1966 and Not All That: England 1 Argentina 0

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of England’s World Cup victory, we’re serialising the wonderfully comprehensive new book 1966 and Not All That throughout July. Published by Repeater Books, 1966 and Not All That includes contributions from award-winning writers David Goldblatt, Simon Kuper, Philippe Auclair and Amy Lawrence, among others. An exclusive discount code for readers of The Set Pieces can be obtained at the bottom of the article.

Note: Match reports are penned by journalists from each of England’s opposing countries.

Read the match report for England 0 Uruguay 0 here, England 2 Mexico 0 here, and England 2 France 0 here.

England v Argentina Match Report, 23 July 1966

Kick-off: 15.00

Venue: Wembley Stadium

ARG: Roma (GK), Perfumo, Marzolini, Ferreiro, Albrecht, Rattin (C), Solari, Gonzalez, Artime, Onega, Mas  

ENG: Banks (GK), Cohen, Wilson, Charlton. J, Moore (C), Stiles, Ball, Charlton. R, Hurst, Peters, Hunt

Attendance: 90,584

Final score: Argentina 0 England 1

Goal: Hurst, 77

TV reporter Enrique Macaya Marquez describes Wembley Stadium as filled with the chant of “animals” directed at Argentina. Having previously reported on the 1958 World Cup in Sweden as well Chile 1962 he notes the change in mood among our squad: “This is a very messy World Cup; the players have fallen out with Juan Carlos Lorenzo (the manager), and the AFA president Valentín Suárez has had to travel to England as a matter of urgency.”

Macaya is impressed however by one thing: having access to television in the hotels in England. So when the players complain of noise from a nearby motorway and other disturbances he says to them: “Do you have a telly back home? No? Then what are you moaning about!”

Canal 2, which was only launched in late June 1966, has secured the rights for the World Cup, but as Argentina’s technological infrastructure does not yet allow for live broadcasts the reels are being flown in after the matches and aired a couple of days later. For live coverage it is only the radio, and so most of the nation is glued to their transistors for the quarter-final.

My late grandfather Juan Mora Y Araujo, a sportswriter who passed away in January 1966, wrote about why football means so much for Argentina. “Forget the Greeks, the Romans, the English even… they may have invented the ball but, old man, it was here that football was re-born.” His sense of ownership of the game was not so much personal as national:

Football is made up of the dance of our land: it’s tango, chamamé and milonga. A choreography that includes gambetas, elasticity, preciousness. Our whole earth is to be found in fútbol criollo, get inside it and you will see from within; the pampas and the sky, the mountains and the jungle, calm rivers and currents that drag, the music of the accordion on the boat cradling by the wharf.

According to him the mountains provide the strength; the plains serene courage; the jungle, shrewdness; and in the city it all came together with a dash of picardía – cheekiness – and even nastiness. “Because in football, as in life, you cannot be good all the time. Now and again you have to open the door to the savage.”

And so the game kicks off, with Argentina defending fiercely and effectively, an attempt by Onega to nutmeg Hurst, as the English dazzle with their long balls.

Up front Artime is almost invisible as so much of the game takes place deep in the Argentine half. German referee Keitler relentlessly takes down names in his notebook – “he’ll have a library before he’s finished,” remarks the English commentator – as fouls from both sides interrupt the flow. As statisticians back home establish post-match, the ratio of fouls is 33 by England to Argentina’s 19.

Hurst attempts a run towards goal that is cleared for a corner by the Argentine defender. There are chants of “Come on Argentina” audible from the terraces, and a big national oohh and ahh when Mas threatens the England goal. But the hosts pile on the pressure, and Rattin, the Argentine captain, seems to be forever on top of the ref, arguing and gesticulating, particularly when he gets a warning for a foul on Hurst.

Football history is written by the ball, so we follow its storyline. Perfumo carries out a dangerous tackle on Hunt and the ball is then launched out of the Argentine six-yard box by goalkeeper Roma to Marzolini — Silvio Marzolini, a tall, blonde defender who would forever be regarded as a gentleman back home.

He initiates a one-two with Gonzalez but play has been interrupted by a fracas on the other side of the pitch.

