x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Ghantoot braced for defence of President of the UAE Polo Cup

A record number of teams are preparing to fight for honours when the largest polo tournament in the region is staged in the UAE from March 18-30

Oscar Colombres’ Ghantoot team are the reigning champions of the President of the UAE Polo Cup. Jeff Topping / The National
Oscar Colombres’ Ghantoot team are the reigning champions of the President of the UAE Polo Cup. Jeff Topping / The National

A record number of teams are preparing to fight for honours when the largest polo tournament in the region is staged in the UAE.

Eight teams, including representatives from Saudi Arabia and Jordan, are taking part in the President of the UAE Polo Cup.

And Oscar Colombres, an Argentine professional, said the line-up at Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club was the strongest in quality as well as quantity.

The Saudi and Jordan players will join six local teams in the tournament, which runs from March 18 to 30.

"I have been playing in the UAE for the past 13 years and this competition is by far the biggest in terms of participation and with high quality players whom I know having been in the world polo circuit," Colombres, who plays for Ghantoot, said.

"Of course, winning would be the goal of every team and we as the defending champions are very keen to keep this prestigious title at the host club. It is going to be a very tough competition with so many good players and very balanced teams."

The teams are divided in two groups and the top two will advance to the final and the two runners up will play for third place.

Zedan Polo represent Saudi Arabia and Sumaya Polo carries the hopes of Jordan.

They are joined by the local teams Ghantoot Land Rover, Al Habtoor, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Team Abu Dhabi, Bin Drai and Desert Palm.

Hugo Barabucci, the captain of Ghantoot, said he was looking forward to a high standard of polo at the season-closing event.

"It's great to see so many teams entering the tournament, it really demonstrates how much the passion for polo in this country and around the Middle East is growing" he said. "Now that we are approaching the end of the season, all the teams have had a few tournaments to practice and we are really looking forward to our biggest and toughest test so far this year."

Abdulla bin Dasmal, Faris Al Yabhouni, Rashid bin Drai, Tariq Albwardy, Nasser Al Dhaheri and Mohammed Al Habtoor are the Emirati players in the six local teams.

"The Emirati players have improved over the years and their contributions will matter for every team and in every game," said Colombres, who has Al Dhaheri as the Emirati player in his team.

"I have played alongside him and against him in several competitions, and we are very lucky to have him our team."

All the games are free to the public and include family activities and a picnic area.

"As always this event is open for the public to come along and enjoy a high standard of polo matches and a great family day," said Saeed bin Houfan Al Mansouri, the vice-chairman of the club.

Two matches are scheduled for the opening day: Ghantoot take on Team Abu Dhabi in the Group A opener on the main Sheikh Zayed pitch at 4.30pm and Sumaya play Al Habtoor in the Group B opener on pitch No 1 at 5.30pm.

apassela@thenational.ae