The Oldest Cup in the World

April 7, 2018

Argentina is the strongest country in the world when it comes to polo. The best players and the only current 10 goalers are Argentines. However, a long time ago, at the end of the XIX Century and the beginnings of the XX, Argentina was a long way away from becoming what it is today. Back then, polo belonged to America and England.

 

In 1876, the American James Gordon Bennett watched his first polo match in England. Excited with his "discovery," he returned home with the Hurlingham Polo Association Rulebook, mallets, balls, newspaper clippings and everything he needed to introduce the sport to his country.

 

One year later, informal matches were played in New York, where the Westchester Polo Club was founded. The progress polo made in the US started to concern the Englishmen, who didn't want to lose their control of the sport. So, a competition with both countries as protagonists was introduced.

 

In 1886, the Westchester Club donated the oldest polo trophy in the world, the Westchester Cup, with the goal of pitching England against the US, in a series of matches that would be held in both countries. The Cup, also known as the International Polo Cup, was designed by Tiffany & Co..

 

The first instalment of the Westchester Cup was played in 1886, in Rhode Island, and England won. It was agreed that the next match would be played on the grounds of the winning country. Thus, the next Westchester Cup was played in England, in 1900. And the third, in 1902, because the Englishmen won both times. The American players would have their shot in 1909... and 1911, 1912 and 1913, starting the American run of the Cup, in Meadowbrook, which ended in 1914, when England won again. However, the Westchester Cup would not return until 1921 due to World War I.

 

Between 1921 and 1997, the Westchester Cup was played in England and the US, with another pause between 1939 (World War II) and 1988. The comeback of the Cup had a change of locations as well: from Meadowbrook to Lexington, Kentucky. That running of the Cup wasn't a match between England and the US, but instead between the US and a team of Australia and New Zealand. England rejoined the competition again in 1992, at Guards Polo Club, Windsor Great Park. Even though the US were victorious, the next instalment, in 1997, was also played at Guards, and the locals didn’t miss the chance to win that one.

 

After another lapse in time, the Westchester Cup returned in 2009, to America's International Polo Club Palm Beach. That year England, with the unforgettable Javier Novillo Astrada as coach and his brother Eduardo (born in Londres) in the formation, defeated Team USA. The Westchester Cup was played for the last time in 2013, at Guard Polo Club, with England keeping it on home soil. In the details of that match, the local team did have New Zealander John-Paul Clarkin, allowed to play for England as he was born in a country of the Commonwealth, while Polito Pieres, being born in the US, was allowed to play in the visiting team.

 

In 1922, Argentina appeared between the two powers, which brought a third team to the table. Since they couldn't play the Westchester Cup, they made the Americas Cup. That, however, is a different tale altogether…

 

 

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