In the early 1980's, motivated by a desire to broaden the scope of international polo, as well as to restore the sport's Olympic status, Marcos Uranga, then President of the Argentine Polo Association, proposed that an international organization be formed among the polo playing countries of the world. The initial meetings took place in Buenos Aires, and by April of 1982, the Federation of International Polo, quickly known as 'FIP', was created. FIP's first President was Marcos Uranga. One of his primary objectives, he pointed out at the time, was : To bring polo players together to enhance polo. Mr. Uranga still remains active in the organization today as its Founding President. In 1992, FIP elected its second President, Glen Holden a former U.S. Ambassador (to Jamaica) and one of FIP's original founders. Amb. Holden remembers those early days well: We thought that the most important thing we could do for polo would be to make a common set of agreed-upon rules the world over, to encourage more understanding of the game among non-players, and to enlarge the opportunities for players. We also wanted to gain the recognition of the International Olympia Committee (IOC) and have polo reinstated to the Olympic Games. It was known from the beginning that in order to gain the recognition of the IOC, Polo had to have international rules. There also had to be a common experience of the game in many countries and FIP had to be able to put on world-class tournaments. To that end, Mr. Uranga spearheaded the movement for a World Championship and scheduled the first for April 1987 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Aware of the relative difficulty of fielding high-goal teams worldwide, the early FIP organizers wisely decided to limit competition to teams rated 10 to 14 goals. And, in an attempt to nullify the factor of the horses, they devised the then-revolutionary idea of split strings of horses - assigning matched strings of 28 horses to each team by the luck of the draw. "Never before in the history of the game have teams from around the world been able to travel to one location without their horses and feel confident that they will be able to play on quality mounts and have equality with other teams," Uranga said at the time. Within a few years of FIP's organization, 19 countries had signed on, with 10 additional provisional members. The vehicle for recruiting new member countries evolved into a series of tournaments that became known as Ambassador's Cups. These tournaments were also an ideal instrument for gaining a staff of volunteers who would provide the time and energy that the fledgling organization needed. "We knew that the best way to get polo players to come to meetings was to show them a good time, and a good tournament was the perfect way. We put on almost three a year, forty-two in thirteen years, to attract new member countries," Holden remembers. The first World Polo Championship was played in Buenos Aires in 1987. Five teams played -- Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Spain. There were no surprises; Argentina defeated Mexico in the final and became the first of polo's modern World Champions at 10 to 14-goal handicap. In 1989, the second FIP World Championship was played in Berlin, at Maifeld, the very stadium that had been the site of polo's last appearance in the Olympic Games. The sport had come full-circle, and it underlined the growing influence of FIP in the world polo community. Argentina, Australia, Chile, England, France, Germany, Switzerland and the United States advanced to the playoffs. But this time there was a surprise: Argentina failed to make the finals. A talented U.S. team beat England by one goal for a 7-6 final score. The resulting publicity raised the visibility of FIP among U.S. polo players. FIP World Championship III was played in Santiago, Chile, in 1992. Argentina made it "back to back" through the regionals, and knocked off team after team until they wound up in the finals. There they outscored the host country 12-7 for their second World Championship. The U.S. had to be content with fourth place behind England. In 1995, the fourth World Championship was held in Saint Moritz, Switzerland . Brazil fought its way gamely through the early rounds to meet Argentina in the final. Now it was Brazil's turn for triumph. They pulled out an exciting win 11-10 to assume the mantle of World Polo Champions. Since 1993 MIchael Schultz-Tholen, then the FIP delegate to the International Olympic Committee, arranged numerous meetings with IOC representatives including the President of the International Olympic Committee Mr.Juan Antonio Samaranch. Finally at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, the General Assembly of the International Olympic Committee granted the status of an IOC Recognized Sport and accepted the Federation of International Polo as the worldwide governing body for the sport of polo. This decision was confirmed ("outright recognition") two years later. This official "outright recognition" means that FIP and the IOC will be working closely together to prepare the Federation and its members for participation in future Olympic Games. In 1998, the fifth World Championship was held at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Santa Barbara, California. Mr. James Easton, a Member of the International Olympic Committee, presented Argentina, the winning team, with a history-making Olympic trophy. This was the first time in 62 years that the winning team of an international polo tournament was so honored. The FIP World Championship VI held in Melbourne, Australia in 2001 featured eight national teams that qualified through a demanding and highly competitive zone playoff system, which included 24 country teams participating worldwide. Brazil narrowly defeated Australia by one goal (Brazil 10, Australia 9) in an exciting tournament that any of the eight finalists could have won. In 2004, the Sixth World Championship was held in Chantilly , France. The tournament included eight teams. The qualifying rounds included 28 countries competing. All the games were very competitive. Brazil was not ready to give the title and defeated England in the final game (10 -9) in sudden death. After serving as President for eight years Amb Glen Holden step down and the FIP General Assembly elected its third President Patrick Guerrand-Hermes of France. Following the sudden resignation of President Patrick Guerrand-Hermes, James J. Ashton was appointed interim FIP President on Monday 23rd November 2009 in Buenos Aires, Argentina at an informal meeting . Within the FIP community, it was generally accepted that James Ashton would be confirmed as FIP President at FIP's next annual General Assembly. Interim FIP President James Ashton, 69, died following a polo accident in Bangkok on Sunday 14th February, 2010, sent shock