SPORTING HEROES: BRAZIL 1970
The Brazilian football team of 1970 are rightly remembered as the greatest side of all time, but that wasn’t my first football memory. Born in 1958, England winning the world Cup in 1966 completely passed me by but in 1968, when visiting my older sister in hospital, we watched Manchester United win the European Cup at Wembley beating Benfica 4-1. My sister was in love with George Best, what teenage girl wasn’t in those days, and Manchester United were everyone’s second team. What wasn’t to like about Best, Law and Charlton? We watched on a black and white portable TV but when the 1970 World Cup came around we had colour! This is what you have to remember about that 1970 competition, was the colour.
The whole tournament, and especially the Brazilian team in their gold shirts, exploded on to the screen. It felt like football from another planet. The amazing thing was that we had never heard of any of the Brazilian players except Pele of course, but the team was filled with astonishing footballers. Tostao, the captain Carlos Alberto, Gerson, who was 29 at the time, looked 49 and was as good a midfield player as you’ll ever see, Rivelino, Clodoaldo and a winger named Jairzinho, who could move quicker with the ball than most players could without it and ended up scoring in every round of the tournament.
As a young football mad kid I was transfixed by it. England were the holders and sent a top quality side to Mexico but were in the same group as Brazil in the first stage and after a cracking game, remembered mostly for the astonishing save that Gordon banks pulled off after a header from Pele, England were beaten 1-0 but qualified in the runner up spot. England were then beaten by West Germany in the quarter final after being 2-0 up just after half time but Brazil went through to the final against Italy, playing football that I for one had never seen before. Never scoring less than three goals in any of their remaining games, the Brazilians were playing a brand of football that most of the fans watching around the world were completely unfamiliar with.
Brazil were not renowned for producing great goalkeepers and Felix, the first choice for the competition, didn’t break the mold. The defenders didn’t look especially good either, looking like they were forced to defend under protest and wanted to score goals and join in the fun with the rest of the team. What stood out, aside from the star players, was how brilliant every player was with the ball at their feet.
It was the first time that the World Cup had been broadcast in colour around the world and the impact was incredible. It was the first time that the tournament had been played outside Europe or South America and for me, it was the greatest World Cup won by the greatest team. I still go to Youtube occasionally to watch it over. The beautiful game indeed.