Kolkata: Riding ponies at a top speed of 70 kmph and scoring goals with great horsemanship, polo is one of the most exciting sports in the world but short on popularity, feels the legendary Carlos Gracida.
In fact, polo would have been hugely popular like cricket today if Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer had his way but it did not happen, Gracida said.
Famous for his breakaway World Series Cricket in 1977, Packer wanted to alter a few rules and bring in TV coverage but it did not happen, the 51-year-old, who has coached the likes of Prince Charles with late Princess Diana by his side and King Constantine of Greece, said.
"Packer had a vision for the sport. He wanted to change a few rules here and there and make it more attractive. He also wanted to bring in TV coverage to make it more popular among masses. But unfortunately it did not materialise," the New Yorker said.
"I have seen cricket which is quite similar to that of polo. Both the sports require good hand and eye coordination. Packer`s idea would have been fantastic for the game of polo," Gracida lamented.
A member of Ellerstina, the team owned by Packer, Gracida said the Aussie magnate was very tough.
"He was one of the toughest characters I`ve come across. he was at the same time very generous to me. I had a memorable time with his team."
The Federation of International Polo was trying hard to re-induct the sport into Olympics as it did not feature after Berlin 1936 but the key would be to tap the young segment, Gracida said.
"Polo should be made available to make it more popular. Schools and academies which teach polo could be of good help. It`s one of the most difficult sports as injuries like broken ribs, nose, hand are quite common."
But he is happy to have been associated with a sport that has given him a chance to meet some big names.
Recollecting a match against Prince Charles during the Coronation Cup of 1986, Gracida said, "Six members of the Gracida family had played there and we were against Prince Charles` team with Princess Diana watching on the sidelines."
"She was really humble and she gave away the prizes. They were so humble and they would never let you feel that they belonged to a royal family."
"I`ve also given polo lessons to Prince Charles, Prince William, King Constantine of Greece, Sultan of Brunei, Prince of Jordan among others. Those were some amazing moments."
"Hard work, dedication and always look for a good teacher," is Gracida`s message to budding players.
Gracida was here captaining Carnoustie during an invitational tournament of the Calcutta Polo Club.
The 51-year-old enthralled, scoring nine goals from two matches but only to see his team Carnoustie crash out of the league stage.