crowd to the city, promises to thrill from start to finish.