The Perfect Gift
It’s a rare thing to be given the perfect gift but as an excited six year old I received the best present a lad could ever wish for.
Mexico 1970 was the first World Cup I remember. The Bogota Bracelet Incident and an Argentinian referee ensured a campaign embroiled in scandal and controversy for reigning champions England. In a repeat of the 1966 final The Three Lions were eventually knocked out of the competition by Helmut Schön’s West Germany. England had gained a 2-0 lead through Alan Mullery and Martin Peters before strikes from Franz Beckenbauer and Uwe Seeler levelled the contest. Extra time saw Gerd Müller hit the winner and England were out at the Quarter Final stage.
The Semi Final between Italy and West Germany became known as “the game of the century”. Played in front of more than 102,000 people the hard fought game ended with the scores deadlocked at 1-1 but it was the Azzurri who triumphed winning 4–3 after five goals were scored in extra time. However, Italy failed to recreate the magic of the Semi Final and Brazil were crowned the best team in the world for the third time when they won 4-1 in the Final in Mexico City. Pelé, Gérson, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto scored for Brazil but despite all the guile and trickery of the samba boys I only had three footballing idols; the mesmeric Charlie Cooke, the flamboyant Rodney Marsh and my brother. Although he didn’t manage a 1st team appearance my brother was on the books of second division QPR as a trialist at the time and so it was that I was given the perfect Christmas present, a bright orange leather football signed by none other than Ranger’s strikingly bold, brilliant and charismatic centre forward, Rodney Marsh.
This instantly became my most prized possession, something to be treasured and jealously guarded. There was only one thing any self respecting six year old could do; I duly started to kick the living daylights out of the ball trying to emulate my heroes. In my mind I became the world’s best dribbler of the ball and was capable of producing moments of rare skill and extravagant attempts on goal. Needless to say I never did make it as a footballer and the signature on the ball didn’t see too much of 1971 before it was finally kicked into oblivion. For a few short months I was the happiest lad in the land, I had been given the keys to the footballing kingdom and a lifetime’s passion for the game had been ignited.