Polo is still a very young sport in Scandinavia. You can count the number of polo clubs on one hand, and there are fewer than a hundred active polo players. But something is going on up north. ‘The Stockholm City Party’ is being planned by the Stockholm Polo Club as a gigantic event to mark their tenth anniversary, and polo history is being made in Denmark as well.
Stockholm, Göteborg, Malmö and Copenhagen – although polo is not particularly widespread yet in Scandinavia, there is growing enthusiasm for it. And Scandinavia’s polo visionaries are putting a lot of enthusiasm and committed planning into establishing the world’s oldest team sport in the far north. Stockholm is Scandinavia’s biggest city and also, with the Stockholm Polo Club and the Nordic Polo Club, the centre for the sport of polo in Scandinavia as well. The two clubs are just ten minutes away from each other on Lake Mälaren, some thirty kilometres north-west of the Swedish capital. The Stockholm Polo Club motto, “Have fun, improve your polo skills and enjoy playing polo”, is lived out not only by the local heroes Per Jacobson (+1) and Anders Thulin (0), but by countless players from around the world too. The club, founded in 2003, has ambitious plans for marking its tenth birthday next year. Sören Hüllberg says, “To mark the tenth birthday of the Stockholm Polo Club, we’re planning a huge birthday event in Stockholm’s Olympic Stadium. ‘The Stockholm City Polo Party 2013’ will combine a high goal polo match with Scandinavia’s best DJs. We’re expecting around 5,000 people.”
Lake Mälaren is also home to the Almare Stäket Polo Club, which played a crucial role in introducing polo into Sweden and getting it established. But this club, which regularly hosted the international EFG Bank Scandinavian Polo Open, was forced to close after fourteen years for personal reasons of its founder, Johan Seth, known in Sweden as “Mister Polo”. “But polo is still alive and kicking on Almare Stäket,” he says. “The members of the Almare Stäket Polo Club have rented our polo facilities, stables, fields and outdoor and indoor arenas as well as twenty of our polo ponies. And ten or so members have joined together to form the Nordic Polo Club.” Katarina Wolk, founder member of the Nordic Polo Club, says, “We want to continue the tradition of polo in Sweden, and we’re concentrating on working with new, young players. We’re hosting three tournaments in 2013, the Early Summer Cup, the Midsummer Cup and the Scandinavian Open.”
Founded in 2010 by Anna Sofia Olsson, the La Dominguera Polo Team polo school has moved to Malmö in 2012 after two years in Stockholm. “Our aim is to establish the sport in southern Sweden,” says Olsson, “And to take away some of the upper class image it has at the moment. We’ve achieved the first step: in our first season here in Malmö we had more than fifty students, and we already have thirty bookings for next season.” Anna Sofia Olsson is planning an international tournament for 17 to 18 August next year, “And we’re currently laying the foundations for a fantastic collaboration with the Copenhagen Polo Club and the Danish polo player Louise Sandberg. The Öresund region is going to be seeing a lot of polo in future.” Sebastian Seppälä of the Malmö Polo Club also has big plans for polo in Sweden. “The situation for polo is similar to that of golf fifteen years ago,” he says. “Golf, too, was elistist and expensive then, but over the past few years, mainly by creating an affordable price structure, it has managed to become the number one sport in Sweden. Everyone can afford to play golf, and it’s more popular here than football. And that’s what we want to achieve for polo as well.” But despite being founded amid great enthusiasm in 2007, the Malmö Polo Club is currently dormant due to a lack of time and location. “Our biggest challenge at the moment,” says Sebastian Seppälä, “is finding a suitable polo field and buying our own horses.”
