My tryst with Jogo Bonito

Before the frenzy of the World Cup sweeps you away, let’s take a journey through the time and revisit the moment that got us addicted to the beautiful game.

Rust might already have gathered around that instance, but this is the right time to do a quick cleaning up of the mind’s attic, and regain a bit of boyishness. After all, a soccer carnival in Brazil calls for it.

For someone like this writer, who had grown up in the 80s, choices were galore, not just in sports but in almost all spheres of life. Boris Becker came and conquered all with his explosive game and Teutonic charm, Gabriela Sabatini offered the ultimate boy-fantasy, Ravi Shastri and Wasim Akram were Asian representatives of sports’ glamour side, and from the world of western music we had Michael Jackson, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Metallicca, Beastie Boys, Judas Priest, was strictly, scintillating 80s.

Among that rush of brilliance, occurred the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, and I began to follow the event with passive interest at first, and never thought it would change my perspective. It, unexpectedly, helped me widen the pool of sporting stars that I admire, offering Diego Maradona (Argentina) and Enzo Francescoli (Uruguay) and they were charismatic without being pre-packaged. Yet, both were different type of players, and in many ways epitomised the way sport was played in the 80s. Hard-nosed professionalism only began to peep into the world of sports, and there still was a touch of the carefree 70s. Maradona had two sides on the field -- sublime and cheeky.

The stocky Argentine showed us that in the quarterfinal against England. His streetsmartness was revealed when he tapped the ball past Peter Shilton with his hand, and only Maradona, a player so convinced about his greatness, could have termed it the Hand of God. Moments later, he showed his genius with the Goal of the Century, dribbling past seven mesmerised English players. Francescoli, then an elegant 24-year-old from the club of River Plate clad in light blue jersey, was made from different clay. He too was a genius in his own right in the midfield often dishing out brilliant passes, but he was without the flashy and often erratic side of Maradona.

Maradona lifted the Cup at the Azteca Stadium on June 29, 1986, while Francescoli and Uruguay returned home much earlier. But together they made a fascinating contrast, and gave us a glimpse of two vastly contradicitng playing cultures. Nearly 28 years have passed since that seismic tournament, and many more sportspersons have come and enchanted the world with their skills. But Maradona and Francescoli remained at the top of my list since then, and they taught me to admire the game of football, broadening the spectrum as a sports fan. So, when did you got hooked to Jogo Bonito?

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