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Roberto Rivelino 


     Born in Sao Paulo, Roberto Rivelino made his name famous world wide with his viscous cannon-like free-kicks, long range shooting and dribbling skills. One particularly famous move of his, called the elastic dribble, is still imitated today. It consists of running your foot over the top of the ball, making it appear before going in another direction. He scored many times with this move often leaving his opponents open-mouthed and wrong footed in his wake.

     Rivelino was 24 at the time of the World Cup in Mexico. The Brazilian winning team of 1970 is regarded by many as the best soccerteam ever and it displayed some of the finest soccer ever seen with Rivelino as one of the best players. He scored three great goals including a trademark thunderous free-kick against Czechoslovakia in their first match. Four years later in West Germany, the Brazilians lacked the flair of 1970, and failed to shine thus had to settle for fourth place. Rivelino was one of few Brazilians to play up to the required level. In 1978, he was kept on the bench for most of the time. Young players like Zico waited in line to take over from the man with the moustache. Rivelino was approaching the end of his great career, but showed in a few flashes what he was capable of doing. He was instrumental when Brazil came from behind to beat Italy in the bronzematch.

     Rivelino was one of the greatest offensive midfielders in the world in his prime and spent most of his career in Corinthians. However, despite staying there for ten seasons, Rivelino failed to win the domestic Sao Paulo championship. His fans appreciated his loyalty and nicknamed him Reizinho do Parque (Little King of the Park). He had a three year spell with Fluminense before going to El Helal in Saudi Arabia towards the end to make some extra money. He retired in 1981 and is today a respected TV commentator in Brazil. 



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I wasn’t sure whether Roberto Rivelino was ‘forgotten’.

However I reckoned that both my sons would have said ‘Who ?’ if I’d asked them if they’d heard of him.

Both are in their mid 20s.

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09/11/2017 by CHARLIE CARMICHAEL  


This article was first published in the Brazil issue of These Football Times magazine. Support our journalism by ordering a copy for yourself, as a gift to someone, or for your workplace. 

How does one define what makes a truly great goalscorer? The knack of finishing an array of chances with unerring quality? The combination of sublime technique with innate, predatory movement? Or perhaps the ability to produce moments of magic in the most high-profile of situations? If any, or indeed all, of the above are used to adjudicate such a title, then Brazil’s Romário must be at the forefront of any debate.

Much like many of South America’s brightest stars, Romário de Souza Faria’s story starts in poverty. Born in 1966, he began life in Jacarezinho, Rio de Janeiro’s second-biggest favela. His father, Edevair, was desperate for his son to prosper beyond the borders of the urban municipality and was overwhelmingly enthused when the youngster began to develop an aptitude for the game he held dear.

Romário joined boyhood side Olaria aged 13 and immediately attracted attention. Despite his small stature, the budding striker used his low centre of gravity and stocky legs to his advantage, exploding past opposition players before they could get their bearings. Having mastered close control from playing 30-a-side games in the concrete jungle to honing a plethora of skills on the white sandy beaches, the Brazilian was a defender’s worst nightmare.

Surprisingly, then, rejection came two years later, when, after trials with regional giants Vasco da Gama, a dismissive coach deemed the adolescent too small to make it in the professional game. Such a knock-back could have de-railed many prospective talents, but not Romário’s. Decades later, he would brashly retell how it only fuelled his ambitions to chase his dream. “Find a prick to slag you off and motivate yourself with this challenge.” Romário went on to net four times past Vasco in a youth game, before they duly reconsidered and signed him in 1981. 

Having come from little means, it was clear Romário was enjoying his elevated social profile. His sensational talent was bound with a love for the anarchic and it was evident from an early age that both would play a significant role in shaping his career.


The striker was embroiled in controversy at the 1985 World Youth Championship when caught urinating off his hotel balcony in Moscow, and he was consequently sent home in disgrace. Three years later, the boy now nicknamed Baixinho(Shorty) due to his diminutive five foot five inch frame would shine for Brazil at the 1988 Olympics, scoring seven times en route to the final. The tournament proved that having Romário at his dizzying best was well worth tolerating his mischievous worst, and those breathtaking displays earned him a big break, securing a transatlantic move to Dutch club PSV. 

De Rood-Witten, and indeed the Netherlands, were at the peak of their powers. Manager Guus Hiddink had helped to secure the Eindhoven club an illustrious treble whilst the Oranje had stormed to victory at Euro 88. Romário became a luminary, being one of the first Brazilians to make such a high-profile European move and it wasn’t long before he brought his homeland’s carnival atmosphere to the Netherlands, both figuratively and literally.

“He’s the most interesting player I’ve managed so far. If I was a bit nervous ahead of a big game, he’d say, ‘Take it easy, coach, I’m going to score and we’re going to win.’ What’s incredible is that eight out of 10 times, he was right.” Even Hiddink was mesmerised by the mercurial talent. In Romário’s first campaign, he scored 19 Eredivisie goals and helped PSV retain their domestic title. 

With his on-pitch party in full swing, it was only natural that the Rio native brought Eindhoven to life at night as well. His house parties were infamous and the striker embodied a wonderfully laid back, carefree lifestyle. He even had sand delivered to his house to lay in his garden, helping it feel more homely. Looking out of his window, the landscape of the low country may not have brought him the same joy as seeing the waves crash up against the Copacabana, but it was good enough for Romário to dismiss feelings of homesickness and focus on football. 

And focus he did; four further seasons brought with them two more Eredivisie titles and an astounding 127 goals in 142 appearances. Baixinho’s main weapon of choice was the simple yet deadly toe-poke. Bursting clear of the defence, he exuded sub-zero composure, as if ice coursed through his veins, to finish with great aplomb time after time, prodding or dinking the ball past one helpless keeper after the next.

As Romário’s stock skyrocketed, so too did his ego. “When I was born, the man in the sky pointed to me and said, ‘That’s the guy.’” Such bold declarations of self-indulgence are rarely warmly received and often deter the game’s behemoths, but such was the virtuoso’s invaluable genius, when Barcelona came calling, it was a surprise to no one.

Johan Cruyff was building a dynasty in Spain and in Romário, modern football’s godfather had his crowning jewel. Enjoying Catalonia’s luxurious offerings was a far cry from the austerity of Jacarezinho, yet Romário had never been defined by his surroundings. Instead, he created environments, as opposed to ever being a product of one. 

