by Sultan Ahmad
My dreams came true when I finally got a chance to witness the legendary polo match on the world’s highest polo ground- Shandur, a place of calm, tranquillity and peace.
From Gilgit, it took me around seven hours to get to Shandur after I had, already, travelled for 20 hours on the KKH. It was the excitement I felt that gave me so much energy that even after travelling continously for 27 hours, I was still fresh while breathing in the Shandur pass, 12500 feet above the sea level. Just at the entrance once can feel the fragrance and reverence of this big event that is fixed on the national calendar i.e. July 7 to 9 each year. One can see tents all around and thousands of people roaming around waiting for the big event on July 9. Spectators normally start reaching the place from 5th July onwards. This year there were four matches between Gilgit and Chitral. On July 7, Gilgit D and Chitral D faced each other. The winner was Gilgit. On July 8, C and B teams of both areas were in the arena. In the first match, Gilgit C took the lead while in the second match Chitral B showed greater power. In this way, two cups went to Gilgit and one to Chitral. However, it is always the match between the ‘A’ teams that decides the champion of this event. According to records, Chitral A had been the winner for the last two years i.e. 2006 and 2007.
So every body was anxious waiting for the final day. We went to the ground an hour before the starting time. The match was scheduled to begin at 11:00 on July 9. We were thrilled to see the floating throng towards the polo ground. The whole area is simply ‘as-it-is’ except a small stadium where guests and invitees sit. We were waiting for the game to begin and then it was announced that the chief guest is late and it may take 30 minutes. We were just counting seconds and finally it was 12’ O clock when the chief guest threw the ball inside the ground and the game started. Each and every second was worth seeing. Each moment in the game simply controlled the breathing of spectators. Gilgit team took lesser time to make five goals and it seemed as if they will be the winners. After the first half i.e. 25 minutes Gilgit were 5 while Chitral had scored 3. The rest time in between was too long and there were many speeches which really took away the taste of the game. Finally the second half began and it was a real war time. At the end of the second half, both teams had scored 7. Each moment was worth seeing and enjoying. Additional ten minutes were offered for the decision and the Chitral team scored 2 decisive goals which left Gilgit behind and Chitral became the winner for the third consecutive year.
To put in a nut shell, this even is a real legend for many reasons and it is a life time experience to be in Shandur watching free style polo at its best between the two historical rivalries of pol