The Team Saudia star speaks to Esquire Middle East at the Richard Mille AlUla Desert Polo 2022
The Team Saudia star sat down with Esquire Middle East at the Richard Mille AlUla Desert Polo 2022, the first modern polo tournament in the world to be staged in the desert, to discuss his passion for the sport, the future of polo in Saudi Arabia, and more.
Read our full conversation from the sidelines of the event, organised by RCU in partnership with the SPF and Richard Mille, below:
How did you discover polo?
I began playing at 10 years old, at school. I like other sports as well but polo captured my attention and is the one I am truly passionate about. Before playing, I had attended some games and been fascinated by the action and intensity. I saw how exciting the games were, how physical it was and how excited the crowds were. I always wanted to try for myself. When I was asked if I wanted to play, I jumped at the chance.
What attracted you to the sport?
I have seen the sport being played and equestrian is an important part of our heritage. It’s so competitive, you have to be courageous and work together as a team. I love the intensity and having to fight for every win. I have loved it since I first saw a game and that has only grown as I have played. I can’t wait for more young Saudis to take up the sport and join me on the field.
How does polo differ from other sports and what makes it such a great sport?
Polo combines the best parts of other team sports into one. It is fiercely-competitive. First you have the riding aspect, which takes constant concentration, and then on top of that, you have to be aggressive on the field to reach the ball, stop your opponent and help your team. It’s a battle out there and you have to do everything to support your teammates.
A Passion for Polo
How do you feel when playing polo?
It is an intense sport with the adrenaline pumping throughout. It is incredibly physical and there are a lot of tactics to think about in a split second. You have to make the right decision and be brave to win. It is the complete sport. There really is nothing like it. I love polo and it’s great to see it gaining more recognition in Saudi Arabia.
Talk to us about how important the horses are…
Welfare of the animals is at the heart of the sport. The horses are our teammates in a way, too. Each period of play, a chukker, you play on a different horse. You get to know their personalities and how to work with them as a team. You build a relationship with your horses in the same way you do with the other players on your team and this team work, between the players and the horses, is essential.
What future do you see for polo in Saudi Arabia?
This is an awesome time for sport in Saudi Arabia. We are at the start of something brand new. New facilities are opening, new teams are forming and the country is building everything necessary for our national talents to succeed. There are more and more competitions across the country taking place each week. This is a great opportunity for young Saudis to take part in something brand new to the country and pursue their dreams.
Will other sports also grow in Saudi?
This is a new era; there is so many new opportunities and investment in all sports. There is so much support from the government to develop sport across Saudi Arabia. Minister of Sport, HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Saud is a former racing driver and understands the demands of high-level sport so he is determined to support Saudi athletes.
How do you see sport fitting into Vision 2030?
Sport is one of the priorities of Vision 2030. Not only are there opportunities for talented athletes to join organised teams, represent the country and reach the top level, but the training facilities are there, coaching is available and this is a completely brand new era for sport. Sport has the potential to elevate the entire country.
How important is AlUla Desert Polo in raising the profile of polo in Saudi Arabia?
AlUla Desert Polo is a unique event in so many ways. It’s the first polo tournament to be played on sand and it is such a spectacular location. The tournament shows young Saudis that they can channel their energy into sport and play high profile matches in their home country.
Are you excited to play alongside some of the best in the world?
It’s a dream come true to be invited to play in this tournament. It’s a great honour and I am going to be on the same team as Juan Martín Nero of La Dolfina, the best team in the world. To see him in action, so close, and learn from him will only make me a better player. It shows that Saudi players can make it to the very top.
What would you say to anyone considering learning to play polo?
Do it! It may seem daunting at first but you can learn quickly and improve with just a few lessons then get better and enjoy the sport more and more each time. Polo Clubs are welcoming and will help newcomers progress. In most games I am the youngest player on the field, against far more experienced players than me, but there is great respect between the teams. This is a sport for everyone.