Regrettably, his spell lasted little over a season due to systematic disagreements with Cruyff about how he should conduct himself and train. Not that it made any difference to his performances on the pitch during this time, though. Indeed, over the course of 18 months he scored 39 times – including a sensational hat-trick in El Clásico – and made the league title his own.

The Champions League was no different. His devastating partnership with HristoStoichkov was a sight to behold as the duo danced circles around their opponents, making world-class defenders look distinctively ordinary. Alas, the cherry on the cake was not to be as the Blaugrana were thwarted in the 1994 final by Fabio Capellos regimented AC Milan. Such was the audacity and swagger of Barcelona, many accused them of simply coming to Athens expecting to collect the trophy, rather than compete for it.

Perhaps the best anecdote of all though is a moment recalled by Cruyff himself. Romário had asked his manager whether he could have some time off training to go to the Rio Carnival. “Laughing, I replied: ‘If you score two goals tomorrow.’ The next day Romário scored his second goal 20 minutes into the game and immediately gestured to me asking to leave. He told me, ‘Coach, my plane leaves in an hour!’ I had no choice but to let him go.” 

The summer of ’94 would mark Romário’s apex. Now firmly established in the national team as what Brazilians call a craque – star player – watching him maraud around the field during the World Cup was nothing short of awe-inspiring. He opened the scoring in their crucial 3-2 quarter-final victory against the Netherlands and held his nerve from the penalty spot in the final against Italy. The maestro’s artistry ostensibly knew no bounds as he helped Brazil to their fourth world title and subsequently collected FIFA’s World Player of the Year award.

His exploits had propelled him into footballing folklore. However, to Brazilians, he represented so much more than just a global superstar. Romário was one of them, a man of the people. He had lived the dream every boy went to bed thinking of in Jacarezinho and had done so with the playful gusto of the party-boy he’d always been, fusing divine and normality to cement his demigod status. 

Back in Barcelona, Cruyff’s indoctrination of his squad may have been seamless for the most part but winning over his prize asset ultimately proved futile. Such an extravagant lifestyle didn’t sit well with the disciplinarian and with that, the striker returned home. Flamengo were the grateful beneficiaries, although it would take two spells at Valencia before the Mengão would truly harness his greatness.

The years 1998 and 1999 yielded an extraordinary 81-goal haul and showcased to the world a Baixinho still every bit as potent as he was throughout his European venture. He also made up one half of the iconic Ro-Ro partnership. A fresh-faced Ronaldo was the youth to Romário’s experience, forging a lethal bond on the field as the pair led Brazil to victory in the 1997 Copa América and qualified for the 1998 World Cup in France.

A muscular injury robbed Romário of a second World Cup, although he rejected claims he was not fit enough for selection in what was, unbeknownst to the striker at the time, his last chance to shine on football’s grandest stage. 

Four more years passed by, which included a much-celebrated return home to Vasco and yet more raucous partying. It was hard to tell who feared him more, the fathers of daughters in their 20s or defences across Brazil, and as his life continued swimmingly, so too did his goal tally. Ageing like a fine wine, Romário left defences dumbfounded by trickery and speed of movement in the box. Much like Picasso with painting or Hendrix on guitar, Romário had truly mastered his art.

By the time the 2002 World Cup rolled around, national interest in the Brazilian’s involvement at the tournament was at bursting point. Rather than adding fuel to the fire, though, manager Luiz Felipe Scolari provided the pin that burst the player’s hopes, stating his omission from the squad was down to “tactical and technical reasons”.

The 34-year-old was to be denied a swansong, much to the anger of his nation. A campaign started – which was even championed by Brazil’s president at the time, Fernando Henrique Cardoso – for Scolari to reconsider, but it was to no avail. The player begrudgingly accepted the coach’s decision before becoming overwhelmed with emotion at the support he had received. The love spoke to the impression he had left on Brazilians.

The denouement of Romário’s football career – he’s now a politician – saw him become somewhat of a nomadic journeyman. Highlights included winning his third Brasileirão Série A top-scorer award aged 39, helping Miami FC reach their first ever USL-1 playoffs, and, of course, scoring his 1,000th career goal for his beloved Vasco. That landmark, however, is disputed due to the striker including youth and non-competitive matches in his tally, but what is not up for debate is Romário’s eternal legacy.

Described by Cruyff as “the best player he’s ever coached” and “a genius in the penalty area”, there can be no doubt that he left behind a colossal imprint on the global game. Occasionally conceited, often outspoken, and consistently majestic, Romário remains to this day one of the game’s finest ever marksmen. He was a trailblazer for future Brazilian exports and conquered the world with a naturally infectious character – and those preternatural feet.

By Charlie Carmichael @CharlieJC93

Edited by erskblue
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03/01/2019 by MATT GAULT  
Peter Schmeichel often produced not only brilliant reactions with his saves but brilliant reactions to goals he could not save. He was a great animator between the sticks for Manchester United, and perhaps one of his most memorable came at the Camp Nou in the midst of the club’s historic treble season.

Schmeichel, who had been typically brilliant for United, found himself undone by one moment of magic. The towering Dane was an expert reader of the game, anticipating what strikers were attempting to pull off in trying to better him. He often came out on top. On this occasion, he had no answer.

Sergi drifted seamlessly in from the left, lifting a cross into the penalty area. Watching on with helpless eyes, the United defenders witnessed a moment of masterful improvisation. It came from the one and only Rivaldo. Cushioning the ball on his chest, Rivaldo sensed Jaap Stam closing in and knew he needed to strike swiftly. Producing a spectacular overhead kick, Rivaldo found the bottom corner, leaving Schmeichel shaking his head with his hands on his hip.

Indeed, it may not be an obvious candidate but one of the most thrilling parts of Manchester United’s ‘The Treble’ video is the cameo of Rivaldo. Any United fan with a VHS player owned that video – and most will remember being blown away time and time again by the unstoppable Brazilian attacker who shone during the second 3-3 draw between the two sides in the Champions League group of death.

It was a game that shook Europe, an unapologetic 90 minutes of sheer attacking abandon; from the deadly Sonny Anderson, who struck with less than a minute on the clock to erupt the Camp Nou, to the unanswerable combination of Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men.

