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Saturday, 11 May, 2002, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
Whiteside recalls remarkable debut
Norman Whiteside was just 17 years and 41 days old when he first played in the World Cup
Norman Whiteside broke the record against Yugoslavia

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Not many footballers can claim to have beaten a record set by Pele, but on 17 June 1982 Norman Whiteside did just that.

At 17 years and 41 days old, the Northern Ireland star became the youngest ever player at the World Cup finals when he lined up to face Yugoslavia.

Whiteside was nearly six months younger than the then record holder, Pele.

It is a record that still stands today, and Whiteside can recall vividly the events surrounding his debut.

World Cup's youngest stars
Norman Whiteside (NI) 17 years 1 month 10 days
Samuel Eto'o (Cam) 17 years 3 months 7 days
Salomon Olembe (Cam) 17 years 6 months 3 days
Pele (Bra) 17 years 7 months 3 days
"I went down for breakfast and Billy Bingham the manager told me I was in the team," he told BBC Sport Online.

"Just because I was so young it put another emphasis on it.

"I was set to beat Pele's record and other people pick up on that fact.

"And that brought with it a lot of pressure, not just from the local media in Spain, but the world's media because of the record."

Despite the distractions the then Manchester United star said he stayed focus on the task in hand.

"I was out to do my job. It doesn't matter if you're 17, 19, 21 or 25, I went out to do my job, which was to play football.

"It doesn't matter how old you are, you just have to go out there, perform and produce the goods. That's all I had in mind."

The youngster produced a performance beyond his years in the 0-0 draw against Yugoslavia.

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The World Cup's the biggest stage in your career
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Norman Whiteside
He went on to feature in four of his country's five matches at the finals, including the memorable 1-0 victory over the hosts Spain.

Not surprisingly, Whiteside is still clearly proud of his achievement.

"I hope it's not beaten this summer," he admitted.

"It's lovely to look back and say that you've played in the World Cup - it's the biggest stage in your career.

"You can play for your football club and you can represent your country.

"But to represent your country in the World Cup, that's even better, and I was fortunate to do it at a very early age."

Norman Whiteside will be appearing as a guest on a World Cup special of A Question of Sport on BBC One at the end of May.


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