First Whistle – March 2012

The onset of Spring brings with it rebirth, renewal and regrowth. And so is Goalden Times reinventing itself while keeping pace with the winds of change. Well, the Armani’s, Dior’s and Saint Laurent’s may not be around to drape us with a new look, but we can redesign our outfit, alright. Hope you like our brand new attire! And don’t mind us being fashionably late…

In other news, the Ides of March brought evil tidings for clubs from England. Widely acknowledged as the most competitive league in Europe, the Premier League suffered one reverse after another, the worst being Athletic Bilbao sweeping aside the English champions Manchester United through some exceptional football. It would have lost its entire stock of clubs in Europe, but for a miraculous comeback by Chelsea in a pulsating thriller with Napoli. Having fired their manager, the old hands of Chelsea turned the clock back to produce vital performances. Elsewhere, it was a celebration of Michel Platini’s efforts to empower the clubs from outside the traditional powerhouse leagues. Apoel FC from Nicosia is a poster boy for this, reaching the Champions League quarter-finals where they will be up against the might of Real Madrid. Traditional giants AC Milan and Bayern Munich also made their presence felt. Mario Gomez was no match for Lionel Messi who slammed, slalomed, crashed, walloped and blazed five past Bayer Leverkusen. Milan against Barcelona would be the tie of the quarter-finals but having faced each other in group stages, many would have argued that UEFA needs to relook at the system.

Domestically, most leagues threw up two-horse races. Milan leads Juventus in Serie A, the Manchester clubs are separated by one point in Premier League, Borussia Dortmund have advantage over Bayern Munich in Bundesliga, Paris Saint-Germain have a slender lead over Montpellier and Porto lead over Benfica in Primeira Liga. In La Liga though, Real Madrid’s eight point lead over Barcelona seems to have already ensured another league win for Jose Mourinho.

Juventus remained the only club among the big leagues to remain unbeaten across all competitions, though having drawn more than they have won, their title hopes are dependent on Milan suffering reverses. One such ‘reverse’ for Milan was when this happened in the title clash with Juventus, leading to increasing calls for goal-line technology.

Liverpool managed to grab their first trophy in six years, winning the League Cup beating Cardiff City in tiebreaker, thus ensuring their participation in European competitions after a year’s absence.

On the other side of the globe, in India, the fourth oldest cup competition in the world (started in 1893), the IFA Shield was won by local giants East Bengal. The win is memorable for it came in the centenary year of the first ever win of the Shield by an Indian team – ironically, East Bengal’s archrivals, Mohun Bagan.

With the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, and various domestic tussles in Europe, the next four weeks look promising. We shall be around to bring you all the riveting updates.

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The Triumph of ‘The Wingless Wonders’

The World Cup was coming to the land of the founders of the game. Kinshuk Biswas recounts how the revolutionary tactics of England coach Sir Alf Ramsey and a controversial decision by the officials shaped the tournament

Host Selection and Contenders

It had been decided as early as August 1960 that the eighth World Cup tournament would be held in England. West Germany and Spain were also interested to host the tournament. However, with the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) being headed by the Englishman Arthur Drewry, it was not a surprise that England was chosen as the host ahead of the others. The hosts had a new manager in Alf Ramsey who persuaded the Football Association to get rid of the selection committee system for team selection, which had hindered his predecessor Walter Winterbottom. Ramsey had boldly predicted to the press that his team would most certainly win the World Cup – a statement which had provided sustenance to the critics in the English media of the 60s.  Brazil was back but their side was ageing with a lot of reliance on Pele. West Germany had good players in Franz Beckenbauer, Uwe Seeler, Wolfgang Overath and Karl-Heinz Schnellinger. European champions Spain had Luis Suarez the playmaker of Inter Milan, Francisco Gento, Manuel Sanchiz Sr. and Pirri, all of whom were very good players. The Soviets were strong with the great Lev Yashin in goal, the diminutive Igor Chislenko, Albert Shestrenyev and Murtaz Khurtsilova. England was a work in progress under the new tactics adopted by Ramsey. In the build-up to the tournament they had been unimpressive losing to Austria 3-2, drawing 0-0 with Wales and narrowly defeating Northern Ireland 2-1. The defence was settled with Bobby Moore – now the captain, Ray Wilson, George Cohen and Jack Charlton. Jack’s brother, Bobby Charlton was used as a midfield playmaker, a role he was still getting used to. Jimmy Greaves was the first choice forward who had just recovered from a severe bout of Hepatitis. On 8th December 1965, at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, Ramsey put out a team without any wingers against the European champions. The observers were astonished by this team and even more surprised when England dominated the match winning 2-0. Ramsey had dropped wingers who then had very little defensive skills and substituted them by attacking midfielders. The opposition full-backs expecting wingers were caught out by the English attacks through the centre. It seemed that Ramsey’s tactics were working.

