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Motorcycle polo

Horsepower of a different kind

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GAME ON: The sport has spread to Uganda

Game day. Sam Dargan, 29, a four-year veteran of the nascent sport known as moto-polo, awoke early - or relatively early, for a Saturday in East Africa - and began the traditional routine.

Fire up the stoves;let the chapati, banana and beans stew nicely. Wrap the mallet;duct tape works best. Check with your partner;be sure to arrive on time. Jon Stever, a teammate from Texas, is coming over with the truck and the pig to roast after the game.

And do not forget the beer.

Motorcycle polo has only a few dozen dedicated practitioners here, but they are convinced the sport is destined for widespread popularity. Because who can resist an activity that combines single-cylinder engines, mallets and beer?

It is similar to traditional polo, except it was born out of this country's distinctive palette of characters, customs and resources.

Instead of horses, of which there are few in Rwanda, players drive and ride motorcycles, of which there are many. Along the slick roads here, in Rwanda's capital, they are commonly used as taxis, and a growing number of young Rwandan motorcyclists turn up at competitions to show off and practice their skills.

The game has few rules. There are five players a team, opposing goals and 15-minute quarters with a "beer's worth" break in between. The game is played at a frenzy - drivers goose the bikes to 45 miles per hour - as players jab and motorcycles fall.

Spectators crowd as arguments ensue.

The game has spread to neighbouring Uganda, and a team from Rwanda is scheduled to play there. East Africa is a rising economic and political bloc, and expatriates and East Africans alike travel frequently around the region. Despite the small pool of players in Rwanda, the game could spread.

The first match in Uganda, held last year, also served as a fundraiser to help pay the legal fees of Ugandan women sexually trafficked to Iraq.

Back in Rwanda, the drivers are paid $20 for an hourlong game in a country where the average daily income is a little more than $3, according to the World Factbook, a Central Intelligence Agency publication. All damages to motorcycles sustained during matches are paid for by the organisers.

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