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FIFA World Cup 2018: A look at hilarious moments, tense battles between rivals from 1930 to 1970

Editor's note: The 2018 FIFA World Cup is in the offing, and another set of historical football memories will soon be created. Noteworthy losses, legendary goals and personal feuds have dotted the history of this tournament, which makes it such a fulfilling viewing experience. 

Before we turn our eyes to Russia, here's a look at some unforgettable moments from previous years' World Cup matches — from stolen trophies to beer running out to the emergence of game-changing players like Pelé. In part one of this series, sportswriter Austin Coutinho flips through the pages of the years between 1930 and 1970.

It will soon be football time again. The World Cup of 2018 is at hand; the colourful, month-long celebration of ‘the beautiful game’!

The carnival this time around comes to Russia, where 32 of the best football nations in the world will compete, nay combat, for the coveted FIFA World Cup, and for national pride. The World Cup matches of 2018 will be played from 14 June to 15 July.

The World Cup, for me, began in 1966 when I was just 11. This was the year Bobby Moore won the Cup for England at the historic Wembley Stadium. I was instantly infatuated by football, and for me, Pelé, Eusebio, Bobby Charlton, Moore and a few others were gods.

That was also the year that the Jules Rimet Trophy, then the World Cup, was stolen while on display at Westminster and then found, hidden under a bush, by a dog named ‘Pickles’. A story right out of Enid Blyton!

Illustration courtesy Austin Coutinho

Illustration courtesy Austin Coutinho

The North Koreans entered the play-offs of World Cup ’66, and by the 22nd minute of their quarter-final match against fancied Portugal, were three goals up. The Portuguese genius Eusebio then got his act together and scored in the 27th, 42nd, 56th and 59th minutes as the Asians watched in awe. With another goal from Augusto, the North Koreans were dumped 3-5, much to the delight of an uncle of mine who had grown up in Goa!

The final between England and West Germany was watched by more than 92,000 people as the home team romped to a 4-2 win, in extra time. England’s third goal was controversial, though, and the argument still rages on, 52 years later.

I also recall reading about England’s big defender, Jackie Charlton, going missing after that epic final. It was later disclosed that he had spent the night out in town, drinking at almost every soccer fan’s home in North London. When he returned to his hotel room the next afternoon, he had found a worried Alf Ramsey waiting for him. Quizzed about his whereabouts, Jackie had told him he need not have worried, producing a card from his top pocket with the directive: This body to be returned to Room 508, Royal Garden Hotel.

England were my favourites to win the Cup again in 1970, at Mexico. But then Brazil had other ideas. With brilliant players like Pelé, Jairzinho, Gerson, Carlos Alberto and a few others in its ranks, they trounced Italy 4-1 in the final. And winning the Jules Rimet Cup a third time, retired it.

The Jules Rimet Cup was a 4 kilo solid gold statuette of the goddess of victory holding an octagonal cup in her outstretched arms. Mounted on a base of semi-precious stones, it was named after a French football administrator. It is said that during World War II, he hid the trophy under his bed fearing that the German forces would steal it and melt it down. After Brazil retired the trophy in 1970, it was stolen in 1983 and melted down anyway.

At Mexico, England lost to its archrival West Germany in the quarter-final. After the score was 2-2, Gerd Muller scored in extra-time to sink England. It is interesting to know that just before the team embarked for Mexico, England manager Alf Ramsey received a letter from an East African witch doctor offering him his ‘services’. Ramsey refused the offer politely but perhaps regretted it much later!

On the long drive back to Mexico City, after losing to West Germany, Ramsey had ordered crates of beer to help his players drown their sorrow. Halfway there, he heard his rugged half-back, Tommy Wright crying. “C’mon, I know we lost. It’s not the end of the world,” Ramsey consoled him. “I’m not crying because we lost,“ replied Wright, “It’s just that all the beer is gone!”

Nine World Cups were organised till 1970 and Brazil had won three of them. The inaugural edition of the World Cup was held in Uruguay in 1930. Despite the hosts building a new stadium and offering to pick up the bill for travel and accommodation of all participants, most European nations chose not to undertake the arduous three-week sea journey to Montevideo. England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland too kept away in order to maintain their amateur status.

The inaugural tournament had other teething problems too. In the final at the Centenary Stadium in Montevideo, the Belgian referee Langenus blew the final whistle a full six minutes before time. The Uruguayan and Argentine teams were then brought back from their dressing rooms to finish the game.

