Rivaldo – Barcelona vs Valencia – 2001

15 01 2011

 Stefan Bienkowski writes at The Oval Log and you can follow him on Twitter @Stefan_Gla. This is his account of Rivaldo’s famous overhead kick to secure Champions League football for Barcelona in 2001.

Vitor Borba Ferreira. Rivaldo. He is regarded as one of the greatest players of our generation. A prophet in every sense of the word. The Brazilian was never thought of too fondly in his home land, despite his constant success at the top of European football and a trophy cabinet to rival any expatriate. But you don’t need me to tell you who or what Rivaldo is. No, I’m here to discuss a very special memory of mine that the world, and I, owe entirely to the player – the scissor kick against Valencia. Football is a sport that lives off the life blood of the instantaneous decision making of its participants. The results go down in the history books for all to refer back to, but the moments of skill, the inch perfect through ball, the intoxicating satisfaction of a slotted goal, are what make the game what it is. It’s what thrills the fans into a frenzy that spreads through the crowd, bypassing the cameras and past the televisions, into the memories of all who witnessed it, where it rests fondly until called upon in any reminiscent fashion. Rivaldo was notorious for such an occasion. His crowning moment came on the 17th of June, 2001. When Barcelona welcomed Valencia to the Camp Nou, the truth of the matter was that Barcelona were concluding one of their more forgettable seasons. After parting ways with Coach Van Gaal, the year was running its course to a lacklustre fifth place that promised no Champions League, and a summer of discontent around the Catalan club.

Everything rested on this last match. A victory over Los Che would be enough to claim fourth spot and entry to Europe’s premier tournament, and a glimmer of pride for the fans who had spent the season watching Real Madrid’s new wave of Galacticos power to the title. Valencia rested in fourth spot going into the game, with a three point advantage over Barcelona and an identical goal difference of +22 . Just one goal would clinch it.

Our hero’s crowning moment came in the 89th minute of a game that had witnessed two clubs sparring all evening for the right to be Spain’s final representative in Europe, and had yet to find a victor. Barcelona had twice gone ahead in the game, thanks to two glorious goals from our aforementioned hero, in the 3rd and 46th minutes. Only to see Valencia match the Brazilian every step of the way with two goals from their own midfield maestro, Ruben Baraja, on the 26th and 47th minute. It seemed no matter how hard Rivaldo strived to drag his side through, Valencia had an answer.

The Catalan giants looked jaded. Baraja’s second goal had silenced the stadium and a draw with Valencia’s stubborn defensive side looked inevitable. Overmars looked out of place, demoralised and was limited to running into dead ends, Guardiola had given up and resided to the bench where he could glare at Albelda from afar, and Patrick Kluivert struggled to get any familiar touch with the ball and was replaced by Zenden to end a disappointing night for Barcelona’s superstars. Barcelona looked dead in the water and seemed resigned to the thought of the UEFA Cup next season.

Then, Frank De Boer floats a ball down the middle of the field into the Valencia box that, for any onlookers, seemed more hit in hope than inch perfect. The ball skims over the head of Baraja as he tries desperately in vain to intercept, where it lands comfortably on the chest of Rivaldo. In the same move the Brazilian tames the ball and lofts it in the air for what seems like a lifetime, as the two surrounding defenders watch in awe before connecting with the ball and launching it past Canizares’ left hand side, and in to the goal. Pandemonium followed. Cameras shoot across the stadium as coaches and fans alike comfort each other in tears of joy. Supporters show scenes of exhilaration in the stands. The side line erupts as Llorenc Ferrer, interim coach at the time, screams to the heavens, surrounded by players and coaches equally following suit. Even the board are seen celebrating as club president, Joan Gaspart, is caught pumping his fists in the air, screaming at anyone who will listen. The camera then cuts back to a calm Rivaldo as he slowly pulls his shirt back on, takes a deep breath, and walks back onto the pitch with a modest look upon his face. That goal wasn’t for him, it was for Barcelona, it was for his team mates, it was for the millions watching at home.

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