My First Heartbreak: 1990 World Cup Final

This is an entry in Fangirlish’s What Sports Mean To Me series, where our writers discuss memorable sports moments and how sports have impacted their lives.

We all have that one moment, the one where we knew. This certainty applies to many things in life, but in sports, in particular, there’s an instant where you just know. A moment where you become a sports fan.

Now, of course, liking one sport doesn’t mean liking all, but most sports fans appreciate, well, sports, even if they have their favorites. And for everyone, it starts a different way. This is how it started for me.

Futbol, or what is commonly known in the United States as soccer, was my first love. My parents were big fans, and my father, in particular, was the kind to not just watch the game, but the post-game analysis, read the newspapers, the magazines and whatever else was available.

And this was in the days before around-the-clock sports coverage.

This all brings me to the point of this editorial, my first game. Except, since I started watching futbol so little, I can’t really say if it was my first game, but it is, at least, the first one I remember clearly. Not because I was watching it live – World Cup tickets are notoriously hard to get, and I was way too young, but because it’s the first one I remember feeling.

It might even apply as my first heartbreak, as well.

The year was 1990, and the World Cup final was Germany-Argentina. In my house, for as long as I remembered, we rooted for Argentina. I don’t think in my young age I even thought to ask why, I just knew that we would cheer for the albiceleste against everyone. Those were the rules.

In fact, those are still the rules, which probably explains why my heart has been broken so many times it’s almost like I’m used to heartbreak now.

But back to the game. Argentina, led by Diego Maradona, arguably one of the best players to ever play the game, and coming off a win in the last Word Cup, was the favorite. They’d played an up and down tournament, and had been saved by the miraculous hands of their goalkeeper, Sergio Goycochea, more than once. They just needed one more miracle to crown themselves champions once again, and cement Maradona’s status as one of the best.

They wouldn’t get it. In one of the most controversial Word Cup finals in memory, Germany got a penalty kick awarded on a dubious play, and won by 1-0.

My heart was broken.

I cried myself to sleep that night, not the last night I would cry myself to sleep over an adverse sports result, but the first time I truly realized the power of the whole thing, for good and bad. Later, I would cry over baseball, NFL, tennis, and various Olympics results, because I’ve never known how to care less than what I currently do, but to this day, every time I do, I remember those first tears.

And I don’t regret them, not really.

My dad, and Argentina, taught me that there’s a great community in sports, and a great sense of belonging that can only be found in rooting for the same thing. And yes, la albiceleste might have broken my heart countless times, and they still continue to do so to this day, but even without real wins to their name, they’ve also brought me incommensurable joy, because their triumphs and defeats are so intertwined to the memory of my father, who is no longer with me.

I cried that night, the first of many, and I have cried many more times because of them. But not all tears are bad, and not all defeats are either. And sure, I would love for them to win one of these days, but I’m not about to quit just because they haven’t.

My dad taught me better. He taught me you stick it out, through bad times, super bad times, and whatever else Argentina wants to throw my way.

(Are the good times coming anytime soon? Asking for me)



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