Kakira Nile Polo: Club of horses, tasty food, wine & great people

By Martyn Tumwesigye

December 16, 2013

Forget the meme which goes around that horse riding is for the affluent. Maybe it is or maybe it’s not, that is a debate for another day. One thing that is visibly clear though are the traits of people who love riding horses. Horses are intelligent as well as affectionate animals and of the many sports that equestrians play with horses, polo is but one of them.
Polo-4The clearest definition of polo according to Wikipedia is that it is a team sport played on horseback in which the objective is to score goals against an opposing team. 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. The modern game lasts roughly two hours and is divided into periods called chukkers (occasionally rendered as “chukkas”).


What does it take to play polo?

Anyone can play polo and everyone is welcome to play polo at the Kakira Nile Polo Club no matter your age or gender.For you to play polo, it is important to know the basics of riding. For a Ugandan you have to apply for membership at the club whereas visiting players can play on an ad-hoc basis with permission from their clubs.

Where to play

Currently in Uganda, the sport is only played at the Kakira Nile Polo Club, about 80km east of Kampala and was introduced to the country by the Madhavani brothers Hrishi and Manaan. The brothers did not only introduce polo in Uganda, they also started the prestigious annual Kakira Nile Polo Club Classic Polo Tournament which has quickly become a great tournament both on and off the field and a must attend event on the social calendar every year. It has become an event where revelers and fans drive from Kampala and Jinja to Kakira to enjoy the great ambience of the event, great people, tasty food, good beer and wine.


How Polo is played

Played between two teams, polo comprises of four players on each side.Today’s game, teams are made up of three instead of the usual four players due to the field size. The game is divided into four periods or ‘chukkas’, each seven minutes and thirty seconds long with a three minute break between chukkas (5 at half time). A bell rings thirty seconds before the end of a chukka which ends either when the ball goes out of play or a penalty is conceded or the bell is rang once more to signal the end of a chukka.


During play there is an imaginary ‘line of ball’, this is the path of the ball in the direction it is travelling. Once a player has established ‘ownership’ of the line, his or her line may not be crossed by an opponent. If a player has put the player with the line in danger by crossing it or their right of way, they have committed a foul.  Fouls are committed for other offences too and are punishable by awarding penalty shots which are shot from 30, 40, 60 yards to the goal posts, the centre of the ground or from the spot where the foul was made.

Players are required to own atleast two horses for a match or more for each chukka because the horses tire out during the matches.

The Team

Each team consists of four mounted players, which can be mixed teams of both men and women. Each position assigned to a player has certain responsibilities:

  • Number One is the most offence-oriented position on the field. The Number One position generally covers the opposing team’s Number Four.
  • Number Two has an important role in offence, either running through and scoring themselves, or passing to the Number One and getting in behind them. Defensively, they will cover the opposing team’s Number Three, generally the other team’s best player. Given the difficulty of this position, it is not uncommon for the best player on the team to play Number Two so long as another strong player is available to play Three.
  • Number Three is the tactical leader and must be a long powerful hitter to feed balls to Number Two and Number One as well as maintaining a solid defense. The best player on the team is usually the Number Three player, usually wielding the highest handicap.
  • Number Four is the primary defense player. They can move anywhere on the field, but they usually try to prevent scoring. The emphasis on defense by the Number Four allows the Number Three to attempt more offensive plays, since they know that they will be covered if they lose the ball.


Polo players may only hold their stick in their right hand.

In an event that takes place over the weekend (Saturday and Sunday) teams normally come from East Africa. For the 2013 fourth KNPC Nile Gold Polo Classic, teams particularly came from Uganda and Kenya and were vying for the Madhavani Cup and the Nile Cup in what was a thrilling spectacle. Team Civicon(Vishal Somaia, Edward Burbidge and Robbie Kiplagat) won the Madhavani Cup while the Barclays Team won the Nile Cup.

The team sponsors for the 2013 fourth KNPC Nile Gold Polo Classic were Barclays, Civicon, John Deere TaTa, Shell V-Power, Turkish Airlines, Spear Motors and Events Warehouse.

To know more information about Kakira Nile Polo Club and playing polo in Uganda, follow them on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/KakiraNilePoloClub

Or follow them on Twitter: https://twitter.com/UgandaPolo

Or visit: www.polo.ug

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