The Egyptian Women’s Polo Team

The Egyptian Women’s Polo Team

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Polo may be known as ‘The Sport of Kings’, but the ladies who took to the pitch last month at the second El Gouna Beach Polo Tournament proved that the fairer sex can wield a mallet with just as much style and steely nerve as any male player. Although all-female teams can be traced as far back as the Tang Dynasty in China, this local Egyptian team named Nefertiti first formed a few months ago, winning its first match with a score of 2-1 against women from the Police Union Club in Cairo last March. Headed by 23-year-old Farah Awadalla, the 10-member Nefertiti team mainly ranges in age from 16 to 23 years, with the oldest member being a fit 56.

Polo may be known as ‘The Sport of Kings’, but the ladies who took to the pitch last month at the second El Gouna Beach Polo Tournament proved that the fairer sex can wield a mallet with just as much style and steely nerve as any male player. Although all-female teams can be traced as far back as the Tang Dynasty in China, this local Egyptian team named Nefertiti first formed a few months ago, winning its first match with a score of 2-1 against women from the Police Union Club in Cairo last March. Headed by 23-year-old Farah Awadalla, the 10-member Nefertiti team mainly ranges in age from 16 to 23 years, with the oldest member being a fit 56.

CWM: Is this the only women’s team in Egypt?

F.A.: Yes, we are the only women’s team, although as individuals we play for other clubs, such as Kings Polo and the Police Club. I also play for the Gezira Club.

How did you get into this sport?

Polo is a very patriarchal sport, and Egypt is quite a patriarchal society, so it was not easy to get into. I was fortunate to have the support and encouragement of my parents. My father Ibrahim Awadalla is also a polo player; he backed my efforts in forming Nefertiti, which played a big part in creating our team. Many girls had tried to play informally in the past, but with Nefertiti we have made team games possible for them.

How often do you compete?

We don’t compete that often, apart from playing in the recent El Gouna Beach Polo Tournament, we won the Queen Ulvia Cup a few weeks ago.

Do you plan to compete regionally or internationally?

At this stage, we have only competed locally in Egypt, but our sights are set on competing internationally by 2020. We are training hard for that.

Polo must be quite an expensive sport, so do you have sponsors to help cover costs?

I do own my own horses, but the girls playing for the Police Club are sponsored by the Police and only pay a monthly fee. When we represent Egypt internationally our costs will be covered by the Egyptian Polo Federation.

How do you train a polo pony?

It takes years to train a polo pony. Of course, the first consideration is selection of a pony that meets physical criteria. We actually use Argentinian bred ponies, as the Argentines have been leaders in the game for many years and have developed an ideal breed. The pony must learn to stop and turn quickly, and to be able to withstand physically crashing into other horses, as happens with the ‘ride off’. This training all comes after the pony has been broken in for normal riding, and has become used to carrying a rider and responding to commands.

How experienced does a rider need to be to play?

Polo demands a high level of expertise. A rider must be at a point where the actual riding is instinctive and second nature, with great communication with the pony. This leaves the rider free to follow the line of the ball, defend and strategize within the game. If you are not a strong, experienced rider it can become dangerous for you, the other players, and the ponies.

Do you have fitness training, as well as actual, practice sessions?

We all have our personal fitness programs, and practice sessions are primarily to enhance, diversify and strengthen our game skills. We generally ride our ponies almost every day, so that keeps both horse and rider fit.

How is the game played?

Polo is played to a very strict set of rules, as this is essential for maintaining the safety of the pony and rider. It is considered to be the second most dangerous sport in the world. Each game is divided into four ‘chukkas’ of seven and a half minutes each. The key rule to follow is that the line of the ball must be unobstructed; to block it would constitute a foul. All the rules are there to ensure safety, that is the key element, and we follow them to a ‘t’.

Future plans?

There is a competition coming up in Italy in May, but before we venture into the international field we need to be sure of our skill level. That is what we are working on.

Contact info:

Tel: 0122 2244 858

Facebook: Nefertiti-Polo

Instagram:  @nefertitipolo