Festball Fever – Bend it like the Gods!

What happens when the schedules of a heavenly football tournament and an earthly cultural festival clash? Do they share a mutually exclusive existence or do they cross paths? Alankar Smithee sews visual postcards together to seek the answers through this play by God-Players

It is that time of the year again when the interplanetary football tournament is scheduled to be held. Gods and goddesses from all corners of the universe will be representing their planets in the heavenly showdown. And can planet Earth be far behind? But hey, suddenly a mail reaches the office of the organisers that the divine souls from Earth cannot participate right now. The organisers are baffled and furious at the same time. But they dare not say a word against them because the gods from Earth hold a lot of clout in the celestial organisation and bring in a lot of sponsors. So the permission was granted to postpone the tournament by a month!

Now cut to the scene where various gods and goddesses from Earth are sitting together in their office. At the centre of the group sat Ganesha, the elephant-headed Indian god of beginnings and good luck. Surrounding him were the other chief technical directors: Loki (the Norse god of mischief), Nike (the Greek goddess of victory), Anubis (the jackal-headed Egyptian god of mummification) and Pele (the Hawaiian goddess of volcano). All of them, except Ganesha, looked a bit down on the mood, perhaps due to the fact that the football tournament had to be rescheduled.

Loki: “Ganesha, I am the expert divine trickster out here, but you are the one who actually scored the goal! What huge gameplan do you have in mind that prevented us from participating in our favourite sport, the ‘jogo bonito’ as of now?

Ganesha: “It was all on mom’s orders, you see!

Nike: “You mean, goddess Durga?

Ganesha: “Yes, mom gave me marching orders to go to planet Earth.

Pele: “Oh! Just when I was all set to top-score in the tournament again, your mom had to give us this free kick! But what is this all about?

Ganesha: “Well, every year, in the months of September-October, the people of Bengal celebrate Durga Puja for five days, which is basically a ‘puja’ or a cultural and religious festival where they pay obeisance to my mom, goddess Durga. And each year, mom sends someone from our family, to oversee whether the celebrations are being held in the right spirit. And this year, it’s my turn. So I had to give this tournament a miss, but then I decided to throw my elephantine weight around and at first managed to convince you guys to back out and subsequently forced the organisers to postpone the sport showdown as well. Yippee!

Anubis: “Well, that’s a nice penalty we have been subjected to then! And what are we exactly supposed to do then for this period?

Ganesha: “Simple. I shall visit Kolkata, the city in Bengal, where Durga Puja ceremonies are held in plenty. And I invite you guys to come along with me, because everyone ought to experience Durga Puja atleast once in their lifetimes, err…sorry, we don’t have a lifetime! But it doesn’t matter. Ladies and gentlemen, let our journey begin!

*****

Location: Kolkata, the City of Joy.

The five gods and goddesses decide to remain invisible while savouring the flavour of the Puja season. Quite visibly, Ganesha is the only one who is pretty excited while the other four divine entities try to give him company while silently missing the Beautiful Game all the time.

Ganesha seemed to tackle the situation well


Ganesha
: “Well, here’s the plan, fellas! We’ll be visiting the ‘pandals’, which are temporary temples made of bamboo poles and cloths, where I’ll be carrying out my routine check. In the meantime, I’ll also tell you a lot about the culture and the customs of this land.

 

Loki: “I guess it’s already half-time now. So can we take some rest?

 

Ganesha: “Oh Loki, you and your mischief!

 

Pele: “Okay, let us start scoring with the number of pandals we visit.”

 

Nike: “Pele, you and your phenomenal scoring! Madam, will you ever sit on the reserve bench for a while!

Pele takes this quite as a compliment and looks content.

 

Anubis: “We can also become Galloping Majors and skip pandals at random, in our mission of pandal-hopping.”

While roaming across the pandals, the visiting gods and goddesses experience the exotic local culture and their host, Ganesha, explains to them the significance of the various intricacies.

Anubis: “I suddenly noticed from their conversations that the local Bengali people seem to like two Brazilian footballers very much – Didi and Kaka.”

Ganesha: “Oh, those are just endearing pet-names for one’s elder sister and one’s paternal uncle, respectively, in a very generic sense. You got fooled, didn’t you, Anubis!

Anubis did not seem to enjoy the own-goal.

Throngs of people have lined up to catch a glimpse of the pandals, the clay sculpture of the goddess Durga, who is shown to be accompanied by her four children, including Ganesha, and who is slaying the meek defence of the demon Mahishasura, like a champion centre-forward.

Pele: “It’s pretty evident that Durga is the captain leading from the front, in the set of idols that we get to see here. She has ten arms. But alas, she doesn’t wear an armband!

Nike: “I agree with you on that, Pele. Like me, the goddess of victory, Durga too seems to win this demon-slaying match by a big margin.”

 

Anubis: “Yes, Durga is getting referred to by the name ‘Ma Durga’ by all the devotees. I guess moms and mummies are very popular and respected in this part of the globe. Just like me, the god of mummification!

 

Loki: “You all are up to mischief by indulging in ambush-marketing yourselves like rival brands in a tournament having an official sponsor. Remember, I am the god of mischief out here!

Ganesha seemed to be engrossed deeply in something. When asked what the object of his fixation was, he replied, “Well, my own idol seems pretty funny. I agree that my belly is huge, but the artisan here has made it more huge! It, in fact, seems like a perfect hybrid of the official matchballs: Fevernova, Teamgeist, Jabulani and Tango12!

The other gods and goddesses all have a good laugh at this.

Loki: “See Ganesha, so we are not the only ones missing participating in our celestial tournament. You also seem to see everything in the light of football, just like us!

Ganesha smiles back.

*****

The pandal-trotting continues. The divine group visit as many Pujas as possible, deeply analysing the bigger ones and not giving the smaller ones a miss. While many of the idols are traditional in style, a lot of the Pujas are thematically improvised. One such pandal had been made out of 442 football jerseys of various clubs and countries.

Our divine visitors were obviously very excited at seeing this. One question, though, came to their minds. Was 442 just a random number or was there any particular reason behind it?

Experiencing Durga Puja in the backdrop of football

Then they read the theme description provided by the organising club. Apparently, the number 442 was chosen in reference to the 4-4-2 formation commonly used while spreading out the footballers on the field.

Loki: “Wow, this tribute surely floored me!

Ganesha: “Yes, the people here often pay such tributes. And there are instances of them taking digs at players too, resulting from indignation. Like, in the World Cup years, we often see the demon idol’s face being a replica of that of the footballer portrayed in the media as a villain due to his team’s debacle during the finals. Brazilian star Ronaldo and French star Zinedine Zidane have both been the subject of this dubious tribute in recent years.”

After pandal-hopping for some more time, the gods and the goddesses decide to take some stoppage time. They start looking for some local food. Ganesha immediately suggests phuchka, a crispy snack having mashed potato and spicy water inside. And the reason? Because it was the next best thing to a football, in shape, that is!

Ganesha silently recited some mantras and suddenly there were these platefuls of phuchkas before them! While the spherical snack was doing the rounds, Nike took just a couple of them. When the other gods poked fun at her for her probable dieting practices, she told the actual reason. Nike was conscious of her Greek goddess looks and hence did not want to spoil her classy persona by binging on local street food.

To this her friend Pele scoffed: “Darling, you should take more interest in Fussball and not Football!

Nike retorted: “Whatever! I’m not that much of a snob. I have my ‘both feet on the ground’ – irrespective of whether that sounds like a Beckhamish autobiography or not.”

