Polo at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi

Where to watch and what to wear at this most regal of sports Discuss this article

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Polo is arguably the oldest recorded team sport in known history, with the first matches played in Persia over 2,500 years ago. But while it’s often referred to as ‘The Sport of Kings’, that doesn’t mean it’s just for the rich and famous.

As part of the newly launched City Polo Series, which takes the game to iconic global financial centres, Coutts Polo at the Palace is bringing it to Abu Dhabi and will involve four big international teams: Coutts Team Abu Dhabi, Team London, Team Buenos Aires and Maserati Team Milan, who face each other to decide who will take home the Coutts Polo at the Palace trophy.

If you want to get dressed up and enjoy a sophisticated day out you’ll be able to watch all the action unfold from your marquee or chalet. A fantastic afternoon of polo is promised along with on-field entertainment with direct pitch-side views over the field. Guests can relax and socialise around the bubbly bar and sample the food available and can also browse in the La Martina boutique, the Maserati Lounge and even sample coffee from the Nespresso booth.

To get some further detailed insight into polo itself, we spoke to one of the sport’s superstars, Peter Webb from Team London, who will be competing in the event. He’s 38 years old and is a five goal player for the team (if you’re not sure what that means just take a peek at our guide to the basics below). He has represented England many times all over the world over the past 20 years, including at Europe’s leading Polo Event, the Cartier International at Guards Polo Club, where he picked up the prestigious British Open (Gold Cup), Europe’s most prestigious tournament, as well as the Queen’s Royal Windsor award.

Hello Peter. How did you get into playing polo?
I joined the Pony Club in the UK, which is where lots of players start. It’s a great platform for both riding and learning the game in a really fun environment.

Who is your favourite team to play against and why?
I have a lot of friends in the game; friends that I have grown up with in polo. So playing against any of them is always fun because victory tastes even better when you beat them!

What sort of physical training do you go through?
To prepare for tournaments you have to put in hours of practise not just for yourself, but particularly for the horses. They have to be at the height of their fitness for you to stand a chance of winning the trophy, which in turn keeps you very fit. For a bit of diversity, I also play a lot of squash.

What do you love about polo?
The horses are undoubtedly the best part – they are truly amazing animals and I’m thankful that every day I get to work with them. The travelling aspect of polo is also fantastic: I’ve gone all around the world to amazing places that I ordinarily would never have been to. Polo is the best as it covers so many elements that make up a good sport. Polo involves a team, there is a goal, a ball, you have to charge at each other and ride an incredible animal whilst dealing with all of that – what’s not to love?

How hard is it to learn polo?
Your first lesson is the easy bit but polo is a formula – the more you ride, the better you are stick and balling (basically, practising your polo swing), the more you stick and ball, the better you will play in chukkas (practise matches) the more chukkas you play, the better you will be in tournaments, the more tournaments you play, the more you will win.

What should people wear to a polo match?
Comfortable smart casual clothes; you can always spot a rookie if they are overdressed!

What advice would you give to people who want to learn how to play polo?
It’s easier and quicker than you think. A polo lesson costs about the same as a golf lesson and it’s pretty incredible that in the space of about an hour, even if you are a complete novice, you’ll be riding a horse and swinging a mallet.

How would you explain polo to someone who is watching the sport for the first time?
I think Sylvester Stallone said it best when he once described polo as a bit like playing golf in an earthquake.

How exactly does a polo player find him or herself on a team?
You are either a player who has their own polo team and selects players to play with or you are a professional player who is selected. If you are a professional polo player you need to be playing well off your handicap and have great horses, which is the most important part.

What’s the difference between low, medium and high-goal polo?
They are the various levels of tournaments played. Low goal polo is the lowest standard and high goal is the best. A handicapped tournament means that when the players’ handicaps on each team are combined, they fall between the tournament handicap guidelines.

Coutts Polo at the Palace takes place at Emirates Palace, November 23-24. For tickets visit www.timeouttickets.com.

By Angela Beitz
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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