‘Thirty years of hurt,’ the saying in the song goes. This is in reference to it being thirty years of hurt that English football has seen since the 1966 home World Cup win. This is a story of the curse that Franz Beckenbauer casts over English football.
Fast forward twenty-four years. I write this thirty years after Italia 90 hurt me and ruined my dreams as an expectant twelve-year-old. The curse from Franz worked better than he could ever imagine.
The England football team were in the World Cup Semi Final playing their old adversaries West Germany. Their footballing history probably escaped me back then but I knew a little bit about footy.
I had heard of World Cup 1966. I had heard of Pickles the Dog. I knew about Nobby’s dance and all about Russian linesmen. I was aware that someone thought it was all over and confirmed that it was. I had seen the colour footage. The bright red shirts shining inside Wembley Stadium. The orange football lit up the field of play, much like the blazing sun hovering above the stadium, watching in awe. Perhaps I knew more than I thought.
The black and white footage had been seen before on highlights programmes. I actually taped the 1966 England v West Germany final. It was broadcast sometime in June 1990. Just before the start of Italia 90. It was repeated late on a Saturday night. I was staying up for this with the VHS tape at the ready. No Beta max here I have you know.
This was probably the first of a long list of late Saturday nights that would proceed this event during the 1990’s. The only “Venues” I knew back then were Poole Stadium, Turlin Moor Recreation Ground and The Cricket Square in Canford Heath.
I watched the match as if it was live. I couldn’t believe England let the 2-1 lead slip in the 90th minute. If only I knew then what I know now regarding England and major competitions. However, I didn’t need to use this experience in the thirty minutes extra time (that makes sense, right?) as Alan Ball sprung into life and Geoff Hurst scored two of the most famous goals of all time.
It was miles over the line. Easily. VAR proved it. Well the Russian linesman did. It wasn’t the most convincing of decisions but the goal was given. Perhaps that was our curse? Our punishment. Perhaps Franz Beckenbauer (or his nickname Der Kaiser) cast a sixty-year curse on England:
“Thou shalt not take penalties”
“Thou shalt not turn up to major sporting events”
“Thou shalt get over excited about a 5-0 win v San Marino”
“Thou shalt be royally stitched up in future competitions”
You get the idea.
It’s all becoming clear now. Of course, this spell was cast to take immediate effect after the final whistle. Therefore, Hurst’s hat trick goal would stand. Bobby Moore’s majestic pass and vision would still be in top gear.
It meant Hurst’s pin point accuracy for firing into the postage stamp top corner (please don’t say top bin. In fact please don’t ever say top bin) was fully intact. England were World Champions.
As was Kenneth Wolstenholme’s box of poetry tricks. Take it away Ken:
“And here come Hurst, he’s got, some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over, it is now, it’s four”
That’s it! Typing those magical words makes it become all too clear. Clear as daylight. It’s obvious. Beckenbauer’s curse is cast through Wolstenholme’s poetic words:
“They think it’s all over. It is now.”
The curse is that England’s existence for the next sixty years is in fact all over. Der Kaiser had spoken. You will be punished.
Let’s look at the evidence.
In 1967 England lost to Scotland at Wembley. They ripped up the pitch in excitement in defeating their ‘Auld Enemy.’ I think it was England’s first defeat as World Champions.
England actually lost the forgotten 1968 European Championships Semi Final v Yugoslavia. Alan Mullery got sent off, becoming the first English player to do so.
Beckenbauer’s curse strikes for a second time. It was going to strike so many more times that I will almost certainly lose count.
During England’s defence of the World Cup, Beckenbauer’s curse was in full swing. I lose count of the antics he got up to during Mexico.
Firstly, Bobby Moore was arrested before the competition for some jewellery heist in Colombia. The influential England captain was left behind in jail eating porridge whilst his team mates’ caught the South American Express to Mexico. He was later released so he could join in with all the fun up north.
World Champions England were drawn in the same group against favourites Brazil. A Brazil packed with super stars. Pele was up to lots of tricks in this World Cup. Dummying goalkeepers by letting the ball move one way and he goes the other. But agonisingly missing.
This is a trick I tried on numerous occasions at the Canford Heath Cricket Square. Like Pele, I failed every time. That makes me as good as Pele doesn’t it. I’ll take that. Pele was shooting from the half way line. Missing agonisingly. I also did that. Does that make me? … I won’t go there. Pele was also making Gordon Banks make the greatest save of all time. Cue more commentary, this time from David Coleman:
“Pele. What a save! Gordon Banks! Pick that out of the net.”
Carlos Alberto was scoring a goal that could be regarded as the finest team goal of all time.
How could England be drawn against Brazil? And in the opening match! Der Kaiser’s curse was working like a dream.
Beckenbauer continued with his curse. Gordon Banks got the shits before the Quarter Final against West Germany. The rumours were never proven that Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller were responsible for whipping up the scrambled egg at The Guadalajara Country Club.
