Gonzalo Pieres’s appearance for King Power under floodlights in the winning team at the bi-annual King’s Cup Polo proved a huge hit, with the tournament at the VR Sports Club – owned by Leicester City Football Club owner and business billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha – having become the highest handicapped tournament in Asia.
King Power defeated Ahmibah Brunei 13-12 in the final in Bangkok. Ten-goaler Pieres, the Argentine national team captain, played alongside brothers Apichet (0) and Aiyawatt ‘Top’ Srivaddhanaprabha (1) and Marcos Di Paola (8) in the team which had also played at Cowdray Park this year in their inaugural season in the Gold Cup, their campaign a success as they reached the final, only to come up against Dubai, and Adolfo Cambiaso on fire.
Although played in the Far East, the 15 -18 goal tournament is played under Hurlingham Polo Association rules, with with umpires Oli Ellis and Tim Keyte in charge of play.
With six teams, and selected matches played under floodlights this year, the tournament flourished with the added spice that it was Victorian themed.
Previously, the VR Sports Club had held matches featuring Adolfo Cambiaso, Lolo Castagnola and Di Paola, but as January 2015 closed out, they can add other top players have played there, Nachi Heguy (9), Ignacio Novillo Astrada (9), Joaquim Pittaluga (7), Temi Willington (7) and Manuel Crespo (7).
Popularizing polo within Thailand is something Srivaddhanaprabha has been passionate about since founding the Thailand Polo Association in August 1998, with his intention “to develop the skills of players in the country in order to compete successfully internationally with the leading polo playing nations.”
There was a global flavour to the tournament. HRH Prince Jefri Bolkiah returning for a second year with his ‘Ahmibah Brunei’ team to play against another team from his country, HRH Princess Azemah’s ‘Brunei Polo’, who were playing for the first time in this tournament.
Alongside the teams from Brunei were Shailai Liu’s ‘Tang Polo’ team from China, Michael Romero’s ‘Global Port’ from the Philippines and Malaysian Joevy Beh’s ‘BP Healthcare’.
The final saw 15-goal team (to 19 goal King Power) Ahmibah Brunei started the match with four goals on the board. Brunei were 10-8 ahead in the fourth, but King Power slowly made their pony power tell, clawing their way ahead. In the final chukka, fittingly, from a safety 60, Pieres scored the crucial goal for King Power to put them ahead 13-12.
King’s Cup Tournament, results:
Day 1 – King Power 9 v 7.5 Tang Polo (VR Field); BP Healthcare 6 v 9.5 Ahmibah Brunei (VR Field)
Day 2 – BP Healthcare 8 v 9.5 Global Port (SSP Field); King Power 11 v 9.5 Brunei Polo (VR Field)
Day 3 – Tang Polo 10 v 8 Brunei Polo (SPP Field); Global Port 5 v 5.5 Ahmibah Brunei (VR Field)
Day 4 – Sub-Finals: Brunei Polo (5th) 8.5 v 8 BP Healthcare (6th) (SPP Field); Tang Polo (3rd) 10 v 9 Global Port (4th) (VR Field)
Day 5 – Thailand Polo King’s Cup Final: King Power 13 v 12 Ahmibah Brunei (VR Field)
We are looking for more polo clubs to be featured in the Telegraph during 2015. Email Rod Gilmour and Gareth A Davies