Team UAE finished second last of the 15-participating teams in the opening qualifier for Sunday's main final, but they were a revelation in the Challenge Cup at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona
UAE's victory in the Longines FEI Nations Challenge Cup the result of 'years of effort'
Team UAE’s first appearance at the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final will go down in history as one of their finest moments on the world stage.
Team UAE finished second last of the 15-participating teams in the opening qualifier for Sunday's main final, but they were a revelation in the Challenge Cup at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona on Saturday, beating more established competitors to win the seven-team tournament.
They went six faults clear to win from European champions Ireland and Team Brazil in third with an 11-fault finishing score.
Abdullah Al Marri had to endure a difficult draw when he had to take on the 13-fence course which demanded both accuracy and speed.
However, the Emirati made it look easy on the mare Sama Dubai FBH, picking up just two time faults.
Abdullah Al Muhairi and Cha Cha Cha 7 posted an extraordinary clear only to be followed by a single time fault for Ghanem Al Hajri and Pour le Poussage, and wrapped it up without even needing Sheikh Majid Al Qassimi and Celtion.
Karl Schneider, the UAE chef d’equipe, felt it was their poor start that spurred his side to success in the Challenge Cup.
“Sheikh Majid is normally our best rider, but he was first to go and he didn’t have a good time,” he said.
“Maybe his horse didn’t travel well, but anyway I think that shocked all the other boys and that’s why they didn’t ride well. So we changed the team order and put him in last, and I was only joking when I said that maybe he might not have to jump tonight!"
For Al Marri, the result was no surprise.
“This result is no fluke,” he said. “It’s the result of years of effort. We’ve been working really hard setting the basis for the sport in our country.
“I have my mare for six years and I know her very well; she always had potential, I always believed in her and I’m glad she was able to shine in such an amazing place.
“And for the first time we had more than four riders to choose from for a Nations Cup, which was brilliant, and we chose the four that were in form and thankfully we did well.”
Princess Haya of Jordan, former FEI president and wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, added: “I’m so thrilled, so proud of this success. After all the hard work they’ve invested over the years they really deserved this.”