PETALING JAYA: The Tunku Mahkota of Johor (TMJ), Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, who is one of the most skilful polo players in Malaysia, was not included in the national polo squad for the coming KL SEA Games for an unusual reason: he is over-qualified.
This was revealed by national team manager Mohamad Zekri Ibrahim in response to recent questions on the selection of youth and sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin as one of the players.
He said TMJ’s high handicap would nudge the national team’s combined competition handicap above the limit of handicap 5-8 set for the Games.
“If I am not mistaken, the Tunku has a handicap-3, which is among the highest for a polo player in Malaysia,” he told FMT.
“The Tunku is skilful in dribbling and ball control. He has formidable exposure overseas where he competed many times at international level. Similarly, the Pahang and Perak royal families are also great polo players.”
Polo players are handicapped from minus-2 indicating a novice to 10 goals which is the highest handicap possible.
In matches played by “handicapped” players, the handicaps of all four players in a team are totalled. If the total handicap of a team is more than that of the team against which they are playing, the difference is added to the scoreboard, giving the lower-handicap team a goal advantage at the start of the match.
Zekri said the KL Games limit was set at the request of Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei.
Malaysia, one of the powerhouses of polo in Southeast Asia, won the gold medal the previous time polo was included as a SEA Games sport in 2007 in Thailand.
Khairy will play in the Games with a handicap 0.
In a post on Johor Southern Tigers’ Facebook page, TMJ had questioned the selection of a politician “who can’t ride a horse or play polo” to represent the country in the SEA Games.
Although he did not name Khairy, the reference clearly pointed to the youth and sports minister.
Zekri said Khairy underwent a rigorous selection process in which he was assessed for vigour, horsemanship and hitting.
“Khairy played in the Malaysia open competition last week and his performance was good.
“In two matches last Tuesday and Friday, he contributed to his team’s victory. He scored goals and followed the tactics set by the coach,” he said.
However, Zekri said, Khairy’s performance did not mean he was better than other polo players, such as TMJ, whose team Johor Ellerstin would be competing at the international polo championships in Argentina in September.
The situation arose only because TMJ was just over-qualified, he added.