I tried to recall that special night that changed my life, by using Professor Dumbledore’s memory cauldron.
The year was 1990. The FIFA World Cup was set to return to Italy after more than 50 years. A majority of the best players in the world plied their trades in Serie A, and AC.Milan had just retained their European cup title, beating Benfica 1-0 in the final.
They were joined by Sampdoria who won the European Cup Winners Cup, and Juventus, who lifted the UEFA Cup in an all-Italian final against Fiorentina. It was a perfect build up to the tournament and expectations amongst the Italians were high. Italy was also boosted by the top scorer, Salvatore Schillachi and the explosive advent of a world-class player in Roberto Baggio.
I was only 11 when I witnessed my first ever football match between the Azzurri and the Maradona-inspired Argentina in the World Cup semi-final on my television screen.
Prior to this match, Italy had already wiped out the likes of Czechoslovakia, USA, Austria, Uruguay and Republic Of Ireland without conceding a single goal. However, it did not take long as Schillachi pounced from the rebound after the Argentinean keeper, saved Vialli’s volley to open the floodgates and pandemonium erupted!
Walter Zenga still holds the record for going the longest time without conceding a goal. But when he did concede, it proved to be fatal. A harmless back flick by Cannigia gave Argentina the equaliser and the match went to penalties. Aldo Serena and the current Italy’s coach, Roberto Donadoni missed their spot kicks and Argentina progressed to the horror of the entire host nation.
The dream of lifting the world cup on Italian soil was shattered and the whole of Italy wept and went into mourning. As for the 11-year-old kid watching his first football match, it was love at first sight. He has found his team. The team aka ‘The Azzurri’.
You see, whenever Italy plays, they play with grit, a sense of honour, passion and sheer determination. The players fight and challenge for every single ball that you can almost feel the aches and pains in them. Winning and progressing to the next round is the only thing in their mind, not as a cliché but reality.
And as the Azzurri prepare to do battle in the European championships in just three days’ time, I will gather with my fellow comrades to cheer them on and burst my lungs while I sing ‘Fratelli d’Italia’! Win or lose, Azzurri till I die!
This guest writer is a 29-year-old Singaporean who loves Italian football,and that is why he’s friends with Yvette.