It appears the referee has sent off Rattin. The Argentine captain is furiously gesticulating. “I am the captain,” he tries to communicate. The German official takes it as an insult, it seems, some sort of “up yours” and points the way off the pitch. Rattin refuses and continues to argue his case. All the Argentine players and some of our officials are now crowding around the man in black.

n the press box a number of commentators are mumbling that they can’t see why Rattin is being sent off; on the pitch he claims he is requesting an interpreter because he doesn’t understand what he’s being told. He spends a full 11 minutes in protest, six of them spent refusing point-blank to leave the pitch. Eventually he slowly walks to the tunnel.

Poet Chalo Lagrange’s has a tale of the moment he hears of Rattin’s dismissal on the radio:  

My God, Argentina’s elimination at the hands of the English! I still had the letter ‘O’ fresh in my throat from all of Artime’s goals against the Swiss and the Spanish. The radio shook with each goal. I had the radio clamped into the cavity of my ear: you have to understand, Argentina vs England, the hosts, World Cup quarter-finals. Bobby Charlton was a star even when just standing on the grass. When the radio said he had the ball, I would shut my eyes as tight as I could and convince myself that if I kept them shut a spider would rise up from the stadium itself and bite him. It didn’t happen, not that day or any other. When Rattin was sent off I wanted the radio, my friend, to lie to me. Rattin was leaving the pitch amid a scandal, the commentary said. Always with the radio in my hand I would pretend to summon the other kids in the neighbourhood to go and defend him from the bastard English. And even though the radio didn’t say that Rattin was weeping, and it’s true that he didn’t weep, I could see him, literally see him, with the blue and white strip soaked by tears. Later, when Hurst’s goal was scored, the one which made it 1-0 and England won, the one who cried was me.

Macaya Marquez focuses on that chant of “Animals! Animals!” all around the stadium. He reports: “It’s not a myth, indeed it went on for quite a while. It hurts, we felt very Argentine.”

Dante Panzeri, the maestro of Argentine football writers, gives a more self-critical account: “Rattin refused to leave the pitch and the rest of the players started all manner of arguments and play-acting, playing the victim, with the intent of shaping out of it a response of Argentine salvation and heroics.”

He goes on to report what he saw with his own eyes:

That during and after the match against England Juan Carlos Lorenzo discharged the entirety of his dictionary of insults against the match officials. That once the match was over Pastoriza threw a punch at the referee which, according to my colleague Rodriguez Duval, hit him in the face I only saw him throw the punch. And that Lorenzo marched alongside the referee and behind his back gave him a series of little kicks.

Arguably even down to ten men Argentina could have turned the game in their favour, and the defence deserves praise to the last, even though 13 minutes before the end Hurst finally manages to score.

But all the details of what ensued are secondary to the drama and controversy of Rattin’s rebellion. Panzeri foresees that the frantic gesticulating and insult-throwing by players and delegates alike are an acting-out of what many “spokesmen of national opinion” claim: “The English have robbed us of this game like they robbed us of the Malvinas.”

When the final whistle is blown Ramsey forbids his players from swapping shirts with our team. In the tunnel and in the dressing room, the Argentines spit, punch and continue to complain. Afterwards Rous and his FIFA delegates fine Argentina the maximum allowable fine and threaten to ban them from future World Cups.

The English crowd’s and media’s insult “animals” is then firmly implanted back home as evidence of the team’s mistreatment and, much to Panzeri’s astonishment, there and then a version of events at odds with what he had witnessed starts to unravel:

The shameless organised lie protecting the business, as the TV cameras register, for the consumption of thousands of journalists, Rattin’s statement that he was merely asking for an interpreter. That this delegation was returning home as one of the most exemplary to emerge from the country.

Panzeri claims that “no Argentine team would ever dare to conduct themselves in Buenos Aires like this one has in London. The opposing fans would make it impossible and no referee would stand for Rattin’s open rebellion in remaining on the field of play for so many minutes.”

You can follow Marcela Mora y Araujo on Twitter.

This is an edited extract from 1966 and Not All That published by Repeater Books.

This new book includes original writing on 1966 from contributors including David Goldblatt and Simon Kuper, an oral history of the tournament compiled by Amy Lawrence, and new thinking on what 1966 meant then and now. Just £8.99 from Philosophy Football there’s an exclusive £1 discount for The Set Pieces readers. To pick up your copy for £7.99, quote coupon code ‘The Set Pieces’ at the checkout.

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