Why did it have to end like this, I will never know. Perhaps, it was destiny; the all-powerful fate which nobody apart from the Almighty can control. He was supposed to bow out with a smile, but he was in tears instead – apologising for a mistake which wasn’t made by him.
It was under the snow that this youngster made his debut against Russia in a World Cup qualifier game. It is perhaps a strange coincidence that he played his very last in a qualifier while trying to make a place in the World Cup in Russia.
Gianluigi Buffon stood tall like a frost giant in the snow and made some fantastic saves for Italy to give them an all-important one-all draw that day in 1997. It was the onset of a journey so beautiful that viewers are still spellbound due to its mesmeric qualities.
Seasons changed, many springs came and went, many flowers blossomed only to wither out in the winter, time just kept flowing like the river Nile, but Buffon stood constant among everything. Be that save against Paraguay that earned him the nickname of Superman or his fantastic reflex save of Filippo Inzaghi against Milan – Buffon was always there when his team needed him.
Iker Casillas, who is rated among the most celebrated goalkeepers of all time, is an avid fan of Buffon and has always claimed that the Italian is the best goalkeeper he has seen in his lifetime. For someone who himself was at the peak of the footballing world at his best, his words are the highest compliment for the Italy captain.
Witnessing the Juventus captain weeping and apologising to the fans for failing to qualify for the World Cup was heart-breaking for every member of the football fraternity. If anybody owes an apology to someone, it is the cruel fate to Buffon.
It is fate that reduced a legend to wail like a little kid and deny him the chance of playing in his last World Cup in the Azzurri colours. Buffon deserved better, but it was a failure on fate’s part to provide him with that.
Seeing him like that reminded me of Iker Casillas in his final press conference at the Bernabeu as a Real Madrid player. He was all alone with the journalists and broke down in the middle of the talk as not a single fan came to wave him a last goodbye.
We must have done a lot of sins in our life to see tears of sadness in the eyes of our legends. Perhaps, we have. Probably, it is just a fruit of our sins.
Oh, Gigi, don’t you cry! You have done enough for your country; now it is time to rest and let someone else take the burden from you. It is not you who misses next year’s World Cup; it is the tournament in Russia that is now damned and will lack the radiance without you in it.
So long, Gigi. May you live forever – and you will because you are immortal emperor of the Azzurri.