By David Worboys • 16 February 2023 • 10:20
But then I look at the pompous attitude of so many supporters, the general public, (“we won it in 1966”) and the media (“the dust is still settling in Doha after England´s defeat”) and I sigh.
In sport, playing at home is an enormous advantage. Federer always won the indoor tournament in Switzerland and Margaret Court won 11 major titles in Australia. The UK´s record number of Olympic medals was achieved in Britain in 2012. Henry Cooper knocked down Muhammad Ali in London. England reached the final of the UEFA Nations Cup in 2021 and the Lionesses won the World Cup in 2022. Both in London, England.
It is especially so in the World Cup. Non-footballing countries such as the USA, South Africa, South Korea and even Saudi Arabia (with Arab support) have all advanced to the knock-out stages on their own territory, where they have the support – and can call the shots.
Any detraction from England´s World Cup victory in 1966 is considered sacrilege. It is too widely perceived as our greatest achievement of the last century, ahead of the 1940 Battle Of Britain, the 1947 foundation of the NHS and our 1974 admission to the EEC.
World Cup Willy was a mascot introduced for the 1966 World Cup taking place in England. In that year the FIFA president was English. England played all their matches in the comfort of their capital city, while the fancied Portugal team was sent to Manchester, Liverpool and then to London to meet England in the semi-final where they narrowly lost.
Blatant tactical decisions by English referees had already ensured the early elimination of the strongest teams (Brasil and Hungary). Brutal fouls on Pele and his team mates were not penalised. Against England, Argentina´s captain was sent off after half an hour for no explicable reason. Argentina´s ten men lost to a late goal by England.
Finally, England was awarded a winning “goal” in the final against West Germany when the ball had not crossed the goal line. Everything was contrived to guarantee a World Cup for England. In these circumstances it is not surprising that, together with decades of hooliganism, the tournament has not been held in England since.
To this day, England is the only World Cup winner not to have won it (or even reached the final) on foreign soil.
Over 56 years later, there is still no end to the gloating over England´s 1966 triumph every time the World Cup is mentioned, but the “fixing” (or assisted passage) of the results is never mentioned. “Football´s coming home” they chant every four years, as if England has an unalienable right to lift the trophy. Surely, the true home of football is Brasil – or Argentina, Germany or Italy.
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