As the 2014 FIFA World Cup comes to an end, we can begin to look back at some of the greatest goals scored in the past month—from Robin Van Persie’s magical header against Spain, to Tim Cahill’s rocket of a volley against the Netherlands, all the way to David Luiz’s screaming free kick against Colombia.
This Sunday, July 13, millions of people around the world will tune in to watch the World Cup Final, one of the biggest sports events in history. While fans wonder who the winning team will be, photographer Michael Donald only cares about one thing: who will score.
Since the first World Cup tournament in 1930—which took place in Uruguay—only 56 players total have scored in a World Cup final game. This is one of the most exclusive groups in any soccer player’s career, from Gerson’s 66th minute game-winner in Brazil’s 4-1 victory over Italy in 1970, to Andres Iniesta’s overtime volley in Spain’s victory over the Netherlands in 2010; each goal has been special in its own way.
In 2010, Donald decided to track down the stars from each World Cup dating back to 1950. Of the 56 players to have ever scored in the final, 35 are alive today. Donald met with each goal scorer, photographed them with his Hasselblad V system and Phase One camera back, and then interviewed them, asking questions about their experience. He compiled all of his video footage into a documentary entitled I Scored a Goal in the FIFA World Cup Final, which was featured on ESPN and awarded both an Emmy and a Webby.
Donald was able to capture each player in his home country. While some of the players have retired from the game and now lead more traditional lives, others still have their moment in the soccer spotlight as coaches, trainers or ambassadors. Their stories recount a tale of passion that commemorates their elite status in this exclusive group of men.
Alcides Ghiggia scored the winning goal for Uruguay in the 79th minute of the 1950 World Cup final against Brazil, in Brazil’s Maracana Stadium. “Now when I go to Brazil,” Ghiggia tells Donald, “the papers say, ‘The ghost of Maracana has arrived.'” All photos © Michael Donald
Tavares da Silveira Amarildo scored for Brazil, who won the 1962 World Cup final against Czechoslovakia, in Chile. “The celebrations weren’t like they are today,” he says. “There was nothing prepared, it was just the handing over of the cup… It was very simple but very genuine.”
Josef Masopust scored the only goal for Czechoslovakia against Brazil, who won the 1962 World Cup final in Chile. “The day for me was special, not only because I was about to play in the final, but also because it was my wife’s birthday,” he says. “So, I would have the chance to celebrate two things that day if it worked out. Sadly, I was only able to celebrate one of them.”
Wolfgang Weber scored for West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final against England, who won. “Suddenly between hundreds of legs, I only saw legs, the ball was lying in front of me,” he remembers. “I thought, ‘I have to put it in the net quickly, before the referee blows the final whistle.’ I curled it exactly in the corner I was aiming for. And the referee didn’t blow the final whistle, on the contrary, he blew for the goal, and we were back in the game.”
Jairzinho scored for Brazil, who won against Italy in the 1970 World Cup, in Mexico. “When the referee blew the whistle, an avalanche of Mexican fans invaded the pitch, running all over all of us, applauding and taking off our clothes,” he says. “When I left the field I was only wearing my pants!”
Paul Breitner scored for West Germany, who won the 1974 World Cup final against Holland, in Munich. “We hadn’t determined a penalty taker, and I was the last one they would have chosen or the second last one, but I knew that no one wanted to assume the responsibility,” he says. “Something was building up in me, so I said to myself, ‘Ok, boy, you want to be World Champion? Taking this penalty is part of it, so you will do this now, you put it away and that’s that.'”
Johan Neeskens scored the only goal for Holland in the 1974 World Cup final against West Germany, who won. “Now when you speak to people about that final they say, ‘It’s a pity you guys didn’t win. You deserved to win that one because of the way you played,'” he says. “On the other hand you can play the most beautiful football, but it doesn’t guarantee you’re going to win and that’s what happened to us.”
Mario Kempes scored twice for Argentina, who won the 1978 World Cup final against Holland, in Argentina. After the game, he recounts, “[Loco Killer] drops me off at my house, I take my bags, my trophies, I take everything that I had, and there was nobody on the streets. With all the peace in the world I went to my front door, rang the bell, my mother asked who it was, I answer ‘me,’ and went up the elevator with my prizes… Nobody saw me.”
Dick Nanninga scored the only goal for Holland against Argentina, who won the 1978 World Cup final. “The final whistle blew and we went in. We had lost,” he says. “We went back into the changing room and the first thing I did was roll a cigarette and light it up. We flew back the next day and I went back to work in the flower shop the day after. The neighbours had decorated the shop because we had reached second place but I just went back to work.”
Paolo Rossi scored for Italy, who won against West Germany in the 1982 World Cup final. “When the referee blew the final whistle then…you don’t immediately realise what you’ve just done,” he says. “You’re living this thing on the pitch with your teammates, but you don’t understand the enormity of the victory, like I said your entire world, your nation, all the Italians are watching.”
As the 2014 World Cup Final draws near, it is hard not to wonder: who will be the next subject in Donald’s series?
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