Friday, December 24, 2010

El Campo Argentino de Polo (AKA the Cathedral of Polo)

Along with steaks and wines, Argentines are passionate about polo.* 
We may have gotten to the field a bit early.
And the biggest polo event in Argentina each year is the Campeonato Argentino Abierto de Polo held by the Asociación Argentina de Polo in Palermo, our neighborhood.  After seeing countless ads, billboards, and other promotions touting the excitement (and good-lookingness of the polistas, hello Nacho), we were in.

After our “authentic” futbol experience we decided to roll the dice and forgo the $150 USD polo tour and simply buy tickets at the box office on the day of the event.  We also decided that there had to be a much lower incidence of crime and rioting at a polo match than a futbol match.  We had chosen wisely.  For a mere $7.50 USD ticket we were granted full access to both games that were being played that day. 
Not knowing anything about polo our first stop was at the bar.  Actually, this is almost always our first stop at a sporting event, or any event for that matter.  With a beer in hand, we sauntered up to the bar and starting talking shop with the bartender.  Grilling him with pointed questions, such as:

 How many players are on the field at once?
A polo team consists of four riders and their mounts.
The (long) face-off was always a bit hectic with all 8 horses, plus the refs.
 How do you score?
You drive a small white plastic/wooden ball into the opposing team's goal using a long-handled mallet, duh.
This is about to be a goal.
Here, the white player is attempting to hook the red player.  This basic defensive technique is when a player uses their mallet to block or interfere with an opponent's swing by hooking the mallet of the other player with their own mallet.
He was a bit too slow.

Why are they always blowing the whistle and stopping play?
Because the most important rule in polo relates to the safety & security of the horse and player.  It is a foul if you put your horse in line with an oncoming horse with the angle of collision greater than 45 degrees.
It is also a foul to leap off your pony and onto another player's pony.

 How big is the field?
300 yards long, and 160 yards wide.
The field is really big.
How often do the teams switch directions?
Polo teams change direction after each goal – this cleared up a lot of confusion for us.
We didn't really care which way they were going.  Our favorite was when they reached a full gallop.
How many horses does each player have?
Actually, they are called polo ponies, not horses, and a respectable player will have at least 8 ponies.  This is also why the sport is so affordable.

With this most superficial understanding of the game we returned to milling about with the rest of the crowd in their fancy hats, pastel colored collared tees and mirrored aviator sunglasses.
Just one of the fancy polo spectators.
It was great fun watching the polo matches.  The horses were gorgeous, the games (fairly) exciting, and at the end of it Jesse promised I could buy a vaciopan (delicious flank steak sandwich) from one of the street vendors. 

Judging from the photo, perhaps Jesse should have just sent me to the gym.
A good day.

* This is perhaps so because they are really good at it.  Wikipedia notes that the Federation of International Polo caps the cumulative handicap of teams competing in the World Polo Championship to 14 goals (the top-ranked players in the world have a 10-goal handicap) because without that the Argentine National team would never lose.  Indeed, the best players in the world (often Argentine) cannot play the World Polo Championship.
This is supposedly the best player in the world. 
He enjoys a 10-goal handicap.
He is still not as good-looking as Nacho.


  1. Sounds like a fun afternoon. My extensive knowledge of polo comes from the movie Pretty Woman.

  2. your pic of the world's best polo player from directly in front shows great photographic balance. total comment. brievity is the sole of wit. orignial ted quotation.

  3. Maybe instead of a vaciopan, Jesse should have sent you to the nearest tummy-sizer vendor.

  4. You make it enjoyable and you still care for to keep it wise. This is actually a wonderful site.


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