Italian businessman and avid equestrian sportsman residing in Monaco has brought the sport of the kings to the principality. Francesco Mitrano is not only the president of the Monte-Carlo polo club and the founder of the polo federation but also the captain of the Monte-Carlo polo club team.
The annual exclusive international event The Monte-Carlo Polo Cup has the highest patronage by Prince Albert of Monaco and it is accompanied by glamorous events from the catwalks, the gala dinners, the cocktail parties to the parades.
It is a highly anticipated event visited by many royalties, businessmen and celebrities from fashion, art and sports areas.
It is a pleasure having you featured in ONN Magazine. To get to know you better and your responsibilities as a president of the Monte Carlo Polo Club, let‘s dive right into the interview about the polo and your life.
Q: You are the creator of the Polo Club. Have you always had the passion for riding horses and for polo from early childhood? Was establishing a polo club a dream or just a life opportunity that crossed your path?
I always loved polo, since I have started riding horses when I was about 6 years old. My father always loved horses as my grandfather, he introduced me to horse jumping, I competed in jumping competition as well. Equestrian sport is a family sport. I have started with jumping not polo at the beginning. As soon as I started with polo I felt it was my sport, more than the horse jumping.
In 2006 I was living in Tuscany. A friend of mine Salvatore Ferragamo decided to create a Polo Club. We spoke with Argentinian instructor. We managed to organize some horses and we started the Florentine Polo Club. I was one of the board members of the club back then.
That’s how I started playing polo myself. After I went to Argentina to better myself. Luckily it was easy for me. I have been riding for many years in my life. I had a good base to learn polo. It is not an easy sport, discipline.
Q: What was the first step that made you start the actual Monte-Carlo Polo Club?
I came from Sweden where I lived for 6 years to raise my children. I moved to Monaco in 2012. I continued to play polo in a meanwhile. I felt that Monaco is a very special and unique place that should have a polo club or an event at least. So I started preparing the project. And in 2013 I created the first association Monte- Carlo Polo Club having the patronage of Prince Albert II. We also had the first Polo Event – The Monte Carlo Polo Cup. It was a great success, with lots of big sponsors.
Q: What was the journey like becoming a president of the Monte-Carlo Polo Club?
We decided after the first Monte-Carlo Polo Cup, to present this project to FIP (International Federation of Polo). Due to the great success of the first event, they decided Monte-Carlo should have a federation. So I have become the founder and president of Monte-Carlo Polo Federation.
We organize this event annually. In 2018 was the 6th event of the Monte – Carlo Polo Cup. We are already preparing the 7th edition taking place on the ( 12/14 April) of 2019.
Q: Please share with us what was so special about the latest 6th Monte- Carlo polo Cup? Anything that was different from the other past events?
This year we wanted to do for the first time a beach polo. But unfortunately, due to some logistic and weather reasons, it was not possible. Like every year, we organize at the beginning of the event, the spectacular horse parade.
The program does not change that much. But when we have a certain sponsor, they decide to organize their side event. We had Masserati, who placed their cars around Casino square to present the new model, Cartier organized and hosted they VIP clients at the champagne party etc..
It is a platform to present at our event other brands. So the program stays the same, but sometimes the sponsors change.
Q: Besides the Polo Cup, what other events or projects does the Monte-Carlo Polo Club organize?
We plan to open the polo school. Because Monaco does not have enough space we found a perfect location just outside Monaco. We already did in 2013, but due to logistics, we decided to change the location.
However, we always organize only one unique event once a year for the Monte-Carlo Polo Cup, that is special and glamorous. Now, with opening the new school we plan to organize smaller events more frequently. But only one grand event per year is optimal to keep it exclusive.
Q: What age group is the equestrian school designed for? Is it just for adults or children as well?
Actually, it is mostly for children, obviously for some adults. As the president of the Monaco Polo Federation what I like is that the children will start to play polo and start to represent the Monaco – principality and the school worldwide. I like the idea of raising the future of polo players of Monaco.
