West Germany Home (Italia’90 World Cup)
England versus West Germany in the 1990 World Cup semi final and the campsite bar erupts in celebration as Chris Waddle skies his penalty. Four boys resplendant in white West Germany shirts don’t hang about to listen to the post match analysis/post-mortem and rush outside hoping to take their chance of squeezing in a quick kick-a-bout in the last light of a beautiful Scottish summer’s evening before their parents can realise they’ve gone. That’s right, this isn’t a campsite on the Rhine or maybe somewhere in the mountains of Bavaria. I was eleven and my family and our friends, the Edgars, were enjoying a few nights at a caravan site in St. Andrews.
As you can imagine, the support was pretty partisan, no doubt as it was throughout the rest of the country that night, but for myself, my brother Stewart and our pals, Ross and Andy, the relief that England weren’t going to feature in the final was second to the fact that we could look forward to watching another game involving the players that we had been imagining we were throughout the duration of the tournament – Scotland, unfortunately, only provided a limited span of interest. I was always Lothar Matthäus. To this day, he’s one of my all-time favourite players. I even had a wristband like the Germany flag that was pretty tight, but I used to try and squeeze over my sleeve further up my arm to complete the look of the captain. Stewart was Bodo Illgner, while Andy and Ross were Jurgen Klinsmann and Andreas Brehme respectively. Not that West Germany was an obvious choice to support, but the kit…well it was a thing of beauty and that’s what lured us in at the start of the tournament, but more about that later.
The technicolour images of Mexico 1986 are the earliest clear World Cup memories I can recall. Maradonna was the protagonist, a swashbuckling, barrel chested hero (or villain depending how you look at it) cutting his way through defences in his fearless and successful mission to singlehandedly win the trophy for Argentina. Myself, my Dad, my little brother to some extent (he was only 4) and even my Mum, all marvelled at his incredible performance against England. White shirts littered the field and trailed in his wake almost every time he got the ball. Opposition players were made to look like they were running in slow motion while he was in fast forward, as he dribbled a ball which seemed to be glued to his feet. I can clearly recall him lifting that beautiful trophy and then being held aloft himself by his teammates in celebration after beating West Germany in the final.
And a Scottish memory too. Gordon Strachan’s in there, popping up with a worthy cameo, as much for his celebration as the quality finish against West Germany. I actually googled it to remember the goal as all I could picture was Strachan with a wrye smile and one leg on the advertising board.
However, it was Italia’90 that really got under my skin. As an eleven year old, it was everything! It felt like the country, our town, my friends and my family were almost part of the whole celebration. Of course it helped that Scotland had qualified and I was just living, breathing football at the time. There were projects at school (our headmaster Mr. Brown was football daft) where we learned about all the countries taking part. Geography was devoured and every nation’s flag memorised. Even geopolitics was touched upon in primary 6 without us even realising – football used as the catalyst and diversion for some proper learning and we didn’t even know it – we couldn’t get enough. Our Mum would come home with mini Coca Cola Italia’90 footballs and beach towels from the supermarket. I loved drawing the mascot that looked like a Rubik’s Cube transformed with a ball on it’s head and my brother and I spent some pocket money on Italia’90 Subbuteo teams and goals with red, white and green nets. The rest of it was used to buy, in my mind, one of the most iconic and beautiful football tops ever.
That silky white jersey with those three lines of colour; deep yellow and red under the serious black all dancing across the chest with the original (and best) Adidas trefoil opposite the imposing eagle encircled by DEUTSCHER FUSSBALL-BUND in a bold font wasn’t messing around. This was a serious statement of intent from Adidas and while it was the first of a line of many kits which followed a similar design, they never quite matched the coherency and simplistic brilliance of this one.
I don’t think my Dad should waste any time trying to dig this one out from the loft as, unfortunately, I don’t think I held onto it. It wouldn’t matter anyway as not only would it be too small, I won’t be willing the Germans to World Cup victory tonight. Not like I was in 1990 as I delighted in watching one of the best penalty takers of all time, left back Andy Brehme, dispatch a right footed spot kick that defeated Argentina in an act of revenge for the loss in the final four years previous.
The Germans have undoubtedly been the team of the tournament and while I revel in watching players like Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Khedira and Kroos, they haven’t grabbed my attention the same way the team of Italia’90 did and it’s not their fault. Not many teams do that any more (Spain have been the exception in recent years) and I think that’s why I’ve been rooting for the underdogs. So I’m continuing with that theme tonight. This year’s competition has been fantastic, but you never enjoy them like you did when you were eleven, twelve, thirteen years old. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t still fancy a little kick-a-bout later, hopefully after watching Messi do his thing tonight.