Last weekend, France won the first Arena Polo World Championship after a fantastic final against the United States in the home of world polo, Argentina. A historic achievement for French polo! And an important recognition for the Polo Club du Domaine de Chantilly where the six players who worked on this success come from.
A victory and a title all the more emblematic as they were won in Argentina, the land of polo par excellence, at the Carona Polo Club, in Capilla del Señor, in the province of Buenos Aires. Six teams were competing in the finals: France and Austria qualified for the European zone, the United States for North America, Morocco for the rest of the world and, last but not least, Argentina and Uruguay, the two strongest nations in South America. France simply beat all these teams!
In the group stage, Les Bleus (Louis Jarrige, Dorian Bulteau and Edwin Robineau) got the better of Morocco, Austria and Uruguay to qualify for the semi-finals against Austria again. With a reshuffled team with the entry of the more experienced Gaëtan Gosset and Adrien Le Gallo, the French team was jeered and dominated 7-5 at the end of the third chukker before delivering an exceptional final chukker by inflicting a 6-0 to the Austrians for a final score of 11-7 that sent them to the final against the United States.
The American team had shown its ambitions before this world championship and was counting on leaving with the title as their n°1 player, Jared Sheldon, handicap 5, had clearly announced in the columns of ClickPolo magazine. Indeed, victory was well underway for them in this final before the French started fighting back and equalized at the very end of regulation time, 8 – 8… to finally win in overtime on a penalty that Gaëtan Gosset did not hesitate to transform to win this first major title for French polo!
It was an unforgettable moment for these players, as Adrien Le Gallo confided: „It was already an emotional moment to hear your national anthem before a world final, it gives a real boost before such a game. The semi-final was particularly hard for us because we had to fight from one end to the other. We completely changed our tactics for the last period, a winning choice that allowed us to lead them 6-0 within a few minutes although we were down by 2 goals at the beginning of the last chukker. We didn‘t know the horses we were riding which was an extra pressure in the semi-final. As a result, we were able to make a more intelligent list of horses for the final.”
“A final against the Americans who are particularly efficient in the arena, but we didn‘t give up until the equalizer that allowed us to get this victory in the extra chukker“. Adrien Le Gallo, like his five teammates, comes from the training branch of the Chantilly Polo Club, which is also the federal center for the preparation of the French teams, and he paid tribute to Philippe Perrier, director of the Polo Club and DTN (national technical director) of the French Polo Federation: „He has been so dedicated to the cause of French polo for many years and I think it is a wonderful reward for him that France has finally won a title in an official championship, even if it is only on sand. When you stand on the podium, it‘s a lot of emotions and you think about all that. It‘s a title won with friends and I‘m happy to have been able to finish the work started by Louis Jarrige and Dorian Bulteau, by qualifying for the finals in this way.”
These tactical changes mentioned by Le Gallo, are the choices that the national coach, Matthieu Delfosse, took from a distance by following the games live and sending chukker by chukker his instructions to his assistant, Celestin Hue who was on the field side in Argentina. An intense coaching which bore its fruits to the greatest happiness of the technician: „It is a huge emotion and joy because the six boys were all fabulous. They showed enormous courage during this final where they were led, badly handled with complicated horses. At the beginning of the game, they had the weight of the challenge of such a final on their shoulders. All day long, I kept telling them that they could win, that they would win. They were not the favorites, far from it, but they always believed in it and they went to get this victory at the end of an incredible suspense, in overtime. It‘s fabulous, I‘m very, very happy for the group and it‘s a great title for French polo, which I hope will be followed by others.”
Ces changements de tactique évoqués par Le Gallo, ce sont les choix que le sélectionneur et entraineur national, Matthieu Delfosse prenait à distance en suivant les matchs en direct et envoyant chukker par chukker ses consignes à son adjoint, Célestin Hue qui était au bord du terrain en Argentine. Un coaching intense qui a porté ses fruits pour le plus grand bonheur du technicien : « C’est une émotion et une joie immenses car les six garçons ont été tous fabuleux. Ils ont fait preuve d’un énorme courage lors de cette finale où ils ont été menés, malmenés avec des chevaux compliqués. Au début de la rencontre, ils avaient le poids de l’enjeu d’une telle finale sur les épaules. Toute la journée, je n’ai eu cesse de leur répéter qu’ils pouvaient gagner, qu’ils allaient gagner. Ils n’étaient pas les favoris, loin de là, mais ils y ont toujours cru et ils sont allés chercher cette victoire au bout d’un suspens incroyable, en overtime. C’est fabuleux, je suis très très content pour le groupe et c’est un beau titre pour le polo français, qui, j’espère, en appellera d’autres ».
WHAT IS ARENA POLO?
Arena is to polo what horse-ball is to pato or what beach-volley is to volleyball. It is played on a sand “court” (arena= sand in Spanish) of smaller size with three players per team instead of four for the „big“ polo and a leather ball the size of a small handball. It requires a lot of reactivity, reflexes and skill with the ball.
For amateur players, arena polo is a less expensive way to play polo. It requires fewer horses and the green fees are lower. For professional players like our six world champions, it is a way to continue training and competing during the winter break when the grass fields are closed. It is undoubtedly thanks to a very competitive French circuit, the Arena Polo Tour, which passes through Chantilly, Fontainebleau, Deauville, La Baule and La Motte-Beuvron, that our French players were able to show themselves particularly ready and competitive for this first World Championship. Thanks to this title, France, and probably Chantilly, will be able to host the second edition of this Mundial de Arena Polo in 2027.
France: Gaëtan Gosset 4 (3 goals), Adrien Le Gallo 4 (1) and Edwin Robineau 3 (4). Total: 11.
Substitutes: Louis Jarrige 5, Dorian Bulteau 4 and Célestin Hue 2
Coaches: Matthieu Delfosse and Célestin Hue
United States: Jack McLean 2 (1), Jared Sheldon 5 (6) and Miguel Torres 5 (1). Total: 12.
Substitute: Jorge Vásquez 3.
Progression, France (1-0) 2-4, 5-6, 6-8, 8-8 and 9-8.