Interview with Francesco Mitrano – Polo pioneer in the Principality of Monaco.
Polo is a noble game whose rules are much simpler than chess even if they are based on common roots.
Playing Polo is also quite expensive, in fact it has always been considered as a real royal sport. The aristocratic side of this game is referred to members of the British Royal Family. Prince Harry, Prince William, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Prince Charles have always loved to attend Polo competitions.
There are two teams playing on the field, respectively made up of four players each. Their main target is to score the greatest number of goals than the opposing team using a mallet at each stage of the match. The challenge is made even more complicated by the fact that all players perform on horseback. The player must have then an excellent grip and establish a relationship of trust with his horse.
Where does your passion for horse riding come from? When did you start your career as a polo player?
F.M: I started it when I was very young as it was already a family sports. My father and grandfather had been always riding horses. I started jumping when I was six, even attending competitions. Later on, I continued to compete in the same discipline serving in the army. In 2006-2007, then, I started the Florence Polo Club (Firenze Polo Club) together with Salvatore Ferragamo. That was my first approach to Polo as a professional sportsman. And after organizing a couple of events I realized that Polo was my preferred sport. Afterwards, I went to Argentina to buy some horses for practicing it and my professional sport career began.
What feelings do you have while playing polo?
First of all, Polo is a very emotional sport, but also very intense. What is truly unique is the relationship you establish within your team as well as the strong bond between you (the player) and the horse. You need to be absolutely ‘connected’ to perform your best. Audience plays an important role in this sport as well!
You are known as the one who introduced Polo as a professional sport in the Principality, how did this story begin?
When I moved to Monaco in 2012 I realized that the noble reputation of Polo would perfectly match the image of the Principality, so I launched in Vence the first exclusive Grand Prix event, the Monte-Carlo Polo Cup. It was a great success and we had the pleasure to be supported by such an important and highly reputed list of sponsors such as: Cartier, Audemars Piguet, Maserati, Cipriani and many others. After that we moved to another bigger field in Peille and from there all the other events took place. We were also honoured to have the presence of H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco and H.S.H. Princess Charlene of Monaco. What I really want to stress is that I am acting as the president and founder of the only existing official Monaco Polo Federation, internationally recognized and acknowledged by the Federation of International Polo (FIP) and of the United States Polo Association (USPA). Apparently, we are very motivated to keep working on new global projects, counting on a solid endorsement that make us a well-established official “polo brand” based in Monaco. Due to this popularity, many international championships (in the US and UAE) are always pleased to have us among their participants. Thus, as the official Club, we are honoured to participate in these events under the Monaco’s flag.
What does charity mean for you?
It is very important to match sport and philanthropy. Every year during our events we fundraise and all the proceeds are donated to Monaco local foundations and associations like Fight AIDS of the Princess Stephanie and Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation.
We suppose that the COVID-19 crisis affected your professional activity? How are you keeping up?
If there was no crisis we would gladly continue organizing polo events in the Principality. We were very affected by the crisis, regarding the impossibility to host public events. Anyway, we are working on a lot of high level events soon even in foreign countries. We sincerely hope that we will be able to cope with all our existing plans and to get a chance to perform in front of the big audience again.
What are the most interesting places in the world to play polo?
Dubai is very active in this sport and invests a lot having a lot of space to play and great horses. Nowadays a lot of Championships are taking place there. Although Argentina, the United Stated and England remain always the most known places to practice this discipline, Dubai is truly considered one of the best places in the world to play polo. But such a noble sport is being raising interest everywhere in the world.
According to you, what was the most special event throughout the years?
All Monaco-based events of course which represent our image. For instance, the Horse Parade on the Casino Square was a significant part of our events. It has become a local attraction and people love this performance, regardless its organization which is not technically so easy. In addition, it caught the attention of important international media. Therefore, we are very focused on keeping Polo evolution in the Principality and we hope to surprise everyone with a lot of exciting projects in the nearest future.