Polo premiere in Denmark. The Copenhagen Polo Open, Denmark’s first polo tournament, is taking place in the Fælledparken, Copenhagen’s biggest park, in 2013. Competing will be four teams from London, Sydney, Buenos Aires and Scandinavia, with handicaps from +12 to +14. “I was born in Denmark, but grew up mostly in Windsor, Berkshire, where I was mad about polo,” says Louise Sandberg. “Whenever I visited my family in Denmark I wondered why nobody was playing polo here. After all, a lot of people in Denmark enjoy riding and there’s no shortage of flat land. So my business partner Jacob Klingert Jacobsen and I decided three years ago to make history by founding Denmark’s first polo club and hosting its first polo tournament.”
No sooner said than done. On the night of 13 on the 14th November a group of 20 polo enthusiasts headed by Louise Sandberg, Jacob Klingert Jacobsen and Christian Mellentin founded Denmark’s First Polo Association and Copenhagen Polo Club. Louise Sandberg: „We are purchasing horses and equipment and have a location where polo will start just outside Copenhagen in April 2013.“
The future is looking certain. But there a still a few challenges to be overcome before polo can really get established in Scandinavia. “Our main job will be to find new players and buy horses,” says Ingemar Olsson, President of the Swedish Polo Association. “To give you an idea of our present situation, Sweden has 360,000 horses, of which 80,000 are trotting horses, 1,500 are racehorses and just 65 are polo ponies. If polo is going to have a future here we’re going to have to raise its profile with tournaments, publicity campaigns and press presence.” “Polo is more than just a game,” adds Anna Sofia Olsson. “Most of all we mustn’t forget the horse. After all, the horse is every polo player’s most important partner, and we have to teach that to our future polo players. A horse is not an investment. It loses value quickly and gets injured, so it has to be looked after properly. But that is expensive, and that is something we must work on.” There is no tradition of playing polo in Denmark,” says Louise Sandberg. “So we’re having to create one.” Let’s make history! Polo in Scandinavia has big plans.
Polo in Sweden
The first poloclub in Sweden was Göteborgs Hästpoloförening, now, Gothenburg Polo Club. The club started in 1990 in Göteborg by Majid Pezeshkfallah and family. They are converting various types of Swedish horses to polo horses. The club is a school for riding and polo and has other education in relation to horses. For the moment they are building a new full scale polo field.
In the middle of the nineties Tomas Stenberg founded Särö Polo Club south of Göteborg. He recruited 8 players. The activity only lasted a couple of seasons.
In the late nineties Almare Stäket Polo Country Club was founded by the Seth Family. Father Johan and Daughter Caroline have since then been two of the leading players in Sweden. The Club has an excellent polo field, one outdoor and one indoor field for arena polo. The club had until 2011, when the activity was put on hold, up to 25 horses and 15 players.
The activities including fields and stables at Almare Stäket is now being rented by Nordic Polo Club founded in 2012. The club has 10 players and 20 horses. Founders were the players lead by Krzysztof Gajdamowicz.
In 2003 Stockholm Polo Club was founded at Uddnäs just 5 kilometers from Almare Stäket. Founders were the players lead by Anders Thulin. They are playing on a full scale field with over 30 horses from Argentina. There is a yearly tournament with increasing numbers of spectators. The neighbors, Nordic and Stockholm Polo clubs are playing together as often as possible.
La Dominguera Polo Team was founded in 2010 by Anna Sofia Olsson. They have a training field north of Stockholm at Orkesta Lundby Gård. Their main activity has been polo education and they also did quite a job marketing polo in Sweden. Activities have extended to the south of Sweden and they are planning to have a full scale field in Malmö for the season 2013.
All the clubs have polo schools and introduction programs to recruit players.
Swedish Polo Association
The Swedish Polo Association was founded by Tomas Stenberg in 1992. Then, it rested for a couple of years until the Seth family started polo at Almare Stäket in 1999. Johan and his wife Iréne went to FIP meetings in Argentina every December. The Association was reborn again 2009 in order to gather all parties. The aim is to work for extended knowledge and development of polo in Sweden and to cooperate with FIP. The Swedish Polo Association want to gather all friends, players and sponsors around activities which promote these aims including support any educational activity working in the same direction.