Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi Polo Team staged a titanic comeback to stun Desert Palm in the final of the HH The President of the UAE Cup Polo final on Friday.
Down 6-4 at the start of the final chukker at the festive Ghantoot Racing & Polo Club, Abu Dhabi reeled off three goals without answer to stun their rivals and leave Desert Palm’s teenage stars, Camilo Castagnola and Bartolome Castagnola, in tears.
It was a classic match which will go down in UAE polo history.
Abu Dhabi, winners of the Emirates Open Polo Championships in December last year, were the big favourites to win the four-team’ Royal Signature’ tournament. But a different story unfolded as the powerhouse squad that team patron, Faris Al Yabhouni, has forged, threw away the early advantage and allowed an exuberant Desert Palm to control the run of play.
The Dubai quartet, led by Rashid Al Bawardy (+2 handicap), and comprising 14-year-old Camilo (+4) and his 12-year-old brother, Bartolome (+6), and the mercurial Santiago Laborde. (+6) looked to be cruising to victory with just seven minutes remaining.
However, Abu Dhabi pulled two goals back and converted a controversial penalty with just 20 seconds remaining, to leave Desert Palm in a ‘state of shock’ and claim victory at the final whistle.
Argentine high-handicapped Alfredo Cappela Barabucci (+9) was the top scorer four the winners with 4 goals, while fellow Argentine professionals Santiago Cernadas (+6) struck 2 and Santiago Gomez Romero (+3) one goal.
Santiago Laborde led the scoring for Desert Palm with 4 goals but it was Camilo who played the game of his life while running circles around his more experienced opponents and also scored two beautiful goals.
“It feels amazing,” said a delighted Al Yabhouni. “This is something that I have been craving for a long, long time. We’ve won many tournaments but never the HH The President of the UAE Cup. So it means a lot to me, and my team.
“All the teams in the tournament were strong so it may it seem even more special. Desert Palm played very good polo all through the tournament and reserved their best for the final.|” he added.
“They were very organised on the field and had good horses. More importantly they employed a clever strategy and did not allow us to play out natural game.
“But fortunately, were found our rhythm in the final chukker and with the help of small set pieces, were able to turn the whole game around.” Said Al Yabhouni.
“I owe this success to my players and the whole team who work behind the scenes to make our job a lot, lot easier. This one is for you Guys!”
Desert Palm patron Rashid Al Bawardi took the defeat in his stride, saying: “We lost but we were unlucky. It came down to one goal in the end.
“Obviously I’m disappointed, as we had the match under control, but in a game sometimes you lose for reasons that are beyond your control.
“But we’re happy to have played in the final of the HH The President of the UAE Cup and congratulations to Abu Dhabi on winning a second prestigious tournament.”
Earlier, Ghantoot ADS Securities Polo Team beat UAE Polo Team 7 goals to 5 in a play-off match for the third place.
Shaikha Maitha Bint Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, made a much-anticipated debut in the tournament for the UAE and even scored a splendid goal.
Held in the name of The President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and under the patronage of Shaikh Falah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the two-week long event has attracted some of the leading polo players in the UAE and from around the world.
The format for the event featured three rounds of qualification matches at the Ghantoot Racing & Polo Club, with the grand final played on Friday.
Abu Dhabi Sports Council with the Governing Partner of the tournament which was presented by ADS Securities. Maserati, Premier Motors, was the official car.
Dominque of ADS Securities commented: “ADS is really pleased to be here and to be a main sponsor of such a prestigious event.
“Our aim is to deliver the message for our clients, and to the fans in the UAE, and around the world, that polo is not just a game for the rich for the VVIP class, it is a sport that everyone can enjoy.
“Polo is a team game that can be enjoyed by one and all. Look at the families over here all enjoying the event which best reflects the spirt of Abu Dhabi and this is precisely what ADS Securities if looking for. This is how we work with our clients and colleagues.”
Helal Hanei Omar, vice-president, Premier Motors, the Official Car of the event, commented: “Premier Motors and Maserati are pleased to be associated with His Highness President of UAE Polo Cup — one of the finest and most prestigious tournaments in the UAE.
“Dedicated to the President of the UAE, it is a Championship that is dear to us and features some of the best players in the event.
“As the Exclusive Automotive partner for the 2017-18 season, visitors to the Ghantoot Racing & Polo Club were also able to see the full 2018 Maserati model range including the Ghibli, Quattroporte, GranTurismo and the Levante at the event.”
Abu Dhabi Polo Team beat Desert Palm Polo Team 7 goals to 6.
Abu Dhabi: Santiago Cernadas 2; Alfredo Cappela Barabucci 4; Santiago Gomez Romero 1
Desert Palm: Camilo Castagnola 2; Santiago Laborde 4
Umpires: 1. Rafael Silva.; 2. Peter White.
Referee Tim Bown.
Best Amateur Player: Faris Al Yabhouni
Best Professional Player: Bartolome Castagnola
Best Playing Pony: Zelta
Third Place, Play-Off
Ghantoot ADS Securities Polo Team beat UAE Polo Team 7 goals to 5.
Ghantoot: Amin Badar El Din 2; Facundo Sola 4; James Fewster 1.
UAE: Shaikha Maitha Bint Mohammad 1; Agncio Acuna 2; Pablo Avales 2.
Umpires: 1. Rafael Silva. 2. Tim Bown.
Referee: Peter White.