Saturday, 10th June 2023

Lagos International Polo Tournament still driving the ‘sport of kings’

By Christian Okpara
26 February 2020   |   4:17 am
It is one of the games revered by its enthusiasts for the elegance and daring attitude of its players. Popularly known as the ‘Sport of Kings,’ Polo, which was introduced to Lagos...

Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila (left); Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-olu; Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun and Executive Director, GTBank, Hassan Musa during the presentation of the Majekodunmi Cup on the final day of the GTB Lagos International Polo Tournament… recently.

It is one of the games revered by its enthusiasts for the elegance and daring attitude of its players. Popularly known as the ‘Sport of Kings,’ Polo, which was introduced to Lagos, Nigeria in 1904 by British Naval Officers, drew the cream of the society to the Ribadu Road ground of the Lagos Polo Club.

The gathering and the innovations done by the Lagos Polo Club on the ground reminded connoisseurs of the sport what it used to be in the early days.

Polo, which is one of the oldest sports in Nigeria, never got into a competitive stage until about a decade after. In 1914, Kaiser Wilhelm II, King of Germany presented a Sterling Silver Cup (now known as the Independence Cup) for a championship between Nigeria and the German Cameroun’s. This was the beginning of another era for the game in Nigeria. Gradually, top civil servants and senior citizens became members of the club and since then, the game has gradually evolved.

A Nigerian, Dr. Majekodunmi donated the now famous Majekodunmi Cup to be competed for by the highest handicap players at club tournaments.

Other cups within the club are the Silver Cup, Low Cup, Open Cup, Governors Cup, while there are subsidiary cups such as Independence Club; Italian Ambassador’s Cup and Oba of Lagos Cup.

All of these cups have become the regular feature of the Annual Nigeria Polo Association Lagos International Polo Tournament, which have become the flagship of Polo competition from Nigeria and across the world.

The tourney, which usually takes place in the month of February, has always attracted professional polo players from across the country and international professionals and has also showcased Nigeria as one of the leading sporting destination in the world.

Currently, players from the Lagos Polo Club now participate in global competitions such as Bode Makanjuola; Rotimi Makanjuola and Neku Atawodi (Nigeria’s first Professional female Polo player).

Spurred to facilitate the growth of the game which is perceived as the game of the nobles and also make every tourney, a successful outing, Guaranty Trust Bank has since the year 2016 given strong support to the organisers of the tourney.

With a penchant for sustainable Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, the bank has been at the forefront of supporting Polo; widely revered as the Sport of Kings, and promoting the Lagos International Polo Tournament, which has hosted reputable personalities such as His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. Played on the grounds of the Lagos Polo Club, Ikoyi, the premier polo club in the country, the tournament has featured polo greats like Alphonso Pieres, Gonzalo Pieres and Alan Kent.

A leading advocate of Sports Education, as a major way of promoting the values of excellence and fair play whilst laying the foundation for the emergence of sporting talent, a close study of the bank’s corporate social responsibility initiatives, reflects that the bank maintains a defined Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy focused on championing causes and fostering initiatives that transform lives and uplift communities.

Speaking on the bank’s involvement with the game of Polo, The Managing Director, Mr. Segun Agbaje noted, “We love the game of polo, not only because it is one of the most anticipated events in the social calendar of the country, but also because its values such as discipline, rigour and fair play strongly resonates with our brand.

“Our sponsorship of the NPA Lagos International Polo Tournament also reflects our strong belief in the role of sports as a major vehicle of social development and our commitment to championing activities and events that bring people together.”
This year’s tournament, which lasted from February 4 to 16, 2020, saw Lagos host some of the most prestigious teams for Africa’s premier polo competition – the 2020 Lagos International Polo Tournament.

This year, the Lagos International Polo Tournament, themed “Lagos Develops Polo”, aimed at encouraging the participation of young and indigenous talented players, while featuring top class action from some of the most experienced and acclaimed polo players in and out of the country, including South Africa’s Chris Mackenzie +7, Argentina’s Andres Crespo +5, Raul Laplacette +7 and Santiago de Estrada +6, as well as Nigeria’s Neku Atawodi-Edun +5, the first black female polo player and the highest-handicapped female player at the tournament.

The competition featured 39 teams, the highest number till date, which competed in four major cups; the Silver Cup, Open Cup, Low Cup, and Majekodunmi Cup. The finals were held on February 9, 2020, with Lagos Leighton Kings clinching the prestigious Majekodunmi Cup 10-5 at the expense of Lintex Agad. NRT clinched the Low Cup while RCF won the Governor’s Cup.

Commenting on the bank’s continued support, the President of Lagos Polo Club, Mr. Ayo Olashoju said, “We are delighted to have GTBank as our sponsor.  The relationship between Lagos Polo Club and the bank is borne out of common shared values and reputation for quality.”
After sponsoring five tourneys, the bank has not given up in delighting the players through their support. Alongside the GTBank Lagos International Polo Tournament, it organizes and sponsors several other sports competitions, which includes Lagos & Ogun State Principals Cup, Masters Cup and Super Cup football competitions amongst secondary schools in Lagos and Ogun State.