The Legendary ‘Batigol’ Now Makes Polo Goals Tremble
By Dialogo March 04, 2009Gabriel Batistuta, adored at the Italian Fiorentina and the greatest striker in the history of Argentina’s national soccer team, is now shaking the bars of polo goals while making fun of himself for often missing with the mallet, missing many goals, and falling off his horse. This week, the legendary ‘Batigol’ became Argentinean polo’s newest attraction after scoring the winning goal for his team, Loro Piana, over Chapelco (12-11) during his debut at the ‘Campo Argentino del Polo,’ the ‘cathedral’ of this elite sport. “My field of expertise is soccer, and despite having played today with a lot of adrenaline, I am still taking my first steps in polo and embarrassing myself,” said the striker while in the central district of Palermo, where he was acclaimed. Surrounded by women, children, and a crowd of journalists on the field, the man who several times mesmerized the fans of Newell’s Old Boys, Boca Juniors, Fiorentina, Roma, and Inter de Italia, showed that his charisma, humor, and spirit remain the same. At age 40, four years after leaving the soccer field, Batistuta traded his “rip-net” cleats for brown boots to debut in the mythical metropolitan scenario during the third phase of the “IV Argentina Polo Tour Patio Bullrich 2009.” “I think it is great that Batistuta has found his world in the sport of polo. His is a gentleman in and out of the field,” said Marcela Lopez Delgado, a 39-year-old forensic doctor and polo lover. People of all ages and social classes saw him riding and handling the mallet, showing that polo has managed to leave the tight aristocratic circle thanks to Adolfito Cambiaso, the best player in the world and Batistuta’s friend. Playing as a forward and as his friend’s teammate, he scored the last point with a “bati-winner” attitude, eclipsing with his charisma the “Maradona of Polo,” who scored eleven of the twelve goals for his team. “Batistuta surprised me in a good way, and all he needs is to improve his ‘swing,’” said polo player Eduardo ‘Russo’ Heguy (former handicapped 10), honoring this famous polo family’s surname. The crowd gave it up to the historical striker of the Argentina national team (56 goals), when he debuted in Palermo wearing white jeans, a helmet, a mallet, a visor, and a navy blue shirt with a “1” on the back. The team of this player, who was born in Santa Fe (central-east), where the fields are located, is called Loro Piana, where its owner, the Italian businessman Alfio Marchini, also plays. Despite his zero handicap, ‘Bati-polista’ broke social and sports barriers with his presence at a stand selling bacon or Argentina steak sandwiches at a price equivalent to four dollars, beer for three dollars, and sodas for two dollars in a rainy afternoon in Buenos Aires. Diego and Marina White, a married couple who are fans of this exquisite sport and manufacturers of polo uniforms, also admired Batistuta during the six chukkers of the game. “Most importantly, he rides the horse very well and his presence boosts the sport’s popularity,” said the Whites. At the fourth chukker, Batistuta almost scored, but his mallet fell and spun up in the air, and at the end of the period he fell on the ground, due to inexperience. In the fifth chukker he demonstrated why he is known as ‘Batigol,’ when, with one strike he earned soccer cheers from the polo fans when the ball crossed in front of the net, bringing the match to a tie with nine goals.