Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another Extract From The Fortysomething's Guide

Here is a further extract from The Fortysomething's Guide to TV's Great Sporting Moments and a day in 1974 that will, perhaps forever, live in infamy in the sheer disgracefulness of its happenstance. Or something.
7 July 1974

Over to Our Live Outside Broadcast From: Olympiastadion, Munich, West Germany.

Action Replay: For a certain age-group Sunday 7 July 1974 remains one of the blackest days of our – till then - short and relatively uneventful lives. There had been much great football played during the Tenth World Cup finals competition, held over three wet and muddy weeks in West Germany, even if England had failed to qualify. But nothing else compared to the free-flowing totaalvoetbal of Holland and their mercurial genius playmaker, Johan Cruyff.

The Dutch team was build around the superb and successful Ajax and Feyenoord club sides of the era, coach Rinus Michels fashioning a team - and a system - that attacked in number, hunted in packs when not in possession of the ball, made intelligent and artistic use of space and dazzled opponents with individual skill (who can ever forget 'The Cruyff Turn'?) Over six group games Cruyff - aided by his mates Johan Neeskens, Johnny Rep, Wim van Hanegem, Rob Rensenbrink, Wim Jensen, Arie Haan et al - ran riot, playing football that thrilled the watching world and scoring goals for fun. Even their 0-0 draw with Sweden was something of a masterpiece. And, it all culminated on the night they annihilated the reigning champions, Brazil, in their final second round match. This suggested that the final would be a mere formality. Not only that, but as broadcaster Danny Kelly has noted 'in 1974 Holland was the only place where the 1960s was still going on!' The team, with their long hair, cool clothes and casual strut, looked like a bunch rock stars recently escaped from the backrooms of some smoky Amsterdam hash-bar. Even their hardest defender, Ruudi Krol, it was noted, wore love-beads. If ever the term 'sexy football' applied to anyone, it was to the Dutch in the summer of 1974.
Against them were the hosts, the current European champions. West Germany were also one of the genuine cult sides of the early 70s but had been far less impressive through the group stages, particularly when losing to neighbours East Germany. There were stories of factions in the camp and many were mystified by coach Helmet Schön's reluctance to find a place for the talented but temperamental midfielder Günter Netzer. Indeed, it was widely suggested that a group of senior players - mostly a clutch from Bayern Munich - were effectively picking the team and not Schön. They were a hard-working side, with obvious ability, considerable flair and with the world’s best libero centre-back, Franz Beckenbauer and its most lethal striker, Gerd Müller. The Germans, however, despite having their own resident Maoist loony in their ranks – the afro-hairstyled left-back Paul Breitner whose frequent politicised rants could give Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof a run for their money - were still the uncool ying to Dutch rebel yang. Most people outside Germany confidently expected Holland to win.

What Happened Next?: As a nation, the Netherlands had - and still has - very strong feelings about their German neighbours, an enmity which dates back to their occupation by the German army during World War II. Memories were still raw for many, not least Wim van Hanegem. 'Eighty per cent of my family died [in the war]; my daddy, my sister, my two brothers. The Germans were good players but arrogant.'

The Dutch kicked-off and with just sixty second gone, after a complex move involving over twenty passes, Cruyff was brought down by Uli Hoeness in penalty area as he raced through on goal. Neeskens scored from the ensuing spot-kick, the first German player to touch the ball in the match being the goalkeeper Sepp Maier when he picked it out of the net. For the next twenty minutes, Holland strolled around in complete control. But, as van Hanegem noted, half of the team seemed more interested in making the Germans look silly than in winning a football game. 'We played great but we forgot to score the second goal,' Johnny Rep would regretfully add later. Passing the ball around for fun, they allowed the West Germans to steady themselves and get back into the game.

In the 26th minute Bernd Hölzenbein dramatically fell (for which read blatantly dived) in the Dutch area and English referee Jack Taylor awarded the Germans a penalty. Hölzenbein had, controversially, done exactly the same thing in the previous match against Poland and, as on that occasion, the referee had bought it. Breitner equalised. Just before half-time, Müller latched onto a pass by Rainer Bonhof and scored from close range past the Dutch keeper, Jan Jongbloed. The second half was one of most one-sided in football history as Holland laid virtual seige to the German goal with wave after wave of attacks. But the outstanding Maier, Beckenbauer and co. held firm and, at the final whistle West Germany were world champions for the second time, twenty years after The Miracle of Berne.

