by María Paula Fernández
During the 2013 Polo Open in Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina, POLO+10 had the chance of a lifetime. We were kindly invited by Mr. Marcos Uranga, the founder and first president of the FIP, to his home, and we had the opportunity to ask him some questions, while he took us on a journey back in time on polo history, and showed us the treasures he has accumulated over his years in the sport. With books, photos, trophies and medals we went on a memorable polo history tour.
Spending time with Mr. Uranga is experiencing a lifetime dedicated to polo. As Horacio Laffaye states in his book “Profiles in Polo”, there is truly nobody who has surpassed his contribution in consolidating the different associations and federations throughout the world, gathering more than 70 countries into a worldwide organization: The Federation of International Polo. Today, the Federation is going through its 30th anniversary, and Mr. Uranga still remains active in it, as its Founding President.
Born in Buenos Aires in 1936, Marcos Uranga was the son of Carlos Uranga and Susana Rey, studied at Belgrano Day School, a bilingual English traditional school in the neighborhood of Belgrano, Buenos Aires. There, he started playing a different sport, but later on he translated to polo: Mr. Uranga has his roots in sports in rugby – “Thanks to my roots in rugby, I could envision the Federation as a worldwide family, the team spirit and the training and teachings of that sport broadened my vision in sports in general” – Marcos started playing polo as a diversion and a family sport, being taught by his father, and later became the captain of the Jockey Club team, once one of the most affluent clubs worldwide.
When asked the question about his milestones as a polo player, he highlighted playing and winning the first World Championship of Polo Clubs, that gave him the idea of starting the Federation: to make this event happen, the guest, Argentina, and the Jockey Club had to make sure there were horses for every polo player. Marcos Uranga, then Vice-President of the Argentinean Polo Association, started working on the idea of expanding the concept of the World Championship, and the idea of establishing the Federation was rooted. In 1982, the Argentinean Polo Association invited all national associations to a meeting, with the aim of joining forces to have a voice at the Olympic Committee, promote competitions, unify polo rules, and keep developing the sport among other goals. After that meeting held at the Jockey Club, Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Federation of International Polo was born, with Marcos Uranga elected as president.
Mr. Uranga is not only a recognized polo personality, he is an expert on agriculture and rural matters, and has had a brilliant career in top positions in Argentina, such as being named Director of the Banco de la Nación Argentina (Argentina’s National Bank); he occupied positions in the Sociedad Rural Argentina (Argentinean Rural Society), and was second in command at the national Ministry of Agriculture. While occupying these charges, Marcos Uranga, together with Ignacio Uranga, also ran his estate, which is still running steady and prosperous.
When he speaks about his main goal for creating the Federation, Mr. Uranga states: “My goal was to create a big international polo family, a group of nationality-heterogeneous people, but homogeneous thanks to their affinity to polo. I believe that the goal of the sport is to unite the people, the nations, and most importantly, the family. We must practice the sport with the young people, internationally, and not look at competition, but at the comradeship between all” and then he highlights that “in the sport of polo, that comradeship is started from the beginning, when a local polo player lends his horse to a foreign one; the generosity in that act sets the principles of the true polo chivalry, regardless of the competition, and the different teams” and he continues “I am now 76 years old and feel my cycle is achieved. I believe in rotation of authorities, and the importance of giving voice to each of the different nations. If we wish to grow, we must renovate, the sport is in constant evolution, and so should the Federation be. I have initiated a project and have made it grow worldwide, reaching remote locations such as China, developing bonds throughout the nations, personalities, governments, players and families: this is the biggest legacy I could ever leave”.
Marcos Uranga is awfully glad about the high number of youngsters playing polo in Argentina, mentioning that after the interview he will go to see his grandchildren play in the junior leagues, and the high number of kids starting to play at very early ages in the country: “The most beautiful thing I have is my 20 grandchildren, my seven sons and daughters, one of them, Paula, is married to Alberto ‘Pepe’ Heguy, a polo legend himself; and once I see my grandkids playing I feel a deep joy, to be able to help them, and to see them play with their parents, it is the best reward for all these years of work”.
When asked if his main goals in the FIP were accomplished, Mr. Uranga has only one answer: a definite yes. Out of the blue when we were about to finish our interview, Glen Holden (former FIP President and Ambassador of the United States in Jamaica, among others) calls Mr. Uranga, and they schedule lunch together for that day, and then go to watch his grandsons play together. After the call, he only tells us “See? The true spirit of polo, we are really a family!”. Mr. Marcos Uranga feels accomplished and satisfied, proud of the achievements of the “polo family” he once placed the foundation stone of, and everything about him proves this right.