May 4th, 2012 Add comment
The Maragata Polo team, a family affair
The Bastos brothers review their team's background and the sport's present-day situation in Brazil
The Bastos brothers -Cachico, Angelo Antonio, Luiz Paulo and Joao Gaspar-, playing for Brazil last April.
In what refers to polo, it is well-known that the family background has a lot of influence on the introduction of new players and teams. The young hopefuls start playing polo with the support of those around them, and it is not frequent to see new players appearing from outer circles.
This leads to cases such as those of the La Aguada team, which during 2011 was formed by four brothers. The same goes for Maragata, with brothers Carlos Francisco, Luiz Paulo, Angelo Antonio y Joao Gaspar Bastos in its line-up.
Talking to LivingPolo.com, Carlos Francisco, "Cachico" as he is known, tells us about the Maragata Polo Team "starting off with its current name in the seventies, when our father married a Uruguayan lady from the city of San José, a city whose people are known as maragatos. In those days, polo was played in the south of Brazil, more precisely in Uruguaiana, located in the province of Rio Grande do Sul."
"We are four brothers in our family, sons of a fanatic father on polo, and we grew up riding horses, watching him. So it was natural that as time went by, we were all playing competitive polo, which led to our forming a team," he explained.
Joao Gaspar says that "the first team with us four together was with Cachico playing a No. 1, Luis Paulo as 2, Angelo Antonio as 3 and myself as back, but nowadays Cachico plays as back and me as 1. Cachico is a 4-goal player, Angelo Antonio and me are 5-goalers, and Luis Paulo is a 7."
Recalling the early days of the foursome, Angelo Antonio remembers the four brothers' first tournament as a team was in 2001, an Open for up to 20-goal teams. Our team was a 16-goal one, and we lost the final by 2 goals against a 19-goal team."
"Nowadays we play all the high-handicap tournaments of Brazil: they are two 18-goal tournaments, three of 22 and one of 26 goals. We also take part in the some Argentinian ones, such as the Copa de Oro, the Copa de Diamante and the Copa Cámara de Diputados, apart from some events during the off-season," says Angelo Antonio.
In what refers to the horses, he says that since a long time ago in Brazil, they have "their breeding in Uruguaiana, which is their main source of horses, each of the brothers has approximately five horses in the main herd which are used for the matches. There is also some breeding in Argentina, where we are investing a lot, buying mares and colts of great lineage, since 2007."
This historic Maragata foursome also has "two fields in Uruguaiana, where we train during January; during the Argentinian season we practice at Pilar (on the outskirts of Buenos Aires). We are laying out a field there but, for the time being, we practice on friends fields," says Cachico, who adds that "during the peak season of Sao Paulo we practice at Indaiatuba, at the Helvetia Polo Club, Brazil's leading polo venue, which has 10 fields."
Despite the team's good results, Cachico explains that "last season was not our best: two of the team's members were quite seriously injured, and we only played two matches with the complete team. In addition, in the 26-goal Open, we won in the zone of the championship-winning team. But this year we are very excited about the coming season!"
Talking about polo in Brazil, Luis Paulo mentions that "the Aberto do Estado do Sao Paulo is the country's leading tournament, with 26 goals handicap. We won the tournament in 2009 and we lost the final in 2010."
"Polo in Brazil is something relatively small compared with Argentina, the United Kingdom and the United States. But it has a high level and there are many players with high handicaps. There are a series of high-level championships, with plenty of foreign players taking part in them, just like what happens in the main championships of the United States and England," says an enthusiastic Luiz Paulo Bastos.
What needs improving, according to Joao Gaspar, is the question of the youngsters: "We don't see many new players starting off, those who start playing are the sons of the sport's traditional polo families. Polo is not well-known in Brazil, but we already have some up-and-coming stars for the next years."
Talking of women's polo, he says that "there are very few women playing polo in Brazil, but those who do play are very dedicated to the sport and they take part in foreign tournaments."
By David Cattaneo, LivingPolo.com