Claudio Andre Taffarel

Taffarel That's how it all ended!

Baggio on the one side, Taffarel on the other. In between them, only the soccer ball. Watching closely was a multitude of a few billion people all over the world! That last kick in the final game of the 1994 world cup was the to moment of the games. Brazil was the favorite to win the cup, and both Romario and Bebeto should have scored in the last game. But things did not go as smoothly as expected. Brazil and Italy came to a draw with no goals. Not even the extra thirty minutes helped untie the knot--the score remained 0 x 0. The players on both sides were near exhaustion and the watching crowd looked expectantly, ready to shout the cry of victory on behalf of the winning squad.

Would he be able to guarantee for Brazil that which not even Romario, our greatest hero, could not do? Well, let's pass the microphone on to Taffarel himself. What went on his mind at the end of that nervous finale of the 1994 World Cup at the Rose Bowl? Listen to him:

-- I woke up that morning with a feeling of calm and confidence. I felt secure in God. It felt like I was going to play a friendly game, not the final game of a World Cup against the powerful Italian squad! Something different was happening inside me. We went to the stadium with an enormous confidence. When we finally went through the tunnel that leads to the soccer field itself, I noticed that the Italian players were unsure of themselves and kept their heads down. Our team looked just the opposite--we were confident and we were shouting: "Come on, you guys! Let's do it. Let's win this world cup!"

At the end of the score-less game, we went to the penalty area as each team alternated in scoring as many goals as possible. Whichever scored more goals would be hailed as the new world champions. Would we be the ones?

I remembered then the text we had studied together that week: "We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield (defense). In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you" (Psalm 33.20-22).

Since I invited Jesus Christ into my heart, I have felt the strength, the love and the power of God in the most important moments of my life. Surely, not everything goes smoothly all the time; just like any other Christian, I too go through trials and temptations. But all the same, at the hour of truth, when coaches, officials and fans shout against me when I fail as a goalie, God is always there for me.

The day I lost my father and the day I saw my wife struggling between life and death at the emergency room of a hospital in our home town, and also whenever I had to defend a decisive penalty kick in a decisive game--that's when I came to know that it is really important not to be alone, all by myself in this world.

God has never failed me. At the final game in the 1994 World Cup it was no different. In the middle of the penalty dispute I looked at the score--2 x 2. And I thought: "Now is my time to do something for my team and for my country. Lord, help me to catch this penalty kick!" And He heard me.

When Italian player Massaro kicked the ball, I felt like God had pushed me to my left corner and I was able to make a beautiful defense. Dunga, our captain, went on to score his penalty, and suddenly all depended on Baggio's feet. That was the final scene of the world cup.

The world cup had staged 52 games, with three million tickets sold, four years of preparation and one whole month of much speculation in the media all over the world,. But the final moment was decided between two people: Baggio and I . . . I noticed he kept his head down and looked insecure. I grew more confident. At that moment I knew for sure that either I was going to defend that kick or he would shoot it out. And that's how it ended. When I saw that ball flying well above the poles, all I wished to do was to kneel and glorify God for I knew that the victory was his. He alone deserved all the glory.

After all, neither did Baggio score a goal nor did I make any defense at that last moment of the 1994 world cup. From that experience I learned that it is really important to trust in somebody who is greater than we are. Someone who loves us, and understands us, and helps us and is concerned about every detail of our lives. His name is Jesus, the only way to God. He is the truth in a world so full of lies and deceit. And above all, he is life itself.

If you want to find the Way that leads to God and eternal life, read John 14.2-6.Taffarel