Sussex’s Kian Hall says Saturday’s Cartier Queen’s Cup final will represent “the best moment of my career”, while his mother admitted that “I’ll need to buy a new dress”, after the 18-year-old Englishman confirmed his place in the first major trophy showdown of the summer at Guards, Windsor.
Hall will be the only English player competing in the final after contributing to Dubai’s powerful and feisty 16-12 semi-final victory over Zacara on Wednesday.
In front of an expected 6,000 crowd – moved to Saturday, with the Queen’s 90th birthday the following day – Dubai will play La Indiana, helmed by American businessman and patron Michael Bickford, who upset favourites King Power, backed by Leicester City owners, in a thrilling second semi-final.
“The finals of the Queen’s Cup is something that might never happen again [for me] so it’s a massive opportunity,” said Hall.
“I don’t think anything will beat playing with Adolfo [Cambiaso] and Juan Martin [Nero], this is the top duo. To play with these two is an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Hall has enjoyed a meteoric 12 months alongside the sport’s elite players after playing a part during King Power Foxes’ double success last summer.
This year, the one goal handicap was snapped up Dubai patron Rashid Albwardy and the two low goalers linked up superbly alongside 10 handicappers Cambiaso and Nero, the formidable Argentinian duo.
“My job isn’t to score goals but to take out one of the better ones and try to do my best,” he added of a team who scored 66 goals in their last five games.
Hall’s rise is a remarkable tale. His mother, Faye, was working at a business unit on a farm when she met two Argentinian brothers, Lucas and Jeronimo Gahan.
The pair kept ponies on the farm and the young Hall was soon grooming and mucking out the stables. His eagerness saw him rewarded with polo lessons, trips to Argentina followed and, after two years of hard saving, he was able to buy his first pony.
On Wednesday, Hall warmly embraced his mother and grandmother, Fiona, while the Gahans looked on with pride.
“The hard work is paying off and hopefully it will pay off on Saturday,” said Hall. He then paid tribute to his mother after several years of 18-hour days, which involved round trips from their Brighton home to the polo heartland of Cowdray Park.
The family eventually moved and now live in Storrington, West Sussex. “Mum has done it all really,” said Hall. “Without her, I definitely wouldn’t be here today.”
Faye says that she is “driver, manager and moral support.” As she talked on the lawn where her son had moments earlier played a key role in seeing off the threat of Zacara’s 10 goaler Pablo MacDonough, she admitted that “to see him play with all these masters is just great. Polo is a way of life and I’m addicted now.”
She added: “It’s not part of our world but we are proud of him and his work ethic. There have been challenging times, joy and excitement. I’d better buy a dress now if he’s to meet the Queen.”
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Cambiaso will be looking for a record ninth Queen’s Cup victory on Saturday when they tackle La Indiana, who became the first team in the tournament to go two goals ahead of King Power when they led 11-9 in the fifth chukka.
The pivotal moment came next when King Power’s Facundo Pieres looked to have clear road before the impressive American, Nic Roldan, steamed back to intercept, unleashing a searing backhand pass for La Indiana to edge three clear. It was a sublime move and perhaps the key to the match.
But King Power threw caution to the wind in the sixth and final chukka as they levelled late on.
The drama wasn’t over, though, as La Indiana were then awarded a last-second, 30-yard penalty which was coolly slotted home as the Thai-backed quartet lost the defence of their title.