It’s the emirate’s very own home-grown, beachside sport and ahead of its ten-year anniversary, is enjoying growing popularity.
The Julius Bär Beach Polo Cup charges back into the city on Thursday April 10. Created ten years ago, the sport is a real Dubai success story – a game invented in the emirate that’s now played all over the world. Ahead of the tournament, Time Out meets with the event’s founder Sam Katiela to find out what’s in store this year.
How have the past ten years been for beach polo?
It’s amazing actually, this year we’re celebrating our ten-year anniversary, and more than 30 cities in the world are playing beach polo now. It all started in Dubai, so it was the first sport that was invented in the emirate and it has been exported as well.
What is the difference between beach polo and traditional polo played on grass?
The most exciting thing about beach polo is that the field is only 100m by 50m we’re playing on sand and all the spectators are placed directly at the pitch so they can feel the action. In the normal grass polo, the field is so big that people don’t know how exciting the sport really is, because it happens so far away. In the case of beach polo, the seating area guarantees excellent views, and we play only three against three, instead of four. Another difference is that in normal polo, 70 percent of the performance is the horse. In beach polo, it is actually 50/50 because the rider has to do so much and put so much extra effort to compete in the battle.
What’s new for this year?
For the first time ever, we are playing beach polo by night. Last year was quite hot during the daytime, so we invested in floodlights to play by night. We’re going to have bigger entertainment this year, including a special lightshow for the opening ceremony, and the Skydive Dubai guys are going to come up with a couple of surprises. Finally, between the games there’s always a 15-minute break, so this year we’re going to do a charity auction to raise funds for a new school for special needs.
Of all the countries that the game is being played in, where is it most popular?
We started it in Dubai and it’s still a key attraction here, but now it’s also popular in Miami, Germany, China, and England as well.
How many teams will be playing?
We have four teams playing – three teams from the UAE and one coming from Switzerland.
What’s been your biggest challenge this year?
Finding the right venue. We need a lot of space for the whole set-up. We have been very happy with Skydive Dubai because really it has given us a huge space with a view of the yachting club on the Marina. But finding the right venue is always a challenge. It’s a huge undertaking – it takes three weeks, over 10,000 man hours, and 3,500 tonnes of equipment. So as you can imagine we have a big show on our hands!
Julius Bär Beach Polo Cup. Dhs50 per day, Dhs70 for two days. Thursday April 10, from 6pm (invitation only), Friday 11-Saturday 12, 4.30pm-9pm. Skydive Dubai, Dubai Marina. Tickets from www.platinumlist.net.
Off to the polo for the first time? Here’s some sporting lingo
Bump: When a player is permitted to ride into another player to spoil his shot. The angle of collision must be slight, causing no more than a jar. The faster the horse, the smaller the angle must be.
Chukkas: A seven-minute period of play, with up to 30 seconds overtime on all but the last chukka. There are four or six chukkas in a polo game.
Handicaps: All players are rated on a scale of zero to ten – and the higher, the better. The handicap of the team is the sum total rating of players and in handicap matches the team with the higher handicap gives the difference in rating to the other team.