Roberto Baggio, also known as the “Divine Ponytail”, is a name that will forever be associated with Italian football. He is considered by many as one of the greatest footballers to have ever graced the field. However, Baggio was a player who divided opinion, and in this article, we will explore why.
Baggio was born on February 18th, 1967, in Caldogno, a small town in Northern Italy. He began his footballing journey at the age of nine when he joined the local youth team. He quickly showed his talent and was soon signed by Vicenza, a Serie B team. His performances at Vicenza earned him a move to Serie A giants Fiorentina, where he became an instant hit.
Baggio’s technical ability, dribbling skills, and incredible accuracy in front of goal made him a fan favorite. His ability to control the ball with both feet was unmatched, and he had a knack for scoring some of the most incredible goals. However, as much as he was loved, Baggio was also a player who divided opinion.
One of the reasons why Baggio divided opinion was his attitude towards the game. He was known for his aloofness and his reluctance to play for the national team. Baggio was a fiercely independent player who liked to play on his terms. He was not interested in conforming to a team’s style of play, and this often led to conflicts with his coaches and teammates.
Baggio’s aloofness also extended to the media. He was a private person who preferred to keep his personal life away from the limelight. This led to accusations that he was arrogant and unapproachable. Baggio’s lack of media presence meant that he was not as marketable as some of his contemporaries, and this affected his image and reputation in the eyes of the public.
Another reason why Baggio divided opinion was his religious beliefs. Baggio was a devout Buddhist, and he often spoke about his faith in the media. This was something that was unusual in the world of Italian football, which is predominantly Catholic. Baggio’s open expression of his religious beliefs led to accusations of him being a “weirdo” and a “hippie”. Some fans also felt that his beliefs did not align with the values of Italian society.
However, it was Baggio’s performance in the 1994 World Cup that truly divided opinion. Baggio was Italy’s star player going into the tournament, and the expectations were high. However, Baggio struggled in the early games, and he was even dropped from the starting lineup in the quarterfinals. It was in the semifinals against Bulgaria that Baggio truly shone. He scored a brilliant goal that sent Italy to the final against Brazil.
In the final, Baggio missed a penalty that cost Italy the World Cup. It was a moment that would haunt Baggio for the rest of his career. The Italian media and fans were quick to turn on Baggio, and he became a scapegoat for Italy’s defeat. Baggio was criticized for his performance, and his image and reputation took a hit.
Despite the criticism, Baggio remained true to himself. He continued to play the game on his terms, and he never compromised his beliefs or values. Baggio’s performances on the pitch continued to amaze fans and opponents alike, and he continued to score some of the most incredible goals in football history.
In conclusion, Roberto Baggio was a player who divided opinion. His aloofness, religious beliefs, and his performance in the 1994 World Cup were some of the reasons why he was not universally loved. However, Baggio’s talent, technical ability, and his incredible goals will always be remembered by football fans around the world. Baggio