It was one of those nights where I just had that urge to be stubborn, how could there be a football game of such magnitude and I would not watch? GOD would surely have been upset if I did not catch that game live. I was in boarding school at the time and watching football games was a challenge though we were allowed to watch games that involved Nigeria. This particular period I am making reference to was when France hosted the World Cup (France ’98).
Nigeria had been eliminated in the 2nd round of the tournament but hey Nigeria was not the only team in the tournament. So I adopted Brazil after Nigeria lost 4-1 to Denmark that Sunday night in July. I had missed the quarter final game between Brazil and Denmark which Brazil won 3-2 so I was determined to watch the Brazilians take on the Netherlands no matter the time of the day the game was going to be played. The game was to kick-off just after our night prep at 9 pm and just when night devotion was to start. I knew technically I could catch just the first half if I was going to go by the rules of being in bed for Lights Out by 10 pm. I had to watch this game. I told a friend to come along and he said no citing that if we got caught we could get suspended. I told him I would rather be suspended for being caught watching football rather than anything else. My mum would not have been upset, as long as I was not sent home for stealing, fighting or the likes.
I had to go stand behind one of our teacher’s quarters to catch the game through the window.
I had seen the menace Ronaldo De Lima had become after been an unused substitute at the 1994 World Cup which held in U.S.A. The semi-final match-up starring Brazil and the Netherlands for me should have been the World Cup final and not Brazil versus France.
Claudio Tafferel (Goalkeeper), Aldair, Junior Baiano, Roberto Carlos, Ze Carlos (Defenders), Cesar Sampaio, Dunga, Leonardo, Rivaldo (Midfielders), Bebeto and Ronaldo (Strikers)
Coach: Mario Zagallo
Edwin Van Der Saar (Goalkeeper), Michael Reizeger, Jaap Stam, Frank De Boer (Defenders), Wim Jonk, Ronald De Boer, Phillip Cocu, Edgar Davids, Bolo Zenden (Midfielders), Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Kluivert (Strikers)
Coach: Guus Hiddink
I was looking forward to seeing the strikers of both teams. Ronaldo for Brazil and Patrick Kluivert for Netherlands. Growing up I believed if the top striker did not score in a game then that game was not interesting. Ronaldo and Kluivert did not disappoint me on this night because they both scored a goal apiece in this classic game that would forever be in my memory. Ronaldo drew first blood for Brazil scoring in the 46th minute of the game.
Patrick Kluivert equalized with 3 minutes left on the clock in regulation time.
Both goals were not your typical striker’s finish, there are words better than beautiful to describe the goals both forwards bagged on the night. I will not forget the last ditch clearance Edgar Davids made just when Ronaldo was about to shoot at goal before Kluivert’s equalizer.
The game went to extra time which I was seriously praying against because time was going. It dawned on me that the hostel would have been locked. How was I going to get in without being punished by the hostel prefect? Brazil eventually won the game via penalties after the extra time did not produce any more goals. I finished the game and went to the hostel and luckily for me some of my room mates were still awake. I begged one of them to help get the Hostel Prefect to help open the gate. I will just say I am sort of a likeable guy because I escaped the night unpunished.
Brazil went on to lose the final 3-0 to the host nation (France). It was reported that Ronaldo convulsed hours before the match and he was omitted from the first XI that was to face France in the final before things changed. He had a horrible game on that final night though he was named Player of the tournament. He came back stronger in the 2002 World Cup which was jointly hosted by South Korea and Japan, where he led the line for Brazil to win their 5th World Cup trophy. He weighed in with 8 goals and was top scorer in the 2002 World Cup. Ronaldo also known as El Fenomeno was also crowned best player in the World later that year.