We are almost ready. We are negotiating now all the details. If everything goes well as planned, we should be opening the school at the end of April 2019, after the Polo Cup.
Q: Polo goes hand in hand with a special presentation and glamorous gatherings. Monte- Carlo Polo Cup is known for lavish event presence. How does it come all together for each cup?
Polo is not just a complex and very athletic sport, but it is also a very glamorous sport. That is why these two elements make polo the most prestigious, and the most elegant sport. This combination is between glamour, elegance and the physical athletic activities.
Most of the time, the majority of the polo events, especially ours, from Monaco are very glamorous. For this reason, we organize a gala dinner, we organize a horse parade. We are very lucky we have a casino square in Monte-Carlo, which every year for the past few years we were able to have this beautiful parade with all the players, their horses and of course wearing the uniform of the sponsors. The glamour is part of the polo. And we make sure we organize great events people never forget.
Q: When it comes to the VIP attendees, are the same guests invited year after year, or new people can find an invitation to the next cup?
All the VIP people according to the protocol in Monaco, are very faithful and come every year to the event. But of course, for the fact that every year e change the nationality of the team, new entourage comes along. Every team represents a Nation. We had teams from all over the world: we had teams from the USA, Russia, Slovakia, Poland, Switzerland, Italy, Sweden, France and of course many Argentinian professional players they played, for the past 6 years in our tournament.
Q: How many people can attend a Polo Cup in Monte-Carlo? What is the capacity?
It depends on every year. But we are talking about anywhere between 750 to 1000 people, more or less. Because Monaco lacks space, we played just outside of Monte-Carlo, at the very nice field. We have the same place for several years.
But this year we would like to make it more glamorous, something different. After 7 years, I think we should give something more. We need to keep improving all the time. We show our faithful supporters, VIP guests that we are always trying to do something nicer and nicer. 2019 event will happen at the surprise new location that will be announced soon.
Q: Is there any other upcoming projects for the Polo Club?
Yes. There is something very important I would like to mention. Like other countries, we do not have big spaces, and fields and local possibilities like in Argentina, USA, France, or in England etc, etc. We decided me as being a president of the Polo Federation to export the Monte-Carlo Polo Cup worldwide. Like we did in the USA, in Poland, In the Arab Emirates, Italy, Brazil. Every year we would like to go to a new country with our event basically and present our club, our Monaco event in different countries.
Monaco is a very special and unique place. I notice in fact, they host us in a very honorable way. They are very happy when we present this project to have us as a guest in their countries. The concept is a bit unique.
Q: When you travel to these places, do you bring along your horses as well?
It depends how far. The distance is an important factor in our decision making. Obviously, if we play in Europe, we can imagine bringing our own horses, which is better. We are more competitive. For instance, when we went to play recently in the United Arab Emirates, we did not fly our own horses there, so, the organization of the club provided their horses, just like when we went to the United States, this obviously affects a lot the competition.
Q: Hopefully the other team, shares the best horses to the guest team for a balanced polo play. What is your actual experience?
Well, polo is a gentlemen’s sport. We respect the community, the horse people, in a very nice way. Obviously, there is a big difference. Even though the horse is good it is still a challenge. We do not know the horse, maybe it is too fast, maybe it is too slow. It is not your horse that you know very well. That is why it will never be easy, but for us it is prestigious. Imagine to go to another country and present our club. For us, it is more like a diplomatic reason to participate in events in other countries.
To show that we like to move around, to travel. It is a good way to have them and host them back in Monaco in exchange.
Q: When it comes to Monte-Carlo Monaco how did you chose this place to be the best place for not only your residency but also for the Polo Club?
I have been traveling all my life. I have been studying in several countries. I lived in the United States, South Africa, France, in Sweden, and in London for several years, also In Tuscany, Italy where I come from. I decided that Monaco would be the best place for several reasons.
Monaco is a beautiful place and it is a very safe place. I have two children, and that is why I decided to move to Monaco, to guarantee a high quality of life. Security amazing weather and many other reasons characterize the uniqueness of this magical Principality.
