Italia 90 Mascot

Italia 90, what did you do to me? I recently stumble across the World Cup Quarter Final between England and Cameroon from Italia 90. I watch the BBC World Cup Grandstand introduction and come on, come on, it does not get any better than that.  

Listening to Nessun Dorma brings it all back. The choir starts proceedings off on the broadcast by singing angelically: 

“Il nome suo nessun saprà  E noi dovrem, ahimè, morir, morir.”

The shivers start and Luciano Pavarotti, the Italian operatic tenor is winding up for the big finish: 

“Dilegua, o note. Tramontate, stele. Tramontate, stele. All’alba vincerò. Vincerò. Vincerò.”

The graphics are showing Pelé being held aloft, The Cruyff Turn and Maradona dodging tackles. It is blended in. It brings opera to football and oh boy, it fits perfectly together. This was in 1990 and I do not think music has captured football so perfectly. It makes it look an art form. 

This was the first of any such musical match for football and television. It was not contrived. There was no pre-recorded depressing montage with Oasis singing ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out.’ It was pure, it was real and it is still perfect.  Watching it thirty years later I know exactly what footballers are going to appear in the faded slow motion. I am transported to a year that changed my life on so many levels.  

The summer of 1990 brings back a sense of emotional nostalgia that I find it hard to explain. It is not just related to football. When England played Cameroon in Naples on July 1st 1990 my family had just completed two months in our new family home.

It was a wrench leaving Canford Heath because all my life long friends were there. We had a close knit community were we would just go out and play football on what seemed like all day and every day. Back in those days I shared a bedroom with my two younger brothers. I was twelve and three quarters and our family needed more space. Sacrifices had to be made. 

I had certain privileges as the eldest of my siblings, one being, I could stay up late. The mission if I would accept would be to sneak down stairs as my brothers got to sleep in their bunk beds. I can hear the Mission Impossible theme tune where I would climb down my camp bed and crawl on the floor for the first part of the challenge. I would wait for my younger brother to stop rocking his head whilst humming good night to all of our family and beyond.   

“Goodnight Mum, Goodnight Dad, Goodnight Nan, Goodnight Plant (yes he liked to say goodnight to plants, he was very environmentally conscious), Goodnight Teenie’ (our dog! Yes there were times that we didn’t have fifty pence for the heating which meant there could be a chill in the air but Teenie was our dog, she was our dog!).  

If lucky, I would time it to perfection where he rocked towards the wall and I wriggled out of the door. The older brother of the two would be asleep straight away as his relaxed and chilled demeanour needed maximum sleep. He would be out for the count.  

Passing my sister’s bedroom would prove more challenging as she was getting close to the age where she could stay up late too. My motives were to watch late night sport, I didn’t fancy watching the old 1950’s movie collection that her and my Mum adored so fondly. 

I would tip toe past my sister’s bedroom on the right and gently walk down the stairs. I hopped over the last step that had a squeak squeakier than Teenie’s whine. Can I just remind you that Teenie is the dog! 

With my mission complete I was able to stay up late and football highlights were on the agenda. Sportsnight was always on a Wednesday night at about 10.30pm on BBC or Midweek Sport Special on TVS (ITV). BBC always had the England highlights and as well as tape recording them I would watch the matches as if they were live.

can remember watching Dundee United late night in Europe during the 1986/87 season, I had never seen an orange kit. The Netherlands were not on my radar then. 

Other notable matches I recall are England defeating Yugoslavia. Gary Mabbutt and Viv Anderson scored the goals at Wembley in 1986. This was after Mexico 86 and is one of the first staying up late memories. I am pretty sure Viv Anderson was wheeling his arms in delight. Those white shirts seemed to shine so bright in the Wembley floodlights back in those days. 

I had all of the England late night highlights on tape from about 1988 until 1990. This would have been their Italia 90 World Cup qualifying campaign. I can still see Gary Lineker ending his goal scoring draught against Albania at Wembley in 1988.

He had a bouffant head of hair heading the ball into the goal. You cannot beat the old Wembley goals with those curved stanchions. He was wearing long sleeves. He had not scored for over a year but Bobby Robson demonstrated loyalty and patience with his star striker.

