The Wembley Goal

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It is surely the most controversial incident in football history. During extra time in the 1966 World Cup final, in front of a fiercly partisan crowd in London's Wembley Stadium, Geoff Hurst trapped the ball at the edge of the Penalty Area, turned and crashed a ferocious shot against the underside of the crossbar. The German 'keeper, Tilkowski, could only watch as the ball, still moving at incredible speed, bounced down onto the line and spun away to what he must have thought was safety. With the English players, and the crowd, celebrating, the Russian linesman, Backhramov stated that the ball had indeed briefly crossed the line and the Swiss referee Dienst awarded a goal. England 3, Germany 2 !!!!!

To this day, of course, it has been an article of faith for any self-respecting German that the ball didn't cross the line and that the German team was the victim of some perfidious Anglo-Russian conspiracy. The term 'Wembley Goal' (Wembleytor) has entered the German language as a shorthand description for any bogus 'goal'. For example, the following is an excerpt from a children's book, published in Germany to cash in on the 1998 World Cup:-

A team playing at home always enjoys certain 'priviledges'. In the 1966 final, England ... were 'gifted' two goals. And so Bobby Moore came to receive the Cup from the Queen, as had been planned, right from the start.

Of course, it's as impossible today to determine whether the Germans really were 'robbed' as it was back on that Saturday afternoon nearly 35 years ago. With the exception of Mr. Zaproder's home movie of the Kennedy assasination, the film of the Wembley Goal has probably been subjected to more scientific analysis than any other photographic record, and the results have been similarly inconclusive.

So what is one to do if one is ever talking to a German football fan and the conversation turns to the Wembley Goal? Obviously, no amount of argument, reasoned or otherwise, will be able to overcome the effects of lifelong indoctrination. The following points should however be sufficient to force your teutonic adversary to pause for thought. (Otherwise, in a fit of self-righteousness, the German will either go on to demand that England's name be struck from all records, or will insist that the game should be replayed - presumably with as many of the original players as are still alive and able to kick a ball.)

1. England were easily the best team in the game anyway. (Cuts no ice with your opponent, of course, but it's a useful opening gambit.)

2. The only reason for there being extra time in the first place was that the Germans were incorrectly awarded a free kick in the 89th minute, from which they flukily scored to make it 2-2. (The German will shrug this riposte off, but it should have softened him or her for your killer blow...)

3. Leaving aside Wembley 1966 for a minute, isn't it time we took a closer look at the dodgy penalty awarded to Germany in the 1990 World Cup final, or the equally suspect penalty they got in the 1974 final?

As your German opponent splutters with indignation, you can declare victory, and move the conversation to a more mutually agreeable subject, such as Gerd Mullers tree-trunk thighs or Franz Beckenbauer's 'interesting' private life ...

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