Monaco has a strategical position, you can easily travel to and from. Monaco is a very cosmopolitan place, here you can meet people from around the world. We have many different nationalities here. They choose Monaco for the same reason as I just mentioned. The high quality of life comes hand in hand with exclusive and finest possibilities, including the sport like polo.
“Polo is the perfect fit for the Principality’s privileged lifestyle.”
Q: You moved your family and children to Monaco. Do they follow the footsteps of their father as well?
We moved to Monaco 7 years ago. My two sons love horses, especially the youngest one, he is 8 years old. The other 10-year-old likes more winter sports (skiing, ice-skating), but the younger one is crazy about horses like me. Maybe the older one will change his mind in a few years, but I do not force them to like it. I let them decide on their own to make their own decision and chose what they like, as I did. My father did not impose me to horse riding, I saw him riding and I loved it!
Q. You mentioned winter sports. Did you participate in snow polo tournaments?
Yes, I did participate with my team, I have been playing snow polo
Q: What is the main difference between a grass polo and snow polo, besides obviously the weather conditions?
Riding is the same. The difference is the location. When you play on grass it is so much faster. As a sport, you play with a small hard ball. When you play in the snow, you play arena polo or on the sand, you have to use a rubber ball, which is much bigger. When you touch the ball it is a completely different feeling. The game is much slower. grass polo is much faster. When it comes to the technique, the swinging is the same. Basically, you play the same way. The game stays the same. However there are some players, who play better in arena polo, but they are also good at grass polo as well. When you know how to play polo, you can play in any kind of conditions.
Q: The amount of players varies from indoor to outdoor players. What are the rules?
It depends how big the field is. Outdoor has 4 players, indoor arena 3 or 2 players.
Q: Do you also buy horses for the Polo Club? Or everybody has their own horse?
Usually, all the polo players have their own horses, more than one horse. They have a few horses. For the school when we start, we will have a few horses that we can rent out, use to train with. But professional polo players have multiple horses of their own. At least 4 or 5 horses.
Q: What is the best character of polo ponies? The nationality. The breed.
By far the best polo ponies are from Argentina, as you can imagine. The reason is, Argentina is the country of polo and the biggest champion in the world. They have lots of horses, lots of space to train and play polo. In fact all the polo players they go to Argentina every year, to go to buy a new horse or to exchange other horses.
Q: During the periods in polo called chukkers, you have to change the horse. How many times?
In Europe, we have 4 chukkers. More or less every 7,5minutes we have to change a horse. We change the size of the fields after every goal scored. That is why we need many horses. It is something we must do, we can not use the same horse for more than one Chukka.
Q: Is Polo the sport itself physically demanding to the player and to the pony?
Absolutely, very. That is the reason why we have to change the horse, every 7 and a half minutes. Because the activity is very intense for both. They get tired and very stressed.
Q: Have you witnessed any injuries at your polo cups?
Thank God no. Of course, we can fall down, it happened. But it is part of the game. It is a tough sport. It is the combination of very fast horses and players who ride. It is a complex sport. You must really love it and you have to be courageous. In fact in history, polo was a sport, discipline in which they trained soldiers in the military for the war. Polo is a very very old sport, talking about a thousand years ago…
Q: Polo used to be an Olympic sport. What do you think about it personally? Would you welcome the fact polo becoming a part of the Olympic games again?
That is what the FIP (The international federation of Polo) is working on now. I went to Argentina mid-December for a General Assembly of all the presidents of the polo federations in the world. Like every year, we meet each other and we discuss the program for the new year, all the important events of the polo worldwide. We already have had an approach to the theme of the Olympics to make polo an Olympic sport that was many years ago.
Q: What do you think was the issue in a first place after WW II that polo was removed from the Olympics?
Well. As I said. It is a very unique sport. Not like any other kind of sport. You need a lot of space, you need many horses, the logistics and the organization is very complex. That is one of the main reason. But we are moving forward to resolve the issue. We had a meeting with competent people to present the FIP (The international federation of Polo) We are working on that.
