Saturday, July 30, 2016

How Long It's Been: England Won a Major Soccer Tournament


July 30, 1966, 50 years ago today: England wins the World Cup, beating West Germany 4-2 after extra time, on home soil, at the original Wembley Stadium in London.

Geoff Hurst became the only man to score a hat trick in a World Cup Final -- the only person, until Carli Lloyd did so for America in the Women's World Cup Final against Japan last year.

The 2nd goal was controversial, in that some people think it didn't cross the goal line. The 3rd came in the 120th minute, the last  minute of extra time (not counting stoppage time), as fans ran onto the pitch to celebrate what seemed to be a 3-2 win. BBC announcer Kenneth Wolstenholme made the most famous call in the history of sportscasting -- yes, more famous than "The Giants win the Pennant!":

And here comes Hurst! He's got... Some people are on the pitch! They think it's all over! It is now! It's four!

Captain Bobby Moore led the England players up the famous Wembley steps, and received the World Cup trophy from his head of state, Queen Elizabeth II.

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Here's England's performance in major tournaments since then:

* Euro 1968: Semifinal.
* 1970 World Cup: Quarterfinal.
* Euro 1972: Did not qualify.
* 1974 World Cup: Did not qualify.
* Euro 1976: Did not qualify.
* 1978 World Cup: Did not qualify.
* Euro 1980: Eliminated after Group Stage.
* 1982 World Cup: Eliminated after 2nd Group Stage. (Effectively, Round of 16.)
* Euro 1984: Did not qualify.
* 1986 World Cup: Quarterfinal. (Cheated by Argentina's Diego Maradona.)
* Euro 1988: Eliminated after Group Stage.
* 1990 World Cup: Semifinal. (Went out to West Germany on penalties.)
* Euro 1992: Eliminated after Group Stage.
* 1994 World Cup: Did not qualify.
* Euro 1996, on home soil: Semifinal. (Went out to the reunited Germany on penalties.)
* 1998 World Cup: Quarterfinal.
* Euro 2000: Eliminated after Group Stage.
* 2002 World Cup: Quarterfinal.
* Euro 2004: Quarterfinal. (Went out to Portugal on penalties.)
* 2006 World Cup: Quarterfinal. (Went out to Portugal on penalties.)
* Euro 2008: Did not qualify.
* 2010 World Cup: Round of 16. (Went out to Germany in normal time.)
* Euro 2012: Quarterfinal. (Went out to Italy on penalties.)
* 2014 World Cup: Eliminated after Group Stage.
* Euro 2016: Round of 16. (Went out to Iceland. Iceland!)

50 years. 25 tournaments. No wins. No Finals. 2 Semifinals. 3 times eliminated by Ze Germans. 5 times (out of the last 14) eliminated on penalties. 7 outright failures to qualify.

For half a century, the English have been telling the world that they "invented football." They did not: The Greeks and the Chinese were playing it 500 years before the birth of Christ. Then they'll say they popularized it and brought it to the world. Well, you don't see Harvard (or, even more ridiculously, the school that played the first American football game, which was really a 25-a-side soccer game: Rutgers) talking about their role in popularizing that sport.

And when you point out that English "football" is terrible now, they say, "Has your country won the World Cup?"

No, not the men's version. And for 50 years, neither has yours. These same English who make fun of the Scots for still talking about the Battle of Bannockburn, over 700 years later, are clinging to the fact that England won the World Cup within the lifetimes of many people still alive today.

Including 17 of the 22 players on that England squad: Gordon Banks, George Cohen, Ray Wilson, Nobby Stiles, Jack Charlton, Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Charlton (Jack's brother), Hurst, Peter Bonetti, Jimmy Armfield, Martin Peters, Ron Flowers, Norman Hunter, Terry Paine, Ian Callaghan, Roger Hunt and George Eastham. Moore died in 1993. Manager Alf Ramsey died in 1999, Alan Ball in 2007, John Connelly in 2012, and Ron Springett and Gerry Byrne both died last year.

July 30, 1966. Exactly 50 years. How long has that been?

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England hasn't won the World Cup since. Brazil and Germany have won it 3 times since. Argentina and Italy have won it twice, France and Spain have won it once.

The World Cup has since been held in Mexico twice, Germany twice, Argentina, Spain, Italy, America, France, Japan, Korea, South Africa and Brazil. The Olympics have since been held in America 4 times, Canada 3 times, France twice, Japan twice, Russia twice, Mexico, Germany, Austria, Bosnia, Korea, Spain, Norway, Australia, Greece, Italy, China and Britain. Next week, you can add Brazil to that list.

