There’s something about Martin Palermo*

PALERMO! PALERMO! PALERMO!

We were yelling that throughout the game. Why, you ask, were you shouting for an awkward 36 year old who has never been good enough to play for Argentina in the World Cup until now? Well, because we were sure he’d score. And he did.

Palermo did indeed score the second goal despite playing only 10 minutes, and it was a classic Palermo poacher goal. Messi made a fun, launched a shot, the goalie didn’t do so well with the rebound, and Palermo was in perfect position to stick it in the next, which he did adeptly.

Maradona went crazy. The team went crazy. After the game, they interviewed Palermo for 14 of the 15 minutes right after the game. I’m not exaggerating. They didn’t interview DiMichelis, who scored the first goal. They didn’t interview Leo Messi, the best player in the world. They didn’t interview Diego Maradona, one of the game’s greats. No, they just kept asking Palermo questions.

It’s sorta hard to explain why Palermo is so loved. He’s had a ton of success for Boca. Yet he is also in the Guinness Book of World Records for missing 3 penalty kicks for Argentina in a Copa America game in 1999. He’s had some injuries that cost him years of his career, like when he celebrated a goal in Spain by standing on a concrete wall and it collapsed, breaking Palermo’s leg. And despite his success with Boca, fans of other teams (even River) like him. Part of the reason is that he comes across fairly humble, I think.

He didn’t play for Argentina for 10 years after missing those 3 penalties. Yet, in his first game back in 2009, at the ripe old age of 36 (almost no player gets the opportunity to play internationally after 32 or so), he essentially scored the goal that qualified Argentina for the World Cup, again in only 10 minutes of playing time.

This goal happened directly in front of me, and it was amazing. Hard to describe the atmosphere in the stadium. Argentina dominated the game, finally scored, then Peru scored to tie it up and put the World Cup very much in doubt. The crowd (including us) had been yelling for Palermo the whole game. And then Palermo scored this goal.

As my father in law says, the ball searches for Palermo. Palermo isn’t a great football player. He doesn’t play like an Argentine either, as he’s tall and slow and not technical in the slightest bit. But he trains hard and he always get himself in position.

Also, despite frequently looking kinda clumsy, he scores some sick, sick goals. I saw this bicycle kick in person. It was his 200th goal. Quality isn’t great, but I feel really fortunate to have been at la Bombonera to see this goal.

Or how about another recent record-breaking goal that also is one of the longest goalscoring headers in history?

To be honest, this list could go on. Like I said, there’s something about Martin Palermo. If he didn’t know how to score goals, he couldn’t even play in the second division in Argentina. Yet only Martin Palermo would make his first World Cup appearance at 36 and score in the first 10 minutes…and we were 100% sure he’d score, which is why we’d been screaming his name for the first 80 minutes.

* in Spanish, this would be “Loco por Martin Palermo.” Doesn’t have the same ring.

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