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‘The Soul’s Embrace’: Subjects of Iconic FIFA World Cup Photo Reunite, 36 Years Later

By:  Jay Moye Jun 18, 2014
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On June 25, 1978, Victor Dell’Aquila became a part of football history when he jumped the fence and rushed onto the field at Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires following Argentina’s home-turf triumph over the Netherlands in the FIFA World Cup final.

Dell’Aquila, who lost both of his arms in an accident when he was 12 years old, ran to congratulate two of his heroes, Alberto Tarantini and Ubaldo Fillol, who were kneeling on the field, soaking in the moment. When Fillol hugged his teammate, he felt somebody touch his back.

“That someone was Dell’Aquila,” Fillol recalls.

Tarantini adds, “We thought that when he was hugging us, the people were hugging us.”

A photographer captured the moment, and the grainy, black-and-white image became known across the country and around the world as “El Abrazo del Alma” (“The Soul’s Embrace”). To this day, it’s still considered one of the most iconic photos in football history.

“It’s a picture that stays with you,” Tarantini said. “It’s very hard to forget… it’s really magical.”

Black and white photo

In January, Coca-Cola reunited the three protagonists pictured in the photo, 36 years later, during a FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour stop in Mar del Plata, about 250 miles south of Buenos Aires.

“We wanted to give Victor back the hug he gave us in that FIFA World Cup final,” Tarantini said.

In a film released as part of Coke’s “The World’s Cup” campaign, Dell'Aquila is seen playing football with his friends on a local pitch when a red Coca-Cola van pulls up. His two heroes emerge, wearing suits and huge smiles.

“When Victor saw them, he was so surprised,” said Marina Saroka, creative excellence manager, Coca-Cola South Latin. “He immediately recognized them.”

Smiling

But the surprise didn’t end there. Tarantini and Fillol brought with them a very special guest: the real FIFA World Cup trophy. The three men embrace the trophy, and each other, in the final frames.

Holding trophy

The uplifting film, which proves that football is played with the feet and the heart, has been viewed almost 8 million times and is the most popular piece of FIFA World Cup branded content in Argentina, says Saroka, who attributes the popularity to the authenticity of Dell’Aquila’s story and the fact that the entire country cherishes the 1978 photo.

“It’s genuine, it’s emotional and it goes beyond frontiers,” she adds. “People in Argentina love their national team and are passionate about football in general."

Watch the Films from ‘The World’s Cup’ Campaign