Pele could not bend Nike’s defence with a further offensive remark. She mellowed down.

Pele: “Well, Nike, lemme tell you that you are beautiful. So maybe you are right in limiting your gastronomical tastes to just ambrosia, the food of the gods.”

Nike: “Thanks Pele. I know that. In fact, perhaps that’s the reason why I won the celestial beauty contest after which I was portrayed on the Jules Rimet Trophy, the trophy earlier handed out to the World Cup winners.”

Pele: “Wow! Is that so? Can I have a look at it, I mean the trophy?

Loki: “There’s mischief involved there. For the trophy has been stolen. And for good.

 

Nike: “Doesn’t matter, Pele. You can always look at the 3D hologram version. Here it is.”

Nike uttered some secret phrases which sounded Greek to the others. And the Jules Rimet Trophy was there for everyone to see.

Pele: “Let me see, let me see!

Pele gets (to see) the Jules Rimet Trophy

Nike was happy enough to hand over the hologram to Pele who clasped it like a custodian with a safe pair of hands, and admired the trophy and Nike’s representation on it, for a long time, maybe even for extra-time.

*****

More edutainment followed for the divine group as they continued their discovery of Bengal’s favourite festival. Soon enough, they admired the patience and the enthusiasm of the common masses around (who were but oblivious to the presence of the invisible football fanatic deities).

Loki: “All the hustle and bustle around seem pretty exciting. But the speed of the game, I mean the traffic, is not exactly very encouraging. The traffic signal flashes the red-light just like a strict referee would have red-carded an offending defender after a major foul.”

Anubis: “Maybe the pedestrians are too tied to each other, to let everyone rush forward.”

Loki: “In that case, they should rather use the tie-breaker for faster solutions.”

Ganesha: “I would love all these local people standing in the long queues, to do a Mexican wave. Just saying!

Loki: “We find that the local Bengali people are quite passionate about their football. But do they at all play the sport?

Ganesha: “Yes, very much so. The two local teams out here to watch out for are definitely, ‘East Bengal’ and ‘Mohun Bagan’. Their derby matches attract large crowds to the football grounds even to this day. Sometimes mishaps happen too. Like on August 16, 1980, sixteen people were killed in a stampede which followed in a frenzy over the derby match.”

Anubis: “Wow! Then this city footballically creates this Group of Death sometimes, doesn’t it? I love dead people, after all, my job of mummification thrives on it.

Ganesha: “You could say that the people here simply love their football. They perform this ‘Bar Puja’ which is worshipping of the goal-post on a football field on their New Year’s Day. They would love to celebrate achieving their goals in life, in dancing styles similar to that of the Cameroonian footballer, Roger Milla and the Brazilian hero, Bebeto. Bengalis know their Diego Maradona, Peter Shilton, Ruud Gullit, Roberto Baggio, Oliver Kahn, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in and out. They can’t live without their storm in a teacup over who is the best coach and which could have been a better club.

Anubis: “I see a lot of divide between the rich and the poor classes here. For every wealthy spoilt brat you also have fifty slumdogs who hopelessly aspire to win millions one day.

 

Ganesha: “Now, why do you say that?

 

Anubis: “Well, that’s because I sometimes wonder whether it is the passion for the sport which is more important or the recognition that it brings that reigns supreme.

Loki: “But Anubis, how will you measure the two against each other? Both are important.”

Anubis: “Okay, let’s see then. I weigh dead people’s souls, so I am an expert with the scales.”

Anubis, by his magical wish produces a common balance, a football and the current World Cup trophy and goes on to weigh the latter two against each other.

After much tilting and counter-tilting, the weights of both the football and the World Cup trophy were found to be equal. It was the divine common balance, so it cannot possibly furnish false readings, unlike earthly scales, which may be doctored.

Measure for measure

Loki: “Exactly like I said – both are crucial. Without passion you cannot get recognition and without recognition you won’t be able to let your passion survive! Football is and has always been about tremendous enthusiasm, planning, camaraderie, tension, failures and victories. That is why it is the greatest game ever in the universe!!!

Ganesha: “You said it!

*****

Before long, the five days of festivities of the people were over. Ganesha, Loki, Nike, Anubis and Pele enjoyed themselves to the hilt all the while. Football freely flowed into their discussions and the festive spirit all around made every second a prized moment.

Loki, Nike, Anubis, Pele (in unison): “Thanks Ganesha!

Ganesha: “But why?

The other four: “We gods are omniscient. So you do know the answer, don’t you?

Ganesha smiles back and blows the final whistle.

But wait, before the whistle even faints, someone appears before them and says, “How could you do this to me?? I’ll complain to your mother!

Ganesha’s chubby smile disappears at once and his vuvuzela-like powerful voice turns mute. He, in fact, becomes unnerved just like a rookie at the receiving end of Sir Alex Ferguson. His face turns pale, like a goalkeeper who has failed to read a banana kick correctly, that resulted in the rival team’s goal in the World Cup final. Because it is none other than his Bengali wife, Kola-bou (or the Banana-wife) who is miffed at him. Ganesha knew that during his time on Earth, he had to keep atleast one evening aside for doting on his Bengali wife. Incidentally, his wife is the personification of the banana tree and a member of the DWAGs (divine wives and girlfriends) club and in front of her, Ganesha always looks as if he has just goofingly stepped on a banana skin.

Ganesha: “Darling, please don’t go bananas…err, you see…well, how do I put it…I know I’ve just been yellow-carded by my beautiful yellow-skinned wife, but actually my friends were on a guided tour of Kolkata in this festive season sacrificing our favourite game. So how could I leave their company? You do know that I love you so much, don’t you, melove?

Kola-bou hardly looks convinced. Actually, she is having immense fun in flustering her husband. All Indian men, gods not spared, are tremendously afraid of their wives and mothers. And Kola-bou always has this unconditional support from her mother-in-law, goddess Durga and she knows it!

Ganesha (turning to his four pals): “My dear friends, I guess you can understand that I’ll be further delayed by a couple of days! I’ll have to restart my play by a throw-in.” Ganesha winks.

The other four wink back and decide to stay behind the touch-line, letting the conjugal couple do all the mutual dribbling.

Loki: “Wishing you good luck brother, in your ensuing session of Bollywood-style singing and dancing!

Pele (turning to Kola-bou): “Don’t spare him! Rip his pocket and do as much shopping as possible!

Kola-bou (all smiles): “You bet!

Ganesha and Kola-bou say farewell to the rest of the gods and the goddesses. Ganesha promises that his escapade will not result in a hangover during the celestial football tournament.

The rest four football-fanatic divine entities go back to their heavenly abode, thoroughly appreciating the cultural significance of this festive season and feeling that it was worth spending their time out in India on planet Earth, the postponement of the celestial tournament notwithstanding!

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Illustrations: Srinwantu Dey

This Month in Football History – March

We look back at the most memorable happenings in the month of March in the world of Football

1 March 1921 – Jules Rimet Becomes President of FIFA

Jules Rimet never kicked a ball, but he set the game on its way to the global phenomenon that we have on our hands today. Jules Rimet became the third President of FIFA on 1 March 1921. He was one of the founder members and visionaries when FIFA was formed to bring about a world football competition.

It was on his initiative, that the first FIFA World Cup was held in 1930. The Jules Rimet Trophy was named in his honour. Rimet kept the top post at FIFA till 1954, seeing the organisation grow from a small 12-member to a massive 85 countries, and in 1956 he was even nominated for the Nobel Prize.