Qualifications and Finals Draw

The qualifications attracted 70 nations. Finally FIFA decided on ten European teams, four South American teams including Brazil, the defending champions, one North and Central American team and one from Asia, Oceania and Africa combined, to be decided by a two-legged play-off.  The African nations boycotted as they wanted a permanent spot in the finals instead of a play-off match against Asia or Oceania. Amongst the European teams, France had qualified ahead of the strong Yugoslavian team and Portugal was making their tournament debut by finishing ahead of Czechoslovakia, the runner up of the last edition. There were no surprises in South America or North and Central American qualifiers. North Korea made it by defeating Australia in both matches home and away, becoming only the third team from Asia to reach the World Cup finals. In the build-up to the tournament, the Jules Rimet trophy was stolen from an exhibition at the Westminster Central Hall. The unlikely hero who retrieved the trophy after seven days was ‘Pickles’, a dog at a south London park, below a garden hedge and wrapped in a newspaper. Pickles became an instant celebrity and even went on to star in a 1966 film.

Pickles in the media spotlight

The draw for the final tournament was held at Royal Garden Hotel in London, on 6th January 1966. The draw was televised for the first time reflecting the popularity and importance of the tournament.  England, West Germany, Brazil and Italy were seeded. The final groups after the draw were:

Group 1                       Group 2                         Group 3              Group 4

England                       West Germany              Brazil                   Italy

Uruguay                      Spain                             Hungary              Soviet Union

France                         Argentina                      Portugal              Chile

Mexico                        Switzerland                    Bulgaria              North Korea

Group 1

The opening match featured the hosts against Uruguay. It was a dour encounter with very little opportunities created and a lot of rough play from both sides. Ondino Viera, the Uruguayan manager, had deployed his most creative players Pedro Rocha and Julio Cesar Cortes in withdrawn positions, blunting the English attacking players. Ramsey had drafted Nobby Stiles as the midfield enforcer of his team who was no less physical than his opponents. The best chance was a John Connelly header which bounced off the top of the Uruguayan bar. The emphatic build up of the English had hit the road-block of reality with this 0-0 draw. The Uruguayan manager had selected his own son Milton Viera – a feat later repeated by three other managers: Cesare Maldini for Italy in 1998, Zlatko Kranjcar for Croatia in 2006 and Bob Bradley for USA in 2010. The Wembley Stadium was officially named the Empire stadium as a reminder of the good old days of British Imperialism.  The other match was a 1-1 draw between France and Mexico. Enrique Borja scored for the Mexicans in the 48th minute and Gerard Hausser equalised in the 61st minute.  In the second round of matches, Uruguay defeated France 2-1 with goals from Rocha and Cortes. England beat Mexico 2-0 with the first goal, one of the famous long range shots of Bobby Charlton in the 36th minute. Roger Hunt scored the second in the 76th minute, when the goalkeeper could only parry a Jimmy Greaves shot straight to him. The English were still looking unimpressive against the packed defences. In the last round of matches, Uruguay and Mexico played out a 0-0 draw. The only highlight was Antonio Carbajal, the Mexican goalkeeper who was playing in his fifth edition of the tournament – a record later equalled by Lothar Mattheus in 1998. In the last match, England beat France 2-0. The goals were scored in the 36th and 76th minutes and were identical to those scored by Hunt against Mexico.  The first was scored after the goalkeeper spilled a cross and the second after a Jack Charlton header rebounded off the post to his feet.  England thus topped the group followed by Uruguay.

