The Early Years
The RMPA Polo League was conceptualised by His Royal Highness Tengku Mahkota Pahang, Crown Prince Abdullah Shah, Dato’ Brian Miller, Dato’ Mohamed Moiz and Peter Abisheganaden in 2002. It took three years to bring it to reality with the first ever RMPA Polo League event, the Cartier International, held in Singapore in June 2005.
Three teams took part in a 13 to 16 goal tournament – Royal Pahang Polo Club, Royal Selangor Polo Club (Ranhill) and Singapore Polo Club, with Singapore beating Dato’ Mohamed’s Royal Pahang Polo Club II in the final.
By the time the league final was held at Royal Pahang Polo Club, there were five teams – Royal Pahang I and II, Cameron Highlands, Royal Selangor Polo Club (Ranhill) and Singapore Polo Club.
Dato’ Mohamed’s Royal Pahang II team was the league winners, accumulating the most league points over the three legs of the International League. They were presented with the Sultan Ahmad Shah Polo Cup.
With the inclusion of Dato’ Harald Link’s Thai Polo in 2006, the international League grew to six teams, with participation by teams from three South East Asian countries – Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. The 2006 league was won by HRH Prince Abdullah and his Royal Pahang Polo Club.
The International League has seven teams participating in a 15 goal league. There are two teams from Singapore and a team from Thailand. FIP Zone D Director Asad Jumabhoy owns La Sarita, which he plays with his son and with Argentine Open winner Benjamin Araya and his son Benhita Araya. Yeo Kuo Lee’s Head Hunters made a colourful return to Malaysian polo in 2011.
Dato’ Harald Link has been a stalwart of the International League since 2006. Thai Polo won the league in 2012 when KotaSAS beat Royal Pahang in the final match of the season. It showed great sportsmanship on HRH Prince Abdullah’s part that he imposed no restrictions on Pahang’s second team KotaSAS, enabling Thai Polo to win the league.
National and Merdeka Leagues
With so much interest in the league format, other divisions emerged. At 2 to 6 goals, the National League offered an alternative for those not quite ready for high goal polo. There was participation from as far off as Jordan as HRH Prince Rashid led a team from the Royal Jordanian Polo Club. Five other teams participated.
Royal Selangor Polo Club, comprising of Johan Indot, Nicholas Kosmatos and Peter Abisheganaden were the winners of the first National League, playing at the Cartier International in Singapore, Ranhill International in Kuala Lumpur, and at the Royal Pahang Classic.
The National League has developed into a very strong league on its own, with nine teams playing this season in a 5 to 7 goal division. It is anticipated that the league will go to 6 to 8 goals in 2014, and eventually get to 10 goals so that patrons wishing to make the jump to the international league won’t find it so daunting a distance.
Such was the interest in playing league polo that a third division was added, with a -2 to 0 Merdeka League being added to the programme. The Merdeka League has been a huge success at the grassroots level. It is now a 0 to 2 goal league that has seen as many as 17 teams participate in tournaments in 2010. Such is the popularity of the league that entries have to be limited to 10 teams so that the tournaments can handle the amount of play and horses that come in droves.
Polo made a return to the South East Asian Games in 2007. Malaysia won easily, winning every game by easy margins. It reignited an interest in the international game.
Malaysia joined the Federation of International Polo in 2006. Having hosted an Ambassador’s Cup in 2009, Malaysia then bid to host the 2011 FIP World Cup Zone D Play-Offs. The tournament was very successful, with seven countries participating in the largest zone play-offs the polo world had ever held. The qualifying stages were held at the Royal Pahang Polo Club. India and Pakistan played a memorable final at the Royal Selangor Polo Club, attended by His Royal Highness Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang, Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur, and H.E. Dato’ Seri Najib Razak, the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
In partnership with the Royal Malaysian Polo Association (RMPA), Visa Infinite is now the official card for the prestigious Royal Malaysian Polo Association 2013 league tournaments and the 2013 Malaysian Ladies Polo Championship.
Under the partnership, Visa will have the presenting rights for two of RMPA’s premier events, including the final of the RMPA International Polo League and the Malaysian Ladies Polo Championship event, which will be held in June and October respectively, at the Royal Selangor Polo Club grounds.
“Visa’s partnership with the Royal Malaysian Polo Association tournament builds on our sponsorship of marquee sports events such as the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup. Polo’s speed, style and glamour make it a popular sport among royalty, businessmen and heads of states, providing an ideal platform for us to offer the Visa Infinite lifestyle to our select and distinguished cardholders”.
HRH Tengku Abdullah said, “We are very pleased to have Visa as our partner for the RMPA league. The support from global companies such as Visa is timely as the sport of polo is progressing well in the country and is increasingly getting the recognition that it deserves. This partnership is a showcase of our commitment to raise the profile of polo in the country further and contribute to the future success of the sport here”.