One of the most talked-about European tournaments of last year returns in February.
The format has changed from a standard team/elimination style to the ‘Bench Minor’ style. This means teams are made up of 10 players, who rotate on a rolling basis (like ice hockey) so that there are only 6 players on court at any one time. Games are usually longer to make up for having to share the glory, and there’s no arbitrary 5-goal limit, so some truly embarrassing scorelines are possible.
I’ve never played in one of them, nor seen one, so I entered into the draft with an open mind. Which turned out to be useful as the ever-vocal polo community is very opinionated on the whole set-up.
England got two drafts, one for London only, and one for England (including London). I voiced my opinions on this, mainly just to raise awareness of the issue of London-centricity in UK polo, but ultimately it’s Karlsruhe’s tournament, and they can run it how they like. This ugly issue will rear its head again when selection-processes are decided for the Euros, watch this space (with grim expectation).
Fortunately I made the so-called Rest of England team, as Birmingham’s sole representative. I know most of the players, and I think we could be one of the most varied teams in terms of ability. We’ve got a UK champion, the inventor of polo, and then me… It should be awesome to play with more experienced players though, and hopefully it will help improve my game, as surely on a team of ten people, they’re going to want to dish out advice and criticism to improve our performance as a whole. Heckling is great fun, but not exactly constructive.
Now the hard (for me) process of deciding how to get from Birmingham to Karlsruhe on a dark February Friday morning has begun and I’ve mulled over all my options. Train (expensive and slow), van (fun, expensive and slow) or plane (boring, fast, indeterminately cheap or expensive based on whether or not I can get my bike on as my main piece of luggage)?
Either way, it’s going to be ace fun. There’s one court so all attention will be focussed there; it’s indoors so nobody will get rained on; it’s in Germany so I get to brush up my GCSE Deutsch; and there will be 89 other people to chat to/drink with/heckle at.
There’s a website for the tournament here: http://greifmasters.com/ and you can expect a prompt report when I get back.