Did England rig the result?
England's victory in the 1966 football World Cup is one of the most celebrated events in 20th century British sport. Geoff Hurst's hat-trick, the disputed third goal, the commentator's line 'They think it's all over!' have become legends. But at the time, during the tournament itself and in the weeks afterwards, England was the subject of widespread popular hostility in some parts of the world, especially in South America.
World Cup football is extremely important in South America. Of the seven World Cup tournaments before 1966, South American countries had won four times: Uruguay twice and Brazil twice. However, of the three South American teams in the 1966 World Cup, Brazil failed to qualify in their group, and Uruguay and Argentina were both knocked out in the quarter finals.
The South American protesters claimed that England, also the hosts, had rigged the whole tournament, with the help of West Germany. They particularly complained about the referees. English officials refereed most of Brazil's games. The England-Argentine match was refereed by a German; it was a bad-tempered match and the England manager, Alf Ramsay, described the Argentinians afterwards as 'animals'. The West Germany-Uruguay match had a British referee and two Uruguayans were sent off. Strong anti-British feeling showed itself all over South America.
- How did the Uruguayan public react to their country's quarter-final defeat?
- Do you think this is important enough for the British government in London to need to know all about it?
- What evidence does the writer give that football is very important in Uruguayan politics?
- What harm does the writer think has been done to Anglo-Uruguayan relations?
1. Read Source 1. This is a confidential report to London from the British Embassy in Montevideo.
- This letter was sent to the British representatives in which countries?
- Use an atlas to see where these countries are.
- What did they decide to do about all this football protest? Why?
- Do you think the Foreign Office took the protests too seriously? Not seriously enough?
- These letters should have been released to the public in 1996. Why do you think they were kept secret for another four years?