JOHANNESBURG – In our build-up to the Fifa World Cup, our soccer writers will recall their best and worst moments ahead of the June 14 kickoff in Russia.
Here, Njabulo Ngidi provides us with his special memories…
1 Favourite World Cup: 2002
The 1998 World Cup in France was the first one I watched from start to finish because this bastard called age couldn’t let me be great and witness the magic of Socrates, Johan Cruyff and Roger Milla. But I did witness another magician in the 2002 World Cup, Ronaldo – ‘El Fenomeno’.
The Brazilian striker was amazing. Senegal produced one of the most remarkable stories by stunning the world champions France.
2 Least Favourite World Cup: 2010
From a football point of view, the 2010 World Cup is the most boring I have watched. You know a tournament is bad when the most memorable moment is of a flying kick that went unpunished in the final. South Africa put on a good show and the atmosphere created in the stadiums hid the dull football that was on display.
There were a handful of matches that offered value for money.
3 The Most Outrageous Thing I ever saw in a World Cup: Ronaldo’s haircut
Ronaldo looked like he lost a bet with a friend and the punishment was sporting the ugliest haircut imaginable. The Brazilian striker’s goals in the 2002 World Cup drop jaws for the right reasons.
His haircut, leaving a patch of hair on the front and shaving the other part of his head, dropped jaws for the wrong reasons. Ronaldo made Taribo West look sensible when it came to the haircut department.
4 All-time Favourite World Cup Goal: Esteban Cambiasso
Esteban Cambiasso is not the name that pops up when you think of the greatest World Cup goals. That slot is reserved for the Diego Maradonas and Dennis Bergkamps of this world. But the Argentine central midfielder scored one of the most unforgettable goals in the 2006 World Cup.
With Juan Riquelme as the conductor, Argentina hypnotised Serbia and Montenegro with 26 passes before Cambiasso scored with a good finish, drilling the ball into the top corner.
5 All-time Worst Miss at a World Cup: Yakubu Aiyegbeni
This will probably go down as one of the worst misses of all time. And it’s by a striker.
Nigeria’s Yakubu was in a perfect position to finish a well-worked moved against South Korea in the 2010 World Cup at Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Yakubu, in the small box, missed an exquisitely played cross in an area where it was harder to miss than to score. Yakubu did the unthinkable and somehow managed to pay the ball wide.
6 All-time Favourite World Cup Save: Luis Suarez
Before I mention this, let me declare that I am a proud African who has a soft spot for Ghana as it’s the country I went to in my first sporting international assignment. But Luis Suarez handball against the Black Stars is one of the most brilliant pieces of defending you will see.
Suarez was rightfully sent off and Ghana were awarded a penalty.
Asamoah Gyan missed it and that “save” had a hand in Uruguay advancing to the semifinals.
7 All-time Favourite World Cup Goal Celebration: Bebeto
In the hood, the bicycle kick is named after Bebeto because of the stunning goal he scored in Bafana Bafana’s memorable 3-2 loss to Brazil in 1996.
Two years before that goal, in the 1994 World Cup in the United States of America, Bebeto produced one of the most memorable moments in the World Cup history.
After scoring against Netherlands he cradled an imaginary baby as an ode to his pregnant wife who was expecting their son.
8 All-time Favourite Quote: Maradona
“The goal was scored a little bit by the hand of God, another bit by the head of Maradona.” – Diego Maradona on the infamous Hand of God.
9 All-time Favourite Coach: Jomo Sono
Jomo Sono was Bafana Bafana’s fireman, swooping in after yet another coach had been fired to douse the flames. He almost retained the Africa Cup of Nations during those “fireman” stints, guiding Bafana to a second place finish in the 1998 Afcon.
But his biggest “achievement” was leading Bafana to their first win in the World Cup in 2002.
If it wasn’t for a late Raul goal, he would have even taken the side to the last-16 for the first time.@NJABULON