‘I think, therefore I play.’ A quote from our godlike Ruben Neves, who not only created the single most joyous footballing-based moment of my life, but made me question the very meaning of life at the same time.
…Not content with painting this dreamy work of art to trump all before, but he made 12 months of studying Descartes seem worthwhile and left me questioning whether it even happened in the first place.
So pure was Ruben’s spellbinding volley that it actually felt spiritual. It transcended a ball hitting a net and got me thinking of the French philosopher – and what we can perceive as reality and what is pure illusion.
Whether an oasis in a desert or a stick bending in water, your eyes never cease to deceive. And in your most lucid of dreams, a moment can be so vivid that your heart can ache once you’ve opened them. If your body and soul can create such anomalies, at what point is life to be believed?
As the ball was cleared to our Ruben, his first touch slowly span us into a whirl. His second accelerated us into a full on vortex.
As the ball arced and dipped, inexorably, into the top corner, we were briefly transported into new paradigm of being. Was the collective gasp of astonishment a reaction to the ball hitting the net, or the embracing of Nirvana? Descartes would call it proof. I can only call it heaven.
So pure was this goal that it felt celestial. Slicing through the floodlight sky that evoked memories of Sir Billy and Stan, a tiny bit of my heart broke, realising in that nanosecond that I’d reached absolute fulfilment. For John McGinlay, for ‘The Choke’ of ‘02, for the pain and misery inflicted to the point where I’d lost any sense of feeling anymore, this immortal moment cleansed my soul.
As the ball hit the net I reached for my father. My hero, who carried me on his shoulders along a derelict Waterloo Road Stand once upon a time. I held him tighter than I’ve done since 1992, closed my eyes and embraced another world. In this distilled moment of ecstasy I felt as if life – and death – could be cradled in one.
Words will never do justice to what our Portuguese Michelangelo sculpted on Tuesday night, but until I can prove that it was all a dream, I’ll forever be in Ruben Neves’ debt.
God bless you.
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