Group 2

In the first round of matches, West Germany showed their class with a 5-0 demolition of Switzerland. Two goals each were scored by Beckenbauer and Helmut Haller and the other by Siegfried Held. It was an awesome display of precision passing and finishing. Argentina defeated Spain 2-1 with a brace from Luis Artime. The Spanish goal was scored by Pirri. The Argentines ruthlessly tackled Luis Suarez, the main playmaker of Spain early in the match to take control. The second round of the matches started with a 2-1 Spanish win over the Swiss. Pierre Quentin had put the Swiss ahead in the 31st minute but the Spanish equalised in the 57th minute through a great individual goal by Sanchiz who beat three defenders before shooting into the roof of the net. The winner was a diving header scored by Amancio off a Gento cross from the left. The other match was between West Germany and Argentina. It was as if an immovable object was meeting an irresistible force, although it was difficult to decide which team was what. The match finished 0-0 but it was littered fouls from both sides. Many of the tackles would be sure shot red cards nowadays. Eventually Rafael Albrecht of Argentina was sent off for kicking Wolfgang Weber in his groin (a polite way of writing family jewels by the press). The Argentines were warned by FIFA for their rough play although the West Germans hadn’t quite been the angels. Going into the last round of matches, all the teams except Switzerland could qualify. The Argentina-Switzerland match was won 2-0 by the South Americans with goals in the second half from Artime and Ermindo Onega. The Spanish knew that they had to defeat the West Germans to qualify. They started well with Jose Maria Fuste giving them the lead in the 23rd minute. The West Germans had brought Lothar Emmerich, the naturally left footed Borussia Dortmund winger in their side. He scored a wonder goal from the left side of the penalty box with a shot from an impossible angle to the roof of the net in the 39th minute. The West Germans then took control of the game and eventually took the lead when Seeler scored off a cross from the left. The West Germans topped the group on goal average with the Argentines coming second with the same number of points.


Group 3

The first match featured the defending champions Brazil against Bulgaria. Pele had previously said that the preparation of his team for this tournament was shambolic. He was marked by Dobromir Zhechev who continuously kicked and tripped him. Still Pele managed to score from a free-kick in the 13th minute. This kick was hit with rage and had none of the famed Brazilian swerve and curl – just plain power. Garrincha was also fouled incessantly and he too smashed a free-kick into the top corner in the 63rd minute. The Brazilians had won 2-0 but could not score from open play. This was the last instance of Pele and Garrincha playing together- Brazil never lost a match when they did! The other match between the debutants Portugal and Hungary was full of great play from both sides punctuated with very poor goalkeeping. The Portuguese took the lead when Jose Augusto headed in a corner in the second minute. The Hungarian defence were busy marking Jose Torres and Eusebio which gave him a free header. The Hungarians then dominated the match creating chance after chance which was spurned by their forwards. Eventually they equalised through a goalkeeping error which enabled Ferenc Bene to score in the 60th minute. The Hungarian goalkeeper Antal Szentmihailyi then let go an easy cross from Torres which bounced off his chest and allowed Augusto to head in his second goal in the 65th minute.  Szentmihailyi again tried to gather a Eusebio corner to miss it completely and allow Torres to head in. The final score of 3-1 in favour of Portugal was a bit flattering. In the second round of matches Brazil played Hungary. The Brazilians had rested Pele, letting him recover from the knocks of the first match. The Hungarians played a brilliant match completely outplaying the champions. Florian Albert was brilliant in his withdrawn forward role where he orchestrated the attack. Bene scored the first goal in the third minute beating the Brazilian defender Altair from the outside, then he beat Hilderaldo Bellini by cutting inside and took a low left footer to beat the goalkeeper.  The Brazilians equalised in the 15th minute when a free kick deflected to a 19-year-old named Tostao who beat the goalkeeper with a left-footed shot. The Hungarians were dominant and scored through Janos Farkas in the 64th minute – a goal created by Albert and Bene. In the 72nd minute Bene was brought down in the penalty area and Kalman Meszoly converted the spot kick to give the Hungarians a 3-1 victory. This was the 50th and last match in the career of the great Garrincha – the only match he ever lost for Brazil. Brazil lost their first World Cup finals’ match since 1954, incidentally to the same team. In the other match, Portugal defeated Bulgaria 3-0 with a goal each from Eusebio and Torres and an own goal from the opponents. In the last round of matches, Pele was brought back but he was still injured. Joao Morais of Portugal made sure that he would play no further part by double tackles on the edge of penalty area leaving him limping for the rest of the match. Eusebio was magnificent scoring off a header in the 24th minute and from a terrific volley on the right in the 85th minute. Antonio Simoes had opened the scoring when he had headed after the goalkeeper had parried a shot-cross by Eusebio. The Brazilians pulled a goal back but were beaten 3-1 and required a huge upset win by Bulgaria over Hungary to qualify. The upset was on the cards when Georgi Aspharoukov gave the Bulgarians the lead. The equaliser, however, came through a Bulgarian own goal. The Hungarians were too strong and scored through Meszoly and Bene winning 3-1. Portugal and Hungary had thus qualified eliminating Brazil.

