“A polo handicap is a passport to the world,” Winston Churchill once said. The former prime minister of the United Kingdom was an avid horseman and played polo until the age of 52.
It is a notion that James Corden-Lloyd fully agrees with. The British entrepreneur, who is also the manager of the business and sports club Admiralty in South Jakarta, has been playing polo since he was 7 years old.
“I first became interested in polo because my father was a British military commander so I had access to polo, and I’ve always loved horses,” Corden-Lloyd explains. “I spent some time at a polo school in the UK where I learned a lot about polo, and I just sort of progressed with the sport as a real active polo player.”
“Wherever I traveled I played polo,” he adds. “It is true, you can go anywhere, and if there’s a polo club, you meet people who love horses and the spirit of polo.”
Originally from Somerset, a two-hour drive from London, Corden-Lloyd focuses on a few sectors as an entrepreneur: security, capital markets, and sports and leisure.
“I’ve had a very exciting background in sport,” he says. “I am a professional PTR [Professional Tennis Registry] tennis coach; I have trained race horses in South Africa and the UK; I was assistant race horse trainer to some quite famous trainers; and I also founded the KL Grand Prix Showjumping event in Malaysia. I am also a polo player and a polo promoter and very involved in the sport. I am also introducing clay pigeon shooting to Indonesia.”
Corden-Lloyd, who has lived in Indonesia for five years, is convinced that polo as a pastime could take off among Indonesians as well.
“We all know how successful Ralph Lauren has been with the brand Polo,” he says. “It is amazingly powerful, and that’s why British Polo has been so successful because they use that brand name to promote British culture and brands abroad in emerging markets.”
According to Corden-Lloyd, a basic interest in polo already exists; what is still lacking is an effort to make it more accessible to Indonesians.
“In fact, the Indonesian polo team is very good. Nico Curto, who is the polo manager in Indonesia, is a very impressive trainer and polo player. Indonesia is very lucky to have him,” he says.
“But actually, you can take anybody, with no riding ability whatsoever, someone who never, ever tried polo before, and you can introduce polo to them very quickly. You don’t need any skills, just self-confidence, and the will to try.”
Polo ponies, he adds, are generally very well-trained, and therefore one doesn’t need to be a brilliant horseman to get into the sport.
“Once you get the hang of it, it is amazing how fast they become addicted to it.”
Polo ponies usually start training at the age of 3, and once they are around four or five, one can start playing with them. In horse terms, polo ponies may seem quite small, but they are very athletic thoroughbreds.
However, there are some challenges when it comes to playing polo, especially in Indonesia.
“Polo is extremely physically demanding — here in Indonesia, because of the heat and humidity; you sweat a lot, and it’s a very fast and tiring sport,” Corden-Lloyd says.
Most of the canes of a polo mallet come from Indonesia.
“So Indonesia actually supplies the cane of polo mallets all over the world,” Corden-Lloyd says.
In polo, two teams of four players meet on the pitch. Their responsibilities and tasks are not dissimilar to players of a football team: Numbers 1 and 2 in polo are offensive players — the equivalent to strikers in football — while Number 4 is playing defense. The Number 3 position acts as the leader of the team; in football, this would be the midfielder who controls and steers the game.
“Polo really is a team sport, there is no ego involved,” Corden-Lloyd says. “In polo, you help the best player on the pitch. That’s how the team works, and that’s why you got a handicap system like in golf.”
The team spirit is only one of things he enjoys about polo.
“You make fantastic friendships in polo. And I also love the horses, and the training side of it, the exercise,” he explains.
“The culture, the lifestyle – it’s very intriguing and glamorous, but at the same time very humble, because the really good polo players, they come from Argentina or rural environments — these guys have been riding horses since they were so young.”
The social side of polo, however, should not be overlooked: just like businessmen who play golf for leisure, and talk about their work and even strike up deals at the driving range, polo is a similar platform for people to socialize.
In addition to “Learn how to play polo” days that Corden-Lloyd intends to set up, he also wants to introduce British Polo Day to Indonesia, a worldwide event that takes place in various cities worldwide.
British Polo Day’s official website states that the event “stems from a love of the history and traditions of the ancient sport of polo and a recognition that the ‘international language of the horse’ can bridge cultures, bringing people together on a global scale and ensure that Britain projects its values and identity in an increasingly overcrowded international space.”
“Basically, it’s to promote British-ness — British brands, British culture, British ethics — around the world,” says Corden-Lloyd, who aims to bring British Polo Day to Indonesia in 2016.
During each British Polo Day, British polo players from prestigious institutions such as Oxford, Cambridge and the British Army come together to compete against local teams.
Corden-Lloyd is confident that Indonesia has what it takes to host such a big event.
“You have to have 64 horses, a quality venue, good hospitality and a great host, so I think Indonesia will be perfectly able to do this, and I see it as a fantastic place to promote polo.”
The Polo Nusantara Club, he adds, is a world-class facility. In fact, it is the only place he would recommend to potential polo players, since it offers high-quality training with well-trained horses.
The image of polo being an elite sport is also something Corden-Lloyd would like to see changed.
“In some regards, it is elite, because there are certain attributes to polo, the style and the social side, but actually it’s a great sport, so you should, in fact, also reach out to ordinary Indonesians and teach them how to play,” he says.