6 March 1902 – Real Madrid Founded

Real’s origin goes back as early as 1897 when Football Club Sky was founded by the faculty and students of Madrid’s Institución Libre de Enseñanza. But FC Sky split in three years. One half formed Club Español de Madrid, which itself split in 1902 when club president Julian Palácios left to create Sociedad Madrid FC. King Alfonso XIII conferred royal favour on the club, changing its name to Real (Spanish for royal) Madrid Club de Fútbol in 1920.

Madrid’s win over Athletic Bilbao in the 1905 Copa del Rey final landed them with their first silverware.

It has since grown to become one of the most internationally acclaimed clubs, standing currently as the richest football club, in terms of annual revenue.

9 March 1908 – Another club is founded – Inter Milan

Some players belonging to the Milan Cricket and Football Club, or AC Milan as we know it today were not too pleased with their club’s restrictions on inducting foreign players. On 9 March 1908, they thus formed their own club which they named Internazionale Milano. Inter has since become one of Italy’s most decorated clubs, with 30 national trophies, 6 European and 3 international titles.

Known as the Nerazzurri for their black and blue striped home shirts, Inter won their first scudetto in 1910. They are the only team in Italy to remain in Serie A for their entire existence.

Disapproving Inter’s policy of recruiting foreign players, the Fascist government, in 1928, forced the club to play under the name “Ambrosiana.”

Inter’s greatest period came in the 1960s under manager Helenio Herrera, when they were nicknamed “La Grande Inter” for their successes.

11 March 1898 – AC Milan Kicks Off

English lace-maker Herbert Kilpin moved to Turin to work in the textile industry in Torino. He soon became the first Englishman to play professional football abroad. In 1897 Kilpin moved to Milan. Unlike most ideas that a group of drunk men have come up with in a pub, Kilpin and his friends actually did follow through on their plan and the Milan Cricket and Football Club was born. “We will wear red and black,” said Kilpin, “Red to recall the devil; black to invoke fear.”

On 11 March 1898, the club played its first ever football match, with six Brits in the line-up: Kilpin, Hoberlin Hoode, Kurt Lies, Samuel Richard Davies, Penvhyn Liewellyn Neville and David Allison, alongside Peter Cignaghi, Lorenzo Torretta, Guido Valerio, Antonio Dubini and Attilio Formenti. The match was played on a field to the north-east of the city where the Grand Central Station now stands.

The fledgling team won the match against local rivals Mediolanum, by either 2-0 or 3-0 (reports differ).

11 March 1951 – India Win Gold Medal at Asian Games

On 11 March 1951, hosts India won the gold medal in football at the first Asian Games in New Delhi, beating Iran 1-0 in the final. It was the national team’s first piece of major silverware and part of an overall strong performance at the Games by India, who finished with 51 medals, including 15 golds.

Although eleven countries participated in the Games, only six took part in the football tournament; including Japan, who had been barred from the 1948 Summer Olympics.

India cruised through their first two matches with ease, beating Indonesia followed by Afghanistan by the same score: 3-0. Iran started with a victory over Burma in the quarter-finals, but fought two closely-contested matches against Japan in the semi-finals. Japan beat Afghanistan in the third-place game, while India took the gold with their victory over Iran.

16 March 1938 – Bomb Strikes FC Barcelona Offices

On 16 March 1938, a bomb struck the offices of FC Barcelona during a raid by Italy’s Legionary Air Force. Catalonia had kept the Nationalist forces out for quite some time but a few months later they fell. Franco and his allies were bent on ravaging the symbols of Catalonian independence. Barça were forced to remove the Catalonian flag from their crest. Barça soon transformed into ‘More than a Club’ and a symbol of anti-Nationalist sentiment. And which club did Franco support? No points for guessing.

17 March 1991 – El Diego fails Drug Test

On 17 March 1991, El Diego tested positive for cocaine after Napoli’s match against Bari. Maradona was then slapped with a 15-month ban, which brought to an end his seven-year spell in Naples.

Maradona had led Napoli to two Serie A titles, one Italian Cup, one UEFA Cup and an Italian Super Cup. But he also enjoyed the high life and made friends with members of the Giuliano family that ran the Camorra, Naples’ branch of the mafia.

Ever since his Barcelona days, Diego had used cocaine and Napoli bosses would later admit that if Maradona had not managed to stay clean in the days before a game, they would switch samples before testing was carried out.

Maradona spouted various conspiracy theories as he claimed that he had become a national anti-hero after knocking out Italy in 1990 World Cup at home.

26 March 2008 – Beckham’s Elusive Century

When Fabio Capello announced his first England squad in February 2008, there was no room for David Beckham. In the Football Association website, Capello was crisp: “I know there has been a lot of discussion about David Beckham. The reason that David is not in the squad is because he has not had any real match practice since playing in November.”

It immediately stirred up the media and pundits, the end of his career was being discussed everywhere. But not long after, Capello decided he had had enough of stringing Beckham and the nation along, and picked him for a friendly with France. Becks duly picked up his long-awaited 100th cap on this day at the Stade de France as England lost 1-0 to a Frank Ribery penalty.

27 March 2002 – Pelé’s Shirt Deal

The jersey worn by Pelé in the 1970 World Cup final was sold at an auction for a record £157,750 on 27 March 2002. The bid was supposedly placed by an anonymous telephone bidder. It went on to smash the expected sale price that had been estimated by Christie’s auction house.

The shirt still had grass stains from the match, in which Pelé had scored the opening goal in Brazil’s 4-1 win over Italy. His uniform was auctioned by Italian defender Roberto Rosato, who acquired it by exchanging shirts with Pelé at the end of the match.
The sale beat the previous auction record of £91,750, paid for the shirt worn by England’s Geoff Hurst in the 1966 World Cup Final.

30 March 1946 – The Marathon Match

Doncaster Rovers and Stockport County met in a Division Three North Cup replay at Stockport’s Edgeley Park on 30 March 1946.

The teams had played to a draw at Doncaster which led to the replay. The hosts struck first with a penalty kick but Rovers fought back to take a 2-1 lead into the break. In the second half, the equalizer came in the 72nd minute. After 90 minutes, the teams were tied at 2-2 and neither side was able to score in another half hour of extra time.

The match continued into a ‘golden goal’ period – the first team to score would win the match. But neither team could find the back of the net. Several spectators even went home for tea, only to return and find the match still going. Stockport’s Les Crocker put the ball in the goal in the 173rd minute. Unfortunately, it was a foul and the referee disallowed the goal. Reportedly, some of the Doncaster players were upset at the call too as it meant they had to play on.

Finally, the match was called off close to 7:00 pm as it was growing dark (no floodlights at that time). The players were so tired by the end of the match that many of them dropped to the pitch at the whistle. The match lasted a total of 3 hours and 23 minutes (203 minutes), setting a world record in the process, which remains to this day.

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.

Final

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….

Flight of the Big Bird: Story of the 1962 World Cup

Kinshuk Biswas turns back the clock to witness the flight of the Big Bird

The 1962 World Cup logo

The 1962 World Cup started the modern trend of countries contesting for the right to host the tournament. The last time such a contest had ensued was in 1938. Chile became the surprise choice over nations like Argentina and West Germany to host the ’62 World Cup. A relatively small country with a population of eight million, which had been devastated by an earthquake in 1960, raised many eyebrows after being selected as the host. The Chilean Football Association (FA) president Carlos Dittborn had pleaded with the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) using the famous words, “We have to get the World Cup because we have nothing.”  Chile only had one stadium but eventually built three new stadia to accommodate the matches. Carlos Dittborn died a month before the start of the tournament and the new stadium at Arica was named after him.

