Paris, like all other cities in the world, is so beautiful when the noise and the confusion created by cars disappear. It is funny how an invention that makes our life so easy, the car, when speaking about carrying heavy loads or travelling long distances in a relatively short(er) time, has polluted so much our life that people use it to buy their newspaper on Sunday, throw their garbage, avoid walking. So we now live in unbearable cities packed in traffic jams.
Well this is not the case. Today we are all cyclists and it is definitely a nice day for a ride in Paris.
This is going to be a different kind of ride, yes, we’ll cover quite a distance but in a very “confined area”. Let’s say in a field, or better on a “hard-court”.
I am lucky enough to have a good friend in Paris, one of a kind and with a peculiar French name, Enguerrand, and like many things in life, beautiful things happen, you expect them or not, things happen when people and genuine passions are involved.
A couple of phone calls and the ball is rolling. Appointment with another of his friends, Dadu, and then riding off toward Invalides. That’s the place where the Paris Bike Polo community reunites and trains.
A tiny bit of background infos:
It was invented in 1891 by the Irishman, Richard J. Mecredy, and the same year the first game was played; the two teams were The Scalp and CC Ohne Hast. Instead the first international game was only 10 years later in 1901 and was between Ireland and England.
During the end of the 19th century Bike Polo became quite well known in Great Britain, USA, France and in India. Something that deserves being remarked is that Bike Polo was introduced in the 1908 Olympic Games and was Ireland to win it.
Unfortunately, this sport was forgotten not long after, the First World War probably playing a role in it. It is not uncommon that during war time, principally during the 1WW and 2WW, sports were forgotten, or worst, men had to go and fight and people’s life was in turmoil. The same happened with many bike racers who before the wars were competing in the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia, riders that often did not come back from war. Only in the 1930s Bike Polo started to regain popularity in England and in France, where national championships were organised, only to be forgotten again shortly after… In the 80s when Bike Polo reached the peak of its popularity in India and USA, these two countries become the “super-powers” of this sport (for once in human history we like the word super-power). Matches started to be organised again, teams were popping everywhere and in 1996 was organised the first World Championship in the US.
In the meanwhile Bike Polo has been officially recognized by the UCI in 2000; its modern version is known as Hardcourt Bike Polo and it is now played on “had surfaces” like tarmac, to allow a more technical performance, rather than on “grass”.
Bike Polo in quite just like horse polo….without horse….with a bike….
even if many of the players will tell that it resembles much more to ice hockey than to polo…don’t ask me why, “I am just a messenger”!
…bikes, no horse…all clear?
Rule number 1: send the ball inside the goal area.
Simple enough so far, right?
Rule number 2: the sticks used to hit the ball are called “mallets”, well, actually they are mallets. These need to be made with non-sharp materials, so avoid any injury while playing, and they should always be used “head-down” for extra security.
Rule number 3: you need to be on the bike while playing.
Let’s not make confusion here.
Actually very common are fixed-gear bikes.
Rule number 4: just to be extra sure I asked this one when I had my introduction to the sport – No kicking the ball – I believe this is considered some kind of blasphemy among the sport lovers.
Rule number 5: each team is made of 3 players.
No touching the ground with your feet, if you do you’ll have to ride to the center of the court and hit a bell (or whatever else…) with the mallet.
Last and most important rule: Nobody plays until the referee says “3,2,1, Polo!”
Looks like that Bike Polo is growing fast (or regrowing?), and I am not surprised of it:
Bikes, cool people, laid back attitude, nice and friendly atmosphere, the teams with the craziest name sport has ever seen.
I am not saying that it is easy, it is actually great training, considering that staying on the bike without touching the ground-handle it with one hand only while with the other hand you use the mallet-hit the ball and send it to the goal-dodge the other players…to win is not as easy as it might seem.
Definitely I’d suggest to check if you have others playing where you live and give it a try!
Thanks to the riders I met in Paris for letting me have a closer look.
Enjoy and keep riding!