This year’s Gold Cup may have been about the Pieres brothers and the raft of young British players competing, but there was another standout in Jose Ramon Araya, the 16-year-old Argentine who graced the Cowdray Park fields in the final.
Araya had a summer to remember playing for UAE, acting primarily as a substitute for patron Sheika Maitha Al Maktoum, but ended up as top-scoring amateur with 12 goals in the Queen’s Cup.
The zero goaler then helped UAE to land a coveted final berth in the Gold Cup, before King Power Foxes motored to victory and landed the double in only their second season a fully-fledged outfit.
“It was a really positive summer and a great experience,” admitted Araya, whose father Pepe is an experienced player himself. “It was a huge step for my career I think.”
The lean Araya, playing number one, shone for UAE as he showcased his obvious skills alongside other young talents including Hugo Lewis, Josh Cork, Ralph Richardson and Jack Hyde.
It is, of course, too early in his career for Araya to play in the Argentina Opens this autumn and winter, but the 16-year-old now aims “to make money and work in polo”.
His decision was rubber-stamped after learning off UAE team-mate Pablo Mac Donough, the Argentine 10 goaler, over the summer.
“I saw that he is a great person and one that I admire a lot,” he added. “He’s very complete and has a great organisation with horses which is really important.
“I learnt to play for him. We did all the hard work and he did all the damage. It was a great experience and it has set me up for a positive year next year.”
Araya, who was taught to play the game on the Araya family farm, was playing medium goal and was “still learning the game” when the call came from UAE Polo, the quartet looking for an experienced zero goaler. “I certainly didn’t know I was going to play in the Gold Cup,” he admitted.
He is also friends with a few of his English contemporaries, players who he hopes to compete against or alongside in major tournaments over the next decade.
“We are all really good friends, I met them when a few of them came over to Argentina for the winter,” he said.
Remember the 2015 season, a summer when future English and Argentine talents were uncovered.