The names of World Cup record holders are like a roll-call of footballing greats and every four years players such as Pele, Miroslav Klose, Diego Maradona, and Jose Batista must wonder whether their feats will be surpassed.
Hold on. Jose Batista? Who’s Jose Batista?
If Batista’s name seems out of place alongside the only player to win three World Cups, the highest goalscorer in the tournament’s history, and the man with most appearances as a team captain, then cast your mind back to Mexico 1986.
Less than a minute had gone in Uruguay’s final group game against Scotland when the French referee showed Batista a red card for a challenge on Gordon Strachan. Officially timed at 52 seconds, it remains the fastest sending off in World Cup history.
“Some people hadn’t even sat down to watch the game and I was already off,” Batista told Reuters.
“I went into the dressing room and the kit man asked me what I was doing. I got sent off, I said. He didn’t believe me. How can you have been sent off when they’re still playing the national anthem? He had to look out the dressing room window to see if I was telling the truth.”
The truth has followed Batista around ever since but the 56-year old says it does not define him. He was sent off only “three or four times” during a 22-year professional career that included more than 60 goals, not bad for a defender.
Now coaching football and tennis at a club in suburban Buenos Aires, Batista is by now tired of the repeated reminders.
Sometimes he denies all knowledge and feigns mistaken identity. Sometimes he laughs. Sometimes he says, why don’t you ask me about the goals I scored?
He would love for someone to break his record in Russia and free him from this lifetime of notoriety. He is not hopeful.
“I don’t think so,” he answered, when asked if his record would ever fall. “Three or four minutes maybe but 52 seconds, I doubt it. It would be great if someone gets sent off that quick and finally this would all be over for me. But that’s the way it is. I wear this like a shirt.”