Posted: 10/4/2009
Title: THE RUSSIAN LINESMAN

Blog:                                                                                                                         

      I was there and remember the day very well. It was the 8th World Cup Final, 30th July, 1966. It rained in the morning. England had been taken to extra time at Wembley 2-2 but in  overtime Geoff Hurst belted the ball against the West German cross bar and it dropped down on the line and went back into play. Referee Gottfried Dienst looked to his right and 'The Russian Linesman' of folk lore.  He went over and he nodded his head and Dienst pointed to the centre circle. GOAL!!! England 3 v West Germany 2. In those days the referee and linesmen had no common language. Today they must all speak English.

      In fact,that infamous linesman was then a citizen of the SSRA -The Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan, from Baku. He looked like Stalin, with a large head of hair and a similar bushey moustache, but taller. (Stalin was small but nobody told him that). I remember his black shorts were held up by a white belt. The man's name was TOFIK BAKHRAMOV and he later became the Secretary General of the AFFA the Azeri Football Federation and he died on October 12th 1993 aged 66!.  Of course Geoff Hurst completed his hat trick to make it 4-2 and fans ran on the field . 'They thinks it's all over, well it is now, four goals' were the immortal words of BBC TV commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme.

      I wanted to visit the Republika Stadion in Baku, now named the Tofik Bakhramov Stadium and see the huge statue in the forecourt just outside the Ganclik Metro station.  I bought an oyster card, similar to the London underground for 3 manats, which gave me 10 trips, about 30 cents each, and went the 3 stops.  It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and I got my photos in and out of the Stalin style stadium, and of the statue, and the kids playing in a league in the small artificial turf field next door.

     I sat in the empty press section and took photos of the all seated stadium.  Next door was a small cafe and I had a pot of tea and talked with the guys who were playing on the 4 NARD boards laid out on shady tables. In 2004 England paid a visit for a World Cup match and on October 12th, the day before the match, 16 years to the day after his death, Bahram Bahramov, his son, lined up with Geoff Hurst, Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini for a photo by the statue, which was then unveiled. England fans in red T-shirts(England played in red and West Germany in white and black in the final) with a large white 'Bahramov 66' on the front had their photo with the son, and also visited his grave to lay wreaths.

     Normally the referee of the World Cup final is presented with a golden whistle, but on this occasion Queen Elizabeth II presented 3 such whistles. The other linesman was Dr. Karol Galba of Czechoslovakia, but nobody remembers him.  On his death bed when asked was it a goal or not Tofik was alleged to have said one word-STALINGRAD!.

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