Since England last won it, the Football League and its successor the Premier League have been won by Manchester United 14 times, Liverpool 11 times, Arsenal 6 times, Chelsea 4 times; Everton, Leeds United and Manchester City 3 times each; twice each by Derby County; and once each by Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City.

Liverpool had just won the Football League, while Everton had just won the FA Cup. The defending World Champions in North American sports were the Los Angeles Dodgers in baseball, the Green Bay Packers in football, the Boston Celtics in basketball, and the Montreal Canadiens in hockey. Muhammad Ali was the Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Of the 8 stadiums used in that World Cup, 4 still stand: Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield (home of Sheffield Wednesday, now infamous for the disaster that killed 96 people there during the 1989 FA Cup Semifinal), Villa Park in Birmingham (home of Aston Villa), Old Trafford in Salford (home of Manchester United), Goodison Park in Liverpool (home of Everton),

Wembley has been demolished and replaced by a new stadium of the same name on the same site. The White City Stadium in London (built as the main stadium for the 1908 Olympics) is now the site of the BBC's (British Broadcasting Corporation) headquarters and main studios. Ayresome Park in Middlesbrough and Roker Park in Sunderland have both been demolished and replaced by low-cost housing, and their home clubs have built new stadiums.

Most English stadiums had "terraces" behind the goal, without seats, where people would stand. These were disasters waiting to happen, and Hillsborough 1989 was the last of a few incidents that killed people, or could have. Most stadiums had poor concession and restroom facilities, and the seated stands along the sidelines ("touchlines," they would say) had little legroom. Nearly every stadium in England would be either replaced entirely or seriously modernized in the 1990s and 2000s.

Of the 19 men (the role is currently vacant at Hull City) who are starting the 2016-17 season as managers of Premier League teams: Arsene Wenger of Arsenal was 16, Claudio Ranieri of Leicester City was 14, Francesco Guidolin of Swansea City was 10, Tony Pulis of West Bromwich Albion was 8, Alan Pardew of Crystal Palace was 5, Claude Puel of Southampton and Walter Mazzarri of Watford were 4; Ronald Koeman of Everton, Jose Mourinho of Manchester United and David Moyes of Sunderland were 3, Mark Hughes of Stoke City was 2; and Eddie Howe of Bournemouth, Sean Dyche of Burnley, Antonio Conte of Chelsea, Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool, Pep Guardiola of Manchester City, Aitor Karanka of Middlesbrough, Mauricio Pochettino of Tottenham Hotspur and Slavin Bilic of West Ham United weren't born yet.

In English football in 1966, if a player was said to be "foreign," that usually meant he was from Scotland, Wales, the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland. Occasionally, there would be a player from outside the British Isles, but not often.

Queen Elizabeth is still on the throne. Harold Wilson was the Prime Minister. He would lose the office to Edward Heath, then regain it from him. Counting the 2 tenures of this 1 person, Britain has had 9 Prime Ministers -- despite Wilson holding the job for a total of 8 years, Margaret Thatcher for 11 and Tony Blair for 10. Theresa May just became the country's 2nd female Prime Minister. America has had 9 Presidents, and will soon have a 10th. The Prime Minister of Canada was Lester Pearson. The holder of the Nobel Peace Prize was UNICEF.

The President of the United States was Lyndon Johnson. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harry Truman, their wives, and the widow of John F. Kennedy were still alive. Richard Nixon was in political exile. Gerald Ford was the Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Jimmy Carter was in the State Senate in Georgia, and was embarking on his 1st campaign for Governor. So was former actor Ronald Reagan, in California. George H.W. Bush was running for the House of Representatives, and his son George W. was at Yale University. Bill Clinton was at Georgetown University, and his eventual wife Hillary Rodham was at Wellesley College. Donald Trump was at the University of Pennsylvania. Barack Obama was about to turn 5 years old, and his eventual wife Michelle Robinson was 2.

The Governor of the State of New York was Nelson Rockefeller. The Mayor of the City of New York was John Lindsay. The Governor of New Jersey was Richard J. Hughes. Andrew Cuomo was 8 years old, Bill de Blasio was 5, and Chris Christie was about to turn 4.

Major novels of the year included In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, The Magus by John Fowles, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (which was adapted into the Cliff Robertson movie Charly 2 years later), The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry, The Fixer by Bernard Malamud, The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott, The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron, and the best-selling novel in America since World War II, Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann.

