Report by United States Polo Association. Photos © David Lominska/polographics.com.
The United States Polo Association©, the International Polo Club Palm Beach (Wellington, Florida) and Port Mayaca Polo Club (Okeechobee, Florida) are currently hosting the Federation of International Polo (FIP) Zone “A” World Championship Playoffs. Showcasing the best athletes from Mexico, Guatemala and the United States, each team is competing for an opportunity to advance to the XI FIP World Polo Championship in Australia, October 21-29.
Established in 1987, the Federation of International Polo World Championship takes place once every three years in a different country around the world.
In the opening match held at Port Mayaca Polo Club, Mexico represented by Juan José de Alba (4 goals), Mariano Gracida (4 goals), Alejandro Gonzalez (3 goals) and Carlos Hernández (3 goals) defeated Guatemala formed by José Ignacio Beltranena (2 goals), Sebastian Aycinena (2 goals), José Miguel Aguilar (3 goals) and Fernando Beltranena (2 goals) in an FIP customary five-chukker match.
Guatemala received 3.5 points on handicap at the onset of the game, which was quickly matched by three unanswered field goals by Mexico to end the first chukker 3.5-3. A solitary goal from Aguilar, their first of the contest, allowed Guatemala to maintain a narrow lead 4.5-3. It was short-lived however, as Mexico’s hit-and-run teamwork, once again resulted in three unanswered field goals to overtake Guatemala 6-4.5 at the half.
Second half play was markedly slower than the first, inundated with penalties, player dismounts and tack timeouts. Guatemala noticeably gained confidence as the competition progressed, surrendering only two goals to Mexico in the fourth, which they balanced with two penalty 2 conversions. Trailing by one and a half goals, Guatemala capitalized on two penalty opportunities early in the fifth to reclaim the lead 8.5-8.
Mexico would likewise prevail from the penalty line, converting a penalty 3 to gain a half-goal advantage 9-8.5. The final minutes of regulation time showcased lights out play from both teams. Guatemala struck first, Aguilar scoring a gorgeous deep neckshot goal off a line-drive pass from Aycinena. With a final score 10-9.5, Mexico seized the win only moments before the thirty-second horn that would end the game; de Alba crushing a nearside backshot to Gonzalez who coolly controlled the ball, dribbling past his opponents for the score.
“The field was excellent and we witnessed great sportsmanship today,” said USPA CEO Duncan Huyler. “We are thrilled to see such a fantastic turnout. The Orthwein family have been incredibly generous, supplying their facilities, they went above and beyond. This venue, the competition—we are proud to showcase polo in the USA in such a phenomenal manner.”
The USA will play their first match on Friday, April 28, versus Guatemala at 10:30am ET at the Port Mayaca Polo Club. The featured match of the competition between USA and Mexico will take place Sunday, April 30, at 3pm ET at the International Polo Club Palm Beach. Tickets for the Sunday match can be purchased on www.internationalpoloclub.com. All games will be livestreamed on the USPA Polo Network on uspolo.org.