Throughout its history football has caused many tears to be shed. Yet it is not just the fans who weep when their team wins or loses. Many are the players and coaches who have let it all hang out by crying in public.
Who can forget, for example, Roberto Baggio’s tears of sadness after missing the penalty that decided the Final at USA 1994, or those of Romario when pleading with Luiz Felipe Scolari for a place in the Brazil squad at Korea/Japan 2002? An equally memorable sight was provided by an emotional Pep Guardiola celebrating the six trophies amassed by his Barcelona side last year.
As FIFA.com reveals, that illustrious trio are far from the only bawlers whose tears of elation and dejection have added to the passion and drama of the world’s most popular game.
It’s a heartache
Famed for their stiff upper lip, even the English have been known to break down and cry at events on the football pitch, no one more famously than the inimitable Paul Gascoigne. After being booked during his side’s Italy 1990 semi-final against Germany, Gazza reacted by sobbing uncontrollably, capturing the hearts of an enthralled nation.
“When I was a kid I used to dream about playing in the World Cup one day,” he would later say. “I was living that dream in Italy, but when I got that yellow card I knew that the dream was over. I just didn’t know how to stop crying that night.”
Gascoigne was not the only England player to burst into tears that warm evening in Naples. After missing his shootout kick to allow the Germans to take their place in the Final, renowned hard man Stuart Pearce, nicknamed Psycho for his fearsome tackling, was also wiping his eyes. A seasoned penalty taker, Pearce also had good reason to shed a tear or two in the very last match of his career. Stepping up to take another spot-kick, he contrived to miss it despite having been assured by opposing keeper Dave Beasant that he would make no attempt to save it.
Compatriot Ryan Shawcross was choking back the tears earlier this year after inadvertently breaking the leg of Arsenal’s young Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey. Dismissed for his vigorous tackle, the imposing Stoke City defender was crying as his left the pitch and would have taken little consolation when he was called up to Fabio Capello’s England squad later in the day.
A member of Germany’s victorious Italy 1990 side, Andreas Brehme converted the penalty that give his country a 1-0 win over Argentina in the Final. Always a cool head from 12 yards, the full-back could not contain himself when, in 1996, his beloved Kaiserslautern were relegated from the Bundesliga. Falling into the arms of his friend Rudi Voller, Brehme had the nation reaching for the tissues when he started sobbing his eyes out. To add insult to injury, Brehme and Co lost the German Cup final a week later.
Fellow countryman Carsten Jancker was an emotional wreck after Manchester United’s unbelievable comeback in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final against Bayern Munich. Stunned by United’s two injury-time goals, the Bayern beanpole simply lay on the ground and wept at the injustice of it all.
Stop crying your heart out
David Beckham has experienced many highs and lows during his eventful England career, scoring vital goals and picking up untimely injuries and even more untimely red cards. Reduced to tears after being subbed against Portugal in England’s quarter-final defeat at Germany 2006, Becks had been hoping for one last tilt at the FIFA World Cup™. The England legend endured yet more heartache in February, however, rupturing an Achilles tendon on Serie A duty with AC Milan, an injury sufficiently serious to end his hopes of going to South Africa.
“He was crying in the dressing room,” said team-mate Ignazio Abate afterwards. “He didn’t say a whole lot and it’s affected us all.”
Cristiano Ronaldo, a successor of Beckham’s at Manchester United, is another player who does not believe in keeping it all in. The Portuguese flyer reacted tearfully to his country’s shock defeat to Greece in the final of UEFA EURO 2004, to their semi-final elimination at the hands of France at Germany 2006, and to Manchester United’s loss to Arsenal in the 2005 FA Cup final. There were tears of another kind, however, when he celebrated United’s Champions League win in 2008.
“It wasn’t easy leaving Lisbon at the age of 11,” the emotional star once commented. “I used to cry every day even though I enjoyed the experience. I learned a lot, especially how to deal with pressure. I still cry from time to time, sometimes out of joy, and sometimes out of sadness when we lose.”
Big John Terry turned on the waterworks when England were knocked out of UEFA EURO 2004 by the Portuguese and has experienced nothing but tears of frustration in the UEFA Champions League over the years. The centre-half wept when Liverpool ousted his Chelsea side in the 2005 semi-final and broke down again after hitting his spot-kick against a post in the 2008 final shootout against Manchester United.
“I’m not ashamed to cry,” he later admitted. “It’s a trophy I’ve desperately wanted to win for years now and I couldn’t control my reaction. Everyone knows I’m a very sensitive person.”
That semi-final loss to Liverpool had Terry’s then Chelsea team-mate William Gallas sobbing too. After moving to Arsenal, the French defender was at it again after Gael Clichy gave away a penalty in February 2008 league meeting with Birmingham City. Indeed, Gallas acquired such a reputation for showing his emotions that English bookmakers started offering customers odds on whether he would burst into tears during a game.
“I cried. I’ve cried a lot during my career but these tears were the sweetest. They were sublime.” The words are not those of Gallas but of another famous sobber, the one and only Diego Maradona, who thus described his feelings on winning the 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico™. Four years later, El Diez would be shedding tears of an altogether more bitter kind after Germany gained revenge in the Final at Italy 1990.
All cried out
There are some players, however, who are reluctant to weep and wail in public, among them Basile Boli. A tearful loser with Olympique Marseille in the 1991 European Cup final against Crvena Zvezda, the centre-half was determined to keep his composure after scoring the goal that eventually won l’OM the trophy against AC Milan two years later. “This time I’m not crying,” he said defiantly. “No more tears! No more tears!”
In a similar vein, there is an old Chinese proverb that says “A hero never cries”. It is a saying that Fan Zhiyi, the former captain of the China PR team, adhered to back in October 2001, when his side qualified for the FIFA World Cup finals for the first time after beating Oman 1-0. Rather than show the world his feelings, the ex-Crystal Palace defender wrapped himself up in the national flag and took off for the dressing room, where he had a good little cry to himself in private.
Fittingly, we end our look at the game’s great blubberers with Pele. The Brazilian icon was only 17 when he won his first FIFA World Cup winners medal at Sweden 1958. Embraced by Didi, Gilmar and Orlando after helping the South Americans to an emotional triumph, the lachrymose legend no doubt spared a thought for his father, who, eight years earlier, had broken down in despair when Uruguay dashed Brazil’s dreams by pulling off their infamous Maracanazo win.
That particular story had a happy ending, with his richly talented son making a compelling contribution to Brazil’s long-awaited maiden world finals triumph, proof, as the French author and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir once wrote, that “In every tear there is hope”.