(Dr. Cinderella von Dungern on behalf of POLO+10-Magazin)
POLO+10: Why and when you started to play polo?
LIU Shilai: This is the old story. In China, the ambassador of Jordan in China, called Mr. Anmar. He was equivalent to seeing me riding my horse in an equestrian club, and then invited me to play polo. At that time, we were in a Beijing equestrian club, and then began to play Arena Polo. At that moment, there was no polo horse in China. We put some ordinary semi -blood horses, that is half of the Mongolian horse‘s half -blooded horse to polo ponies through several months training. That is how and where the story began.
Around 2003, that is 20 years ago, I went to Australia to play polo. After that I went to Argentina to learn polo. Soon after, I won the 4-goal championship of US Polo Open. The polo playing process continued with tournaments in Windsor and Guards in UK as well as the 16-goal Gstaad Gold Cup.
POLO+10: How did polo develop over the time you are playing?
LIU Shilai: I returned to China in 2009 and founded the “Tang Polo Club” in Beijing. Before that, it was about 2008, there was a polo club founded near Shanghai, the “Nine Dragons Hill Polo Club”. It was created by a local listed company investor called Qinfu Li and operated by GM Steve.
However, there was no polo field in Beijing at that moment. Therefore, I returned to Beijing to establish the first club – Tang Polo Club. The second club in Beijing was the “Reignwood Club”. A bit later, another polo club in Tianjin emerged – the “Metropolitan Polo Club”. Last year, I built another club facilities in Anping (Hebei province) because the rules how to use land which “Tang Polo Club” initially used in Beijing, were changed by government. So currently in total, we have four clubs in China.
Regarding the number of players, in the beginning, it was also only 4 polo players in total. After a few years play with the Ambassador Anmar, we went to Argentina to study polo and how to improve our skills. Two of those initial players do not play anymore, only Nan Liu and I have been insisting until now. That was the earliest 2003 situation. To this day, there should be dozens of people who play polo in China. In the early ages in 2008, only I went to play the tournament in Nine Dragons Hills Polo Club Shanghai. Few years later in Tang Polo, we could have five teams with a total of 20 players in our own club, with all Chinese players. This has developed in the past 20 years. Now, the total number of Chinese polo players should be more than thirty or forty probably, but it is just an estimation. In the Polo Association, there should be about 50 players with Handicap.
POLO+10: What is the situation now, especially due to Covid restrictions?
LIU Shilai: The Covid pandemic still has an impact on us, because the pro of Argentina can‘t come. So, for Shanghai‘s horses, there is no good training. But there is no problem for Tang Polo, because we have cultivated our own professionals, with a 2-goal and 1-goal pro. And we also have own veterinarians, horseshoeing masters, all of them trained in China by ourselves through many years. Therefore, Tang Polo Club is not affected by the pandemic, it also serves as training base for the China national polo team. But Covid is still affecting Shanghai and Tianjin a lot. Anyway, as the economy grows, the polo sport will be better and better in China in the future.