by Andres Ugarte Larrain
Despite his young age, Facundo Sola has become an important figure in polo. This year he will captain a team which has directly qualified for the prestigious Argentine Triple Crown: Washington. He recently finished his season with Murus Sanctus in England, where he spoke to PoloLine about the challenges he will face in Argentina.
“It is amazing that Washington will play on Palermo’s number one ground and that we are one of the six teams to directly qualify for the Open,” says Sola. “I have always dreamed about this. We are no longer a surprise, we are a reality, and we have to win. We did not have that pressure last year because we got through after the Qualifications and we were a new team. Now we have to think about winning two or three games. And getting organised is a lot tougher. We are all getting organised, doing things our own way.”
When did you start planning the Argentine season?
All four of us got together in the US, after Alfredo [Capella] got back from Dubai. We started going over our horse lists, how we would start, what we would keep for later, what we would do in September, practices, the Jockey. We are going to play The Jockey tournament, but not together. If we had a B string then maybe we would, but it is not helpful to play horses that are not useful to us because the team won’t go well and that is when doubts arise. It is better to start properly in Tortugas.
What do you think about the new format of the Open, where the top six teams will automatically qualify for 2017?
It’s great. I think the quarterfinals will be a lot of fun, because whoever loses the first game can have another shot. It is good that we try this format and see how it works. It means we get one more game in the best tournament of the world. What I would add would be to create a general league table, which includes Hurlingham, and the top six of the league qualify. Because perhaps in Hurlingham you win two games, but then you do badly in Palermo. Otherwise, you get the impression that Hurlingham does not matter and that you just put all your good horses into the Open.
What do you think about the league you got in the Open, with La Dolfina and Alegría?
We got a tough group. One team has been winning everything for the past three years, and the other is very strong. We are going to have to plan everything well and give it our all.
How are you in terms of horses?
We are improving our organisation, which is what we have to do. We are better in terms of horses than we were last year. Personally, I have improved my string a lot, considering that it was pretty good last year anyway. Most of the mares are from my breed, but I have bought some along the way. Cambiaso has helped Diego a lot, too.
Sola started his 2016 season in Palm Beach playing with Valiente, but in the two main tournaments he moved into Dubai’s lineup, where he gave a brilliant performance. “It was amazing, and we really worked hard. It was a shame that we lost, but Orchard Hill had a great team, with Facu Pieres, Juan Martin Nero and Negro de Lusarreta. The organisation was amazing, the biggest I have ever worked with; Cambiaso has an amazing vision when it comes to horses, polo and organisations. He knows a lot and he is involved with every process. I learnt a huge amount.”
You have just been playing with Capella in England. How useful was that as a type of preparation for the Argentine season, especially considering that you are playing the same positions?
I played with Capella and Corinne in the Open de France a few years ago and we won. We have always been good friends, almost brothers, but we have not played together that much. So playing together in England is really beneficial.
Do you feel comfortable playing at 3 in the Argentine high-goal?
I have always liked playing in a defensive position. I started the Triple Crown playing at 2, and then with I spent two years playing at 1 with La Aguada. The most natural thing for me is to play in defence, so playing at 3 is fun. I have spoken to a lot of people and they have all told me that I am best at 3. And I feel comfortable in that position.
Will Rubén Sola and Hugo Barabucci continue as team coaches?
Yes, Rubén, Hugo and Tomi García Del Río. Tomi sees the field really well, he knows the horses and we wanted to include a younger person in the team that was not a member of the family. He will also be our substitute.
Do you know where you will be based?
Corinne is finishing a place in Pilar. I will be based at Pilar Chico, and I will move into Corinne’s place when it is finished. Alfredo and Gallego will be nearby and Diego will be in Cañuelas. That is probably where we will do our team practices.
To conclude, Facu Sola shares Washington’s Triple Crown objective: “We have to go into the games thinking we can win. Last year we went in wanting to play well. Now we have to think we can win. We would love to get to the semis. We have to play well and have a good system. The other teams already know how we play, and we are not new any more. We have to play well.”