Saturday, June 26, 2010

Buddhist Personality : Roberto Baggio

It's hard to believe that my favorite team of this year World Cup, Italy is already out of the competition. At every major international competitions, i always support Italy and it has been that way for many years already, so i was a little upset that they were knocked out so early from this year's World Cup. Now i have a strange feeling that Paraguay will do very well this year. As a tribute to Italy, today's post is on Italy's finest player, Roberto Baggio. Here we go.

Name : Roberto Baggio
Nationality : Italy
Date Of Birth : 18th February 1967
Height : 174cm
Profession : Own business, former footballer

Baggio was born into a family of 8 brothers in Venecia, Italy. He started his soccer playing career for Italy in January 1986 after being selected for the national youth team and by May the same year he was already playing for Serie A, for Fiorentina team. He was progressing very well until injury hit him in 1987. During that period, he failed to attend many training sessions and missed many matches. There was once he attended a training session but got exhausted after only 10 minutes. It was during this tough time of his career that he was introduced to Buddhism by his friend Morrichio in Florence, Italy. Buddhism caught his interest and since then he started to read books on the religion. He is a member of the Soko Gakkai International Buddhist organisation.

As a child he used to go to church but admitted that he was not a religious person then. He became a Buddhist on January 1, 1988. On that day, he went knocking at Morrichio's door as early as 7.30am and told the half awake Morrichio who had just went to bed three hours earlier after attending new year party that he wanted to convert to Buddhism.

The sleepy Morrichio was suprised and asked Baggio if he had become crazy and why did he chose to tell him that so early in the morning. Nevertheless, after a little convincing, Morrichio accepted Baggio's intention. So on that cold morning, he became a Buddhist. That day was not only the 1st day of the new year but also the beginning of a new chapter of his life. Since that day, he could not stop. He would meditate and pray twice daily for an hour each time and if there was no interruption, he would continue to do so regardless of the time and place. He believed in Karma, that everyone has to be responsible for their own actions. Before becoming a Buddhist, when he got injured, he always asked himself " Why me ? ".

Through Buddhism, he learned that 'life is a bitter truth' and began to look at the future differently. He was traumatised by his injury to the point he almost gave up football but through his new faith, he realized that life is a challenge and Buddhism had given him strength to face the challenges. A few years later, he felt sad after reading in the newspaper that one of his former team mates from his teen days got into drug addiction. He was sad that he was not there to help his friend and realized that had it not for Buddhism, he would probably ended up the same way as that friend of his.

In 1989, about a year after he came out from his 'dark' days, he joined Juventus and was offered a salary of 25 million Lira, making him the most expensive player in the world at that time. He was voted as European Player of the year in 1993 and World Player of the year 1994 despite being blamed for Italy's failure to win the World Cup that year. In that World Cup final against Brazil, the winner had to be determined by penalty shootout. Baggio kicked but missed the last ball for Italy and gave away the World Cup title to Brazil. After that match, Baggio was heavily blamed. People claimed that if he had prayed to the Lord ( Jesus ) like Brazil instead of the Buddha, he would probably scored the goal and Italy would become the winner.

Later, in an interview in Japan, he said that Christians believe in "external" God but Buddhists believe in finding spiritual serenity in their souls and that religion was a very personal thing for a person. He was sad by the lack of tolerance of some people for other religion. He noted that in that particular match two of his teamates before him, Franco Baresi and Daniele Massaro also missed their penalty kicks but no one associated them as 'the player who cost Italy the World Cup Final.' People had forgotten that without Baggio, Italy would have never reached the final that year.

Despite being relegated from a hero to an outcast all due to one missed penalty, he had no regret. He went on to play for Italy in the World Cup four years later.

