Polo

Polo, is a team sport played on horseback in which the objective is to score goals against an opposing team. Sometimes called "The Sport of Kings", it was started by Persians, and was popular in Iran until 1979, after which its popularity there declined sharply due to the Iranian Revolution. Players score by driving a small white plastic or wooden ball into the opposing team's goal using a long-handled mallet. The traditional sport of polo is played at speed on a large grass field up to 300 yards long by 160 yards wide, and each polo team consists of four riders and their mounts. Field polo is played with a solid plastic ball, which has replaced the wooden ball in much of the sport. In arena polo, only three players are required per team and the game usually involves more maneuvering and shorter plays at lower speeds due to space limitations of the arena. Arena polo is played with a small air-filled ball, similar to a small soccer ball. The modern game lasts roughly two hours and is divided into periods called chukkas (occasionally rendered as "chukkers"). Polo is played professionally in 16 countries. It was formerly, but is not currently, an Olympic sport. The game was first played in Persia at dates given from the 5th century BCE or much earlier, to the 1st century AD and originated there, polo was at first a training game for cavalry units, usually the king's guard or other elite troops. To the warlike tribesmen, who played it with as many as 100 to a side, it was a miniature battle. In time polo became an Iranian national sport played normally by the nobility. Women as well as men played the game, as indicated by references to the queen and her ladies engaging King Khosrow II Parviz and his courtiers in the 6th century AD. Certainly Persian literatur

and art give us the richest accounts of polo in antiquity. Ferdowsi, the famed Iranian poet-historian, gives a number of accounts of royal chogan tournaments in his 9th century epic, Shahnameh (the Epic of Kings). In the earliest account, Ferdowsi romanticises an international match between Turanian force and the followers of Siyavash, a legendary Iranian prince from the earliest centuries of the Empire; the poet is eloquent in his praise of Siyavash's skills on the polo field. Ferdowsi also tells of Emperor Shapur II of the Sassanid dynasty of the 4th century who learned to play polo when he was only seven years old. Naqsh-i Jahan Square in Isfahan is in fact a polo field which was built by king Abbas I in 17th century. Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan is the site of a medieval royal polo field. Sultan Qutb-ud-din Aibak, the Turkic Emperor of North India, ruled as an emperor for only four years, from 1206 to 1210 but died accidentally in 1210 playing polo. While he was playing a game of polo on horseback (also called chougan in Persia), his horse fell and Aibak was impaled on the pommel of his saddle. He was buried near the Anarkali bazaar in Lahore (which is now in Pakistan). Aibak's son Aram, died in 1211 CE , so Shams-ud-din Iltutmish, another ex-slave of Turkic ancestry who was married to Aibak's daughter, succeeded him as Sultan of Delhi. From Persia, in medieval times polo spread to the Byzantines (who called it tzykanion), and after the Muslim conquests to the Ayyubid and Mameluke dynasties of Egypt and the Levant, whose elites favoured it above all other sports. Notable sultans such as Saladin and Baybars were known to play it and encourage it in their court. Polo sticks were features on the Mameluke precursor to modern day playing cards.