David “Pelón” Stirling is sort of the Ringo Starr of La Dolfina—equally as talented as the others but in the shadows because he’s not as flashy. Just as the Beatles frontmen overshadowed their genius drummer, so it is with Stirling. Quiet and calculated, he has been unceremoniously labeled the “worker” of the team (or, as he recently described himself to La Nación, the “trunk”).
His larger-than-life teammates get the headlines. Juan Martín Nero is classy and intense, Pablo MacDonough is dynamic and feisty, and Adolfo Cambiaso is, well, Adolfo. It can be easy to forget that there’s another 10-goaler on the La Dolfina roster who is right there in the mix making the magic.
Saturday may change that. Stirling is on deck to get his “15 minutes of fame” if he breaks the record set by none other than the legendary Carlos Gracida. Yes, for real. Gracida was first to earn the distinction of being the foreign (i.e., non-Argentine) player to win the most Argentine Open titles. Gracida, whose family is from Mexico, accomplished that five times, and Stirling, who later tied his record, may very well make it six on Saturday.
Unlike Stirling, who is from Uruguay (and is often referred to by announcers as “The Uruguayan”), Gracida spent decades in the limelight. His jovial, outgoing personality was his hallmark. That’s not to say Stirling isn’t friendly. In fact, he is one of the kindest players in the sport, always happy to sign balls and T-shirts for fans or give interviews after a game. It’s just that he’s a humble, unassuming guy who doesn’t give a rip about applause. He’s all about polo and performance. (Take a look at his stats from the 2017 Argentine Open.)
Stirling’s hyper-focus and skills have earned him scads of awards, including Most Valuable Player of the 2014 Argentine Open final. While he says receiving awards and breaking records feels great, the recognition is far less important to him than winning a final—especially the one this Saturday.
“All I want is to win, to do my best job for the team,” he says. “It is a privilege to play for La Dolfina. I just bow my head and play.”
WATCH THE GAME: The Argentine Open final takes place in Palermo this Saturday, December 2, at 4:30 p.m. local time (2:30 p.m. U.S. Eastern time). ESPN will live stream the game. You can watch on your phone or iPad: http://espni.go.com/player/video/ESPNPlayPolo/index.htm.
Photos courtesy La Dolfina and Katerina Morgan