Aisha Sulaiman is an 18-year-old fast-rising Polo player in Kaduna State. In this interview with DAILY NIGERIAN’S Rayyan Alhassan, Ms Sulaiman speaks on her inspiration behind joining polo, which could be described as male-dominated game, “we the northern ladies need to wake up. We are stronger than we can ever imagine”.
Could you briefly tell us about yourself?
My name is Aisha Ahmad Suleiman, I was born and brought up in the great city of Kaduna. I attended my nursery, primary and secondary schools here in Kaduna and I’m still into my higher institution in Kaduna State. Kaduna is home to me. I am into both Polo and photography. I love adventures and discovering new things.
What inspired you to start playing Polo?
As a child I never really had anything to do with horses, I am not from a royal family neither is anyone in my family are horse riders or polo players. The one encounter I could remember I had with horses was when my sister’s husband took me to watch a polo match during the ‘Kada Fest’ in Kaduna, about 8-9 years ago. I mistakenly got stepped on by a horse and I have always had the fear of horses in me since then, not until I took my first ride in 2017. I started loving this animal and I made up my mind to work toward becoming a polo player.
How then did you start playing Polo?
The first time I took my first ride, I instantly fell in love with this beautiful creature and the game. I got in touch with a man named Husseini Muhammed who happened to be the coach and trainers of polo beginners in Kaduna. Husseini gave me my first mallet to play with. I played my first tournament on the 17th of December 2017, which happened to be my birthday. It was a memorable one.
What motivated you?
The first thing I’d say motivated me is the love I have for this animal and after I watched the Kaduna annual tournament which took place at the Kaduna polo club. The way the horses were being handled and controlled gave me passion for the whole thing. I wanted to be a polo player and so I decided to go After this crazy dream of mine.
As a female Polo player from northern Nigeria, how are you coping with the stigma from people?
Polo as everyone knows is a male dominant game all over the world. Especially in the northern part of Nigeria, it is very rare for a northern lady to engage herself in sports. So, I definitely got negative reviews and discouragements from people in and out of the polo club. I have been challenged and have lacked support from people I thought will render help… But as the saying goes “nothing good comes easy.” I try my best to cope and overcome whatever obstacle that comes my way and Alhamdulilah with prayers. Everything comes to pass.
What is your advice to other northern women that want to partake in Polo and other sports?
My advice to young ladies out there that want to go after their dreams is for them to chase their dreams and be prayerful. The sad truth is not everyone will support you as a lady but you have to stay strong anyways. You will definitely get there if you work hard towards your ambition. We the northern ladies need to wake up. We are stronger than we can ever imagine. Let’s work towards achieving something great and leaving legacy. I believe the future is female.
When playing alongside male players, how do they treat you?
Playing alongside males there are times I get bullied and discriminated and sometimes I get encouraged by some while in the pitch, either way it isn’t easy.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
Well, in 5 years to come I see myself playing internationally in sha Allah or probably married and encouraging others to chase their dreams with the help of my foundation.
Who are your role models in the game?
I really haven’t got any role models in the game but there are few people that encourage and inspire me people like Rebecca Louise from UK, Aggie Patricia from Uganda and our very own Natalie Allan from Nigeria.