Eusebio - the new king of 1966
Pele - the fallen King


Group 4

The first-round matches featured the Soviets against North Koreans. The North Koreans, the representatives of Asia, Africa and Oceania, were much fitter than other Asian teams who played in the previous editions of the tournament. The problem was they were dwarfed by the Soviets who were much taller even compared to other European sides. The Soviets ran out comfortable 3-0 winners with two goals from Eduard Malafeyev and one by Anatoly Banishevsky. It was not surprising that two goals came from headers with the Koreans unable to cope with the height of their opponents. The other match was a repeat of the 1962 fighting contest between Italy and Chile. Italy was the much better side and dominated. There were great Italian players on view like Giancinto Facchetti, Tarsicio Burgnich, Gianni Rivera, Giacomo Bulgarelli and Sandro Mazzola. Mazzola scored the opening goal in the ninth minute. The Chileans defended stoutly for the rest of the match but eventually Paolo Barison scored to make the final score 2-0. In the second-round matches, Chile and North Korea played out an exciting 1-1 draw. The Koreans were nimble, extremely fit and had a lot of pace which caused the opposition problems. The Chileans tried to impose their physical strength and got the lead through disputed penalty converted by Reuben Marcos in the 27th minute. The Koreans kept on attacking and finally Park Seung-Jin scored off a fierce low volley from the edge of the box in the 88th minute. The other clash was touted to be between two of the favourites, Italy and Soviet Union. Both teams looked certain to qualify and there was a chance of a boring 0-0. It was a game where Facchetti, an attacking full-back for Inter Milan stayed back to mark the dangerous Chislenko. On the opposing side, Shesternyov had an outstanding match keeping out Mazzola and company. The match was decided when Chislenko for once managed to cut past Facchetti to score off a tremendous left footer in the 57th minute. Italy had chances but Lev Yashin was at his best. Final score was 1-0 but the Italians would surely qualify against the lowly North Koreans, wouldn’t they? The last round of matches featured possibly the greatest upset in World Cup history when North Korea played Italy. The Italian assistant coach and future manager, the great Ferrucio Valcareggi had been sent to watch the North Koreans play against the Soviets. He returned and reported that the Korean game was like watching ‘una comica di Ridolini’ (a comic Ridolini). Larry Semon aka Ridolini was an Italian equivalent of Charlie Chaplin in the 1920s. Marino Perani could have scored two goals in the first half but missed. Then in the 42nd minute the unthinkable happened – an Italian clearance was headed back towards their goal; Pak Doo-Ik let the ball run into his stride and hit a low grounder across Enrico Albertossi who could have done better. A lot of people forget that Italy played with 10 men for almost one hour as Bulgarelli had gone off with a knee injury and the Italians did not have a player for his position. Strangely, they did not use any substitute to equate the numbers. The North Koreans created two more chances and held on for a famous 1-0 victory. The match was held at Ayresome Park, the former home of Middlesbrough which was demolished to make way for a mass bungalow housing development. In the front garden of such a house lies a bronze sculpture of an imprint of a football boot which marks the spot from which Pak Doo-Ik scored his goal.

