Chitral win Shandur Polo Festival by beating Gilgit 7-5

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Match in progress during the Shandur Polo Festival 2023. — Provided by the reporter
Match in progress during the Shandur Polo Festival 2023. — Provided by the reporter 

Defending champions Chitral won the Shandur Polo Festival after beating Gilgit 7-5 in a thrilling clash on Sunday, maintaining their winning streak. 

Chitral were leading 3-1 at half-time and went on to extend their advantage to 4-1 in the second half.

However, Gilgit made an impressive comeback with two quick goals to make the match interesting.

Gilgit came close to levelling the match on numerous occasions but Chitral held their nerve to win the match 7-5.

The three-day event took place from July 7 to 9 in the Shandur Top played between the teams of Gilgit-Baltistan Districts and Chitral District with participants from various parts of the country.

A large number of tourists from different parts of the world, including France and Russia, also watched the match. Corps Commander of Peshawar Lieutenant General Hasan Azhar Hayat was the special guest of the final match. 

The tribes from the regions of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral meet at the Shandur pass every summer.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Tourism Authority spokesperson Muhammad Saad said that various music bands performed in the final match while a Kalash dance was also performed. 

He added that the students from different schools sang special national songs at the end of the festival. 

The pass has a beautiful polo ground where unique wild free-style polo is played among different teams of the region.

Shandur Polo Ground is considered to be the highest polo ground in the world at 3,700 metres. The polo ground is adjacent to Shandur Lake. The festival provides an amazing cultural experience in the Hindukush mountain ranges.

According to hindukushheights.com, Chitral and Gilgit have always played the game of polo closest to its original form. Each team has six players with two halves of 25 minutes each along with a 10-minute interval. Only one polo pony is permitted per player, and if a player or pony leaves the field injured, the opposing team also reduces its strength by one player. A fresh polo pony may not be introduced into the game, as that will prove to be a distinct advantage.

The field measures about 200 meters by 56 meters, as compared to a normal polo field of 270m by 150m, with 60 cm high stone walls running the length of the field on both sides instead of boards.

In order to decide the final teams to play at the Shandur Polo Festival, preliminary matches are played both in Chitral and Gilgit. The best horses and players are chosen for the final games by the local juries after the preliminary matches.

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