Team Thai Polo were magnificent winners of the 2018 RMPA International League, winning three of four league tournaments in Malaysia. It was Royal Pahang that had started the year brightly, winning the Thai Polo Open in Pattaya in January. Thai Polo could only manage sixth place at their home tournament.
Things were very different when Thai Polo came to Malaysia for the three Malaysian legs, the RSPC Open, RMPA Classic and RMPA International League Final. Led by Dato’ Harald Link, Thai Polo won all their 11 matches in Malaysia. Thai Polo’s dominance of the Malaysian Triple Crown gave them their fifth consecutive league title, their eighth in thirteen attempts.
Not only did Thai Polo do it in style, they also did it sportingly. When La Sarita disputed a goal in the final of the RSPC Open, Thai Polo gave them a lesson in sportsmanship. With less than two minutes to play in the match, and having just scored to take the lead in the game, Thai Polo heard the cries of La Sarita’s players that one of their players had had a fall but the game had not been stopped. Thai Polo decided not to contest the throw-in after the goal, allowing La Sarita to walk it in to level the score again at 6-6. With less than a minute to go, the ball was thrown in. Raul Laplacette took it to goal, and won the game for Thai Polo.
Raul Laplacette was voted Most Valuable Player in each of the three Malaysian tournaments, earning himself another goal in Malaysia’s handicaps for next season. He also top-scored in Malaysia, with 36 goals in 11 matches.
Carlos Pando is the most successful player in the RMPA International League, having won it on eight occasions. The 5-goaler is now based at the Singapore Polo Club when he is not playing for Thai Polo.
Juan Manuel Garcia Grossi was a revelation as a 1-goal player. The handicappers raised him to 2T after the RSPC Open, but allowed Thai Polo to play on with the same team, giving away goals to their opposition. It did not matter as Thai Polo made up for every handicap goal given away, winning every match they played.
Dato’ Harald Link was unable to play two league games this season. He gave his place, and an international league debut, to Ms Jennifer Too, who normally plays low goal polo with her own Windhorse team.
Royal Pahang were gallant runners-up. In addition to winning the Thai Polo Open, they were beaten finalists in the RMPA Classic and RMPA International League Final. When the chips were down, Royal Pahang just could not match the uncanny partnership of Laplacette and Pando.
The RMPA’s International Polo League was a 12-goal league that consisted of four tournaments in 2018. Participating teams in the league are awarded points for every game played in league tournaments, and for their finishing position in each tournament. Started in 2005, the league has been run every year since.
The tournaments that made up the 2018 RMPA International League were:
- Thai Polo Open
- RSPC Open
- RMPA Classic
- RMPA International League Final
The RMPA International League reverts to a 14-goal level in 2019:
- Thai Polo Open 9 – 19 January
- Thai Polo Masters 24 January – 3 February
- Royal Pahang Classic 24 July – 3 August
- RMPA Classic 14 – 24 August
- RMPA International League Final 4 – 14 September
Photo: Shahrol Bahril Shamsudin/Killercamphoto Studio