As the British season concludes and the Argentina season looms, the Argentine ambassador to the UK reveals why the nation is polo’s No 1, Mate, a passion for the sport and the great Adolfo Cambiaso
How important is polo as a breeding ground for great relations between the UK and Argentina?
Polo occupies a very special place in the tradition of friendship and dialogue that unites Argentina and the UK. The sport is one of the major flag bearers for the Argentine brand in this country. Furthermore, polo, along with football, has been practiced in Argentina since the late 19th century. Both were introduced by English immigrants.
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Since 1874, when the “Hurlingham” was established and after the first national championships in 1893, Argentina has been gaining considerable international prestige in the sport and from then on has established very close ties with the UK. As a matter of fact, since 1949 Argentine players have come to play to the UK, integrating into British teams and simultaneously fostering camaraderie and forging special friendships based around the sport and around mutually shared cultural values. I am always amazed to discover how many British players and grooms drink mate!
Should more be made of the Argentine relationship through polo?
The Argentine and the British people share many things, many common passions, and sports are one of the strongest ones; within them, polo occupies a special place. It is a great way of sharing common ground, enjoying friendly rivalries and building bridges for cultural exchange. I hope the sport and its community will continue to grow and strengthen even more Argentine-British relation.
There has been some criticism levelled at Argentina players who travel over for the summer and take work from up and coming British players. Is this unjust?
The fact that, at this point in time, 15 of the world’s top 20 players are Argentine sets them apart in terms of talent and ability as international players. Several English teams from other countries take on Argentine players in order to bolster their squads and give the other team members a positive boost, which is reflected in their results.
No doubt they are among the best in the world, and we are very happy that the British people can enjoy watching them play here in the UK. However, players from England and other countries also play in Argentina; we even had an English referee at last year’s Palermo Open.
As a fan of the sport, do you get down to many games?
Every year I have the privilege of taking part, as this summer, in a tradition that dates back to 1938: the Argentine Ambassador’s Cup at Cowdray Park Polo Club. The history of the Cup is fascinating and shows how Argentina and England have always been two key countries for the sport. This year we hosted the event once again together with Cowdray Park. Hundreds of people joined us. It was wonderful.
The Telegraph has campaigned to get Adolfo Cambiaso recognised by Laureus, who he is also an ambassador for.
Should he be afforded more support in this regard?
Adolfo Cambiaso’s career is truly remarkable and this year he won the Olympia de Oro. I hope he will receive every possible award, although he already has the best recognition anyone can have: that of the public and of his fellow sportsmen.