China was a polo desert for Nigerian Ahmed Tukur, who has been an avid player since childhood.
For three years, the 23-year-old, studying civil engineering in Shenyang, was unable to play the sport he grew up with.
That was until he stumbled on a YouTube video posted by Hong Kong lawyer Andrew Leung – founder of the year-old Hong Kong Beginners Cup.
Tukur has since been installed as one of the team captains for the 2019 edition at the Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club, where he will act as a guide for a team of largely novice players in a tournament designed to introduce Hongkongers to the sport.
Nigeria is known around the world as an exporter of world-class football players and few outside the country would link it with polo, South China Morning Post reports.
Tukur, however, insists it is one of the most popular sports in Nigeria, especially in the northern areas.
“I’ve been playing polo since I was eight back home in Nigeria,” said Tukur, who grew up in Kaduna in the country’s northwest. “I came to China three years ago and had not played polo since arriving.
“I have been trying to connect with anyone in China who plays the game and that’s when I saw Andrew’s video on YouTube.
“I noticed that people in China do not really know much about polo and I am hoping to use polo as a way to build bridges between our country and China.
“There is a huge polo community in Nigeria. My family are into horses and horse racing and I want to share this love with the people of China.”
The Beginners Cup was launched in October last year with Leung taking a small group of rookies, some who had never been on a horse before, and turning them into competent riders and polo players within nine
Buoyed by his initial success, Leung hopes the Beginners Cup can establish itself on the regional calendar and help to develop the sport in Hong Kong and the mainland.
Leung has played the game since childhood but, like many, had little clue about polo’s popularity in Nigeria.
“I met Ahmed through my YouTube channel that is dedicated to the development of Hong Kong polo,” said Leung. “He contacted me because he saw the promotional video for the inaugural Hong Kong Beginners Cup of 2018.
“I learned that Ahmed, like me, had played polo since he was a boy and that he was an experienced player – despite only being in his early 20s. I was pleasantly surprised that he was from Nigeria as I did not know at the time that polo was so popular there.
“He is helping me support, train and inspire other beginners from Hong Kong and China. I am proud that the sport of polo can unite us and help Hong Kong and Chinese people build bridges with people of different races and religions.”
Tukur said being an African in an Asian country makes him stand out and he hoped that would be an advantage when it comes to promoting polo in the mainland and Hong Kong.
“There is always a stereotype about Africans and Asians,” said Tukur. “I want to build more awareness about the sport and show the Chinese people that they can also play and bring them into the polo world.
“Not many of them have seen a black or coloured person playing this sport and this may pique their interest. I really like them to delve deeper into the sport and see what it is all about and build bridges.”