The World Cup has been the stage for some of the world’s most famous players to make their mark on the beautiful game and, as Pele, Davor Suker, Frank LeBeouf and others tell Eyes On Events’s Stan Collymore, the memories are as fresh as ever.
With the World Cup in Russia close to its conclusion and the famous trophy heading to either Paris or Zagreb on Sunday evening, some of the tournament’s most famous figures tell Eyes On Events’s Collymore about the impact it had on their lives and their professional careers.
Pele, arguably the most famous name in the history of football, made his mark at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden as a 17-year-old. Nowadays in this ever-connected world of social media, word of Sunday’s final will travel quickly but no so in Pele’s day. As he tells Collymore, he had to find a phone to inform his father that his Brazil side had defeated the hosts.
“It was very important to me. I was 17 years old, my first World Cup. It opened the door to the world for me,” Pele says of winning the famous trophy for the first time.
Dutch striker Patrick Kluivert, a member of the Netherlands’ 2002 squad, remembers Dennis Bergkamp’s famous strike against Argentina in the round of 16 at the Japan/South Korea hosted tournament.
“The first touch was amazing,” Kluivert says of Bergkamp’s iconic goal.
“He managed to control the ball unbelievably well. I think the second touch he came inside and with the outside of his right foot… When that ball left his foot I was like, ‘wow!’ It banged right in the net and I was like, ‘What happened? What happened now? All of a sudden, an explosion. We won 2-1 against Argentina. The feeling is amazing. You can see the replay, everybody went crazy.”
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Davor Suker, the top scorer in the 1998 World Cup, was central to Croatia’s run to the semi-finals in France. His goalscoring prowess lit up the Croats’ first ever World Cup campaign and, as he tells Collymore, provided confidence to the rest of the team.
“When I came to 1998 I just worked hard [at the] World Cup,” Suker says.
“When I scored my first goal, the dream [is] coming but it is more important [that] when I score six goals, my team is confident. Everyone said ‘Give the ball up front, he will score’.
Frank Lebeouf, who played in France’s 3-0 1998 World Cup Final win against Brazil in place of suspended team captain Laurent Blanc says that memories of that fateful night in Paris are still fresh for him, as well as for every football fan throughout the country.
“It took me three or four years, or maybe at the end of my career, before I realise I became a World Cup player. In France every day there is someone who says ‘Thank you very much for the World Cup’ for the last twenty years.”