By Anetta Nowosielska
For one reason or another – both of which are truly mind-boggling – I have recently been named the polo correspondent for one of the glossy lifestyle magazines. The irony of that is, I can claim knowing zilch about the sport…nothing, as in bupkis. And to add insult to injury it is my personal opinion that polo reeks of high snobbery and a desperate attempt to appear more posh than how one’s own DNA intended.
Yes, I have attended several matches in the Hamptons, in Palm Beach and once even in Dubai. But truth be told, partaking in the spectacle was more about wearing the hat and clicking Veuve Clicquot glasses than following the chukkers or anything else happening on the field. I would deduce that the pageantry was over not by partaking in the joy of the trophy announcement; rather by taking stock of the disappearing chitchat buddies I’ve managed to befriend in the tent. Considering the above, plus my secret fear of horses, my polo correspondentship isn’t exactly a shoe-in….yet that is what’s on the table.
As with many challenges in my life, I faced this one like an emu; burying my head in sand. That is until my assistant showed me some pictures of the fine polo specimen, i.e. the members of the Zacara Polo Team, who were willing to teach me the ropes, or the reigns or whatever.
We arrived late at the Zacara stables in Wellington, Florida, a rustic sounding assortment of sheds, which, in fact turned out to be a brand new, picture-perfect facility that conjures up images of all that’s right in the world; where faultlessly manicured pastures and wide-open spaces are surrounded by a short, crisp white fence with the powerful mares leaping and galloping around.
Trying to regain my footing after arriving 30-minutes late, I walked into the office with purpose where top ranking players — Mike Azzaro, Adolfo Cambiaso and Fecundo Pieres — have been patiently waiting for my quasi-journalistic probe. Ever the gentlemen, they stood up to shake my hand as if I was perfectly punctual (trust me — one does not get this kind of a welcome from football players.) And just like that I understood why polo is the sport of kings. That moniker, in my opinion, has little to do with the game’s origin: a training game for cavalry units that served as the king’s guard, eventually spreading through the Byzantines and India, reaching Europe in the 19th century, where it picked up its rituals and formalities. The players seem to operate on a gentleman’s code of conduct of a long-gone era, when one wore spotlessly white pants no matter the occasion, and tailgating implied drinking Chateau Latour Pauillac out of Baccarat crystal while noshing on caviar (although that’s apparently still done in Palm Beach.)
They proudly showed off the stables and gave me a quick polo 101. Humble and friendly Pieres spoke of his horses without ever mentioning that the entire thing belongs to his family that’s deeply rooted in the sport’s heritage (a polo legend Gonzalo Pieres Sr., is Fecundo’s father and his brother, Gonzalo Pieres, Jr., is a player with a 10 goal handicap.) Azzaro, speaking with a charming southern accent, kept opening every door for me, just because that’s how every “poloette” ought to be treated, I imagined.
For all their accomplishments, there is one thing one simply cannot overlook. These polo players are some good-looking men. Seriously handsome…Gorgeous as in “are they the stand-in models until the real players show up” kind of fetching. No disrespect to a certain Argentinian stud, who is making all Hamptonite ladies swoon with his polo swagger, but he is like a J.C. Penny spokesperson next to those hotties in a Dolce Gabbana campaigns. You may think this litany of superficial praise belittles the sport, but I beg to differ. If there is a truth in saying “a way to the man’s heart is through his stomach,” than it could just be that the way to this writer’s fondness for polo may be through her cornea.