Polo ‘three sports in one’

Annual tournament aims to increase profile in Hungary

Hungary’s long, strong tradition of horsemanship has not yet fully embraced the equestrian sport of polo, which has a history of only some 15 years in the country. Nineteen players from six countries riding 43 horses in the second annual Budapest Arena Polo Masters on the weekend April 12-14, 2019 were hoping the event would expand the community of players.

The Polo Masters signified the end of the indoor arena season in Hungary, which began last October and will now be followed by the outdoor season. The event was held in the more than 140-year-old National Riding Hall, the Nemzeti Lovarda, in District VIII, which was under threat of demolition until the government allocated HUF 3.2 billion to refurbish it. The hall reopened in February 2018.

One of polo’s keenest exponents in Hungary is Ambassador of the Argentine Republic Maximiliano Gregorio-Cernadas, whose country is dominant in the sport. Ambassador Gregorio-Cernadas is a passionate player himself of the “king of sports and sport of kings”. He says it is the best sport on Earth because it is actually three sports in one: riding horses, hitting a ball and doing it all at high speed.

The ambassador, who presented his credentials in Hungary in October 2016, says Hungary is an equestrian nation with a bright future in polo, and the sport has given him some of his best Hungarian friends. The embassy is committed to expanding polo in Hungary, and there was a party at the Residence on Andrássy út for the players from Hungary, Austria, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Germany who were competing in the 2019 Polo Masters.

One of the Polish players commented: “Polo may look elite from the outside but on the inside it is egalitarian. The community supports each other. There is a 65-year-old man and two ladies in this tournament, and it is a good sport for amateurs because you can start late and pursue a long career.”

“Teams are handicapped so that the they are more or less even, and therefore competitive. Players are handicapped from minus-two to plus-10. In the world about 15 players are plus-10 and 12 of them are Argentine. Amateurs get up to plus-two and the highest in the Budapest Arena Polo Masters is plus-three. But, as I said, it is egalitarian and you could get an invitation from Prince Charles.” (Charles, who made it to plus-four, retired from the sport in 2005 aged 57, after 40 years playing.)

The party evening included other Argentinian specialities, with a tango performed by Hungarian couple Endre Szegalmi and Andrea Serban, and plenty of Argentina’s full-bodied red wine Malbec.

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