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The 1970 World Cup is recalled fondly, and in glorious technicolour

THE shorts were white, the socks were gold, and the shirts were blue with gold piping.

Giacinto Facchetti, of Italy, and Brazil's Jairzinho: just two of the stars who made 1970 so great. Picture: Peter Robinson/EMPICS
Giacinto Facchetti, of Italy, and Brazil's Jairzinho: just two of the stars who made 1970 so great. Picture: Peter Robinson/EMPICS

The piping did not bother me, though some wore earplugs. The strips were given out on the afternoon of the match by a teacher or jannie. It was always a proud moment. It was primary school and it was 1967.

Looking at the interweb the other week, I found a webpage. Piqued by the idea of finding a home for my pet spider, I entered.

Amazingly, though, it contained the invitation to write about one's favourite football year. That's an idea, I thought. Let's use it for a column and, hurrah, have a column with a point.

This brought me back to 1967 and the primary school and the strips. But it cannot be my favourite year. The triumphs of my primary school team were cruelly overshadowed by a professional team from the East End who won something in Lisbon and our titles (and the innovative 1-3-3-3 formation) were never fully appreciated, much in the same way as my humorous 'What I did on my holidays' essay was outshone by Joseph Heller's Catch 22, at least in the eyes of some critics.

I thus opt for 1970. This has nothing to do with domestic football and all to do with domestic furniture. The 1970 World Cup was the first major tournament played in colour. Well, at least on tellies in Busby.

These TVs were not so much sets as crates that could accommodate the contents of Billy Smart's Circus. They took up most of the living room and had sliding doors that were an absurdity. They hid nothing. It was like a giant covering his eyes with his hands and expecting to be rendered invisible. And the telly doors were never closed.

These were the days when 22,783,474 would watch the Morecambe and Wise show, which was four more than would watch the test card. The only time the telly went off was when the meter ran out.

I spent the summer of 1970 staring at this wooden behemoth as if it was a religious deity dispensing spiritual wisdom. Which, in a way, it was. The footballing gods were tramping over parks in Mexico and they were mostly Brazilian.

It is hard to describe just how brilliant the Brazilians were in 1970, though that precisely and unfortunately is my job. Sorry. But here goes. They wore yellow shirts and blue shorts, perfect for the new telly, particularly one that leaked colour like a cheap jumper in a washing machine.

They had great names: Felix, Carlos Alberto, Brito, Piazza, Marco Antonio, Clodoaldo, Gerson, Pele, Jairzinho, Tostao and Rivelino. They were all different, distinctive. Gerson – he looked like a man who smoked 40 a day because he was, well, a man who smoked 40 a day – was careworn and slightly battered but casually brilliant in passing.

Clodoaldo was a defender so relaxed that he made Tony Bennett look like Lee Evans on speed. Tostao was a sharpshooter with blurred vision in one eye but an ability to pick out team-mate or goal.

Jairzinho was sleek, powerful and looked like Mohammad Ali's wee brother. Rivelino had a left foot that kicked with the power of a pack of mules on steroids. He also had the moustache of a German porn star. Though, he may have given that back after the World Cup.

And then there was Pele. He was brilliant, unstoppable in 1958 and was even better by 1970.

There was more, too. England with Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore, Peru with Cubillas, and Czechoslovakia with a lad named Petras who crossed himself so often after scoring he was subsequently ordained.

There was, too, the Italy v West Germany semi-final that finished 4-3, with greats such as Beckenbauer, Muller, Mazzola, Rivera and others parading their stuff in both extra time and in full living colour.

It was also the last World Cup before Scotland started that strange period of qualification for major tournaments – remember that? – and so it could be watched without any nationalistic apprehension.

It was the best World Cup and the best team won it playing the best football. It doesn't get any better than that. And it hasn't.

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