I Heart the Nineties
The chances are Messi, Suarez, and Neymar will become the greatest forward-line the game will ever see, it’s unlikely the 2005 Champions League final will ever be bettered for drama, and Spain’s reign at the summit of the international scene will be talked about by footy hipsters whose parents aren’t yet born. But it all leaves me numb. Football peaked in 1998.
To people of a certain age (my age as it happens) the 90s were the zenith of football. I’m aware that when most people reach 32, they’re inclined to begin the tedious hark back to their self proclaimed ‘good ol’ days’, or a ‘simpler time’, but nevertheless, I’m right aren’t I?
As boss as it is being able to follow the entirety of world football on the internet; you can keep up with teams you’ve fallen for abroad, even watch them play live at 3am on your Bet 365 account, or order their third shorts off their website - over-saturation is killing the charm that got me hooked in the first place.
In the 90s, foreign players still held an air of mystery, yet there was enough exposure for you to want more. Through tournaments, late night highlight programmes, and hearsay from your mates, you got only part of the picture. Filling in the blanks only strengthened your perception of their ability. You were never truly sure if someone actually was worldclass, but their boots were en pointe, they had the weirdest haircut you’d ever seen, and someone once showed you a tape of a 30 yard volley they scored. To be a superstar in the 90s you just had to answer ‘yes’ to at least one of the following:
Have you scored against Man United in the Champions League?
Have you ever had a banging World Cup or Euros?
Are you a monster on Championship Manager?
Elvir Bolic. Yordan Letchkov. Iulian Filipescu.
Who’s arsed about Xavi, with his every stat at your fingertips, if you used to watch VHS recordings of the same three Gheorghe Hagi goals on repeat. I dreamt about him the other day, it was like an acid flashback from some hedonistic lost youth.
Without Sky, all you had was the Champions League on ITV, Italian footy on Channel 4, and Match magazine. In hindsight there is probably little more boring than waking up every Saturday and sticking Gazzetta Football Italia on to watch three hours of perfectly executed Catenaccio, but that’s what we were into. Not a day goes by that I don’t mourn its passing. I think of James Richardson as the favourite uncle who moved away. Sure, I get to hear his voice over a podcast, but when I was a kid he used to take me to the best cafes in Italy.
Occasionally you’d go round to a mate’s to watch Sky, like I did the time I punched a ceiling light getting a little bit carried away with Romario’s equaliser against Italy which sealed Le Tournoi for England (the only tournament I’ll probably ever see them win)
If I didn’t have my mum taping some World Football magazine programme in the early hours of the morning, I’d never have found out how much Tino Asprilla loves stepping horses and shooting shotguns into the air. I reckon Falcao could take it or leave it.
Players had more personality, less money was at risk, they weren’t media-coached, and they did nuts things like Scorpion Kicks, or karate kicking people in the crowd. Kevin Keegan lost his mind live on air, even king bore Alan Shearer had his whole England squad slipping song titles into TV interviews during France 98. Tame I grant you, but how many song titles do you reckon Theo Walcott even knows.
The kits were better too. Baggy yes, but better all the same. Some of the Adidas kits for the up-coming Euros are great, but nowadays it’s either Adidas, Nike, or Puma, and they usually stick to a template. Templates existed in the 90s yes, but it felt like there was more creative freedom. Goalie kits (and goalies) were insane. Remember Newcastle’s with the Tyne Bridge against a sunset? Less commercialism too, Real Madrid were supplied by Kelme, for a time the only Nike kits I really knew were Arsenal and Italy, and they were boss.
So weren’t the 90s great. If you missed it, gutted - Google these: Gabriel Batistuta, Nike Tiempo, MLS shootouts, Georgi Kinkladze, Fiorentina swastika kit, Shaka Hislop, Hristo Stoichkov, Umbro Speciali, Giuseppe Signori penalties, Pro Set, Saeed Owairan goal, Nike advert 1996, Ireland vs Mexico USA 94, Spice Boys, Davor Suker, Maine Road, Walter Boyd, Jose Luis Chilavert, Matt Le Tissier, England vs Netherlands Euro 96, Paul Merson celebration, Paul Gascoigne celebration, Middlesbrough 96/97, Diego Maradona Greece, Nayim, Paulo Maldini eyes, Attilio Lombado hair, Zvonomir Boban kick.
Tell me I’m wrong.