(MENAFN Editorial) The Julius Baer Beach Polo Cup Dubai 2014 presented by Cadillac was claimed yesterday by an 8-4 VistaJet Bombardier victory over the title sponsors, following two days of furious polo action on the sand, marking the tenth year since the popular polo event was created.
The beach polo concept, which owes its origins to an idea conceived by Dubai-based mamemo productions, has travelled the world since the inaugural tournament in Dubai in 2004. It returned last weekend to its original host city for a special floodlit anniversary renewal, supported by Dubai Sports Council.
The on-pitch drama played out between four select teams over two evenings on an expansive purpose-built arena at Skydive Dubai in front of an enthusiastic polo crowd. There was no lack of on-field rivalry during the grand final as the results from day one pitted brother against brother in a fight for the coveted title.
Rashid Al Habtoor, the Dubai Polo Club chairman, had led his side, Julius Baer to victory in 2013, while his brother, Mohammed Al Habtoor, patron of winners, VistaJet Bombardier is no stranger to Beach Polo triumph, having claimed the first three Dubai-based tournaments from 2004-2006.
Julius Baer appeared to hold a strong hand having set up their final round clash thanks in no small part to the prodigious Argentine goalscorer, Juan Cruz Geuvara, a six-goal handicap, who scored all of his side's goals in their opening day 8-11 defeat of Lindt Master Chocolatiers.
Yet his potency was contained by VistaJet Bombardier in the final. Instead the winning side's Argentine professional, Guillermo Cuitino, also rated six, possessed the magic mallet, scoring all bar one of his team's goals. That performance was good enough to see Cuitino named the Cadillac Most Valuable Player of the tournament. And it was accomplished Emirati, Habtoor Al Habtoor, himself a stand-out player of the tournament, who notched once in the opening chukker for VistaJet Bombardier.
The game began evenly enough with scores tied 1-1 after the first chukker, yet VistaJet Bombardier soon lay down the gauntlet, emerging from the second chukker 3-2 up and capitalising on their advantage in the third to go into the final period with a three-goal lead for 5-2.
The fourth chukker saw a flurry of goals from both sides, with the undaunted Julius Baer side refusing to go down without a fight. They clawed back a valuable two goals, but it was too little too late as Cuitino, firmly in attacking mode, scored a further three times to give his side the 8-4 victory.
VistaJet Bombardier patron, Mohammed Al Habtoor said: "I was on the winning team for the first three renewals of Beach Polo although we lost it last year in Dubai, so to win against such strong opponents, who were also the defending champions, is a fantastic end to the UAE polo season. It's great to lift the trophy in the 10th anniversary year. We are very happy with this result."
The Maradiva team won the third-place playoff following a 9-6 victory over Lindt in the early game of the evening.
The way Julius Baer saw off the challenge of Lindt on Friday may have persuaded many that they were the ones to watch. They fought back from a first-chukker one-goal deficit in their opening match to finally emerge 8-11 wiers.
Lindt had started well, going into the second chukker with the score 3-2 in their favour. But Guevara soon made his mark on the game, answering Lindt's two second-chukker goals with four of his own to add to his brace from the opening period. Going into the third chukker with Julius Baer 5-6 up, Lindt notched once more and so did Guevara and despite a fourth-chukker goal from Lindt, Guevara put another two balls between the posts for a final score of 8-11 to the title sponsors.
Lindt's goals came from two of their three players, with Piero Dillier scoring once and the prolific Lucas Labat getting his name on the score sheet seven times.
Meanwhile VistaJet Bombardier set up Saturday's grand final meeting with Julius Baer after seeing off first-day rivals, Maradiva in a close-fought 9-7 encounter. VistaJet Bombardier benefitted from a potent combination of Argentine point man, Guillermo Cuitino and Emirati ace, Habtoor Al Habtoor, who each scored five and four times respectively. Every Maradiva player made it onto the score sheet, with Maxi Malacalza notching five while Stuart Wrigley and Mohammed Bin Drai both claimed one apiece.
VistaJet Bombardier always appeared to have the upper hand coming out of the first chukker 3-2 up, but their opponents refused to let them relax. Maradiva fought back to even the score for 5-5 in the second chukker and both sides scored twice in the third chukker, to go into the fourth and deciding period at 7-7. It was during the concluding chukker that VistaJet Bombardier pulled ahead, scoring two decisive goals to set up path into the grand final clash.
The showpiece event, attended by almost 6,000 people across two days, brings the curtain down on the UAE's competitive polo season. It was supported by the attendance of HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Sultan bin Hamdan Al Nayhan, Dr Ahmed Al Sherif, Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council as well actors Tyrese Gibson and Michelle Rodriguez.
Sam Katiela, Beach Polo organiser and founder of mamemo productions said: "We are very proud of the success of this event. Over the last decade this concept has really put Dubai and the UAE on the top of polo world map.
"We have been able to stage a world-class event, organised, managed and created by companies in the UAE and this is a formula which has been transported all over the world. We feel that special 10th anniversary celebration of Beach Polo really does justice to the popular concept and we'd like to thank everyone involved in making this weekend possible."
The two-day extravaganza was officially opened on Friday evening with a spectacular opening ceremony display and the first game began when a member of the Skydive Dubai team parachuted into the arena with the official match ball. The event also featured an auction in aid of the Al Noor Training Centre for Children with Special Needs, with much interest generated by team sponsor, Lindt Master Chocolatiers' donation of a specially-created piece of chocolate art.
For more information on the Julius Baer Beach Polo Cup Dubai 2014 presented by Cadillac, please visit: www.beachpolocup.com