APPARENTLY, World Cup personalities live on much longer than the teams they played for.
The quadrennial showdown of football supremacy, the FIFA World Cup begins on Sunday in Qatar, the first time the tournament is being held in the Arab world and possibly with a 32-team field for the last time. For the next one, the field is due to increase to 48 teams for the 2026 tournament in the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
A World Cup is a showcase for the best footballers on the planet. They produce great memories and some players take the chance to become legends, like the Roger Millers, Ronaldinhos, Peles, Zidanes, Kempes, Eusebios and many more.
Qatar 2022 promises to unleash its own iconic stars. This time around, the names might be Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Vinicius Jr, Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Kane, Karim Benzema or just maybe, someone relatively unknown might emerge and write his name into football folklore.
For Trinidad and Tobago senior men’s national team head coach and former national captain Angus Eve, the memories that stand out most from past World Cups are those of Argentine superstar Diego Maradona.
“In ’86, when Maradona ran through the whole of England and he also he did it against Belgium,” recalled Eve, “In my opinion, those are the two greatest individual goals I have ever seen in World Cup.”
He added: “The players around him were never household names. He basically took that team on his back, with a couple of other decent players like (Jorge Luis) Burruchaga and (Jorge) Valdano, but for the most part the team was relatively unknown. Most of them were playing at home.
“To beat Belgium with Jan Ceulemans and Enzo Scifo; you had England with Gary Lineker and Terry Butcher and Peter Shilton. He had to go through Brazil.”
Eve felt Maradona lived up to all expectations at that World Cup.
“Sometimes when a player is given the hype, they don’t normally live up to the hype when they go to the tournament. He (Maradona) definitely lived up to the hype and produced on the greatest stage.
Maradona dominated in Spain. He dominated at home in Argentina. He dominated in Italy with Napoli and he won everything for them.”
Eve does not rate current starts Christiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi among his top three best players ever. He felt players such as Maradona and Pele were better, based on their overall body of work and the lack of protection they endured and brutality faced from defenders, “in the days when men could tackle from behind and make scissors tackle.”
“Pele is always going to be my number one, then Maradona, then Ronaldo, the real one, the phenomenon,” Eve declared. “For me (Ronaldo) is the best player I ever see play the game. I only put Maradona and Pele above him because of their legendary status.”