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World Football

Forever in our thoughts and hearts

Trainer Enzo Bearzot
© Foto-net

With just hours now left before it comes to an end, 2010 is certain to be remembered as a year packed with emotions. There was joy in spades as the beautiful game roused the passions for which it is renowned, but there was also much sadness for all the members of the football family who left us in the last 12 months. As the curtain falls on a FIFA World Cup™ year, pays homage to the players, coaches and football fanatics who passed away in 2010.

The surest method of leaving your stamp on the game is to hoist the coveted FIFA World Cup Trophy aloft, which is precisely what Italy coach Enzo Bearzot managed at Spain 1982 as he steered La Nazionale to their third global crown. There was much more to Bearzot than that title, though, and he will long be remembered for his charisma, innovative ideas and steadfast principles. Criticised back home after Italy’s unconvincing performances in the first group stage, he kept faith in Paolo Rossi and used all his motivational skills to spur the striker on to become the tournament’s highest scorer. “He was like a father to me and I owe him everything,” said Rossi after learning of Bearzot’s death on 21 December.

The victors tend to take all the plaudits after a FIFA World Cup Final, but every showpiece requires a runner-up. Argentina were the first side to finish second best when they lost to hosts Uruguay at the inaugural edition in 1930, and Francisco Varallo was the last survivor of that historic encounter. The former forward turned 100 in February and he passed away on 30 August still lamenting the result, despite the proud place he occupies in the pantheon of Argentinian football. “I achieved a lot of great things in my career,” he told in one of his last interviews. “I defended my country’s colours and set a goalscoring record for Boca Juniors, but I never felt a pain that stung as much as that World Cup Final. I still haven’t got over it to this day.”

He was like a father to me and I owe him everything.

Uruguay subjected Brazil to similar dismay 20 years later as they won their second world title at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. Celeste defender Juan Carlos Gonzalez was one of a trio of surviving protagonists from that game, along with Alcides Ghiggia and Anibal Paz, and as such all three were accorded Distinguished Citizen status by the city of Montevideo in 2007. Only two now remain since Gonzalez’s death on 15 February, but the entire team will live on in the annals of the sport.

Though his career had yet to begin when the Maracanazo broke Brazilian hearts in 1950, Orlando Pecanha helped A Seleção bounce back to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy for the first time just eight years later. A member of the side that first revealed a certain Pele to the world on Swedish soil, Orlando – who left us on 10 February – is rightly considered one of the finest defenders Brazil ever produced.

The list of former internationals who died in 2010 is sadly long and also contains the name of Federico Vairo, a River Plate legend in the 1950s and winner of the Copa America with Argentina in 1955 and 1957 before he passed away at the age of 80. Sure to be missed as well are midfielder Ralph Coates (64), who won four caps for England and helped Tottenham Hotspur win the 1971/72 UEFA Cup, and Spain’s Luis Molowny (84), who spent 11 seasons with Real Madrid in the 1940s and 1950s before serving Europe’s most titled outfit as a coach and sporting director.

The year was marked by a number of tragic incidents too, such as the earthquake which devastated Haiti in January and took the life of Jean-Yves Labaze, the coach who earned the country their first ever ticket to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2007. As for the CAF African Cup of Nations, before a ball had even been kicked the tournament was rocked by an attack on the Togolese team bus which resulted in the deaths of the Sparrowhawks’ assistant coach Amelete Abalo and press officer Stanislas Ocloo. In Kenya, meanwhile, eight spectators lost their lives at the Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi during a league meeting between Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards in October.

He was a great football fan and supported this beautiful game with genuine enthusiasm.

In addition, the football world bade farewell to former UEFA and FIFA vice-president Sandor Barcs of Hungary at the age of 97. And there was similarly widespread mourning when Juan Antonio Samaranch died at 89, the Spaniard having made women’s football an Olympic discipline in 1996 during his 21 years presiding over the International Olympic Committee. “I met Juan Antonio when I started to work for FIFA, over 35 years ago,” commented FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter upon learning of the Barcelona native’s death. “I can vouch for the fact that he was a great football fan and supported this beautiful game with genuine enthusiasm. What we will remember most of all will be his great sense of commitment, his courage and his desire to safeguard sport and its values and to make it a universal virtue.”

This list is far from exhaustive, of course, and the international football family would like to use to pay its respects to every member who passed away in 2010. They will forever remain in our hearts.