Carlos Dittborn

The Brazilians were back and were the favourites with a 21-year old Pele and Garrincha at the height of his powers; Mario Zagallo, Didi and Vava were also back. The only concern was that, they had an ageing side with an average age of the players over 30. The Soviet Union had won the European Nations Cup in 1960 and had a very good team. They were considered to be the main challengers to Brazil. Yugoslavia had finally managed to win the Olympic gold in football after three consecutive losses in the final. They had a very good trio of forwards in Dragoslav Sekularac, Drazen Jerkovic and Milan Galic. They were coached by Ciric Milovan, one of the greatest man managers of those times. Uruguay was back and so were Argentina with a defensive-minded coach in Juan Carlos Lorenzo who believed in the physical aspect of the game.

Italy had loaded their team with South American imports like Omar Sivori and Humberto Maschio of Argentina and Jose Altafini of Brazil. Spain had similarly picked Jose Santamaria of Uruguay and the great Ferenc Puskas of Hungary. England was a team with some good players like Jimmy Greaves, Ray Wilson, Bobby Charlton and 21-year old Bobby Moore. The problem was that the only creative mid-fielder in their team was Johnny Haynes, the captain. Sweden, the runners-up of the last edition had not qualified and France had a good team but were defeated in qualifying by Bulgaria (shades of 1994), making their debut in the tournament with Columbia.

Eventually 16 teams were included with the hosts Chile and defending champions Brazil qualifying automatically. Again, there were no teams from Asia and Africa who had been eliminated in play-off matches against much superior European sides.

FIFA thankfully did not tinker too much with the format. The teams were divided into four groups with the top two teams qualifying for the quarterfinals. In case of teams being tied, average goals scored would determine the winner. The days of the play-offs were over. Knockout matches would have extra time followed by a draw of lots to decide the winner. The final was an exception with the provision of a replay in case the match was drawn after extra-time. In any case, the draw of lots was not required for any match in the tournament.  After the groups were drawn, four teams were seeded. The final groups were:

Groups

Group 1

The first match featured the debutants Columbia against the mighty Uruguayans. The debutants surprised their much fancied opponents by taking the lead through a Francisco Zuluaga penalty. The Uruguayans then grew frustrated and started making some dangerous tackles. Zuluaga was left with three broken ribs ending his international career. Eventually the equaliser came via a Luis Cubilla cross-cum-shot in the 57th minute. Normal service was restored when Uruguay scored the winning goal through Jose Sasia. The other match was a repeat of the 1960 European Nation Cup final between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. The result was identical with the Soviets winning 2-0 with goals from Valentin Ivanov and Viktor Ponedelnik. Lev Yashin had made two brilliant saves in the first half to deny Sekularac and Galic.

The second round of matches featured Uruguay against Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union against Columbia. The Uruguayans started well and took the lead through Ruben Cabrera. After that Sekularac took control of the midfield, Jerkovic was fouled in the penalty area which was converted by Josip Skoblar. Galic scored before halftime and Jerkovic scored just after the start of the second half. The final score was 3-1 in favour of the Yugoslavians. The Soviet Union and Columbia match was a classic. The Soviets cruised to a 3-0 lead with two goals from Ivanov and one from Igor Chislenko by the 13th minute. German Aceros pulled one back but Ponedelnik scored a fourth Soviet goal in the 57th minute to restore the three-goal margin. The Columbians were revived by a freak goal directly from a corner by Marcos Coli which was strangely allowed to cross the line by the Soviet defender Givi Chokheli at the near post much to the indignation of Yashin. Antonio Rada and Marino Klinger both scored due to errors from the great Yashin. The match finally finished 4-4.

Going into the last round of matches all the four teams had a chance of progression. The Soviet Union match against Uruguay showed that the last match against Columbia was just a bad day at the office for the European champions. The Soviets dominated the match and led through a goal from Aleksei Mamikin. The Uruguayans equalised against the run of play resulting from a loose free kick taken on the edge of the box by Yashin. The Soviets laid siege to the Uruguay goal after the equaliser. Chislenko was awarded a goal by the referee in the 75th minute. The Soviet captain Igor Netto in great gesture of sportsmanship informed the referee that the ball had actually entered the goal through a hole in the side netting and got the goal disallowed. However, in the 89th minute Ivanov scored using his pace to give the Soviet Union a deserved 2-1 victory and the top position in the group. In the other match Yugoslavia hammered Columbia 5-0 to claim the second position in the group.

Group 2

Giorgio Ferrini being removed by police after being sent off in the ‘Battle of Santiago’

The first match featured the hosts against Switzerland. The Chileans were expected to win in front of a partisan home crowd. It were the Swiss who went into the lead with a goal from Rolf Wuthrich. After taking the lead, the Swiss sat back allowing the Chilean midfielders Jorge Toro and Eladio Rojas to control the game. Some display of hard tackling!  Chile was lucky to get the equaliser off a deflected Leonel Sanchez shot wrong-footing the keeper. The crowd invaded the pitch and police had to be brought in to clear the playing area. Jaime Ramirez gave Chile the lead and Sanchez scored a second to give the hosts a 3-1. The home support was stupendous, almost like an extra player on the field for the Chileans. The other match between Italy and West Germany was a 0-0 draw with Uwe Seeler and young 18-year old Gianni Rivera showing glimpses of their skill.

The next round featured a match, which would be remembered as one of the bloodiest and brutal encounters in a World Cup game – Chile versus Italy, better known as ‘The Battle of Santiago’. Two Italian journalists, Antonio Ghirelli and Corrado Pizzinelli had enraged the locals by a series of articles highlighting the poverty of Santiago and questioning the morals of the Chilean women. The journalists had gone back to Italy but the national team had to face the repercussions for their words.

Even while walking out it was claimed that the Chilean players were spitting at their opponents’ faces. The referee Ken Aston of England tried to bring in some control in the match but it was far too explosive to contain. Italian Giorgio Ferrini and Leonel Sanchez were kicking each other instead of the ball. After that, Ferrini was sent off for retaliation to a kick from Honorino Landa. Ferrini refused to leave and play was stopped for eight minutes until police had to intervene and escort him off the field.

Mario David of Italy was flattened by a punch from Sanchez who was unhappy with the former’s constant kicking without the ball. The referee did nothing, so David took matters in his own hand, rather foot by kicking Sanchez in the neck. He was promptly sent-off by Aston. Later David and Sanchez played together at Milan and became great friends. Toro demonstrated a perfect rugby tackle on the Italian defender Bruno Mora and held him down on the ground. The referee had to separate them like a wrestling official, but no sending off.

The match was won 2-0 by Chile with goals from Ramirez and Toro, who should not have been on the field in the 74th and 88th minutes respectively. Aston did not officiate in another match in this tournament. The only positive from this ugly match was the fact that Ken Aston came up with the idea of red and yellow cards. Aston’s refereeing on that day would make Graham Poll look like the best referee in the world. In the other match West Germany beat Switzerland 2-1 with goals from Seeler and Albert Brulls.

The last round of matches featured a 3-0 victory by Italy over Switzerland. The win was in vain as West Germany had defeated Chile 2-0 a day earlier to effectively decide the fate of the group. Italian goalkeeper Renzo Buffon who had not played against Chile yet is till date the only goalkeeper not to concede a goal in the World Cup playing more than one match. He was the cousin of the grandfather of Gigi Buffon, the current Italy and Juventus goalkeeping legend. West Germany topped the group followed by Chile.