waves through the world polo community and through the FIP community in particular. The respect which James Ashton enjoyed as an international polo administrator began with FIP's 6th 14-goal World Cup championship, contested in Melbourne in 2001 under his direction as President of the Australian Polo Council. The quality of horses loaned by the Australian polo community coupled with his decision to expand the contest from six to eight teams, brought praise from senior FIP officials of the Melbourne tournament as arguably the best since its inception in 1984. In recognition of his achievement, without consultation and in his absence from the FIP General Assembly which followed, he was elected FIP treasurer, serving successively under presidents Glen Holden and Patrick Guerrand Hermes. After James Ashton death, Eduardo J Huergo of Argentina was named Interim President of the Federation of International Polo (FIP) Huergo's appointment as Interim President and his expected election as President on April 19 is part of the FIP's on-going reorganisation following the resignation of France's Patrick Guerrand-Hermes last November. James Ashton of Australia was named Interim President, but was killed in a polo accident in February. American Tom Biddle, as senior vice-president, took over temporarily until Huergo was appointed by the Council of Administration in March. One week after Huergo took the helm of the global body on March 9, the Council of Administration convened a meeting of the FIP's General Assembly for April 19 in Wellington, Florida, where Huergo will stand for election as President of the federation. Huergo, 71, is a veteran member of the FIP's Council of Administration, having served on that body for most years since 1987. He also served four terms as vice-president of the Asociación Argentina de Polo (AAP) between 1987 and 1997 and is currently a member of the AAP's International Committee. Born in Buenos Aires, Huergo took up polo at age 15 at Tortugas Country Club outside the Argentine capital and played until back problems forced his retirement several years ago. During his playing career he attained a handicap of five goals. The Argentine got his first high-goal international experience, playing for Evelyn de Rothschild's Centaurs, who reached the final of the 1964 British Open Championship (Gold Cup). Over the years he also played in Chile, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, France and the USA, in Florida and California.
October 24th, 2011 Add comment
There's a great future for polo
Some very good players, whose potential has not yet been fulfilled, were seen in action in the World Chship at San Luis
Photo: Santiago Martella
The ninth edition of the World Polo Championship (for teams of up to 14 goals) has come to an end at the Estancia Grande Polo Club, in the state of San Luis, Argentina.
Apart from the title clinched by Argentina after what turned out to be a thrilling final against Brazil, we can be at ease because the future of polo is assured.
Many of the players that arrived at San Luis are very young, and have a long career ahead of them in this, the sport of polo, and their potential generates much enthusiasm when one thinks of their years to come.
The podum corresponding to the three most outstandings players is formed by Pedro Zacharias (from Brazil), Francisco Elizalde (Argentina) and Alfredo Capella Barabucci (Argentina). Pedrinho was the heart and soul of the Brazilian foursome, displaying some great horsemanship, scoring goals and adding rythm to all the matches of his team. Argentinas Elizalde was the basis of the Italian foursome, he proved unstoppable at times. And Capella was the player Argentina needed when his team-mates required his help, going on to add another title to his country's previous three.
But several other players also stand out, such as Chile's Felipe Vercellino, who as a back and only 16 years old was one of the best of his team, especially bearing in mind his youth. Also worthy of mention was the fighting spirit displayed by Arturo Jauretche, another Argentinian player who formed part of the Italian squad.
And also his 14 year-old cousin Salvador, another of Argentina's up-and-coming players who played very well, and even went on to score several goals. Or Pablo Llorente, who spearheaded a foursome that never gave up and claimed th title.
Or India's base man, Samir Suhag, and Pakistan's Raja Sami Ullah, both of whom, older and more experienced, guided their respective teams with plenty of intelligence.
Australia's hopes were mostly set on Dirk Gould and Matt Grimes, while those of United States centered around John Gobin. England battled to the end, disciplined and in an orderly way, headed by Max Charlton, while Mexico showed a highly combative spirit, with Valerio Aguilar and Alejandro Gómez standing out from the rest.
The players did not know their horses well. We think that with their own horses, their performances would be superior. In other words, the expectations would be even higher.
A word apart for the Pakistan vs. India clash, won by the first-mentioned team. The match was a real struggle between two teams whose rivalry is the longest-standing one in the world of polo, two countries between which there is a very special relationship since very many centuries ago, and where this sport had its beginnings.
In three years' time, in the next World Polo Championship, none of these players will be present, as their respective handicaps will not allow for them to take part -the maximum handciap valorization permiited is of five goals- as they all will have moved on and will be furthering their polo careers.
We can be sure that the future of polo is assured.
A more than apt venue for the championship
The fields and facilities which San Luis came up with for the World Cup are worthy of mention. The Estancia Grande Polo Club presented the teams with four impeccable fields to play on, that were kept in perfect conditions throughout the event. On the day during which it rained heavilly, no horses were seen to be slipping on the fields' surfaces. There were stables for more than 300 horses, with comfortable and ample surroundings where the horsekeepers could work. A club which is perfect for this kind of events and which is hoping to host more of this type of events, so as for polo to gain momentum in San Luis.
Not to be forgotten also is all the hard work done by the Federation of International Polo, with its president, Eduardo Huergo at the helm of an impeccably-run organization, which faced many challenges, such as having to find lodging for all the members of the teams and to gather the necessary amount of horses for the ten national teams that were taking part in the World Cup. But when things are done with passion and plenty of hard work, success always follows.
By Santiago Martella, Argentina Correspondent