Have you ever had to just trust your gut? A feeling that you follow just because you think it’s the right thing? And how good does it feel when that actually pays off? I got a taste of that when I had to call upon one of my lowest-rated players to bail me out multiple times, playing FIFA Online 4. That player was Sandro Wagner.
In case you’re unfamiliar with FIFA Online 4, which is what we Koreans normally call FIFA, it’s an online game based on the FIFA series, but it’s online (duh), and it also has a bigger player database than the Playstation/Xbox games. For one, if you want to assemble a Bayern Munich squad like me, you can use retirees like Miroslav Klose, Stefan Effenberg, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and of course, Sandro Wagner.
So anyway, I was playing in Ranking Mode, which is basically a system where you play against other users, and have to accumulate a certain number of points in ten games to avoid relegation to an inferior division, or to get promoted to a superior one. I was not doing so hotly, and I found myself just a point away from escaping relegation with just one game remaining. With an immensely important match looming, Robert Lewandowski’s condition was in the red zone, and Miroslav Klose had been misfiring so far. I hence decided to call upon Wagner to lead the offensive line, alongside Thomas Muller in a 4-4-2 formation.
Now, Wagner has a modest rating of 92, compared to the likes of Lewandowski and Klose with 111 and 107, respectively. I myself was doubting my selection at first.
But it turned out to be a masterstroke.
Obviously, when you have someone like Wagner in your lineup, you’re bound to go for headers. That’s exactly how I opened the scoring, with a pinpoint, classic Sandro header to give me an early lead.
I could be safe with just a draw, but I didn’t relent, for I knew that more goals would guarantee me safety. I kept pressing, but the goal remained impenetrable, at least until the final minute of stoppage time.
Wagner then scored the most beautiful goal in his career.
Receiving a headed pass from Michael Ballack on the edge of the box, Sandro let the ball bounce. Then, with the ball still in midair, he somehow managed to wrap his right boot around it and unleashed a mockingly soft, yet graceful long-range curler straight into the top corner.
His touch was deft and slight, almost like that of a mother caressing her child. His movement was smooth and fluid, effortless even. For him, it was just a simple swing of the elevated leg. The result, however, was undoubtedly one of the finest goals I had ever scored on FIFA.
And that was it. 2-0. We were safe.
A little later, though, we were facing relegation yet again. Sadly, despite the talented squad at my disposal, I am not Hansi Flick, and the players I faced had evidently invested a lot more money in their teams than I had. Think hundreds of dollars compared to zero. Though what motivates people to spend that much money on an online game escapes my understanding.
This time, the situation was even more dire. Only a win would save us. With little to lose, I set my team up in a very attacking lineup:
Neuer – Matthaus, Boateng, Sule, Alaba – Coman, Ballack, Muller, Perisic – Lewandowski, Wagner
I was well aware of the defensive deficiencies that such an approach would bring, and those deficiencies were exploited barely five minutes in. 0-1. We needed at least two more goals.
But fate had it that Sandro would save me yet again. Somehow getting his toe to a lovely lofted ball, he poked home just past the keeper to give me the all-important equalizer before halftime.
The introduction of Leroy Sane in lieu of the lackluster Ivan Perisic gave me the wing strength I needed, and deep into the second half, the German winger assisted Jerome Boateng through a corner to give me the lead. But the game was far from over. 10 minutes remained. 10 minutes that, if spent unwisely, would see me relegated.
And then, he struck again. Kingsley Coman, now on the opposite flank, sent in a direct cross which Wagner connected his head with perfectly. The net bulged. 3-1.
I punched the air in glee while letting out a strange sound, a strangled yell mixed with jubilation and disbelief. Sandro had done it. We were safe.
I was tearing up. Silly, I know, to shed tears over a simple game. But the feeling of being rewarded because you put your trust in the right player, a player whose ratings are dwarfed by those around him, that feeling is one to savor. Plus, apparently yesterday was his birthday, and he more than rose to the occasion. Talk about fitting.
Even in real life, Sandro was a player who always gave it his all on the pitch, no matter how long he played. He could play for nine minutes or 90, and he would not disappoint you with the effort he put in. This was why he is still a fan favorite in Munich, and a key part of my FIFA team.
Sandro retired from professional football a few months ago, but his spirit lives on in Bavaria. For one, he was in a television studio analyzing the Champions League final when Bayern played PSG, not being shy to hide his support for the team he once called home. I believe that his presence was one of the many reasons that we won that final in Lisbon.
Sandro will always be a true Bavarian, and he will always be a part of the proud FC Bayern.