A brilliant moment in world soccer, Brazil winning Jules Rimet Trophy, happened exactly 50 years ago
A beginning may have been made through the European football leagues to signal a start of sports in the face of the Covid-19 sweep but by and large the activities remain lull with the future looking hazy. So looking back remains the alternative and what better than delve into the wonderful happenings sports arenas had witnessed over the years.
For this column this time I wish to bring to focus on, something football fans would relish, the erstwhile symbol of football supremacy in the world, the Jules Rimet Trophy.
Incidentally, it was on June 21 but in the year 1970 that the Mexico edition of the World Championship had ended amidst glorious moments for Brazil, at one time considered the king of the game. As per the conditions then, FIFA had decided that the first country that wins the Championship the third time gets to take the gold-rich coveted Jules Rimet Trophy on a permanent basis. A new trophy was thereafter created for the editions from then on and that continues till date.
So 50 years have gone by since that exciting day passed in Mexico City at the Estadio Azteca, a football facility that is not only imposing to view but had become a historical place as far as football was considered. For 16 years thereafter when Mexico again hosted the event, it was in this stupendous setting that a legend by name Diego Maradona came to light to catch the imagination of football fans the world over. But that is a different story.
What happened in 1970 was equally eye-catching and historic for it was also an occasion for another legend of the sport, Pele, inarguably the greatest footballer on earth, to make his final bow but not before ensuring Brazil won the World championship for the third time and what is more ending the argument on where the Jules Rimet Trophy would finally head to! It is a different matter that the Trophy had its own unspeakable history of getting stolen once, months prior to the 1966 World cup before a dog Pickles recovered it, and again in 1983 never to be found!
However, in 1970 with enthusiasm bristling among the 16 nations that were in attendance, only three _ Brazil, Italy and Uruguay _ had the chance of meeting the FIFA condition of earning the title third time. Uruguay had won it in 1930 and 50, Brazil in 1958 and 62 while Italy's success had come in 1934 and 38. When finally, Brazil and Italy stormed into the final, it was just about the best final script that the sport needed at this level. Two teams of exceedingly talented bunch, each hungry for success and so the question was where would the Trophy go, to Rome or Rio.
As it happened it had to be Pele who would find the answer in his own inimitable style. Scoring goals or laying the path for goals have been his master ability and the final provided the glimpse of this jewel in the Brazilian football crown so to say. Himself scoring once and then providing the assist for two others Brazil swamped Italy 4-1. Pele, Gerson, Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto were the scorers with Boninsegna reducing the margin for Italy.
Many had said that this 1970 side of Brazil was perhaps its best ever with players, aside from the three scorers, like Rivelino and Tostao, each a great performer in his own right. It could safely be said, Brazil in the 1970 championship was an irresistible side and eventually courted success that was to confirm its heady stature in the sport. And as for Pele, he had become the only player who had featured in three World cup wins in his four appearances from 1958 to 70.
The 1970 Championship also produced some sterling displays which not just matched the occasion but reflected the mood of the teams that had geared up for this key event. One unforgettable moment of absolute wonder came in the Brazil vs defending champion England match in the group match when a patented header by Pele that had looked a goal all over was saved in stunning style by Gordon Banks, a fitting tribute to a great goalkeeper.
Diving from one end to the other, Banks produced an impossible one hand save that raised a sigh of disbelief not only in the arena but the millions around the globe in front of the TV set or glued to the lucid radio commentary. Eventually England lost by the thinnest of margin (1-0) but Banks' work was to remain an everlasting memory.
Another extraordinary episode came in the Italy-Germany semi-final, a coruscating encounter fittingly labelled the 'Game of the Century', that went to extra time. Aside from the flurry of goals (five) in the extra time phase what stood out was the brave show of defender Franz Beckenbauer. Great players often get the 'attention' by any opposition and Beckenbauer did not prove an exemption. Brought to the point when he suffered a dislocated shoulder, the lion-hearted man chose to remain on the field with his right-arm bandaged to fight for a possible German win that alas was not to come.
Time has flown since. An era has gone by. Is Brazil the same irresistible lot now will draw much discussion more so after the shocking sight of a 1-7 defeat against Germany in the semi-final in the 2014 Rio edition. No redemption came in Russia four years later. Many Brazilians themselves have begun to wonder if football is slipping off from a country that at one time many believed was synonymous with the sport. Not since 2002 has Brazil been able to have another grab at the title but all the same 1970 was special, mesmerizing and that cannot be taken away.