Gianluigi Buffon discussed his Serie A debut, winning with Italy and why he’ll “always have the regret” of not playing a sixth World Cup, “but you have to be content in life.”
The 40-year-old is expected to announce his retirement in a Press conference on Thursday and sat down for a filmed interview with Gerard Pique for The Players Tribune.
Hailing from a family of sportsmen and women, SuperGigi revealed his first memory was of Italy winning the 1982 World Cup.
He was surprisingly picked for his Serie A debut at Parma against Milan and kept a clean sheet.
“In the mid-’90s, for around 10 years, Parma was one of the best in Europe. In 10 years they won the UEFA Cup twice, an Italian Cup and a UEFA Super Cup. It was a team of the highest level. It was an important match.
“We were league leaders, drawing on points with Milan, which had some great champions: Baggio, Weah, Savicevic, Maldini. I was barely 17 and I had to play.
“In the morning I was told I would be playing and I’m proud to say I that was not afraid. I remember at that moment I was really happy because it was my chance to show the world who Buffon was, and that he was good goalie. I remember joy beat fear before a crucial match.”
Buffon then made his senior Italy debut at 19 in dramatic circumstances, replacing injured Gianluca Pagliuca during a World Cup play-off under the snow in Russia.
“I was an enthusiastic kid. I feared nothing. But when I saw I was on, I was not so glad because the pitch was covered in snow. It was such an important match in terms of enabling Italy to qualify. I started to warm up and was on in two minutes.
“Once on the pitch I concentrated hard. Fear left me, and I concentrated hard for an hour. Five minutes after I came on, Russia had a great chance to score, and I made a great save to my left, which helped me really get into the match.”
He has already made history by featuring in five different World Cups, on a par with Lothar Matthaus and Mexico goalkeeper Antonio Carbajal.
Buffon would’ve made it six in Russia, but Italy failed to qualify for the first time since 1958.
“You need talent, but also effort, to be able to suffer as you do sometimes. It is gratifying, as only a few of us have played in five World Cups. It was great to play two in Europe, one in Asia, one in Africa and one in America.
“I’ve played on every continent. It would have been special to play in a sixth World Cup, I’ll always have that regret, but sometimes you have to be content in life. Evidently, I wasn’t good enough to go to a sixth World Cup.”
Buffon did win the 2006 World Cup in Germany, beating France on penalties and seeing off the hosts in a dramatic 2-0 extra time semi-final.
“The way we experienced the final of the German World Cup was special for the Italians, apart from the victory. There were lots of Italian immigrants who made us feel like we were playing at home. I remember a lot of happiness, partying, emotional support. We never felt alone.
“I have two magnificent memories, the semi-final against Germany in Dortmund – probably the most nerve-racking match of my life. When I think about it, I feel bad. How can any man bear such tension and emotion? Against Germany it was crazy. Then winning 2–0 in extra time. When we got to the hotel at 5 am, there were 10,000 people waiting with fireworks.
“The special thing was that after beating Germany we were calm, like we’d already won the World Cup. It was crazy. It was madness. Twelve years later I look at France and can see how strong they were. We thought we’d won, but we had to play a really strong team!
“It was the enthusiasm giving us the strength to beat any opponent. We were on a streak. We feared no one and thought we could beat anyone.
“I clearly remember that after our victory we were not able to feel happy — because we had placed so much energy and emotion on the sacrificial altar, so as to speak. The joy of winning the World Cup came long after our victory.”
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