The Greatest Goal Ever Scored?

Forty-four years ago, me, my Dad, around twelve of his mates, and the neighbours of our top-floor tenement flat crouched around a small television set in our living room and watched the greatest goal ever scored. Before, since and forever more.

My entrepreneurial father had swapped our budgie and its cage for a loan of the TV in order to watch the 1970 World Cup Final between Brazil and Italy. He hated the bird and an opportunity to get rid of it as part of a bizarre pre-Bosman style transfer deal was too good to miss. It was called Joey – the budgie, not the telly – and his failed attempts to get it to talk were the justification for its permanent ‘early bath’.
I missed Joey; well for about the first five minutes of a match apparently being played in some footballing technicolor Oz.

But I’m typically digressing. In a match which has become synonymous with the pinnacle of what football can achieve, that fourth goal is now routinely considered to be the best ever scored. Like most in our living room that day, I didn’t appreciate that then. I was too young. Half a lifetime later though, here’s the three reasons why it is…and none of them actually involve Carlos Alberto.

01: Clodoaldo’s dribble.
Naysayers might now contest that when that last goal was scored, Italy were on their knees. However consider the context of the part that started the whole move. When I was younger, I considered myself to be pretty good at football. A potential contender, scraping layers of skin on the blaes in the west of Scotland admittedly, but I still thought I could make it. I had no chance. I made it as far as Amateur level with a ridiculously brief possibility of lower level Junior status. I was miles away from succeeding at that standard, and that is even more miles away from the Scottish lower leagues, which in turn is light years away from the upper levels of our national game, and the tiny, tiny percentage of players who make it to this level are still highly unlikely to get capped. Even by Scotland; a country with players by some considerable distance short of the level required to play for Italy, and an Italy good enough to reach a World Cup Final in another hemisphere. Can you see where I’m going with this?
Almost without touching the ball at all, Clodoaldo – a centre half, remember – made four Italian internationals look like four versions of me. Think about that, the next time you watch Bilel Mohsni.

02: The ball
As it made its way effortlessly up the touchline propelled by Rivelino’s left foot, direct to Jairzinho’s right, glinting like a diamond in the sun, that ball seemed to know its destiny. It seemed to appreciate the iconic status that it was about to achieve. It was Elvis’s pelvis, Lennon’s smirk and Johnny Rotten’s sneer all wrapped up in a spherical leather ‘fuck you, I’m brilliant!’ Every ball since has wanted to be that ball…and has failed miserably. This year, we’re going to have something that looks like the result of an open-air colouring-in contest at Butlin’s for four year-olds, which got abandoned halfway through due to torrential rain.
Every football should look like the one which flicked the V’s to an entire stadium that day in 1970.

03: Pele’s nonchalance
Taking his cue from the attitude of the ball, the stand-out player in a team of footballing geniuses casually rolled it into the path of the eventual goalscorer as if he was playing against that same group of toddlers who designed the ball for Brazil 2014. Watch him again…and again…and then again. His body shape is perfect; all poise and effortless balance. His part in the move is the bit that I love most. He’s like Muhammad Ali dropping George Foreman in Zaire and knowing; just knowing that he didn’t need that final punch. Arrogantly brilliant.

It’s the greatest goal ever scored. It’s a work of art as memorable as Guernica. If you disagree with me, you’re simply wrong and I feel so sorry for you.

(Follow the entire World Cup competition on Twitter with the brilliant @ByTheMinSport team. It starts on Thursday 12th June @ByThe MinWC2014)  

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