It is the sad passing away of Captain Azhar Ali, a distinguish polo player of Pakistan. He was a very honorable person, disciplined and true to commitment as a person and a player. His achievements are many on the field and off the field. He had excelled in the field of polo at a very young age and had won the country’s most prestigious Quaid-e-Azam Gold Cup (a national Open Tournament) 10 times. This is a singular feat which is achieved by very few. He played for the Pakistan team on many occasions nationally and internationally. He was an excellent horseman, the credit of which goes to his father late Col Inayat, commandant of Mona Depot Sargodha. Trained in those formative years in the Army discipline, he developed a classic style of English polo where emphasis is on the correct seat. The style of play is very different now and it is more Argentinean style of play which has less emphasis on how you sit on the horse. Azhar Ali joined the Army and was a cavalry officer and hence his interaction with the horses kept his passion for polo alive. To his good luck, he became the adjutant of the President’s Body Guard (PBG), the only mounted regiment in Pakistan. He contributed in developing a super polo team and trained the horses so well that his team excelled to those heights which PBG never attained there after.

After leaving the Army, he joined PIA in 1983 and raised a polo team there, with the help of another good cavalry officer Brig Manto. PIA excelled in polo with the addition of young polo player Bony Bornshine. Azhar’s career in polo started around 1966-67 playing for the Mona team and winning everything there was in those days. He joined the Army in 1972. He played actively at the Lahore Polo Club after leaving the army in early 1980s and was a great contributor at the club by his personal participation in the games, teaching/encouraging youngsters, and making polo rules was his singular domain.

He was a very strict enforcer of the rules and par excellence, umpire of international level - a singular honour for any Pakistani to have achieved. Everyone in Pakistan polo matches wanted Capi (nick name for Azhar Ali) to umpire their games. In UK for the big games where millions of pounds were spent in the tournaments, Capi was invited professionally to umpire for many years. The English Polo Association asking for our Capi to come as an umpire for their international games, has been a great honor for our whole polo community. He did us proud.

Capi was on all the committees set up by Pakistan Polo Association and the Lahore Polo Club, the most prestigious club in the country. Anyone who had any dispute at the polo games would revert to him as a final arbitrator - when he would discharge his duty without any bias or favour, even against his own team or a friend. Rules, he would say, was for everyone to obey. Many a times, friends would get annoyed, but when the temperatures went down after the games, the stature of Capi would rise to new heights.

Capi remained on the Executive Committee of the Lahore Polo Club and also served as the Honorary Secretary when he promoted the game, facilitated foreign visiting teams, and introduced running commentary in Urdu, for the first time. He was selected to do the commentary in the World Cup Play-offs in December 2003.

I, personally, came to know Col Inayat when I joined the Lahore Polo Club in 1975. I have remained in touch with the family till now. Capi and I have shared many a good times together. Played with each other, against each other, served on many committees, traveled overseas together, and also had a few tiffs. Socially, we met for a number of years and enjoyed each others company. He had a great sense of humour.

I am an unfortunate person to have buried Col Inayat and then later his son Capt Azhar Ali in Lahore on 12th Rabbiul Awal 2013 at the age of 61. No age for friends to leave us so soon.

The writer is Ambassador of Federation of International Polo and Former President Lahore Polo Club.