Back to the Studio for a Summing Up: Every tournament since 1974 it's been the same. The Dutch get our hopes up. They briefly thrill us and delight us with their brand of flair and genius. And then, every time (except for the European Championships in 1988, admittedly) they let us - and often themselves - down. They seemed to make us a promise in 1974. They said to every unhealthy ten year old 'be brilliant, be expressive, be fabulous, be yourself … and you’ll win.' They lied. David Winner, author of the award-winning book Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football devotes an entire chapter to 1974 – Football Is Not War – in which he, like everyone, remains completely unable to explain just how The Best Team In The World managed not to win the ultimate prize. As Ruud Krol reflects 'Sometimes, in football, the best team just doesn’t win.'
There would be another World Cup run four years later (without Cruyff - whose absence was never, satisfactorily, explained - but with most of the squad of 1974), another final and, perhaps inevitably, another highly controversial defeat - this time to the next host country, Argentina.

What the Papers Said: 'Germany became the fourth host nation to win the trophy and the Netherlands after their long slog from the foothills just failed to scale this Everest of the game,' noted a rather florid Times report. On Dutch TV, commentator Herman Kuiphof gave an agonised response to Germany's victory: 'Zijn we er toch nog ingetuind' (translated as 'they have tricked us again' and usually taken as yet another reference to events of thirty years earlier). The Dutch were further enraged by an article published on the eve of the final in the much-raking German tabloid Bild-Zeitung headlined Cruyff, Champagne, Naked Girls and a Pool ('Cruyff, Sekt, nackte Mädchen und ein kühles Bad'). It claimed that four unnamed Dutch players had held a nocturnal party with some local Mädchen in the swimming pool of their Hiltrup hotel on the evening before the Brazil game. It is yet to be established whether the story was true – the paper claimed at the time to have photos but none have ever been published - however, it clearly upset many of the Dutch players. It is alleged that Cruyff spent most of the night before the final on the phone to his wife, Danny, promising her that the article was a lie. This, claims his brother Hennie, is why he 'played like a dishrag' the next day.
Also That Day:-

- In Music: Charles Aznavour spent a second week at number one with the earache inducing 'She.' The charts were pretty wretched all round during that period, with only odd nuggets of genius on the horizon - R Dean Taylor's epic Northern Soul stomper 'There's A Ghost in My House' at No. 17, Paul McCartney & Wings' 'Band on the Run' at No. 27 or The Rubettes kitsch classic 'Sugar Baby Love' at No. 33. Despite their elimination from the tournament a fortnight earlier, The Scotland World Cup Squad's 'Easy Easy' was still hanging on in there at No. 32. Novelty hits like Ray Stevens' 'The Streak' (No. 7) and The Wombles' 'Banana Rock' (no. 12) were also in tragic evidence. The Carpenters' Singles 1969-1973 topped the LP charts ahead of Elton John's Caribou.

- On TV: The BBC’s highlight of the evening was an episode of America written and narrated by Alistair Cooke. ITV featured the sitcom Doctor at Sea. Later Seven Faces of Woman included an adaptation of Shelagh Delaney's St. Martin's Summer. BBC2 also had a drama, A Work of Genius starring Michael Bryant and Ted Ray. Their afternoon alternative to blanket football coverage was a John Player League cricket match between Worcestershire and Somerset where John Arlott witnessed early stirrings of coming West Country greatness as Ian Botham, Viv Richards and co. won by thirteen runs in a finish every bit as exciting as that at the Olympiastadion.

- In The News: West Germany's victory was a major news event, as was the attendance at the match of the US Secretary of State Dr Henry Kissinger. Derek Stevenson, secretary of the British Medical Association said legislation would be needed to abolish private beds in NHS hospitals and Social Services Minister Barbara Castle was wrong to suggest otherwise. The General Synod issued a rebuff to the World Council of Churches over grants given to organisations seeking to counter inequality. One member, D. Yates of St Albans, noted that by 'harping on [about] racism, real and imaginary, the council have done more to embitter race-relations than good.' Christianity, eh? You can't live with it ... can you? Derbyshire police reported that the bill for their services at the Buxton Pop Festival would be £30,000 despite the fact that rain had kept attendances down and just fifteen arrest were made – mostly for alleged theft, drug-taking, drunkenness and other public order offences. The cost of running a family car had risen to £14 according to the AA. Ex-Radio 1 DJ Simon Dee was jailed for twenty eight days for charges relating to rates arrears. A strike of Production Assistants at the BBC was expected to black out some live shows.