Group 3

Brazil played Mexico in a repeat of their first group match in 1954. The result was the same as the last edition; however, the Mexicans finally had some sort of defensive strategy in place. They held the champions to a 0-0 till half-time. Pele then created a goal for Zagallo, winning a ball and providing a cross for a diving header. The second goal was Pele’s own where he nutmegged a player on the right touchline, went past three more and shot left-footed in the bottom corner after getting into the penalty area. The 2-0 score was a triumph of sorts for the Mexicans as they had conceded five goals last time. The Brazilian coach Aymore Moreira was brother of Zeze Moreira, the coach of the team in 1954. They are the only siblings to have been coaches in the finals of the World Cup. The second match was between Spain and Czechoslovakia. Santamaria and Puskas were both much older and slower and were negated by the physical presence of the Czech half backs. Eventually Jozef Stribranyi scored for the East Europeans to give them a 1-0 victory.

In the second round of matches, Brazil played Czechoslovakia and Spain played Mexico. The first match was a 0-0 draw. Pele had a groin injury before the start of the tournament. He had hidden the true extent of his injury from his manager and team doctor.

Pele after his injury against Czechoslovakia in the group stage match

This injury got aggravated while attempting a shot. He spent the rest of the match helplessly standing and hobbling on the wing. Later, Pele would recall the actions of the Czech defenders Jan Popluhar and Jan Lala who refused to tackle him disobeying their coach.

Jan Popluhar(L), the unstoppable Garrincha(C) and Jan Lala(R)

He recalled the sporting spirit of the two individuals with the following words – “One of those things I shall always remember with emotion and one of the finest things that happened in my entire football career.” Pele’s tournament was over. In the second match Antonio Carbajal, the Mexican goalkeeper gave one of his finest performances but failed to hold on to a Francisco Gento shot, which allowed Joaquin Piero to score for Spain. The goal came in the 89th minute and Carbajal was on his knees disconsolately weeping at the final whistle.

The last round of matches featured Brazil against Spain and Czechoslovakia being pitted against Mexico. The first match decided the fate of the group with Brazil winning 2-1 with two goals from Amarildo. Puskas had a great match creating the opening goal for Adelardo Rodriguez but it had to be the last appearance in the World Cup of an absolute legend. The last match was inconsequential as both Brazil and Czechoslovakia had qualified. The Czechs played a second string side. The match was won 3-1 by Mexico, their first win in the tournament at the 14th attempt. This match also featured the fastest goal ever in the tournament scored after 15 seconds by VaclavMasek of Czechoslovakia which was not recognized by FIFA for over 40 years.  Brazil topped the group with Czechoslovakia in second place.

Group 4

The opening match of the group was Argentina against debutants Bulgaria. The only goal in the match was scored by Hector Facundo of Argentina in the fourth minute. Silvio Marzolini showed why he was considered one of the greatest left backs of all time. After the bright start the Argentines showed a very cynical side to their game by continuously fouling the best players of the opposition. Ivan Kolev was the most frequent target. Christo Iliev and Todor Diev were out injured for the rest of the tournament. Their coach Juan Carlos Lorenzo was notorious for instilling the ‘win at any cost even dirty’ mentality in his teams. He was later the manager of a Lazio team whose players brawled in the street with their opponents Arsenal. Also at Atletico Madrid who had three players sent-off in a European match against Celtic (Jose Mourinho must have studied his methods). The team had a lot of skill but the scars of the 6-1 loss to Czechoslovakia in 1958 probably made them play in the cynical style. In the second match England were given a lesson in tactics by Hungary. The Hungarians used creative ball-playing half backs like Erno Solymosi against a pedestrian opposition. The final score of 2-1 in favour of the Hungarians was flattering to England as they could have easily conceded four or five goals. The Hungarians looked a very good side with Florian Albert and Lajos Tichy in attack. England had to improve a lot and they had players who could do so.

The second round featured the very first England-Argentina match in the World Cup, a match-up which has become a bitter rivalry comparable with any derby or clasico. England won the match 3-1 with Bobby Charlton having a brilliant outing at the outside-left position. Walter Winterbottom had instructed his team to physically slug it out with the Argentines who after the opening 10 minutes stopped their cynical style against a physically superior side. In the other match the Hungarians established themselves as one of the favourites with a 6-1 thumping of Bulgaria with an Albert hat-trick, a brace from Tichy and a goal from Solymosi.

The last round of matches featured Argentina against Hungary. Hungary, who had virtually qualified played a reserve forward line and packed their defence and played out a 0-0 draw. The Argentines had to rely on Bulgaria beating England to progress. The England-Bulgaria match was described by Bobby Moore as the worst international match he had ever played. The final score was 0-0 giving the Bulgarians their first points of the World Cup. Hungary topped the group followed by England who progressed at Argentina’s expense. Argentina became the first team to be eliminated by a goal average.

The quarterfinal matches had been decided thus: The Soviet Union playing Chile, West Germany playing the same opponents of this stage for the third time in succession – Yugoslavia, Brazil facing England and an east European clash between Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

Quarterfinals

The Soviets were favourites against Chile but were undone by the performance by their legendary goalkeeper Lev Yashin, which he later described as the worst of his career. Sanchez beat Yashin with a free kick towards his right. The Soviets had not formed a wall but it was an easy shot, which should have been saved. Chislenko equalised only to see Yashin surprised by a low shot from Rojas. The Chileans set up a 10-man defensive wall and backed by a vociferous crowd won 2-1. A genuine upset, which meant the team that had been billed as the main opponents of Brazil were eliminated. Yugoslavia was third time lucky against the West Germans winning 1-0 through a Petar Radakovic goal in the 85th minute. It was the end of the road for the West German manager Sepp Herberger who was managing the team since 1938. The West German football federation as an aftermath to this loss started the Bundesliga.

Ron Springett drops the ball for Vava to score as Bobby Moore looks on

The Brazil-England match was the cue for Garrincha to come alive. Early in the match he dribbled past three opponents to be tackled by Haynes. Then he showed a previously unseen skill by scoring with a powerful header off a Zagallo corner getting in front of his marker. England equalised through Gerry Hitchens. In the second half, the England goalkeeper Ron Springett scooped up a Garrincha free kick to Vava who promptly headed it into the goal. England and its World Cup goalkeepers!

Then Garrincha put the exclamation mark on his performance by receiving a pass from Amarildo outside the box and curling a right foot shot from outside the D to the top corner past a helpless Springett. A woolly black dog had invaded the pitch, it managed to side-step past Garrincha – something the English players could not manage throughout the match. The dog was eventually cornered and caught by Jimmy Greaves; if only he had managed the same success against Garrincha. It seemed the only way England could do well in this tournament was to make major tactical changes and of course host the tournament. In the last quarter-final, Hungary were favourites but a patchy pitch thwarted their slick passing game. Czechoslovakia had no such problems and slick passing between Josef Masopust and Albert Scherer led to a goal in the 13th minute from the latter. After that it was a string of brilliant saves from Viliam Schrojf, the Czech goalkeeper. Tichy hit the bar for Hungarians who were yet again eliminated by a utilitarian side 1-0.

