Monday, September 03, 2007

Roberto Baggio

I have been doing quite a lot of reading lately, on the topic of 'Roberto Baggio'. For anyone who does not know him, he has been an Italian national footballer ever since he was young, till 16th May 2004, where he hung up his boots forever.

Roberto Baggio is born into a large family of eight on 18th February 1967, in a small town of Caldogno. Ever since he could walk, he had been totally immersed into the activity of 'kicking', whatever he could find and lay his feet on.

This probably laid the very foundation of his life, or perhaps a manifestation of his pure, genuine love for it, that we saw what had become of him in the future - an iconic, unforgettable figure that touches almost every soul that came into contact with him.

Baggio loves soccer. Undeniably, he loved this sport with his whole heart, mind and life. As he fondly recalled, there would not a single day where he did not find something roundish to kick and play. That was how much he had fallen into it. In the many years ahead, he would realise that passion and love have a price to be paid. And the collectors of these 'prices' were nobody else but jealous, scheming coaches who went all the way out to hinder, obstruct and defeat him.

Yet, once and again, he stood up, withstanding the pain of knee injury that tormented and almost crippled him for over three decades, he fought with them head-on, never begrudging his life, never waning a single strand of conviction, and never wavering the slightest in his courage. In the world of money, fame, greed, devices, politics and selfishness, Roberto Baggio's character shines like a brilliant star in the starless, dark, gloomy sky. Anyone who has taken the care to lift up the head, raise the chin and breathe the air would inevitably find that shiny star burning brightly and fiercely, unperturbed by any clouds of pettiness the least, to the point of almost intending to burn up the last ounce of his energy to blaze and light up the paths of those suffered and defeated.

Baggio's heart is as such. Throughout his entire life in the Italian league, he has displayed to the world a true soccer player of the highest class. Not only did he played for gigantic, wealthy and powerful clubs, he was equally at ease in playing for small, unestablished clubs, only to show his superb qualities as a mighty warrior and leader more. However, no matter what honoraries endowed upon him, no matter what decorations given to him, and no matter what awards bestowed upon him, he had but only one wish - to help his beloved country lift up the World Cup trophy.

This and only this permeated his entire being, entire life. Never would he leave this dream, and pursue this dream did he! From a small humble beginning he went on to play in three of the most prominent clubs - Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. However, none of them had treasured him as much as his fans - the ever loyal Fiorentina fans who loved him dearly with their hearts. With their lives and his fused together, they painted a beautiful, touching canvas of 'player' and 'fans', lead actor and supporter, general and soldiers. They would support each other, encourage each other and brace forward with each other, together. It was a magnificently radiating piece of dazzling brilliance of loyalty, understanding and pure love.

Thus when Baggio was heard transferring to Juventus, the eternal arch-rival of Fiorentina, the city was erupted with flames of anger, leaving 50 Fiorentina fans injured. As he recalled in his autobiography, he had not wanted to leave Fiorentina, or at least not to Juventus. His agent had secretly formulated the contract, and he had no way to turn down that offer. Not at that time, not with his ability. There, he was left stranded, in the wilderness of loyalty and betrayal, support and mistrust, love and hatred. Bearing the pain of being mistrusted and called 'the Judas', he left for Juventus, only to be mistrusted by the Juventus fans there - in a match against Fiorentina, he had chosen not to take a penalty kick for Juventus. All the more did he enraged them when he picked up a Fiorentina scarf a fan had dropped to him while leaving the field. Torn in between the two clubs, he showed to the world what would genuinely make of a true soccer player - an almost steel-like determination for winning, but yet an immovable, humane side for beauty, loyalty and life.

Nevermind he is the first Italian who scored in three world cups; nevermind he being the Italian player who was awarded and praised by the Argentina soccer league twice; nevermind he being the one who almost single-handedly carried the Italian team right into the Finals; all it matters to him was to simply fulfill a childhood dream - to enter the World cup, and lift it up in the air. For all one cares, he is just out there to pursue something that has been flying in his mind like a kite since the day he knows about the world. No dreams are too bold for him, no aspiration to high, and no vision too grand. In his boundless heart of mightiness, the world is his stage of passion, love, victories and sorrows.

After all has been said and done, no one in this world could ever, ever be qualified to question his integrity, determination and conviction. In a world filled with craftiness and disgusting ugliness, his existence manifests a charming gracefulness and serenity, like his smile, like his skills. Indeed, he has shown to the world that right in the harsh, cold and unforgiving conditions of competitive sports, there lies life and humanism; right in the middle of the pitch where victories and defeats meant so much to so many, there is but friendship, dreams and beauty. Like a lotus flower blossoming ferociously in the muddy pond, his legacy illuminates fiercely like a shimmering star against a dark, stormy night sky. All in all, he has truly given his all to the world.

Thank you, Roby. Take care, and all the best to you, your family and life.


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