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Roaring Twenties

20 years of Polo Park Zurich

By Sebastien le Page, Photos By Kathrin Grall, Robert W. Kranz, Polo Park Zürich and Evelina Jakovlevskaja

Polo is not new in Switzerland. By 1899, some British Cavalry officers had built the first polo field in the beautiful scenery of St. Moritz. It was only a matter of time, in a country that loves horses and has a reputation for a healthy and wealthy lifestyle, that someone in Zurich would decide to introduce polo there.
Owing to the initiative and persistence of investment manager Markus Gräff and his wife Irene, and with the help of friend Manfred Schuler, Polo Park Zürich was founded in 1998. Markus was not just a banker, but also a renowned amateur jockey and horse breeder. Together with veteran polo player, instructor, manager and horse-breeder Francisco Podesta, he shaped the philosophy of the club: as much polo as possible for everyone, whatever their level. This saw Polo Park Zürich develop a beginners’ section, kids’ polo, junior polo, advanced polo and, as early as in 1999, the first ladies’ tournament – a very rare occurrence around the globe at the time. Over the years, Polo Park Zürich also started to organise high-goal tournaments, making the club a venue for all players from complete beginners to top-of-the-world polo professionals.

Polo Park Zürich has always been very keen on making the world of polo accessible to a larger audience and, for the last 20 years, has been organising regular “discovery days” for people who have never seen or experienced polo before. And so it happened that, in the summer of 2011, Sébastien Le Page and his wife Morgan Van Overbroek attended one of these discovery days. By their own account, they were blown away by the enthusiasm of Francisco and Markus, and by the intensity and beauty of the polo sport. Contrary to the usual cliché, the “Sport of Kings” appeared to them to be a “Sport of Friendship”. With its ruggedness, honourability, codes and friendly after-games atmosphere, it reminded Sébastien of the noble aspects of rugby, which he had played for 25 years. To Morgan, the serene beauty of the landscape, the intensity of the sport and the gentle nature of the horses was also an immediate sell. They signed up as full members and asked Francisco for a lesson the very next day. The passion – or the bug as some people call it – had firmly kicked in.

To be fair, this passion was planted on fertile soil. Both Sébastien and Morgan are very communicative people with a great deal of passion and enthusiasm. Sébastien, a 46-year-old Frenchman, came from London to Switzerland as a copper trader to work for Glencore 16 years ago. His list of interests is quite long, ranging from scuba diving and Napoleonic re-enactments, wine tasting, whisky production, Sherlock Holmes and philosophy to start-up investments and gastronomy. Among other things, he owns the Hato restaurants in Zurich and St. Moritz, which have been awarded 15 points by Gault & Millau. But it is safe to say that Polo is by far his greatest passion.

This didn’t go unnoticed by Markus Gräff, and so he sold Polo Park Zürich to Sébastien in June 2013. Both had a vision of building facilities where before only a field and a container had stood. In 2016, drawing inspiration from golf clubs, Sébastien built a clubhouse with apartments, showers, changing rooms, lockers, an additional 57-horse stable, a horse carrousel, tack rooms and everything needed for grooming horses. The name Polo Park Zürich was changed to Polo Park & Country Club Zürich to emphasise that this is a place where everyone is welcome rather than an elitist polo club. The club welcomes non-players such as partners, family and friends, but also the local community. Sébastien’s intention is to show the public how wonderfully friendly and down-to-earth the polo community is. The daily polo lessons and chukkas played at the club, coupled with regular parties and Argentine barbecues, are very well received and the club is growing at tremendous speed. Polo Park & Country Club Zürich is now the largest club in Switzerland and it seems that Sébastien’s vision and passion have been the key to its success. Here’s to another 20 years!