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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Una Porta Nel Cielo: A Goal in Heaven by Roberto Baggio


Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Click the image to read an
excerpt from The Guardian
about his penalty kick miss.


He is forever remembered for the wrong reason. His penalty kick miss at the final of World Cup 1994 against Brazil. Before that kick, he never missed one for the Azzurri in seven attempts. In his Serie A career through 2001 (he retired in 2004), Baggio converted 71 out of 79 attempts.

Source of the penalty kick statistics: "Una Porta Nel Cielo."
"As for the penalty, I don't want to brag but I've only ever missed a couple of penalties in my career. And they were because the goalkeeper saved them not because I shot wide. That's just so you understand that there is no easy explanation for what happened at Pasadena. When I went up to the spot I was pretty lucid, as much as one can be in that kind of situation. I knew Taffarel always dived so I decided to shoot for the middle, about halfway up, so he couldn't get it with his feet. It was an intelligent decision because Taffarel did go to his left, and he would never have got to the shot I planned.

Unfortunately, and I don't know how, the ball went up three metres and flew over the crossbar. As for taking the penalty in the first place, I was knackered, but I was the team's penalty taker. I've never run away from my responsibilities. Only those who have the courage to take a penalty miss them. I failed that time. Period. And it affected me for years. It was the worst moment of my career. I still dream about it. If I could erase a moment from my career, it would be that one."
Source: Guardian Unlimited, 19 May 2002.

Shadowed by Contradictions
  • A man with a philosophy more Eastern than Western.
  • A Buddhist in predominantly Catholic Italy.
  • An avid hunter of wildlife during his yearly trips to Argentina.
  • A fan of English football from his childhood.
  • A creative player born during the era of Italian catenaccio.
  • A player coached by the elite of Italian calcio (Marcello Lippi, Cesare Maldini, Arrigo Sacchi, and Giovanni Trapattoni); however, very few of them utilized him effectively.
  • A man who did not yearn for public acclaim, but in the end, he might have been the most adored Italian player of the modern era.
  • FIFA World Player of the Year in 1993. World famous in 1994 for a missed penalty kick.
His Autobiography

Recently, I read parts of his autobiography, "Una Porta Nel Cielo." "A Goal in the Sky." It was an excellent and intriguing look into il Codino Divino. The Divine Ponytail. It was published in 2001, and I read it initially in 2004. I believe that an English translation is not yet available.

He had an interesting comment about former Italy and AC Milan manager, Arrigo Sacchi:

(In response to questions).

After the sacking of Tabarez, Sacchi. Directly from the National Team.

"And I didn't play again. The club had maintained that, for an emergency situation, the best thing was to take refuge in the past. Everyone saw the results: immediately eliminated from the Champions League by Rosenborg, and the domestic season was one to forget. It was a massive error, to recook the soup..."

With Sacchi was it always more icy? (In terms of their frosty relations after the 1994 World Cup).

"For him it seemed as if I didn't exist anymore. But I had a clear conscience: during the week I trained, I did my work, in the remote eventuality to be engaged with greater frequency."
Years later, they reconciled during the filming of a TV commercial. In the commercial, Baggio converted the ill-fated kick.

Comments about Marcello Lippi

"Practically, he asked me to be a spy. I had never done this in my entire career, and I told him very clearly, 'Coach, I will help you in all ways, but don't ask me to name names.' Lippi didn't take this too well, and began to tell me 'But what did you understand, that I would ever ask you to be a spy, you have misunderstood me.' "

The Shootout in Pasadena

But as he noted in his book, two players before him, Franco Baresi and Daniele Massaro, also failed to convert. We don't hear their names associated with "The player who cost Italy the World Cup Final." Without Baggio, Italy would have never reached the final. One missed kick should not define a game nor a stellar career. The one failure after 99 successes. The one great success after 99 failures.

As Baggio concisely said after suffering a serious knee injury early in his career at Fiorentina:

"For my entire career, I played with one and a half legs."

He reflected upon the kick forever associated with him:

"Only those who have the courage to take a penalty miss them."


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