We're a bit short on castles where I come from, so for me it's always an exciting privilege to visit the renaissance castle of Ebreichsdorf, Austria, with its towers and surrounding water-filled moat, complete with arrogantly ornamental swans. The huge castle park lets you loose yourself in its maze of paths and avenues boarded by ancient trees, before leading you out to one of the perfectly positioned polo fields. Polo Club Schloss Ebreichsdorf, just outside of Vienna, is the home of Austrian polo and this year celebrates 30 years of this sport in Austria. The Austrian Open 2021 was to be a special event and our host, Richard Drasche-Wartinberg, gave us a short history lesson during his welcoming speech at the reception in the castle. Polo had been surprisingly popular in Austria up until the second World War, but the
war and Hitler's immense distaste of all sports he felt might have an English connection put a stop to the sport being played. After the war, of course, the population had other things to worry about and those who had patronised and played polo had lost their possessions, property and, in many cases, their lives. It wasn't until 1991 that Richard Drasche-Wartinberg, a keen sportsman and passionate horseman, was encouraged by friends to restart polo in his castle grounds. Polo Club Schloss Ebreichsdorf was established. 2021 was an important anniversary.
The Excitement Starts
A number of founding members were able to come out to the grounds for the jubilee tournament 11-13 June, a great chance to get together again and swap old stories and happy memories. Four teams would be competing and the club professional and trainer, Santiago Marambio, assured me the level would be high and the games exciting for both players and spectators. The next three days would prove him right.
The games on Friday 11 June were on field 2 and saw team Tagmersheim with Ingo von Morgenstern, Niklas Steinle, Francisco Rattagan and Segundo Copello, defeat Los Abogados comprising of Benny Kerres and his father, Christoph, Martin Magal and Felu Beguerie. In the second game, team Amadeus starring Camillo Kraus, grandson of our host, with father and daughter combination of Koko and Robert Kofler and Santiago Marambio, came in as winners against team Why Not which was made up of Hanna Grill, Andy Golling, Justo Imaz and Patricio Gaynor.
The momentum increased on the Saturday and the teams gave us a devastating display of speed, skill and determination. Amadeus were well pleased with their win against Los Abogados, strengthening their position as tournament favourites. Marambio and Beguerie offered us relentless duals and a quality performance of controlled aggression. Later in the afternoon Tagmersheim defeated Why Not. The young Niklas Steinle, had a great game, demonstrating the persistence and drive that have seen him develop into a key player.
A Splendid Sunday
Blue skies and manicured lawns greeted the guests who strolled into the spectator area set up on field one in front of the castle, ready to enjoy an afternoon of electrifying polo and a buffet lunch. Jérémie Huillet of Pol Roger, who has been supportive of Polo Club Schloss Ebreichsdorf over a number of years, had wanted to arrange a bigger hospitality area, but the uncertainty of working with and around the covid pandemic restrictions meant it was a smaller event than originally planned. However, family, friends and founding members filled up the seats provided and readied themselves for two gripping games.
First up was Los Abogados vs Why Not. Here, Los Abogados made use of good link-up play to wrestle their way to a hard fought 7-6 win. Despite some quick-fire bursts of pace and skill from Patricio Gaynor and courageous moves by Hanna Grill, Why Not could never quite stretch clear of Beguerie who combined well with Martin Magal. Slick work by father and son Kerres made Justo Imaz's task at defense extremely difficult, despite being helped out with some strong backhands from Andy Golling.
The Sharp End
Spectators wandered out onto the field to tread in during the break before the finale, providing the perfect picture - summer dresses, Panama hats, champagne glasses and the castle as backdrop. However, as the umpire rode out onto the field, blowing the whistle sharply for the players to line up for the introduction, we knew we'd come to the sharp end of the competition. It was to be a show-stopping finale, the ultimate skills test, truly thrilling for the spectators. Team Amadeus, the home team, naturally had a lot of local support and their opening attack was devastating , with Santiago Marambio powering down the field and bringing his team into an early lead. They were not to have things all their own way, however. Segundo Copello, for Tagmersheim, was well on form with his penalties and brought his team back into the game before half-time.
Ingo von Morgenstern, patron of Tagmersheim, had cleverly picked a team with quality and depth to hold its own at this level, sending Niklas Steinle up front, working to make space for Rattagan's strong attacking game, hassling Marambio and picking up passes from Copello.
For Amadeus the young players Koko Kofler and Camillo Kraus played an important role with Koko making a sharp under-the-neck goal in the third chukker and Camillo drawing cheers from the crowd as he swooped in for a decisive goal in the fourth chukker. Robert Kofler, the experienced player at number 3, helped set up a mean defence but could hear the alarm bells ringing as the score stood at 4:4 and time ran out in regulation play.
Icing the Cake
A fifth chukker was declared - icing on the cake for the spectators who were, by now, leaving champagne glasses half empty as they pressed against the safety barriers not wanting to miss the action. Both sides had opportunities to score that all important golden goal, but shots were blocked or went wide. Finally, as Segundo seized a loose ball and headed towards goal, the umpire blew for an infringement. A sixty yarder was awarded to Tagmersheim. Tension all round, but Segundo Copello kept his cool and composure to score this sixty yarder necessary to give the Pol Roger Austrian Open Jubilee Trophy 2021 to Team Tagmersheim with 5:4. A splendid effort.
Prizes and Praise
The stage was set for the prize-giving. Players and spectators gathered around chatting until Richard Drasche-Wartinberg called for attention as he thanked all for being present and praised his many helpers. MVP was awarded to Segundo Copello, Fair Play prize was collected by Felu Beguerie and Santiago Marambio's exquisite pony, Esmarelda, won BBP
In his vote of thanks Ingo von Morgenstern said that Polo Club Schloss Ebreichsdorf must surely be one of the most beautiful clubs in Europe with an incredible atmosphere.We agree with him wholeheartedly.
Thank you Polo Club Schloss Ebreichsdorf.