After the 'Messi Goal', a chance meeting with 'Batigol'

Gabriel Batistuta
Gabriel Batistuta. Photo: Nikhilraj / Manorama

Argentine fans' joy over their team's pre-quarterfinal victory over Australia was still echoing around the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan when I left the arena. While walking to the parking ground, I spotted a familiar face standing next to a car parked on the opposite side. "Gabriel Batistuta," my brain screamed in excitement.

Yes, the same 'Batigol', the poster boy of Argentina's post-Maradona, pre-Messi era. Seeing my curious stare, he smiled at me. However, as I wanted to be sure that the man standing next to me is the only player to score a hat-trick at two separate World Cup tournaments, I asked hesitantly, "Batistuta, right?" "Yes," he said with a smile.

Arguably the deadliest goalscorer in Argentine football history, Batigol's build and flowing locks had made him look like a Greek God in a football kit, but now he looks totally unrecognisable after ditching his iconic long locks. In a formal grey suit, sporting a neat and short hairstyle, he looked sharp like a football manager.

When I told him I was from India, he looked at me with a surprised expression on his face. He might be having no idea how a generation in India worshiped him and mimicked his style by growing long hair while chasing a ball in paddy fields and on dusty surfaces.

After clicking a selfie, I asked him about Messi's left-footed stunner against Australia. "Sorry, I cannot comment on the game as I'm under contract with a sports channel for doing commentary for them," he said politely and signed off.  

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