The Palermo final was a mesmerising experience for one British ticket-holder watching the highlight of the Argentine domestic season live for the first time.
I’m sitting at the bar at the Four Seasons Hotel in Buenos Aires having just met its owner, who’s also the patron of La Dolfina – the world’s greatest polo team which features the world’s greatest player, Adolfo Cambiaso.
Over a large gin and tonic with the polo legend Enrique Avendano we’re discussing that moment in a sport’s match when a player does something so outrageously skilful that the opposition’s feet turn to lead. The killer blow. We pull up Robin van Persie’s goal for Holland v Spain on YouTube to illustrate.
The next day at the final of the Argentine Polo Open in Palermo, the most fashionable district in the city, I’m watching Cambiaso and his team and they are 4-2 up against Ellerstina – their great rivals – minutes into the second chukka.
Just below where I’m sitting in the main stand, the players and their ponies are in a huddle – jockeying for position and the ball. Cambiaso emerges with it, never more than a foot from his stick.
He moves through the ring of players, flicks the ball up and keeps its up with three or four volleys before launching it 50 yards upfield and into space. He then sets off after it at pace. Once he’s caught up, the 40-year-old smashes it through the goal posts from range.
Six minutes into the third chukka, Ellerstina are down 3-9 and reeling.
But they are still contenders for the crown as Facundo Pieres, in his distinctive purple hat, and his Ellerstina quartet rally. He is the only polo player who can truly rival Cambiaso – they are the undisputed top two players in the sport – and swing a game.
The game evens up and it’s such a shame Ellerstina didn’t score at the death to tie it up.
For the damage had been done and the game moves to its conclusion. The great man Cambiaso gets to lift his third consecutive triple crown.
What a player he is, totally unheralded outside of polo circles. Honestly, it really is like watching that other great Argentine, Lionel Messi, riding Frankel. Rare skill and totally captivating.
Despite the incredible amount of energy and movement on the pitch, polo is a mellow and beautiful sport to watch.
It fits nicely into its home town with the huge River Plate drifting alongside public parks and a medley of architecturally European buildings.
The passion and style of the place and game are both unique and a wonder.