Gazza: England legend disappeared to play magic with children
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The second half of a two-part docuseries on one of England’s finest footballers airs this evening. BBC Two’s ‘Gazza’ documents Paul Gascoigne’s encounter with a tabloid storm, as the generational talent battled addiction, violence and scandals. Tonight’s episode follows Gazza’s career through the Nineties just as his career began to fall apart with career-threatening injuries and fresh tabloid revelations about his relationship with girlfriend Sheryl.
Despite all his troubles, Gazza restored his status as an English icon by scoring against Scotland at Euro 96.
Yet, as tonight’s episode reveals, the apparent reprieve was only temporary as Gazza found himself back on the front pages after his marriage crumbled and acts of domestic violence became public.
The candid film offers a new perspective on his meteoric rise, including his finest moments on the pitch and his manic personal life.
Gazzamania first gripped the nation at the Italia 1990 World Cup, when the man without a competitive international start to his name took the tournament by storm.
England topped the group, and Gazza was making a name for himself on and off the pitch, as detailed by Jane Nottage, the Three Lions’ former Team Liaison Officer.
She told the documentary: “We were completely unaware what the fans were thinking about back home.
“Paul was just having a laugh. One day he just disappeared, I think it was lunchtime, and nobody could find Gazza.
“He wasn’t in his room, he wasn’t in the hotel grounds, he wasn’t anywhere.
“But I headed to the beach, and suddenly I saw Paul sitting there with a group of children.
“The kids didn’t speak English and he didn’t speak Italian, but he was doing magic tricks and he was laughing.
“They were absolutely entranced. He did have a real ability to just connect with people.”
Gazza went on to help England with three assists as the team charged into the semi-finals.
He was just 23 at the time and played like no one was watching.
The documentary shows a video of him having cake thrown in his face as well as diving into a pool at the team’s hotel, over which Ms Nottage said: “He was a free spirit.
“He was just this wonderfully gifted boy having a great time in a great moment.”
England met West Germany in the semi-finals, a match that will forever be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
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Already on a yellow card from England’s second round victory over Belgium, Gazza was booked for a foul on Thomas Berthold.
It meant that he would have been ruled out from playing in the final if England had made it through, with the cameras showing a teary-eyed Gazza register his new reality.
Writing in his book, ‘Glorious: My World, Football and Me’, Gazza recalled of the incident: “He’s gone for his pocket. Suddenly I can’t hear anything.
“The world just stops apart from the bloke in black. My eyes follow his hand, to the pocket, then out with the card.
“There it is, raised above my head. I looked at the crowd, I looked at Lineker, and I couldn’t hold it back.
“At that moment I just wanted to be left alone. I didn’t want to talk to anyone or see anyone.
“My bottom lip was like a helicopter pad. I was devastated.”
The booking left him so emotionally drained that he withdrew from the decisive penalty shoot-out.
Chris Waddle volunteered to step up and replace him, and blazed his penalty high over the bar.
England lost the third-place play-off against Italy, and despite the Three Lions’ best performance at a World Cup since 1966, it was not enough to keep Bobby Robson in a job.
Gazza airs at 9pm on BBC Two. It is also available on BBC iPlayer.
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