*Quality of ponies encourage our performance
By Oluwole Francis
Superintendent of Police Nigeria Police Force Headquarters, Haruna Shehu Shagari, on Tuesday hailed the performance of his team at the just concluded Argungu Polo tournament, adding that IGP Strikers were always the team to beat.
The tournament which was organised by Alhaji Nura Kangiwa, the Turaki’n Kebbi and Patron of NSK Farms galloped off on Thursday and ended on Sunday.
Shagari who doubles as the Vice President and Vice Captain of the IGP Strikers said that despite finishing as runners up in the late Umaru Shinkafi’s Cup, the IGP Strikers were always a team to beat in any tournament.
“IGP Strikers is an old polo team which had been in existence even before I joined the Nigeria Police Force. It had been headed by some senior officers back in the 70s and 80s like late Umaru Shinkafi, Bello Abdullahi, a retired AIG, Keifas Silas, to mention a few.
“These were great polo players back in the days. So, we were and up till now are a team to beat because in all the tournaments of the Nigeria Polo Federation (NPF) we have participated in, we usually finish as winners or at the very least as runners up,” he said.
The Superintendent of Police who is the son of former President, Shehu Shagari however noted that inspite of all the team’s achievement, the major challenge hampering their performance in recent times was the quality of their ponies.
“We have done very well under the leadership of DCP Aliyu Abubakar who is the President and Captain of the IGP Strikers.
“But our major challenge now is with our ponies. They are very old and worn out as these were the same ponies we have been using back in the days for our tournaments.
“So, that is our challenge now. Nevertheless, we have very good and experienced players some of whom are young and more skillful and even the few old hands are still very active.
“Some of which are my boss, DCP Aliyu Abubakar (+1), my humble self (SP Haruna Shagari) +1, SP Usman Machiki Abdullahi (-1), DSP Abubakar Mohammed Awwal (-2), Abdulrahaman Mohammed (+2), Ibrahim Dantala (+2), Lado Aliyu (+2), Babawo Lawal (+1) and Nda Bala (-1),” he said.
Shagari however explained that the team’s handicap had gone up which was a major constraint since they lacked the quality of ponies to compete at that level.
“We are always placed at the high goal category in any tournament we enter for due to our team’s handicap.
“Unfortunately, our ponies are very weak and cannot compete at the level which we are currently. We often times have no choice but to settle for lesser cups since we cannot meet up with the standard and quality of ponies required at the high goal.
“In the past, we played in the low goal which was perfect for our ponies at that time. But how can we compete with Argentine ponies now? So, even though our handicaps have placed us in the high goal, our local bred ponies are no match for the Argentine ponies,” he said.
He stressed that the locally bred ponies were small in size and slow compared to the Argentine ponies which were much bigger, faster and more expensive.
“An Argentine pony can go for as high as N2 to N5 million and some of our competitors have up to 15 to 30 of them in their arsenal.
“So, how can you compete? You are not even allowed to play a local pony with an Argentine pony.
“It is said and polo players admit that the pony can account for as much as 85 percent of their overall performance. So, this is a big challenge for us. We love to play polo and every other team in our category know we are a team to beat. But we don’t have the ponies to play,” he said.
He therefore called on the IG, Commissioner of Police of the various State Commands, philanthropists as well as corporate organisations to assist the team in purchasing better ponies to enable them compete favourably with their peers.