In the 2013 Argentine Open the polo audience had a great surprise: Alegría Polo Team made it to the final, defeating the favourite Ellerstina in the semi-finals. All were waiting for a final match between the black shirts and La Dolfina, but Alegría stood up and proved us their quality.
This team born in 2005, conformed by the American Polito Pieres (+9), the Argentinians Hilario Ulloa (+9) and Lucas Monteverde (+9), and Canada’s Frederick Mannix (+9) fought until the last seconds with great power and resolution, and even though La Dolfina was the winner of the 2013 Triple Crown, stardom had to be shared due to the great endeavour of Alegría.
POLO+10 interviewed the team manager and coach, Clemente Zavaleta, who has a long time career in polo, and eight years of experience with the team, and gave us all the insights on his star team.
POLO+10: What does it mean for the team and the people who work with you to reach the final match of the Argentine Open?
Clemente Zavaleta: This event has a very special meaning for us: it is the reward for many years of hard and responsible work of many people, who during these years and especially this last season have worked together. From the people who take care of our fields, to the vets, grooms, people in charge of the office, helpers, me as a coach, and of course a great team: we worked side by side and now we see the happy results.
POLO+10: Can you give us a short description of Alegría’s players?
Zavaleta: Polito Pieres is talent at its purest essence, a great man and it is clear he will have an amazing future. Hilario Ulloa is the motor of the team, his strength is great and so is his talent. Regarding Lucas Monteverde, there is not much to tell that has not been told, being an Open winner several times, his talent is evident, and I would like to highlight his experience and big heart. Finally, Freddy (Mannix) is an indefatigable, very disciplined worker, proud of his accomplishments so far and with a great career ahead. Alegría is a young team, eager to keep writing its polo history.
POLO+10: As a player and polo manager, which were your career milestones so far?
Zavaleta: As a player, I had several milestones in my career, especially having won the Copa de Diputados from the Asociación Argentina de Polo three times and of course, the honour of having played in the Argentine Open some seasons. Regarding my career as manager and trainer, I believe my major milestones were starting to work with the Mannix family eight years ago, and now, being able to coach our team to the final of the Open.
POLO+10: Which are the strengths and weaknesses of Alegría?
Zavaleta: Our core strength is playing under the motto „all for one, and one for all“. The positive and hearty attitude between all the players and the people that work with us is fundamental for a team sport such as polo. The weakness that comes to mind is that we are a new team in our first year, and it is hard to make things flow at first, but luckily we clicked rapidly. A technical weakness would be reducing the quantity of penalties against us.
POLO+10: Regarding the final of the Open, which is your opinion?
Zavaleta: The fact of reaching this stage is very overwhelming. It is the dream of every polo player, our Wimbledon, Augusta Masters, our Super Bowl… who, as a polo player or coach, does not dream about reaching the Argentine Open finals? Regarding the game, it was simply excellent, polo at its best level, and the team fought equally almost all the match against the dream team La Dolfina, a very positive fact.
POLO+10: What is your impression about the development of polo in Argentina in the last 10 years?
Zavaleta: In my opinion, there was great progress regarding the horses and the players’ professionalism. Training for both parts was intensified and I insist with the fact that the teams have great people working behind them and with them and they are also true protagonists of this outstanding growth and progress, which will continue.
POLO+10: What does it mean in Argentina to be ranked between the best teams in the world, or better said: how big is the fame of an Open finalist?
Zavaleta: This is very recent, so we are still trying to adjust and comprehend. But, to be short, being a finalist is being one of the two best polo teams in the world means reaching the highest levels of fame in polo. We have a long and happy way ahead.