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THE CUP THAT GRIPS THE WORLD
Clive Gammon
July 01, 1974
The site is Germany, but no continent is spared the frenzy as the most popular sports event of all gets under way with hoopla and a happy "Hoep, Hoep!"
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July 01, 1974

The Cup That Grips The World

The site is Germany, but no continent is spared the frenzy as the most popular sports event of all gets under way with hoopla and a happy "Hoep, Hoep!"

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The atmosphere at the Waldstadion was more tense than at any previous game. Prime Minister Harold Wilson arrived, wearing a plaid tie. Jackie Stewart of Scotland and Emerson Fittipaldi of Brazil came in together. "We're going to paint the town plaid," said Jackie, but he was a little behind the times because the job had already been done, partly by 300 wild clansmen who had camped at Heddernheim outside the city and put away 200 cases of beer. Somebody's sense of humor had delegated three British military policemen to watch the thousands of Scottish troops based in Germany who had come to watch the game but, as a German newspaper observed ponderously, "They were definitely too few for this kind of business."

On the field, it looked for the first 20 minutes as if Brazilian flair would overwhelm the Scots. Leivinha crashed the ball off the crossbar of the Scottish goal. David Harvey had to make a death-or-glory dive at the feet of Rivelino. But then, in the face of Scots fire and nerve, the Brazilian morale began to crumble, as it had against Yugoslavia. Scotland dominated the second half, Bremner playing his heart out. But it could not score, though Peter Lorimer sent the ball screaming just wide of the corner of the net and Le�o had to make crazy, diving saves from Joe Jordan, Davie Hay and Jordan again. The game ended in another 0-0 tie.

It was so nearly a victory that the Scots celebrated it as one. "We devalued 'em!" roared a happy fan. "We beat 'em 0-0!" It was enough to justify, later that night, the German riot police turning out in Sachsenhausen, the sleazy bar district of Frankfurt.

On the cool, Eastern side of divided Germany the streets were quieter. "We get up at 5 a.m., don't we?" an East Berliner said. "We're off to work at 6 a.m., quit at 4:15, do a little shopping, get home at five. All you want to do then is stick your legs on the bed and watch the tube."

"Nothing ever happens in East Berlin," a pretty girl at the Stadt Berlin Hotel complained. "Now we have the World Cup, which means that less than nothing happens. All the men are watching TV."

On the night of the East Germany- Chile game, if you had inquired at the desk of the Berolina Hotel where could you see the match, you would have been told conspiratorially, "Go to room 705." There in the dark, on one of the few available sets, you could have joined 25 others crammed around a black-and-white picture to see the game end in a 1-1 draw. It was a tie that hurt, for it now seemed as if East Germany would have to upset West Germany on Saturday or be eliminated from the Cup.

But on Saturday, as rain lashed into the Olympia Stadium in Berlin, an absurdity happened. The disregarded Socceroos of Australia held Chile to a sterile 0-0 tie, and Chile was out. The game had started early, so that by the time the first phalanxes of klaxon-blowing West Germans in red, black and gold visor caps had begun to jostle and shoulder their way into Hamburg's Volksparkstadion, only academic interest remained in the game. Both German teams had qualified for the second round of the World Cup, no matter who won. But nobody seemed to have told the fans or the teams of the two Germanys that a neat, half-pace exhibition game was all that was required. In spite of the political d�tente—and this was the first-ever soccer encounter between the two countries—there was no surplus of brotherly love in evidence. The East German anthem was greeted by boos and whistles. The West German team, despite widespread stories of dissension among its players and an unconvincing style in its previous wins over Chile and Australia, was greeted ecstatically in that low-pitched roar, characteristic of German soccer fans, that seems almost on the edge of booing until you learn to recognize it. It was hard to pick out the 1,700 privileged East Germans who had been permitted to travel to Hamburg in a sealed train, but they were there all right, a small group in the Gegentribune, the secondary stand, waving smaller flags than the West Germans, in the same colors but distinguishable by the Communist symbol in the center band of the tricolor.

Magnificent football flowed from the West Germans in the first half, from the princely Beckenbauer, from Strikers J�rgen Grabowski, Hoeness and Gerhard M�ller, from technically the most accomplished team in the World Cup. But an English soccer fan, with the decline of his own superb team of 1966 in mind, could recognize disquieting symptoms. There was the same utter dominance of the midfield that England had, the same grabbing of 90% of the play. But there was also the same weakness beginning to show, an inability to turn this superiority into goals, a psychological impotence overtaking the strikers, an unwillingness to shoot directly, a compulsion to pass the responsibility to others.

In the second half the disability grew worse. Desperately, Beckenbauer, who usually confines himself to passing the ball, came up to try long-range shots. Defenseman Breitner also flailed into the attack. Overath went off with 20 minutes left, to be replaced by G�nter Netzer, perhaps the most gifted player on the West German side. As so often in the past, though, other players seemed reluctant to feed him the ball.

Then the unthinkable happened. J�rgen Sparwasser of East Germany broke free in what looked like a forlorn raid, but the West German defense had moved up incautiously far, and Goalie Sepp Maier could not stop the shot. East Germany led 1-0. During the last 10 minutes the Easterners stayed in control, square-passing to the fury of the Hamburg crowd until the sweet moment of the final whistle. Instead of disappearing down the tunnel, the whole GDR team ran across the field to cheer in its turn the little band of supporters who were the happiest men in Germany.

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