(with Gustavo Sgalla, who is a Polo expert and journalist)
– Why is the Polo Field in Palermo considered to be the Polo Cathedral of the world?
Because it is the only stadium in the world located a few minutes from the city centre of a big metropolis and, hosts since 1928 the Argentine Polo Open Championship, which is the most important one at world level with its 117 years of history. It is also very modern even though it was opened in 1928 and is very comfortable for spectators. The Pan American Games were staged here in 1950 as were several America Cups when the best Argentinian and USA teams participated and played against one another. It was also from this field that Jorge Newbery took off with his first balloons.
– What makes Argentine players and horses be amongst the best in the world?
The Argentine horses are fast and tame which are usually contradictory virtues. Thoroughbreds tend to be fast but not very docile as are the “criollo” Argentine horses used for working in the fields. Argentine breeders used scientific advances to better the breed and the result was a new breed called Polo Argentino with the ideal genetic features for the sport. Secondly, the caretakers and trainers are very good, acting as a sort of personal trainer for the horse. Finally, even though Polo is not a popular sport, it is still widely spread in Argentina. It is the country with the highest number of fields, clubs and championships and so we have a pyramid of players with diverse levels of handicap and are very much in demand abroad.
– Who are the best players and which are the best teams in Argentine Polo?
The ranking of the best teams ever would include Coronel Suarez, Venado Tuerto, La Espadaña, Indios Chapaleufu and El Trebol. Regarding players, Juan Carlos Harriott (h)is someone who won it all and Adolfo Cambiaso(h)changed the way Polo is played with his amazing control of the ball.
– Which is the most important Polo competition ?
The Argentine Open Championship; it is the only tournament in the world have a handicap of between 28 and 40. The best players in the world are present in it. There are also the Hurlingham Club Open and the Tortugas Club Open. Then, there is the USA Open at Palm Beach and the Gold Cup in England.
– Why are Argentine Polo matches the most sought after by foreign tourists?
By now, many people know this is the best Polo in the world. They can have a really relaxing day watching a Polo match or, got to the Polo “cathedral” and see the best tournament in the world, and perhaps, even share de field with great players or simply enjoy a different day in the countryside. Tourists, even more so than Argentines enter the Palermo field and it is like going to Wimbledon to witness a tremendous sport event, something you will probably not see again in a life time.
Gustavo Sgalla is a journalist specialized in Polo since 1986. He used to work for La Nacion newspaper till 1997 and since 1994 he is commentator and producer of all Polo programs for ESPN, Sports Centre, ESPN News and ESPNSports column.