Pak Doo-Ik scores against Italy

The Soviets topped the group by defeating the Chileans 2-1 in their last match, avenging their loss to the same team in the 1962 World Cup quarter-finals and the North Koreans qualified second – the only team outside Europe or the Americas to do so till 1986 when Morocco equalled their feat.

Quarter Finals

The quarter-finals featured England against Argentina, West Germany playing Uruguay, Portugal facing North Korea and an all East European clash between the Soviet Union and Hungary. England recalled Alan Ball to add steel to the midfield. Geoff Hurst came in for the injured Jimmy Greaves.  The match was a story of dirty play from both sides. Although English media always paint the Argentines as the villains, England actually committed 33 fouls compared to 19 by Argentina. There were rumours that Stanley Rous, the FIFA president had instructed the referees to back the European teams which were propagated by the South American media. England won the match 1-0 with a goal from Hurst. The match is remembered for the sending off of Argentina captain Antonio Rattin. Alf Ramsey stopped his players from exchanging jerseys with their opponents, terming them as animals. However, the players of his team were no better.

Sir Alf Ramsey prevents the exchange of jerseys after the England-Argentina quarter-final

The second match between the West Germans and Uruguayans was another robust encounter with crunching tackles from both sides. However, the Europeans were more skillful and won 4-0 with Haller, Beckenbauer and Seeler on the score-sheet. Uruguayans were too defensive and also had two players sent off which didn’t help them. The Portugal-North Korea match was a classic. The North Koreans attacked the Portuguese defence and were leading 3-0 by the 24th minute. After that it was the Eusebio show. He scored four goals, two of which were penalties to lead his team to an incredible comeback. Although the Koreans continued attacking even after they had a three-goal lead without any thought of preserving their lead. Then Jose Augusto scored a fifth to give Portugal a 5-3 victory. The last match featured the impressive Hungarians against the strong Soviet side. In a repeat of their previous matches, the Soviets battered their opposition through their physical play. They won comfortably with goals from Chislenko and Valery Porkujan. Hungary reduced the margin through a Bene goal but found the Soviet defence and Yashin a bridge too far. The semi-finals were set with West Germany playing the Soviet Union and England playing Portugal.

Semi Finals

The first semi-final between West Germany and Soviet Union was predictably a rough encounter between two teams of extreme fitness and great physical attributes. Schnellinger crunched into Chislenko leaving him limping for the rest of the match. To add insult to injury, Chislenko was sent off for an innocuous challenge on Haller. Haller put the West Germans ahead, running on to a cross from Schnellinger from the left in the 43rd minute. Beckenbauer doubled the lead with a left footer from the edge of the box with Yashin unsighted in the 68th minute. Porkujan reduced the margin with a late goal but the West Germans played keep-ball and made it to the final. In the other semi-final, England attacked the Portugal defence which was made up of players from four different clubs. The forward line, all from Benfica, was the strength of the Iberians but the defence was clearly the Achilles heel. Two goals from Bobby Charlton sealed victory for the hosts – the first in the 30th minute with a side foot shot and the second in the 79th minute with a right-footed shot from the right edge of the penalty box. Eusebio reduced the margin by converting a penalty when Jack Charlton handled the ball after Banks missed a cross from the right. England was one match away from fulfilling Ramsey’s prediction of winning the tournament and West Germany considered the old enemy to be in their way. The third place match was won by Portugal who defeated the Soviet Union 2-1 with a penalty conversion from Eusebio, making him the top scorer in the tournament with nine goals.


There was a lot of media speculation about Greaves coming back but Ramsey stuck with Hurst and Hunt. Beckenbauer was made to mark Bobby Charlton. The West German coach, Helmut Schon may have made a tactical error by making his best ball player into a marker. He could have brought in Klaus-Dieter Sieloff from the bench who was a natural marker in place of Emmerich who had done nothing of note after his wonder goal against Spain in the group stages. To be fair, Emmerich was a known match-winner for his club Borussia Dortmund with great performances en route to the European Cup Winners title earlier that year. On 30th July, a Saturday, 93,802 people gathered at the Wembley Stadium to watch the final. This was the largest crowd for a World Cup match excluding the Maracana stadium in Rio and the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. The Queen of Britain was amongst the spectators and she keenly wanted to award the trophy to her team.

