Elephant Polo

(Photo: Achara Entz)

Elephant polo report - September 4, 2006

Don Entz reports on the recent elephant polo tournament in the north: There was an American team fielded for elephant polo this year, the Capitol Pachyderms, from Washington, DC, the first American team. I never did meet up with them, but one member was reported to be working in the Defense Department, so I wonder if this was a group of young Republican professionals and hence the name. The really got trounced but were not lacking in spirit. They finally scored a goal in their third or fourth game, but the thing is, the opposing team clearly held back and just sat there and watched, letting this one girl on the Capitol Pachyderms team keep tapping the ball until it went over the goal line. It was hilarious! I mean their opponents clearly just decided to let them have one goal to keep from being discouraged; the opponents all stopped where they were and watched and let the girl get the goal.

(Photo: Don Entz)

And then she didn't even make it herself! It seems her elephant, in stepping forward, just happened to kick the ball over the goal line. They had to get a ruling as to whether it was legal for the elephant to make the goal. The guy who invented elephant polo 25 years ago was there -- Jim Edwards. He runs a resort in Nepal, a real last-of-the-British-Raj-type guy -- and his word is law. He decided yes, the elephant can score the goal.

(Photo: Don Entz)

Above: The second of the two chakas, and thus the match itself, is over, and here the girl who had run along the field with the flag now runs it out to one of the players to wave as the teams leave the field.

At the end of each half, when everyone clears the field to go change elephants, a team member would run out onto the field with the same giant American flag and hand it to one of the players, who would then wave it proudly as he/she was riding off the field on his/her elephant. I couldn't decide if they were serious or playing it up for fun, but there was a lot of good-natured American jokes -- such as the announcer announcing over the loudspeaker that the elephant who made the goal for the Americans would certainly get a visa, a green card and a free trip to the Homeland Security Department -- and the girl who made the goal -- or rather whose elephant made the goal -- got a big hug from the game's originator after the match (which they naturally lost).

And later: We won!! The Thai Media team, consisting of two of us from "The Nation", one from the "Bangkok Post", and one from the Thai-language sister publication of the "Post", called "Post Today", roundly defeated the International Media team 1-0, thanks to a last-minute goal by Kittipong of"Post Today". I almost scored a goal in the first half myself, but it went wide of the mark.

However, we completely dominated the International team. The first half ended up being largely a one-on-one contest between me and our opponents' goalie, the second half between Kittipong and the goalie. We maintained the attack the whole time.

(Photo: Don Entz)

Initially I was to play as defense, but in a last-minute strategy change, I was placed on Attack (wimpy games like football and rugby use phrases like "Offense", but in elephant polo, it's called "Attack"), and attack is what I did as I hammered away at the defense. Unlike last year, I got to charge across the field on my elephant, not just sit there waiting, and Man! charging full speed on elephantback while swinging a big mallet and screaming "ATTACK!!" is quite a rush, let me tell you.

In the second half, I was the striker, which meant I and an opponent went for the ball as it was tossed into the middle of the field. I commandeered it right away and knocked it down the field to Kittipong, who was the Attacker in the second half, and he kept the defense occupied until our goal in the final seconds. (Another factor: we were all veteran elephant-polo players on my team, and not one of the visitors had ever played; only one had even been on an elephant before.)

Also: Kittipong leads Thai to victory - The Nation, September 5, 2006

Tickle and the Ivories is one of the elephant-polo teams playing in the tournament this week. they have a website: http://tickle-and-the-ivories.com/

More elephant polo links: http://elepolo.com/links.htm
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