As new British season moves ever closer, Guard Polo Club manager gathers his thoughts on how patrons will choose their teams this summer.
Anthony Fanshawe, polo manager at Guards Polo Club, admits there could be fewer teams in the high goal this coming season, but believes that English polo and patrons could be missing a trick by not signing up a raft of young Argentine players for high goal polo in this country.
The former professional polo player believes it could herald a change at the top end of the sport during the English high goal season, currently dominated by two teams – Dubai and King Power.
Responding to the recent call by Argentine 10-goal player Facundo Pieres who believes the sport ought to be looking at ways of ending the dominance of only two teams, Fanshawe told Telegraph Sport: “I think there will be fewer teams in the high goal this season – which is a shame.”
“But People need to realise that there are very young players in Argentina capable of playing here. Polo is an expensive game and I don’t think potential patrons have realised there’s an awful lot of 20-25 year olds in Argentina on 6 or 7 goals who would come in a lot cheaper than the people who are here right now. I don’t think people have realised that yet. The next generation have just started to come.”
Fanshawe believes the best young players, Argentine or others, should be blooded into the English high goal season.
There are a number of credible additions who could make the leap. For example, the 21-year-old 8-goal player Alfredo Capella, and others such as Juan Martin Zubia, Fran Rodriguez Mera, Jero del Carril, Bartolome Castañola Jr and many others who could be the kind of players who create additional teams in the high goal.
“There’s a group of them – they are not playing in Europe and could make up a few teams that could give the likes of Adolfo Cambiaso a good run for his money,” explained Fanshawe. “I don’t think the 40-year-olds should move aside, but if patrons realised this I think we could draw some back in and change the game.”
“Teams would also be cheaper,” reasoned Fanshawe. “These guys are desperate to play, and I think the sport in England may be missing out on an opportunity. The players of the last 10 to 15 years are still there. The fact that Adolfo Cambiaso is still there – don’t get me wrong, his game is still exceptional and it’s amazing that a 42 year old can still be at the top of his game and I respect that – but in my view the 18-goal patrons could be playing in the high goal on the same budget if they went for some of these younger guys.
“The way the market works is that they are cheaper. The price has been creeping up for 10 years and no one is trying to use some of these young guys, playing off 6 and 7, who can hit the ball the length of the field. Why isn’t Capella, and others, in England? Why aren’t they here? For me, they have never been asked.”
It stands to reason. Look back in history and Cambiaso and Lolo Castagnola started out in the high goal in England at the age of 16. Cambiaso was quite brilliant even in his first season in England in the Gold Cup with Kerry Packer’s Ellerston.
Fanshawe takes up that argument. “The last 7 or 8 Queen’s Cups have been won by Adolfo or Facundo and their teams. We need new guys, young guys. Sport is about young people. It is the truth of all sport. You are tested by the young guys. They play without fear. Cambiaso can still beat the young guys with his eyes shut, and he is the exception. He is now a middle aged guy who has been playing polo at the top level for 20 years.”
He added: “If you can’t beat the Cambiasos and the Facundo Pieres of this world with the players you have at the moment, who have never beaten them, it’s time to look for new players who can challenge the status quo.
“That’s the thing about young players – they have no fear, maybe through ignorance. But it doesn’t matter. Or it’s just arrogance. A combination of the two is what makes a great sportsperson.
“The handicap system, of course, is the only way to create an even playing field in polo. My view is that if you don’t win things, you go down in handicap. It might also be a way of evening out the playing field.”