Argentina v. Germany.
The first World Cup Final I saw was in 1986. I had played my first season of soccer that spring, but had never seen the real thing. Some of the 1986 World Cup ended up on American TV, I remember finding it and being transfixed.
I would play my own World Cup matches in my backyard. We had brick wall on the backside of the house. I’d play the ball off the wall and say I had 5 seconds to score between the 2 trees on the other end of the yard. Once I figured out the format of the tournament, I would replay all of the games in my head in the backyard.
I remember getting excited about it, but the game that sealed it for me was the semifinal between Argentina and Belgium. The two goals Maradona scored made me a fan forever. I couldn’t wait until the final. I remember being excited about University of Georgia football games and other big sporting events, but that 1986 World Cup Final was right up there.
We planned the day around the game, probably the only family in Riverdale, Georgia who did so. My dad decided to pull for West Germany, mostly just to antagonize me. We were yelling back and forth as the game went on. When the Germans tied it up late, I was on the edge of my seat. The ball Maradona played in to Burruchaga made everything okay again. After watching the trophy presentation, I was back out in the back yard, pretending the wall was Maradona and I was Burruchaga running in to score the goal to win the World Cup.
I loved Maradona and that Argentinian team. We found a sky blue and white striped shirt at the little soccer shop we had in Riverdale, and my mom sewed an Argentina patch on it. I begged to wear #10 in my next season of soccer because I wanted to be like Maradona.
I was already well on my way to falling in love with soccer from the earlier games, but the 1986 World Cup Final and Argentina sealed it. After that tournament, I wanted to learn everything about the sport. It was then that I found out bits and pieces about the US national team and watched the few games televised on the road to the 1990 World Cup. I of course went nuts for the USA watching our games in Italy in 1990, but Argentina has always been my other team to support.
That will never change, because in 1986 the Albicelestes inspired a kid in Riverdale, Georgia to follow the path less traveled in terms of sport. It was easy to be a football fan in those days, but I was a soccer fan. Yes, I played but I also wanted to watch games and read everything I could find about the sport. I wanted to learn. Thankfully, my parents supported me and helped me learn everything I could. I’m sure I checked out every soccer book at the public library at least 5 times.
My life is better now because of the World Cup and 1986. For that reason, I’ll be cheering on Argentina today with my all. Just like my 9 year old self in Riverdale back in 1986…