By Eric Weil
Facundo Pieres, winner of last year’s Argentine Open with Ellerstina, had been the youngest player in Argentina to reach the maximum +10-handicap when he was 19 and seven months — a month younger than Adolfo Cambiaso. Now, at 27, he has also overtaken countryman Cambiaso at the top of the world rankings after winning the open championships of the United States and England with Zacara and Spain with Ellerstina this summer. He also has a +10-handicap in all three countries. At the time of writing, he was ahead of second-placed Cambiaso by 235 points.
“When I play I always play to win, but I’m never satisfied and want more,” Facundo, generally a forward and prolific scorer, said. “Last year, we formed a new +38-handicap team with my brothers Gonzalo and Nicolas and my experienced older brother in law, Mariano Aguerre which did not go so well at first, but we found how to play Cambiaso’s +40-handicap defending champions La Dolfina in the Argentine Open final and caused a surprise by beating them 12-10. They had been the favourites all the way.”
So then it was off the US to defend the title with Zacara and different teammates. “Something similar happened as in Palermo (Buenos Aires). The Valiente team, with Cambiaso, was playing very well while Zacara just managed to get to the final with an extra chukker. But we took the opportunities at the right moment and won,” Facundo said.
Was it like that in England also? “The English season was completely different. I managed to combine very well, now with Brazilian Rodrigo de Andrade and from the first match we realized that Zacara would be the team to beat. We managed to win 13 games in a row and won the Queen’s Cup (the second most important tournament) and then the Open against Dubai (with Cambiaso) in the final,” Facundo said. “The season in Sotogrande was very nice, because I played with my brother Gonzalo for Ellerston and we won the final of the Gold Cup (open tournament) in an extra chukker with my goal.”
But with so many successes, which did he enjoy most? “Every tournament was important, but the Argentine Open is the maximum. It is a step above the others, because of tradition and playing standard and now we hope to continue winning and defending our Argentine Open title successfully.”
La Dolfina, also unchanged since last year, and defending champions Ellerstina – now both +39-handicap teams – have just played the final of the Tortugas Open, the first of the triple crown events of the Argentine season. La Dolfina won the tournament for the first time with a 16-14 win in an even game in which Facundo scored nine goals and Cambiaso seven. But Facundo brushes it off and says: “It’s the Argentine Open that matters.”
And how does Facundo feel about overtaking Cambiaso and becoming number one in the world ranking? “I am proud, nothing more. Adolfo is a player of another planet, one of those outstanding sportsmen like golfer Tiger Woods and tennis player Roger Federer which rivals would like to beat. Playing against him is special and there is always the risk that he is on an inspiring day and impossible to beat. I have often been successful against him, but that does not make me feel I am better.”
Apart from polo, Facundo also follows golf and tennis closely and, like most Argentines, also likes football and is a fan of one of the big local clubs, River Plate.