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Leggenda di Addio – The Meteoric Rise And Influence Of Italy’s Finest Gianluigi Buffon


Leggenda di Addio – The Meteoric Rise And Influence Of Italy’s Finest Gianluigi Buffon

Football is a game of many emotions. It is very common for fans to feel passion, frustration and exultation in a matter of moments and that is what establishes such a deeply special connection between the fans and the teams. More often than not, it becomes a feeling itself and calling it a mere ‘sport’ seems like an injustice. It is natural to experience all these emotions for your own team or club but very rarely comes a player who makes every single person watching feel these varying emotions even if they support different teams.

Gianluigi Buffon is one of those rare footballers who transcend the barriers of passion among the fans. One might be a fan of Germany, England, Brazil or even Nigeria and yet every single person silently shed tears when the legendary Italian cried after Sweden beat Italy in the World Cup qualifier recently.

When Buffon first joined the Parma youth system back in 1991 at the age of 13, little did he know that he would go on to have such a profound impact on scores of fans across the world. He steadily rose through the ranks and became everybody’s favourite owing to his sensational saves and goalkeeping skills which saw him earn several accolades and awards over the years.

Quite fatefully, Buffon’s long tryst with Italian football began and ended in a World Cup playoff. In 1997, Italy’s then-goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca was injured and Cesare Maldini turned to the young Buffon to act as a back-up. From then on, he never looked back as he slowly made cameo appearances and became a substitute, following which he developed into Italy’s number one goalkeeper and eventually went on to become the captain.

Buffon’s time with Juventus, too, has been nothing short of extraordinary. A new chapter in Serie-A was born when Juventus overtook Italian giants AC Milan and Inter Milan to dominate the league – and that is a trend which continues to date. Over his time with the club, Buffon picked up 8 Serie-A titles which in itself is quite an accomplishment.

Last season when Juventus lost to Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final, it was a rather sombre state of affairs as the Italian sensation had to bow out from lifting the elusive European honour. Even though the stadium erupted in joy for Real Madrid, there was a note of poignancy as Buffon fought hard to hold back tears. However, there is one Champions League memory that no one can take from him – and that is when he won the UEFA Player of The Year Award, making him the only goalkeeper to do so.

An exemplary player on every level, Buffon did not deserve to lose the coveted trophy. He did not deserve to not qualify for the World Cup next year. And yet, like the man’s own words, football is a game where the team equally divides the credit as well as the blame.

The thought of being the first player ever to represent a country in 6 World Cups does sound remarkable and yet Buffon had to watch his dream vanish once the fateful final goal was scored. For a lot of players, this could be a make-or-break career-defining moment. However, when it comes to Buffon, it is a true testament to his greatness that this takes nothing away from what he has achieved for Italy. They might have missed out on qualifying to the World Cup for the first time in 60 years but it is likely to take that much time for the world to see another Gigi Buffon.

His list of achievements can go on but what makes Buffon so loved is his wisdom and maturity. Even at a moment of such a huge loss, the goalkeeper spoke about how the loss will affect the Italian economy and how he hopes the future generations do not get disheartened from this loss.

Buffon’s international retirement will come as a disappointment to many fans. At club level, he continues to be excellent for Juventus but he will hang up his gloves for good at the end of this season unless Juventus win the Champions League.

For a player whose career spanned two decades, winning the World Cup once in 2006 may not seem like that much of an accomplishment. But this just goes to show how one’s excellence on the field is not the only thing that matters in football. Humility, kindness, a sense of maturity and unadulterated passion – these are what truly shape a footballer and Buffon has all of this in abundance.

Players like Francesco Totti, Kaka, Pele, Andres Iniesta and Andrea Pirlo belong to a rare breed who scripted history in their own individual ways – and yet they are widely appreciated among all sets of fans. Buffon has etched his name on that list for years to come with his supremely sublime touch and that smile which can light up a room.

Right now, we are living in fiercely competitive times. The choice of your football club can either make or break your relationship with many around you. In a world where the population is divided into Cristiano Ronaldo fans and Lionel Messi fans, it is truly heartwarming to see a player like Buffon who kept doing what he does best until the very end – uniting people.

When it comes to recovering from this setback, Italy have a long way to go. There are a lot of issues that need to be ironed out on an internal level. While scores of fans were dejected at the prospect of not qualifying, the image of everybody’s beloved Gigi Buffon singing the national anthem with all his passion will forever be in the minds and hearts of every football lover.