Scifo: Cherish every second
"Prepare properly", "Make the most of it" and "Have no regrets". These are the messages sent by former Belgium star Vincenzo 'Enzo' Scifo to the 42 players eligible for the Gillette Best Young Player Award at Germany 2006.
Scifo, considered by many to be the Best Young Player at Mexico 86, was just 20 when he set the world alight during football's showpiece event. The son of a Sicilian miner who had emigrated to Belgium, Scifo had scored 432 goals at schoolboy level before joining his first club, Anderlecht.
There he scored 135 goals in three seasons with the youth teams and made his debut in August 1983 against Barcelona. It was in that match when his prodigious talent came to the fore and that game acted as the starting point of a memorable interview with FIFAworldcup.com.
Read about the Gillette Best Young Player Award
FIFAworldcup.com: Enzo, do you remember that in your first match for Anderlecht you nutmegged Diego Maradona on two separate occasions?
Enzo Scifo: Of course I do! It was my first-ever professional match. We played Barcelona, so it was fantastic opposition. It was a dream come true but I am sure that for Diego it was a bit of a nightmare! I have seen him a few times in the past few years. I'm happy to see that he is looking a lot better now and I hope his health problems are in the past.
Do you think that when you were young other players were jealous of your skill?
I don't think they were jealous, but I do think a lot of people were jealous that they could not do the same. I think when I first came into the senior dressing room, a lot of my team-mates wanted me to work hard, keep my head down and not do anything too spectacular. However, despite the fact that I had never played a professional match, there was a lot of interest in me. The crowd were cheering my name before kick-off, which was amazing.
What was that like?
I was walking on air! I was training with the first team from the age of 15, so it was a bit of a frustrating wait for me to make my debut. I was itching to play so when I finally made my professional debut, I was in paradise. I had achieved my life's ambition.
People consider you to have been the Best Young Player at Mexico 86. So, what advice can you give to young players at Germany 2006?
When you play in your first World Cup, you never know if it will be your last. So, you have to be mentally prepared. You can't afford to have any regrets. You also have to dedicate your life to the four weeks of the tournament. Playing in the World Cup is an inspirational experience and one that you should cherish every second.
Read a profile of Enzo Scifo
I remember watching World Cups as a youngster and like any other aspiring footballer, it was my ambition to play in one. So then I made a promise to myself. If I had the chance to play in a World Cup, I would make the most of it. I would keep my feet on the ground and remain humble, but most of all grasp the opportunity. By the time my career finished, I had played in four different World Cups. I was lucky.
What did you learn from your first FIFA World Cup?
That it goes very quickly! (laughs). In many ways it represent a microcosm of your career. You experience highs and lows and like your career, it goes very quickly. One minute, you're stepping off the plane in the host country and the next you are on your way home. In 1986, we began very badly. We lost our first match against Mexico, won our second against Iraq and drew our final match against Paraguay. In the end, we qualified for the Round of 16 by chance, as one of the best third-placed teams. After that, we defeated the USSR 4-3 in an exceptional match and played Spain in the quarter-finals.
Look back on Mexico 86
We beat Spain on penalties in the quarter-finals and that was a dream match for me. I played very well and it was one of those games where everything went right. We were defeated by Argentina in the semi-final, Diego got his revenge on me for nutmegging him twice at Anderlecht, as he scored twice in the semi-finals. Then we lost to France in the match for third place. However, those defeats could not dampen my spirits it was one of the best months of my life.
Apart from the Spain match, what is your favourite memory of the FIFA World Cup?
In Italy in 1990, I think the Belgium team I played in during that tournament will go down as the most talented group of players to have represented the country. We lost to England in the final minutes of extra time in the round of 16, when we had been the better side throughout the game. However, we were hoping that the game would go to penalties, because we were very tired. Maybe we lost concentration for a second, maybe we were unlucky, but that's football.
Belgium's achievement in reaching the every finals of the FIFA World Cup between 1982 and 2002 was remarkable, wasn't it?
It was astonishing, particularly when you consider that Belgium is such a small country. We had good individual players, but we also played as a team. That is absolutely crucial, particularly in a World Cup. When a young player joins an international squad for the first time, I don't think that they have the same fighting spirit as their more experienced team-mates. They have to learn from them.
And finally, who do you think will be crowned world champions on 9 July?
It's very difficult to say. I have a feeling that it will be France. I don't really know why I'm tipping them, but I just have a feeling. I think Italy and Holland will do well too.