Celebrate good times...perhaps

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West Germany’s players ought to have been on top of the world on 7 July 1974. Earlier that day they had left the brilliant Oranje traumatised and won the World Cup.

But their euphoria faded faster than you could say “Gerd Muller” when they heard the German FA had banned their wives from the celebratory banquet at Munich’s Hilton Hotel.

Susi Hoeness was the first wife to be asked to leave by a waiter. Her husband Uli tried to remonstrate with the German FA’s Hans Deckert only to be told: “It’s not for you to demand things you are not entitled to”. Hoeness told Deckert “Save your f****ing breath” and stormed out to a nearby disco, followed by Beckenbauer and most of his teammates.

Germany’s legendary keeper Sepp Maier fumed: “Germans can hold a World Cup perfectly and crush opponents with unflagging discipline but we don’t have the slightest idea about holding a party.”

This bizarre story, recounted in Uli Hesse’s superb Tor!, confirms that sometimes the seeds of failure are sown at the very peak of your success.

Gerd Muller immediately quit the national team in disgust, Wolfgang Overath and Jurgen Grabowski followed the next morning and Paul Breitner withdrew a few months later. After that disastrous party in Munich, West Germany would lose the 1976 European Championship on penalties and not win another World Cup until 1990.

Coach Helmut Schoen only stayed on because DFB president Hermann Neuberger begged him. Schoen regretted his change of heart when West Germany came third in the second group phase in Argentina in 1978, losing 3-2 to Austria. For the German press, this defeat was a national disgrace. So West Germany’s World Cup-winning coach quit with the prescient barb: “My biggest fear is that the road to football as total business will lead to the Harlem Globetrotters.”

The wives couldn’t dine with the winners in 1966 either. But at least they were given a meal in a room in Kensington’s Royal Garden Hotel near the official banquet. (You assume the WAGS’ mood soured when they realised that Pickles, the dog who had found the World Cup, had been allowed into the very banquet they’d been excluded from.)

After the dinner, some players headed to the club run by England’s greatest living drag act, Danny La Rue, but Jack Charlton led a breakaway movement to the Astor Club where, after much free champagne and beer, he and his cohorts were invited to a party in Leytonstone and there they awoke, bleary eyed, on various sofas a few hours later. Slinking back to the team hotel later that morning, Charlton was berated by his mother Cissie: “Where are you? I’ve been up to your room and your bed’s not been slept in.”

Mr & Mrs Moore: "Come on love, let's get wellied"

Obdulio Varela would have approved of Charlton’s spree. The legendary Uruguayan skipper was inspirational at centre-back when La Celeste beat Brazil in the Maracana to win the 1950 World Cup in Rio. But he wasn’t interested in having his photo taken and, as Eduardo Galeano recalls in his book Football In Sunshine And In Shadow, “He spent that night drinking beer in one Rio bar after another, his arm around defeated fans. The Brazilians cried. No one recognised him.”

Varela was just as anonymous when the world champions returned to Montevideo. He slipped away from the crush at the airport, hiding behind a Humphrey Bogart raincoat and a fedora. With the prize money from the Uruguayan FA, he could afford to buy a 1931 Ford. Galeano notes: “It was stolen a week later.”

There is no feeling in football like winning the World Cup. At Wembley in 1966, Bobby Charlton gave his brother a rare hug and asked: “What is there left to win now?” The ever practical Jack responded: “We’ll have to win it again.” Astonishingly, only 21 players have ever done that: 16 Brazilians, four Italians and one Argentinian. Only Pele has won it three times.

Spain should savour their glorious moment. Life – and football – will help them fall back to earth soon enough. Features * News * Interviews * Home
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