While Johnny Wilkinson’s victory sealing drop goal in extra time of the 2003 World Cup Final is undoubtedly a memorable moment, the 1995 World Cup Final is more deserved of a place on our list. This was a match of historical significance; a symbol – and symbols can speak louder than both words and actions – to the world that South Africa was ready to move on from the dark apartheid system that scarred its name. That South Africa – allowed to host a major sporting event for the first time since apartheid –went on to win it, turned a rather drab contest into a classic.On that day, the true resonance of how sport can change the world was witnessed.The iconic celebrations after the game, which saw Francois Pienaar handed the Webb Ellis Trophy from then South African President Nelson Mandela, will forever be remembered. #1) Istanbul – Liverpool v AC Milan – 25th May 2005
Some sporting achievements are historical not due to their historical significance and bear no resounding relation to external factors. Sometimes the beauty of sporting achievements are based not on skill, or overwhelming quality like that of Muhammad Ali or Arkle. These triumphs are drawn from pure passion, determination, courage, belief, persistence and fight.The very term ‘hero’ is in itself an adulation of these qualities as heroic successes give men a warrior like status, prompting the utmost respect from those watching. Indeed, heroes can only be made out of inferiority and there is something within human beings that cause our hearts to resonate with the small fry.As beforehand mentioned, the best sporting spectacles are when two styles contrast and this was the night that dogged underdogs Liverpool faced the gracious, classy, and world supreme AC Milan. This was the night that surely had the power to make even Richard Dawkins, a believer in God. The result was termed a miracle, and the match: the best football game ever. While AC Milan were the best team on the planet, Liverpool were to those who claim the league never lies, not even the best team in their city – they had finished three points behind Everton that season and sat at fifth in the Premier League. They certainly weren’t kidding anybody that they were the best team in Europe. Very few thought they stood a chance of winning at kick off, and even less after they went 1-0 down in the first minute. 2-0 to AC Milan was game over, while Crespo’s delightful second of the night to make it 3, merely served as confirmation to the ludicrousness of those who were hopeful enough to believe Liverpool ever stood a chance. Then came: the five minutes that defied logic and shook the world. A Steven Gerrard header gave believers belief that it was possible to believe. It could be done. A Vladimir Smicer long range effort made this belief, believable, and yet, nobody could believe their own eyes when the referee pointed to the spot after Gennaro Gattuso brought down Gerrard in the box. In true spirit of this night of twists, Alonso missed his penalty, yet scored the rebound. Humanity watched, stunned. Add the pure skill of AC Milan in the first half and the miraculous five minutes early on in the second, to the spirited battle Liverpool underwent to simply prevent AC Milan from scoring, to Gerrard’s plucky performance that saw him converted to right back as a counter to Serginho’s pacey threat, to Jamie Carragher defending for his life despite having cramp, to Djimi Traore’s super save off the line from Andrey Shevchenko, and it’s easy to see why this was the most compelling sporting achievement ever. Then consider Jersey Dudek’s wonder save from Shevchenko’s header, which even under slow motion replay contradicts the laws of science. That an enthralling penalty shootout, which saw Dudek draw inspiration from Bruce Grobbelaar’s wobbly leg dance, followed all of this puts that night in Istanbul above all others in sporting history. This night ranks alongside the greatest ever, to the extent that children should be required to take an exam on it, as part of a history course, in the name of never forgetting humankind’s past triumphs. I have read that Chelsea’s recent win against Barcelona was a greater achievement than Istanbul. This is so preposterous, utterly unthinkable and ignorant; an infographic submission is needed to illustrate its ridiculousness. Yes, Chelsea beat Barcelona with ten men, the missing man being their captain and inspiration. Yes, it was at the Nou Camp.However, what Chelsea had to do was score once and not concede – not score three from half time to draw level in the Champions League Final. Furthermore, Liverpool then were a far worse team than Chelsea are now, and up against the best team in the world at the time. Talk that Chelsea beat the greatest team ever is somewhat off the mark and disrespectful to Real Madrid, the actual best team in the world at the moment, resting some seven points ahead of Barcelona in the league with two games to go! Perhaps Barcelona may have been the greatest team ever, but definitely not this season. Tahar Rajab is a British freelance writer with a passion for sports. Please like O-Posts on Facebook Follow the site on Twitter
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