As part of the celebration during this year’s International Women ‘s Day, the polo fraternity in Nigeria took time to applaud their female counterparts for their determination and commitment to the promotion of the games of kings.
“ Celebrating women around the world for their strength, power and determination. Big shout out to the women who play polo, the king of games,” this message was plastered on the websites of the games ruling authorizes in the country. “On #IWD2021 we pay tribute to all those women who have struggled for equality, women’s liberation, peace and social justice around the globe. And we pledge to work together to build a better future.”
In fact, established polo legends, patrons and administrators including Francis Ogboro, Mohammed Babangida, Murtala Laushi, Adamu Atta and Dawule Baba all hailed the female ambassadors, believing that the epoch is a further testimony of the growing popularity of the game in Nigeria.
Leading the list of these courageous ladies who are breaking barriers in the male dominated game in Nigeria is Neku Atawodi-Edun.
Highly revered as one of the few black female polo players in the world and the first to play professionally, Neku is an equine sports scientist based in United Kingdom. Others include Natalie Allen of Lagos polo club, Aisha Ahmad Suleiman from Kaduna polo club and Dr. Alexander FY from Port Harcourt polo club, among other upcoming female players horning their talents across major polo centres in the country.
Their fore bearers like Dundun Peterside, Toyin Davis, Rita Walter, and the current minister of Women Affairs, Patience Bentu from Jos polo club whose unalloyed commitment to the promotion of polo among womenfolk in Nigeria, all received thumbs up polo family marks the IWD’2021.
. “Everyone who followed Neku and other Nigerian female players’ trajectory in polo knew it was a matter of time before the whole world swung to their rhythm,” Bello Buba , the current Nigerian top player, noted.
Neku, who was raised in a traditional family in Kaduna, which has a history of polo and horse-riding started riding horses and dreaming of playing polo as a teenager. That dream came to global attention in 2018 when she was unveiled as the face of Africa polo in South Africa.
Asked at a recent chat about the challenges she faced going up the ladder, Neku told NationSport that the challenges with polo are not really gender based.
“It has to do with getting to a new place and finding good horses,” she noted. “There’s little opportunity for women and I’m hoping to work with the polo association to start to change that.
“It’s going to take a while but I would love to see so many more women play. Bringing in more female players from other parts of the world to come and play here and we’ll need more female patrons to do that.
“Also, for new girls coming into the sport as well, it can be a bit discouraging because there will be so many guys around you,” Neku advised.
For the last 100 years, March 8 is set aside annually to commemorate the International Women’s Day. Organizations, governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, corporations and the media organize events globally to mark this day and commit to upholding achievements on gender equality and women empowerment.