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The British Polo Connection

Great Britain has a special position in the history of the sport of polo. The first polo club in the world, The Retreat at Silchar in India, was founded in 1859 by British military officers and tea planters. Argentina has a real passion for this quintessentially British pastime due to originally the number of ex-patriate British in the region, polo has maintained significant popularity over the years and continues to develop today.

Mallets at the ready: The bronze medal winning British polo team at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games.
Mallets at the ready: The bronze medal winning British polo team at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games.

Polo was introduced to Argentina by British landowners and the first recorded match was held on August 30, 1875 at the famous estancia ‘Negrete’, in Ranchos in the province of Buenos Aires. The British Royal Navy introduced polo to Chile in 1882. British settlers started polo in Uruguay sometime before 1892. Polo was introduced to Peru in 1898 by a merchant from England. British engineers started to play polo in Brazil in 1923.

In Argentina, since 1893, Campeonato Argentino Abierto de Polo, the most sought after domestic title, has been fought out every year at Buenos Aires venue, the Campo Argentino de Polo.

Britain has played polo against Argentina in two Olympic Games, in Paris in 1924 and in Berlin in 1936. On both occasions, Argentina won and were awarded the Gold Medal. Britain won Bronze in 1924 and Silver in 1936. These Argentinean players are inevitably revered as legends and will remain in global polo folklore forever more.

Through the 1920s and ’30s polo became increasingly popular in  Argentina, and in 1928 the first Copa de las Americas (Cup of the Americas) was contested between the United States and Argentina. Sometimes in sport, there are nations that defy the odds. This occurs when a nation dominates a sport and creates a legacy that will forever stand in the annals of sporting time. Argentina has become the uncontested master of international polo.

Argentine teams have dominated the sport for over 70 years, and today Argentina supplies the most talented players in the world. Polo is now a way of life in the country for its most passionate and committed players. Argentina has been the premier nation at international handicap polo since 1949 without interruption, with Argentineans making up the majority of the world’s elite – quite staggering statistics. This run of form, which has lasted for more than seven decades, has led Argentina to be considered by many to be the spiritual home of polo, not just in South America but across the globe.

However, there was no actual Argentinean born 10-goal player until 1943, when three players reached the highest rating: Enrique Alberdi, Luis Duggan and Charlie Menditeguy. In 1944, two more players joined the 10-goal club: Juan Carlos Alberdi and Julio Menditeguy.

There is currently only one American born player rated 10-goal by the USPA. In 2015, Pablo “Polito” Pieres was the first to be rated 10-goal since Adam Snow in 2003. While Pieres is Argentinean, he was born in Connecticut and raised in Argentina. England brought polo to the West; the United States established the handicap system; and Argentina monopolized the maximum rating.