I wanted to go to the soccer game on Wednesday, November 10 at the Coliseum, but didn?t make it out on time from work....it brought together 2 great teams from "days gone by"....Brazil v. Mexico....but this wasn?t just a regular international match...it was the exact teams from the World Cup in 94..they came to close out the careers of both Romario of Brazil and Jorge Campos of Mexico
So the Legend Goes:
ahhh...a little stroll down memory lane................................
Funny thing is that year (1994) I was working for the World Cup...handling security and hospitality at the hotels and I got a chance to work for both teams. I walked out that summer with the most precious soccer gift a fan could enjoy ? a story to tell.
You could say I knew most of the players on both teams at some point. I was assigned the Mexican team when they stayed to play their playoff game at the Rose Bowl; they stayed at the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey. I only put in one day of work with them....not too exciting...and not many gifts...
Other teams I worked for during this time were the Romanians (staying at the Embassy Suites in Monrovia), Team USA (staying at the DoubleTree in Pasadena), the Colombians (staying at the Marriot in Fullerton), and finally the Brazilians (who also stayed there at the Marriot)....
Interesting to note about the Colombians; I had bypassed purchasing tickets to all the games but managed to get "comped" by the team to attend the Colombia v. US game at the Rose Bowl in the opening round. What made this game memorable was the fact that the U.S. upset Colombia on that day...1-0....which subsequently led to a death on that Colombian team....
The defender that day, Andres Escobar, who accidentally deflected a ball into Colombia's own net could never live down that experience and was threatened to death by his own country's citizens...Bravely this player returned to Colombia to face an angry response for their early World Cup concluded Escobar was shot to death in a bar located in a remote part of Medellin, where he had retreated to live the rest of his life....
The one piece of memorabilia from that team to me came in the form of a Colombian Flag torn by fans and thrown at players. It was left to me by one of the players who went by the name "El Tren" (the Train) Asprilla. He too was the one who gave me the complimentary tickets to the game. I took my dad that day. Now talk about irony; I took a picture of that dreaded move by Escobar to get the Americans the winning goal.
That World Cup was also set to open on or about the same time that another famed "football" player dashed for a quick exit....A different kind of football - pigskin in this case...and a different kind of exit - a high speed chase. That football player went by the name of Orenthal James Simpson....otherwise known as the "OJ high speed chase down the 405"....it was the same year...1994....the hotel was located a few miles from one of the off-ramps where people were rooting him on like it was the sidelines of the Rose Bowl he was dashing for the winning touchdown....
After 18 hour days....tons of gasoline burning, missed classes, and babysitting of soccer players for 3 weeks...it all paid off....how? Well thanks to team Brazil; a few names that come to mind were "Bebetto, Branco, a young Ronaldo, Tafarel, and wouldn't you know it ~ ROMARIO". Most played on Wednesday night at that game, with the exception of Ronaldo.
THE PAY OFF:
Well...the tournament was coming to a close and Brazil was still winning...so it meant more added work for me...which equaled to more gifts and perks...most of the world?s eyes were all on the second floor at the Marriot Hotel when Brazil swept through the playoffs. The rest of the attention was at the Italian team who came up to the finals that year also. This was a classic game ? one of the most memorable in soccer history. I had the distinction of being part of the staff that would cater to these titans of the game on that hot day in 1994
Catering included many of many kinds of favors....everything from "getting a newspaper in Portuguese, to getting ice cream cones @ 3 am, to ordering porno from their cable boxes in their rooms, to making sure everyone was checked thoroughly before being admitted into the lobby area, to making sure all the meals would be served in a timely and yet appetizing manner. In the end it was everything they needed to bring home the world cup trophy.
Let us not forget the favors that don't get mentioned in the press: the passing of ?comps? to family and ?friends;? delivering tickets to the stadium, and arranging for fluff-n-dry service at all hours of the night.
and then there's the women....
Tons of them...it was our jobs to sort out the good one's from the bad one's...to somehow "mysteriously" look the other way when the temptation alarms would sound off and women were brought up the ?emergency doors,? taking ?wife calls" when they poured in from Rio and Sao Paolo, to being the lookout when it was past "coaches" curfew for visitors.
I don't blame the players after all ? they were bringing in the universe to a stand still for 90 minutes each match...and the fans were loving it...and so was Madison Avenue...and so was the greater city of LA. So I looked at it more as a favor to the community and the country. Besides: even if I thought that cheating was bad, I couldn?t speak Portuguese to tell anyone who would care; sorry, I had to find a innocent clause somewhere in my contract and this was it.