Semifinals

The first semi-final between Chile and Brazil attracted the biggest crowd of the tournament – 76,594 as per the official records. The Brazilians were too experienced to be affected by a partisan crowd. Rojas hit the post early on but Brazil was in control. Zagallo hit a long cross in the ninth minute, Vava missed his overhead kick and the loose ball was thumped into the top corner by Garrincha’s left foot from 20 yards. Then Garrincha pushed in a powerful header out of a Zagallo corner. Zagallo was constantly joining up in attack making the Brazilian 4-4-2 formation into a virtual 4-3-3. Toro raised the hopes of the hosts by scoring off a 25-yard free kick. Vava headed in a corner in the start of the second half. Zózimo gave away a penalty by handling the ball in the Brazilian box. Sanchez converted to give the Chileans a glimmer. It was extinguished by Vava headed in a Garrincha cross to make the final score 4-2 in favour of the defending champions. Landa was sent off for a kick on Zito, then Garrincha kicked Rojas and was sent off. On his way back to the dressing room, Garrincha was hit on the head by a missile from the crowd. The Brazilian management and federation immediately started negotiations to allow their best player to appear in the final.

The other semifinal between Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia was in contrast seen by only 5,890 people. The Czechs were the better side in balance of play but their goalkeeper Schrojf had to make a good save against Galic. The Czechs scored early in the second half after Josef Kadraba headed in off a rebound. The Yugoslavs hit the post twice in succession in the 56th minute. The equaliser came in the 68th minute through a Jerkovic back header, which was achieved by beating the goalkeeper to a cross. The Yugoslavian defence let them down when Scherer scored being completely unmarked in the 80th minute. The Czechs made the match safe converting a penalty after a foolish handball in the Yugoslavia box. The final score was 3-1.

In the third place match Chile beat Yugoslavia 1-0 after a low shot by Rojas was deflected past the keeper.

Final

The final was a repeat of a group stage match, which finished goalless. Although the Brazilians were down to virtually 10 men for most of that match owing to Pele’s injury, Garrincha was allowed to play by FIFA. He was immediately in action crossing for Vava who hit the near post. After that Garrincha was surprisingly contained by the Czech captain Ladislav Novak who marshalled him brilliantly. The Czechs took the lead in the 14th minute when Masopust scored off a low first time shot from a clever pass from Tomas Pospichal (0-1). The Brazilians were level after two minutes. Amarildo received a throw-in, shrugged off a defender then beat Svatopluk Pluskal, the centre back near the left hand goal line and hit the target at the near post (1-1). Schrojf had left a gaping hole expecting a cross. The Czechs had a valid penalty claim turned down when Djalma Santos handled the ball in his own box. The news archive videos show the handball clearly but Nikolai Latyshev, the Soviet referee decided otherwise. The Czech wingers had been playing well, as was Masopust but they lacked a true finisher. Rudolf Kucera, their best striker was back home in Prague injured before the tournament. The score remained 1-1 at half-time.

Mauro(L) , Referee-Nikolai Latyshev(C) and Ladislav Novak(R)

The match continued in a similar pattern for much of the second half with Brazil, with a lot of possession attacking and the Czech wingers using their pace to launch counter-attacks only to see the Brazilian defenders deal with their crosses easily. Then in the 69th minute, Amarildo stamped his authority on the game. He was sent a pass on the left by Zito, which flummoxed the opposition defenders. Amarildo dummied to cross, then cut the ball back to his right foot and dinked a delightful ball over the goalkeeper to an unmarked Zito who had continued his run. Zito headed in his first goal for the national team in five years (2-1).

Schrojf made a few good saves as Brazil continued to attack. In the 78th minute, Brazil won a throw-in near the opposition penalty area. Djalma Santos came up, held off an opponent by turning his back. Then he spun and hit a hopeful cross into the opposition penalty box. Schrojf came out to gather and completely overran the ball as it was coming out of the sun, he caught it behind him but the ball slipped out. It fell to Vava who slotted it in grinning like a Cheshire cat, becoming the first player to score in two different finals of the World Cup

(3-1). It was the end of the road for the Czechs who were a good team but too pedestrian for the ageing Brazilian team with a lot of class. The final whistle went and Brazil emulated Italy by winning the tournament twice in succession, a feat yet to be equalled till date.

Vava celebrating after scoring his goal

The Brazilian captain Ramos de Oliveira better known as Mauro, was presented the trophy by Jules Rimet.

The average goal per match was 2.78; first time in the history of the tournament it fell below three. It has never crossed three since. It was the dawn of modern-day defensive strategies which made scoring difficult. The tournament was successful with a celebration for the hosts. Brazil were at the top of the world and it was difficult to see who could beat them in four years.

Mauro lifting the Jules Rimet Cup
The Winning XI

The 7 Wonders of Football

Truth at times is painful, but let’s not avoid it: there’s an awful lot of bo***cks talked about football and this is not just a recent phenomenon. You could possibly trace it back to the first caveman who propelled a dinosaur turd between two mammoth tusks in the first rough approximation of football. The jubilant caveman might have turned round to his mate and uttered one of the unkillable shibboleths that have dogged the game since. “Did you see the way that turd picked up speed off the greasy surface?” he might have grunted.

In today’s world, we should do better, but unfortunately we don’t. Even in the 21st century we cling to half-truths, superstitions and inventions that have become the very fabric of the game. In a bid to stamp out the twaddle once and for all, here’s exploding some myths that stick to football like sherbet to a blanket.

Myth 7 | The wide open spaces provided by Wembley

Before the old place was abandoned, how many times did we hear that players turning out at the English national stadium would end up knackered after running around the ‘wide open spaces of Wembley’? Commentators made the pitch sound like the vast plain of the Serengeti, stretching away as far as the eye could see. Neither was it the biggest pitch in north London nor did it feature in the top 20 biggest playing areas in the country. Thank God, that old chestnut died with the rancid old stadium itself.

The Old Wembley Stadium

Myth 6 | George Best wasted his talent

Best was 29 when he left top-level football, so one can hardly say that his career was sawn off in its prime. He won a European Cup, two league titles, Player of the Year and European Player of the Year in 1968. He played 466 games for Manchester United, and scored 178 goals. On the international stage, it wasn’t his fault that he was Northern Irish. Not bad for a wastrel, actually.

George Best had a reputation as a wayward drinker and womanizer but he did his bit on the football pitch

Myth 5 | The ball gained pace off the greasy surface

Isaac Newton went through a good deal of trouble formulating his Three Laws of Motion, only to have his work thrown in his face by footballing ignorami. Newton pointed out, quite correctly that every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it. The chancers who insist that footballs pinged across rain-sodden pitches fly increasingly quickly should bear two things in mind: first, the ball is expanding energy in the form of friction as it bumps over the ground, and second, what about gravity, for crying out loud?

Myth 4 | It’s harder when you are playing against 10 men

Jose Mourinho was at his cynical worst when he had said that he was making his team Real Madrid practise with 10 players before the El Clásico series in the latter half of the last season. However, neither he nor any other football manager ever chose to start a game a man down, at least there is no recorded instance. Still this is the hackneyed line spewed very often when a team has a man sent-off. If this was for real, you would imagine that if not Mourinho, some superior tactician would have kicked-off minus the 11th man, rather than wait on the whim of a referee to hand his side the advantage of having one player less than the other lot.

Myth 3 | Lionel Messi is not special without Xavi and Iniesta

First, let’s look at pure numbers. Out of the 53 goals that Messi had scored last season, only 7 were assisted by Xavi and Iniesta, and Messi himself had 24 assists. If you combine the last 2 seasons (and this season is no different either) then too Messi has more than two times the number of assists than Xavi and Iniesta combined. Then he scores an awful lot of solo goals. Although goals and assists aren’t everything in football, Messi makes a frightening number of passes during a game and breaks the opposition defense with his tireless runs. The Barcelona football team virtually revolves around Messi.