Tofik Bakhramov-Linesman(L), Uwe Seeler, Gottfried Dienst-Referee(C), Bobby Moore and Dr Karol Galba-Linesman(R)

England played with a 4-4-2 diamond formation with Bobby Charlton as the central attacking midfielder and Nobby Stiles as the central defensive midfielder. West Germany used 4-2-4 system with Beckenbauer and Overath in the midfield. Seeler and Held were the two strikers and Haller and Emmerich the wingers.

The pitch was greasy from overnight rain and the West Germans started brighter with their passing and the English looked a bit overawed by the occasion. In the 13th minute, Held received the ball on the left and hit a long cross towards the English far post. Banks was shouting at Ray Wilson to let it go. But Wilson thought it was a warning and jumped early for the header only to knock it too near the goal. Haller, the West German left winger had come inside and moved back to collect it and hit a tame grounder between Jack Charlton and Banks, both of whom looking at each other as it crossed the line (0-1). The crowd were silenced. Bobby Moore had later written in his autobiography that a player of Haller’s quality should not have scored against England and was not good enough to win the World Cup. A stereotypical English opinion of German footballers! Haller was everything the English hated about the Germans – blond, strutting, prone to theatrics when fouled and with a first name of Helmut. He was also a world class player in spite of Moore’s assertions, who helped Bologna and Juventus win Serie A titles. England took heart from the fact that in all World Cup finals since the war, the team scoring first had ended up on the losing side. Six minutes later, Moore moved a long way up on the left side and was brought down by Overath. He took a quick free-kick before the referee whistled and clipped a pass to the running Hurst whose downward header found the back of the net (1-1). The next hour was like a heavyweight boxing contest with both defences ruling the roost- a lot of punches thrown but none connecting.

In the 78th minute, an England corner was taken by Alan Ball from the right. Hurst received the ball in the edge of the box and took a very poor shot. The West German left-back, Horst-Dieter Höttges lunged to clear the ball only to balloon it up towards the right hand back post. Martin Peters, the English right midfielder reached the ball before Jack Charlton and drove it from seven yards out past a hapless goalkeeper, Hans Tilkowski and Schnellinger on the goal line into the back of the net (2-1). The match seemed over as the crowd grew vociferous in its support of the home team. They had forgotten that their opponents were the ‘comeback kings’ – West Germany. In the 89th minute, West Germany got a free kick on the left when Jack Charlton leaned into Held. Emmerich, who had been very quiet during the match, took a low powerful shot into the English penalty box. The shot hit George Cohen, the English right-back and bounced to Held who shot towards the goal. Held’s shot hit his own player, Schnellinger on the back and took a ricochet towards the right where Seeler couldn’t reach it but Wolfgang Weber, the defender lifted it over the feet of the lunging Wilson and the hands of the diving Banks into the net (2-2). It was the first time since 1934 that the World Cup final was running into extra-time.

The moment of truth. Goal ...?

Then came the pivotal moment of the match in the 101st minute – Alan Ball ran into the right hand side line and hit a first time cross for Hurst who had lost his marker, Wili Schulz. Hurst took a shot from the right side of the penalty box which crashed against the bar and bounced on the line and was headed over the bar by Weber. Hunt had already started celebrating a goal claiming that the ball had crossed the line. The Swiss referee Gottfried Dienst went to confer with the Soviet linesman from Azerbaijan, Tofik Bakhramov. The officials spoke different languages and understood little of what the other was saying. However, Bakhramov confidently nodded his head indicating that the ball had crossed the line (3-2). The West Germans surrounded the referee and linesman protesting against the decision. It is believed that the linesman shouted back at the West Germans: “This is for Stalingrad”.  Probably a figment of imagination as none of the Germans could understand Russian or Azerbaijani, the languages spoken by Bakhramov. Bakhramov was later honoured when the national stadium of Azerbaijan at Baku was named after him. The West Germans were shocked and went for an all-out attack to get the equaliser. In the 119th minute, Moore chested down a cross in the English penalty box and hit a long pass just into the opposition half to Hurst on the left. Hurst took the ball in his stride and ran through unchallenged as the entire opposition was in attack. Only Overath was chasing him in vain as he smashed a left-footer past the goalkeeper to become the only player to have scored a hat-trick in the World Cup final till date. The final whistle was blown and England had fulfilled their destiny. They had brought home the Cup! Bobby Moore received the Cup from the beaming Queen Elizabeth II and Alf Ramsey was lauded for his tactics.

