Written by Youseph Rasheed Thursday, 12 September 2013 00:00
Those with an eye for the chic and stylish are well aware of Ralph Lauren’s famous logo which adorns apparel and fragrance bottles world-wide. The signature emblem is of a polo player on horseback carrying a long handed mallet. In the fashion world, this image has become synonymous with elegance and class. For many others, the actual game of polo still remains somewhat obscure.
One modern day American polo pioneer is Long Island’s own Bob Ceparano. He immediately fell in love with the sport, back in 1986, when asked to play by his father-in-law. Ceparano owns Country Farms Polo and Camp and Equestrian
Center out east on Long Island. He won the bid for the polo grounds at Bethpage State Park in 2011 and Country Farms Polo has been hosting games there ever since.
Looking back at the sport’s history, there is one undeniable truth; polo has come a long way from its central Asian origins. According to historians, the equestrian sport most likely evolved from the ancient game of buzkashi, whose history dates back over 2000 years ago.
Polo is one of the world’s oldest recorded team sports. Its early history spans all the way back to the Persian Empire. British officers introduced the game to England in 1869 after seeing polo being played by local horsemen while they were stationed in Punjab, India. Seven years later it made its way across the pond from England to the United States.
Polo consists of two opposing teams. Each side is made up of four riders on horseback. Players carry long handed mallets and try to hit the ball in between the other team’s goal posts. The match consists of several timed periods called chukkers which last 7.5 minutes each.
World class polo players come to Bethpage State Park to take part in matches, as in a recent match on Aug. 18. The 5th Chukker team, from Nigeria, arrived to show off their incredible skill. The captain of the team Hassan Ramalan said,
“It’s our first time here and we’re having lots of fun; it’s a good experience and we won 3-1 so we are very excited about that.”
Ceparano really wants American kids to get in on the action too. He explained, “What many kids are not aware of is that, just being good at polo can potentially get them into an Ivy League school. It’s as simple as learning to ride a horse. Afterwards you only need to learn two or three techniques and you can start playing practice chukkers.”
Chase Schwartz, 17, ambitiously played the field and afterward told Anton Community Newspapers that it was her father who introduced her to the sport. “I can’t picture myself doing anything else; this is what I live for,” said Schwartz.
Schwartz played alongside Felipe Viana who moved to the United States from Uruguay five years ago. Viana led the University of Virginia to win the championship two years in a row. Viana said, “Bob [Ceparano] is a really generous man; he does his best to make polo available to everyone.”
Konstantin Tarashansky is already preparing his eight-year-old son, Vlad, to one day take to the field as a professional polo player.
“My son started riding when he was six years old,” said Tarashanksy. “Because he fell in love with polo at such a young age, Bob wanted him to learn some techniques first. Vlad has really progressed and he plays his first game in two weeks.”
Husband and wife Jerry and Debra Napp have been playing polo for years. Today Jerry is the announcer for Country Farms Polo games and his wife Debra keeps track of the time and score.
Olivia Wall, 16, has been playing for four years. She said, “I love the adrenaline rush; it’s so much fun being able to play.”
Polo is a unique sport. It’s a special link between horse and rider. One famous quote that embodies the very essence of the game is inscribed in stone in modern day Gilgit, Pakistan where the vast Persian Empire who introduced the world to polo once ruled. The quote says, “Let others play at other things. The king of games is still the game of kings.”
So come to Bethpage State Park every Sunday through October to get some fresh air, enjoy the green grass and watch a polo game. For information visit www.bethpagepolo.com or call 516-514-POLO (7656).