x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Polo all in the family for Saeed Bin Drai

Saeed bin Drai and family will join forces with Argentina's Novillo Astrada clan to host a 20-goal exhibition match at Dubai Polo and Equesterian Club.

Saeed bin Drai says that 10 years ago there were 'two or three' polo teams in the UAE, and now 'there are more than six'.
Saeed bin Drai says that 10 years ago there were 'two or three' polo teams in the UAE, and now 'there are more than six'.

DUBAI // Two of the world's major polo-playing families, one Emirati and one from Argentina, are to join forces on Friday for the inaugural Diamond Polo Cup.

Bin Drai Polo, originally an all-brother team that began with Humaid bin Drai, the father of polo in the UAE, and the Argentine Novillo Astrada family are combining to put on a 20-goal exhibition match at Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club this weekend.

The match format means the combined handicap of players on each team adds up to 20 goals.

Polo players are rated on a scale from minus-2 to 10, with the best players carrying the highest handicap.

Saeed bin Drai, the organiser of the event, said that his ambition was to promote polo to the UAE with a long-term view to making the event not only annual but also international.

"With this tournament we will welcome some of the greatest polo players in the world," he said.

"The Novillo Astrada brothers are the family behind the great La Aguada Polo Team, which participates in the Argentine Open in Buenos Aires - the highest level of polo in the world." Two teams, Zedan Polo and Bin Drai Polo will participate in the match.

Jordan's Prince Hashim bin Al Hussein, the brother of Princess Haya, will join with Amr F Zedan, and brothers, Alejandro and Julio Novillo Astrada on the Zedan Polo Team.

The Bin Drai side will feature Saeed bin Drai, who will play alongside Adriano and Eduardo Novillo Astrada and their fellow Argentine, Ignacio Toccalino.

"Dubai has long been the Mecca for the racing world," said bin Drai, who sees it as his mission to continue the promotion of polo, which his father started almost 40 years ago when he built the old Dubai Polo Club near Al Awir.

"My father started polo in this country in 1974, and although he never played himself, his sons did. When I returned from university I also took up the sport because I had been participating in jet ski and motorbike racing, and I was bored and wanted to try something different.

"With this event I came to realise that there was an opportunity to provide the country with a tournament of the highest standard, filling a niche market.

"The idea is that this event becomes a vehicle to develop the sport of polo, and I hope to see it evolve and develop into something different every year.

"Ten years ago there were just two or three polo teams in the UAE. Now we see that there are more than six, and the sport is growing all the time."

The Diamond Polo Cup will play out before a crowd of invitation-only VIPs at the polo venue near to Arabian Ranches in Dubai.

Special guests include the Lebanese singer, Elissa, as well as a number of sports stars.

 

sports@thenational.ae