A Personal History of the World Cup: Part Four
Italia 1990 was a huge milestone in my footballing development, and the first World Cup which I actively followed. Between 1986 and 1990 I began playing Football, first for my School, then a club and then as a Junior Representative for Rotorua City. My debut was in 1989, playing in goal against Thames Valley-proudly wearing the Orange and Black of Rotorua.
When Italia 90 rolled around I was a young football obsessive, and by the end of Italia 90, I was even more obsessed. Which is ironic since Italia 90 is widely believed to be the most boring World Cup tournament of all time with a record low of 2.21 goals per match. Objectively I would concur, subjectively I still love it. Any football tragic will tell you that goals are not the only measure of a game's greatness- blood, sweat and tears count for so much as well, and Italia 90 had plenty of these fluids.
The great names present at Italia 90 was like a roll call in Valhalla; Warriors who were legends once but had since slipped through the veil: Maradonna, Shilton, Lineker, Schillaci, Klinsmann, Hagi; even the oxymoron of a veteran debutant in Roger Milla the Camerounian sensation, who at 38 set the tournament alight with 4 goals and a hot stepping goal celebration.
For so many legends this tournament was their last hurrah.
Strangely the name I remember most is the Argentine keeper Goycochea. He replaced the first choice keeper Nery Pumpido when Pumpido broke his leg against USSR. Goycochea's acrobatics impressed me, but his skills weren't enough to stop West Germany in the final.
I studied the keepers more intently than all other positions, applauding saves over goals everytime. My hero for so many years was the English veteran Shilton, the iron giant who was 'pickpocketed' by the street urchin Diego in 1986. In fact by 1990 I was an England fan through and through, years of collecting Shoot! magazine saw to that. I could name every English Player, but probably couldn't name one current All White, apart from maybe Winton Rufer.
So in effect the tournament ended for me when West Germany knocked England out on penalties. Gazza cried for me as well, lamenting the end of my footballing innocence-the era of mullets and pass backs, of strikers rolling end over end when brushed by the fullback with no sanction from the ref, of a time before girlfriends and watching Saturday morning soccer without a hangover.
I still watched the final, but my 14 year old hormones couldn't hack the 6am wake up call so I asked my parents to videotape it for me. I then had to suffer the groans of indignation coming from the family living room as they watched it live; the 1-0 score line just confirming what my Rugby League loving father already suspected- this soccer lark was as dull as dishwater.
Not for me though, I watched that final over and over again.
Anyway four years later in USA 94 a solitary goal in the final would look positively decadent. And four years later Shilton and England were nowhere to be seen.
Keep on crying Gazza: I'm right behind you: