Roberto Baggio was a pioneer of his footballing generation, who set the field alight whenever he set foot on it. The Divine Ponytail sat down on stage during the Festival dello Sport event in Trento to discuss his career.
Baggio started by stating, “When I was a kid, we used to play with a tennis ball and smash so many windows… What today’s kids are missing now is the joy of playing football anywhere, even in the street."
He continued, “The most important thing in the career of a football player is humility, because that way you are not afraid of defeats, because you already know how to get back on your feet in life,” (via Football Italia).
Baggio further said, “It was a dream for me just to wear the Vicenza shirt. I arrived at Fiorentina after a serious injury, so I didn’t play for two years and in the third, I still wasn’t fully recovered. The injuries were a nightmare. When I did play well, I felt that I was in debt to those fans who waited for me. A profound bond was created with the Fiorentina fans and I tried so hard to remain with the Viola, but everything had been decided for me. I just wish they’d been clearer.”
There were riots in the streets of Florence after news emerged Baggio had been sold to bitter rivals Juventus in 1990.
Speaking about the same, Baggio said, “There were three days of chaos, the fans did not accept the situation and I felt guilty at being the cause of all this, even if I was the last to blame. I always said the truth, but what really happened only emerged after 20 years.”
Italy reached the 1994 World Cup Final, even with an open conflict between the player and Italy boss Arrigo Sacchi, right until he missed a penalty in the shoot-out of the final.
Revealing what he feels about his famous penalty miss, Baggio said, “I have never fired a penalty over the bar in my life, only that one time. It wasn’t the last spot-kick, but it was the coup de grace. Many times before going to sleep, that moment still appears in my mind."
He continued, “As a child, I dreamed of playing a World Cup Final between Italy and Brazil. The only thing I didn’t dream was that it could end with me missing a penalty."
Talking about how he feels regarding the miss and not being given a chance at redemption, Baggio concluded, “I would’ve given anything to make up for the 1994 tournament. In 2002, I had hope, but was left at home. Perhaps I might seem arrogant, but I believe that I deserved to be called up for that World Cup, even if some had doubts on my fitness. I deserved to be there and football owed it to me. Perhaps that too is why I stepped away from the sport.” confessed Baggio, choking back tears.