Much like Terry Venables with Alan Shearer in the build-up to Euro 96. Gareth Southgate has later displayed similar loyalty with Raheem Sterling. I can remember Paul Gascoigne announcing his mark with a super solo effort to seal the 5-0 victory. 

By 1989 I had a struck up a deal with my Mum and Dad to wake me up for Sportsnight if on the rare occasion I fell asleep. I was and still am a rubbish sleeper. One such occasion I missed Bryan Robson notch two goals in December 1989. Here England defeated Yugoslavia at Wembley 2-1 or 2-0.

This was the night before my Dad’s birthday but I gave him an early present at about 1am having a moan as to why I was not woken up for Sportsnight. Fear not the VHS was on hand to tape the proceedings. Good old Robbo or the battered video player never did disappoint.  

Consequently, my Dad got his socks and pants for his birthday and all was forgiven. 

A Christmas present I had in 1989 amongst the Bananarama and Kyle cassettes was The World Cup 90 Sticker book/folder combination. I treasured this for most of the 90s and I am embarrassed to say I got rid during a moment of haste in the late 1990’s.

I call this my forgotten years when I discovered alcohol and going out way too much. Good times, good fun but sad to lose some cherished memories. If anyone reading has this collection and fancies selling it or photocopying it for me please get in touch. 

This folder was immense as it had pages that you could buy each week with great goals, matches, players and what seemed an in-depth account of each of the World Cup Finals up until 1986. My Nan worked in a newsagent and would buy the inserts for me each week. I am gutted I lost that folder! 

The reason I mention this is because it kind of demonstrates my growing up from old house to new house. I went from sharing a bedroom with my brothers to having a bedroom of my own in our new place. Therefore, I did not need to perform miracles to stay up late. I could just walk down the stairs into the lounge. 

This mirrors my footballing maturity. The move to our new home seemed to coincide with my maturity as a football fan. In Mexico 86 I was just getting into football. I can recall Maradona punching the ball in and feeling annoyed and frustrated. There is a recollection that the replays of Gary Lineker’s header were actually different goals. I thought England were 3-2 up. I had lots to learn. 

There was an advancement to my footballing views at Euro 88. I would rush home from school for the afternoon matches. Of course, there was disappointment with England’s performance but I was happy that Bryan Robson scored a consolation against a great Dutch side. Robson scored; England lost but I was still happy. I was ready to take it to another level at Italia 90. I had served my induction. 

Therefore, that sticker folder gave me a six month build up and anticipation to Italia 90. It was much like the anticipated move from Canford Heath. It seemed to take an age to build up to the move but was only a couple of months I guess. We needed the house swap as we were all getting bigger. We needed three floors to fit in my six foot seven brother in. Okay that’s an exaggeration, he was definitely only six foot four as a six year old. Teenie was still Teenie. 

Leaving my lifelong friends for the city lights of Poole Quay was difficult. Who was I going to play football with? In fact, some of my happiest footballing memories are from playing on any bit of grass in Canford Heath with my good mates. We had some nail-biting thrillers in the Jumper for Goalpost Arenas. Or otherwise known as The Swing Park and The Cricket Square. We also had a few thrillers legging it away from Doris when the football struck her window on numerous occasions. The No Ball Games signs killed us but we still found a way to have a kick around. In those days we’d be bending the rules and not Bending it like Beckham. 

I had to fend for myself and make new friends in Poole. It was the unknown. As a teacher I always have empathy for those students that join a school in the middle of the year. A football helped me settle. No more mass matches happened like on the Heath. Most of my friends were elsewhere. I would kick the ball lots on my own but enjoyed kicking it against the wall. Not sure the neighbours did. I loved practicing keepy ups and new skills. I became a master of commentating on my own whilst recreating memorable goals. 

I took on more of a coaching role and helped teach football to the friends of my younger brothers. I guess I was The Director of Football at Perry Gardens. I taught a variety of drills including goalkeeping, heading, passing and shooting to my brothers and their friends. I think they improvised with their skills as they got older. The two footed challenge and the shoulder charge were certainly developed away from my coaching sessions. Perhaps I was always destined to be a PE Teacher. 

