The growing Dubai season was conquered by a number of young players who are working to leave their mark in the Middle East. Ten players between the ages of 18 and 26 took part in UAE’s 2016 polo season, held in Dubai. Despite their young age, many are recognised players and boast an enviable CV of polo tournaments and victories. Some were new to Dubai’s season, but left champions, as is Jack Hyde’s case. At only 18, Hyde won this year’s Julius Baer Gold Cup, the most prestigious polo tournament in the Middle East, with UAE polo team.
This group of players brought youth, self-confidence, and talent to the game, but they also gained attention off the field. Belonging to the same generation and sharing similar tastes, likes and trends, this young group of players formed their own “team.” When polo was off and stable duties over, the group made the most of everything Dubai available has to offer: beaches, water parks, go karting, skydiving, golf, shopping and delicious food.
They didn’t disappoint on the field either, and like Jack Hyde, Martín Gándara has done incredibly well with Zedan, winning the 2015 Gold Cup, 2016 Silver Cup, and the 2016 Dubai Cup 2016.
The whole gang put on a great show, giving us a glimpse of what the future of polo will look like. Here is a round up of who they are, their thoughts on the Dubai season, and the future of polo.
“This was my first season in Dubai and I had a great time. The polo here has left a good impression on me – I didn’t expect the level to be so good. The architecture here is amazing, and the beach is really close. In terms of the future of polo, there are many young guys who are playing well and reaching six goals is a possible achievement. After that, you need a bigger organisation, you need to travel and make money, and mount yourself well.”
“We expected the season to be a great one, and in terms of the city, Dubai is amazing. It is a place with huge potential in terms of polo. Younger players don’t have it so easy; it is a struggle but hopefully things will get better and we can continue to travel. It was great having so many young players here this year. I hope they continue to believe in us so that we can come and play here again.”
Tomás Fernández Llorente
“This was my first season in Dubai and it was really great; I thought it would be amazing and it fulfilled my expectations. If it continues to grow it will become one of the great polo seasons where many professionals come to play. The number of young players in Dubai this year was surprising. It is great that there were so many of us. Let’s hope the trend grows and we can continue to play here.”
“This was my second season in Dubai. It was great being here with Ghantoot – we were very spoiled! It is a good thing there are a number young guys here this season; we are all very close in age and we had a lot of fun together. There are many young players taking part in seasons around the world and joining organisations at various levels. Apart from being a good opportunity, it allows us to improve.
Jerónimo del Carril
“I really enjoyed this season, and it has helped me a lot as a player, having never played this type of polo before – I am more accustomed to playing 4 vs 4 as they do in Argentina, whereas in Dubai it is more 3 vs 3. You have less time to think in this type of polo and every play needs to be resolved quicker. Returning to Dubai after so many years has been great [he spent a lot of time here as a child]. I’ve seen an enormous change in the level of polo, the organisations, and the players who participate. The fact that there are many kids my age out here makes the season a lot more fun. We all get on well; when we were not playing or at the polo we always organised something as a group.”
Team: Bin Drain
“This is my second season in Dubai and I love it here. Dubai has everything to offer as a city, and the weather is great throughout the season. In terms of polo, the only thing that needed improvement were the fields, but now Mohammed Al Habtoor has created a new club which has solved that problem. All the young guys out here are great players; many of them play around the world and compete in important tournaments. A couple of guys are really good and their future is bright. I think we should be given more of a hand; the AAP should protect us more because there are a lot of rules we have to abide by when we play abroad, but the same doesn’t apply for foreigners who come to Argentina. It’s the only complication we might have.”
Team: Habtoor Polo
“I first came to Dubai in 2013, but I came less time the first couple of years. My task was mainly to prepare the horses for the season. The level of organisations, horses and players improves greatly every year considering how new this destination is. The fields needed to be improved, and Mohammed Al Habtoor has done that with his new club. That has been a fundamental step forward in terms of improving polo in Dubai. It is amazing that I get the chance to do something I love and be with my friends at the same time. I am very happy and grateful.”
“This was my first year in Dubai. It is a spectacular place; the city is beautiful and there are many things to do. In terms of polo, I really enjoyed the season here – not only playing the Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series, but the other tournaments I got to play as well. The good thing about playing with so many guys my age is that everything is more fun. I met many of them out here and we got on well. I think polo is in a good place at the moment, but improvements can always be made. There is progress and young players have a big part in that. I hope that it continues to grow.”
Lucas Díaz Alberdi
Team: Ghantoot Polo
“This was my first season in Dubai; we lived between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, two incredible cities which are a lot of fun. The teams were all very even this season, and organisations have improved a lot. There was a different winner in every tournament, which is good. I hope we can continue to play and improve here, so that we can be great players in the future.”
“The season in Dubai is great; this is my second year. The tournaments have been even and a lot of fun. Teams are making more of an effort to get organised and it shows. The future looks good; they new club is sure to increase the competition and the installations will be some of the best in the world, with good horses and top players taking part in the season.”