The 10 goaler from Ellerstina and shining star of the XPL discusses his expectations with the start of the new league.
How were your first steps in polo, coming from a family that already had tradition? Did you ever feel the pressure?
In my last years of highschool I started realizing that polo was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. When I was little I knew that I liked it - I played a lot on foot and on my bicycle. That helped me get a lot of control with the ball and vision, which I think is very important.
I never felt pressure. I never said "I have to do this for my family." I also didn't think I had to be good. My old man never pressured us - if we liked it great, if not, we could take another route.
There are not many players who get to stand out like you in the field. When did you start to feel that you could make a difference? That was probably when I debuted at the Palermo Open, at 17. That first year I was very young, I had 6 goals, and everything was up in the air, it all happened very fast. I had no idea what I was doing, or how good I could be. The following year I started traveling as a professional player, and I began to feel the responsibility within the teams, and I began to realize that I was on another level.
Ironically, these were also my most difficult years. Because I reached 10 goals at 19 years old, I started matching against Adolfito, the Novillo Astrada, the Merlo, players with way more experience than me. I started competing against them in tournaments abroad, and I didn't feel at the same level as them, at all.
What were your challenges starting out, and what are you looking for today?
When I started playing, all I was looking for was to play well, and to feel comfortable. I didn't know exactly where I wanted to go, everything was happening quite naturally for me. The pressure and challenges just hit me when I reached 10 goals and won the Palermo Open for the first time. Now, as I get older and more experienced, the most important thing for me is to achieve everything I can as a player while following my principles. Doing things my way. What I always say to those who know me, is that I want to be remembered as a good player, but above all, as a good person.
How is the relationship between a player and his horse? What does the horse have that give you all the confidence you need to go out and play?
In polo, horses are 70% or 80% of the game, period. And for the horse to be solid, you have to be a good rider, you have to have chemistry, you have to know when it's okay and when it's not. Preparing it for a game is hard work, and if you don't do it well, it might fail you on gameday.
A good horse must have everything, speed, explosion, fast brakes, similar turns for both sides. A complete horse has all that. I was lucky to play with several of these. Probably the best I had were La Chequera, La Huracanada and Candy Kiss.
Obviously you are a very complete player, but what do you feel is your strongest point?
The days I have the most confidence when carrying the ball are the ones where I make the biggest difference. I hit the ball from anywhere in the field and It’ll probably go in. When you have possession of the ball, in this sport, and you are confident, it is very difficult for the opponent to stop you.
How do you see the development of this new league?
The idea for the XPL seems to be aiming at where all the other sports are going. For us, the players, it would be a different way out. For several years we’ve been thinking of taking Argentina's professional polo abroad. Show the world what we do in our country, with polo above 30 goals is essential for the development of the sport.
I think there are many things missing in polo so that it can improve and evolve. If there is something difficult that our sport has, it’s the rulebook. If you never saw a game, it’s difficult to follow. We have to find a way to make it easier for those people to appreciate it, both from a screen and from the stands. That's where a sport can generate and engage in different ways and become more popular.
We are very late in how the sport is experienced. There are a thousand things to do, not only from a technical standpoint, but also from a narrative approach. It is essential that we see and we show the history of the players, of the horses, of the people who work with us at the stables. I think that for people who are looking at it and don't know much about polo it can be very attractive.
How do you think the handicap limit will impact the youngest players, who will be closer to playing with elite players like you? Something that happens a lot in this sport is that until you play in the Palermo Open, you don't really prove yourself. It happened to me, and I think it happens to any guy that is starting out. Without that possibility it is difficult to make that leap. Giving those who are in 5 or 6 goals a chance can help them overcome that hurdle. It is essential to play with, and against the best; that is what builds great players.