“I FOUND A GREAT LEVEL OF POLO IN DUBAI”

After a fantastic closure of the Argentine season, where Nicolas Pieres was raised to 10 goals, the youngest son of Gonzalo Pieres began the new year in a brand new and exotic destination for him. Currently playing the Dubai Gold Cup Series with Habtoor Polo Team, Nico said: “While I was packing, it felt weird not to be heading to USA. I started to play there in 2009, with Team Audi ; later on, in 2010 I went to Australia, and from 2011 onwards I´ve always been to the United States… Although this is my first experience here, I believe polo is growing steadily here in Dubai. The organizations are huge, they brought top-notch high goal players, and that is good for both the sport and the place, important in order to continue the development of the sport”.

What can you tell us about your debut in Dubai?
I’m very happy to be here, everything is amazing. We started the season with the Silver Cup, where we lost in semis against Desert Palm, so now we go for the Gold Cup and the 18-goals Dubai Challenge Cup. I heard lots of good things from this place… is an incredible destination, the Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club is a new high level Club and I´m sure it will go better and better. Fields are excellent, there are 9 teams for the Gold Cup and hopefully next year we have even more.

Were you surprised by the level of polo in any way?
I found a great level of polo here, with top players such as Pablo Mac Donough, Lucas Monteverde, Guillermo Terrera, Tito Ruiz (Guiñazu), Gallego (Martinez Ferrario). This is very important for the sport, for Dubai to have these kind of players, to keep on improving the level and the horses as well.

In addition to his great surprise finding the great level of polo in Dubai, the season was also special for Nico since these were his first matches as a 10-goal player, in spite of playing as a 9-goaler in the Emirates due to the date of his registration (he did it on December 1st when he was still a 9-goaler). “To be a 10-goaler is something new for me, I´m very happy but I will only be able to really play as a 10 when the season starts in Argentina. It´s a great achievement but it entails more pressure, now I have to work the hardest to stay at the top”.

What does it mean to be a 10-goal player?
As a player you have to always keep on growing and prove it on the field, you need to learn to handle the team and different situations as well. I thinks that´s the difference between a 10-goal and the rest of the players. The organization, the horses are very relevant, luckily with Ellerstina we do well on this aspect. You should play all the chukkers as a 10-goaler, you should be mounted as a 10-goaler… those are the main differences to me.

What means to you to have reached 10 goals playing as a back?
I´m very happy to have reached the raise in that position. I never imagined myself as a back so it´s quite an achievement. I have an incredible family, my brothers and cousins are great, but as I´ve always been the youngest one, so I had to adapt and play at a position that I had never played before. I played as a back in 2012, later on I moved to 3, to 2… however, now that I have more practice, it seems to be my natural position inside this formation.

How do you feel about the way Ellerstina’s line-up is set ? (Polito 1, Gonzalo 2, Facundo 3, Nicolás 4)
It´s the line-up we found the most natural up to now. We tried to have Polito playing as 2 with Facu as number 1, but Polito needs to be 1, it´s his natural position. And everybody knows what Facu is capable to do on the field, he is able play in any position. Perhaps the ideal line-up for Ellerstina was the one that we played in Palermo: Facu in position 3, chasing the ball, and Polito forward. We played 5 amazing chukkas on Palermo’s final, and even though we ended up losing the match, the team had a very good performance and I think people noticed it.

What do you think the team was missing in that final?
Firstly, to be able to get to define more and better plays in the first 4 or 5 chukkers, when Ellerstina was leading by 1. While on the field, our feeling was that our team was playing much better than our opponents. But honestly La Dolfina is amazing… and we missed the chances we had to score and take the advantage. In the 7th chukka they were already ahead with a big difference.

What do you think about the new list for the AAP, in which there are so many players involved with Eduardo Novillo Astrada at the top?
Changes are important. This was a good period, a good stage, but polo needs a change in its rules, the way we all play, sponsors and personally, I think it needs a generational change. I like the involvement of players with Eduardo leading the group, we need to have a stronger bond with the Assn.

Besides the fact that Nico has not yet defined how he will continue his year after Dubai, he has taken a clear stand regarding the situation in UK and their new Visa regulations and work permits for players, grooms and all the people related to the sport. “I think those rules are bad. It´s clear that the Argentinians dominate the sport; without the (Argentinian) players, grooms and organizations the growth of polo in the country will be really difficult. I haven’t seen any British, Australian or American grooms that can do their work as good as the Argentine (grooms) do, let alone the players! They need to improve their level before putting obstacles and rules on our shoulders” said the brand new 10-goaler.

How do you feel about all of this?
I feel sorry. English polo season is beautiful; it is extremely important for players and patrons to be able to play the Queen’s Cup and the Gold Cup. I hope they can find a solution for this, because in the long term, this will affect the English. Without the Argentinians, the patrons won’t decide to go there. I believe this is an internal matter, they (the English) should step up and try to solve the issue, and allow polo to keep on growing.

Why have you guys decided to keep Ellerstina’s line up?
This is the decision we made when Polito got in the team. We formed this team because it’s the one we always wanted to have, and it will be the same now, in the future and forever. I believe this is the team we all dreamed of. When Polito got in, we made this call and I think it’s the best one.

How important was that Polito won his first title with Ellerstina (Hurlingham Open)?
It was great. Good for the team, for confidence, and for Polito to be able to win his first Triple Crown Open in Argentina. This was important, and now we have to keep on improving and try to defeat La Dolfina as soon as possible.

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