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British sportswriters screamed last week that England had been had again by the Russians and they weren't referring to anything Clement Attlee has done lately. The occasion was the drooping back from Moscow of London's Arsenals, once the wonder-team of soccer. The Moscow Dynamos whipped the Arsenals 5-0 and the derisive, jeering whistles of Soviet fans have not yet died down in British ears.
It began with a cordial invitation from the Russians that the Arsenal team might like spending a day or so in Moscow for purposes of enjoying football and maybe a fish dinner. The Arsenals said they would be delighted. The Russians said how about picking the Russian team later because, after all, the Soviets would want time to be sure they were providing adequate opposition. The Arsenals said of course, happy to meet any of your boys.
For days before their arrival at Dynamo Stadium the Arsenals were touted to the Russian people as England's finest. Only two years ago they were that indeed but, what with age and a dully satisfied management which has taken on no young recruits, the team is not what it once was. Its present rank is 15th in the 22-team First Division of the English League. The Dynamos are leaders of the Russian First Division. Once past the Iron Curtain, though, the Arsenals were presented as the best the world of darkness and capitalism could offer, according to Radio Moscow's view of sport.
The game was a rout of the British. Toward the end of it the Russian spectators were either walking out on the fiasco or whistling?Soviet equivalent of the Bronx cheer. When the Dynamos made their last two goals, the Russian fans did not deign to cheer but roared with laughter because the points had been scored so easily. And as the dejected Arsenals trailed wearily off the field their hosts bade them farewell with catcalls and cries of "Clowns!" and "Comedians!"
One or two Russian sportsmen made more appropriate comment. Mikhail Semichastny, who was captain of the Dynamo team which in 1945 played and beat England's Chelseas 5-4, summed it up: "This Arsenal is not the great Arsenal which I knew. They do not have the bold ideas which I remember when we played them. It was surprising to me that so many of them are not young men."
Back in London, the Arsenal players read accounts of British disgust, including headlines like the Daily Herald's "RETREAT FROM MOSCOW." The Express offered a pithy report. "[The Russians] are not easily amused but before the battered Arsenal had crawled out of the floodlit Dynamo Stadium tonight 75,000 Russians were laughing like kids at a pantomime. The Arsenal had come here with all the ballyhoo of a favorite circus coming to town...And then it was five goals to nil and the crowd was tossing peaked caps and laughing fit to bust...."
Also fit to bust were Englishmen who have seen their prestige in soccer, a game they originated and saw grow to a world-loved sport they dominated, spilled over with red dust. It is poor consolation to them that their teams are held to be the best-behaved. They would like a few goals, too.
Peanuts and Premonitions
A stock car race driver puts up with a lot. He is away from home most of the time, often running a couple of meals, a shave and a night's sleep behind schedule, driving up to 2,000 miles a week from track to track. He'll blearily tinker a carburetor to perfection all one night, then lose out because of a faulty transmission. If everything holds together and he finishes in the top money, his car is torn apart by officials to see if he cheated. A winner no sooner has a $1,000 check in his hand and, zip, it's gone?a big slice of it for his pit crew and another slice and another and another for repair bills along his trail of broken parts. A top man can win $30,000 a year and take home less than $10,000. And, speaking of trouble, back home there's the wife nagging him to settle down to something with a future?or at least something with an old age. On top of all this, of course, in one skidding, screeching, dusty, hot race he may collide with his best friend and go flying through the fence upside down.