Adam Walton writes about Sergio Aguero leaving Man City, “that goal” against QPR and the role Aguero played in his affection for football.
I started properly watching football during the 2011/2012 season. I had never been much of a sports fan, the grimaces and sympathetic looks of my school coaches having done little to encourage any prospective passions. As a long-proclaimed Arsenal supporter, this was the first year I dedicated two hours of every weekend to my chosen team. The season encapsulated the recent experience of Gunners fans: a late push for European football; infuriating away defeats; and my hero being sold to a rival at the end of the season. Hardly a recipe for a lifelong love of football.
However, despite my own team’s shambolic performances, the season was a spectacle. There was the Euro 2012-winning Spain team who, in my opinion, surpassed the World Cup winning squad. In a meeting of the world’s best-looking strikers, Didier Drogba’s heroics sank Mario Gomez’s Bayern Munich, which saw Chelsea miraculously snag the Champions League. Mario Balotelli was setting various things on fire. But of course, that season has echoed in football’s consciousness for one reason: that Sergio Aguero goal.
The moment barely needs replaying. I’ll do it anyway. On the final day of the Premier League season, Manchester City and Manchester United are level on points, yet the Citizens have a significantly better goal difference. United are to play Sunderland, City will play QPR. One win stands between the “Noisy Neighbours” and a league title. United cruise to a 0-1 victory. Unbelievably, with five minutes of extra-time remaining at the Etihad, City are 2-1 down. Edin Dzeko snatches a goal from a corner, yet a winner is improbable, verging on impossible. The ball is played into Balotelli in the box who, whilst falling over, lays the ball off to Sergio Aguero. One famous first touch, and he hammers the ball past Paddy Kenny. Mass hysteria. In the stadium, fans are praying, screaming, crying. In Cape Town, my 13 year-old self has long since thrown his lunch to the floor and is jumping on the couch in disbelief.
Re-watching the last ten minutes of that game, the beauty of football, and indeed sport, becomes abundantly clear. The build-up is shambolic: Joleon Lescott nearly sends Jay Bothroyd through on goal; Samir Nasri lets a ball go out of play not knowing a City player had taken the last touch; and David Silva doesn’t realise he has to take the corner which Dzeko will score from. Yet, without all of these moments, which wouldn’t be out of character in a Sunday league game, one of the most awe-inspiring moments in sporting history would not have happened.
Then there’s the reaction of the fans. Before the goal, the anxiety screwed onto their faces is still painful to see, and makes the pure ecstasy of their celebrations that much more potent. The emotional outpouring is such that Djibril Cisse, the QPR striker, celebrates with Nasri as if he’s won the league. If there was ever a shrine to the necessity of fans in football, these celebrations can’t be topped.
It is all this, the combination of raw emotion and human error, that saw an involuntary twinge of sadness creep into my Monday evening as I read Aguero is to leave Manchester City at the end of the season. I repeat, I am far from a fan of the Manchester City soft power machine. However, despite the club’s questionable morals, that goal left an undeniable impression on my life. I saw the elation that 22 people running after an inflated piece of plastic could bring to thousands of people. It cemented my love of football. If Arsenal was my gateway into the game, City’s comeback against QPR was my first full-on high. And from that moment, thanks to Serio Aguero, I’ve been a football junkie, left to chase that feeling for the remainder of my life.
With Aguero leaving city, there will be hundreds of pieces analysing his goal-scoring records, his trophies, or even his lack of International success. His achievements are incredible. But football isn’t watched for statistics, it’s for moments of pure emotion. I will never be able to extricate the Aguero goal from my love of football. Yes, it was a goal scored by a man I don’t know for a team I don’t support in a place I’ve never been, but it shows how amazing this game can be. It’s the reason I’m sad to see Sergio Aguero go.
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