Those mass football matches occasionally happened on our new turf as we got older but were a rarity. Playing my youth matches was the competitive fix. At my new home in 1990 it was usually me and my football for company. 

In October 1987 I started playing for my youth football team so by the time Italia 90 appeared I had nearly three years’ experience of playing matches. The highs and lows of winning cup finals and leagues had already been experienced.  The taste of defeat had been experienced through disappointing cup final defeats too. I knew what football meant. I had experienced tears of joy and tears of defeat. 

When Italia 90 appeared I was a naïve and innocent football fan. There had been no real enjoyment or experience of success in watching football. There was the hope but not the expectation of success.

Granted, Manchester United had just provided The FA Cup two weeks after moving house but generally they had been a massive disappointment since my footballing birth during Mexico 86. It was always hoped that they would do something in August. My Dad must have got bored with hearing the ‘we’ll win the league this season won’t we’ phrase. I always maintain I prefer the hope to the expectation. 

England were the same. There was hope that England would do something of note during Italia 90. As the competition started, I was given an England training sweatshirt. It was sort of shell material but not a shell suit. It had cotton or similar material on the arms. The three lions were embroidered on and as it had blue in it, I could get away with wearing it to my new Middle School. It was my first bit of England kit and I was proud to show it off. 

The warm up to Italia 90 was gathering momentum. 

Sportsnight had an insightful miniseries in the build up to Italia 90. Here, they had a fifteen or twenty minute documentary showcasing the history of the World Cup. They joined the early competitions together but the 1966 one took up the whole show. I needed to learn about Eusébio, The North Koreans and Pickles the Dog. Oh, and the small matter of England winning the World Cup. The black and white footage always seemed ancient back then. It was only twenty four years old. It’s prehistoric now. It is still more relevant than ever nowadays.     

These were brilliant show reals where I learnt an abundance of World Cup history. It brought the USA to my attention where they actually played football with their feet. They did this to good effect by defeating England in the 1950 World Cup. I learnt about footballing legends like Garrinca, Puskás and Edson Arantes do Nascimento. Alright I am showing off but that grand name would become better known as Pelé. I bet Kenneth Wolstenholme was behind the nickname. 

This black and white footage enable me to marvel at his goals in the 1958 World Cup whilst just seventeen.

Pele in the 1958 World Cup

His treatment in 1962 and 1966 was a disgrace where he was kicked out of both competitions. Being kicked out was in reference to him being scythed to the ground by destructive defenders. Pelé was certainly not booted out of these two World Cups for being drunk and disorderly. For a moment I have an image of him bumbling around late-night World Cup spots and a giant bouncer lifting him by the Brazil shirt and throwing him and his football out. 

If he was barred from future World Cups it was lifted in 1970 to provide a fitting World Cup finish. The 1970 edition had colour footage to the maximum. The Brazil shirts shone brighter than the Mexico sunshine. Their skills dazzled their way to a third World Cup success.  

Even the occasions when Brazil didn’t score the colour footage made it look like some form of footballing art had happened. Pelé didn’t even score from the half way line. I think the attempt and the audacity makes it seem better than a goal itself. It paved the way for others to copy and follow. Pelé tried it and I am going to try it must have been the attitude of millions of fans.   

This footage was able to add impact to his legend and  cemented his standing in the history of football. Yes Gordon Banks made a miraculous save but would it be seen in the same light if it was from Penne rather than Pelé?  

I was introduced to the Cruyff Turn in 1974 and tissue on the pitch in Argentina 78. 

My favourite mini World Cup documentary was always the 1982 World Cup in Spain. Italy beating Brazil 3-2 was outstanding for many memories. Yes, Paolo Rossi scored his match winning hat trick but it was the Brazilian goals that captured my imagination. Sócrates nonchalantly walked past Dino Zoff and Falcão’s celebration exuded passion and more passion off the passion scale.

However, Marcooo Tardelllliiii (in reference to John Motson’s excitable commentary) matched Falcão’s passion levels with his goal celebration in the final. That goal that confirmed Italy as the champions. That two minutes of Brazil against Italy was watched over and over again. 

