Home > Football (soccer) > The first soccer game that made me cry

The first soccer game that made me cry

The first soccer game I cried over wasn’t one I was playing in. It’s somehow different when you are in the game. Different emotions are involved. When you are playing, you are more engaged in the battle. And if the game is close, as a player you never give up hope. But if you are watching a game, involved as a spectator, you are trapped. Your emotions rise and fall with every missed opportunity, close call, and bad referee decision. It’s a completely different experience, and it can twist you into knots, sometimes making you unable to watch what happens next.

The 1986 World Cup was the first World Cup I watched. My brother and I were insatiable. For the opening rounds, our family was in Canada for the 1986 World Fair in Vancouver, but we couldn’t be bothered.

Mom and Dad “We are going to see the Expo now, c’mon boys”
My brother and I “Aw, but Spain is about to play Denmark!”

I seriously think my father was considering throwing the hotel TV out the window.

I had grown up listening to Alan Fountain commentate the TV show Soccer Made in Germany. This show would broadcast 50 minutes of a 90 minute match, with 10 minutes of “this is how life is in Germany” to round out the hour. While other kids were following the Dallas Cowboys, I followed teams like Schalke 04, 1. FC Köln, and Borussia Mönchengladbach. Sure I followed the NFL too – I am an American after all – but since I actually played soccer, it was somehow better. And since I have ancestors of Prussian extraction, plus the TV show, I grew up a fan of Germany’s national soccer team. Now I could have chosen to follow my long-lost relatives from Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Denmark, England, or Sweden – but there were no shows called “soccer made in Switzerland” that I knew of. I knew the German players from watching them each week, and so the die was cast.

The 1986 World Cup Final was West Germany vs. Argentina. For the record, Argentina won, and I think Toni Schumacher (Germany’s goalkeeper) forgot to eat his Wheaties that day. He couldn’t save a goal to save his life, and he was at fault for at least one of the goals, maybe more. His performance that day still makes me angry.

(Getty Images)

By early second half, Argentina was winning 2-0, and it appeared they were going to easily win. Argentina was bossing the game, and had taken advantage of Schumacher’s mistakes to build their lead. At this point I was bummed, but tears were not even on the horizon. If it’s not a close game, and no tragedy or near miss had befallen your team yet, there’s no chance of tears.

By the time the Final was played, we had returned from Canada. My family was sharing a Sunday dinner at my Grandmother’s with other relatives. I’m not sure how many of them had heard of the World Cup, but my brother and I risked the wrath of our Mother to skip dinner and go to the cramped TV room to watch the Final. Then – finally! – Germany scored their first goal, late in the 2nd half. I let out an extra loud WAHOO! Aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, and parents filtered into the tiny room. Could Germany complete the comeback and tie the game? We all held our collective breath as Germany poured forward, looking for the equalizer. Only 6 minutes later, they had done it! Germany had scored the equalizing goal! We were jumping, hugging, hollering, and yahooing as if we were actually from Munich. Just one more goal and the comeback would be complete!

You know how sometimes you get so wrapped up in what you are doing that you forget about other people around you? Maybe you are so into a project that you don’t hear that it’s time for dinner, or you are reading a great book and can’t hear your daughter crying in the other room? I think that’s what happened to Germany. They were so interested in going forward in search of goals that they forgot about Diego Maradona, the best player in the tournament.

Well, there was one more goal all right, but it was for Argentina. The little wizard beat 5 German players with one pass, and took advantage of Schumacher’s horrible day yet again. The game ended. The trophy was lifted by Argentina.

Now, if Argentina had just won 2-0, or even 3-0, I would have been fine. No tears. We all would have made our way back to the roast beef and mashed potatoes muttering things like “well that’s too bad”, or “it just wasn’t Germany’s day.”

But the fact that Germany had come back from the dead, and scored two goals to tie the game with 10 minutes left, somehow changed the equation. I was full of hope. The sun was brighter. I wasn’t hungry. Maybe, just maybe, my Saturday afternoon heroes like Klaus Allofs, Olaf Thon, and Lothar Matthäus could win the trophy and become the best team in the world.

1986 W Germany Team (Getty Images)

Everyone left, and I sat there, alone in the TV room at my Grandparents’ house. I cried. I admit it was a little embarrassing, but I couldn’t help it. I had witnessed the effort, the urgency, the frustration all play out in 100+ degree heat with no time-outs, no huddles, no coaching strategy sessions to call a final play. Just 11 men working together as a team, carrying the hopes and dreams of their entire country. And witnessing their struggle – it drew me in.

That’s why I love the World Cup. There is EVERYTHING to play for. Personal Pride. National Pride. Sporting Glory, Sporting History, and Sporting Immortality
. It is the greatest sporting event of the greatest sport in the world, watched by more people than any other event on earth. It might take a game or two to warm up, or it might explode from the beginning. If you watch the games, you will be drawn in. But be careful. You may laugh. You may exult. Your team may become Champions of the World. But you also may shed a tear or two.

And after all these years, Congrats to Argentina. There, I said it.

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  1. David V
    May 28, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Go Greece. The burrito wagon guy out front of work has a drawing for a free burrito and I pulled Greece. I think I have a chance…

  2. May 28, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Heh heh heh… I’m not sure you have much of a chance this year. But we’ll see, you never know! Stranger things have happened.

  3. Duan W
    May 28, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    So, this was the perfect post to read late in the evening on Tuesday when I got home for the day … had to smile 🙂

    Thanks for some humor, a bit at your own expense. 🙂 Your passion for soccer comes through clearly 🙂

    • May 28, 2010 at 2:29 pm

      Cool! Thanks man. Have a good day.

  4. David V
    May 28, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    C’mon man where’s the love, there’s a burrito on the line

  5. June 16, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Very enjoyable read I remember the first time I cried watching a game and it was when Ireland got cheated out by France in November, I just wrote about the game today and it brought back some back memories…great blog!

    • June 16, 2010 at 12:10 pm

      Yeah that was a bad bit of luck for Ireland. I booed Henry when he took the pitch against Uruguay. I was hoping more people would say something about him and that particular bit of cheating. I wish Ireland were at the world cup — some of the best fans in the world and they could beat a ton of teams that are there.

      • June 17, 2010 at 11:15 am

        I know I’d say South Africa were gutted because a ton of fans and maybe myself would have travelled over and the amount of drink the Irish would have been staggering!

  6. Andrew M
    July 7, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Good read, thanks for the memories. I can’t say I’ve cried much as a result of a football match, as much as I love the sport more than any other by a long stretch and have played and watched it for as long as I can remember. Perhaps this is the case because Scotland (where my Dad is from) has never been much of a force, especially not in my lifetime, and the US (where my Mum is from) I never associated with football and had no connection with.

    But when Morocco (the land of my birth) humiliated Scotland 3-0 at France ’98 to send them out of the cup, I went up to my bedroom and shed a few tears in private…

    • February 8, 2011 at 11:08 pm

      Whew, that’s a tough one Andrew. Thanks for sharing!

  7. TagHeuer
    February 6, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    I am glad someone else in the world remembers Soccer Made in Germany. When I reminisce about the show, no one has a clue about the show. Also, diego’s “goal” was clearly a handball volley into the net.

    • February 8, 2011 at 11:10 pm

      Yeah man!! Soccer made in Germany rocked. Did you see it with Toby Charles as well as Alan Fountain? And yeah, Diego cheated on that goal.

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