Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Feats of Feet

With the World Cup barely a week away, I find it fitting to take this opportunity to chronicle the career of one of football's greatest to never have showcased his skills at the world cup.

Born in a shanty town the year after Mario Kempes won the World Cup for the Argentines in 1978, he never looked like he had the attributes of a footballing great. Short and stodgy, and not blessed with electrifying pace, he was never going to be the next Henry or Ronaldo. However, there was something in the way he kicked a ball, that made you want to just sit and watch.

When just a kid, he used to spend his evenings playing football barefooted in the field next to his home, juggling the ball, doing quick turns, passing against the wall, he honed his skills the hard way, on a prickly sandy field, unlike the young superstars of footballing academies.

At the age of 10, in a school game, the young prodigy was hovering around the penalty area when the ball was played to his feet. With a quick turn, he put the ball through the goalkeeper's legs and into goal. As his teammates mobbed and congratulated him, he knew then that he was destined for a life of football.

Barefooted games gave him the knack and touch of the ball naturally and he played with a panache and touch unsurpassed in a boy so young. When he was 14 and missed an important game against his class rivals for being grounded by his mother, his class teacher ranted at him for failing to turn up at the game, causing his team to lose by a solitary goal. His team needed him, so his teacher said, needed him, the 'attacking machine', as he was fondly dubbed.

At 15, he finally got his first real pair of boots, and he took his game to another level. He played regularly for his age group and averaged a goal a game. He didn't have the pace, or explosive acceleration some of his teammates had, but like his idol, Brazillian captain Rai, he had a footballing brain.

His first touch was excellent, his vision for the pass unrivalled. He wasn't your typical wide man dribbler, but he could with a feint and drop of his shoulder beat his marker with ease. He was quite dependent on his right foot, but with a touch so assured, he always had time to switch to his stronger side to play the final ball. His composure in front of goal was legendary, when one-on-one with the keeper to beat, you could bet your life savings he would score, and he never failed.

At age 18, he was regularly playing outside his age group, with players more physically intimidating and with more experience. However, he was never to be outshone and still averaged a goal every other game. By the time he was 20, he had the footballing world at his feet.



And he never let up. However, fate dealt him a cruel blow. In pre-season training in 2004, he ruptured his cruciate ligament and cartilage in his left knee after an innocous fall. Rehabilitation left him out for the whole season as he struggled with fitness and weight gain.

By the end of 2005, he was back to playing regularly, but he was never back to his best. The years of strain and knocks had taken their toll and with the career threatening injury, he struggled to regain his form. At the age of 26, when most footballers find their peak, his career was free-falling.

Then, in March 2006, in a friendly game, he twisted his knee just as he was about to turn his marker. Trying to put the pain behind him, he carried on and managed to score another 2 goals in the game where his team ran out winners. A post-game MRI scan revealed another cartilage tear in his previously injured left knee and he had to undergo the surgeon's knife again.

His orthopaedist advised him to give up the game to prevent an even more debilitating syndrome in his later years; osteoarthiritis. At age 27, his career over just before the start of the World Cup in Germany. He could have been there with the likes of Ronaldinho and Beckham, pushing their respective teams towards glory. But here he is, forced to sit out and watch the games from the sidelines. An early demise to the career of one of the most naturally gifted players to ever touch a football.

And his name, you ask?

2 Comments:

At 4:50 PM, Anonymous dezmomo said...

eh...itu bola pancit ka?

 
At 9:59 PM, Blogger CapArnabBrand said...

Ada la sikit.... takde pump la beb...

 

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