I had all of these mini documentaries taped and watched them time and time again with my World Cup 90 folder as a point of reference. I had a cracking catalogue of taped football from the late 80s and early 90s. Gutted they are not around now. Looking back preparing them were some of my hardest and finest work. 

Italia 90 provided much more than a decent World Cup, it provided some life changing and once in a lifetime experiences that I do not think will ever be matched.  

It was a magical experience that was like an outer body experience. I suppose this feeling can only come with being a child. But I am pleased I was twelve to experience Italia 90 

Looking back it would have been ruined if I was an adult. As England did not qualify for USA 94 it meant that I had to wait eight years for the World Cup to come around. I always state that USA 94 was one of my favourite World Cups because England were not there to ruin it. I was able to stay up late and watch football without the expectation of England. If England were there and disappointed it may have tarnished Italia 90 slightly. 

I had just finished my GSCE’s and enjoyed Diana Ross missing open goals late at night. Oh baby love get your shots on target. Stop, look, listen to your heart as to where you want to place the ball. You can’t hurry love, take your time and stop in the name of love to work the muscles of the goalkeeper. If you reach out and touch the ball you will have a chain reaction of goals. It ain’t no mountain high enough scoring a goal Diana. 

Being away from the World Cup for four years in the 90’s added to the mythical nature of Italia 90. Italia 90 was the Holy Grail. I was wondering if I would be transported into this football haven again.  

Euro 96 was brilliant on so many levels but at eighteen I had succumbed to drinking alcohol whilst watching football and particularly England. In France 1998 I was fully inducted into the England drinking culture. Football was an excuse to go out and get smashed. Yes I had fun, lots of it but memories were being drunkenly distorted. 

One of my greatest football memories is my brother (the chilled out one) catching the early stupid o’clock train to watch David Beckham execute Argentinian revenge in the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. Beckham had a little help of twelve and a half year old Michael Owen at ten o’clock of the am our time. My brother had a little help of the rail network to get him from Poole to Leeds on time. Miracles do happen. 

We then went out all day and night after watching the match amongst thousands in Millennium Square in Leeds. I am not going to lie it was real laugh. One of the great days in my twenties. We stayed out all day and night. The atmosphere was breath-taking. 

The night after we were drinking with Lee Sharpe in The Town House in Leeds. I went up to him, brought him a southern comfort and lemonade and shook his hand. I thanked him for all of the goals he scored for Manchester United. I recounted his volley against Everton and his bullet header against West Ham.  

He actually invited us to his place for an after party to watch Mike Tyson bite Lennox Lewis’ ear off.  We lost him and ended up having a £2.50 Meat Feast pizza from Gangsters take away in Heeadingley. We watched the fight at my mates’ house. Rock n Roll hey! 

In 2006 I got started on by some England fan as they lost on penalties to Portugal. He was randomly calling me an ‘Aussie’? I was wearing the 1986 replica with Lineker’s number ten on the back. Must have made me looked like Shane Warne. I turned like a googly and made a swift exit. 

Alcohol was changing my experience of watching the matches. I now just stop in and watch the matches as I like to concentrate on the footage. I dislike some of the alcohol fuelled problems that football can bring. That youthful innocence was never going to be repeated. I suppose it never will be. Russia 2018 temporarily transported me back to life in 1990 but it was not the same. Same same but different. 

In some ways Italia 90 was like the world when you believed in Father Christmas, it was magical on so many levels. It was definitely childlike. I started the journey with hope and no expectation. I hoped England would do something but that was it. I was young. I was beginning to become aware of the footballing world away from England. There were realistic rivals to England winning. I knew there were superstars out there. 

I asked my Dad to put some money on West Germany to win because I had studied their team and thought they would win with their efficient stars like Lothar Matthäus and Jürgen Klinsmann. I thought Holland were real threats with the trio of Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard. You could never rule out Diego Maradona and Argentina.  

I have not even mentioned the hosts Italy. One thing for certain was I had never heard of Salvatore Schillaci [the Italian striker that would start the competition as an unknown but win the Golden Boot] before the competition.  

