CHITRAL: Chitral A upset 13-times Champions, Chitral Scouts, to win District Polo Cup 2022 here at the historic Chitral Polo Ground on Monday.
Polo, “King of Games and Game of Kings”, is immensely loved and admired by the people of Chitral and every year, main town of Lower Chitral attracts spectators and tourists from different places through a freestyle polo tournament organised by the District Administration and Chitral Polo Association, named District Polo Cup Tournament.
As many as 59 teams from across Chitral took part in the tournament.
It should be noted here that ‘freestyle polo’ is exclusively played in Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan. These are the only two regions in the world where the game is played without rules or regulations, making it far more difficult and dangerous.
Chitral Scouts were sensational throughout the event and showcased why they were the favourites at the beginning of the event. However, the Chitral A team got the better of them this time after a sensational team performance and ended their 13-year dominance in the tournament.
The Chitral A team featured two former Chitral Scouts players — Mairaj Uddin and Asghar Ali Shah — who played vital roles in defeating their former team.
In a raucous and jam-packed Chitral Polo Ground, where thousands of fans gathered from all over the country, the final proved to be a fierce contest between balanced opponents.
Chitral A got off to a roaring start as they scored two early goals in the opening minutes of the first half. But, the Scouts’ team fought back after scoring two goals in one minute to level the score 2-2 at halftime.
In the second half, Chitral A regained their two-goal lead after Nasir Ullah and skipper Mairaj scored, making the score 4-2. Scouts, in a bid to make a comeback, could only score a goal in the last minutes of the game, ending the game with a score of 4-3.
Defending champions Chitral Scouts were without their skipper Israr Wali Khan, who sustained an injury after his horse slipped while attempting a ‘Thampooq’ (flying kick) in the opening match of the tournament against the Chitral Police polo team.
In the absence of Israr, Shahzad Ahmad Shahji, who also represents Pakistan’s national polo team, led Chitral Scouts.
Amir Hamza of Chitral Scouts was declared Man of the Match, while Nasir Ullah of Chitral A was named Man of the Tournament for his sensational and fierce performance throughout the tournament.
Chitral Scouts had defeated Headquarter Booni Polo club by 5-1 in the semi-final of the event on Sunday.
Booni Polo Club featuring young guns and emerging stars of the game gave a tough time to their opponents in the first half, levelling the game 1-1 at half-time.
However, Chitral Scouts showed their true class and scored four more goals to win the game 5-1 and qualify for the final of the tournament.
Meanwhile, the Chitral A team paved their way through the finals of the yearly mega event by defeating a formidable Chitral Levies side in the second semi-final on Sunday.
The semi-final between Chitral A and Chitral Levies was a heated contest as the match stopped due to injuries to players.
Mohammad Ilyas, representing Chitral A, needed stitches after he was hit on the head by the opponent’s Mallet during the game, while his teammate Zulfiqar Hameed’s horse fell and had to be taken out of the ground.
Sources told Geo Super that the horse, named Bugatti, is undergoing treatment as he had suffered severe dehydration.
Shandur Polo Festival
The Chitral team, which locks horns with Gilgit in the historic and renowned Shandor Polo Festival, is also selected based on the performance of players from this tournament.
After a gap of three years, Shandur Polo Festival 2022 is scheduled for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd of July.
It is pertinent to mention here that Chitral are the defending champions of the traditional Shandur polo tournament, which is held at the ‘Roof of the World’ — 12,200 feet above sea level — at the Shandur Pass.
Chitral Scouts playing six: Shahzad Ahmed Shahji (c), Amir Hamza, Zia Ur Rehman, Asif Ali, Maqsood Ur Rehman, Imran Ur Rehman
Chitral A playing six: Mairaj Uddin (c), Zulfiqar Hameed, Nasir Ullah, Mohammad Ilyas, Asghar Ali Shah, Adnan Khan.