This is the first in our series on skills and techniques that patrons and developing players learned from playing 26-goal polo with, or being coached by, 8-, 9- and 10-goal players. Our first pairing is Sayyu Dantata (2 goals) and Adolfo Cambiaso (10).
Sayyu Dantata of Nigeria had a string of firsts this year: competing in 26-goal polo, going undefeated all the way through the final, and having Adolfo Cambiaso as a teammate.
It all came together for him in the World Polo League’s 2019 Palm Beach Open. With Cambiaso at the helm and super-skilled players Santi Torres and Guille Terrera (handicapped at 8) by his side, Dantata’s SD Farms won the final 11-6 over a tough Audi team.
Dantata had played against each of his teammates but never on the same side with any of them, nor had he played in a lineup with three international polo stars. No surprise, he found playing with Cambiaso a learning experience like none other. Here’s what he had to say about it.
“YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT IN THE KNOCK-IN?”
“I have never played with someone who has the extreme confidence Adolfo has. When you play with him, it gives you confidence, too. He thinks in advance for you. You have to trust him, even if what he tells you sounds strange,” says Dantata, who made two goals in the final and earned the Catena Fair Play Award.
“I learned so many little tricks from Adolfo, and they really made a difference in my performance. For example, on the knock-in they usually tell you to stay to the left of the player who is bringing the ball in. Instead, Adolfo wants you on the right side, which is something I hadn’t heard of. But of course, I did what he said.
“It worked! I was able to harass a 10-goaler (Pablo MacDonough) for the whole final, which never, never happened to me before. It felt amazing! It was the thrill of my life, and playing with the best player in the world was a bonus. When you have Adolfo telling you what to do, it doesn’t matter what handicap player I have to play.
“I PLAYED 18 CHUKKERS IN 24 HOURS!”
“The highest polo I had played before was 20 goals. This season in Florida, in addition to the 26-goal WPL series, I played some 22-goal tournaments. There was a lot more to the 26 than I expected. Even though there is only a four-goal gap between 22 and 26, those four goals make a lot of difference.
“I think the 22- and the 26-goal complement each other. They each have their own niche. Playing in two leagues is fun, but it takes its toll on you. After playing 18 chukkers in 24 hours (two games and a practice), I slept 11 hours straight!
“Twenty-six goal polo is a lot faster and safer. When you play with a 10-goaler on your team, it is clear what you are demanded to do. In the 26, I only made four fouls. When I play 22-goal, sometimes I find myself running around, trying to figure out what I’m expected to do.
“Adolfo, Santi and Guille gave me a dream team! I don’t think any 26-goal team anywhere in the world could beat us—and that is a challenge to anyone who wants to put a 26-goal team together to play us.” (Hint: SD Farms plans to return for the 2020 WPL series.)