Salvatore Schillaci

My homework was complete on the potential stars of the competition. It is reminiscent to children today who study Messi, Ronaldo and others so vigorously. The major difference being was that I could only read about these footballing greats. I only occasionally saw highlight footage of them in action. This resulted in these players being God like as they had an unknown enigma and aura that had minimum exposure compared to today. 

Nowadays you have instant access to the major world footballers at the click of a button. In 1990, as a twelve year old, it was a mystic footballing universe where I was witnessing the playing credentials of the great players in awe. 

Therefore, the start of Italia 90 was much more than just England. It was about the footballing festival that was imminent. England’s emergence through the competition helped pave an enchanted path to this fairy tale footballing universe that was Italia 90. 

Italia 90 was a month long festival of football and I was there with my VHS tapes to record the action. I had some cheap one pound tapes to record the goals at half time and the highlights. I had two Panasonic video tapes that were of the four hour variety. They were saved to record some key matches. The ones I chose were: England v Holland, England v Egypt, Holland v West Germany and the Semi-Final of England against West Germany.  

Holland were a fantastic team and I eagerly anticipated their match against West Germany. Unfortunately it was marred with a spitting incident where Frank Rijkaard spat at Rudi Voller. Such a shame that this happened on the biggest stage of all. West Germany executed Euro 88 revenge on the Dutch by eliminating them from Italia 90 in the second round. The Netherlands should not have changed their Adidas 1988 kit with the faded orange speckled patterns in it. What a kit. 

The competition introduced a vast array of teams and stars to me. Firstly Cameroon shocked Argentina in their opening match. I rushed home from school to watch what I thought would be a formality. Diego Maradona could not inspire a repeat of 1986 in this match, were his powers diminishing? He was still such a threat and back then he was still the main man in world football. 

My innocence may have shielded the problems he was going through. There was increased pressure on him being in Italy. This was because he played his football in Naples. He had been instrumental in lifting Napoli from obscurity to winning Serie A and UEFA Cup titles. He had his personal problems but I was oblivious to this, I still let his football do the talking and to me he had footballing powers beyond belief.  

Claudio Caniggia’s flowing locks became and energetic displays perhaps became Argentina’s stand out star from Italia 90. Maybe Benjamin Massing was already aware of his talents and decided that he needed taking care off. Massing’s physical assault on Canniggia on the right wing earnt Cameroon a second red card.

The nine men held on to defeat The World Champions 1-0. François Omam-Biyik is perhaps the forgotten hero of Cameroon, African and Italia 90 history. He scored the winning goal against Argentina, a goal that proved to be the first goal of competition. 

Omam Biyik scoring against Argentina

Later on in the competition Roger Milla would take centre stage with him wriggling his bum to the tune of his goal scoring heroics. As a thirty-eight year old he danced four times to the synchronised beat of his four goals. The goals that took Cameroon to the Quarter Finals. I still teach this goal scoring routine to as a warm up in my football lessons. 

Roger Milla scoring at Italia 90

One goal happened after René Higuita, the Colombian goalkeeper was caught short dribbling out of his goal. I first noticed the Colombia players in the 1988 Rous Cup at Wembley. England were wearing their new red kit that I loved. The kit with the popper on the front. Lineker scored a diving header that day.

However, Colombia’s charismatic goalkeeper stood out as he was a character that liked to dribble out of his goal. As a goalkeeper that fancied himself on pitch it gave me the idea to follow suit in the muddied pitches around Dorset. Scooping the ball over an oncoming attackers head is always a high point of my goalkeeping career. 

Against Cameroon Higuita got tackled by Milla some fifteen metres out of his penalty area. This resulted in the fancied Colombians elimination. If only Carlos Valderrama was covering on the line. His abundance of hair would have surely blocked Milla’s pathway to goal and the Quarter Finals. 

Higuita at World Cup 90

England’s progress was not exactly jaw dropping and I was interested in the other teams as well as the Three Lions. Familiar foes from Euro 88 were The Republic of Ireland in the first group game. I watched this in the lounge of our new home and Gary Lineker continued his World Cup goal scoring run. Kevin Sheedy rifled home an arrow to equalise and England avoided a repeat of Euro 88 where they lost 1-0.  

