Footballers often become larger than life in the eyes of fans and spectators. They are put on a pedestal, and regarded as icons, with superior human qualities. This is why the tale of Paul Gascoigne, both as a player and a person, is so important. Gazza’s media and merchandising profiles have been replaced by a new generation of celebrity players, like David Beckham and Michael Owen. While the achievements of these players overshadow him, Gascoigne’s exploits are just as significant. Gascoigne’s behavior became the subject of a contested and polarized debate that made many fans adore him.
Paul John Gascoigne, known to most as Gazza, was born in Gateshead on May 27th 1967. He began playing for Newcastle youth in 1983 and made his debut with the first team in 1985, immediately putting his talents on display for Alex Ferguson who regarded him as “the most promising young player in England”. Both Manchester United and Tottenham dealt with Newcastle in 1988, and in the summer before the 88/89 season, Ferguson was convinced that he had signed the young attacking midfielder.
In the end however, Gascoigne picked Tottenham as his new club and bought a house for his family so he could stay close to them while in London. Years later, many have speculated that things would have gone differently had he signed for the Red Devils. “I still regret not having had the opportunity to help him find his best form”, Ferguson wrote in his autobiography.
In his debut season with the Spurs, Gascoigne won his first trophy as well as making his first cap for the National side. By the end of the 80s Gazza was highly regarded across the world, particularly after his performance at the 1990 World Cup in Italy. In the semi finals against Germany, Gascoigne’s youthful technical ability and character were put on display in front of the world. In a particularly tough fixture, Gazza picked up his second yellow card of the tournament, disqualifying him from the final in case of an England victory.
After realizing the significance of the sanction, Gazza broke down, and began crying on the pitch. The tears kept flowing as England lost on penalties, and in the eyes of many, this was the moment that endeared fans to this England legend. Upon arriving at the airport, nearly 100,000 welcomed the defeated team, particularly in support of Gazza.
In 1992 SSC Lazio purchased Gascoigne for 5.5 Million pounds despite having been injured the previous month in the FA Cup final. Many were skeptical about the signing, as rumours about Gazza’s lack of fitness on the pitch, and exploits off it, began to circulate. He would remain at Lazio for 3 years, scoring only 6 goals. His most significant moment came in his first season with the Bianco Celesti. With moments left to play in the derby against Rome, Gazza scored the equaliser and showed his emotional side once again, as he cried once more. An image indelibly fixed in the minds of the Lazio faithful.