1994 World Cup and Roberto Baggio

Many Americans cannot fathom what is the big deal about a sport that often ends in 1-1 tie or even 0-0. As 2010 showed again and again, when a team loses the match that ends their WC run, most players break down and cry like a baby. When you watch NFL Superbowl or NBA finals, you just don’t see that. Like all sports, it doesn’t matter how other people describe the sport to be great. YOU have to watch and witness a delirious moment in person and fall in love with the sport. Such an event happened to me in 1994 World Cup.

I loved playing soccer since I was a kid. But it was not until I saw one soccer player which led me to become a fan of World Cup soccer. It was the match between Italy and Spain in 1994 World Cup knockout stage. I was fascinated with hairy looking Italian men jumping up and down and running the field. I am an Asian American and there is something exotic about Italians. Then I saw one Italian man who stood tall above everyone else. Roberto Baggio, who was actually short and had a ponytail, dribbled the ball like a magician blowing past the Spanish defenders, dodged the goal keeper who came out to stop him and made a goal that looked extremely difficult from the right side of the post.  After rolling on the ground and standing up, Baggio blew kisses with both hands to the crowd. End of the magic show. I was mesmerized

In 1994 World Cup, Italy was considered a mediocre team and wasn’t expected to accomplish much. But Baggio single handedly led Italy all the way to the final match against Brazil. I missed most of this match because I was outside, but by the time the game ended 0-0 even after overtime, I saw the penalty shootout. Italy was behind in the penalty points by one and Baggio was the last Italian to shoot. He missed this famous shot and Italy lost to Brazil. The image of Baggio’s disappointment became a famous portrail of 1994 World Cup. Baggio almost led Italy to the World Cup trophy. Many people distinguish winners and losers by the final result of a game. In my eyes, Baggio was a champion and a hero. I am not even an Italian. His goal against Spain and his miss against Brazil basically describes what watching World Cup soccer is like. In 1998 World Cup, Baggio would have a good day and he made a penalty kick during a match against Paraguay. This time, he happily celebrated. In 2006, after Baggio’s retirement, Italy would go on to win their fourth World Cup trophy.

When soccer players miss the crucial penalty kick as Baggio did, it is absolutely devastating. In games like soccer, there is only one winning team. The other team must suffer the loss and cry in their locker room. Human life is so. There is no promise to win. Not everyone will win. Some people suffer through earthquake and others suffer through deadly disease like Ebola and AIDS. And still, many suffer through war and separation from their family. Where is the consolation in all this? There is none, except from God.

While modern people may scoff at the ancient practice of worshipping God and trusting in deity, it is still the greatest resource for finding answers to life. The Bible tells us that God is our heavenly father and he wipe away all the tears of humanity.

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