At 15, where he was already playing for the teen team in Caidogno, he fell in love with his childhood neighbour, Andreina ( now his wife ). He said that she was the one who comforted and encouraged him whenever he was in pain. In the evening on July 24, 1982, before leaving Vicenza for three weeks of training, he gave Andreina a ring. While training away in Vicenza he missed Andreina a lot and so was Andreina. Upon returning to Caidogno, they got engaged, on the August 22, 1982.

Almost seven years later, on July 2, 1989 Baggio married Andreina. On the eve of his wedding, he remembered he had to play an important UEFA match for Roma and had to rushed to Caidogno, immediately after that match. On that night, using his friend's guitar, he played and sang next to his bedroom window for Andreina who was listening to him from her bedroom next door until 7.00am. Three hours later, they got married in a Catholic church. He said that some people criticized him for having his wedding solemnised in a church because he was no longer a Catholic. He understood the vast contrast between Catholic and Buddhism but chose to have a church wedding out of respect for his parents and for his parent in laws. He said that at that time he had only became a Buddhist for about one and a half year but if he had married a few years later, he would probably not choose a church wedding.

His conversion to Buddhism was not welcomed by his parents and initially Andreina too. When his mother first discovered about his interest in Buddhist, she was extremely worried and thought he had been possessed by a demon and even invited Catholic priests home to 'heal' him.

Later he discovered Andreina had been reading books on Buddhism behind him and Andreina finally realized how much Buddhism had help him tremendously. Since that day, Andreina too, started to meditate and pray to the Buddha daily. Baggio said that without Buddhism, his life would be meaningless and proudly claimed that he had never be implicated in any negative scandals before and still faithful to Andreina, all thanks to Buddhism. He would head home after each match or training session to be with his family of two children, a son and a daughter.

In October 2002, Roberto Baggio was appointed Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). He officially retired from professional soccer in 2004. While playing for Italy, he was nicknamed " The Divine Ponytail " for the hairstyle he wore and his Buddhist background and wore the No.10 jersey all the time. He is the only Italian to have scored in 3 different World Cup and is being regarded as the best player Italy ever had.

Roberto Baggio's Career Honors

Under 23 European Player of the Year in 1990.
56 caps and 27 goals for Italy.
Bronze Medal at World Cup 1990.
Played 16 games in three World Cup competitions: 1990, 1994, and 1998.
First Italian to score at 3 World Cups.
Tied for the most Italian World Cup goals (9) with Paolo Rossi and Christian Vieri.
Winner of the Ballon d’Or in 1993.
Winner of the UEFA Cup with Juventus FC in 1993.
FIFA World Player of the Year in 1993.
Silver Medal at World Cup 1994.
Serie A Scudetto (Championship) with Juventus FC in 1995.
Converted 71 out of 79 penalty kicks in the Serie A, which was the best ever in Italian football history. He converted 8 out of 9 for the Azzurri.
FIFA 100 Best Living Players: 2004.
Played for Vicenza, Fiorentina, Juventus, AC Milan, Bologna, Internazionale, and Brescia. He scored 205 goals in the Serie A.
2007 Fair Play Award.

A video of him in Laos

The Unfortunate Missed Penalty.
( According to him " One missed kick should not define a game nor a stellar career. But often in life, we are defined by winning and losing. The one great failure after 99 successes ( referring to the missed penalty kick ) The one great success after 99 failures ( referring to his successful comeback after his injury break in 1988 )

Robert Baggio, the finest player Italy ever had


Hugo Deslippe said...

I love Roberto too!

Anonymous said...

He is a hunter. Why this is no issue here? A buddhist who likes to kill.

Anonymous said...

prove that he is a hunter after becoming a buddhist .then only i can believe you.

Anonymous said...

buddhist is very good ,i think right

Anonymous said...

buddhist is very good ,i think right

avishka divyanjali said...

Proud to be a buddhist

Unknown said...

Buddhism says "Ehipassico" which means go inside of your body and thoughts instead of outside things which anyways gives dissatisfaction! Roberto had realized it. That is better than scoring 1000 goals!