This resulted in Peter Bonetti being handed the Sondico’s to face the West Germans. Our Gordon was busy shitting through the eye of a needle.
England raced into a two-goal lead. Beckenbauer whispered into Alf’s ear and persuaded him to substitute Bobby Charlton and Martin Peters in the second half.
It worked. Gerd Müller scored the winner with a controlled volley. England were eliminated. England were the dethroned World Champions. Surely the curse of Franz Beckenbauer was over? Think again.
Okay, the West Germans were eliminated in the next match but the curse was on England and not them.
In fact, they hosted and won the 1974 World Cup. Beckenbauer lifted the trophy high and proud. It was the new version of the trophy as Brazil kept ‘The Jules Rimet Trophy’ as they won it three times. It was as if to tell England their win no longer counted. Much like the Premier League, football didn’t exist before then, did it! What about England I hear you ask? Well they didn’t even qualify.
Alf Ramsey was sacked in 1973 as Franz Beckenbauer extended his curse to goalkeepers. The crazy Polish Goalkeeper, a term Brian Clough used during his punditry duties. This keeper was immense. He was saving shots with his heads shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.
Peter Shilton was now wearing the Sondico’s and he was diving over the ball to allow the Polish to sneak a near post equaliser thus eliminating England at Wembley. If only it was Ray Clemence’s turn in the between the sticks for that match.
This curse was relentless. It continued when Don Revie took over and then left for the riches of the Far East in a moment’s breath.
England failed to qualify for the 1978 World Cup as the curse of Beckenbauer was suffocating our hopes and dreams.
It loosened off to allow England a jolly up in Spain for “Espana 82.” This time it decided to have a word with FIFA. In their wisdom, FIFA listen to Beckenbauer here. They decided to have a first round group and a second round group for the qualifying teams.
Beckenbauer relaxed his curse to allow Bryan Robson to score the quickest ever World Cup goal after twenty seven seconds against France in the opening game. He got a second too. What a player!
This was false hope. The curse was working behind the scenes. This was so our ecstatic fans sunbathing in The Costa Del Sol could dare to dream whilst on the sangria. In fact, qualified unbeaten from the group stages England drew both games in the second group 0-0. One being against… Yep, you’ve guessed it, West Germany. England were eliminated on goal difference or something similar. England left Spain unbeaten but empty handed.
Did I even mention the European Footballer of the Year, Kevin Keegan was injured? Beckenbauer was ruthless. Did I mention that Keegan played in West Germany for Hamburg? I knew Der Kaiser tampered with Keegan’s perm.
We continue. Beckenbauer continues to stitch us right up. It did not matter if the curse has been present before in a county that has hosted a World Cup. It was allowed to come back. Therefore, it returned to Mexico in 1986. In the Mexican sun Beckenbauer was performing curse like miracles. Here we go again.
The influence of England captain Bryan Robson was under threat with a dislocation of the collar bone against West Ham earlier in 1986. He was rushed back but it reoccurred against Morocco. Ray Wilkins even got sent off in that match to rub salt into the wounds.
Beckenbauer allowed hope, he always does. Gary Lineker scored a hat trick against Poland to enable qualification from the group. He grabbed two more against Paraguay to set up a Quarter Final against a Diego Maradona inspired Argentina.
It’s difficult to say what year was worse for the curse. Maybe the twenty year anniversary was the one.
The first Argentina goal was slam dunked into the net by Maradona’s fist. The infamous “Hand of God.” Unbelievable hey. What about Shilton allowing a short arse to out punch him?
Where was his bent knee whilst jumping for the ball? It’s the goalkeepers prerogative to raise the knee and give the forward a little dig. Surely Diego should have been kneed in the balls. Instead Diego struck the ball home with his God assisted hand. He celebrated and got away with it. Surely, we had served our time for our crossbar crime?
Nope. About ten minutes later Maradona danced around the English defence from the half way line to dummy Shilton and score the finest individual goal of all time.
Now I have an issue with this. He danced round Peter Reid, Terry Fenwick and Terry Butcher. All notorious hard men. Where was the famous English Reducer? The famous let’s boot him into touch? It was sat sipping cocktails in the Azteca Stadium. That’s where the English Reducer was. It was having a jolly up in the sun.
Shilton went down like a sack of shit too.
Beckenbauer didn’t stop there. Why should he? He was creating havoc. It was a major success.
Euro 88 was pathetic. England lost all three games as Gary Lineker lost the Goal Scoring touch. Where was this competition? Yes, you’ve guessed, West Germany.
Italia 90 proved remarkable as Beckenbauer’s curse was met full on with Franz Beckenbauer himself. What a turn of events. He was standing in front of England and a World Cup Final as West Germany were Bobby Robson’s England opponents in Turin.
