Jonathan Wilson's Editor's Note from Issue Twenty Nine
I remember my first World Cup game clearly. Or at least I think I do. Memory is slippery and perhaps particularly when you’re dealing with incidents that have been replayed on television countless times.
What I know was that it was England v France. It was a Wednesday, 16 June 1982. I suppose I must have been at school, although I don’t remember that. Bryan Robson’s opening goal is clear in my head, and I know I was surprised that it had taken only 27 seconds, time passing much slower when you’re only five years old. The French equaliser from Gérard Soler and Robson’s header to make it 2-1 are equally precise; that header, mullet flicking as he powered it in, wrist-band raised in celebration, remains one of my favourite goals. England’s third, scored by Paul Mariner left almost no impression.
The rest of the tournament is more of a blur. We went on holiday to Scotland, and I know we were walking by a TV shop window in Fort William when Trevor Francis got England’s only goal against Kuwait – although it frankly seems bizarre that my mam would have been able to persuade us to go out with an England game on TV. By 1986, I had enough power to veto that sort of nonsense.
I remember my Auntie Doris (great-aunt, really) wondering why Cameroon v Peru was on television (“But they’re not British”) as my dad and I watched at my gran’s house, my dad writing down the scores of late kick-offs and leaving them by my bed so I would know as soon as I woke up, and an old Scottish man at the guest house being wearily downcast after Scotland’s exit against the USSR.
We were back home for Diego Maradona’s red card against Brazil, Zbigniew Boniek’s hat-trick against Belgium and then Italy’s epic 3-2 win over Brazil. The semis I think I know only from subsequent highlights, but I definitely watched the final at home with my dad, desperate for Italy to beat the thuggish West Germans.
Nothing has quite lived up to it since. The permanent sunlight, the constant football on television, the exoticism of Honduras and Cameroon and Algeria, even the air-horns and the Spanish writing – all of it carried an air of excitement and mystery no other World Cup, no other football has ever matched.
Everybody, perhaps, feels the same about their first tournament, or at least has one particular tournament that’s special to them. And, while I’m ambivalent about this World Cup and the slog around Russia, it’s that spirit we’ve tried to invoke with this issue based around World Cup memories.