It is possible that Lolo Castagnola, seven time winner of the Argentine Open, is now enjoying polo more than ever before. In his role as organiser, coach, and father, he has the chance of following the careers of his two sons, Bartolito (18) and Camilo (16), up close, and he is always ready to guide them in the simplest of lessons. “They mustn’t ever change,” says Lolo. “It is the only part we work on. One mustn’t get big headed. One has to go to Palermo with humility, and work to improve every day.”
After having qualified for the Argentine Open, La Natividad will be playing at Palermo in Zone B, alongside Ellerstina, Las Monjitas, Cria Yatay, and La Albertina. “No one was going to die if we had lost,” says Lolo about the Qualification tournament. “We would have gone on to play the Cámara. But getting ready to play Palermo gives me great satisfaction because they have been working towards this every day, and they wanted to play Palermo. The positive thing about it is that we took it step by step, and we got here gradually. I am ecstatic.”
In the line up alongside these two youngsters are Matías Torres Zavaleta and South African player Nachi Du Plessis, the latter of which participated in the previous Open alongside La Dolfina Polo Ranch, and took a gamble when he decided to join La Natividad.
On the subject, Lolo states: “I want to leave a message, a big message. The person who put La Natividad together to go for Palermo, and who took a risk, was Nachi Du Plessis. Nachi Du Plessis came over and said ‘I want to play with the boys.’ I said, ‘Don’t you think Jeta is a bit young?’, which is the truth. He said, ‘No, we’re ready,’ and then they went over to England, and they won the Gold Cup, thank God. We are very grateful to Nachi, and I hope that they continue playing together for many years to come.”
This year will surely be unforgettable for the Castagnola family, and for La Natividad in general, thanks to the titles won in Abu Dhabi, Argentina, England and Spain. But England was undoubtedly the highlight, as the organisation went up against established teams to win the prestigious British Gold Cup.
“We could have done better in the Queen’s Cup, just as we could have lost in the Gold Cup,” continues Lolo. “We have had to take tough steps, especially here in the Qualification tournament, where the zones were very difficult. The Qualification is one of the most difficult tournaments in polo. I’m not saying this just because we won. We are growing step by step, and we managed to qualify and achieve another thing this year.”
Alongside the success the organisation has experienced so far this year, it must be highlighted that La Natividad is also a place where a lot of polo is played all year round, and a place that gives young players the opportunity to take their first steps in polo. La Natividad, therefore, is much more than just a high goal team.
“Everything that is going on in La Natividad gives me great joy,” say Lolo. “It gives me a lot of work, and it is something you have to be on top of every day. You have to be working to get horses, calling this guy, answering this person—you can’t lose focus for a second.”
“The boys are truly passionate about polo,” Lolo affirms. “I work with that same passion, and I put that same energy into every single person that comes here: Felipe Dabas, Nacho Velasco, and to the countless others who are here. It is amazing, because we have followed our own path, quietly but quickly. I didn’t think it would be so quick, but it just happened.”
Beyond Bartolito and Jeta’s obvious talent, and their enviable genetics—Castagnola and Cambiaso—the truth is that one of their most outstanding qualities is their mental strength, especially considering that they are only 18 and 16 years old, respectively.
“When they were young kids, people said that I was putting too much pressure on them,” tells Lolo. “And now they say that I have grown softer. Neither of the two are true! I used to shout at them, but I did so with love, and that is a huge difference. Then they would tease me all day. Their mental strength… I’m not sure where that comes from. They watch a lot of videos, they watch the good players, they analyse them. One has to work on the mental side of things, because there are moments during a match that are fundamental, and one has to be ready.”
“They have their friends, their field, their things,” he concludes. “They need to continue progressing with horses. Any money they earn they spend on horses. Why do you need a flashy car if a normal car works just as well? Spend the money on horses, that is going to give you your future. That is what we work on: in teaching them simple, daily things, which I think is the best strategy.”