Q: Do you still play polo professionally?
Of course, I am the patron and the captain of Monte-Carlo Polo Club Team. I play myself. In fact, we just came back from the Emirates. It was a friendly match in between two federations. Monaco federation against the UAE Polo Federation. We Went to the United States. I basically play as a captain of the Monte Carlo Polo Club Team.
Q: What are the nationalities of riders at your Polo Club during the cup and tournaments?
The team members are polo members of the club. We do not have an official team. In polo, there is a different kind of levels of polo tournaments, the events. Every tournament and cup has a different level. In Argentina, it is 40 goal handicap. Majority of the events it is 2 goal handicap. It means that every time, depending on the level of handicap in a competition, you have to choose a different level of players.
The only person that does not change is the captain, the patron, it is me in our case. Then if I go play in 20 goal handicap tournament, I have to organize my team, where the players will total the 20 goal handicap. Depending on the level of the tournament you chose your players. That is why we can not have the same players and the same team each time.
For instance, if you play 6 goal handicap tournament, you can not have players that play 20 goal handicap tournaments. Basically, when the event is 8 to 10 goal handicap, it means all the players all together will total 10 goal handicap. Every player of polo has a handicap. It starts off – 2, which is the lowest (the beginner) to + 10 handicap (top players in the world, like from Argentina.)
Every team has to have the same level team players participating. If it is a 10 goal handicap tournament, the players have a total of 10 goal handicap. For this reason, you can not have for example for 6 goal handicap tournament, 1 player with 6 goal handicap, nor 3 players with 0 goal handicap. It is very technical. But I hope I explained the main rules in detail.
Q: Does Polo Club Monte-Carlo have any female polo players?
We have a very athletic lady, a good friend of mine, The Countess Chantal d’Acquarone vice President and her husband Giovanni Schettino President of the Monte Carlo Snow Polo Club Association located in their property Val Castello near Cortina, Italy. She participates every year in our event.
We discussed at the general assembly in Argentina, that there are more and more female players who love the polo sport. They do charity female tournaments. We had a woman actually who played with us in the last tournament in Abu Dhabi. She was a very very strong, very good athlete. Polo has always been played by men in the past. It is more modern now, and we play sometimes mixed polo tournaments. It is becoming more popular.
Q: You went to Argentina a few weeks ago for the General Assembly meeting in Argentina. How many presidents of the Polo usually participate and what topics do you cover?
We discuss the general program for the assembly. There are different subjects to be discussed. For example the worldwide events. Everybody has something to say. We are full members of FIP (The international federation of Polo).
Q: What does it mean to be a full member of the International Federation of Polo?
When you are a full member it means you belong to a certain level and you have an endorsement. It means our event is in the calendar and the important event of the federation. When you are a member it means they give you support, they pay for your referee, the give you flags and things like that. It shows that the event is well recognized.
Q: What is the message behind Polo?
I would like to say something about the philosophy of polo. Something very important. Polo is a very noble sport. And people usually forget that and they should not. We should respect each other and make the sport noble, like it is and keep it that way. Act like gentlemen and not create problems.
It is a simple message. I would like to remind everybody in the community to support each other. That is the concept of Polo. Move on in a promotion of this beautiful sport.
Polo is „ the King of sport“ – and it should represent the actual meaning of a King.
Q: Is there anything else special you would like to mention?
Also, I would like to thank some of our sponsors – Cartier, Maserati, Lamborgini, and especially US Polo Association which has been the most faithful sponsor for Monte-Carlo Polo Cup in the past 5 years. USPA is also a supplier and the official sponsor of the FIP (International Federation of Polo).
Thank you, Francesco, for your time to share with our readers the beautiful sport of polo.
Stay in touch with the Monte-Carlo Polo club, check their website for more information and the latest exciting news to be announced soon about the upcoming Monte-Carlo Polo Trophy, new international event or the special opening of equestrian school in Monaco. http://www.