In proper Déjà vu fashion England were also drawn against The Netherlands in Group F. I watched this match back in Canford Heath around my mates that I grew up with. Their family always helped me out with lifts to football matches as a youth player. They were like a second family and it was fantastic to be back at the scene of my upbringing.

Sky TV had just been installed at this time and we were just as excited to watch WWF Superstars at 10pm. England drew 0-0 with Holland which was a decent result to me. I watched England lose 3-1 to a Marco Van Basten hat trick in Euro 88. This time there was no Bryan Robson goal. Instead he hobbled off injured and that was the last we saw of him at Italia 90. That is not counting his BBC appearances with Jimmy Hill and Terry Venables whilst back home.  

Rumours of a drunken incident with Gazza was the real reason of his departure. Here a bed was dropped on his foot that resulted in his toe nail being ripped off in some drunken foolery. Robson states it was his Achilles that was damaged and he missed the rest of the next season as a consequence. I was oblivious to drunken scandals and I preferred it that way. Stuart Pearce had a last-minute goal disallowed as his free kick was indirect. Two draws out of two for all of the matches in Group F.  

Mark Wright appeared to head the winner against Egypt and England were group winners.

Mark Wright celebrating at Italia 90

Ireland and Holland were on exactly the same points and goal difference. They had to draw lots for second and third place and the pleasure to play West Germany. Holland came in at third place and had that treat waiting for them. Ireland progressed as runners up and played Romania. 

The Irish were embracing the world stage and were managed by Jack Charlton, the England 1966 winner. He created a club mentality and they were difficult to beat. The Irish defeated Romania on penalties with defender David O’Leary notching the winning penalty. I think he had only scored about two goals in a thousand appearances but the goal that would never be recorded in the goal scoring record books would define him. I enjoyed the Bournemouth keeper, Gerry Payton running on in his goalkeeper gloves celebrating as a substitute. I love sub goalkeepers and their glove wearing habits. Strange creatures. 

Talking of goalkeepers, Irish keeper Paddy Bonner could not hold on to a routine Italian shot and Salvatore Schillaci pounced to score one of his golden boot winning goals.

Italia 90 was the start of an Italian love affair for many British football fans. Channel Four televised Serie A afterwards and the famous lined graphics that displayed the score and goal scorers in vertical form were a sight to behold. Those dotted lines and yellow writing were class.

Italy’s hopes and dreams were ended by Argentina who had recovered from the Cameroon episode to progress to the Semi-Final. Argentina had defeated South American rivals Brazil 1-0. Claudio Caniggia’s goal ended the underwhelming Brazil’s chances. This disappointed me because they were far removed from the 1982 flamboyance. 

Penalty shootouts helped Argentina get to the final. Maradona missed in the Quarter Final against a skilful Yugoslavia side. This amused me and I gloated at his failure. Yugoslavia could not capitalise and Argentina faced Italy. Surely the Italians were destined to get to Rome. All roads to lead there after all. 

Everything Italian was of elegance and class during Italia 90. The stadiums oozed legend status. Each stadium had a story to tell. The nets made the goals scored even better. The ball would just get swamped and suffocated by the loose-fitting nets. Italia 90 exuded Italian passion and this was contagious amongst all involved playing a spectating. I was gripped. 

Italy and Argentina played out a draw and Maradona had the audacity to roll the ball in the shootout. A penalty style I am sure Eric Cantona copied a few years later. I laughed at his demise. I thought it was a mishit, a scuff. However, it was class. It was audacious. It defied belief and certainly demonstrated the miss against Yugoslavia was assigned to ancient Italian history. 

What of the West Germans? Well they were efficient and ruthless throughout. Matthäus seemed to just charge through all in his way score powerful pinpoint goals from all distances. One such goal he bulldozed through the Yugoslavian defence and smashed the ball in the goal. The goalkeeper dived but it was a token gesture. The ball was in as soon as he struck it. It seemed that West Germany were sat waiting in the Italia 90 Semi-Final hot seat from day one. 

Belgium proved extremely tricky and they had some fantastic players that rattled England in the next phase. Enzo Scifo was the Belgian master and he struck the post from long distance. What a player Scifo was. He just glided through matches and was always pulling the strings. 

