80 Goal Exhibition Match at Palermo
They called it “The Match of the Century” as, on Saturday 14 November, the world’s top players took to the field of Palermo’s Number 1 Ground in an 80 goal handicap match, organised by the Argentine Association of Polo. The tournament plays was in support of Scholas, the educational organisation set up by Pope Francis. The so-called “perfect” match was a testament to the first ever 80 goal match that took place 40 years ago and made Argentine and world polo history when eight 10 goalers made up the legendary teams El Trébol and Venado Tuerto (named in commemoration of the first polo derby). This year the teams, Coronel Suárez and Santa Ana, were originally made up of the current dominating eight 10 goal players. Unfortunately, Facundo Pieres had to be replaced last minute by 9 goaler Eduardo Heguy due to a shoulder injury sustained in the Final of the Hurlingham Open, making it a 79 goal match and not the perfect 80.
The first 80 goal match, in 1975, was itself a commemoration of another historic event: the 100 year anniversary of the first recorded polo match in Argentina. The 1975 match was played by the greats of the time, legends who have gone down in history for their skills on the field, and players who have fathered polo dynasties that now dominate the polo of today. The match was won by El Trébol, a team which consisted of Alberto Pedro Heguy, Daniel Gonzalez, Gonzalo Tanoira and Alfredo Harriott.
With the opening matches of the Argentine Open just days away, this long awaited “perfect” match did not quite live up to its reputation. The top players in the world were reluctant to push themselves or their horses more than necessary and, as such, the exhibition match was not the nail-biting, clash of the titans promised but, at best, a high quality practice and a chance to move the horses before the main event. That is not to say that the match was not of epic proportions. Seven 10 goalers at work, riding some of the best horses in the sport is not to be sniffed at and the skills on show were impressive with various goals, shots and plays that paid tribute to the historical event.
Coronel Suarez, made up of the legendary Adolfo Cambiaso, David Stirling, Miguel Novillo Astrada and Eduardo Heguy (in for Facundo Pieres), took an early lead with various long range goals from Cambiaso. Santa Ana soon caught up and the last few chukkas were more exciting with alternating goals from both sides finishing in a 9-9 draw that meant all players went home happy.
The dream teams of 1975:
El Trébol (40): Alberto Pedro Heguy (10), Daniel Gonzalez (10), Gonzalo Tanoira (10), & Alfredo Harriott (10)
Venado Tuerto (40): Horacio Heguy (10), Gastón Dorignac (10), Juan Carlos Harriott Jr. (10), & Francisco Dorignac (10
The dream teams of 2015:
Coronel Suárez (40): Adolfo Cambiaso (10), David Stirling (10), Miguel Novillo Astrada (10) & Eduardo Heguy (9)
Santa Ana (40): Pablo Pieres (10), Gonzalito Pieres (10), Pablo Mac Donough (10) & Juan Martín Nero (10)
Photograph: The polo greats, past and present, gathered on Ground 1 of Palermo in celebration. By Matias Callejo