Playing the Sport of Kings - Arsalaan Khan talks with You & I

Born and raised in Hyderabad, Arsalaan Khan is a passionate polo player and has been captivated by the thrilling sport ever since he first picked up a stick and ball. While polo requires a great deal of strength and courage, the determining factor of a game is still the skill of the riders. For Arsalaan, expertise and agility are an added bonus. In conversation with him about his tryst with the sport...

Who or what inspired you to get into polo? At what age did you start playing the sport?
A big inspiration for me to take up polo was my father. I remember being in awe when he first put me on a horse, which was at the age of five. My dad not only fuelled my passion for horses, but he also encouraged me by waking me up early every morning and driving me to the club so I could hone my talent. Riding at an early age also gave me a competitive edge when I started playing polo at 11. It became a father-son bonding time that I will always be grateful for.

What are the most important things polo has taught you? What do you like most about it?
Polo taught me the fine balance between being fierce while playing the game, and fragility when manoeuvring my horse. It has also taught me discipline, teamwork, agility, focus, persistence, and to be tenacious in accomplishing my goals. As a sport, polo pressurises you to perform better, both for the team and for yourself, and be better at every game. It’s a good kind of pressure; it’s what I live for.

What’s your training schedule like?
I play polo twice a week. I get three sessions of riding and practice stick and ball whenever work permits.

Who’s been your toughest opponent so far?
As an unpredictable sport, your competition can either be a newbie marking you, or a pro. But the toughest opponent is always your own self. In the sense that you need to continuously push through your physical boundaries, overcome fears, and always maintain a keen sense of judgement.

So is polo passion or work for you?
Each of us has a fire in our heart for something; mine just happens to be polo. Polo attracted me with its compelling facet: the connection between the player and the horse. The syncing of the heartbeat, matching of the paces, and safekeeping of each other. Every element of polo invokes something in me – from the sweat and grime, the anticipation, the feel of the reins in my hand to the sound of rejoicing. No work matches this fury!

What would you like to change about the sport in Hyderabad?
A lot of people are unaware of polo and the fact that it still lives very much in this city of the Nizams. I wish our community would be more involved in promoting, sponsoring, and elevating polo in Hyderabad.

Do you practise any other sport?
Cricket, football, tennis, and scuba are my other indulgences.

How do you relax after a long day?
I wind down with my close group of friends over a cup of tea, play console games, or watch a movie.

Your favourite vacation place would be?
Wherever adventure takes me!     ----  as told to Sumana