The skill of the players, the power of the horses, the glamour and tradition of the game; polo has a special place in Argentina, and there's no better place than Buenos Aires to experience this incredible sport.
The game requires extraordinary horsemanship, great skill in the use of the mallet and unwavering concentration on the location of the ball and of one's teammates. Here's our guide to one of the city's most exciting sporting draws so that you can take your place in the stands and applaud every goal.
British heritage and the rise of Argentine polo
Polo arrived in Argentina with British immigration in the 19th century. One of the most important clubs in the development of the local game was the Hurlingham Club, named after the Hurlingham Club in London and founded in 1888 by four Brits, Campbell, Fortune, Ravenscroft and Robson. The club was the first champion of the Argentine Open Polo championship, now regarded as the most prestigious international interclub tournament. Currently, seven of the eight international players with the best handicaps are Argentine, including top player Adolfo Cambiaso.
When and where to see a match
The elite Argentine polo season is La Triple Corona, or triple crown, which runs from September until the end of the year. It comprises the three best-known international polo tournaments: the Tortugas open, followed by the Hurlingham Open, and finally, most important of all, the Argentine Open
, which takes place in November/December at the historic Palermo polo ground
, known around the world as the "Cathedral of Polo". For all three tournaments, it's possible to find affordable tickets, as well as luxury serviced boxes with the best views.
Passion for the sport
Polo is known as a luxury sport for investors with big budgets, but, here in Argentina, it also has something else that breaks the stereotype: passion. The players don't take part in the local competitions for money, but for the love of the sport and the importance and tradition of these annual events, which bring them back to Argentina for four months every year.
The spectacle goes beyond the field
Admiration for polo's great sportsmen and the skill and tradition of the game bring a host of celebrities to Buenos Aires every year for the Argentine Open. Actors such as Will Smith, Robery Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones, models and sportsman like four-time Formula 1 champion Sebastián Vettel have all been spotted at Palermo's field no.1. After the match itself comes the glamourous after-party with stands from the sports top brands providing snacks and cocktails.
Seven pointers to understand the sport
What do you need to understand the game? Here are some basic pointers.
1. Each team fields four players.
2. In Triple Corona matches, teams play eight seven-minute periods known as chukkas. In other tournaments, six or seven chukkas may be played.
3. Teams switch sides every time a goal is converted.
4. If the ball goes off the side of the field, it's the umpire who throws it back on to the pitch between the two teams. If match is a draw after normal time, time is added so that there is always a winner.
5. Every team has a handicap, which is a numerical score for their quality of play. Local team La Dolfina has a 40-goal handicap, the highest possible.
6. Players must hold their mallet in their right hand. Mariano Aguerre, a former champion player from Palermo is left-handed but had to learn to play with his weaker hand.
7. Finally, it's important to understand that while the athletes are indespensible in polo, the quality of the horses make a difference.
Horseracing also has a strong tradition in Argentina, and the classic venue is the Hipódromo de Palermo
, located near the Palermo Polo Ground.