Baroque Lifestyle Editor Sharon Preston chats to businessman and international polo player Amr F Zedan Chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation, about the upcoming Desert Polo Tournament to be held 16 to 18 January 2020
Al Ula Desert Polo is the first polo tournament to be held in Saudi Araba. It will take place this coming weekend, 16 to 18 January, 2020, as part of the three-month-long Winter at Tantora cultural festival, which is currently being held at the UNESCO Heritage Site of Al Ula in Saudi Arabia, a cultural gem that will officially open to the public in October this year. The festival ends on 7 March, 2020. Baroque Lifestyle chatted to Amr F Zedan, Chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation, that organised the Desert Polo tournament in partnership with the Royal Commission for Al Ula. The tournament will feature some of the world’s most famous polo players and many international patrons will attend as spectators.
Polo in Saudi Arabia is beginning its journey of development and we are incredibly proud to use this event as a vehicle to promote not only the changes that we are making in the governance of this sport but also as a way to promote the largely untouched beauty of our country.
What is The Saudi Polo Federation?
The Saudi Polo Federation (SPF) was created in July 2018 as a means of developing the sport across The Kingdom with the goals set out in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, an initiative to develop and diversify the country’s economy and society that has helped to make great strides in the development of many sports, including polo.
Aligned with key government stakeholders such as the General Sports Authority, the SPF works to further establish Saudi polo in a global context, continuing the work already undertaken by Saudi’s private polo patrons on the international stage. The SPF reflects the transformational journey taking place in Saudi.
Tell us about Al Ula Desert Polo
Al Ula Desert Polo offers two world firsts. It is the first modern polo tournament to be played in a desert environment like Al Ula, and is also the first official polo tournament to take place under the banner of the Saudi Polo Federation. A tournament of this stature demands a special venue and the unspoiled beauty of Al Ula offers a perfect natural stage for such a distinguished and exciting event.
The Saudi Polo Federation is proud to use polo as a vehicle to showcase Al Ula, which is a truly unique and beautiful destination. We are delighted to bring Saudi, Muslim and international guests together to enjoy the tournament, and the festival.
We created this event because we know that Saudis love horses, and we want to give Saudi men and women a chance to become involved in this exciting and rewarding sport. Desert Polo is one of two high profile equestrian events taking place during the Winter at Tantora Festival, both created to promote the heritage of horsemanship in this unique destination.
Desert Polo was inspired by the Snow Polo that is played on an ice lake in St Moritz in Switzerland. It is also related Beach Polo, played all over the world in cities like Miami and Dubai. Desert Polo is played on a smaller field than full-sized field polo and with only three players per team as opposed to four, it is a fast-paced, thrilling sport that allows spectators to get right alongside the action. The Al Ula Desert Polo is designed to offer spectators a unique experience in Al Ula, combining horsemanship, elegance and equine athleticism with one of the world’s most fastest-paced and unique team sports.
How did you put a team together for the tournament?
For this event, we have established a team made up of top international players, including four members of the Argentinian polo team La Dolfina which has just won the Argentine Open including polo icon Nacho Figueras. There are four teams in all for the Desert Polo tournament, and each of the teams features a player from La Dolfina.
Tell us about your interest in polo
I have played polo on the world stage for the past 20 years. This game has given me so much pleasure over the years and I feel great satisfaction in being able to now share this passion with the people of Saudi Arabia.
Why Al Ula?
I am from the Madinah Al-Munawara region, of which Al Ula is a part, so this event is something of a homecoming for me.