Brief History Of Polo in Nigeria

Established 1920

Late Emir of Katsina Sir Usman Nagogo

It may be hard to believe that this unique sport reputed as the oldest team sport in the world, has been in Nigeria for over a century now. This would automatically make the game the first organized sport in the country, dwarfing other popular sports like Boxing, Athletics and Football by years.

Available fact indicates that the first set of polo ponies hit the Lagos turf, just as the first set of mallets hit the first set of balls, to ignite the birth of Nigerian polo as early as 1904. Since then, the equestrian game has witnessed tremendous growth, with polo being played in virtually every state of the country.

Barely a decade after its introduction, teams from Lagos and then German Cameron, were already competing for major prizes in Lagos where the first polo club was established by the colonial British masters.

Four years after the amalgamation of the south and the north, the game spread to the northern part of the country, where it was received with great enthusiasm by the people. Since then, as they say, polo in Nigeria never looked back.

The love for this distinctive game that unites man and horse in sporting activity in the north led to the discovery of talented young Nigerians at the time, with the encouragement of the late Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Muhammadu Dikko whose keen interest and promotion lead to the formation of polo clubs in Katsina, Zaria, Kaduna and Kano.

By 1922, Katsina had become a major polo centre in the north, with Alhaji Usman Nagogo who succeeded his father Alhaji Dikko as the Emir, with his brothers emerging the first set of handicapped Nigerian polo players.

The games’ ruling body, the Nigerian Polo Association (NPA) now renamed the Nigeria Polo Federation (NPF) was founded in 1920 and has been functioning till date. The first head of the then NPA was Sir Usman Nagogo whose extensive travels gave the Nigerian body international recognition. While the game was growing in leaps and bounds in the north, polo was equally flourishing in the south with Lagos hosting international tournaments that attracted players from within and outside the country. By far, the most important singular effort in upholding the sport of polo in Nigeria belongs to the late General Hassan Usman Katsina, whose untiring effort sustained the sport and gave it direction.

Polo was introduced in Ibadan, the heartland of western Nigerian in the 1930s, while the game is also popular in Port Harcourt, with its polo turf being touted as the best in Nigeria. At the last counts, there are over fourteen functional polo clubs across the country, and a handful of private polo farms scattered across the length and breadth of this great polo playing nation.

Plans are at advanced stages for the establishment of new polo clubs in Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers states in the south and Jigawa and Yobe states in the north. Affiliated to the Hurlingham Polo Association in the United Kingdom, the Nigerian polo ruling body has fourteen affiliate clubs, including the Nigerian Army and Police Polo Associations.

Internationally, Nigeria which is a proud member of the Federation of International Polo (FIP) family has made her mark in the noble game of royalties that is revered as the oldest team sport in the world. Usman Dantata’s Anadariyya Broilers becoming the first African team to win the coveted USA Gold Cup, while Ahmadu Yakubu’s Songhai followed the foot path with a similar victory in the United Kingdom. Albert Esiri’s Ashbert Raiders today, remains the only African team that regularly vies at the prestigious British Open at Cowdray Park, just as Dawule Baba who has played in over twenty countries around the world remains the most popular Nigerian polo ambassador, while the Late Hassan Usman Katsina sat on the FIP executive board as the sole representative of Zone D, that include Asia and Australia. Currently, Hon. Hadi Sarika is a FIP Ambassador. Continuing in the earlier footsteps, El-Amin a Kaduna based team led by Muhammad Babangida competed in the Dubai Gold Cup 2011. The tournament is described as the most prestigious polo tournament in the Region. Attracting high quality teams from Argentina, United States and Britain. E1-Amin polo Team was the only African team to participate in the tournament. In March of 2009, a Nigerian team led by Alhaji Bashir Dantata, took part at an international polo tournament, during the Kings Cup in Rabat, Morocco.

This year, under the leadership of the Life Chairman, HRH Alh. (Dr.) Abdulmumin Kabir Usman CFR (Emir of Katsina) and the President Mr. Francis Ogboro, a Nigerian Team participated in the World Cup Zone D Qualifiers for the first time in 22 years. 

The Nigeria Polo Association in line with the guidelines of the National Sports Commission for national governing bodies for sports changed its name to the Nigeria Polo Federation in October 2009. The NPF is recognized by the National Sports Commission and the Nigeria Olympic Commission as the overall governing body for polo in Nigeria. The Nigeria Polo Federation is an affiliate of the Hurlingham Polo Association of the United Kingdom and a full member of the Federation of International Polo (FIP), the international governing body for polo.