By Donna L.M. Khan
There are times when it seems as if all roads lead to Nacho Figueras. As I stroll by the cosmetics counter in Saks Fifth Avenue, there is Nacho, burnished to Latin perfection, staring intently and a bit wistfully behind the Ralph Lauren counter. Teenage boys wearing the Big Pony shirt, not to mention middle aged men wearing the more discrete, classic Ralph logo, stop to appreciate Nacho in all his masculine royalty, the very embodiment of what perhaps everyone from a pimply 16 yr old schoolboy to a middle aged banker wants to be. One spritz of the RL fragrance and….whoosh…he takes you there.
A few days later, there is Nacho, happily participating in a benefit for Work to Ride, the highly successful and worthy team building/polo non-profit based in Pennsylvania. He has all the time, all the grace, all the positive inner karma to really make a difference in the lives of young people interested in the game of polo. He comes off, not as a dilettante, but as a true gentleman.
Flash forward to the St. Regis hotel brand, for which Nacho is the first polo sport ambassador. They’re planning some events this summer surrounding polo and the legendary Lanesborough Hotel, where one can sip a cognac from the time of Napoleon while dreaming wistfully of battles yet to be won and the possibility of polo. His abbreviated nickname (after all, to call him Ignacio would really just be too much, approaching sainthood in the pantheon of sexy names) seems the secret key to style and grace.
Which is why it comes as no surprise, perhaps, that just as the world is settling in to the idea of Nacho, getting comfy with his multi-faceted perspective on style and fashion, sport and decorum, the world is already turning an eager eye toward the next Nacho.
And for that crown, we humbly submit our friend, the up and coming polo player Ameer Jumabhoy.
At 21, Ameer is perhaps the most forward thinking player of a cadre of young players who seem destined to change the face of the sport forever, much in the same way that Nacho has put his indelible stamp upon the game not so much with his prowess on the field (which is solid) but his overall work as an ambassador and pillar of the game within its rapidly evolving global context. A student at Rice University in Houston, Ameer has played with his father Asad Jumabhoy’s team, La Sarita, for the past six seasons, endeavoring to learn the game from the ground up not only in his native Singapore but through holidays in Argentina and participation in the Federacion of International Polo’s World Cup series as well.
La Sarita plays the middle to high goal season in Asia, most particularly Singapore and Malaysia, sometimes travelling farther afield for matches in Argentina and elsewhere. Not content to canter around with the pros, Ameer has set his sights on firmly improving his game with each match, working on the technicalities that all players must address to improve in what is essentially a game of strategy, skill and mental acuity. “I think nothing captivates the essence of sport as well as polo, “he says in an exclusive interview with Luxury Dossier from his residence in Houston.
He started riding at 6 and began playing polo at age 12. “I think it has made me a lot more mature as a person,” he says. “Polo has really mellowed me out….It requires that you have to adapt to anything that goes on around you, just because you have to adapt so quickly on the polo field. As a result,” he continues, “I think I have found myself more mature, more well versed in dealing with people, and, because polo has the whole media and glamour aspect to it as well, I feel I have been able to carry myself far better. Without polo, I don’t know what I would be today. It has really helped me develop my faculties as an individual and I am grateful for that.”
Ameer plays in a variety of polo venues: arena in the United States, medium to high goal in Asia and Argentina. “For me,” he adds, “nothing beats the outdoor game.
“As you go up to the medium to high goal,” he notes, “you are less able to influence the game as a one goaler. I realize that the pivotal player for our team, La Sarita, is going to be the 7 goaler, and my role at this stage is to be open to how I can help him at that point.”
What makes Ameer unique is not so much his prowess on the field (which is significant), but his over-riding purpose to make his time on the polo field count for something. Which is why he one day walked into the marketing offices of the Texas Children’s Cancer Center in Houston, Texas and made a modest proposal: he could raise money for the Center by challenging his friends, families, and fellow players at the Houston Polo Club to contribute $10.00 for each goal he scores during the matches he plays this polo season in Houston, Singapore and Malaysia. The Center, as you might imagine, was ecstatic. And thus Golden Goals was born.
Ameer spent a few hours recently with some children at the Center, a connection he hopes to continue once he returns to Rice University in the fall. He stresses that those who want to get involved can jump in at any point — even the last match of the season . All funding is directly donated to the TCCC.
Ameer’s star is rising in the converged polo/fashion world as well, with several luxury titles in Singapore requesting interviews and photo shoots. He has had a convivial friendship with Nacho Figueras since meeting him in Singapore and looks forward to learning more from the man he calls his role model in the sport.
Next season, Ameer hopes to be involved more with the Center — hosting a fun day for the child cancer patients that the Center serves – and perhaps joining them as spectators for a match at Houston Polo Club. It’s a worthy initiative and one that exemplifies the best that our sport offers the world – camaraderie, the chance to do good in the world, sportsmanship, and the noble objective of polo itself.
So is Ameer Jumabhoy the next Nacho Figueras? In reality, both are just members of a long and illustrious caravan of players who emulate the positive outcome of the galloping game. For, in the end, the aim of polo refines the individual as much as it does the sport itself.
In short, the stuff of legends.
Ameer Jumabhoy will play with his family’s team, La Sarita, in this weekend’s Terrenganu Open Polo Championship in Malaysia.
To learn more about Golden Goals for the Texas Children’s Cancer Center, you may visit Ameer Jumabhoy’s Chukkerboard www.ajpolo.wordpress.com