Soccer Nirvana, offers his own memories and reminisces of tournaments gone by.Guest writer Beano Niblock, having read
I vaguely remember little snippets of the 1962 tournament but I think more from newspaper reports rather than watching games. In fact at this stage I know I didn’t watch on the TV because we didn’t own one ... not many in Swift Street of the early sixties did. 1966 was different. I remember the build up to the tournament and as an eleven year old I had my favourites - players and teams. I could offer an opinion on who should or shouldn’t be playing.
My hero at this time was Chewing Gum Jimmy Greaves and I was disappointed when he hobbled out of the tournament to be replaced by Geoff Hurst, someone I considered grossly inferior to JG. Brazil - everyone’s second favourite team also disappointed. But my excuse was that the dirty Bulgarians-Hungarians and Portuguese kicked them all over the place, when the reality was that they were poor that year.
1966 will stick in my mind for other reasons. Pickles the dog finding the stolen Jules Rimet trophy, Portugal versus North Korea, Eusebio, and, after the completion of the Final, my Eleven Plus results arriving in a brown envelope with a World Cup stamp!! The final itself between the hosts England and their great arch rivals West Germany I watched in a television shop window, not a million miles away from Newtownards, Bangor in fact. I was there with Laganvillage Flute Band as part of the Junior Orange parade on the last Saturday in July.
1970 was, and in my opinion remains, the best of all the tournaments. It was the last I would see on the outside until 1990 in Italy which I attended as a spectator, three months after my release from Long Kesh. The Brazil team of that year reached a pinnacle in footballing terms that surely will not be surpassed. Pele at his peak, Carlos Alberto, Gerson, Jairzinho, Tostao (the white Pele), Clodoaldo ... what a team!! This outfield team with Pat Jennings in nets would surely be unbeatable?
As a fifteen year old on the cusp of leaving Grammar school—yes the envelope from 4 years previous contained good news—this was sporting nirvana. I bought a Brazil top from a sports shop in Smithfield and wore it day and night. In between matches I bent my six skinned Wembley ball into the top corner of a gable wall in Shamrock Street, or dribbled in the style of Luiga Riva down the back entries. And fittingly Brazil triumphed sweeping all before them contemptuously aside, beating England in an epic match that will live forever for the Pele/Banks moment, etched in my memory for all time.
Other memories of this tournament that readily come to mind: Bobby Moore arrested on a stolen jewellery charge, Pele’s outrageous dummy against Uruguay, England crumbling to defeat against West Germany and Peter Bonetti being the fall guy, Jeff Astle’s miss against Brazil - Chewing Gum Jimmy would have buried it with his eyes shut!!
By the time 74 came around I was firmly ensconced in Cage 11. Football played a big part of my life there as it was our main source of recreation. Some great players passed through the cages including Northern Ireland Internationals. On the world stage the power was shifting from South America to Europe. West German and Dutch club sides dominated European Football. Ajax, Feyenoord, Bayern Munich and Borussia Monchengladbach were the new superpowers.
Two years previously West Germany came to Wembley and brushed England aside with a brand of football that heralded a new soccer dawn. Led by the Kaiser and orchestrated by the impeccable Gunther Netzer the Germans were worthy favourites to lift the cup in their own country. Holland had other ideas, and quite rightly so. They had a team that included the best known chain smoking footballer Johann Cryuff - strangely enough the man who invented the famous Cryuff turn - and a host of other wonderfully gifted players in a system labelled Total football.
This tournament was missing England, dumped by Poland—who would go on to finish third and supply the leading goal scorer Lato - but did include Scotland. They narrowly failed to qualify for the latter stages by losing out by virtue of scoring less goals against Zaire than either Yugoslavia or Brazil.
A shock early on in the competition when a Sparrwasser goal was the difference between East and West Germany. This spurred the West to re-shuffle their pack in a bid to get back on track. Inevitably and somewhat predictably the Final seen WG face the Netherlands. A first minute penalty by Neeskens rocked the Germans but back they came as we knew they would to win the game 2-1 with the prolific Muller scoring the winning goal. Many of the players from this year stick out: Hoeness, Breitner, .Heynkes and Bonhof on one side--- and Van Hanegam, Rensenbrink and Krol on the other.
Cage 11 had only one television at the time and it was shared hut by hut on a rota basis. If the matches were early enough the soccer aficionados trooped into whatever hut housed the TV with plastic mug and biccies in hand. The times were pretty much okay so there were no really late nights involved. If there had of been it would have been a matter of climbing out through the bars anyway, as we did for late movies or World Title fights.
Highlights for me? The Zaire player lashing the ball the length of the pitch at a free kick awarded against him, and the moment on ITV’s coverage when pundits Derek Dougan and Jackie Charlton squared up to each other, only to be told to sit down as they were behaving like 2 Big Jessies by Brian Clough.