Uruguayan polo keeps growing with the team recently achieving one of the biggest feats in its polo history – winning the Federation of International Polo (FIP) Zone B Qualifier, played at the Punta del Este Polo & Country Club, in Maldonado, Uruguay, to earn a place in the World Polo Championship for the first time in history.
Uruguay (Gastón Magariños, Ignacio “Nachi” Viana, Santiago Stirling, Matías Carrique) led by coach Felipe Viana* captured the Zone B Championship starting with a 9-8 victory over Chile on their first match, followed by another narrow 8-6 victory over Brazil, and finally managing to beat Peru in the final match by 6-4.
Uruguay’s Santiago Stirling competing in the Zone B Qualifier at Punta del Este Polo & Country Club, in Maldonado, Uruguay.
Emerging on top required great preparation and dedication, “we played every match like a new objective to meet, a new final, we took it very seriously. We knew all three were going to be difficult, and they were,” said Nachi Viana.
Stirling also shared, “it is a major achievement for all of Uruguayan polo. We set this goal for ourselves a few years ago. There are four of us on the field, but we represent everyone outside. This was for everyone.”
Peru’s Guillermo Malaga was named Most Valuable Player, while Brouni Ley, played by Nachi Viana was awarded Best Playing Pony.
Viana, the leading scorer of the tournament with fifteen goals, spoke with CLICKPOLOUSA on the importance of the win, “earning a spot in the World Championship is huge for Uruguayan polo. We prepared for a long time to get the results we did. Many Uruguayans came to watch the national team. People lived it with the same intensity as we did on the field, with every goal, every play, [we] saw a round of applause, cheers, whistling… they were always pushing us to give it our all, for us and for everyone watching.”
Uruguay’s Ignacio “Nachi” Viana led the tournament with fifteen goals.
The father of a teammate, Pancho Arocena expressed his praise for Viana and the Uruguayan team, “Nachi [Viana] made the difference, he’s an amazing player. The match against Peru was very difficult, but we managed. This is the culmination of seven years of hard work from a lot of people, it’s not easy to make this happen. I am proud of Uruguay.”
Coach Felipe Viana also stated, I am very grateful to have been a part of this and being able to work with the players, with the staff, the Association, they all helped a lot.”
President of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle Pou’s also sent a special message to the team, writing, “I congratulate the Uruguayan team. It is a huge pride to have won the South American zone and qualified for the World Championship. I know there was a lot of hard work and effort behind this achievement, not only from the four players, but also grooms, the directives, everyone. Go on!”
Uruguay’s Coach Felipe Viana and Ignacio “Nachi” Viana.
Uruguay now turns its attention to preparation for the XII FIP World Polo Championship, “we have high expectations for the World Cup. We met our goal of winning the Zone B, so our next goal is no other than winning the World Cup,” said Nachi Viana.
Uruguay joins host country the United States and 2017 XI FIP World Polo Championship winners Argentina as the first nations to qualify for the upcoming 2022 tournament. The XII FIP World Polo Championship will be played from October 26 through November 6 at International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC), in Wellington, Florida.
*Felipe Viana is a 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.
All photos courtesy of ©@polofeelinguru.