Their frighteningly productive striking partnership came full telepathic circle that night, but they were still outdone by Barcelona’s magician-in-chief. He tormented United’s defenders with his powerful running and dazzling tricks. Not only did he contribute with two goals – he always contributed it seemed – the Brazilian should have notched a glorious match-winning assist when he stopped the ball and executed a perfectly timed back-heel into the path of Giovanni, who was denied by the onrushing Schmeichel. He was able to save United on that occasion, but Rivaldo had once again expertly unlocked United’s defence.

On the night, Rivaldo was audacious, elusive and simply a joy to behold. He combined the balletic with the ferocious, from smooth Cruyff turns to ripping 30-yard shots that rattled the crossbar, and forced everyone inside the stadium into a sharp intake of breath. At the time, he was on top of the world. He had an unquenchable penchant for the ridiculous, the obscene and yet possessed with it a propensity to stain his reputation.


Rivaldo was a typical star – he was brash, arrogant and, to a fault, would do anything to get his team ahead. He was a premium box office blockbuster entity, who conjured controversy as he did adoration. At the 2002 World Cup, Rivaldo’s performances were blackened by his moment of cheating against Turkey while representing Brazil. Rivaldo dallied over to take a corner.

Frustrated by Brazil’s controversial penalty, scored of course by the Barcelona in the 87th minute, Hakan Ünsal struck the ball in his direction. It hit Rivaldo’s leg and he reacted by collapsing to the ground clutching his face his comic agony. The Korean referee was clearly out of his depth and overwhelmed by the response of the Brazil players and sent Unsal off. Rivaldo was named the man of the match. Such is life.

“I was glad to see the red card. Creative players must be able to express themselves if football is to stay a beautiful game. There’s too much foul play and violence in football. It doesn’t matter where the ball hit me. It was only the intent that mattered.” His comments after the match didn’t help his case: clearly Rivaldo knew he had duped the referee. 

He had fabricated a sense of pain in order to get Ünsal dismissed and succeeded. His actions were in direct contradiction to the FIFA Fair Play Charter signed by every single player at the competition, which stated: “The top players have a responsibility as role models for young people taking up the game.”

When it came to making friends, Rivaldo was like a prototype for Luis Suárez, but when it came to playing football, which is what he should be judged on, he was special. Rivaldo was often unloved by Barcelona fans and vilified by his Brazilian compatriots, but he should always be regarded as a genius and an artist with the ball. The greatest talents can sometimes fall from grace. Zinedine Zidane will perhaps always be the reason France didn’t win the World Cup in 2006 after that Marco Materazzi head-butt, but he is still deified for his superhuman abilities. Rivaldo should be held in the same estimation.

Rivaldo exploded onto the global football scene after a troubled early childhood in poverty with Deportivo La Coruña, scoring 21 goals in 41 games and inevitably prompting a frenzied race for his signature. Sir Bobby Robson had seen him up close and opted to sign him for Barcelona, ahead of Steve McManaman.

It was for the esteemed Catalan club Rivaldo produced the most captivating and ingenious moments of his career. He came with the promise of goals and duly delivered, scoring 19 in 34 appearances in his debut season, helping Barça to a LaLiga and Copa del Rey double. He continued to dazzle for the club, functioning as the electrifying creative outlet in a team packed with natural talent. The following season he surpassed his own impressive haul with 24 league goals before being crowned both Ballon d’Or winner and FIFA World Player of the Year.


He was untouchable at his best but, amazingly, his success continued to adversely impact his already strained relationship with the Brazil fans. Rivaldo had been responsible for the Seleção being eliminated from the 1996 Olympics when his careless backpass led to Nigeria’s goal. He also missed a gilt-edged chance on that fateful day in Atlanta and it led to him being portrayed as a mercenary and a villain by his own supporters. Brazil were knocked out in humiliation and Rivaldo wasn’t selected for the third-place playoff game. 

It was a dark day for the superstar, who considered quitting international football altogether after the abuse and jeers reached destructive levels of intensity. It was difficult to stomach for Rivaldo, who, although displaying an unquenchable thirst for the extravagant on the pitch, was understated and introvert off it. He was the Ugly Duckling of Brazilian football whereas Ronaldo was the golden boy, the hero and the icon.

Rivaldo’s attempts to angle his way back into their good books was problematic. He had starred in Brazil’s Copa América triumph in 1999 but, strangely, the better he played for Barcelona the more it impacted his image back home. The Brazil fans believed Rivaldo saved his best for Barcelona and were embittered by it. Rivaldo always felt the criticism was unjust, but used it as motivation to overcome his doubters. 

He should have felt the greatest sense of pride and fulfilment playing for his country, but Rivaldo would often reflect on feeling sad. When asked about the abuse from the fans, he refused to merely brush off the questions and perpetuate a positive response in the typical footballer-robotic trained mode.

As a young boy, Rivaldo dreamed of playing for Brazil, but turning out in the famous yellow transpired to be some of the most tortured and lonely instances of his career. They jeered him when he misplaced a pass, they jeered him when he spurned an opportunity, and they even jeered him when he scored. If John Barneswas the first left-footed genius to be heckled by his nation’s fans, Rivaldo was certainly the second.

He scored eight times during Brazil’s 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign but his smiles were superficial. Inside he was a broken man. When Rivaldo returned back to his home country, he anticipated it with dread. There was a theory that Rivaldo didn’t like to travel and, after long flights back to South America, he was a pale shadow of the unstoppable force that screamed up down the left wing of the Camp Nou. Regardless, the heckling didn’t help.

Although his intelligence in possession cannot be disputed, Rivaldo was never the brightest. He lacked the charisma of a Cristiano Ronaldo or David Beckham, a personality shortcoming that restricted him from becoming a global icon. He was never particularly interested in making friends and his relationship with the newspapers and media in Spain was stale. The modern footballing climate could not merely accept the Rivaldo who talked with his feet. They could not idolise his thrilling talent because he would never win a popularity contest.


Tiger Woods was never the most loved golfer on tour, but he was idolised and admired around the world because he revolutionised the sport and single-handedly caused TV ratings to soar from 1996 onwards. Rivaldo entered a sport that had already seen buccaneering figures like Diego Maradona and simply couldn’t play the ‘other’ game; the game that required a footballer to be a relatable personality.

