SI Vault
Clive Gammon
May 21, 1990
In Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in August 1987, a small group of middle-aged men held a reunion. They gathered at one of the nation's cathedrals of soccer, Mineirão Stadium, into which 130,000 fans can be crammed, and exchanged remembrances of their original meeting, in this very place, nearly 40 years earlier. And they examined an old leather soccer ball, protected by a glass case, with a reverence normally reserved for holy relics. The ball itself is unimpressive—drab, scuffed, brown. It's not one of the fancy kind with multicolored panels used today, but a vintage 1950 model, the sort that soaked up water, making heading the ball on a rainy day a savage test of the upper vertebrae.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
May 21, 1990

A World Cup To Remember: The Day The U.s. Beat England

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5

Borghi, who now operates a funeral home on The Hill, claims that he got to the ball in time. "The ball was on the line, maybe," he says, "but not over it." And on that point he has the backing of none other than Sir Alf. "I recall the kick," Ramsey said recently, "but I didn't judge that it went over the line. How could it have been? There was some kind of impregnable, magical barrier there! Even when we had an open goal, we couldn't put it in the net. So all credit to the team that beat us."

With the kick saved, the game was virtually over, though there were still a couple of moments to savor: the run for the English goal that Wallace made just before the end, that had the Brazilians yelling, "Mais um!" ("One more!"); and John Souza's 75-yard diagonal dribble across the field, when he kept possession for a precious half a minute. And then the moment of triumph—the Brazilian firecrackers, newspapers set afire all over the stadium—and Gaetjens was carried triumphantly off the field.

It wasn't quite over. Editors at The New York Times held off printing the score because they thought there had been a transmission error—the score must have been 10-1, England's favor. Most American newspapers that did print a paragraph or two attributed the goal to Eddy Souza. The London Daily Herald came out bordered in black.

The U.S. lost its remaining first-round game, 5-2 to Chile, and thus was eliminated from competition. Uruguay won the championship for the second time.

The heroes of Belo Horizonte slipped back to the States more or less unnoticed. Even getting back was drudgery. The team lingered for two days in Belém, waiting for passage home, and drew straws when plane seats to the U.S. were declared available. Wallace won one but let another player use it. Later, there would be a major explosion in St. Louis when Mrs. Wallace found out what Pee-Wee had done.

At 6 a.m. one Sunday in July, Harry Keough finally made it home to St. Louis, where his dad awaited him at the airport. There was some big news. The Spanish-American Youth softball club, for which Keough played, had a bus leaving for a game in Peoria, Ill., in three hours. Did he want to go with the team?

Harry took a short nap and caught the bus. It didn't surprise him at all that nobody asked him how he had got on at the World Cup in Brazil.

1 2 3 4 5