Major films of the Summer of 1966 included a film version of the new Batman TV series (released on the very day of England's World Cup win), Daleks -- Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (the 1st film based on Doctor Who, starring Peter Cushing as The Doctor), The Glass Bottom Boat, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, How to Steal a Million, Fantastic Voyage, the Elvis Presley film Paradise, Hawaiian Style, Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. (a modernized comedy version of Robinson Crusoe starring Dick Van Dyke), and a Steve McQueen film whose name would be appropriated for the 1st great soccer bar in America: Nevada Smith.

Rawhide, Mister Ed, The Donna Reed Show, Ben Casey, The Addams Family and its copy (or was it vice versa?) The Munsters, McHale's Navy, The Patty Duke Show, Perry Mason and The Dick Van Dyke Show had all closed their runs on network TV; The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and My Favorite Martian soon would. The iconic Westerns Gunsmoke and Bonanza were still clippity-clopping along nicely. So were the spy series The Man from U.N.C.L.E and the spy spoof Get Smart. Soon to premiere were Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The Green Hornet, The Time Tunnel, The Monkees, That Girl, Family Affair, The Rat Patrol and The Hollywood Squares.

The Number 1 song in America was "Wild Thing" by The Troggs. Elvis, as I said, was in the doldrums of the movie phase of his career. Frank Sinatra was enjoying a renaissance as he approached his 50th birthday: "Strangers In the Night" had hit Number 1, his album September of My Years and his TV special Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music were both big hits, and his daughter Nancy had recently hit Number 1 with "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'." The day before England won the World Cup, Bob Dylan had a nasty motorcycle crash that kept him from doing anything in music for over a year. His absence from the public eye led many people to think that the crash had actually killed him.

A car crash later in the year did not injure Paul McCartney of The Beatles, but, eventually, rumors would abound that he had been killed, and replaced by a double. Having recently released their album Revolver, the band was in the middle of a world tour and about to arrive in America, where, for what turned out to be the only time in his public life, John Lennon apologized for something: Saying that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus now. (He was right.) After the tour ended in San Francisco on August 29, they decided never to tour again. They never did -- at least, not together.

That Summer, Bobby Fuller was murdered at what looked like the beginning of a great rock and roll career. Comedian Lenny Bruce was found dead of a drug overdose, but rumors that he was murdered would also persist. Frank Zappa and his band, The Mothers of Invention, released their album Freak Out! McCartney would later cite this, and The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, as inspirations for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Other albums released that Summer included Aretha Franklin's Soul Sister, The Supremes A' Go-Go, The Temptations' Gettin' Ready, The Byrds' Fifth Dimenson, And Then... Along Comes the Association, Dusty Springfield's You Don't Have to Say You Love Me, Tim Hardin 1, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, The Mamas & the Papas, The Exciting Wilson Pickett, and James Brown's It's a Man's Man's Man's World.

The U.S. space program was in the middle of Project Gemini, the middle stage of trying to get to the Moon. Most American TV shows had gone over to color broadcasts, but only about 1/3rd of U.S. households had color TV sets. There were no hand-held calculators, no video games, no digital watches, no cable televisions, no mobile telephones, no VCRs, no personal computers, and no Internet. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Tim Berners-Lee were all 11 years old.

In the Summer of 1966, the Vatican abolished their index of banned books. Prime Minister Wilson, President Charles de Gaulle of France, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India and Secretary General U Thant of the United Nations each made visits to the Soviet Union. Mao Zedong announced his Great Leap Forward in China. A gang led by Harry Roberts killed 3 London police officers.

In America, race riots struck the West Side of Chicago, the East Side of Cleveland, and in the Michigan capital of Lansing. Martin Luther King led a civil rights march in Chicago, and was hit with a rock thrown by a white counter-demonstrator. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) endorsed what it called "Black Power." The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that policemen must inform suspects of their rights before questioning them. The National Organization for Women (NOW) and the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) were founded. Richard Speck in Chicago and Charles Whitman in Austin, Texas became notorious murderers. The New York Herald Tribune ceased publication. Caesars Palace opened in Las Vegas. And ground was broken in New York for the original World Trade Center.

Delmore Schwartz, and Montgomery Clift, and Ed "Strangler" Lewis, the leading professional wrestler of the interwar years, died. Dikembo Mutombo, and Mike Tyson, and Gianfranco Zola were born.

July 30, 1966. England won the World Cup on home soil. It was the greatest moment in the history of British sport.

England have not won it since. They have not even been to a World Cup Final since. Only once since have they even made a World Cup Semifinal. And, based on their performances at the most recent editions of the World Cup and the European Championships, they're not getting appreciably close to doing it again.

I don't know what they're doing wrong. But they truly inspire a few rounds of that classic terrace chant: "You don't know what you're doing!"

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