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Polo is considered to be the world’s oldest team sport. In the mid-19th century, it was popularised by British Army officers in India. Manipur is considered to be the birthplace of modern polo, and is host to the world’s oldest polo ground — the Mapal Kangjeibung at Imphal.

Grassroots Development of Women’s Polo is a unique initiative by Tata Trusts aimed at empowering Manipuri women keen on the game. It comprises a three-year programme that includes coaching education, scouting and structured training for up to 50 selected women.

The programme is being implemented by Centre for Microfinance & Livelihoods (CML), an associate organisation of the Trusts, in collaboration with the All Manipur Polo Association.

Master trainers appointed by the Trusts select young girls with aptitude and talent to be trained in polo. The selected candidates receive customised and regular coaching, practice sessions and life-skills education. An added element is menstrual hygiene management workshops where women are introduced to new age sports techniques that help minimise menstrual discomfort. Additionally, the initiative provides competition exposure to the players.

The participants have made Manipur proud by representing their state in national and international tournaments, such as the Governor’s Cup and Equestrian Cup, where they have played against top teams from Australia, the USA, Kenya, Canada and Argentina.

Plans are underway to get experts from the United States and Britain, both powerhouses in the sport, to train and mentor local coaches. Pushing the envelope with women’s polo is an attempt by the Trusts to create a system where none existed. The ultimate goal of the programme and its trainers is to help Manipur become a powerhouse in the Indian polo circuit, once again.

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