Messi, yet again, was the difference between the two sides in this year’s Spanish Super Cup Final

Myth 2 | There are no easy games in international football

Try telling that to Australia, 31-0 conquerors of American Samoa national football team in the 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifying. Just two days before that, the Australian team had defeated Tonga 22-0. Those must have been fairly easy. In Europe, the only time you’d fear Liechtenstein is if someone asked you to spell it. Throw in the likes of Andorra, San Marino, Luxembourg, Faroe Islands and Malta, and you can see that there are plenty of simple games in international football. To say otherwise is providing lame managers with mealy-mouthed excuses.

Myth 1 | Pele scored over a thousand goals during his career

Of course, he did. When you factor in the goals he scored playing headers and volleys as a lad in the back streets of Sao Paulo, for his school teams, for the Cubs, in training with Santos and, most ludicrously of all, for New York Cosmos in the NASI. His final career tally is listed at 1282. True, he netted 77 in 92 games for Brazil, and hit over 200 for Santos in competitive games. However, should goals scored in non-competitive domestic games indeed be counted? I leave the readers to draw their own conclusions.

                                                                                                                                                           

Indranath Mukherjee loves football and hates myths. He can be followed on twitter @indranath

This Month in Football History – October

In this feature, we try to bring to you some past events of the month that make it special.

October 01, 1977 
Pelé bid adieu to professional football with an exhibition match played between his two former clubs, the New York Cosmos and Santos. Pelé played for both the sides on either side of half time at New Jersey’s Giants Stadium in front of a packed house of 77,000 spectators, most notable being President Jimmy Carter and Muhammad Ali. The legend did not disappoint – he scored for the Cosmos off a direct free kick, the final goal of his illustrious career. Cosmos went on to win the match 2-1.

October 03, 1973

Romania’s Dinamo Bucureşti entered the history books on their way of thrashing out Northern Ireland’s Crusaders FC by 11-0. This is the biggest margin of victory in the European Cup/ Champions League tie. Following this result, the Dinamo fans might have hoped to propel further success in the tournament, but they were eliminated in the next round by Atlético Madrid.

October 04, 2009


Gigant Belene, a Bulgarian 3rd division team had to surrender a match to Chavdar Byala Slatina after only 4 minutes due to injuries. They lined up with only 8 players due to injuries and suspensions. Within four minutes, 2 more Gigant players had to be stretchered off. As soon as the Gigant side was reduced to 6, the referee had no choice but to stop the match and award the points to visiting Chavdar as a 3-0 forfeit, under the rules. It was the shortest soccer match ever in Bulgaria then. But Gigant bettered that within 6 months. In March 2010, they travelled to Belogradchik with only 7 available players, one of whom picked up a match-ending injury in the first minute.

October 07, 2000

Kevin Keegan resigned as England manager, from the bathroom, literally. Keegan was appointed the manager of the England in February 1999 after Glenn Hoddle. The following autumn, The Three Lions opened their 2002 World Cup qualifiers with a 1-0 loss to Germany at Wembley. Disappointment apart, Keegan was furious with the British press revealing his first team before the match, and thus handing over an unfair advantage to the Germans. Keegan decided to call quits after the match. Acting FA chief David Davies took Keegan to the only private space available – a gents’ toilet stall – and tried to persuade him, but in vain. Keegan gets the wooden spoon with his 38.9% winning percentage as the national team manager, statistically.

 October 13, 2006

FIFA decided to deduct Cameroon 6 points in their qualification campaigns for the 2010 World Cup and 2008 African Cup of Nations. The reason was that the stubborn Lions wore unitards. Cameroon had a prolonged history of kit controversy as they put up sleeveless shirts at the 2002 African Cup of Nations. Afterwards, FIFA asked them not to wear them at the 2002 World Cup. So Puma, Cameroon’s kit-maker, incorporated black sleeves for that particular tournament. FIFA again questioned their one-piece kit after their first match at the 2004 Cup of Nations. Cameroon, however, requested that it was too difficult to get alternate kits on such a short notice and wore the one-piece for their quarterfinal match against Nigeria. After FIFA declared its long-awaited reprimand, it finally changed its mind and withdrew the point penalties. Meanwhile, Puma alleged FIFA to court claiming that the rules did not call for separate shirt and shorts. They lost, too.

October 17, 2009

Sunderland beat Liverpool 1-0 with a little help from a (D)evil beach ball. Striker Darren Bent’s 5th-minute strike at the Stadium of Lights, Sunderland’s home ground, hit a red beach ball on the pitch (presumably thrown in by a Reds supporter, as the ball ironically bore the Liverpool crest). As goalkeeper Pepe Reina was deceived by the beach ball to his right, the actual football flew past him on the left and into the net. Although the laws of the game suggest that referee Mike Jones could have disallowed the goal, he let it stand, and may be haunted for that till date.

October 20, 1982

A crowd of close to 10,000 gathered that day to watch Spartak Moscow play HFC Haarlem in the second round of the UEFA Cup at Spartak Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. The officials had only one exit open, seeing the relatively low number of spectators. The supporters started leaving the stadium with the home team leading 1-0. But a late goal from Spartak defender, Sergei Shvetsov deep into injury time forced many of them back towards the stands to join in the celebration. The two waves of people met at the exit, where close to 350 people (officially only 66, though) were trampled and crushed. Russia witnessed its worst sporting disaster. But the Russian authorities tried to cover up the incident. Finally, newspaper Sovetsky Sport revealed the full story seven years later. In 1992, a memorial was placed outside the stadium.


October 26, 1863

A number of football club’s representatives from the Greater London area met at the Freemasons’ Tavern on Long Acre in Covent Garden. This was the first documented meeting of The Football Association (FA). It was the world’s first official football body and hence is not preceded with the word English.

October 30, 2008

Nigerian midfielder Soo Adekwagh scored the fastest goal in FIFA women’s history. She netted after only 22 seconds of kick-off against South Korea in the Group D match of 2008 U-17 Women’s World Cup. Nigeria went on to win the match 2-1, but was eliminated in the group stage after a loss to England and a draw with Brazil.

October 31, 2002

This might have been a picture that day!

AS Adema beat the reigning champions, Stade Olympique de L’Emyrne Antananarivo (SOE) by the world record score line of 149-0 in the Madagascar’s THB Champions League tournament, one would be astonished to know that none of them were scored by Adema. SOE had already been eliminated in their previous match by a controversial last-minute penalty decision, making the match against Adema inconsequential. SOE decided to protest their elimination by putting the ball repeatedly into their own net from each successive kickoff. Subsequently, the Fédération Malagasy de Football banned SOE’s manager for three years, along with four of SOE’s players.

Garrincha – The Forgotten Legend

A thing of beauty is a joy forever’ is a line immortalized by John Keats in Endymion. ‘Beauty’ is an aspect that has caught the imagination of the human race since its evolution, and ‘Sport’ is that which has united humanity since time immemorial. Over the years, perhaps no other sport in this world has been followed as closely and passionately as football. Apparently, it is a simple game comprising 22 players who run across the length and breadth of a rectangular field with a single ball to execute their craft; but beneath all the running rests ‘a canvas’ on which the greatest performers of the sport paint their picture, which is precisely why it is referred to as, ‘The Beautiful Game’.  One of those artists was Manuel Francisco dos Santos, popularly known as Garrincha (a little bird). He was a genius, a folk hero, who scripted innumerable beautiful moments on the field, throughout his lifetime, which, unfortunately lasted just 49 years, as he literally drunk himself to death.

