Growing up with football was a pleasure. We have been lucky enough to witness some of the greats of the game who have now acquired legendary status in our heads like Oliver Kahn and Zidane, while the relatively younger generation thrives on Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Here is an attempt to encapsulate the said footballers in a word or a phrase; successfully or otherwise is your call.
Luis Ronaldo – Goals
The Brazilian forward made life hell for the opposition, be it for club (Real Madrid) or country (Brazil). He would slalom past the best defenses in the world to quietly poke it under the keeper. A poacher at his worst, he never let his team down. His sublime finishing and quirky hairstyles never disappointed. Most memorably for me, in the 2002 South Korean World Cup, his hair was just as cool as Anastasia’s song (Boom). In the final, when this unstoppable force finally met the immovable object, Oliver Kahn, the latter gave way like a hot knife through butter. A brace in the World Cup Final is the stuff of legends, especially with Cafu marking his third appearance in World Cup Finals. Goals is THE word for Ronaldo, even though it has subsequently been changed to a more offensive term that refers to his girth, essentially to differentiate between him and his namesake.
Paolo Maldini – Stability
The Italian defender was a rock for his AC Milan as well as for Italy. He is one of the few players to have only the one club mentioned on their resume. Il Capitano spent 25 seasons in the colors of Milan and never actually thought about a move away from what he referred to as home. In today’s world, players are falling over each other to get the best deal at what they think is a greener pasture. The contrast is difficult to comprehend, but Maldini was a man apart.
Stability for him was known faces and strong roots. His disregard to transfers may be looked at in a different light given his reluctance, but the fact that he stuck around at the highest levels of football with lucrative offers floating about, is a matter of great respect. One quote, which has been attributed to Maldini, but finds no proof on the internet, has made the rounds of many inspirational books. He puts it beautifully, when he says, “One life. One wife. One club.” He just didn’t stop there though, having already followed his father, Ceasare Maldini, to Milan, his sons have now been drafted for the youth squad too.
David Beckham – Dead Ball Specialist
This particular individual has faced the wrath of critics time and again. But when he lined his boot up for a free-kick, no one would dare breathe. The curving football became the stuff of legends. Innumerable videos of the ball leaving his boot, swerving past the hapless wall and finding the top corner have been floated around. Everyone wanted to see the impossible angle to be found and he did it time and again. His misfortune with spot kicks was undeserving but he was certainly not at fault completely.
The ‘banana kick’ caught on and every kid in school wanted to put one past the goalkeeper and rise to the ensuing applause. He did add the fashion quotient too, and it certainly didn’t hurt his female fan following. His metrosexual approach was frowned at, but it spawned a generation of manicured and styled footballers. Pin-point crosses and inch-perfect corners were part of his repertoire, making him a lethal winger. Beckham’s contribution cannot be overlooked in any case, especially when he managed to find Sullivan off his line from beyond the half way mark. Take a bow son, take a bow.