Nevertheless, we can look back on his time with Barcelona in awe. Rob Smyth once wrote for the Guardian that, “A team of 11 Zidanes would kill you time and time again, but a team of 10 Nevilles and a Rivaldo could on occasion do the same”. His absolute sledgehammer of a left foot was the most lethal attacking weapon in world football at the turn of the millennium, an emphatic answer to the right foot of Gabriel Batistuta. He had a remorseless brilliance that more than made up for his sullen, joyless off-field image.

The greats are separated from their contemporaries by an innate quality that enables them to conjure up moments of mastery when they’re needed most. Zidane crashed that volley in against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League final, Maradona single-handedly led England’s defence on a merry chase in the World Cup quarter-final and Rivaldo can genuinely lay claim to scoring the greatest hat-trick ever seen in a performance for Barcelona against Valencia that deserves its own cinematic adaptation.

It had been a miserable campaign for Barcelona. Louis van Gaal, who resigned after a fractious relationship with Rivaldo, left Lorenzo Serra Ferrer with the unenviable task of restoring the club’s powerhouse status in Spain. He failed and was duly sacked after overseeing an early Champions League exit, with Barcelona languishing precariously in fifth in the table, facing the indignant prospect of missing out on the top four altogether.

Carles Rexach stepped in but there was no great turnaround and the club sat fifth going into the final round of fixtures. Their opponents for the final game were Valencia, the club who were three points ahead in fourth place. Los Che were fancied to defeat Barça and arrived with a bevvy of international talent including Pablo Aimar, Kily González and Roberto Ayala. It was against Valencia that Rivaldo reminded everyone why he deserves a place in football’s pantheon of greats. Never had his left-foot been more devastating than in netting an astounding treble.

His first was a trademark free-kick, swerving elegantly to open the scoring. It wasn’t enough – Rubén Baraja equalised for the visitors. Valencia only needed a draw, Barcelona needed more from Rivaldo, and they got it. He responded by unleashing an unstoppable 25-yard thunderbolt that brought the Camp Nou to their feet in thunderous acclaim. Refusing to lie down, Baraja scored again. You could hear a pin drop. Rivaldo, wearing that familiar morose expression, wasn’t prepared to be outdone. With 90 seconds to go, Barcelona were crying out for their hero, who delivered an overwhelming response.


Read  |  The great Rivaldo hat-trick of 2001

Rivaldo signed off with his masterpiece. It was his Citizen Kane moment. A goal of stunning creation and execution that deserves to be called one of the greatest the game has ever seen. Frank de Boer spotted Rivaldo in half a yard of space on the edge of the Valencia penalty area. The Dutchman lifted a delicious chipped pass in his direction. 

In truth, Rivaldo had controlled the ball on his chest in a manner that could easily be construed as clumsy. It bounced high into the air, a move that would render a chance gone for most players. But, of course, Rivaldo wasn’t most players. Fifteen years later it still beggars belief, but Rivaldo had the audacity and confidence in his own technique to launch his body into the most brilliant overhead kick, firing the ball precisely into the bottom corner beyond the despairing dive of Santiago Cañizares.

The coaching staff had spilt out onto the pitch in a frenzy, with some choosing to look to the sky in disbelief at what they had just witnessed. It didn’t need years to become regarded as a masterpiece, it was instantly acknowledged. Rivaldo whipped off his shirt and was quickly ambushed by his astonished teammates. The goals were brilliant, yes, but the magnitude of the game elevated this performance into something otherworldly.

Rivaldo, so often maligned and disparaged by his own supporters, was hailed as the saviour. It was a straight shootout to reach the Champions League and Rivaldo had produced the most deliriously implausible performance. The Brazilian had long been something of an unhappy Nou Camper but had now reached a career zenith. He was never going to let the dark mutterings of disquiet that followed his every move affect him.

Rivaldo had already progressed through a difficult childhood in the northern region of Paulista in Brazil. His family’s income was low and he helped by selling drinks and sweets on the beach. Then, when he was 15, his father was run over and killed. His life fell apart but he never distanced himself from his passion of playing football. He walked 10 miles each day to training. It hardened him. It prepared him. It served him well.

Following that Valencia game, Rivaldo said: “What happened tonight has been incredible. I dedicate the winning goal to all the players who have fought so hard all season and all the supporters who have suffered so much. I’m delighted to have made them happy with my goals.”

Those words appeared to hold a particular emotional resonance to them. Rivaldo had made the supporters happy with his goals but those same supporters had also made him feel accepted and valued, when so often it was the opposite. Rivaldo – the outsider, the mercenary, the problem child. Not anymore. His status was instantly catapulted to that of a Catalan king. Rivaldo had been through a lot, professionally and personally, yet to emerged the other side with 90,000 on their feet chanting his name and toasting his genius long into the night.

He scored 36 goals in all competitions that season and although he would savour every single one, the bicycle kick against Valencia was his crowning achievement and that moment of affinity with the fans he had been searching for since staring into the abyss of self-doubt back in 1996.

However, Vn Gaal came back to haunt him. Rivaldo was released in 2002, just a year after the Valencia game, and his career was plunged into darkness. He washed up at AC Milan. Suffice to say, it didn’t pan out for him in Serie A. It can be a bruising and unforgiving league, and when Rivaldo was left on the bench for the entirety of a game at Ancona, he realised Italy was not going to serve up redemption.

Rivaldo had been forced to watch on at Old Trafford as Milan triumphed in the Champions League against Juventus at Old Trafford, a pitch he had so gloriously graced just four seasons previously. Following his departure from Milan, he seriously entertained the idea of playing in the Premier League. Although United had long coveted his services, he was now 31 and supposedly declining, but still with something to prove.

He came close to signing for Bolton in what would have been one of the transfer stories of the 21st century. Rivaldo came within a pen’s length of following the likes of Iván Campo, Youri Djorkaeff and Jay-Jay Okocha to the Reebok Stadium, and although Sam Allardyce made a good impression on the Brazilian, he ultimately opted to join Olympiacos. From there, Rivaldo drifted from club to club and eventually retired at the age of 43. That is deceptive, though. His peak lasted no more than five years, but they were exhilarating.

