Businessman rides to Palestinians' aid

The charitable match to support Palestinians will be played at the Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club. (SUPPLIED)

A leading Dubai businessman is using his passion for polo to mobilise support and create awareness for a cause close to his heart.

Rashid Al Habtoor, CEO and President of Al Habtoor Trading Enterprises, has helped to organise the inaugural Palestine Cup, a charitable match to support an organisation that works for the welfare of marginalised Palestinian communities in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and in Lebanon.

The event, to be held tomorrow at the Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club located at the Arabian Ranches on Emirates Road, has already raised Dh1.2 million through sponsors, said Al Habtoor. The charity day out will also include an auction, a festive lunch and showcase by fashion boutique O de Rose, which features collections by Palestinian and Lebanese designers, he added.

"We're going to auction off a classical car, a jet ski and a horse, among other things. These are items that have been donated by well-wishers and some by me," says Al Habtoor, who is partnering with the United Kingdom-based Welfare Association and the UAE Red Crescent for this event. "There will be two teams, which comprise my sons, my brother and a few friends who are passionate about the sport."

Al Habtoor, who is the son of Khalaf Al Habtoor, said his famous family name made it easier to find sponsors and willing donors.

"I've been involved with a number of charities following in the footsteps of my father. But this one is close to my heart because it combines polo, a sport I am passionate about, and a cause I have supported for many years," he said.

The plan, said Al Habtoor, is to organise the charity day annually and also start a similar event in the UK.

"The UK is the centre of polo now and because we have held many tournament there, it makes sense to raise awareness there as well," said the businessman who, along with his brother Mohammad, patronises the Al Habtoor Royal Windsor Cup, an annual polo tournament attended by Queen Elizabeth II of England, who presents the trophy.

Al Habtoor, an advocate of the polo community in the UAE, was instrumental in introducing beach polo in the UAE when he helped organise the first tournament in 2004. Beach polo, played on sand, is a variant of the sport usually played in grass arenas. "There are only three clubs in Dubai right now and we are looking at establishing more. We would love to see the Dubai Police, for instance, having their own polo team. I would also like to start a polo academy one day," he said.

Al Habtoor's brother Mohammad, whose team will play against him in the charity match tomorrow, is also organising the first Threadneedle Dubai Gold Cup in March (see box). The reputed international polo tournament will host some of the best polo teams and players in the world, said a release.


New polo event announced

The Threadneedle Dubai Gold Cup will be held at the Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club from March 6 until 12, organisers have announced. The sporting event will be the first time Dubai will host the Gold Cup series polo tournament, one of the most important and prestigious in the region, they said.

Mohammed Al Habtoor, founder of the Gold Cup, said: "Dubai will, for the first time, stage an international polo tournament hosting some of the best polo teams and players in the world. It is a life-long dream to stage such an event in Dubai and a privilege that such a prestigious and important tournament will finally be held in my country. We are looking forward to welcoming the teams and players, and also visitors from overseas to watch the games and enjoy our hospitality."

Some of the most respected names from the world of polo have confirmed their participation in the Gold Cup. Eight polo teams from Chile, England, Saudi Arabia and the UAE will compete in the week-long tournament.

Santiago Torreguitar, Polo Manager of the Gold Cup, said the tournament will add to other high-profile international sporting events already taking place in Dubai.

The Gold Cup will be held under the rules and regulations of the Hurlingham Polo Association.

 

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