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Dubai Polo Academy contemplates camel polo

Camel polo will be the latest craze to hit Dubai, according to Steve Thompson, director of the Dubai Polo Academy

The director of the Dubai Polo Academy, Steve Thompson, believes camel polo will be ‘the next big thing’ to hit Dubai.

After 15 years experience on the polo circuit, playing and coaching internationally, Thompson is looking to broaden his repertoire and thinks camels are the way forward.

He explained: “At the Polo Academy we’re all about getting people to try something different, and what could be more different than camel polo?”

Polo has been played with horses for hundreds of years, and elephant polo has also developed a strong following throughout Asia and India. Camel polo, however, is a less widely recognised sport, and the venture, if successful, will be the first of its kind in Dubai.

The Polo Academy will buying and training a large herd of Syrian camels to take part in matches, which will be played using the same rules as regular horse polo. According to Thompson, this poses a number of challenges.

“Because camels are usually trained by effectively being whipped into submission, if we were to try to take a polo stick near them they would freak out. We need to find camels that haven’t been so roughly handled so that they don’t have this fear,” he explained.

“The camels don’t need to be particularly sharp, we just need them to go in a straight line and be comfortable around a polo stick and ball. As long as they are well cared for and they’re happy in the work, it should be no problem.”

Thompson believes the sport will prove popular with Dubai’s leisure tourism market, and is keen to stress that the Academy will be taking a light-hearted approach to the game.

“It’s not really a serious sport, just good fun. It will be a great sponsorship vehicle as it is very newsworthy and hugely photogenic,” he said.

Work is also underway to create a specially designed device for steering the camels. Because the animals cannot wear the same type of bridal as regular polo ponies, a prototype camel steering wheel is being developed. A fixed rein will be attached to the camel’s muzzle and this will be attached to a wheel that the rider can turn to direct the camel around the playing field.

Training will begin in earnest in November, with Thompson personally taking the lead in getting the camels match-fit.

“I’m hoping that we will have the training and everything sorted out so that we are ready to launch camel polo early next year,” said Thompson, adding those hoping to catch a sneak preview of these ships of the desert in action should attend the Academy’s annual family fun day fundraiser, which will be held in March to raise money for Dubai-based charity Foresight.

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