• Juan Pablo Vallejo talks to Pololine at the Thai Polo Cup

  • Juan Pablo Vallejo talks to Pololine at the Thai Polo Cup

  • Juan Pablo Vallejo talks to Pololine at the Thai Polo Cup

Juan Pablo Vallejo talks to Pololine at the Thai Polo Cup
Juan Pablo Vallejo talks to Pololine at the Thai Polo CupJuan Pablo Vallejo talks to Pololine at the Thai Polo Cup

Juan Pablo Vallejo talks to Pololine at the Thai Polo Cup

"My family is a fundamental part of my relationship with polo”

November 10, 2017
November 10, 2017
The Thai Polo Cup has become one of the most popular tournaments of the Argentine season, not only due to the competitive 14-goal matches it organises, but also due to the attention given to those who chose to take part. One of the teams taking part in the tournament for the first time is Mandala, owned by Colombian patron Juan Pablo Vallejo. While Vallejo started playing polo at a young age, it has been ten years since he has taken part in a tournament.

In dialogue with PoloLine, Vallejo shares his memories of Los Pinos Polo Club and tells what sparked his decision to return to polo. "My father played in Bogotá, at Los Pinos Polo Club," says Vallejo. "He taught me to play when I was about seven or eight. I grew up with polo, as did my family. There are two seasons in Colombia: January to March, and June to August. We used to play every weekend. My parents had a farm in the polo club and we played games and tournaments with our horses from Friday afternoon to Sunday night.”

"Polo in Colombia happened at a local level at the time," he continues. "I played with Felipe Márquez, who was slightly younger that I was, and my father played with his father. He shared a nice story with me the other day, saying that I was the first person who invited him to play polo. My best friends were the friends I had made at polo, and we were always together. I then started playing tournaments with more serious players, up until the age of about twenty-two or twenty-three."

Did you ever play outside of Colombia at the time?
I played in Costa Rica, at Los Reyes, with Pedro Díaz, who was President of Los Reyes Polo Club. I also travelled with my father to Argentina to buy horses in Pilar. We bought some horses off Pablo Falabella, and Carlos Avendaño, who were very involved with polo in Colombia at the time. Colombian polo became more profesional and we began to get a good string together.

Why did you stop playing polo for such a long time?
My twin sister and I have a Real Estate company in Miami, and an editorial company in Bogotá. I travelled to the US to manage the company, and I decided to stay there for work reasons. I played in Bogota the few times I went over, but after a while I hardly ever went back. We decided to sell everything in Bogotá, and I stayed in Miami working. I have not played a tournament in ten years.

Why did you decide to return to polo?
After receiving several invitations to come and watch the Argentine Open, last year I decided to accept. It is usually held at the same time as Art Basel in Miami and I could never make the dates work. It is a busy time of year for the family, but I came over with my sisters and we had a great time. I caught the polo bug once again. It was the first time I had ever gone to Palermo. I ran into old friends, and we started talking about polo again. They spoke very highly about the Thai Polo Cup, and I decided to put a team together to play. This year I only played a few practices in Bogota, and I stick and balled in Miami for a couple of months with the Escobars in Santa Clara. I arrived in Argentina towards the end of October and I tried to play as much as I could, but it was difficult with the rain. We played our first team practice on Saturday. My family and I have rented a house in Tortugas and we are going to go to Palermo on Saturday. We are thinking of staying in Buenos Aires over the weekend so we can enjoy Palermo and the city.

It is clear that Vallejos has a deep connection to polo, but whenever he talks about the sport he highlights his bond with his family above everything else: "Our family is very close and we are very supportive of each other. So much so, that as soon as I confirmed I would be playing the Thai Polo tournament, they all made the effort to come over. I love being with them and I love being able to share this experience with them. For me, polo is 100% about family."

Every time Vallejos’ team plays, be it any where in the world, his mother is always cheering him on: "My mother is my number one fan. She loves polo and always helped me out with everything. She used to take me to polo lessons after school, to practices, and she always supports me when I play. She is very excited. She helps me with my horses, with the water, sunglasses. It’s really nice to be here with her."

How was your team for the Thai Polo Cup formed, and where does the name Mandala come from?
I spoke to Tomás [Irale] about the possibility of putting a competitive team together, with fun people, which is crucial, so that we could have a good time. Tomas organised everything with Agustín [Canale] and Diego [Araya]. As a family, we meditate and do yoga and Mandala is a spiritual figure. When we were thinking about a team name, we though we would change it up a bit, because our farm in Colombia was called Santa Clara, our team in Colombia was called Santa Clara, and my mother is called Clara; we no longer have the farm, my parents live in Miami, and our lives have changed, so our name should too. We liked Mandala because of the logo and the name. The logo gives us the shape of a figure, and allowed us to create everything for the team.

What are your future polo plans?
I am going to stay here with my family for a few days, stick and balling and playing a few practices until Palermo comes to an end. I am then going to play in Palm Beach in April. We are getting everything organised, but we will probably play at IPC or Grand Champions. Luis Escobar has invited me to play in Santa Clara, as well. Everything is close to home there, so it’s a good option. I am really going to enjoy it. After that, I will decide how to move forward. Manu Cereceda has spoken to me about St Tropez, which would be great for the summer, as we often go to Ibiza in August. It could be fun to play a tournament over there.

What team do you enjoy watching at Palermo?
I definitely watch La Dolfina, they are great champions. I bumped into Juan Martin Nero today as we were playing at La Virgencita. I also love the Pieres and Ellerstina because everything revolves around family there. I love seeing their parents, wives, and kids supporting them because my family is like that, too. And I love energy Algeria put into everything they do. I also have a special bond with Las Monjitas because Camilo Bautista is a friend of my parents and I have known him for many years. He used to play with me in Los Pinos. I know the work he has put into being here, so I admire Las Monjitas a lot.