Polo runs in their blood
The New Paper continues the countdown to the 29th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur with a look at the family connections in the various sports. Today, we feature the JUMABHOY FAMILY in equestrian polo
When Ameer Jumabhoy was a young child, his father Asad and uncle Iqbal introduced him to the world of equestrian polo.
Come Aug 22, the 28-year-old will compete together with his father and uncle at the Equestrian Park Putrajaya, as part of the Singapore polo team gunning for honours at the SEA Games in the Malaysian capital.
"I remember my first few chukkas," Ameer said in a recent interview, referring to the periods of play in the sport.
"My cousin Imran and I first played in our family team when I was 12 or 13; there was a moment of pride on the sons' part, but mostly on the fathers' part, that they were able to play with the next generation.
"So, to be able to put on that red jacket for Singapore and play with my family would be, as family oriented as we are, the biggest pleasure of this game."
Polo is practically a family sport for the Jumabhoys, whose family once owned Scotts Holdings, which had serviced residences and shopping centres in its portfolio.
Ameer's grandfather Ameerali first picked up the sport at the Singapore Polo Club, and spread his love for the sport to his children and grandchildren.
Iqbal, 59, said: "Polo and horses are very time-consuming.
"They are excellent family break-up material. The way to get around that is to participate, then it becomes family-bonding material."
In their growing-up years, Iqbal and Asad, 57, could not afford polo sticks, which cost US$100 then - a bowl of noodles cost as little as five cents in the 1960s - so they fashioned their own with sticks, and cajoled the Polo Club members to allow them to use their horses.
"Gold is always the aim for the country. But I would say as a team I think we should aim to get to the final and we will fight like hell to get there."Ameer Jumabhoy
Asad recalled: "We didn't have horses, so we would go and find the uncles (there) and ask them if they wanted us to train the horses for them. Then we cut deals whereby as we train their horses, we get to play in (competitions).
"It's healthy bonding time. Each horse needs to be trained individually. You have to spend that effort... you need to focus on the horse and get it right."
Equestrian Park Putrajaya
Ameer Jumabhoy, Ang Roon Kai, Asad Jumabhoy, Garcha Satinder Singh, Iqbal Jumabhoy, Keith Elliot Yeo, Vinod Anandkumar Kumar
PERFORMANCE AT THE 2015 SEA GAMES
Not applicable - Equestrian polo was not offered
Over the years, the different generations of the Jumabhoy family have played together for the family team La Sarita in various countries, as far as Argentina, which has helped the clan stay tight-knit.
"The (competitive) mentality was never within the family," Ameer said. "It always has been how we as a family can improve together so that we can play better together.
"At the end of the day, you can choose your friends or acquaintances, but you can't choose your family, and it's really important to stick together as a unit."
The Singapore team will be aiming to match or better their previous performances at the Games - Singapore won silver in 2007 and bronze in the 1983 edition, the only two times the sport was offered at the Games.
This, even though Asad warned of the stiff challenges that Malaysia and Thailand would pose.
He said that some of the Thais are playing semi-pro or professional polo, while Malaysia's team are extremely well-supported, with an Argentine coach and horse master. Argentina is considered among the best nations in the sport.
Ameer said: "Gold is always the aim for the country. But I would say, as a team, we should aim to get to the final and we will fight like hell to get there."
But, he also added: "Medals are important, and we will be pushing very hard for that gold, but I think there's a deeper, more emotional connection to the Singapore team and the family that we have going into this Games.
"That's very special for me."