Ultimately, Rivaldo will always be revered and reviled in equal measure. He achieved greatness but it came with heavy burdens. His mistakes were magnified. His career had the impression of a misfit and a maverick, whose indiscretions were as emphasised as his genius. When Zidane head-butted Materazzi, he became a national hero in France, but when Rivaldo similarly let his guard down against Turkey, he was lambasted relentlessly.

Zidane is often perceived to have won the World Cup for France single-handedly in 1998, but if you dig a little deeper, you will find that his performances as a whole were not as brilliant in that tournament as you might presume. Rivaldo let himself down in 2002, yes, but he also propelled his country to glory, alongside Ronaldo, not in the shadow of him. It was at once the zenith and nadir of his international career, incurring a hefty fine for cheating but also playing an enormous part in Brazil’s triumph.

Remember Rivaldo for the goals, the overhead kicks and genius he produced time and time again. He is, quite simply, one of the most wonderfully gifted, unashamedly confident footballers there has ever been.

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Ivo Viktor of Czechoslovakia during the European Championship between Czechoslovakia and Holland in Stadium Maksimir, Zagreb, Yugoslavia on 16th...

Czechoslovakia goalkeeper Ivo Viktor gathers the ball as England striker Geoff Hurst runs in, during the friendly International at Wembley Stadium in...

Viktor in action v Netherlands in 1976 top and below v England in Nov 1966.

Ivor Viktor, Czechoslovakia 1976 European Championships Winning goalkeeper.

Regarded as one of the best goalkeepers of his generation in Europe in his prime, he placed third in the 1976 Ballon d ‘ Or and was a five-time winner of the Czechoslovak Footballer of the Year award, and a two-time winner of the European Goalkeeper of the Year award. 

Played in 1970 World Cup and represented his country on 63 occasions between 1966 and 1977.

Played most of his career with Dukla Prague, winning League Titles and 3 National Cups.


In action  v West Germany during the 1976 European Championship Final.
Viktor is the gre where was the first-rate team in his country at that time for 13 seasons. Because of his outstanding performance, He won many player of the year in the league although he was a goalkeeper. Viktor played as a central role of Czechoslovakia achieving unbeaten consecutive 17 matches between late 1974 and 1976. He also holds the record most winners in Czechoslovakian footabller of the year with four. Aside from Lev Yashin, Viktor is the only goalkeeper from Eastern Europe could be voted in top three European footballer of the year.

goalkeeper who was the brightest star to lead team surprisingly beat Germany in European championship final round. Especially, His only saving from Uli Hoeness’s shooting in penalty shootout led team to win that victory match. During his career, He start playing in Brno for two seasons before settle down with Dukla Prague where was the first-rate team in his country at that time for 13 seasons. Because of his outstanding performance, He won many player of the year in the league although he was a goalkeeper. Viktor played as a central role of Czechoslovakia achieving unbeaten consecutive 17 matches between late 1974 and 1976. He also holds the record most winners in Czechos footabller of the year with four. Aside from Lev Yashin, Viktor is the only goalkeeper from Eastern Europe could be voted in top three European 


Edited by erskblue
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Rinat  Dasaev. The USSR keeper from the 1980s. Watch his save v Eire at about 4.54 in. 



Viktor is the gre where was the first-rate team in his country at that time for 13 seasons. Because of his outstanding performance, He won many player of the year in theleaga goalkeeper. Viktor played as a central role of Czechoslovakia achieving unbeaten consecutive 17 matches between late 1974 and 1976. He also holds the record most winners in Czechoslovakian footabller of the year with four. Aside from Lev Yashin, Viktor is the only goalkeeper from Eastern Europe could be voted in top three European footballer of the year

goalkeeper who was the brightest star to lead team surprisingly beat Germany in European championship final round. Especially, His only saving from Uli Hoeness’s shooting in penalty shootout led team to win that victory match. During his career, He start playing in Brno for two seasons before settle down with Dukla Prague where was the first-rate team in his country at that time for 13 seasons. Because of his outstanding performance, He won many player of the year in the league although he was a goalkeeper. Viktor played as a central role of Czechoslovakia achieving unbeaten consecutive 17 matches between late 1974 and 1976. He also holds the record most winners in Czechos footabller of the year with four. Aside from Lev Yashin, Viktor is the only goalkeeper from Eastern Europe could be voted in top three European 


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Gabriel Batistuta.

Sometimes watching football leaves an indelible mark on a young boy’s imagination. In 1999, I was seven years old and my obsession with Manchester United was reaching new heights after watching them win the Champions League in the most dramatic of circumstances.

That night, when I should have been readying myself for school the following morning, I descended on my front garden and re-enacted Ole Gunnar Solskjær’sfamous last-gasp strike with my trusty Mitre ball and a set of nets that were horribly mangled from sustaining shot after shot from my uneducated right foot.

In similar vein, what I witnessed a little less than a year later in March 2000 roused that same self-belief that I could recreate another display of a footballing master class:

Gabriel Batistuta, centre stage in the Theatre of Dreams. I knew nothing of this player as I had zero exposure to Italian football at that formative stage in my life.

The Argentine goal machine picks up the ball well over thirty yards out; no danger one would presume. Not with Batistuta on the ball. The hair-banded predator effortlessly eludes the challenge of Jaap Stam – who was far from Titus Bramble back then – before unleashing the most jaw-dropping missile of a shot I had ever witnessed, screeching through the air and fizzing past a helpless Raymond van der Gouw. Old Trafford was silenced by a rocket. I was staggered by this extraordinary goal.

I had never seen a professional footballer rip into a piece of leather quite like the way Batistuta did that night. The power and precision he generated was unprecedented in my eyes. Unsurprisingly, I had become comfortably accustomed to David Beckham’s faultless foot-wrapping free-kick strikes. Granted, Beckham’s portfolio of set-piece goals is a thing of beauty, but there was just something about the way the ball was dispatched from Batistuta’s boot that got to me.

I proceeded to set three footballs side-by-side in my front garden and batter them with all my might in the hope that I would look up and see the ball scream into the roof of the net in a fashion not dissimilar to the Argentine’s. What resulted was a few angry neighbours and appallingly dented garage door. What a fool I was to believe that I could emulate the brilliance of Batistuta. Through his exploits at Newell’s Old Boys, Boca Juniors, Fiorentina and then Roma, Batistuta had developed the most insatiable appetite for goals imaginable and his education at those clubs cultivated a technique of striking the football so efficient in appeasing that appetite.

