Amaala lift champion trophy in Saudi Arabia’s first-ever desert polo tournament

Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki bin Faisal presents the champion trophy to the Nacho Figueras-led Amaala polo team. (Photo/Supplied)
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Updated 19 January 2020

Amaala lift champion trophy in Saudi Arabia’s first-ever desert polo tournament

  • Amaala earned the bragging rights as the 2020, and inaugural, AlUla Desert Polo champions

JEDDAH: Renowned Argentine polo player Nacho Figueras scored all his side’s goals as Amaala hammered out an emphatic 7-3 victory over host team AlUla to win the Kingdom’s first-ever desert polo tournament on Saturday at AlUla UNESCO heritage site.

Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki bin Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority, presented the trophy to Amaala after the final.

The event forms part of Winter at Tantora festival, featuring international polo players, who had the experience of playing on compacted desert sand instead of grass amid the stunning surroundings at AlUla.

The Royal Commission of AlUla organized the three-day tournament in cooperation with the newly formed Saudi Polo Federation.

In winning the tournament, Amaala earned the bragging rights as the 2020, and inaugural, AlUla Desert Polo champions.

Players from all over the world took part, including team members from the world famous La Dolfina polo outfit from Argentina, including Adolfo Cambiaso, Pelon Stirling and Pablo Mac Donough.

In the match for third place, Al Nahla Bentley defeated Team Richard Mille 4-2 with Sheikha Alya Maktoum scoring a hat trick of goals.

Figueras said: “It’s an amazing place with an amazing history, an amazing heritage and an amazing first tournament for the Saudi Polo Federation. I’m very honored to be here and I’m delighted that we were able to win.

“This country is going through a transformation and there are amazing years to come.”

Mac Donough added: “For us it was a completely new place; polo-wise Saudi Arabia wasn’t something we were doing before. Having the chance to come to such an amazing country and having the chance to play a tournament and promote the sport, all this makes us feel very proud and we hope we can continue it.”

Saudi Polo Federation chairman, Amr F. Zedan, who played for Team Richard Mille during the tournament, said: “I see this event as a launching pad for the future. We have big plans for polo in Saudi Arabia that include the establishment of development programs and the construction of facilities to assist in building a polo infrastructure in The Kingdom.”

Amr Madani, CEO of the Royal Commission of AlUla, said: “Our tourism strategy for AlUla has been built around certain anchors — heritage, culture, nature and arts. Equestrianism has always been a key industry for us, and the surroundings here make AlUla one of the best locations to ride horses.”

Manchester City’s loyal Middle East fanbase awaiting more cup success on Sunday

Updated 9 min 33 sec ago

Manchester City’s loyal Middle East fanbase awaiting more cup success on Sunday

  • Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s takeover of the club in 2008 transformed it into global power
  • For some fans, their affection pre-dates the Abu Dhabi ownership

LONDON: For many football fans in the Middle East, their love affair with Manchester City began with Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s takeover of the club in 2008.
It was a moment that transformed the club, turning it into a global superpower.
The last decade has seen unprecedented success for a team that historically had lived in the shadows of neighbors Manchester United.
Four Premier League titles, two FA Cups and four League Cups have been added under Robert Mancini, Manuel Pellegrini and Pep Guardiola.
Despite a relatively disappointing 2019-20 Premier League campaign, Wednesday night’s outstanding 2-1 victory over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu has left them firm favorites to progress to the Champions League quarter-finals, and potentially to go on and win the trophy that the owners and manager Guardiola covet most.
But for some, their affection pre-dates the Abu Dhabi ownership.
Malek Tabbal, Lebanese Manchester City superfan, has become a social media star after appearing in a video that regales his longstanding love for the club, and he is hoping this Sunday’s the Carabao Cup Final at Wembley against Aston Villa will see Guardiola’s men claim the first domestic trophy of the season.

Tabbal has been a Manchester City supporter for over 30 years, and the video followed showed him on a visit to the Etihad Stadium where he was able to meet some of his favorite players.
Pep Guardiola’s side will be aiming to win the Carabao Cup for the third consecutive year on Sunday and Tabbal, founder of the official Manchester City Supporters’ Club in Lebanon, will be glued to his TV as he cheers on the likes of Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and the rest of the side.
“Under normal circumstances I would have gone to Wembley to see the Final but unfortunately on this occasion I’m not able to, so I will hopefully gather with the Man City Supporters’ Club in Lebanon,” Tabbal said.
Luckily for him, he has already seen City win the trophy a few years ago.
“The League Cup means a lot to me because back in 2014 I took my son to watch the final between Man City and Sunderland, which we won 3-1,” Tabbal said. “It was a day I will always remember because my son was only eight years old and that was the first time he’d ever been to a game.”
It’s a trophy that for long held a special affection for City fans, it being the last trophy won before the 2011 FA Cup in the Sheikh Mansour era.
“It’s always been important to City fans. The flashback in our minds was always the 1976 final, when Dennis Tueart scored an overhead kick, so for us it’s a great trophy, and in recent years we’ve done really well in the competition.”
Having had to watch Man City on his own for many years, Tabbal decided to set up Lebanon’s official Manchester City Supporters’ Club in order to experience matches alongside like-minded fans.
“Typically, we send an announcement out on social media that there will be a gathering of City fans for a game, and there are normally 20-25 supporters who turn up to watch together,” he explains. “For many years, supporting City was quite a lonely experience, so now to see so many young fans in Lebanon interested in the club means so much to me.”
City’s success, and the quality of players on show, no doubt has made watching the team in recent years a hugely enjoyable experience for Tabbal.
“The actual feeling of supporting City hasn’t changed much,” he said. “But what has changed is the level of expectation, and the feeling you’re above the clouds when City win trophies and play incredible football. It’s a dream come true.”
He is hoping for another trophy to be added to the collection on Sunday.
“It’s a bigger game for Aston Villa than us as they haven’t been to a cup final for a while, so I don’t think it will be easy at all.
“Even though I’m excited, I’m also quite tense, as I would be for a game against one of our traditional rivals such as Liverpool or Man United, but hopefully our quality will shine through and we will get our hands on the trophy again.”