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A New Horizon: UAE's XIII FIP World Polo Championship

As the Sun sets on the horizon of Dubai's polo fields, the United Arab Emirates is set to make history. The Federation of International Polo (FIP) has chosen the UAE as the host country for the 2026 World Polo Championship, marking the first time this prestigious event will be held in the Middle East since its inception in 1987. 

This historic decision, coming in the event’s 13th edition, is a testament to the UAE's rise in the world of polo, an ascent that has seen the World Cup traverse continents from Europe to the Americas, Australia, and now, the Arabian Peninsula. At the forefront of this monumental occasion is Saeed Bin Drai, the Vice Chairman of UAE Polo Federation and patron of Bin Drai Polo Team. 

“Hosting the FIP World Championship is a significant milestone for us. We are so proud and hope we have an amazing event that people will talk about”

The UAE's commitment to polo extends beyond hosting the World Championship. The Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, and the stewardship of Mohammed Al Habtoor since 2009, showcases the nation's deep love for the sport. From its inception as a single tournament, the series has evolved into five premier events, matching the stature of world-class tournaments in Argentina, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

The evolution of the Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series mirrors the growth of polo in the UAE, starting with tournaments of 10-12 goal handicaps to the current high-stakes games with 20-goal handicaps.

Fans can expect an experience like no other. Nestled close to the bustling life of Dubai, the polo clubs offer a unique blend of sport and lifestyle, a synergy of exhilarating matches, and the city's vibrant social scene. 

As UAE gears up to host the 2026 World Polo Championship, it's not merely hosting a sporting event; it's showcasing its journey, from an enthusiastic participant to a pivotal leader in the world of polo. 

-Saeed, how did you receive the news that UAE will be hosting the World Cup?

"Everyone was eagerly waiting; we had been anticipating the news for the last couple of days. As soon as the news broke, I started receiving a lot of messages. The atmosphere back home is one of general happiness. We are very happy, and very proud, and we hope to host an amazing event."

-Could you elaborate on the development and current state of polo in the UAE?

"Polo in Dubai took off. We have incredible fields and clubs, so there was no reason to go anywhere else. Dubai's season is quite long, running from October to the first week of May, offering over seven months of polo. In Europe, I participate in a few Medium-Goal tournaments.

Dubai boasts many significant patrons, like Ali Albwardy, who is one of the largest and the first people to play polo, elevating Dubai's name in the polo world. He invited us to his club, which is amazing, and I believe we all contributed to polo's growth in the country. Then there's Habtoor, which established a great club that also helped in the sport's progression. The development was rapid, and now we have very competitive High-Goal polo in Dubai. 

We are progressing towards the international scene. Hosting the FIP World Championship is a significant milestone for us. We are so proud and hope we have an amazing event that people will talk about. That's our goal - to create an incredible experience for the members, organization, and general public. We have a lot to prepare for until 2026."

-What can fans look forward to at this event?

"We have very large polo clubs. Take Habtoor, for instance - it's a massive club with great support from the beginning, along with other clubs. Fans will appreciate how conveniently close these clubs are to the town. Accessing the clubs is very easy, unlike in some places where you might have to travel for an hour or two. In Dubai, you can go to work, play polo, and dine at a restaurant all in one day - a rarity elsewhere. When people come to watch polo, they'll see how amazing and well-organized we are and how much we value people's time. In Dubai, you can easily engage in activities other than polo. This is quite different from other places where polo is played in remote areas, not near city centers."

-Could you share your journey and experiences with polo?

"In 1998, I visited Argentina, the Mecca of polo. My journey began in the UK with Adam Kent and Howard Hipwood, then I moved to Argentina. I was inspired to play polo by Alex Ebeid, who led the Golden Falcons and won the Gold Cup numerous times, both in Deauville and the UK. I didn't start at a very young age, but as I progressed, I played many games in Argentina. We won our first cup at Ellerstina. Later, I was invited to play in St Moritz, and we won the Snow Polo World Cup title in 2020."


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