Batistuta’s footballing odyssey began in Rosario, Argentina’s third city, with Newell’s. Batistuta had been spotted by Jorge Griffa, Newell’s youth team manager at that time, who persuaded the young protégé to leave home for the first time in his life and pursue a career in professional football. Batistuta was initially apprehensive due to his commitment to family and education but agreed after the club agreed to pay for his education in Rosario.

The youngster impressed instantly in one of Argentina’s finest youth academies and soon broke into the first team, where he made his debut in 1988 and played in the Copa Libertadores final. Batistuta’s proficiency inside the penalty box struck fear into Newell’s rivals. He became known as ‘The Animal’ due to his strength and tenacity in breaking free from defenders, finding space and dispatching goals in clinical style. Newell’s’ supporters adored his hard work and determination.

Fans of football always love a fighter, a player with great heart, and Batistuta fit the bill perfectly in these regards. His education finished and he struggled to find work so in order to continue playing for Newell’s Batistuta cut the grass on the pitch, cleaned windows and picked up rubbish in the stands for enough to get by. Money did not matter to him. He was prepared to earn just about enough so he could continue playing football.

With his stock rising rapidly, Batistuta made the difficult decision to move to River Plate. What made it difficult was the fact that he was a lifelong supporter of Plate’s arch-nemesis, Boca Juniors. What Batistuta wanted more than anything though was to score goals and he saw River as the best place for him to achieve that.

However, Daniel Passarella, the heroic captain of Argentina’s 1978 World Cup-winning team, did not see great potential in Batistuta and opted to omit him from regular first-team football. Batistuta, hurt and surprised, did not let this deter him. He harnessed the pain from watching on as his River colleagues played without him and used it to make him mentally tougher. He began to train harder, focus on his strengths and hone his skills to become the ultimate goalscorer.

The results very much speak for themselves. Having grown weary of Passarella’s ignorance at Plate, Batistuta crossed town to his boyhood idols Boca. He was initially played out of position by Osvaldo Potente but Óscar Tabárez arrived to replace him and immediately recognised Batistuta as the ultimate focal point of attack. He moved him to centre-forward and Batistuta repaid the favour with goals aplenty.

He enraptured the vociferous Boca fans and forged a wonderfully productive partnership with Boca’s chief conductor, Diego Latorre. Batistuta holds his time with Boca close to his heart; he genuinely connected with the fans. For him, that was what professional football was all about; exciting fans, feeling adored and being part of a team that would be remembered in years to come.

Major honours and trophies proved hard to come by in Buenos Aires – it would become a recurring motif of his storied career – but Batistuta was fulfilled by the sense that his play excited the fans regardless of where they finished. It was the eye-catching displays at Boca that got Europe talking. Tabárez became increasingly aware of the European clubs circling Batistuta and was resigned to losing his most lethal weapon. Batistuta was eager for a fresh challenge and an opportunity to introduce the world to the phenomenon of ‘Batigol’.

He provided potential suitors with an unforgettable audition during the 1991 Copa América for Argentina, when he finished as the tournament’s top-scorer with six strikes. His goals and performances prompted Fiorentina to move for him and the rest is history. That year, fans in Florence fell in love with Batistuta and adores him to this day.

Batistuta determinedly overcame the difficulty in adapting to a different culture and style of football in Italy, and began showing teams in Serie A why Fiorentina placed their belief in him. He scored 14 goals in his first season and 19 the following campaign. However, his second year was overshadowed by troubles at La Viola and they were relegated to Serie B.

The fans at the Artemio Franchi stadium panicked at the thought of losing their star player and favourite son. They had adopted Batistuta as one of their own and feared that the advances of European superpowers AC Milan and Real Madrid would prove irresistible to him. He was having none of it. Batistuta, characteristically disregarding the allure of money and prestige attached to a move to a major club, decided to stay in Florence and help his adopted club fight back to Serie A.

His 16 goals in Serie B helped Fiorentina back to the high table in Italian football and endeared the Argentine even deeper into the hearts of the fans. In modern football, it is too easy for a talented player standing out in a struggling team to flee when trouble strikes, but not for Batistuta.

He has since said that he could have easily moved to Real Madrid or Manchester United but he never had any interest in leaving Fiorentina for either of them. For him, the challenge of improving an underachieving Fiorentina was more attractive than jumping on the express train of one of Europe’s big clubs collecting trophies effortlessly. This was the truest expression of Batistuta’s approach to football; he was always willing to fight, always willing to work hard to earn a reputation and relationship with the fans.

He went on to cement his place as arguably Fiorentina’s greatest ever player, certainly their greatest goalscorer. He amassed over 200 goals during his nine years clad in purple before finally ending his adventure with Fiorentina in favour of a fresh challenge in another hallowed Italian city.

In the capital with Roma, Batistuta finally won the Scudetto that had eluded him and forged a devastating partnership with club legend Francesco Totti. Becoming a champion of Italy with Roma was a historic moment for both the club and the player. Roma had finally returned to the top after an 18-year barren spell and Batistuta was able to call himself a champion.

He knew that although he had left Fiorentina and won the trophy they could never manage with Roma, he was still adored by the Florence faithful. There were no cries of Judas and no vendetta. Fiorentina knew they had kept the player as long as they could and they were forever grateful for his service, regardless of what he did following his departure.

Perhaps the saddest mark on an illustrious time in football for Batistuta is the World Cup. He represented his country at three finals’ and played well in all of them. He remains to this day the only player to score a hat-trick in two different World Cups – a beautiful distinction to have.

Goals and recognition were juxtaposed with a narrative of heartache for Batistuta in the World Cup, though, as Argentina never came close to winning it during his time in the squad. In 1994, Batistuta and Argentina started their campaign brilliantly with a 4-0 destruction of Greece. Batistuta claimed a hat-trick in his first-ever World Cup match but that elation quickly faded with the events that followed.

Argentina’s ’94 journey will forever be remembered for Diego Maradona’sexpulsion from the tournament after testing positive for ephedrine. In the aftermath of that shattering story, Argentina failed to carry on without him and were eliminated at the hands of Romania. Batistuta refused to use Maradona’s discrepancy as an excuse for their poor performance and was determined to make up for it in his next World Cup.

