By Andrés Ugarte Larraín
Having shown great improvement, and after having put La Dolfina on the ropes in the final of the Hurlingham Open, Ellerstina prepare for their greatest challenge yet: The Argentine Open. But Ellerstina is not only one of the greatest teams in polo, but also one of the best organisations in the world. When recognising this, one must consider the man who built the organisation, one of the most influential players in polo history: Gonzalo Pieres.
“Watching Ellerstina play the Triple Crown year after year means a lot to me, because these things don’t generally last that long – but, thank God, this is still running” Gonzalo Pieres, former Espadaña player, tells PoloLine. “Ellerstina is from my time, near the end of my career, then the beginning of Cambiaso’s time, and now it’s all Pieres. It’s great, and very moving, but it has not been easy. On the other hand, it was easy because I concentrated on this full time. We started with Ellerstina and I had the huge support of Kerry Packer. That gave me the energy to recover all the things I had sold. And now it’s the boys who are doing it all over again.”
What do you feel when you see the scoreboard with four Pieres names, just like there were previously four Heguys or four Novillo Astradas, for example?
Seeing four Pieres names is another very moving part of it. Previously having Mariano Aguerre, who is married to my daughter, in the team was also very important; that was great for me, and great for my daughter, Tatiana. Especially as he was on the opposite side before, so it was a happy ending that Mariano ended up playing in Ellerstina. It was practically like having four Pieres then too. But now there are four players with the surname Pieres, which is unique. Polito had become one of the most difficult players to play against, and he was one of us – because of situations, being in contact, because he is the boy’s cousin and great friend, but they couldn’t play together. First we had a team waiting for Nico, with Pablo Mac Donough and Nero, until Nico came in and we played a good year with Nachi Heguy. And now I think we have reached the highest point we can dream of with the kids: Three brothers and a cousin, all of the same surname, all playing alike, and at a similar age. It’s almost unique.
They are all in a good place at the moment…
It now depends on them adapting to their positions. We are in the Triple Crown, which is incredibly tough, especially knowing that there is a team that is ahead that has evaded our control and needs to be caught. It’s nice because we’ve been in the position of winning, of losing, of winning again, and then losing, which is where we are now. Hopefully it will work out for us, and if not, we’ll just have to wait a while, because this is the dream team for the boys and Polito.
Do you feel that Ellerstina led the way and changed the setup of many organisations today?
Ellerstina was created when I was still a player, out of all my faults as a professional player. For example, in my good times, I didn’t train. I started training to keep in shape and the boys do it to improve – that is professionalism. Then, the field, the place, the sponsors Ellerstina has, are all very important. If you do all that, you will get to the top. I am sure that Ellerstina was once the most professional organisation; today everyone is building organisations like this, so we have to be a step above.
How important is it that Facundo and Gonzalo played, and won, together in England?
Polo is what rules. It’s usually either family or polo. That the boys played abroad with a new organisation and won everything is very significant. It’s almost as good as what we have achieved here. It means it can be done; that generates possibilities for everyone who wants to be successful to approach us. Because otherwise they might not even call you. And we are here trying to do the same: Be the most responsible team we can be, make everyone around us feel important, from people who come up to us to the people who work with us. We want them to feel proud.
To conclude, Gonzalo Pieres reflects about polo today: “It is fundamental that everyone who comes into polo, like King Power, wants to maintain in polo. We all know that polo doesn’t live off what is generated in Argentina. Polo, and all this, is an international brand, and we have to work to get better every time. Everything we generate in Argentina is never going to be enough, and the country is not big enough for us all to live off polo. It’s an expensive sport, but we are turning it into an option for those who want to invest and be successful, like King Power and other brands.”