Here's the way it went down:
On the last day of the World Cup 94 I had been putting in 18 hour days to help out team Brazil. My boss wanted me to take a day off...I told him "NO"...and so he said he was worried about my lack of sleep. So I told him to keep me in the front lines for another 24 hours and it would be all over. He reluctantly agreed.
Saturday night I left at midnight and the final was set for the next day at noon.
On this Sunday...my day started at 4am...I drove out to the Rose Bowl to deliver some tickets and wasn't prepared for what happened next....it turns out one of my friends couldn?t make it to the game to work so he begged me to put in "some hours"...in the end it was to stay and play sideline security for the final game?s entirety...Now this is where I have to make an executive decision: Do I get some sleep and check into work at the normal noon check in? Or do I stay and work the game and then arrive late for the hotel?
I decided to stay and go as long as I could. I was given a uniform (with purple beret) and tennis shoes to wear on the sidelines so we could all match like ?little cadets.? All I had to do was guard the water cooler from anyone who looked suspicious. Ordinarily I would say "Hell no!!" but we're talking about a front seat to the biggest game on the planet on this day...the whole world was tuning in to watch it on TV, instead I had it in front live...not bad.
So the game turned out to the one of the ?most thrilling moments in sports history"...why?...well because Brazil and Italy tied to end regulation; they tied in the overtime also; and last they were headed into Penalty kicks until one team or the other gave in. The total game time took a little over 4 hours to complete and finally in penalties a tired Brazil beat a dead Italy on a Roberto Baggio missed penalty kick...it was labeled the "missed kick heard around the world"...heartbreaking...but fun. It gave new meaning to the quote: ?The thrill of victory; the agony of defeat.?
Immediately following the game it was back to the hotel for the celebration. The streets were a mess; the city was dead; and I had the task of returning to Fullerton from Pasadena in one piece to go back to work. I was nearly falling asleep on the road. You would be too if after standing in the sun, 90 degree june weather, for 4 hours, you had to go back to work....but I was on a mission.
Not only was I sleep deprived, now I had to explain to my boss and get an ?ass chewing? for coming in 4 hours late; not good. But I took the chance because I figured the tour of duty was almost over. As soon as my boss saw me he told me to go home and sleep. I told him "NO!!" and after a heated discussion back and forth he finally accepted again (talk about dedication). He assigned me to the second floor; not good because the partying was going to be in the lobby (including the samba dancers.)
He assigned me to the emergency exits in an attempt to try to bore me to go home. Instead it paid off royally.
The players partied a bit with the media, the fans, and family. But soon into the early evening most just wanted to go to their rooms and sleep....and this is where my position shined.
I had been up a total of 16 hours of work...and the hotel started to die down just a bit, but kept going with the revelers. I, on the other hand, was coming to a "bodily self-destruction"...my mind said "yes ? keep working" but my body said "no ? listen to your boss and go home". There needed to be meaning to all this.
I found a nice cushy chair to sit on while I finished out my tour of duty. It was then that all my efforts paid off. Turns out my chair was blocking an ?emergency exit.? The same emergency exit mentioned earlier for the "special" deliveries....As luck would have it that night a player by the name of "Dunga" (the team leader, a legend of the game, tourist fascinated by Hollywood, and ? drum roll please ? a devout father) made a dash for the door smiling at me. He asked me to move my chair a bit and let up a beautiful young lady who walked directly into his room. I didn?t ask questions but just sat there and dozed off a bit. I knew his routine. She walked in with makeup and hair in place and walked out with lipstick gone and hair a mess. Turns out she was the 17 - year - old daughter of a reporter who worked for NPS in Brazil.
The routine was: look away....no worries...no faults....just a job I had to do..
Well that must?ve been some crazy "few of hours" because after she was gone, the clock stuck 2 am and Dunga came out of his room and told me "thanks" in a Portuguese accent. He then handed me a laminated poster portrait of the team and...(ready for this)...a signed jersey....not just by him, but by every member on that "world champion" Brazilian team. Including all the stars mentioned above.
I finally figured it out: The shirt was the purpose. The value of my soul was reduced to a autographed Jersey.
A couple of years ago I placed it on Ebay where the starting bid was $1000 it ended at $15,000. I decided to pull it off the market and still have it at home....intact.
And this was the way my countless hours of sleep deprivation were justified; all the gasoline burnt and all the hard work I pulled that summer of 1994....this is how it paid off.
I went for the full 24 hour cycle that day...and when I did fall asleep I slept for 18 hours straight. When I woke up I thought it was all a dream, but the Brazilian team jersey sitting at the corner of my bed was a reminder that I would live to tell the story one day.
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