August 3rd, 2012 Add comment
Spain going all out for the European
Luis Benjumea Llorente, Sporting Director of the Real Federación Española de Polo, talks about the expectations referred to the Championship due to take place at the Santa María Polo Club
Luis Benjumea Llorente, Sporting Director of the Real Federación Española de Polo.
During the first days of July this year, the entries opened for the 2012 European Championship, to take place at Germany's Hannover Polo Club. However, on Monday it was announced that the 9th edition of the tournament organized by the FIP would not take place there, but instead at the Santa María Polo Club.
Which means that the Real Federación Española de Polo has begun a hard task so as to meet the deadlines corresponding to the organization of the important event, and LivingPolo spoke with Luis Benjumea Llorente (47), Sporting Director of the federation, about the preparations, and also about how polo is fairing nowadsys in Spain, at a time in which that country is going through tough times.
LivingPolo: Since when have you been in the Real Federación Española de Polo?
Luis Benjumea Llorente: "From a professional point of view, four years, but prior to that, as this is a small federation, I've always been at the President's orders".
LP: The Santa María Polo Club is to finally host the European Championship. This will be in September next, on which dates?
Luis Benjumea Llorente: "The dates will be the same one which was scheduled for Germany, September 6th to 16th. I think we should not change it, it's a perfect moment".
LP: Why has the Santa María Polo Club become the replacement of the Hannover Polo Club?
Luis Benjumea Llorente: "The Santa María Polo Club, and it's not very right for me to say this, is one of the leading clubs in Europe. The example resides in the 41 years it has been hosting high level polo events. It has nine first-class fields and an ideal environment for the sport".
LP: What expectations do you people have regarding the European Championship?
Luis Benjumea Llorente: "I hope the rest of the countries become involved in the same way we have done so. Due to the lack of time we have, we all have to share the work, and we hope this tournament becomes the best so far".
LP: How do you organize such an important tournament? Especially now that you do not have much time in your hands.
Luis Benjumea Llorente: "Quite simply, wanting to do things, with plenty of illusions and much effort. No doubt we have the support of the Federation of International Polo, which is also doing a great job. But on top of everything, I'd point out the professionalism of the group of people at the Santa María Polo Club".
And I'd like to add that this is the time that between all of us we make the European Championship go ahead. If there is something which typifies polo, it is the great family that it represents, and today more than ever we must put in a great effort to be here. Later on, during the matches, let the best team win".
LP: How is the Spanish team preparing? Which do you think are the teams with major chances?
Luis Benjumea Llorente: "The Spanish team has a base of players that are usually playing together. And then you have the clubs of all over Spain that collaborate in a great way so that the team improves year after year, and of course we have our national trainer, Benjamín Araya, who puts in a huge effort each time it's necessary. In what refers to the candidates to the title, I'm betting on Sapin, although the rest of the teams will make things difficult. The level in Europe makes it hard to decide on one team in particular".
LP: What is your opinion of polo in Spain nowadays?
Luis Benjumea Llorente: "Despite de economic crisis we're going through, this is a sport that each year grows somewhat in what refers to the amount of national licenses, but no doubt it's the Spanish clubs that put in more effort to continue growing".
LP: How has the crisis affected the sport?
Luis Benjumea Llorente: "The crisis is affecting us at all levels, all polo counts on is the illusion and the daily effort. Spain has always been considered as a minor country in many aspects, but what we can boast about is the effort we put into things, our resolve and our efforts. From which our success in various sports has emerged, and will continue to do so. And talking of polo, we played the final in the last European Championship".
LP: We see plenty of development in ladies and youngsters polo around the world. Is it the same in the case of Spain?
Luis Benjumea Llorente: "In Spain, the Superior Council of Sports has a program called 'Women and Sport', and in polo we have a national ladies' championship, and each year there are more ladies' championships in the clubs.
In what refers to polo for youngsters, I'd say this isn't easy, but each year we organize several clincis por beginners, and the results are beginning to show. In the Spanish team there are several players that are not yet 18, and the rest begin at 25 or 26 years".
LP: The Torneo Internacional BMW de Polo is going ahead these days at Santa María, with plenty of leading players present. Why do these players decide to play in Spain each year?
Luis Benjumea Llorente: "Santa María has been hosting the Copa de Oro since 41 years ago, and before that the sport was much less professional. Today I can state that Sotogrande has a unique environment in Europe, a spectacular climate and, as I said before, first-class fields and clubs. If we can watch Juan Martín Nero, Eduardo Novillo Astrada, Agustín Merlos, and it's a long list of other players, there is a reason for this. Nowadays, there is no patron in the world that does not wish to play here.
The quality and excellence that the clubs in Sotogrande have is hard to find in other parts of Europe. And you can also play golf at some of the best courses in the world, and enjoy the beach, the food, the culture and, more than anything, the people we have here".
By David Cattaneo, LivingPolo.com