Polo is a horseback mounted team sport. It is one of the world's oldest known team sports.
A game of Central Asian origin, polo was first played in Persia at dates given from the 6th century BC to the 1st century AD. Polo was at first a training game for cavalry units, usually the king’s guard or other elite troops. From there it spread to entire Persia and beyond. It is now popular around the world, with well over 100 member countries in the Federation of International Polo. It is played professionally in 16 countries. It was an Olympic sport from 1900 to 1936.
It is known as the sport of kings. It has become a spectator sport for equestrians and society, often supported by sponsorship.
The game is played by two opposing teams with the objective of scoring goals by using a long-handled wooden mallet to hit a small hard ball through the opposing team's goal. Each team has four mounted riders, and the game usually lasts one to two hours, divided into periods called chukkas.
Arena polo has similar rules, and is played with three players per team. The playing area is smaller, enclosed, and usually of compacted sand or fine aggregate, often indoors. Arena polo has more maneuvering due to space limitations, and uses an air inflated ball, slightly larger than the hard field polo ball. Standard mallets are used, though slightly larger head arena mallets are an option.
Although the exact origins of the game are unknown it most likely began as a simple game played by mounted Iranian nomads in Central Asia, from where it spread to Persia and beyond. In time polo became a Persian national sport played extensively by the nobility. Women played as well as men. During the period of the Parthian Empire , the sport had great patronage under the kings and noblemen. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity, polo , was a Persian ball game and an important pastime in the court of the Sasanian Empire. It was also part of royal education for the Sasanian ruling class. Emperor Shapur II learnt to play polo when he was seven years old in 316 AD. Known as chovgan it is still played in the region today.
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