It was predestined. He didn’t score the best goal of the World Cups or the one that defined a title. Yes, one of the most famous we can remember. He blew up the celebration meter. It moved the tectonic plates in Colombia and the shock wave repeated itself throughout Latin America, even in other latitudes. Just like an earthquake, it brought people out into the streets. And it was his turn, Freddy Rincón.
Even James’ majestic goal against Uruguay couldn’t trigger such euphoria. We are part of a group of statisticians and historians from America, with dozens of members from Argentina to the United States and a large number of members have expressed the same thing: “I shouted it as if it came from my country”.
It was rare: an incredible joy that a team that was not ours gave us. It rarely happens. Such an explosion breaks the stupidity that if it is not in the world final or in the Champions League it is useless.
They repeat it a hundred times and after a hundred I watch it again with the same interest, I feel it as if it is happening now. It was some fine wall building and Valderrama genius to leave Freddy alone with German keeper Bodo Illgner. This Pibe pass is like receiving the winning lottery ticket and being told “take it, collect it yourself”.
Why do we continue to evoke it thirty-two years later…? Because it contains a story.
He drew all of West Germany to his left and tamed it into East Germany. There was no one there. Freddy didn’t hesitate for a moment, controlled him and sent him between the legs of one of them. It was the magic moment of his life. And it was total madness.
Why such a success if it was in the group stage and barely served to draw 1-1…? Why do we continue to evoke it thirty-two years later…? Because it contains a story. And without circumstance there is no epic. Colombia returned to the World Cups after twenty-eight years and it was none other than Germany, a machine that would be the undefeated champions, and the latest World Cup version of a strong Yugoslavia, that of Dragan Stojkovic, Srecko Katanec, Dejan Savicevic, Darko Pancev, Davor Suker, Robert Jarni, Alen Boksic, Robert Prosinecki… The last gathering of Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Slovenes, Macedonians and Montenegrins.
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the memorable goal
Germany swept: 4-1 against Yugoslavia and 5-1 against the United Arab Emirates. Colombia was in danger of qualifying for the round of 16.
They had fallen against Yugoslavia and had barely two points, the result of a correct victory over the Emirates. He needed at least a tie to aspire to be one of the top thirds. And he just had to get it before the tournament cuckoo clock. It seemed impossible.
Another German victory over Pacho Maturana’s team was expected. And the first ten minutes were terrifying, with the Luftwaffe bombarding Milan.
The crossed balloons crossed the Colombian ground causing panic. Klinsmann and Vöeller stung like arrows. It was a time when Germany still played the Panzer style, not like now, where they know how to play and are slower. Colombia seemed mired in confusion and in Giuseppe Meazza’s box with the unforgettable León Londoño we looked at each other with the face of a cow looking at the train: “These give us five”. Until a long ball came for Klinsmann’s entrance and, as we all foreshadowed the first goal, Higuita came out, stopped him with his chest, lifted him over the head of the German tank and came out playing gently to the right. It was balsamic. Such a bold action served to quell German fury and encourage their own. Those things that René had that other archers never had, no matter how good they were.
The sun rose for Colombia and another match began, to the rhythm of the vallenato. And the touch and dominance began under the leadership of El Pibe. It was exciting. For the rival and the framework, perhaps the best game of this Maturana team.
Dominance and merits accumulated, until reaching the fateful 89th minute, when a Vöeller carpet brought together several Colombians and left Littbarski in good position to finish. Left foot and… German goal…! It was a hammer blow to illusion, like the iceberg the Titanic collided with. What was that iceberg doing there…? It was too much injustice for such a consecration, a careful and courageous performance.
Enrique Omar Sívori, the famous Ballon d’Or of 1961, was with us, “in anger” he got up and left. “With the way Colombia played well…!” he lamented. It was desolation, they made me want to cry, rage and helplessness. The Colombian boys remained lying on the ground. Valderrama, with great integrity, raised some. “Come on, let’s go, we must continue…” But the sadness only lasted four minutes. Reaching 93 came that monumental play in which El Pibe, with a nice left-footed pass, left Rincón alone and Freddy without hesitation, with aplomb, sent him to the net. It was an explosion difficult to tell, these things are lived.
Blushing, I must admit: I have never shouted a goal from a team that was not Argentina as much as Rincón’s. As Pacho said, “we are used to the fact that the last goal is always from Germany, but this time it was from Colombia”.
(You can read: Jackson Martínez, from football to music, a life dedicated to God).
I have never shouted a goal from a selection that was not Argentina as much as Rincón’s
With León, we kissed and ended up standing on the seats in the VIP area. He immediately remembered that he was a member of FIFA’s executive committee: “Listen, my son, they are going to kick us out of here…”, said the man from Jericho wisely. But they didn’t kick us out. The emotions generated by football excuse certain outbursts.
This goal justified everything, the performance and the passage to the next round. It is surely the most shouted in the history of Colombia. However, the player Freddy goes beyond the legend of June 19, 1990. He was a spectacular midfielder who today would be worth at least fifty million euros. An all-rounder who scored, played and converted, with an ostrich stride, respectable technique, tremendous power, goal and character. A midfielder with nearly 170 goals is serious business.
He came to the region like a hurricane; in the race he was unstoppable. Like fingerprints, no two players are the same, however there are similarities in the game with Kevin de Bruyne, a back and forth 8, from zone to zone, with a good offensive vocation. He is surely the most complete Colombian footballer of all time. I had everything. We did a survey on Twitter to find out who could be the top five in the country, hundreds of tweeters participated and Freddy Rincón appeared on all the lists. He and El Pibe are unanimous. The others, for some yes, for others no.
After that enlightenment against Germany, many more goals would come, such as the two he scored in the famous 5-0 win against Argentina, and a long international campaign that included big teams around the world, including Real Madrid and Naples.
He played an important role in this 1994 Palmeiras de oro with Marcos, Roberto Carlos, César Sampaio, Flávio Conceição, Rivaldo, Zinho, Evair… But it was at the Corinthians that he reached idolatry. It was his zenith. This is best remembered when the black and white club won the inaugural Club World Cup with Rincón as captain and tournament figure. He converted two goals and the first penalty in the definition against Vasco da Gama.
He received the cup from Joseph Blatter, in a photo that has gone around the world map. He largely triumphed in Brazil just as Pelé’s homeland won two world titles –1994 and 2002– and three Copa América –’97, ’99 and 2004–.
We know there is no bad death. But let us allow ourselves this moment of praise at the hour of farewell to the one who generated the most intense moment of joy for a nation.
For the time being