Posted: 6/11/2009


       In 365 days the FIFA World Cup will open with the hosts South Africa, Bafana, Bafana playing at Soccer City on the edge of Soweto.

       It looks as if the usual suspects will compete, but it is touch and go for France, Sweden, Mexico and even Argentina.  Brasil and Spain are the tournament favourites with Serbia, the former Yugoslavia, expected to be a first time competitor.  A tube strike in London couldn't prevent 58,000 fans showing up at Wembley Stadium for the demolition of Andorra 6-0, despite a Tube strike reminicent of the bad old days of industrial relations  A complete tosser called Bob Crow of RMT who is in charge of one of the unions, brought his members out, although ASLEF, another union which has members working on the Northern Line, asked its members to cross any picket lines.  

      London Underground drivers are very well paid, with great benefits, but are way over staffed, and they wanted guarantees for jobs, which even cabinet members don't get. Together with the twenty-something kids that want to block airport expansions, despite new, clean fueled jets, they are the Luddites of the 21st Centuray.   Bulldoze the campus of The University of Essex and build another runway would be my solution.

      It was nice to see that members of the victorious England 1966 World Cup squad and trainers wer finally given newly minted medals, 43 years after the win at Wembley over West Germany. FIFA will also do the same for other World Cup winning squads. Only the 11 players on the Wembley Stadium pitch that day received medals from the Queen of England after the match, and not even the winning coach Alf Ramsey.   Prime Minister Gordon Brown presented the medals to the surviving squad members at No. 10 Downing Street prior to the match and they also walked out onto the hallowed turf at half-time. They travelled around in an England branded bus.

       Sir Alf's medal was received on behalf of his widow Lady Ramsey, by full back George Cohen, plus trainers Harold Shepherdson and Les Cocker (by their families), Jimmy Greaves, former captain Jimy Armfield, Ron Springett, Peter Bonetti, Ron Flowers, Gerry Byrne, Norman Hunter, Ian Callaghan, John Connelly, while George Eastham and Terry Paine were flown over by the F.A. from their homes in South Africa.

      I watched all the England opening round matches at Wembley in 1966 against Uruguay, France and Mexico, the quarter-final and semi final wins over Argentina and Portugal and the final. I think the TOTAL cost of the tickets for the 6 matches was about 7.00  (about $10 )for great seats about 20 rows up and about 30 yards out from the goal where the 4th and decisive final goal was scored by Geoff Hurst. Fans had run on the field with the immortal words of BBC TV commentatr Kenneth Wolstenholme. "They thinks its all over, well it is now", as the West Ham United striker blasted it into the net in extra time for his hat-trick.

      I got close enough to touch the players jerseys and take a great photo of the Jules Rimet trophy in the hands of Bobby Moore, as the players descended the stairs from the Royal Box.  When it emptied I vaulted over the velvet retaining wall and saw the armchairs where FIFA President Sir Stanley Rous, The Queen and Prince Philip had sat.  I 'nicked' the white cardboard sign saying 'H.M. QUEEN' in black ink, that lay on her seat, and took it as a souvenir.(she never asked for it back)!!

      I also watched Franz Beckenbauer's first World Cup match as he scored twice as a 19 year old in the 5-0 win over Switzerland at Hillsborough, Sheffield; Portugal v Hungary at Old Trafford and North Korea 1 v Italy 0 at Middlesborough's Ayresome Park. I had obtained an official World Cup blazer badge featuring The Union Jack and the Jules Rimet trophy, sewed it on my university blazer and walked into the North Korean dressing room past officials to celebrate with rice wine with the players in this momentous and historic win. Pak-Doo Ik the goal scorer will always be remembered by the fans in Middlesborough. 

       These 3 matches, standing on the terraces with friends, had cost(in old money)  7s 6 d. each, about 35 p, or 50 cents in todays money!!!   By contrast parking at The Rose Bowl for the 1994 World Cup Final in California, cost $10.00. approximatly the same as for tickets for the 6 matches at Wembley.

       Prior to the World Cup in England I drove with a pal to Lilleshall, the National Training Centre  in Shropshire. There was no security as the England World Cup squad trained, and we met Alf Ramsey and his assistant Les Cocker. I took what was to be the line-up for the Opening Match a few days later from the notice board and asked if I could keep it, but my request was declined.  However, the morning of the World Cup Final a few weeks later, at the team hotel near Harrow, I met the squad again and they all signed a large poster for me.