One match between Romania and Peru, at Montevideo, had only 300 spectators – the lowest attendance ever. In another match, when USA played Argentina, an American official who was doubling up as team doctor rushed to the sidelines to protest the referee’s decision. He threw his bag down in anger and in the process broke a bottle containing chloroform. Losing consciousness, he had to be carried off.

Interestingly, Hector Castro, who scored Uruguay’s final goal in 1930, had only one hand. He had lost his right hand in a childhood accident.

World Cup 1934 was hosted by Italy. Uruguay, the reigning champs, refused to play, still seething from the snub by so many countries in the first World Cup. The Dutch team was accompanied by thousands of supporters and their war cry was, “We’re going to Rome” (for the final). After Holland’s shock defeat to Switzerland at Milan, without any lack of enthusiasm, they changed their chant to: “We’re going back to Holland.”

There was a Spanish goalkeeper named Ricardo Zamora in the 1934 tournament, who carried a broom with him to matches. He disliked dirt and mud, and therefore, whenever he got a chance, he swept the goalmouth clean.

The 1938 World Cup was played in France against the backdrop of conflict; Germany had invaded Austria and Spain was embroiled in civil war. Only 14 teams participated, 11 of them being from Europe. Jersey numbers were first introduced during this tournament and the first Asian team to participate in the World Cup was Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia. Sweden used a private plane to travel to France and also used it to move from one venue to another.

In a semi-final match that year between Brazil and Italy, the Italian skipper Peppino Meazza had a sinking feeling as he neatly placed a spot-kick into the net. His shorts tore earlier, slipped down to his ankles and left him exposed. In that match, the overconfident Brazilian manager ‘rested’ his star striker Leonidas Da Silva and paid a heavy price, losing to Italy.

The next World Cup was held in Brazil in 1950, the intervening 12 years being consumed by World War II. England decided to field a strong team but was floored by a goal from Haitian-American Gaetjens. Shell-shocked, the Englishmen then lost to Spain and took the next flight home. Alf Ramsey, who was a member of that star-studded squad, was asked much later by a reporter if he was playing ‘for England’ in World Cup. “Yes,” he replied, “I was the only one who was.”

India, it is said, was invited to participate but chose not to because they were not used to playing with boots. The final, between Brazil and Uruguay, at Rio de Janeiro on July 16, 1950 was attended by 1,99,850 spectators!

During World Cup ’54 in Switzerland, in a quarter-final match between Hungary and Brazil, three players were sent off during a rough and brutal match. The fighting then continued after the match, in their dressing rooms, with players from both sides receiving gashes from broken bottles. This is famously known as the ‘Battle of Berne’. In another incident, referee Mario Viana was chased off the field by Italians after they lost to Switzerland in a group match at Lausanne.

In this tournament, a player named Lefter Kucukandonyadis represented Turkey; probably the longest name in World Cup history!

The World Cup of 1958, held in Sweden, was known for two things; the televising of matches in Europe and the emergence of Pelé.

The Brazilian team, which won the World Cup that year, had a few brilliant players in its lineup but none more brilliant than Garrincha. He was the swiftest winger and had brilliant dribbling skills. However, he was known to have below-average intelligence. In the final at Solna Stadium, Stockholm, when Brazil and Sweden lined up for the introductions, Garrincha suffered a fit of giggles. The reason: The referee reminded him of Mickey Mouse!

The World Cup of 1962 was held in earthquake-devastated Chile. When doubts were raised about its ability to stage the event, its football president Carlos Dittborn appealed to FIFA, “We must have the World Cup because we have nothing.” Sadly, a month before the World Cup kicked off, Dittborn expired.

Chile’s fans claimed that their players ate Swiss cheese before the match against Switzerland and won 3-1, and that they ate pasta before the match against Italy and won 2-0. Before the quarter-final against USSR, the players supposedly had a few swigs of Vodka and beat them 2-1. In the semi-final against Brazil, Chilean fans displayed banners saying, “With or without  Pelé, we shall drink Nescafe!” Brazil smothered Chile 4-2 and then beat Czechoslovakia 3-1 to lift the Cup a second time.

In the Chile-USSR match, Eladio Rojas was so excited when he scored the winning goal that he first hugged Russian goalkeeper Lev Yashin and then kissed the Dutch referee, Leo Horn!

Amid all the serious business and the tense matches, World Cup football provides us with some really hilarious moments. Lev Yashin, the big Russian goalkeeper, was known to yell orders to his defence throughout the match. But he was scared of his wife, who would tell him off for talking too much on the football pitch!

The author is a sportswriter and caricaturist. A former cricketer and ex-president of Mumbai Dist. Football Association, he is now a sought-after mental toughness trainer.


Updated Date: Jun 02, 2018 15:15 PM

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