Early Life and Career

Manuel Santos was born on October 28, 1933 in Magé, Rio de Janeiro to an alcoholic father and a mother both from very poor backgrounds. His birth defects included – a deformed spine, right leg bent inwards and left leg six centimetres shorter and curving outwards. The last two were reasons for his gait on the football field and hence the nickname Garrincha. Considering all these setbacks, his feats in the field seem even more unreal.

In 1953, after being rejected by several teams because of his abnormal physique, Garrincha was finally selected by Botafogo on the recommendation of Gentil Cardoso, one of the legendary coaches of the time who had coached all the great teams of Rio de Janeiro. He remains to this day, Botafogo’s global symbol of fame. He played 12 seasons with Botafogo winning three state championships, twice becoming the Brazilian Champion Club and managing one intercontinental Championship.

The Garrincha flag at Botafogo’s Engenhão Stadium in 2007

His international career was even more startling. He played 50 times for Brazil (1955 – 1966) and only ever lost one match – his last, in the 1966 World Cup in England. However, his pride of the moment came in the previous World Cup when he won both the Golden Ball and Golden Shoe in the 1962 World Cup, taking Brazil almost singlehandedly to their 2nd consecutive World Cup win.

‘The Player’ and ‘The Man’

As a player, Garrincha was beyond any textbook school of coaching. He defined his own rules and created his own methods. There may have been a method in his madness, one which, only he could have lived with. He was selfish, undisciplined and unpredictable, yet outstanding – he opened up defenses like a can of beans and made defenders dance to his tunes. Of late, Denilson in the 90’s also used to dribble but he could only dribble. In a game of football it is extremely essential to understand what your next move will be, where your team mate is and where the opposition defender can move. Denilson knew how to dribble past defenders but he had very little goal mouth sense as to whom to pass and when to pass.  Garrincha though, created value out of his dribbling skills. Garrincha could split defenses with his dribbling skills and his vision of the next move was similar to that of an expert chess player. Once in a crucial World Cup match, after he had left a defender on the ground, Garrincha put his foot on the ball and with his back to the player, offered his hand to help him up. He lifted him, then dribbled past him and ran on. The romance of Garrincha was that the occasion never got the better of him as is the case with so many stars of today who fail to perform when it matters. Even in the biggest games of his career, he would outfox other players by waiting for them to catch up and then dribble past them again – all these just for fun. He dribbled at his own free will.

The Master Dribbler

There was simplicity in his eccentricity. Ruy Castro gives an inkling of the nature of the man in the biography ‘Garrincha – The Triumph and Tragedy of Brazil’s Forgotten Footballing Hero’. He says and I quote: “Garrincha is the most amateur footballer professional football ever produced. He never trained. He had no agent, didn’t bother reading his contracts, and usually signed them before the figures had been filled in. When he was given a bonus after the World Cup, he handed the cash to his wife, who hid it under the children’s mattress. Years later, they remembered the money, and discovered a rotting mass of sodden paper. The bonus had been destroyed by bedwetting.”

World Cup Glory

After he was omitted from Brazil’s opening two matches in the 1958 World Cup, his teammates were united on him being included in the team. The rest, as they say, is history. Brazil’s match against a strong Soviet Union saw Garrincha beating five defenders in the first minute alone. A French journalist called it ‘the greatest three minutes in the history of football’. He created Brazil’s first two goals in the final, splitting the defense of the Swedish team.

The 1962 World Cup was Garrincha’s moment of vindication. With Pelé injured, he single-handedly led Brazil to glory.  After helping Brazil to a crucial win against Spain by providing an unbelievable through pass to Amarildo in the last league match, he ripped apart England and Chile in the knockout stages by scoring 4 goals in two matches. After the semi-finals, a headline in the Chilean newspaper, El Mercurio read: “What planet is Garrincha from?” Despite suffering from high fever, he played in the final on special appeal as he was sent off in the semis and inspired Brazil to their second successive victory in the World Cup.

The Pelé Comparison

Garrincha remains “a forgotten legend” among the generation of modern football followers.  One of the primary reasons can be due to the fact that he was playing in his prime just before the age of television.  However, those who have watched footage of 1958 and 1962, swear that Brazil would not have won those trophies without Garrincha, even when it is pointed out to them that a certain Pelé also played in those cup triumphs.  He is perhaps the only player to be red carded in a World Cup semi-final in 1962 and be allowed to play in the final because the Government of Brazil decided to take up his case with FIFA. Garrincha is not an icon in Brazil, he is part of a national folklore and today’s generation must read and watch Garrincha to understand why he is universally regarded as the best dribbler and the greatest right winger in football history. This explains why the Maracana, the world’s largest football stadium, has the home changing room named as ‘Garrincha’, while the away changing room is named after his more illustrious compatriot, ‘Pelé’.

Brazil never lost a match when they both played together

So was he a better player than Pelé?  Could be yes… could be no… difficult to gauge as they played in different positions. There are some who still believe he is better than Pelé and he did not get his due from the world soccer fraternity as Pelé has received. Pelé was a methodical genius, who knew what he was doing. He had a plan for his actions. He knew his stature in world football and fully utilized it. He appeared in commercials, worked hard, considering his poverty stricken background, and became a global sports icon and a multi-millionaire. Garrincha though, just wanted to have fun – both in the field and off it. His passions in life were football, women and alcohol. The reason I am bringing in Pelé in this tribute to Garrincha is that people tend to limit Brazilian football to Pelé and consider him as a benchmark, time and again. With no disrespect to perhaps football’s greatest ever player, I am just honouring Garrincha by saying that he deserves not to live in the shadow of his great contemporary. Such was the impact of Pelé and Garrincha together that Brazil never lost a match when both played together.

His Memories

Some refer to him as “The Angel with crippled legs”. Like all tortured geniuses, Garrincha was unstable and defied all rules – he is said to have lost his virginity to a goat, slept with several women and fathered many children. His mother-in-law was killed in a car crash whilst he was drunk and driving, and he himself later died of liver cirrhosis. Yet, to this day, despite being an illiterate, an alcoholic, and a womanizer, he remains a people’s favourite in his native country. This explains why his epitaph reads, “Here rests in peace the one who was the Joy of the People – Mané Garrincha.”  People had painted on the wall: “Thank you, Garrincha, for having lived”.

His Epitaph

FIFA, in their official tribute to Garrincha refers to him as, “The Chaplin of football’ – and that description probably suits him the best. Legendary South American writer, Eduardo Galeano in his book ‘Soccer in Sun and Shadow’ says: “When he was in form, the pitch became a circus. The ball became an obedient animal, and the game became an invitation to party. Garrincha would shield his pet, the ball, and together they would conjure up some wonderful tricks that would have the spectators in stitches. He would hop over her, and she would bounce over him. Then she would hide before he would escape only to find her already running in front of him. Along the way, his pursuers would crash into each other in their attempts to stop him.”

The book along with Milton Alencar’s outstanding movie on him, “Garrincha: Lonely Star” sums up the legend’s career in short as he remains one of football’s greatest tragi-comic heroes. This short movie, aptly titled, “Garrincha – A Sad Story of Some Happiness” (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) helps us see the man’s sheer genius and unpredictability. As you watch him enjoying himself while on the field, you realize, “A thing of beauty is indeed a joy forever”.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————

Deepanjan Deb is a MBA student in India and wishes to pay homage to his greatest footballing icon on his 78th birth anniversary.