Considering it happened over 33 years ago, it is difficult to imagine young football fans fully being able to comprehend the tale of the man who made Brazil cry. However, when one makes history by shocking the world, he transcends time.
“The strongest memory [I have] is the stadium in the final game overcrowded by Italians’ flags,” Paolo Rossi told me. “It’s like a picture printed in my mind.”
Rossi was in Toronto promoting Italian Football Heroes , an event taking place at Ricoh Coliseum next March.
However, as soon as I brought out the picture, it quickly became the topic of conversation.
It is, of course, the aftermath of the 1982 World Cup final, when Italy brushed aside West Germany to become world champions for a third time. An event that occurred six years before this writer was even born. Although, much like Rossi, I too have a picture of July 11th, 1982, forever etched in my memory.
Chances are that if you walked into an Italian household in Toronto, you would find this picture of St. Clair Street in 1982 hanging somewhere on the wall. It was taken just minutes after referee Arnaldo Cezar Coelho blew the final whistle an ocean away at the Santiago Bernabeu.
“I remember it very well, because I have this picture at home,” Rossi said through a translator. “Someone who joined this celebration gave me the picture as a gift. It is really important because it is the concrete demonstration of the historical meaning of that victory. Especially here for the Italian community abroad and what it really meant.”
It is estimated that over 300,000 Italians flooded the streets to show their pride.
Whenever my father – who had emigrated to Toronto 13 years prior – is asked to recall the day, his face still lights up. It is a common reaction from most who were on hand to witness the occasion.
“This was probably the first World Cup with a global dimension, in 1982. That crowd on the street was not forced to be there. That’s true enthusiasm.”
True enthusiasm indeed.