Tell us a little bit about your city
Antwerp has a population of 500.000 and over 400 bars in the city centre alone. We have one of the largest seaports in Europe (plus a red light district). We all love our town and refer to Antwerp as THE city, as if there’s no other in Belgium. We even have a popular saying that “the rest of Belgium is parking space.” Other Belgians consider us snobs for that, but they’re just jealous that they don’t live here. Oh, our garbage men are dressed by U2’s favorite costume designer, how cool is that?
When and how did polo start here?
Nicky, Chris and Tom spent a year touring Australia in a van with fixed gear bikes in the back. They started out in Brisbane and met many bike enthusiasts along the way. After a few months they ended up at a bike house in Perth. Brad and Derren were their hosts for a few weeks and the guys tagged along to a couple Perth Cycle Polo sessions. After that they played in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney and brought the polo bug home. They started Antwerp Bike Polo in 2010 and it’s been non-stop ever since.
How many people play in your city?
We have 15 guys total and get our fair share of polo travelers coming through town.
How often do you play?
We play twice a week: on Thursday nights from 7 til 10 and Sunday afternoons from 1 til 6.
Tell us about your courts
We have a beautiful roller hockey rink (40mx20m) that’s right outside the city center. The surface is asphalt with high boarding and rounded corners. There’s stadium lights that we can use during fall and winter.
There’s another covered hockey rink in town that we can rent out for events. It’s basically an exact copy of our outdoor rink but with a roof.
Our third option is a makeshift setup at a parking garage. The floor’s a bit rough but we have pretty decent boarding we can put up. It’s the least ideal option out of the 3, but it’s good enough when it rains or snows. The burger joint downstairs is a nice bonus.
What have you found works to get new people playing polo in your city?
New players are usually brought on by ABP members. We’ve played at tradeshows and events and that helps too. Social media seems to be the easiest way to reach people nowadays so we try to keep our Facebook page and website updated.
Are there any other clubs nearby? How far away is the nearest city that plays?
Belgium’s central location within Europe makes for a lot of good polo within driving distance. Amsterdam is about an hour and a half north, Cologne is 2 hours east, Paris 3 hours south and London just a train ride away.
Do you play with other clubs in your country often? If so is this for tournaments for just casual?
Sometimes the guys from Brussels Bike Polo come over on Sundays and we use their indoor location during winter months. There’s a new club in Aalst that has a covered court as well. It’s all pretty casual but during tournaments city pride brings out the worst in everyone, but I guess that’s just how it goes.
Has your city hosted any tournaments or are you hosting any soon?
Antwerp has hosted a couple small events so far and we’re working hard with the city of Antwerp to get something going and put A-town on the polo map!
Tell us a little known fact about your city
Few people know the story of how Antwerp got its name, so here goes: the city once had a giant named Antigoon who lived by the riverside. He exacted a toll from those crossing the river, and for those who refused, he severed one of their hands and threw it into the river Scheldt. The giant was slain by a young hero named Brabo, who cut off the giant’s own hand and tossed it into the river. “Ant” is short for hand and “Werpen” means ‘to throw’ in Flemish. A statue of Brabo is proudly sitting right in front of the town hall.
By Chris Van Akeleyen
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