(The first part of this post is here)
For the 1954 World Cup, the tournament was back in Europe for the first time since before the Second World War. In Switzerland to be precise and for the second and last time the official poster would feature a goalkeeper making a spectacular save. A goalkeeper who looks like Mother Teresa. It’s the white following robes look. Or maybe that’s Albert Camus, philosopher, writer and goalkeeper, then at the height of his fame, who famously observed “All that I know most surely about morality and obligations I owe to football.” Now that’s absurdism……It’s surely absurdism worthy of Camus – dammit, worthy of Beckett – that the tournament was won by West Germany – not the popular choice in a Europe struggling to rebuild after the war – and that they did it by beating the Magical Magyars of Hungary, widely regarded as one of the greatest teams to ever play the game – who hadn’t been beaten in four years up to the final. Not for the last time would the putative “best team in the world” lose to a “lesser” team in the final.
Not that that would be the case in ’58 and ’62. The rather ordinary posters from Sweden and Chile give no hint of the emergence of the great Brazilian sides of Pele, Garrincha, Zito and Nilton Santos as worthy champions.
Certainly that Chilean “one world” poster gives no hint of the utter mayhem that erupted during the infamous “battle of Santiago” between hosts Chile and Italy, just then developing the rugged uncompromising cattenaccio style that would define their game for years to come. (The video in the link above is worth watching for the introduction by an incensed British commentator, the use of the Chilean army to quell trouble, the brilliant kung fu kicks and left hooks and the tackling that can only be described as “agricultural” – as in “kick a cow up the hole to get the herd moving” agricultural).
On a happier note – well if you’re English – the World Cup poster for England ’66 featured a cheerful little British lion happily having a kick-about in a Union Jack shirt – a state of affairs that must have driven almost the entire nation of Scotland into a fury. The Union flag represents the whole United Kingdom, not just England – however it was England who were hosting the tournament, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland not having qualified – and the use of the Union flag would have burned any number of proud Celts. Not as much as England eventually winning the tourney (which they did beating the ever popular Germans in a repeat of the Battle of Britain, this time without Spitfires and Messerschmidts, but tellingly with the help of a Russian linesman allowing a “goal” that never was.)
An epic battle in the semi-final between the Italians and the Germans? Check. In a repeat of the ’66 final, the amazing German comeback to beat champions England? Check. And Brazil – masterclasses against England, Peru, the Czechs, Uruguay and in the final against Italy. Check. Rock and roll indeed.
Mind you for the true rock and roll look we had to wait until 1974 – players sporting longer hair, mullets, afros, short shorts, huge mustaches – if it wasn’t a rock band look, it was certainly rock roadie look, enlivened by tales of groupies descending on the team hotels – especially the Dutch – and alleged late night cavortings poolside with German prostitutes. (For a terrific look back, check out this excellent column). The official poster, a thing of beauty, seems to capture some of that essence.
Oh yeah, surprise, the Germans won it again, beating a supposedly superior team, shades of 1954. They’re not called Die Mannschaft for nothing you know.
1978 continued the theme of superb moustaches and long hair, this time on the actually poster itself. That figure could be Argentinian icon Luque (check out this amazing finish) raising his arms in celebration- something he was to do many times in the tourney as Argentina won at home.
Just as well they did win as 1978 saw the return of some old friends of FIFA and the World Cup – Fascists, this time in the form of the Argentinian junta. The ’78 World Cup was their bread-and-circuses moment. If Holland had have scored in the dying minutes of the final – they hit the post – who knows what would have erupted in the stadium.
The FIFA-Fascist axis had arranged the next world cup for Spain – although by the time ’82 rolled around Spain had divested itself of Franco (dead) and his Falangists (dustbin of history, unless you support Real Madrid).
You can bet your hard earned pesetas that Franco, had he lived, would not have allowed this almost Picasso-esque poster to grace the tournament.
Fascist neo-classicism and neo-realism was more his style. What he would have made of Mexico ’86 poster is anyone’s guess.
I’m sure the Aztecs had a form of football – probably played with heads, with the losers being sacrificed to the football gods, a sentiment many of us can share after our teams put in a painfully poor shift in a crucial match. (That’s the sort of rule change I could get behind in some of my more dyspeptic moments). The poster was a nice marriage of the ancient and the modern and I’m sure the Mexican tourist board approved.
And speaking of football gods, that shadow hand raised up in the poster……the (in)famous Hand of God goal anyone?
(More to follow)