Polo: National polo team have gold in their sights

Iqbal Jumabhoy of the Singapore national team clearing his lines against Singapore Polo Club in the final of the SEA Games Challenge Trophy yesterday.
Iqbal Jumabhoy of the Singapore national team clearing his lines against Singapore Polo Club in the final of the SEA Games Challenge Trophy yesterday.PHOTO COURTESY OF SINGAPORE POLO CLUB

The Singapore national polo team will be aiming for gold when the sport returns to the SEA Games after a 10-year absence.

Captain Satinder Garcha said the team are confident of putting up a good showing at the Aug 19-30 affair in Kuala Lumpur.

Garcha, 44, who also captained the 2007 team, believes the team this year are stronger, noting: "The calibre of horses are better and we have a world-class coach which I think has really galvanised the team."

Backed by sponsorship from Prudential, the team have made drastic improvements in terms of preparations from their previous campaign, such as the appointment of Hector Julio Crotto as coach.

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The Argentinian boasts a nine-goal handicap and brings a wealth of experience from his coaching stints with teams back home. Argentina is considered one of the world's leading polo nations.

Iqbal Jumabhoy, 59, a member of the pioneer SEA Games team in 1983, highlighted the international exposure of the current batch as a strength. Speaking after the four-team SEA Games Challenge Trophy tournament where the national team finished second, he said: "When I played in 1983, I played here (Singapore Polo Club).

"Contrast that with the experience of the rest of the team now, they have played all over the world so our game has improved."

Despite not winning the SEA Games Challenge Trophy after losing 3½-3 to the Singapore Polo Club 1 in the final, Crotto remains optimistic.

The 65-year-old said: "I don't mind about today (result). I am happy with the way the team have played the past few days. We must improve on teamwork and push together the same way. We are starting to go in the right direction."

The national team, who are made up of amateur players, will have their work cut out for them as they compete against professionals from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei at the SEA Games.

However, Garcha is unfazed by the challenge, citing 2007's silver-medal finish as evidence that the team can hold their own.

This will be only the third time polo has featured at the SEA Games since its debut in 1983.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2017, with the headline 'National polo team have gold in their sights'. Print Edition | Subscribe