Sy Zahedi fell in love with horses as a kid. Growing up in a city in Iran, he would go to his grandfather’s farm on the weekends, where his uncles would ride and hunt. During those days, the special bond with horses every polo player can relate to started to take form, although it wouldn’t be until many years later when he would finally start playing.
As a teen, Zahedi moved to the United States and later, in 2015, he was invited to an exhibition arena polo match at OC Polo Club (Silverado, California), where he first felt attracted to the sport and eager to learn more about it. His first steps were taken almost five years ago in arena polo, and only two years later he decided that it was time to try playing outdoor polo. Zahedi’s teacher was none other than polo legend Memo Gracida, who welcomed him to his club, La Herradura Polo Club, in Santa Ynez, California.
“The key to playing polo is to humble yourself, become a student of the game, forget everything else [and] start from step one. There’s no way to go from step one to five. If you jump a step, then you are going to get hurt, and nobody wants that.” – Sy Zahedi
Hard work and good organization allowed his team, Zahedi Chogan, to establish a name for itself at the two vital clubs on the West Coast: Eldorado Polo Club (Indio, California) and Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (Carpinteria, California). After playing regularly in the last half decade in both California and Florida, Zahedi decided that it was time to face a new challenge, and play with his team Zahedi Chogan in Argentina.
CLICKPOLOUSA spoke with Zahedi about his experience in Argentina, how he got into the sport and what he thinks of polo in America.
Originally from Iran, Zahedi honed his skills at notable California clubs including Eldorado Polo Club in Indio, California and Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpenteria, California.
Tell us about your story with polo.
“I started playing five years ago, but I played arena polo in the beginning. I started playing outdoor polo three years ago. I took a few lessons at Eldorado and Memo Gracida took me under his wing. I played with him for one year. It was phenomenal, he taught me a lot, helped me buy my first string [and] set me up with everything I needed to get organized.
Then I went to Eldorado, played there, then I started playing at Santa Barbara as well. I had the opportunity to play with the Ganzi’s in Wellington, [Florida,] and now I’m here having a phenomenal time in Pilar, Argentina.”
Was coming to play in Argentina a goal you wanted to achieve?
“Of course, every polo player should come here and play. This is unlike anything else. You have 150 fields within a 10-mile radius and 2,000 horses. Every horse you ride is a machine, it’s amazing.”
“I tell [my friends] that if you can afford to play golf, you can afford to play polo.” – Sy Zahedi
And what can you say about your team, Zahedi Chogan?
“I have known Juan Curbelo for a couple of years, we are going to play 12-goal tournaments in January at Eldorado in Indio. I played some 8 goal with Santi Wulff [in] Santa Barbara, he is an amazing player. Pipe, who I just met, is a machine. We are going to play together for the next few weeks in Argentina. I think we are going to be a contender. We played against a well-organized team, they’ve been together for a while, with high-goal players who played in the Open, and we did well.”
What kind of tournaments have you played in the United States?
“I played 12-goal tournaments in Santa Barbara with Nacho Figueras and Prince Harry. It was very nice. I also played the 8 goal and we had a very good team. We made it to five finals and won four. If you surround yourself with good players, mount yourself properly and organize well, you are going to do well.”
A regular in 12 and 8-goal tournaments in California and Florida, Zahedi is confident Zahedi Chogan can be a contender.
“If you surround yourself with good players, mount yourself properly and organize well, you are going to do well.” – Sy Zahedi
How do you see polo in the United States?
“I can only see it growing. It’s amazing. When I bring my friends to watch polo, they’ve never seen anything like it. A lot of them play golf, I tell them that if you can afford to play golf, you can afford to play polo.
The key to playing polo is to humble yourself, become a student of the game, forget everything else [and] start from step one. There’s no way to go from step one to five. If you jump a step, then you are going to get hurt, and nobody wants that. It’s a dangerous sport if you let your ego get the better of you. Otherwise it’s safe, it’s fast, it’s everything I ever wanted in a sport, everything!
You play with amazing athletes between your legs that are 1,000 pounds of pure power, energy and speed. They know the game better than you do, so you just need to hold on, follow their rhythm and become one with them, and your job is to hit the ball, take the man and they do everything else.”
All photos courtesy of ©Guadalupe Aizaga.