It is a very spectacular yet intimate sport: polo. The best European teams will gather until Sunday evening 8 May at the Chantilly estate in the north of Paris for the qualifications for the next World Cup. Polo suffers from an elitist image, but the promoters want to open that up to as many people as possible.
A polo field is an area almost 300 meters long and 145 meters wide. The equivalent of more than four football fields. The accelerations of the horses are spectacular, their legs stir up dust, in an impressive buzz. The four players of each team raise their mallets before hitting the plastic ball with force. This little-known sport immediately appealed to Clément Delfosse, who at 34 years is the most experienced in the French team. †I went to some pony clubs, but it was something that bothered me, does he remember?† I like horses, but I needed something more playful and so it became polo.”
Clément Delfosse started this sport when he “6-7 years” and here he is today as a professional player. †We have to be in France with about thirty professionals. It’s a passion for the job, you can make a living from it, but you have to get up early, you always have to be competitive to hold a few exploits that make you switch to happiness.”
France has 31 clubs with less than 900 members, including a third for the only Polo-Club of the Chantilly estate, the largest in the country with a jewel in the middle of the forest: 250 hectares entirely devoted to polo. But polo carries a heavy ball: its image. A stuffy, elitist sport: a false caricature, according to the promoters.
†We imagine the women in dresses and the men in suits with a nice car, but that’s not true at all.”, assures Sam Sztarkman. At the age of 20, this son of a former player has just joined the Blues. †Me too, I had this image, even though I see how the polo shirt evolves since it’s very smallhe explains. It is a small environment and at the edge of the field everyone knows each other. I see that it is a sport that is becoming more democratic and we must continue in this direction†
Admittedly, the number of practitioners has continued to grow since last school year, but we are still a long way from the madness that surrounds this sport in certain countries, primarily Argentina. The Argentinians are reigning world champions and have a real cult following in this sport. Many South American players come to France and the Blues regularly go to Argentina to prepare.
†There is a stadium called Palermo in the center of Buenos Aires, says Mathieu Delfosse, former international and now coach of the French team† There are 25,000 people who are going to watch the matches. This polo culture is crazy. There are other countries where it is, such as the United States or England. There is a great tradition: spectators come from one year to the next and can tell you about a match from 30 years ago. It’s quite impressive.”
France is far from this enthusiasm, but at the French Polo Federation we are trying to catch up. †It is up to us to make this known as much as possible in the clubs, promises Philippe Perrier, the national technical director and general manager of the Chantilly club† We organize discoveries and initiations for the instructors in the clubs to preach the good word. We have to give them resources with educational kits, show them that we can play polo with saddle horses and even ponies. Everything is possible with horsesIn Chantilly, France’s biggest club, the Blues failed in their effort: they missed qualifying for the next World Cup, which will take place in the United States next fall.