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Will Polo survive?

There are worries that the noble sport of polo is in danger of remaining out of funds, at least at the current level. USA, Brazil and Chile failed to join Copa de las Naciones tournament at Palermo on Thursday 21 April. It would have been even worse if England team wouldn't have been generously sponsored with two grants of 25000 by Harald Link at the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club.

The global crisis makes it harder every year for the sponsors to support this sport. The players' salaries are at a very high level. More than this, the sport is especially about horses. As the most players acknowledge, the quality of the horse can be decisive, they even estimate for this to be at a level of about 70%. In Argentina, the players usually come from "polo families" that own farms (estancias) where they breed horses. Every family hires grooms (petiseros) that take care of every horse about two or three years. This means a lot of work, money and dedication. Argentina went even further: they are using the technique of cloning. The clone of the horse owned by the famous player Adolfo Cambiaso was sold at an auction for $800.000. There are still debates about this being a fair price, but the fact remains: polo is about good horses.

Can other countries be compared with Argentina when speaking about this infrastructure? Do USA, England, Chile, Brazil and other countries have the possibilities to sponsor this sport? Can this be a profitable activity for the parties involved? I guess that after some time, if the sponsors will not have the money to spend for their image in Polo, they will either renounce or reduce the sums involved. If the other countries will not be able to keep it to the same level, is Argentina going to be the only country where quality polo is played? These are questions I cannot answer, but the time will and it would be awful to see that Polo is only a wonderful story to be told to my nephews.

The first recorded game of Polo had place in 600BC, between the Turkomans and the Persians. The sport spread then by Mongols in India. The British tea planters established the first Polo Club in India in 1850, then the game spread all over the world, including Argentina. The first official game in Argentina took place in 1875. This is a long tradition, much longer than other sports have. Maybe this is one of the arguments that Polo will survive, instead of any economic crisis.

For now, in other countries than Argentina, this is the game of the kings. As the famous Henry Brett, the British Professional who captained England to victory against the Argentine team in 2002 and has won every major tournament in the UK said, if you are not talented you have to pay. Let's hope there are enough rich people interested in Polo.

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