Just For Kicks
WEMBLEY, the venerable soccer stadium in London, England, hosted its last match Saturday. Bulldozers soon will make way for a new facility.
Memories of Wembley
Wembley's last hurrah had England losing a Group Nine World Cup qualifying match to Germany, 1-0.
How fitting to have the same teams that battled into overtime in the memorable 1966 World Cup final. England won, 4-2, but more on that later.
My roommate, Dave Panisnick, now a professor of religion at Honolulu Community College, and I decided a nice graduation gift to ourselves would be a trip to England.
The prices were right.
We purchased a booklet of tickets for 10 WC matches, nine at Wembley and one at White City, for $12.50. That meant standing room behind the goal, but we didn't care.
We discovered it was almost all standing room anyway the first time we went to Wembley.
A one-way ticket to Los Angeles went for $110. It cost $99 for a one-way rental car to the East Coast. We used a three-week, excursion ticket ($270) for the round trip from Boston.
We didn't have room reservations, but a friend met us at Heathrow Airport and helped us find a bed and breakfast for the three weeks ($70).
We learned to use the underground (subway) real quick.
The monetary system was manageable and fish and chips was an inexpensive favorite.
We knew when the Watneys on the corner was open. There, a cold beer was one kept under the counter out of the sunlight.
MATCHES were played in the afternoon. That allowed one to view extensive highlights with analysis on BBC each night.
In one near shocker, North Korea built a 3-0 lead against Portugal in the quarterfinal round, only to have Eusebio, "The Black Panther" score four goals in Portugal's 5-3 victory.
Eusebio's effort was topped only by what England's Geoff Hurst did in the final.
The Charlton brothers, Jackie and Bobby, led England. And there were Gordon Banks, Alan Ball and Bobby Moore.
Germany countered with Uwe Seeler, Helmut Haller and a bright youngster by the name of Franz Beckenbauer.
We arrived early. You had to if you wanted to be close to the field. The stands filled up from bottom to top. You stayed there (no restroom breaks) until the match was finished.
Two rows of fans could stand on each step. It was cozy.
The respective fight songs began early by the 96,000-plus in attendance and continued to the end. Fans around us couldn't believe two blokes from the United States would come to England to watch football.
Haller and Hurst scored early in the first half.
England took the lead in the second half but, seconds before regulation time expired, Germany equalized.
In the first overtime period, Hurst scored his second goal and, to this day, the Germans won't believe the ball crossed the goal line.
Hurst's shot from inside the box was rising fast. It hit the underside of the cross bar, bounced down and out.
Referee Gottfried Dienst checked with the Russian linesman, then awarded the goal.
The next day German publications were offering as much as $50,000 for anyone with a photograph showing the ball across the goal line.
Hurst would score again, the only player to notch a hat trick in a World Cup final.
That night, thousands of England's fans sang and danced (some in the fountains) in the Trafalgar Square area.
What a celebration!
What an experience for two UH grads before heading off to graduate school.
Soccer hooliganism hadn't been invented yet, thank you.