For some time now, Gaston Sessa has been on different paths than in the past. The life of that first division goalkeeper was put aside and today he is linked to thoroughbreds, which are neither more nor less than racehorses.
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El Gato is 50 years old and looks at life differently. “Luckily I didn't realize that I retired. When I was about to retire I feared I would enter a depressive pit. I started football when I was 5 years old and even though you have many things solved, it is difficult to start from scratch with something else. The turf helped me not miss the trips, the concentrations, the props and the dunks.”
Sessa is the owner of the Stud Sauce Grande and has a farm in Chascomús, his new place in the world. ”I bought it in 2003 when it was a frog but over time I turned it into a farm. The nice thing is that I live with my family in that place and we are very happy. I met my wife when I played for Racing and she worked at Blanquiceleste SA. In addition, we bought the house from Raúl Alfonsín's family and built a boutique hotel called Casa Laurel.”
When comparing sensations, the former Vélez goalkeeper manages to find certain similarities. “Going through the tunnel towards the field emotionally is very similar to when my horse goes towards the cat flaps. In football I resolved despite the tickling in my chest, but he assured you that when the horse has a hard time getting into cat flaps my heart breaks. When the race starts I feel calm, but in the final meters I get crazy, I feel like I'm pushing the horse to cross the disc.”
Gastón Sessa was an emblematic goalkeeper of Argentine soccer and now he dedicates himself to horse breeding (Photo: Courtesy Gastón Sessa)
In the turf environment not everything was rosy for Sessa. “I made the decision to take my horses to a trainer and he had no better idea than to sue me. Now I gave all my trust to the Marinhas family. José trains them for me and his daughter Andrea races the horses. She is passionate about turf and is very close to being the winningest jocket in Argentina. I give my opinion on the ideal racecourses for the horses to run on or the distance of the race, but they take care of the logistics.”
The former goalkeeper took some time to reflect on his life as a footballer. “You have to adapt to living in a successful world. Criticism is the order of the day. When I was 20 years old and I missed a goal it was due to lack of experience and when I missed it at 35 it was because he was already old. Since Estudiantes knew that he was a Gimnasia fan, at only 19 years old he had to listen to people's bullshit. I made my debut in first class and they told me 'you better save well, you shitty “Tripero.”
Sessa was a subscriber to reactions that last in the football fan's retina: from the attack on referee Sergio Pezzotta, through the ball thrown at Pablo Heredia (Belgrano's ball catcher) to the devious stomp on Marcos Pirchio, an All Boys player. “Every now and then I would lose control. Ricardo Lavolpe told me that I was the best goalkeeper in the country, but that if he were the coach of the national team, he would never call me up because he didn't like losing a player after five minutes. Lavolpe was a wise man who, luckily, I met at the San Isidro racecourse enjoying an afternoon of racing horses.”
Has turf changed your life?
It replaced the adrenaline that football gave me. After such a career, always competing at a high level, I felt that my life was going to need something that would allow me to feel what I was going to lose in football. And I could find it on the turf.
How did you get into turf?
From the hand of my friend Marianito Chiraquian, who always had race horses. During my last years as a soccer player I began to accompany him not only to the races, but also to see the work the horses did in the morning. We started breeding: some we kept and others we sold. And in 2009 we decided to build a training center in Chascomús.
Gastón Sessa's new life: from being an archer to raising horses (Photo: DYN/TN)
What are you passionate about turf?
The horse itself. Because I see it very similar to the soccer player due to training and nutrition. The only difference is that the animal does not speak and we do. The secret is knowing what the horse needs. If the work group is united and has capacity, achievements appear. When a horse crosses the disc it is one of the greatest satisfactions there can be.
Why is your relationship with the horse so strong?
The knight's strongest relationship is with the pawn because they spend a lot of time together. The farmhand knows him, takes care of him and pampers him: he is very sorry when a horse is sold or retired from the activity. Turf gives you sensations that only those of us who are passionate about this activity can explain.
Can you make a living off turf?
We cannot live off turf because it is very expensive. We are here because we do it out of passion and from a personal point of view to isolate myself from the daily problems that each person may have. That's why at one point I combined soccer with turf and did both things simultaneously. At that stage he played for Boca Unidos de Corrientes and Villa San Carlos.
Why did you get out of control in some games?
I had a very special personality in football because I liked to win like everyone else. But the refereeing injustices and people's mistreatment of the player bothered me a lot. And not to mention the lies of the leaders. But I showed it in a way that was not right. Football is a complicated activity and I always seek to be as honest as possible. Being captain of several teams also bothered me a lot, even more so if I had leaders who didn't tell you the truth.
Is it an honor to have played for Estudiantes y Gimnasia?
As a child I played in For Ever in La Plata and since all my friends went to try Estudiantes I joined and ended up staying. I played for Estudiantes, my father having been a dentist on the Gimnasia team and my uncle being the president of Lobo. At 12 years old I thought more about the group and friendship with my classmates. I thank Estudiantes for making me debut in the first division and teaching me how to work as a team, but when I grew up I realized that I went to the wrong place.
How was your arrival at Gimnasia?
That was very complicated because I had everything agreed with Vélez after having had an experience in Barcelona in Ecuador. But when I get home I find my dad with the president of Gimnasia and he tells me 'You have to play in Gimnasia because it is a family mandate. I want to leave this life watching you play in Gimnasia.' I complied with my old man, but that year Vélez was champion and to this day I could go to the gymnastics court with my children, which I cannot.
Gastón Sessa is a Gimnasia fan and made a save at the club (Photo: AFP)
Did you have such a bad time in gymnastics?
The first two years we fought relegation and the club was very down. The team did not receive a salary for eight months. It was positive that many of those players were fans of the club but were relegated in 2010 after going through three promotions. The first year my dad was happy but then he started to suffer like all of us. He enjoyed himself from Monday to Friday but on game day he was a permanent sufferer.
Did you regret the reactions you had?
A little bit yes because that wasn't me. I am the calmest guy in the world. Think that I played football for almost 24 years and the reactions were just 5 or 6, but all together. After each of those situations, my parents made me see it because I'm not like that. My mother, for example, went to the grocery store and they made the same comment to her. But I couldn't contain it because the injustices overwhelmed me. Now I look at everything differently.