Dimitri Payet v Romania 2016
The 2015/16 season was the best time of my life so far. Not only was I enjoying my first year of university, but West Ham were actually doing well, as we said goodbye to Upton Park with a magical campaign.
Dimitri Payet was a massive part of that magical quality. I religiously spent a couple of hours pretty much every weekend either in the stadium, pub or my room at halls marvelling over the unquestionable skill he possesses. The Inferno pub is a place where particular memories were made: I uncontrollably celebrated when he beat David De Gea from the sort of range nobody should even try to, and gloated to a Liverpool fan when the talisman put his free-kick delivery straight on Angelo Ogbonna’s head to beat them in the cup.
This was different though, the uni year was coming to an end and it was no longer us against them. This was a pub packed to the rafters appreciating just how incredible this man is with a ball at his feet, with all the excitement a major tournament’s opening game brings and no club allegiances to tarnish it.
Payet had been at the heart of so much of France’s play, setting up Olivier Giroud’s opener, but Romania’s penalty had meant that the score was 1-1 going into the final moments. That’s until the man wearing 8 on his back intervened. The magician received a pass from N’Golo Kanté just outside of the box, touched it out of his feet and sent a wonderfully curled strike into the top corner, giving the goalkeeper absolutely no chance.
The quality of the strike and passion in the celebration made it impossible not to feel an abundance of pride and happiness for the man I had grown to adore. He may have left West Ham acrimoniously, but memories like this one endure.
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