Last week, the eight players (Jake Klentner*, Hope Arellano*, Agustin Arellano, Joaquin Avendaño, Kristos “Keko” Magrini*, Lucas Escobar*, Nico Escobar*, Nico Diaz Alberdi) on the 2022 FIP World Polo Championship U.S. roster were announced. This will be a special and celebratory tournament for the United States, as the most coveted international competition in the word is finally returning to American soil for the first time in 24 years. The much-awaited “World Cup,” which was postponed last year due to COVID-19, found a new venue in the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellingtion, Florida, and will take place from October 26 – November 6.
Arellano coaching USA’s Hope Arellano. ©Matias Callejo
With the United States, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Italy and Spain having already qualified, the tournament now waits for the last two competitors to emerge from the playoffs. Led by coach Julio Arellano, the United States will strive to reclaim the glory of winning the trophy in Berlin, Germany, back in 1989. A 16-year-old Arellano played alongside John Wigdahl, Charles Bostwick and Horton Schwartz to defeat England 7-6 in the final match to win what remains the only gold medal for the United States to this day.
After triumphing in the 1989 FIP World Polo Championship, Arellano continued to represent the American team in various prestigious competitions such as the Westchester Cup and the Coronation Cup. In his very decorated career, he has also won every major trophy in the United States, including the C.V. Whitney Cup, the USPA Gold Cup and the U.S. Open Polo Championship. Most recently, he coached the Park Place during the American high-goal season.
Now gearing up to try to recreate the magic of his 1989 win, CLICKPOLOUSA spoke with Julio Arellano to talk next steps and game plans for the hopeful U.S. team.
Julio Arellano competing for Cola-Cola in the 2017 USPA Gold Cup. ©David Lominska
Julio, we spoke with USPA COO & In-House Counsel Chris Green and USPA Executive Director of Services Carlucho Arellano about the efforts going into hosting the World Polo Championship. As a coach, how do you prepare for such an important tournament?
“It’s a great honor to be asked to coach such an event. It’s very difficult with the players having work commitments. We are trying our best to find time to have them play together.”
The USPA revealed their eight players last week. How will the selection process for the starting team continue?
“We used the winter season to make our small list of eight players. Now we hope to find which combination of players works best. Two of the players will be living in Argentina to play a high level of polo and get them ready in weekly practice games. They will be warming up for the high-goal Argentine season in September, so it’s an ideal place. Hopefully playing on rented horses for a month will prepare us.”
Arellano discussing strategy with USA Team candidates Nico Diaz Alberdi, Hope Arellano, Lucas Arellano and Santino Magrini during USA team tryouts at Port Mayaca Polo Club (Okeechobee, Florida). ©David Lominska
You were part of the group that selected the players. What things did you value at the time of making the final roster?
“We had to take into consideration, as a team, that we won’t have much time to prepare and that they will be on unknown horses. Also, which players would have the time to train and participate, as many have other commitments. I have observed these players competing together and I’ve watched how they’ve played individually. Starting from the eight, I will focus on which groups have the best team chemistry, but I was looking for players who would be able to play well on pooled horses and are team players.”
Is being the host team an extra pressure?
“Of course, it has its pros and cons. I’m very excited that the championship is going to be contested on U.S. turf. It’s a little added pressure, so hopefully we can represent the U.S. well and bring home the title.”
You won the title as a player in 1989. What do you recall from that tournament in Berlin?
“It is a wonderful memory that will stay with me forever. The stadium from the 1936 Olympics, the Berlin Wall, all the great people I met and helped make it happen.”
Arellano will lead USA on their home turf bid to earn the FIP World Polo Championship for the first time since 1989. ©PoloLine USA
Having experienced what it means to represent your country at a world championship, what are the most important things a player has to know or keep in mind?
“That you represent something bigger than yourself and that it’s a great honor and responsibility.”
What does it mean to you two of your children, both Hope Arellano and Agustin Arellano made it to the final eight players?
“It’s a huge deal that my brother and I both represented the USA before, and now my kids will have the same honor. I am very proud of both of them regardless of the final team selection.”
*Lucas Escobar, Hope Arellano, Keko Magrini and Nico Diaz Alberdi are members of Team USPA. Nico Escobar is a Graduating Team USPA Member. Jake Klentner, Jesse Bray and Mason Wroe are Team USPA alumni. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.