CHRISTOPHER GIERCKE He is one of the main promoters of polo in the country and describes the present and plans for the future.
by Andres Ugarte Larrain
Having a tournament like is the traditional All Asia Cup, played at the VR Sports Club in Bangkok, Thailand, allows several emerging countries (speaking in terms of polo) start having a most frequent relation with their partners in the region. And one of the most representative examples is that of Mongolia. It was common to hear compliments about the improvement of the team during the game.
Christopher Giercke, one of the promoters of sport in that country, refers to the situation of polo in Mongolia “It’s a great honour for us to be here and, of course, a great challenge to be at the All Asia Polo Cup. You may not know but these days the temperatures in Mongolia are around -29C and a couple of boys came straight from there, others from Europe and some from New Zealand. And the boys who came from warmer climates are doing much better in ways of playing”.
What do you think about the level shown by the team in the tournament?
I think the Mongol team is realistically between 2 and 4 goals, we can compete meaningfully in the All Asian Polo Cup. Our players are young: some of them are 16, 18, and have had no time to play together in recent months. So, I think in the future what we have to do is preparation for a game like this and more training before together as a team.
What can you say about the situation of polo in Mongolia?
It’s still difficult to make polo grow in Mongolia. As you may have heard they are excellent riders and you can see that now. In the summer we have some games which are called Naadam Games, I would say there are 30-40 thousand children who ride competitively in those long distance and endurance races in all areas of Mongolia. There are all at an of age of 6 to 12/13 then they stop racing because they have become too heavy. From those children who have been good at the races we try to find future Polo players. Polo was once a training method of the Mongol cavalry during the middle ages. We are now in the 21st century, and Mongolia still have great riders and still have more horses in the country than people and we want to bring Polo back. I would say we are on our way to enter the International arena with some of the Mongol Polo players.
Christopher Giercke is German, but living in Mongolia since many years ago. In fact, both his wife and two sons (Ich Tenger, 20, and D’Artagnan, 18, who also participated in the tournament), are mongolians. “I’ve been involved with polo in Mongolia from the beginning, I would say for 15 or 20 years now. But the difficulty is that it’s a nomadic country, the population is very widespread, the next neighbours are maybe 2 miles away from each other and our winter is very long. So, to get people together and make a team sport is not really easy in the present situation. The Mongols are good in sports like wrestling and boxing. The Mongol president is very much involved in introducing football, basketball, so that they learn more teamwork and strategy. This is also a culture of transformation away from the sports you can do as one person”.
Tell us about Genghis Khan Polo Club please…
Our club is the oldest club, we have been running it really well for the last 10 years and as you can see it has evolved around our neighbours and our children lets say in a radius of 30 to 50 kilometers. we are riding and playing polo everyday during the summer. My two sons are playing, the other 6 kids who played in the tournament actually grew up together and there is a dozen of them in our immediate neighbourhood. We train at our club each year 30 to 50 children from different areas of Mongolia and hope to bring Polo alive this way. It’s a long process, but we do have good resources, children who can ride and everybody has good horses.
At the Genghis Khan Polo club we also have the Genghis Khan Polo Cup at the end of the month of August where we invite international Polo players. Usually we mix with everybody and do not want to have teams based on nationalities. Again, this is a different form of Polo- more of a summer community playing together. I see Mongolia very much as a Polo training country specially for beginners, amateur players and polo playing families. We have the horses, it is great for riding and training polo.
How many polo clubs are in Mongolia?
At the moment we have 4 clubs in Mongolia. We ourselves are in the countryside 350KM west of Ulaanbaatar. There will be a new club near Ulaanbaatar active from the beginning of next season and the club president was in Bangkok for the finals of the All Asia Cup. He is part of the traditional Mongol horse community, has 1000 race horses and is very successful. I am trying to win the trust of the people from the racing community and propose to them to develop Polo complimentary to the races. There are 2 more Polo clubs near Ulaanbaatar which came up in the last two years. Our club is more an international club, with international guests but a clear training program for the Mongol children.
Which are the plans and objectives for the future?
If we talk about plans for the future is much much better now. We have a Mongolian federation (Mongolian Polo Federation), we are part of FIP, we have had an ambassador’s cup out there. Probably we’ll make an Adventure cup in the coming years too. We also have different horses than you. Our horses are mongol ponies, the same horses as the warrior horses but smaller than the present international Polo ponies. Right now we can not make a different breeding because the climatic conditions are very difficult, it gets very cold in winter. Eventually, there will be some cross breeding or something happening that other horses will come to Mongolia or Polo horses can be stabled.
And what will have this 2016 in particular?
We started the winter training in schools this season after our new year which was February 9th. It’s about Polo training in primary schools during the long winter months. They could train indoor without horses, they have some theoretical training learning strategy, they can watch videos. We have to win the minds of the young kids so they can continue riding after they finish their jockey careers (age 14) They learn strategy and they can learn to choose a captain. It is great to bring everybody together on a horse on such a noble game.