NOT A LONE RANGER- GERARDO MAZZINI

(Angeline Chauhan)

Jodhpur Polo caught up with Mazzini (+6) at  Jodhpur, in December 2019, where he was playing the Season. Its uncharacteristically windy and cold in the Blue City, and Gerardo’s charmingly tousled mane with his boyish handsome looks attract the spectators as he nonchalantly sips coffee and speaks to us.

A professional player since he was sixteen, Mazzini is an old hand at polo. Sixteen is young, though!

Yes, it is- in India,” he laughs good naturedly, “but not where I come from. Since I have memories I’ve been on a horse. My father was in the Cavalry in the Army; he was a very good player and would   take me to ride even when I was very young. I used to go on the weekends to my cousin’s farm and I used to stick and ball as well.”

But it takes some grit and determination for a youngster to focus only on his game! We learn from Gerardo that he started his first practices in San Jorge, an Army Club, playing with the grooms at the S&B area when he was just ten years old. Once his game improved, he started playing with senior players. He  played his first cup with kids Under-12 and recall  that he reached the final! Gerardo went to 1 goal when he was 14 years old and  started playing professionally in Italy in Milan when he was 16 years old – by this time he was 3 goals, and  at the end of the season- he got to 5 goals.

 In an interview in 2007 to the Economic Times, Mazzini stated that ‘polo is one of the toughest and loneliest professions’. How hard has the journey been for him?

He thinks for a while and states, “ I still think that polo is a tough sport. First you need to learn to ride very well and then you can improve your game. Maybe I said loneliest because when I started were not many kids playing. It’s different now, many more kids are playing. We’re a good bunch, the lot of us, so no room for loneliness!”

Time flies and it’s hard to believe that this fine specimen of sportsmanship has  been playing in India since 2001. Nineteen years is a long time!

 “Coming to India  was a challenge as well as an experience, since the first time. But I found myself thoroughly enjoying  playing in places like Delhi, Jodhpur and Jaipur. I remember that the first time I played at Jaipur , there were no boards and the people were 30 metres inside the field. But so  much has changed since the first-time, but one can observe  many changes in Indian polo over the last 19 years in terms of better horses, better saddles, and fields. I have played with some of the best Indian polo players and their spirit is indomitable, no matter what the challenges on the polo field.”

After  another refill of coffee, the conversation naturally steers to Gerardo’s first love -horses. We learn that his day begins with spending time with them, and he feels amiss if he stays away too long from them. The mere mention of these gentle beasts brings a twinkle to his eye, “ I really enjoy going to the stables and spend time there looking after the horses while I drink mate ( the national Argentinian herbal chai). The time we invest in bonding with the animals is important as they are the heart of the sport. I always maintain, as any other of the players would, that our performance on the field depends on how well we  look after the ponies and horses; energy flows from us to them, and this time that I or any other player would spend, reaps success.”

So, is Family number two on the list of his likes? Actually, no! His love for horses is secondary to the family of three. A husband and father, his unparalleled love for his wife  and child is evident as he speaks to us about them. “Raya and  I have a daughter-Afrika, she is a lovely little ten months old baby.  We live  in Sotogrande España and until the baby was born Raya used to travel a lot with me. I hope the best for Afrika and whatever she likes will make me happy. She loves horses!

It must be difficult to balance playing, travelling and time for the Family Man, then.

Yes, especially this year was a little bit tough because I was travelling a lot and baby was too small to travel with me. So, I tried to spend a week every month, with them, travelling back no matter what! I love to stay abreast of how Afrika is growing, at least its possible now to face time over the phone! It wasn’t like that 19 years ago! Technology and communication have changed so much for the better now!”

A man of few words, Gerardo looks admiringly at the string of ponies led by their grooms, as they walk back to their stables. Dusk has settled in and as we express our gratitude and admiration for his style of play and the respect he has earned on the polo field, the gentleman proves why he is one of the best, with his parting remarks- “ Polo is a way of life and it’s difficult to separate your family and sport, you just have to make room for both! I encourage players to bond with their horses and lay great stress on the importance of taking the advice of experienced players- left to myself, I don’t think I would have made it this far, had it not been for my father and others through the years who inspired and motivated, trained and taught me.”

Not quite the Lone Ranger after all.

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