Malaysia, one of Asia’s most established polo nations, will be gunning for a historic place in this year’s FIP Polo Cup Finals in Argentina in October.
The Malaysians take their first step towards this when they play host to the FIP World Cup Zone D Qualifier which will be played at three different venues – namely the Royal Pahang Polo Club in Pekan, the Putrajaya Equestrian Park in the administrative capital of Malaysia and the Royal Selangor Polo Club from June 11-26.
The countries competing in Zone D, apart from Malaysia, are Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Nigeria and Singapore. The top three will get the tickets for the FIP World Cup Finals in San Luis, Argentina from October 11-25. For the record the FIP World Cup is held every three years
Malaysia team manager Ahmad Jamili Rashid rates Malaysia’s chances of making their first ever FIP World Cup Finals as “best ever” as the team has undergone training since last year.
“This included two-month training cum stint in Argentina from mid-September to mid-November. It was a dual mission, with training plus selection of horses. This stint served the Malaysian team well,” said Jamili.
The member Malaysian team is captained by 29-year-old Huzaini Yunos (+4 Handicap) who has played polo professionally since 1996. The others in the team are Shaik Reismann, 35 (+3 Handicap), Amran Selamat, 32 (+2 Handicap), Muhammad Edham Shaharuddin, 35 (+4 Handicap), Saladin Mazlan, 30 (+3 Handicap) and Tengku Ahmad Shazril (+3 Handicap).
Shaik Reismann, is the only Malaysian player to have played in the FIP Polo World Cup in Jaipur, India in 2000 when he represented Singapore. The rules since then have been changed and only those who are born in the country are allowed to don their national colours.
Recently the Malaysian team competed in the Thai Polo Open championships and finished runners-up, losing to Thai Polo in the final.
“The defeat has in no way hampered our preparations or is a setback to the Malaysian team. We are on track and the team is in good shape. Playing in tournaments is part of our training,” added Jamili.
The Malaysian team also played in several other tournaments in this region, including the Thai Open, Thai Masters, Malaysia Open, Royal Selangor International and Royal Pahang Classic.
“It has been solid training. We have left no stone unturned. This team is capable of going far not only in the Qualifier but we are also looking at things beyond this.”
On paper, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, who finished in that order at the last Qualifier in New Zealand are seeded and favoured to make the cut. But as far as we are concerned it stops at that.
“We are at home and we aim to make use of that advantage to getting things going. At the same time, however, we are keeping our fingers crossed for a good group. Much will also depend on the grouping,” added Jamili.
(L-R) Amran Selamat, Muhammad Edham Shaharuddin, Huzaini Yunos, Shaik Reismann (Captain), Saladin Mazlan, Tengku Ahmad Shazril