Gabriel Batistuta

Fiorentina and Roma striking legend Gabriel Batistuta talks to FourFourTwo back in February 2010 about his love of polo. Who are you calling Crazy Horse?

I've always liked horses – I've ridden them since I was a very young child, so it's in my blood. In my hometown on the Argentine pampas plains, Reconquista, we always rode. But I didn't start playing polo until a few years ago, when I was still a footballer for Fiorentina in Italy. Every time I went back to Argentina on holidays, friends would invite me to play polo. I was curious to know whether I would be able to do it. I tried out, and I ended up loving it.

It's a hobby, but I always try to improve my standard, because the better I play, the more fun I have. Playing polo gets my adrenaline going; it's a similar sensation to the one I used to get when I walked onto a football pitch in Serie A or for Argentina.

Back home in Reconquista, I have a stall for polo horses and my own team called La Gloria Polo Team. We wear purple t-shirts and a badge similar to Fiorentina's, the club where I played for many years. La Gloria has taken part in several competitions and we're growing and establishing ourselves little by little.

It's not at all easy to play polo. I found it very difficult to get used to the saddle at first, because I'd always ridden a horse without one. There are also many skills that have to be performed at the same time: riding properly, handling the mallet, working together with the horse – you need to be at one with each other – and striking the ball properly. It's demanding and really exhausting. Polo players end every match completely knackered!

As a player, I'd say I'm a worker who sometimes gets rid of his marker and opponent and scores a goal, ha ha! But it's very difficult to become a scorer in polo. It is a very tactical sport and I'm devoting time to getting better. I'm having fun, but my character demands that I do things well, so I'm making and effort to learn and practice.

In September 2005, I met Adolfo Cambiaso, the world's best polo player, and he invited me to play a match with his team Loro Piana. He's a great guy. He was in need of a very skilful non-scorer so he called me! We entered the Stella Artois Cup and we won it, which was fantastic.

In one game, we had to take a penalty shot with only thirty seconds left in the game. Supporters of the team were chanting for me to take it. They sang "Bati, Bati, Bati!" from the stands. But I didn't even consider it – Adolfo took it and scored, of course. What would I have done if I'd missed? I got my first cup and it was a great joy, although it doesn't stand comparison with playing football for Argentina at El Monumental in Buenos Aires.

I feel some pressure from the supporters when I play polo, because they ask for goals, reflecting my football career. But to be honest, I have no idea of how to do that properly in this sport. The posts don't even have a crossbar! But I'm just as demanding as I was as a football player – I want to succeed and win. It's a little bit ridiculous, but it's the way I am.

I'm taking my first steps and people treat me very well – it's as if I always belonged in this setting. I say I don't even play polo right now; I just hang around with those who do. 'Playing' is for the professionals.

There should be a superclassico Boca-River match at polo. I think that attempts are being made to start such a game. I could be the captain of Boca and [Adolfo] Cambiaso could be River captain. But although I love polo, I can't even think of playing professionally. I'll just enjoy it for now until I go back to football – which is something I know for real.

FIVE REASONS I LOVE POLO...

Adolfo Cambiaso
The world's best player and a great person. I have lots of fun with him.

Campo Argentino de Polo
It's the polo cathedral and I feel proud of having won a championship there.

Loro Piana
The team with which I won my first tournament!

La Gloria Polo Team
My team, with Fiorentina's colours!

Cavalleria Toscana Polo Challenge
Another championship I won. It was in Firenze playing for the Italian Firenze Polo Club.

Interview: Eduardo Alberto Martins. From the February 2010 issue of FourFourTwo.


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