It wasn’t to be, however, for one of Argentina’s most gifted marksmen as they were bettered by a memorable Dennis Bergkamp strike in the quarter-finals in France 1998 and Batistuta was again left in dismay. Things got even worse in Batistuta’s swansong in 2002 as they were beaten by England and failed to see off Sweden as they tumbled out of Korea and Japan in the group stage.

At the end of the Sweden match, Batistuta broke down in tears. He knew he would never play in the World Cup again. Players often cry when they are sent packing from the World Cup but I remember feeling the pain of Batistuta, having become a fond admirer of him since that wonder goal at Old Trafford. Here was a man whose passion and emotion poured out of him relentlessly. I can’t help at this moment feel as if Batistuta didn’t get back from the game what he gave. He always exuded the fervour that every top-flight professional footballer should.

In his later years, Batistuta wound down his career in Qatar, scoring goals for fun in a lesser league. After an ill-fated spell with Internazionale, he knew his time at the highest level had come to an end. His move to Qatar was not just motivated by money, though. Batistuta was always acutely aware of his limitations and he felt it necessary to bow out gracefully from Italian football and introduce his family to a different culture.

Revelations about his plea to doctors to amputate his legs suggest that Batistuta played through the pain barrier for much of his career but I thank him sincerely for doing so for the memories he bestowed upon me and for staying a truly respectable footballer for his entire career.

www.these football times.co

By Matt Gault @MattGault11

Edited by erskblue
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www.these football times.co

11/09/2018 by EDD NORVAL  
Football fans support the team they do for various reasons, although most usually rely on family or geography to dictate the colours that will run through their blood for the rest of their lives. For Milanese actor Diego Abatantuono, his team came to him through some divine intervention.

With true thespian verve he recants the story, one that formed a pillar of his life. He was a young boy and was spending time with his grandfather when he found the old man’s wallet lying on the ground. Curious, as young boys tend to be, he opened it up to find a worn photograph of two men. One he recognised to be a priest. The other man was clearly a footballer, although Abatantuono was none the wiser to who. He asked his grandfather, who explained that one worked miracles and the other one was a popular priest from Puglia. 

The miracle worker was Giovanni Rivera, better known as Gianni. The man with thick, dark, parted hair was magnetic to the young actor, who immediately swore his allegiance to the red and black side of Milan. Rivera’s enduring appeal has many sources. That’s why he’s not only a far-reaching hero in football, but one who transcended the changing faces of Italy, Milan and the global game.

Gianni Rivera’s name rarely crops up in a sentence that isn’t packed with superlatives. Because of the reverence that others hold for him and his pioneering style, he is best viewed as the archetype of a certain kind of player – the one that we would now refer to as a classic number 10.

The midfielder had a shamanistic prescience of his teammates’ and opponents’ whereabouts on the pitch. Akin to the greats of chess, it seems entirely possible that he would be able to reel off where players were across multiple games. His positional play and ability to locate and exploit space, with a jagged run or smooth pass, was unparalleled at the time.

Although he had traits lending to several positions, spanning from a deep-lying playmaker to an inside forward, Rivera was a player who could make something appear from nothing. It’s possible to view him as a support act, someone who utilised his laser-like precision of pass and superior tactical overview to provide his teammates with opportunities to best deploy their talents for the betterment of the team.

Saying that, his average of one goal every four games for Milan shatters the image that he was only a player who brought out the best in others. Instead, these abilities are parts of the mosaic that creates the full picture of Gianni Rivera. His multi-faceted influence on each game meant that a myriad of possibilities and outcomes were channelled. With a light flick of his foot or a misleading feint, he’d contribute innumerably to a previously veiled attacking move. 

As a result of the way he encapsulated a hitherto rarely seen style, he is held up like The Beatles as a benchmark where others will be readily compared. In people like Marco van Basten, Johan Cruyff and Roberto Baggio, those old enough saw flashes of Rivera. For me, the aptest comparison is Zinedine Zidane.


The chaotic ballet of Rivera is mimicked in a slightly more controlled version by the French icon. Granted, boots, pitch quality and balls used contribute to their movements, but beyond their pirouettes and unpredictable changes of flow and pace, their IQ as men of the middle reign supreme.

Combining this vision, creativity and intelligence for Milan and Italy led to Rivera becoming one of the most revered players in calcio history. Long-term coach and friend Nereo Rocco once said of him: “Yes, he doesn’t run a lot, but if I want good football, creativity, the art of turning around a situation from the first to the 90th minute, only Rivera can give me all of this. I wouldn’t want to exaggerate, because in the end it’s only football, but Rivera in all of this is a genius.” 

Italians use many football-specific words. A trequartista is the player who operates just behind the attackers; a fantasista is the creative spark summoning something from nothing; while the regista is the director. If those three were circles on a Venn diagram, then Gianni Rivera would be in the dead centre.

In this sense, Rivera was a complicated player. From a young age he had a noteworthy playing style, debuting for his hometown Alessandria aged only 15 in 1959 – the third-youngest in Serie A history; one of many records he holds, alongside being the second-youngest goalscorer, which occurred later that year. Although it was a brief spell, it was enough to attract the attention of his larger northern neighbours, AC Milan.

He joined on a co-ownership deal with a view to replacing Uruguayan World Cup hero Juan Schiaffino, a gifted inside-forward who left an indelible mark for his club and country. Replacing one of the greatest players in the world at the time was going to be quite the task for the young Italian. 

Journalist Gianni Brera called him L’Abatino – The Little Abbot – referring to his perceived physical fragility. Despite this being something to overcome in his early Milan days, he did so under the tutelage of Schiaffino and the guidance of his fellow players Nils Liedholm, Dino Sani and José Altafini. Their combined influence on the young Rivera gave him a holistic understanding of the game, overriding any perceived physical shortcomings.

Internazionale legend Giuseppe Meazza was even moved to praise Rivera: “He’s an elegant player with a remarkable touch.” These attributes – elegance and touch – went a long way to defining his presence at the club. His haul there was illustrious, helping the team to three Scudetti, four Coppa Italia, two European Cups and, individually, the 1969 Ballon d’Or.

During his first stint as manager at the club between 1961 and 1963, Nereo Rocco built his famous catenaccio system around the young Rivera, depending on his creativity and predilection for attacking moves to counter-balance his largely defensive approach.

