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66: The World Cup In Real Time By Ian Passingham

Release date: 01st March, 2016
Publisher: Pitch Publishing

List Price: £14.99
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As someone who is (just) old enough to remember the World Cup finals of 1966, there are several moments that still stand out in the memory.

Of course, the tournament’s political and economic backdrop meant little to a 7-year-old football fanatic, but I vividly recall the excitement caused by ‘valiant’ North Korea beating Italy 1-0 at Ayresome Park with a goal from Pak Doo-Ik (a goalscorer whose name proved useful in pub quizzes for years afterwards).

Elsewhere on the list of 1966 memories is the pitched battle between England and Argentina; Eusebio beating North Korea almost single-handed at Goodison Park; Pelé being kicked out of the tournament by Portugal; Bobby Charlton scoring twice in the semi-finals and, of course, Nobby Stiles dancing around Wembley with the Jules Rimet trophy.

Given that those of us sporting more grey hairs than we ever thought possible will have similar memories, it’s a surprise that no-one has thought to fill in the gaps by reminding us of what else was going on as just 16 nations competed for the World Cup trophy.

Author Ian Passingham, a journalist, has pieced together the equivalent of short newspaper reports to recreate the build-up and the tournament itself as though we were reading about events in real time. For the most part, the idea works, although many of the headlines leave plenty to be desired.

Reading these short articles, however, it’s possible to glean some insight into prevailing attitudes.

There was, for example, a clear lack of presumption on the part of the North Koreans. Their management only began looking for hotel accommodation prior to their final group match against Italy in case they made the quarter finals.

Television companies clearly had zero influence: all four quarter finals were played on the same day – and each kicked off at 3pm. Moreover, the organisers announced that, in the event of one of the matches finishing level after extra time, the teams would draw lots to see who went through to the semis.

Footballers’ parents had no sense of entitlement: Bobby Charlton senior clocked on for his normal night shift at Ashington Colliery while both of his sons played in the World Cup semi final against Portugal; fortunately, he was able to watch them ‘live’ in the final – but only because it was played on a Saturday.


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