Bobby Moore after receiving the Jules Rimet Cup from Queen Elizabeth II

The tournament was a huge success with great crowds and support, but it was tainted by the fact that the referees had not protected the ball-players who were literally kicked out. It was the first time that the officials had garnered more attention than the players. FIFA changed rules making it mandatory for all the officials in a match to speak the same language. 44 years later the English claimed that justice had been done when Frank Lampard was denied a goal against Germany in the quarter-finals of another World Cup. However, the Germans did not go on to win the tournament as the English had. Hurst, in an interview many years later felt that it was not a goal. Some studies with advanced computer technology also validate Hurst’s opinion. So the question still remains – was it really a goal?  The debate still rages on….

First Past the Post

When the biggest clash of the season between two of the biggest club rivals of all time gets marred by a linesman’s sleepwalking mistake, Gino de Blasio wonders why the beautiful game can’t have this simple touch of technology

I originally wrote this piece for my blog, only moments following a game so tense coal would turn to diamonds and so defile of the Italian league that prose and match analysis have taken a wild beast of the situation. The thing I realise about football everyday and as the years pass before me, is that, it truly is a global game, where the ramifications are more than just one man and his thoughts (even including his assistants), but those of a joined community in the 21st century.

My problem wasn’t and still isn’t that it was my team involved, nor the colours of Juventus FC that were in this whole debacle of what otherwise was an entertaining game. No, my quarrel is with the higher echelons of power in football, and more precisely the lack of video technology in football. There have been some “difficulties” cited in implementation but I believe that the pain of implementing this will far outweigh any that comes from having to endure stinkers.

My Thoughts

We live in a world of instant communication, smartphones, social media, men to the moon and back. We live in a world of 24 hour news, video cameras on and in everything, global transactions with the push of a button and applications.

And yet, in this very same world we have no answer, yes no answer to whether a ball has crossed a line or not.


What the linesman is doing I shall never know

It goes to show how far behind the times FIFA and UEFA are. It really does. We are relying on humans to do the job that a computer has a purpose for.

Is it any surprise that the weekend after this incident, there were two very similar instances in Serie A, and the referee’s assistants did give the goal? It seems the pressure applied at the time by media, football teams and even the referees’ association had an impact but it seems even more evident that one man can’t be tasked with such a job – they are, like all human beings, fallible.

And so for me, the question remains; the more these associations strive to keep football away from technology, the more we search for an answer as to why.

A Call to the Twitter World

I thought to ask one of the outlets of this new technology world to see what my peers thought of it all. Here were just some thoughts:


It’s absolutely necessary and simple to implement. Coaches should be allowed 2 challenges per game (NFL) to go to video replay.”


thats (goal line technology) the only case id put technology on football”


Goal line tech=waste of cash&time. TV evidence & 3officials in the stands in coms with officials when called upon. Easy solution 4 all”

Whilst I can agree with some of the statements and thoughts, I think what is evident is that people want it on the whole, it seems only the echelons don’t.

My Answer

I said this 13 or so years ago at school after watching a tennis match. “Why can’t we have a sensor in the ball, one in the cross bar that goes over the line, when the ball goes beyond the line, a light flashes behind the goal to say it went in”. You can see why I never took science and technology up after that comment, but the basic theory was there.

Is it the perfect solution? Probably not. But all I want is to see something introduced to take doubt away from the game in something so manageable.

Final Thoughts

All we, as football fans want is a fair game. Milan vs. Juventus showed that. Yes, Juventus had probably an offside called against them that they shouldn’t, and I am not asking to solve that question either. Offside is harder, can probably still be done by computers, but this… this is simple.

A simple solution to take away doubt, restore some sanity and leave football looking great as ever.

* Title courtesy: @ginkers – grazie amico!