Watching Polo in Buenos Aires
This month marks the start of the 2015 Campeonato Argentino Abierto de Polo (Argentine Open Polo Tournament). It is one of the most important international championships at the club level and is the fifth-oldest polo competition in the world (founded in 1893).
The tournament is held right here in Buenos Aires in the Campo Argentino de Polo (across from Hipódromo Argentino de Palermo, the race track in Palermo, at the intersection of Bullrich and Libertador) and begins this coming Monday, November 23rd (it was originally scheduled to start on November 20 but the dates have been moved due to heavy rain condition). You can buy tickets and review the schedule here or alternatively purchase tickets at the event. It is a great way for students who want to stay in the city to get a taste of this Argentine sport while getting outdoors in the nice Buenos Aires summer! Interested? You can read more on what to expect at a polo game here.
An Up Close and Personal Polo Tournament Update:
This past Saturday (Dec 12, 2015) was the final match of the 122nd Campeonato Argentino Abierto de polo. We were there and wanted to share the great experience!
First, we bought the cheap seats (AR$320 – please note tickets are cheaper for matches earlier on in the tournament). There is seating on both sides of the field. One side has all of the expensive numbered seats, sponsor tents and most of the restaurants at the stadium. The other side has cheaper numbered seating in the middle and then a set of bleachers on each side. The bleachers do not have assigned seats so seating was a bit chaotic but was well worth the money saved. We were also on the “Ellerstina” side which meant most of the people in our section were devoted Ellerstina fans.
The match itself took just over two hours and was very exciting. Well La Dolfina, the favorites, had a sizable lead a majority of the match, Ellerstina came back in the end only to lose by 1, 13-12. This was La Dolfina’s third championship in a row which was an incredible feat!
After the match the stadium turned into a party atmosphere. Most people stayed to socialize, eat and drink with friends and fellow polo fans. It reminded me of the Kentucky Derby where the actual competition is second to the socializing and partying that takes place after. People were very well dressed and many people appeared to know each other. One nice part was it was of all ages – with adults, young-adults and children all commingling – so had a family feel.
I would definitely recommend attending a match at next year’s tournament! Even if you are not a fan of polo (yet) it is worth checking out. And be sure to stay after and partake in the partying!
Playing Polo Yourself
On the other hand for students who want to get a first hand experience in polo, you can go to nearby estancias (large private landholdings, similar to ranches in the U.S.) and learn to play the game yourself. I recently went with three friends to give it a try and absolutely loved it.
The day began with our guide picking us up in Palermo for the hour drive to the estancia. The transportation was seamless and our guide, Pablo, spoke both Spanish and English. This presented a great way to practice Spanish outside the Vamos classroom in a real world setting! Upon arrival, we began drinking the first of many bottles of red wine, and learning the basics of the game. Shortly thereafter, we watched the members of the club play a recreational match and learned high-level strategy.
Once the club members game finished, we had a classic Argentinian asado (an Argentinian barbeque). The food was fantastic and included empanadas (savory wrapped pastries), plenty of different cuts of meat and of course, much more vino tinto (red wine). While the focus of the day was on polo, it was also a great way to get introduced to a traditional asado which I hope every student can experience once while in Argentina!
It was after the meal when the real fun began! We were given our equipment, introduced to the horses and began playing ourselves. We spent the first hour or so practicing hitting the ball while riding (with a pro riding behind us and passing up as we missed, which was incredibly helpful). While it was difficult, the horses were very well trained and followed the ball themselves, approached the ball on their right side and even slowed down to allow us to give a good swing. After an hour of practice we played a thirty-minute game amongst ourselves. It was definitely the highlight of the day as everything we learned culminated into a scrimmage. While we weren’t the best, we were competent enough to pass around and even score a few goals! By the end we were all wiped out from riding, swinging and even a little contact during the game (and probably from the wine too…).
All in all, it was a fantastic way to get some fresh air outside of Buenos Aires, practice Spanish with locals and immerse into the Argentinian culture. I’d highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning polo and think it is a great activity for Vamos students!
There are many estancias just a brief hour or so away from Buenos Aires and they all offer some kind of one day polo excursion. We went through Argentina Polo Day. There are also Puesto Viejo Polo, El Venado Polo and Polo Elite, just to name a few.