As the final whistle blew to declare Argentina’s home-turf triumph over the Netherlands in the FIFA World Cup final of 1978; a certain Victor Dell’Aquila jumped the fence, evaded the police, rushed onto the field and hugged his heroes Alberto Tarantini and Ubaldo Fillol, who were kneeling on the field embracing each other. But what made that moment at Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires immortal was the fact that Dell’Aquila, the ‘fan’, was a double amputee who had no arms to hug his heroes.
“When I hugged Tarantini, I felt that someone touched his back. That someone was Dell’Aquila,” Ubaldo Fillol recalled later. A photographer captured the moment that travelled throughout the world to become immortalised as ‘El abrazo del alma’ (Embrace of the soul). “It’s a picture that stays with you… it’s really magical.” Alberto Tarantini said. To this day, it is considered as one of the most iconic photos in Football history.
Dell’Aquile lost his upper limbs to an accident when he was 12 years old. After the tragedy, he started considering himself worthless with questions on his existence. But Football brought him back to life and motivated him to look at things positively. A die-hard Boca Juniors fan, Dell’Aquile travelled to Buenos Aires only to see Argentina win against the Dutch.
According to Dell’Aquille “I had been in the Centenario stand, behind the goals. When the match finished, I doubted whether to jump or not. And I said to myself: ‘It is in God’s hands. I can’t miss this.’” Victor had his eyes on Tarantini who played in his favourite Boca Juniors. As he approached Tarantini who was on the ground in the process of praying, Fillol arrived. And then came that precious moment when Victor Dell’Aquile gave an armless hug to both the players.
36 years later, Dell’Aquila was reunited with both Tarantini and Fillol in 2014 by Coca-Cola during a FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour stop in Mar del Plata. In a film, Dell’Aquila was seen playing football with his friends when a red Coca-Cola van pulled up. His two heroes emerged, with huge smiles and accompanied by the World Cup Trophy.
“We wanted to give Victor back the hug he gave us in that FIFA World Cup final,” Tarantini said. It was a happy reunion that culminated in a recreation of that wonderful 1978 ‘Embrace of the Soul.