"Dubai is full of new players and patrons"
Polo is growing all around the world. However, Dubai is certainly one of the destinations where the sport is clearly on the rise. One of the most important people in this story is Guillermo Cuitiño, who has been working for Habtoor Polo for many years and brings his knowledge to the table to help the sport grow.
"Polo has grown significantly in Dubai in the last few years, and Mohamed Habtoor was a big part of it. He hired me three years ago, we started working together, and he was a big force behind what is happening now in Dubai."
-What is polo in Dubai like?
"We're not just playing, oddly enough, with the pandemic, Dubai boomed. We have practice games all the time at the club. Tomas Iriarte, a dear friend, is our polo manager, and he does an excellent job. We've been organizing three round-robin practice matches a day, and we also have a polo school, which is full to the brim of beginner-level players, and many kids too! I've seen it grow and evolve on the regular. Classes start at 6am for beginners, and end at 6pm. It was unthinkable, but it's happening. It's good to be able to tell the world that Dubai is brimming with polo."
-And you've started hosting tournaments too...
"We are currently hosting a 6-Goal Cup. We value low goal polo a lot. Dubai's highlight is the Gold Cup Series, the one everyone knows about, which is played from January to March. It's the high goal, at the 18-goal level. However, we also focus a lot on the lower levels. We have a 6-goal tournament with 10 teams participating, that's amazing, and next week we'll start a 10-goal tournament which will also have 10 teams. It's especially amazing for this to happen in a place like Dubai."
-The Low goal is a necessary base for the high goal to be sustained as years go by.
"To get to the Gold Series with many teams, patrons, and pro players, we need new patrons to join the sport. Dubai is a seedbed of patrons. I know this just looking at the people who've been playing the Gold Cup Series in the last 12 years. It drew in the public, made them want to start playing polo. Dubai has a lot of new patrons and players. It's really a seedbed for patrons. Mohamed, Tomas and I have the goal of helping and training patrons so one day they can play the high goal. It's important to start at the low goal, it's a long process for any polo player, fan, or patron, you've got to start with lessons. Get on a horse and do some stick-and-balling. We want to focus on that, and having as many clients as possible."
-What are the advantages for someone who is just starting to do so at Habtoor Polo Club?
"I'm not very well-known or have had an amazing career in polo, but I do think I'm quite experienced when it comes to helping patrons get started. It's also a lot easier to start in a place that has all the requirements for anyone to have a good time. The Academy has a ton of local players, but also a lot of European players. The club has all the necessary commodities too, including a 5-star hotel, formerly the Hotel Saint Regis, now called the Habtoor Polo Resort. It's a world-class hotel inside the club. You can go from your hotel room, to a wonderful balcony where you can enjoy an amazing breakfast, then go downstairs and immediately someone will be handing you a horse for a polo lesson. It's a 5-star service. We have four top-quality polo fields, and also a few tifton fields that are really good. From 1 to 10, both our levels and standards are at a 10, and all the high goal players who have stayed here agree. Our horses are good too, straight from the Rental, from the Academy, they are amazing for anyone who's just starting, and it's all very fun."
"Mohamed is a polo fan and an optimist. He likes betting on the future. We'll be hosting two more 10-goal Cups before the end of the year, and the Gold Cup Series will start on January. We already have 8 teams confirmed for the 18-goal level, with some amazing players. Some of the best players in the world have played in Dubai, and we are fortunate to have them come back often. Some examples are Pablo MacDonough, Lucas Monteverde, Alfredo Cappella, Ezequiel Martínez Ferrario, Negrito Zavaleta, Jero Del Carril, Facu Sola... we have had and continue to have an amazing level. It's one of the most attractive polo destinations in the world, no doubts. Not only due to the level of play, but also because Dubai is an amazing touristic destination for anyone. Players and patrons coming with their family can enjoy a destination which has every touristic attraction you could think of, and then our top polo service on top of it. Dubai has four polo clubs, but the one who started it all and opened Dubai polo for the world was Mohamed Habtoor via this project, the Habtoor Polo Club and Resort. I am only a loyal worker of his. I supported him, and shared my opinions and knowledge with him, and did everything I could from my point of view. However, Mohamed Habtoor is, no doubt, the key person in the growth of Dubai polo."