Hubert Burda Media

Heart Racing

A third-generation polo player, AMEER JUMABHOY’s heart is with his family, the sport and the less fortunate

What are the most memorable destinations polo has brought you to?
I won my first international tournament in Australia and also have fond memories of hosting my first charity tournament in Pakistan. I travel to Argentina a lot because it is synonymous with polo, just like how Brazil is closely tied to football.
Where are the best polo facilities in the region?
I play mostly in Malaysia because it has arguably the best polo culture in Southeast Asia — the royal family has nurtured a very strong horse culture. However, Singapore best represents the game’s lifestyle.
Are injuries common in polo?
I’ve broken my left wrist twice, been knocked out a couple of times and broken all the toes on my right foot. These accidents usually happen when a player falls off his horse or when one player T-bones another, which is illegal. To protect ourselves, we have knee guards and elbow guards, as well as boots and helmets. If we wore padding, it would inhibit our flexibility, though I know a guy who wears chainmail to play!
What are the most common misconceptions about your sport?
People tend to think of polo as a very elitist sport. However, if you compare polo to Formula One racing, fans never get to touch the cars or talk to the drivers, so how can we polo players still be called elitist? An F1 car costs about $100 million, while you can rent a horse for a few hundred bucks a month. That costs about as much as piano lessons. I want to try and dispel these false notions.
Do you bring your own horse when you play at overseas tournaments?
Usually, no. The challenge of an international polo player is the ability to play with a horse that the tournament organisers provide. Horses are also very intelligent and can tell if you are a good or bad rider.
How have the recent reports on horse cruelty made you feel?
It was very disappointing to read about horse meat being found in meatballs in Ikea in the Czech Republic. I’m also very disappointed when people cheat — such as when they advertise one thing and
sell another.
How did you first get involved with cancer charities?
In the summer of 2010, some people who are really close to me were diagnosed with cancer. I took to the news very badly. I had paid for tuition in Houston but wanted to stay in Singapore to be here for them through their chemotherapy. However, they insisted I leave for my studies. In 2011, I realised that although I am not a scientist, I could maybe do something through polo. I am studying in Rice University, which is beside the Texas Medical Centre — one of the top medical facilities in the world. I walked in and told them that I wanted to help fight cancer as a polo player. Not long after, the Malaysian Royal Family asked me to host a one-day polo benefit for breast cancer and we managed to raise $20,000. I took part in several more charity events and am looking forward to raising funds at this year’s Houston Rodeo, which is a very big event in the US.
Are you looking to become more involved in Asian charities?
Asia’s going to be an interesting challenge. I’m looking for opportunities through various brands to hold exhibition matches here. An exhibition in Marina Bay Sands maybe? Baby steps first, but I do have a long-term goal in mind.
Which cancer foundations are you currently affiliated to?
I’m an ambassador for the Snowdrop Foundation, which is a subsidiary of the Texas Children’s Hospital. I’m also working with Shaukat Khanum, which is a cancer centre in Pakistan started by Imran Khan after he lost his mother to cancer.
Do you have any fond memories of your mother’s native Pakistan?
We recently chartered buses to bring 2,000 underprivileged children from rural villages outside Lahore to our charity polo game and it delighted me to see them so happy.
What does Pakistan need right now?
I think it’s a country that needs someone who can give them hope, like the US, in 2008, when Obama was elected president. He is someone most Americans feel that they can rally around. Similarly, Pakistanis need someone who can inspire hope; someone who can say “we’ve gone through a tough time, but we are going to come out of this stronger than ever”.
What else do you hold close to your heart?
My family is most important to me. I wouldn’t be anywhere without them. Nelson Mandela put it best when he said that his mother was the reason he existed, but that he defined himself through his father. I call my parents on Skype every day. Asians are very communal people. Individualism can only take one so far. At some point in our lives, the only people left will be the people who really care about us.