Team UAE clinch trophy as polo event proves a huge hit
Her Highness Sheikha Maitha bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum expects a bigger and stronger event next year following the sensational victory of her side, Team UAE, at the Ralph Lauren International Ladies Polo Tournament on Friday at the Desert Palm.
It was the first-ever ladies-only polo tournament in the region and the final day of action saw the level of play reach incredible heights as all 16 participating ladies gave a clinical demonstration of some world-class polo.
“We were lucky to have some of the best polo players in the world,” Sheikha Maitha said after the trophy ceremony. “The world’s top two players, Sunny Hale playing for Team Asia, and Marianela Castagnola playing on Team UAE, both were fantastic which is why the level of competition was very high.
“For the men in the crowd, this could possibly be the first time they’ve seen such a high level of performance in ladies polo and I’m proud that it was showcased here in the UAE.”
Team UAE, captained by Sheikha Maitha, had a strong start in the final match against Team Europe A as they raced to a 4.5 goal lead in the first two chukkas.
But the European side, led by Princess Anna Oettingen-Wallerstein, managed to halt the slew of goals and showed great resilience in the final two chukkas, which saw lots of action but no goals. Team UAE ended up winning 6-1.5 to take home the trophy.
“We played better each match and I was really pleased with the performance of my team members,” added Sheikha Maitha. “It was very tough and even though we had scored some goals, each match we had to play 100 per cent.
"We were exhausted by the end of it, just to keep the lead because the other team were coming at us strong.”
With lots of positive response to the tournament, Sheikha Maita says she’s already looking forward to planning the next one.
She says: “I think initially we just wanted to test the waters but now there’s a strong support, they want it annually, and I think we’ll see more top women players, who were contracted to play other tournaments, but they want to come next year so hopefully we’ll see more teams and better performance from the girls.”
World No2 Castagnola played a pivotal part in Team UAE’s win and she says participating in the region’s first ladies-only event was a real honour.
“Sometimes you have dreams and those dreams come true. Because, not just here, but everywhere, we feel that us girls have an opportunity. And by having Sheikha Maitha, it’s an honour to play with her, and it’s like she’s taking over. We’re so happy that we have this kind of support to carry on,” said the talented Argentine.
“She’s an unbelievable person. Generous and unbelievable. And I feel so grateful for everything she’s doing for women’s polo.”
Team Europe B finished in third place after they edged past Team Asia 10.5-9 in the earlier match of the day.
Captained by Czech Republic’s Katerina Zeka Dombiova, and thanks to some nifty plays from Lucy Taylor, Team Europe B managed to finish their Dubai experience on a high.
“We were sure that the last match was going to be the best one because at first we didn’t know each but with time we got better and better so we’re glad we finished off with a win. It was very nice to spend these four days here with the girls and meet new people because they’re really amazing,” said Dombiova.
The Desert Palm Resort played host to the four-day tournament, and owner Ali Al Bawardi, says he’s looking forward to hosting more ladies’ events in the future.
“Dubai always takes the lead in everything,” said Al Bawardi. “UAE polo is big right now. Of course having women’s events is the natural growth of the sport. This is our first year but this event I’d like to take it to a bigger scale. We started with four teams, next year we’ll have more, perhaps eight teams.”
David Lauren, executive vicepresident of advertising, marketing and corporate communications at Ralph Lauren, the tournament sponsors, added: “We are incredibly thankful for the participation of Her Highness Sheikha Maitha and Dubai Cares in supporting this event.
"This partnership reinforces the brand’s leadership in major sporting events and our dedication to supporting the game of polo.”