Giessen has a pretty active polo scene and it’s also right in the middle of Germany, making it easy to reach for those coming from elsewhere. Giessen, if you’ve not heard of it, is a small German city and everything else I might be able to tell you, I read on Wikipedia, whilst on the train (shame on me!) bound for this bound for this pretty little town with a pretty big tournament in the German polo scene.
I’d been on the waiting list for the third Giessen individuals and wasn’t sure whether I really wanted to play or not, but thought I’d leave it up to fate to decide. Well, the list of players shrunk dramatically when the mercury dropped mid-October and the 15 names on the waiting list were pushed up to the participants list. So, fate had decided.
The prospect of playing a real tournament seemed very daunting to me, especially after reading through the list of participants and finding some “big names”. I was worried about making a fool of myself on the court. The reason being, I’ve never been the team sport kind of person. Sure, I played basketball and rugby at school, but since then I moved around a lot and wasn’t willing to commit to any team knowing full well that I’d probably be moving to another country soon. I started doing things like bouldering, snowboarding and cycling, any kind of sport really that you can do on your own. So what made me nervous about playing in Giessen was, I wasn’t used to disappointing anyone apart from me.
But this tournament wasn’t about that. The Giessen individuals is probably one of the best chances for a newbie to just give tournaments a try, without getting their team eliminated after 2-3 games. Sure, there was still a competitive air about the whole thing, but it wasn’t quite as dense as in Nürnberg, where I’d previously been to watch (although, we didn’t get to stay for the finals and I
hear they were full-on). Let alone the “special games” at the end of every round (e.g. with goals turned to the boards or only counting shuffle goals), which loosened any tensions pretty quick. I quickly lost my fear of disappointing anyone and just gave it a shot and tried my hardest.
One scene I observed pretty much summed up the whole weekend. Timmy (Nürnberg) was playing with Danny (Berlin) speeding down the court. All three opponents had fallen off their bikes and went to tap back in. The score was 4:0 and Danny and Timmy had an open goal. Instead of putting an unglamorous end to the game, Timmy parked himself in the goal and played goalie for the opposing team while Danny came up with the ball. He scored, of course, but it was an act of nobility that got the crowd roaring with props. And that’s the spirit of polo.
You may remember reading the article “Top Players Don’t Do Tricks”, but I’d like to notch that up further and say, top players also know when to keep their do-or-die mentality at bay. This means giving others, who aren’t quite on their level yet, a chance too, or at least show others what fair play really means. For me, as a newbie, it means them giving me a chance to taste the blood that got them hooked in the first place.
That’s what makes this tournament so special, it is still a competition which everyone joins with sporting ambitions. The difference at individuals is, the best players sometimes have to play with an amateur like myself, and that is when real strength in character shows. Playing with guys like Dany from Brno, Danny from Berlin or the Nürnberger troupe was pretty intimidating, but these guys and gals embody the true spirit of polo, so thanks for that Giessen and all the players I met there. Giessen is much more than a long Wikipedia entry, it’s one of those places I never thought I’d visit before playing polo, and am now certain will be a regular appointment in my polo calender.