By Andrés Ugarte Larraín
In a decision taken on Tuesday October 13 and unveiled on Wednesday October 14, the Board of Directors of the Argentine Polo Association announced the raise of Poroto Cambiaso’s handicap from 4 to 6 goals, which gives the 14-years-old the opportunity to play the tournaments that comprise the Triple Crown, in the event he is requested by a team. The decision was based on the Article 9 of the Technical Rules.
The statement says the following:
“The Board of Directors of the Argentine Polo Association approved on Wednesday the raise to 6 (six) goals of Adolfo Cambiaso III. On the understanding that this exceptional raise does not mean any advantage, sports-wise, to any club he eventually represents. This measure has been taken by the Board of Directors of the AAP, based on the Article 9, chapter 1 of the Technical Rules of the Argentine Polo Association, which says – ‘In the event of an emergency, the Board of Directors will be allowed to change the handicap of the players at any moment without any proposal or report from the General Under Committee of Handicaps’”.
So, here are the facts. And following this, the questions that come up around this decision. It is worth to notice that this measure is emphasized because of a previous precedent. Back in 2007, 4-goaler Alfio Marchini, winner of the Copa República Argentina in 2006, remarked his interest to play the Triple Crown. Due to this, it was established that, in order to play the most prestigious and coveted polo trophy in the world, players should be rated at a minimum of 6 goals or more. At the same time, no one have any doubts that, despite his young age, Poroto Cambiaso is an amazingly gifted player; he demonstrated what he is able to do this year, in England and the United States, as well as he did in the last spring season in Argentina, in 2019, when he won the San Jorge Open with his father, Diego Cavanagh and Juan Martín Zubía. So, why put limit on the handicap if that handicap can be changed later?
“It is a change this leadership set two years ago, following some specific situations, and led the Association to act on its own iniciative to make formal decisions on this issue”, states Eduardo Novillo Astrada, President of the Argentine Polo Association. And he adds: “And we refer as an urgency due to Juan Martin Nero’s injury, which quickened the procedure, and emerged the posibility for Poroto to be an eventual alternate. But it is something we’ve been talking about for about a month. Not having had an Autumn season, gave us the opportunity to make changes considering his performance in England, so we decided this does not mean any advantage at all, sports-wise”.
There’s a recent precedent with regards of a handicap change, in which the AAP acted on its own initiative. It happened in 2019, during the Copa República Argentina. Matías Machado, was rated at 2, but he finally entered the tournament with a handicap of 5. This led to a new league draw, because in this competition handicap difference is crucial for the results of the games, unlike the Triple Crown, which is played open.
Meanwhile, Adolfo Cambiaso told PoloLine that “despite he has been risen to 6, it is not still official that he’s going to play; there’s a chance that a back should be doing the job”. Adolfo Cambiaso’s son has already played a team practice, but he has not been yet announced if he is going to be the definitive replacement for Juan Martín Nero.
Poroto Cambiaso is due to play the Copa Cámara de Diputados with Rodrigo Andrade, Santi Torres and Isidro Strada. In view of this, the rules of the Triple Crown establish that “the players of the teams of the Triple Crown are forbidden to play in tournaments such as the Copa Municipalidad de Pilar, Copa Cámara de Diputados or their repective league matches”. So, we must wait and see, whether Poroto is La Dolfina’s alternate or, on the contrary, he will be included as a permanent member and, as a consequence, he must leave his team of the Municipalidad and the Cámara.
On the other side, this measure, that has the aforementioned precedent, however on a different situation, can change the whole map of polo in Argentina, especially within the highest levels. Many have requested handicap changes in the latest months, which finally have not been accepted, and could have given eventually the opportunity to those rated at 4 or 5 goals, for example, to play the qualification. On balance, a good performance in the European high goal can provide and extra possibility perhaps.
What is also very clear is that ahead of this situation, maybe these issues should be accepted, knowing that the AAP reserves the right to change a handicap if they consider they should do it, beyond the official changes at the end of the Autumn and Spring seasons, similar to what happens in countries like England. But to think that a handicap change can come at any moment, could eventually alter the plans for a whole season. And it is exactly what happened this year with Poroto Cambiaso and also with Barto Castagnola, whose handicaps have been raised by mid-season, no matter if they deserved them or not. So it is very difficult to determine which is the solution to the problem of the handicaps, that is very troublesome around the world.
These situations also reassert the need that both the Triple Crown as well as the Copa Cámara de Diputados and Municipalidad del Pilar, should be played open.
Last but not least, and regardless of who’s benefited or damaged, there are many situations that demonstrate the fragility of the handicap system worldwide, how decisive they are and how they can change the luck of the player overnight, by either removing or adding opportunities to get a job or, directly, forcing to cancel an almost agreed contract. Unfortunately, a handicap not always goes hand-in-hand with the points or results obtained on a polo ground.
To be continued…