AlUla Brings Together the World’s Best Polo Players For Its Yearly Desert Polo Tournament

Four days of action

After four-days of adrenaline-packed action, team Saudia has emerged as the 2024 Richard Mille AlUla Desert Polo champions. The squad, comprising of Nigeria’s Sayyu Dantata, Melissa Ganzi from the US, and Argentinian polo legend Adolfo Cambiaso, beat out Team Richard Mille 9-5 in a nail-biting match to take home the iconic Desert Polo trophy on Jan. 20 only a short drive away from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra. Meanwhile, AlUla claimed third place with a 5-3 win against Tayma in the subsidiary final.

In addition to the top trophy, the winning team also received individual accolades during the post-game ceremony with Dantana cinching the award for Men’s Best Player, Ganzi securing the Women’s Best Player award, and Cambiaso taking home the Top Scorer trophy. There were also awards for Pablo Mac Donough, who scored the Best Goal, HRH Prince Hamza bin Abbas, who was crowned the Most Promising Player, and Johanna Danbury who was recognized for Sportsmanship.

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The third edition of the sporting event, which made its debut as the first-ever polo tournament in the desert back in 2020, kicked off on Jan. 17– as part of the Winter at Tantora festival, the Kingdom’s oldest cultural festival– against the majestic backdrop of the oasis town’s rock formations, bringing together some of the most world’s best athletes to pick up a mallet, including Adriano Agosti, Nina Clarkin, Juan Martin Nero, and Alessandro Barnaba, who made up the eight participating teams: Saudia, AlUla, Richard Mille, Tayma, Bentley, Sab, Dadan, and Khaybar. Despite the exceptional heat, guests congregated upon the AlFursan Equestrian Village dressed to the nines to witness spectacular performances in a setting that couldn’t be more stunning.

The first-day of the tournament saw thrilling matchups between Team Saudia against Team Sab (boasting David Stirling, Alessandro Barnaba, and HRH Prince Sultan bin Khaled Al Faisal); and Team AlUla (Poroto Cambiaso, Nicky Sen, and HRH Prince Salman bin Mansoor bin Nassir) competing against Team Dadan (Mia Cambiaso, Ignacio “Nacho” Figueras, and HSH Eugen Oettingen Wallerstein) setting the stage for an unforgettable sporting spectacle rife with impeccable equestrianism, high-speed action, and world-class competition.

“It was amazing out there – a really fun game to be involved in,” Cambiaso said following Saudia’s first win. “The horses are in excellent condition and the field has never been better – the Royal Commission for AlUla has done a really great job,” continued the athlete, who has made three consecutive appearances in AlUla. “There’s even more improvements since last time,” he explained, pointing out how the number of teams has doubled since the last tournament, further solidifying Saudi Arabia’s commitment to positioning itself as a top polo hub.

“Polo has remained firmly embedded in the hearts and minds of the Saudi population,” said Faisal Bin Dowees, the CEO of the Saudi Polo Federation (SPF). He added, “Interest in the sport is as high as ever and we’re looking forward to presenting more opportunities for our people to participate and compete in the near future.”

Since its inception four-years-ago, the Richard Mille AlUla Desert Polo, in collaboration with the SPF, has become a symbol of sporting magnificence, seamlessly blending the heritage of polo with the enchanting landscape of AlUla, with each galloping stride in the desert redefining excellence in equestrian sports on the international stage.

In Saudi Arabia, polo has experienced significant growth in recent years, reflecting the broader push to diversify leisure activities and promote sports within the country. The SPF, established in 2018 as a means of developing the sport across the Kingdom, plays a crucial role in organizing and promoting polo events, collaborating with international organizations to ensure high standards and facilitate participation from seasoned players.

Polo matches often take place at state-of-the-art equestrian facilities, equipped with well-maintained fields and modern amenities. These venues provide an upscale setting for spectators and participants alike, contributing to the sport’s appeal among polo enthusiasts.

Local and international players participate in these events, fostering cultural exchange and contributing to the global polo community. The Kingdom’s commitment to equestrian sports aligns seamlessly with its broader vision for a more diversified and vibrant entertainment landscape, marking polo as a symbol of Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of excellence in the realm of sporting endeavors.

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