Would it have been an upset if Belgium defeated England? Much like Gary Lineker’s hat trick against Poland that ignited Mexico 86, David Platt scored a majestic last-minute volley. This brought England to the forefront of my imagination and dreams and I started thinking the unthinkable. 

The match agonisingly went to extra time and I was gripped. Steve Bull was thrown on to try and help through a more direct route. Steve Bull played for Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Third Division. He had scored what seemed hundreds of goals there and Bobby Robson gave him the chance. 

Steve Bull scored his first goal against Scotland which enabled instant cult status. He scored two goals against Czechoslovakia in a warm up match at Wembley which all but confirmed his place on the plane to Italia 90. I do not recall any other player from the third league of English football to play for England since. This adds to the magical demeanour that is Italia 90. Things happened that did not happen again. 

Back to Belgium and we are into the thirtieth and last minute of extra time. England have a free kick about ten metres into Belgium’s half. Penalties are looming. Cue John Motson: 

“It’s Gascoigne shaping to take it. And chipped in and volleyed in. And it’s there by David Platt. England have done it in the last minute of extra time” 

Come on! This is bringing me shivers. It is bring back the goose bumps. I was jumping around my lounge. I think I jumped on Teenie and pulled a face like Gary Lineker. I could not believe what had happened. Italia 90 had started but it had really started. I was excited. England would surely beat the little know Africans and reach the Semi-Final. Think again. 

This match is the one I remember the fondest. There was a pub across the road and my Mum and Dad went to watch it there. I could hear the screams from our house. I was in charge back home. The evening was light, my brothers in bed and I was sat with my sister explaining all of the match. She took an interest and was an able co-commentator. She wasn’t worried about Marilyn Monroe films that night. I was yelling, screaming and talking to myself. Not much has changed I hear those that know me well say as you read this. 

I was on an Italia 90 rollercoaster. My sister rolled with it. She was ten and either humouring her crazy older brother or was just happy to be staying up late. Desmond Lynam [BBC sports presenter] tried to calm me down with his suave charm and calm exterior.  

Barry Davies sets the scene perfectly with the players in the tunnel: 

“Four years on from the Quarter Final of Maradona’s deception. England enter Maradona’s den.”  

Brilliant. More poetry from the distinguished commentator who was explaining the back story to England playing in Naples. 

David Platt headed in the opener. His second in two games. Bryan Robson’s demise was David Platt’s gain. 

Cameroon gained momentum and quickly scored two quick goals after half time. Roger Milla was up to his tricks again and was fouled as he danced his way into the penalty area. Emmanuel Kunde converted and Eugene Ekeke scored a couple of minutes later. I was in shock. I was stood up with my hands on my flabbergasted head. My sister kept asking what was going on. 

There was not much hope as the match was fading away. I could not see a way through. The punters at The Gas Tavern were screaming and shouting. It was contagious and I was doing the same. Lineker was through on goal and was fouled. Penalty. My sister jumped up. ‘What is happening? What is a penalty?’ I told her not to worry as we have Gary Lineker. He scored. I was relieved and extra-time loomed. 

Gary Lineker getting brought down for a penalty against Cameroon

During extra-time England were awarded another penalty. The whole of Poole Quay seemed to erupt with anticipation. My sister said: 

“Don’t worry we have Gary Lineker’.”

She was not wrong. He scored again. England held on to win 3-2. Peter Shilton made some brilliant saves throughout the match but the Semi-Final awaits. Watching this thirty years brings it all back to me. It is vivid and timeless. It was a special moment watching that with my sister too. She continued to say, ‘don’t worry we have Gary Lineker’ for many years after. Good times. 

The West Germans awaited in the Semi-Final. At my new Middle School our headmaster decided to say a prayer for England in the morning assembly. In the 2018 documentary, Bobby Robson: More Than a Manager Paul Gascoigne confirmed that Bobby Robson said in his pre match team talk: 

“Remember who’s watching you, England, The Queen, the fans and your family.” 

