25 years ago round about now, Diego Maradona brutalized the England Soccer team with his two goals in the Qtr final of the World Cup. One a thing of beauty (seen by many as the greatest goal of all time) and the other a thing of controversy (Volleyball in the Olympics never looked this good). Diego went on to win the World Cup (and set himself up as possibly the GOAT), whilst I was inspired to follow a career in sports.
Whilst it is tough to pinpoint when the fires started burning (I had already played Soccer / Rugby / Cricket / Boxing and Hockey, and was a Stats geek from the age of dot) for a future career in sports - looking back, I think the World Cup of 1986 sealed it for me.
My first experience of time zones (was not a big traveller back in the day - times change!), the sheer exuberance of the country (both Argentina - 115k in the stadium - and England - the 4 yearly cycle of ‘we might win this’), the hype, the camaraderie with my school mates - I loved it.... We watched England stumble and almost fall, then turn their tournament around in Gary Lineker’s finest moment which set them on the road to greater feats four years later.
Yes, there have been greater moments of personal excitement (David Platt’s goal vs Belgium, and West Ham’s various/fleeting bright sparks) but my love of soccer (pitching to a US and UK audience here) began back in 86.
When I look at the various key moments from around that time that inspired me and drove me to chase a dream of working in sport - two others stand out -
Ben Johnson’s 9.79 seconds in the Olympic FInal ’88 (on the biggest stage of all - just look at the next 4/5 in the race all in a line meters back #brilliance #ruinedlater) was stunning at the time. Mike Tyson’s skyrocket of a career that I thought would never end, but did in 1990, that I followed almost from the off.
For those that love sports - it is a tough feeling to beat - the thrill of sporting excellence. My own passion is stirred by greatness, by legacy, by dominance, by being the best, by creating a team that lasts forever (or at least a pretty long time!) - which is why some of my favourite moments (Maradona / Tyson / Johsnon) relate to (later exposed as ) flawed characters who at the time were gobsmackingly great to watch.
Even now, after 12+ years of working in sports has diluted my passion (with the need to look for commercial rights management, spectator experience, facility demands etc), the sports that excite me are where history is on the line. Do something that someone has never done before, keep the title for 26 defences - you know the drill.
And when I hit the desk and do my day job - it is these memories, and the drive to develop success of my own (a legacy, greatness, long-lasting growth) - that push me to work harder, smarter, faster, stronger!!
And that - on this Friday afternoon - is that. Great to hear if you have any special memories of your own - enjoy your weekend.....