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YAK POLO BRINGS FAR OFF CHITRAL INTO LIMELIGHT
Polo as a sport is characterized by a dependency between the rider and his mount. While horses have held the status of the mount since the inception of the spor
After having inducted elephants into the league of mounts, polo aficionados have stumbled upon a variant of the sport which until now was confined to the backwaters of Mongolia and Pakistan and has recently gained some measure of spotlight. The said version utilizes yaks as the mount for the player, while the rules being borrowed judiciously from the traditional version of polo with minor logistical variations. The field size becomes smaller while the number of players in a team increases from 4 to 5 or in some cases even 6.
The game’s origins can be traced to Mongolia which saw the game as a tool to enhance tourism, much like Thailand did with Elephant Tourism. Another region where the game is played with much fervour is the Broghil Valley of the Chitral District of Pakistan. Broghil is surrounded by lofty mountains, situated at about 12,500 feet in the extreme north-east of Chitral where the locals have devised an indigenous sport to attract tourists to their isolated haven which is without modern amenities.
The local festival called ‘Jashan-e-Broghol’ held every July for the last 15 years now has yak polo as an event in its lineup, with the locals having realized the game’s potential to attract a considerable footfall. The event now attracts a generous footfall when about 1500-2000 tourists venture to the far-off valley, in anticipation of a game of yak polo.
It is an unusual sight to watch players trying to manoeuvre the heavy yaks.
They often fall down while going after the ball and go round and round the animal in order to get on top again, much to the amusement of the crowd laughing their hearts out over the struggle.
Even with the game having become a major feature drawing attention to the valley, the locals aren’t resting easy as they envisage the sport to turn into something big. Maybe a sport that could be played on national level one day, after all, every sport has modest beginnings before it bursts onto the scene. Evidently, yak polo enthusiasts have exciting times ahead for them.