International Connections

International Connections

Rico Mansur is a man of many talents– an internationally renowned polo player, DJ, restaurateur and entrepreneur – however, his true passion lies in his ability to connect with people wherever he goes. Anouk Colantoni sat down with Rico to discuss his polo lifestyle, rise in the world of art and music, and the passion that propels the enviably luxurious lifestyle he leads today.

On a warm summer afternoon this past June, I met the iconic polo player Rico Mansur, born Ricardo Mansur Filho, at the suitably iconic Empire Diner on 10th Avenue in New York City. In town for the Veuve Cliquot Polo 2015 on Governors Island, Rico appeared to be the epitome of what one would expect a Brazilian born, polo-playing playboy to be – tall, dark and handsome, with the perfect amount of stubble shadowing his jawline. Rico is clad in denim, leather and dark shades – more a rock-star than sporting aficionado. His gait long and languid, but with great purpose and poise,makes him a man who commands your attention, even in a city of wild distraction.

“His gait long and languid, but with great purpose and poise, makes him a man who commands your attention, even in a city of wild distraction.”

As he snacked on an egg-white omelet and iced beverage, we conversed over a symphony of taxi horns, tourist talk and construction noise. Rico is seemingly unfazed by the constant interruptions – in fact he is more at home with them, as he was born into the bustle of Sao Paolo, Brazil’s largest city and the third-largest metropolis on the planet – on the 25th October, 1974, and has since travelled constantly between the world’s greatest cities for both work and pleasure.

“I love it,” Rico says of the vibrancy of urban life, “I like New York City, and all big cities. I go to the countryside four or five times a week to train, so I get a good balance.” Balance is the key in Rico’s fast-paced life. He owns one property outside the city where he trains his horses, Rio Pardo, located in the city of Indaiatuba, as well as Sao Gonçalo farm. He not only has his own polo ponies, but also breeds them for others under the name Rio Pardo/Flamboyant.

Flamboyant is a fitting name for such a man – born “on horseback”, into a well-known, entrepreneurial Brazilian polo-playing family. “There is a picture of me in 1976. I was already on a small horse, my nanny was holding me on one side. I think I played my first official tournament at 13, in Brazil, and by 15 I was playing in Wellington, Palm Beach, my first 22-goal tournament, which was very young to play.”

At this point Rico was fearless, with everything to prove. Driven by obsession and passion, Rico immersed himself into the polo lifestyle.

“Everything started so fast for me. So there I was, getting better and better – and suddenly I’m 19 years old with a seven-goal handicap, and then I said to myself, do I go pro or I just do it for fun? It was this moment I realised I should play professionally.”

From that point Rico played all over the world – from Argentina to England, France to Moscow – and for many different teams, but mostly for Rio Pardo, Itaipava, Itanhangá, Sao José, Fiyaz polo team and Don Urbano. Today he prefers to play most of his tournaments in Brazil, and takes part in exhibition matches such as the Veuve Cliquot Polo with his good friend and fellow pin-up polo player, Nacho Figueras. He is quick to point out this is mainly as a stage to promote the sport and his profile for his sponsors.

“Polo is addictive – very addictive. It is very different from all the other sports, not only because of the amount of horses you have – but you have to travel everywhere. If you don’t live in the country you have to take time to get to the games – and also if you are breeding your own horses? It takes time.”

“Polo is addictive – very addictive.”

As a celebrated polo player, playing at a global ranking for over 20 years, Rico spends much of his time on his other great passions: performing as a DJ, as a restaurateur and nightclub entrepreneur.

Embracing change is what Rico does best – seeing his training and passion as a polo player as a lifestyle trait that has spurred him on to greater things. “Being passionate about moving with yourself and your new ideas as you change in life is very important, but I never lose the polo lifestyle. It is the driving passion behind all my other ventures. It gives me the life lessons I need to succeed.”

Rico owns one nightclub and four restaurants and bars in Sao Paulo, and a beach club in Florianopolis – and is developing a lifestyle brand of his own.

“I have a business in Brazil – restaurants, clubs. I didn’t want to make polo a prison of my life – I wanted to understand other things. I will not be able to play for the rest of my life – so I have to do other things. It also helps to support the cost of playing polo – and keeps my sponsors happy.”

With a name often splashed in the tabloids for his escapades as an international playboy, and an endless line-up of supermodel girlfriends – Isabeli Fontana and Giselle just to name a few – one would assume his partying would spill over into his professional life, but this, Rico says, is far from the truth.

“I don’t drink much – no partying. If I go out, 2am I am asleep – if there is a game no drinking. If there is something that commits me with polo, I will be my best for it.”

For all the focus and hard work that goes into the sport, Rico is very aware of the glamor that surrounds the sport – and the place spectators play in its publicity.

“One day I was at the MET gala dinner, which was full of Hollywood actors and models, and when they asked me what I do for a living they said, “Whoa! Polo!”, he laughs and gestures very wildly, “and all I could think was who the hell am I? I’m from a farm! I’m nothing special. But I think this is how people view the game. I blame it on Pretty Woman, Richard Gere.”

And as for the spectators and the bevy of beautiful women that flock to the events?

“I think they believe they’re going to find the man of their dreams there!”

There is a real romance associated with the polo lifestyle – an inherent glamour that outshines the hands-on hard work that goes on behind the scenes – which has come from the media’s portrayal, the historical background of the sport and the royalty that can both play and enjoy the global connections that come with the sport. Rico is one such hard worker who ends up in situations that are “out of this world” to most people.

“You need to live a life you like. Music, polo, business – this is what that is for me. I have nothing to complain about!”

“Yes, suddenly I see myself playing with Prince Charles – getting a prize from the Queen of England, and playing with Prince Harry. This is something only polo can do – it brings people together.”
In addition to appearing at high-profile exhibition matches, he uses his personality and lifestyle as a promotional vehicle for the sport and his sponsors – networking socially, drawing big names and thus media to spectate at the events. Rico is currently sponsored by Jaeger LeCoultre and Delta Café, and when this article was written, playing for Fiyaz polo team in the St Tropez polo club.
The sport, polo, is a game played both on and off the field – on field scoring goals and off the field connecting people in life, business and pleasure. In the same way a DJ brings people together at a music event – and Rico is running in the best of both worlds.

“What is better than to make people happy?” says Rico. “When you are playing out in front of 2000 people, they go crazy – that is the feeling. It’s incredible! Like those moments on the playing field – it turns you on.”

Rico’s passion for music began 25 years ago when he spent time hanging out as a 19-year-old in Brazilian music studios, watching friends make music. It was during this time he realised his own passion for music, and began creating his own sets – and even though he has never pursued being a DJ professionally, he is now invited to DJ at private events across the world.

“Polo and music are both a passion. Polo was always the first.”

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.