By Andrés Ugarte Larraín
Satinder Garcha returned to polo after recovering from a serious accident (not polo related) where it was feared that he would never walk again. Now, a year and a half on, Garcha has returned to polo to play in one of the best polo clubs in the world: Ellerstina. Satinder participated in this edition of the Ellerstina Gold Cup, with his team, Garcha Hotels. “;;Playing here is very special for me,” told the Indian player. “;;Last year I sustained a very serious head injury and was told I had 70% chance of dying. I was told that I would never walk again. So to be playing polo a year and a half later is very special. I feel good and strong.”
When did you start playing polo?
I started as an adult, 12 years ago, when I was 32. I am from India; my father formed part of the army and was a great player. When I was young I went to school in the Himalayas; I couldn’t play because we couldn’t keep horses there. I then went to work in the US and my father said that I could play if I made money. To play polo you only need three things: money, time and youth. You don’t usually get to have all three things at once. Luckily, when I was 32 I managed to get all three. I don’t have much time today, but I feel a lot better than before.
Where in the world have you played polo?
When I was in the US I travelled to Singapore and started playing there. It’s a really nice place to play. I have never played in the US, but I have played in Sotogrande, England, St. Tropez and Argentina. If I have two free months I come to play in Argentina – the best place to play in the world. I had never come before I started playing; the first time I came was to learn to play polo.
Which is your favourite position on the field?
I like playing at number one, but in Singapore, where I play better, I can play wherever – I’m like a 10-goaler there. But my natural position is at number one; I like attacking.”
Garcha tells PoloLine that a bit of free time allows him to come to Argentina and enjoy the polo season, where he can play and watch the high-goal. His new professional project is in the hospitality industry. “;;Hotels are new step in my career,” he explains. “;;Five star luxury hotels with a historic concept. They are all historic/iconic buildings; they are not boutique. I call them boutique because each has an independent concept. We are now reconstructing a hotel in Chile, in the most prominent location, near the Cathedral, where the city’s best hotel from 100 years ago was built. We are restoring it; it will take about three more years. I have three hotels in Singapore and another in England.”
How do polo and hotels relates?
It is interesting because the logo of my hotels shows a polo stick and a falcon, from my Indian family crest. Polo is a very traditional sport, and its lifestyle has to do with being a gentlemen’s game, and even though it is becoming more and more professionalized, it maintains its traditions. You don’t make money from playing, you play out of passion. It’s a game of courage, speed, and obviously horses. So overall it is very related to our hotels, mostly because of its history and traditions.
What polo object can a guest expect to find in your hotel?
Nothing that is typically associated with polo style. I will not have a typical and boring themed bar. My hotels are more related to the spirit of polo. There are not any paintings of polo, but polo is represented in the logo. Each hotel has its own identity, but the logo stays the same; it is the common denominator. The old hotel in Santiago was called the City Hotel, and it will keep that name.
What do you wish to achieve in polo?
My idea is to play the Cámara, that’s why I arrived a while ago. We had been training and we had almost completed the team, but we lost one or two players because they signed with another team. Then I thought that I was rushing a bit because I had never played that level, so we decided to play the Ellerstina Gold Cup. Jumping from 4 goal tournaments to 30 goals is a big step, mentally and physically. That is why I am spending two months here this year; it takes time to prepare. So if I decide to play the Cámara I will have to spend some time here preparing; I cannot arrive two weeks before and then play.
Garcha concludes on a personal note: “;;Polo is different at this level; the horses are different, and so are the fields. It is not that difficult if you are well prepared. Sometimes lower level tournaments are harder; the fields are not very good and the game is more dangerous because players don’t manage their horses as well. I prefer to play with better players. If I am the best on the field I feel that I am not learning. Playing with higher handicapped players is beneficial for me; it’s a great challenge.”