Bobby Robson was due to leave his job after Italia 90. In Bobby Robson: More Than a Manager,2018, he says:  

“This is the pinnacle. This is the climax. This is what we work for. I had a beautiful job, worked for beautiful people and I gave it all up to try and win the World Cup” 

I was feeling nervous but confident. It seemed a life time ago I was asking my Dad to put money on the West Germans for me. Who was Lothar Matthäus and Jürgen Klinsmann? They did not concern me. 

It was a tense affair and nothing separated them. Andreas Brehme’s deflected fee kick looped over Peter Shilton and agonisingly finished in the deluxe Italian Turin net. I was in shock. England had half an hour to equalise. They were growing into the game and surely they would get a chance. Don’t worry we have Gary Lineker was in the back of my mind when Lineker pounced on the dithering West German defence to equalise. This is still my most favourite goal of all time. Cue John Motson:  

“Ooo they’re appealing for offside; the Germans; and they are in trouble. Augenthaler couldn’t do it. Lineker probably could.” 

More poetry, I absolutely love this goal and Motty’s commentary. Words describing a goal of real beauty for me. I was dreaming of the final. More extra-time loomed for a third straight match. 

Gazza, on a yellow card lunged in and got booked which meant he was suspended if England got to the final. What a blow as he was by far England’s best player and was having the time of his life pulling the Italia 90 strings. He was disconsolate. Lineker asked Bobby Robson to have a word. In Bobby Robson: More than a Manager, 2018, Bobby Robson explained. 

“My heart sank the moment the referee took out the yellow card. That kid won’t play in the final. Now listen, listen to me. We know you cant play in the final. But what you can do son is make sure everybody else does. Get them in the final. 

Extra time produced no goals and would mean a penalty shootout. A first shootout involving a team I supported. I was hoping there would be a winning outcome.  

The hope continued when Lineker, Beardsley and Platt all tucked away their penalties easily. Stuart Pearce was prevented from finding the corner as he drove down the middle at Bodo Illgner’s legs. Waddle then blasted his penalty into orbit. Rumours are that the ball smacked Luciano Pavarotti on the head whilst practicing Nessun Dorma. 

West Germany scored all of theirs. Shilton went the correct way for all of their penalties. In reality he was nowhere near them. It was over. The competition was over. The hope had disappeared in a flash. Something that was so good was confined to the history books. 

The next two matches were pretty meaningless to me. Italia 90 finished when West Germany won that Semi-Final. I watched both of the final matches back in Canford Heath. Something poetic I guess about ending Italia 90 where it all began whilst getting that World Cup 90 folder for Christmas in 1989 back at my old home. 

To tidy things up Peter Shilton made a mistake in his final international appearance to gift the Italians the bronze medal. We didn’t see much more of Schillaci after Italia 90 but Roberto Baggio emerged as the next Italian superstar. He would feel his own penalty pain four years later in the USA. 

West Germany ensured the rematch of the 1986 final would be reversed with them beating Maradona’s Argentina 1-0.

Diego Maradona in the 1990 World Cup Final

It was a non-event and the highlight for me was sharing it for a birthday party with some of my best friends back on Canford Heath. We were laughing and giggling and looking back it is a significant moment. As the curtain drew on Italia 90 it perhaps drew on my old life. My new life was going to move forward in a different direction away from Canford Heath. 

That is why those opening credits with Pavarotti belting out Nessun Dorma made me feel rather emotional. I have heard the song hundreds of times but this time it made a nostalgic and somewhat lasting effect. Adding the faded footballers reminded me of my life at twelve. It brought back all of these memories that were beyond football.  

The ending of Italia 90 is significant because life would not be the same again. There was now expectation rather than hope. The expectation of England going one better. There was the expectation of Manchester United to add to their FA Cup. The hope had gone, the expectation had arrived. I could not enjoy the competitions in the same veinFather Christmas was not real and the magical world was archived forever. 

My life had changed. A new house, new bedroom, new school, and new friends. The only constant was football. A football love affair that was born during Mexico 86 but blossomed throughout Italia 90. 

Only fitting that I give Bobby Robson the final words from the 2018 documentary Bobby Robson: More Than a Manager: 

“There wasn’t any doubt in my mind that had we beaten West Germany on that particular day we would have won the World Cup for the second time.” 

England World Cup 90 Team