THIRD DAY OF PLAY AT THE KING'S CUP 2014
ELEPHANT POLO TOURNAMENT
The third day of play opened to sunny skies that followed a torrential downpour the night before. As everyone wanted to play an actual match, the only solution seemed to be the sand pit covered polo practice area used by horse polo players. All the various equipment in storage was moved outside of the arena and crude goals and markers were installed. Unfortunately, the elephants could not overcome their childhood days of playing soccer and chose every opportunity to kick the miniature beach ball they found in the sand.
As a last resort, we reverted to penalty shootouts for everyone. The Elephant Story, seeded fifth out of sixteen teams in the tournament, faced Audemar Piguet, the top ranked team led by the professional horse polo player Kalaan brothers from India. Had we played a match they would have given us seven goals and we would have given them four. We finally felt this was our year to overcome what was a runner up position to their championship position in 2008. Alas, we tied the first round of penalty shots and then went on to sudden death where we lost. Therefore, to lose by one goal without any consideration of team handicaps was a bitter disappointment. However, the Kalaan brothers are such wonderful gentlemen, we were happy that it was they to whom we lost. It was our only defeat of the tournament.
Notwithstanding our loss to Audemar Piguet, it was a good day as I was able to ride myfavorite elephant with her owner and mahout in the penalty shootout. My favorite mahout is Lung Ham (uncle Ham) and his elephant is Naam Fon (rainwater).
It was great to see them in Bangkok as I have known both of them for many years. Once we were in the Golden Triangle of Thailand where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar join to play elephant polo in another competition. Clearly, Naam Fon was the best elephant and Lung Ham was the best mahout. In a moment of chivalry, I offered them to my wife to play as it was her birthday. She is not particularly competitive but she was determined to score a goal against me. When she was having difficulty, Lung Ham grabbed the mallet and knocked the ball into the goal. Needless, I did not contest the birthday gift from Lung Ham.
When we dismounted, John Roberts, Director of The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation said it was a shame about Lung Ham. I asked why and John said he had cancer and they were going to operate on him in his small village. I said he had to go to Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, that I could get him admitted, and would pay for it. Needless to say, he is fine and we are close. In fact, he carved the necklace I am wearing in the picture. Moreover, he and his fellow villagers in Moo Baan Chang (the elephant village) make many of the elephant related products in The Elephant Story.
- Ed -