An open letter to Andrea Pirlo from an ardent fan
‘No one remembers who came in second’, said the famous American golfer Walter Hagen. It made sense, perhaps when one witnessed a torrential Barcelona side overcoming a hapless Juventus a few days back in the UEFA Champions League finale at the German capital.
Joyous scenes of Barca players clicking selfies and embracing each other were the order of the day. Yet, none can forget the gut-wrenching image of you being reduced to tears, sobbing uncontrollably. I was distraught, watching it in television. Being an ardent fan of yours, I could not help but go a decade down the memory lane, when a similar fate entailed you and your AC Milan teammates in Istanbul.
“I thought about quitting because, after Istanbul, nothing made sense anymore. The 2005 Champions League final simply suffocated me. . . . We’d invented a new disease with multiple symptoms- ‘Istanbul syndrome’. I no longer felt like a player, and that was devastating enough. But even worse, I no longer felt like a man.”
Andrea Pirlo, you wrote this in your autobiography titled ‘I think, therefore I play’, taking into account that eventful night when your Milan was trumped by the resurgent Merseysiders, Liverpool in the Turkish city.
It was even said that you contemplated a premature retirement, the sensitive being that you are. But, to my utter ecstasy you decided not to call it quits. You swam against the tide and went along with playing the game you helped make beautiful.
You went on to scale loftier peaks, achieving milestone after milestone, the greatest of them being the FIFA World Cup in 2006. I vividly remember you scoring the penalty against the French goalie Fabian Barthez in the final. It was an affirming reminder to all that the demons of the missing the penalty in the Champions League final was not haunting you, the Zen Master, anymore.
You have literally won almost everything that there is to be won in football. A World Cup, a UEFA Euro Cup, Six Serie A titles; four with Juventus and two with AC Milan, two Champions Leagues with Milan and an Olympic Bronze medal.
It is testimony to your undisputed character and selfless dedication that even your worst critics find it hard not to praise your footballing genius. Your jaw-dropping long ball which cuts through the back line, like knife on butter, sending defenders scurrying around, is a treat to watch for us mere mortals.
Your composure in assessing play, slowing down the tempo, ball distribution, pass accuracy and possession are enviable traits, something aspiring prodigies and even modern footballers strive to emulate.
From what I saw of you in the last season you were instrumental in earning Juve the title for the fourth straight year, through your frequent masterclass performances. Alongside Carlos Tevez, Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba, you were ever so crucial in their style of play that won millions of hearts the world over.
Certainly did you play your heart out in the recently concluded final. Unfortunately, there could only have been one winner that day. What cannot be forgotten is that you were an apt midfield general for Juventus, a symbolic icon with the bewhiskered look, embodying the dying art of deep-lying playmaking. And when it comes to your set pieces, ah! I have run out of superlatives.
It has been rumoured that you are set to join the Major League Soccer or the Australian League. In the twilight of your career at 36, you might be not able to run the miles that you used to. Maybe that is what is apparently prompting you to leave the Italian shores, for the constant Italian football week in, week out, can be a tad grueling, even for a legend like you.
But I must admit with a pang of sadness that it was disheartening to see my hero crumble to human emotions, that night in Berlin. After all, tears are not meant for superhumans who audaciously ‘chip’ in cute ‘Panenkas’ during tense situations, rendering reputed keepers silent watchers.
If at all you are heading off to the MLS or the A- League, let me thank you deeply for your stupendous efforts in making Italian football and also, this sport, more appealing and awe-striking. Watching you play has truly been magical and I, as one of the zillion fans, am enormously grateful for all the memories that you have gracefully bestowed upon us.
Cheers to an awesome future
Yours most sincerely,
An ardent fan