Returning in 1967, the pair once again gelled and Rocco’s team lifted a double in the maiden season of his second tenure. It was a winning formula that helped Rivera both grow and lead. Rocco’s reliance and trust of the player as captain made them one of football’s most noteworthy duos. It was a perfect illustration of a relationship built on respect and understanding where knowledge of the game travelled symbiotically. Coach and captain had found their soul-mate.

Naturally, fans of i Rossoneri loved Rivera. He was not only captain fantastic, but a thoroughly likeable person. The beautiful thing was that the relationship was reciprocal. He loved the city, its people and its most famous club. For Rivera, AC Milan was not simply a club, but an idea. Thus, there were ways that things should be done and ways that they shouldn’t.

Rivera was dubbed Milan’s golden boy. This nickname not only entails his footballing endeavours but also the idea that he is somewhat perfect, a shining example. Rivera could do or say no wrong; when he did say something, his words carried undeniable weight. 

An attitude of relentless perseverance – the same one that allowed the fragile youngster to become a man of beguiling grace and power – meant that he was willing to fight whoever he saw as treating Milan without due respect. He endured fierce and controversial disputes with referees, including the now infamous chapter with Concetto Lo Bello, where the referee publicly conceded an erroneous penalty decision against Rivera’s Milan.

It wasn’t only referees – it was anyone Rivera deemed “non degni del Milan” – not worthy of Milan. Worth is the level at which something or someone deserves to be valued. There was a standard that Rivera set for anyone associated with the club. It seems rather anachronistic to imagine a captain acting a the flag-bearer in today’s game. This, to the people of Milan, made him an enduring legend at club level, yet as mutual respect for a fellow Italian, Rivera was also highly rated and readily embraced at international level.

Despite studying at the catenaccio school of Nereo Rocco, Rivera was a rare breed of Italian player at the time – a skilful attacking midfielder, comparable to anyone in the world. Although his career for the Azzurri offered fewer trophies to his collection, it no doubt serves to strengthen the mythology and importance of the man.

In similar fashion to his debut in Serie A, his international one was memorable. The rising star was given an unexpected call-up for his country’s 1962 World Cup campaign and his competitive debut came in Chile against West Germany in a 0-0 draw. An underperforming Italian side exited the competition in the first round and Rivera came under fire from Brera for his poor work rate and positioning defensively. 

Despite this, he became a crucial player for Italy and made it to his second World Cup in 1966, where his side would once again exit early. This time, having age and reputation on his side, he was vocal about manager Edmondo Fadbri’s defensive approach.

In a twist-of-fate, Fabbri was replaced by the king of catenaccio Helenio Herrera, the chieftain of the famous Grande Inter side – Rivera’s rivals. Unimpressed with the star’s performance at the previous competition, Rivera was dropped by ruthless Argentine. Not many people had the clout to make a rebuttal against Herrera’s choice, but one man came to Rivera’s rescue. It was his reformed critic, Gianni Brera.

Herrera’s short-lived tenure ushered in a new era of success for the national team, with Rivera its brightest star. Italy hosted Euro 1968 and with Ferruccio Valcareggi taking over as manager, the side went on to win with the help of a coin-toss in the semi-final. Rivera had been injured early on yet continued the match, putting in a notable performance. Although he missed the final of the tournament against Yugoslavia, he finally had some international silverware.

It was at the next tournament, the 1970 World Cup, that his international career reached its curious peak, when Valcareggi introduced one of the most bizarre tactics in football’s storied history – one that somehow helped guide his side to the tournament’s final, despite the controversial idea that inspired it.

Rivera was guile and vision, all feline grace. But Italy had someone else in his position that brought everything he didn’t have. Sandro Mazzola was a creative attacking player, but with the speed and defensive prowess that Rivera lacked. He was also city rival Inter’s biggest star.

In a balanced Italian set-up, the scales between defence and attack could be tipped by either man. Fielding them together seemed sacrilege. Both players were icons, intense and bright – they needed their own space to shine. Valcareggi’s solution was unprecedented. In his staffetta system, he’d play each man for one half of the game.

Mazzola, the older of the two by a year, would start. He’d allow the Italians the chance to subdue their opposition and work their game of attrition. In the second half, Rivera would burst onto the field of play, dazzling the opposition and utilising his vision to offer the strikers a myriad of attacking options.

It worked – until Valcareggi changed his mind. His squad made it to the final and went in level at the break. The Brazilians, with Pelé, Gérson, Rivellino and Jairzinho, had strength, speed and intelligence in abundance. Consequently, Valcareggi deemed it best to stick with Mazzola and retain their defensive approach, only giving the Milan star six minutes. Italy went on to lose the game 4-1 in a legendary final and one of football’s most prominent entries into the ‘What If?’ chapter.

To make matters worse, the error, although logical on paper, was obvious to everyone. Pelé stated: “I was worried that Rivera would come on, I thought that with Rivera Italy would be more dangerous.” Although not an inherently risk-taking player, he was seen as a risk that the manager was unwilling to gamble on, despite having shown his ability to impact games time and again.

Rivera would represent his country in another World Cup tournament in 1974, although by this point he was passed his best. The final of 1970 had been cruel to him. He was stripped of an opportunity to reach the stratospheric heights that so many others had managed, yet with a substantially lesser impact on the history of the game.

Gianni Rivera was revered for his life as a footballer, but also his personality off the pitch. A charismatic and affable figure, he stayed with Milan well after his last kick of the ball, working with the club and eventually becoming the vice-president.

In 1986, Silvio Berlusconi bought Milan and as majority shareholder appointed himself as president. The Italian business tycoon’s centre-right political views clashed with Rivera’s left-of-centre ideas. A man of principle, he left the San Siro following the takeover.

His contributions, however, were duly noted. In 2011 he was awarded the UEFA President’s Award, which recognises outstanding achievements, professional excellence and exemplary personal qualities. This puts him amongst noteworthy luminaries like Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff, Eusébio and Alfredo Di Stéfano.

On handing him the award, Michel Platini stated: “Gianni Rivera is surely one of the great ambassadors for football at both club and country level, having worn the AC Milan jersey over 500 times and represented his country at four World Cups. He was a true gentleman, both on and off the field of play, and he has remained so to this day.”

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