Okay Bryan Robson hobbled home again but we had Paul Gascoigne. Gazza Mania was happening in a big way. Gazza was in full swing. Gazza was chipping in and David Platt was volleying in. This was exemplified against Belgium in the second round.
Gary Lineker was winning penalties against Cameroon. Gary Lineker was smashing penalties in against Cameroon. England were coming back from the brink of defeats.
The sweeper system was working a treat.
Curse, what curse? Ahh it’s there to build you up and knock you down. Something was going to happen?
In the semi-final Andreas Brehme’s deflected fee kick looped over Peter Shilton. I think Shilton’s legs were taped together. His little feet didn’t move.
But hold on, Lineker equalised. This is still my favourite goal of all time. I will not let a curse from Franz Beckenbauer ruin in. 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. We were allowed to dream. However, Der Kaiser’s curse is a savage mistress.
Gazza, on a yellow card lunged in and got booked during extra time it meant he was suspended if England got there. Oh did he cry. Lineker asked Bobby Robson to have a word but Gazza sobbed his way through extra time. Extra time that would mean a penalty shootout.
A first penalty shootout involving a team I support. Germany scored all of theirs. Shilton went the correct way. In reality he was nowhere near them.
The curse actually messed with my head with the old wives’ tale about ‘Big’ Dave Beasant, the giant Wimbledon goalkeeper. He was a penalty saving expert and was alleged to be considered to replace Shilton for the shootout. I believed that for thirty years. You could only name five substitutes in those days and Chris Woods was the sub keeper. He looked good in the zig zagged keepers kit with his Sondico’s on whilst sat on the bench. I always wonder why keepers have their gloves on whilst they are not playing?
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.
England went out but returned home heroes.
Germany won the 1990 World Cup. Franz Beckenbauer was now a winning World Cup captain and manager. It sent Bobby Robson off to Holland for a good time.
It gave us Graham Taylor and made sure Gazza ruined his career with a reckless tackle in the 1991 FA Cup Final. A year after he had played some of the best football ever.
It got worse. England lost in Norway and America. Leeds pipped Manchester United to the league title (oh different curse, different story).
Gary Lineker was prevented from getting the England goal scoring record v Brazil at Wembley in 1992. I was there to see him attempt a pathetic chipped penalty that rolled slowly to goal.
As he made contact with the ball, Carlos [the Brazil goalkeeper with fantastic hair] was able to fly over from Rio Carnival. Get through Heathrow; put his cocktail down and place his cap on the ball. Cheers Gary, I wanted to say I was there. Carlos raised a toast with his Long Island Iced Tea that was hidden in his glove bag.
Beckenbauer made Brian Moore lose the plot. It sent the legendary commentator into a “Brolin, Dahlin, Brolin, Dahlin, Brolin, Dahlin” frenzy as Sweden knocked England out of Euro 92. Der Kaiser made sure Taylor stayed in charge for the 1994 World Cup campaign.
A few years later Brian Moore lost it again. This time in Holland. Moore deliriously screaming with his voice getting louder and louder.
“He’s going to flick one now, he’s going to flick one, HE’S GOING TO FLICK ONE AND IT’S IN.”
Ronald Koeman did flick one into the empty net as David Seaman was stood on the corner flag working out how to he could incorporate it into his Dancing on Ice routine.
Before this happened, Koeman was able to apply some Dutch Courage through wrestling David Platt to the ground whilst through one on one. It was 0-0. It was the first time I had ever seen ‘The Rock Bottom’ on a football pitch. Koeman stayed on. Koeman flicked one in. England were thwarted by Beckenbauer again.
Beckenbauer whispered the phrase “Do I not like that” to Graham Taylor and ruthlessly got him sacked. This prevented me from watching USA 94 late after my GCSEs with England in.
It did me a favour. England were nowhere near America to ruin a summer where I just played footy all day. I learnt how to balance the ball on my head like Maradona. Does that make me as good as Diego?
I stayed up playing Premier Manager until 6am with my two best mates all summer. I was able to enjoy Hagi, Letchkov and Baggio without any three lions messing it up. I was rock n roll as a sixteen-year-old wasn’t I.
The ‘Crafty Cockney’ came to save the day. El Tel was allowed to stop squabbling with Jimmy Hill on BBC 1. They were sat with that smoother operator, Desmond Lynam watching lame England performances. El Tel came to London Town with a few Christmas trees, as he liked a dodgy deal. I’m sure he bought them off Del Boy and Rodney down at Peckham Market.
We had Euro 96 to look forward to. Surely it was only a thirty year curse…
Think again. The build-up was dominated by drunken antics in China. We all learnt what The Dentist Chair was. It was not a surgical procedure on the NHS. Why fly to China for a warm up match before a home competition?
England were galvanised and meant business. Uri Geller made the ball move off the penalty spot as Gary McAllister struck his penalty. David Seaman saved it.
Gazza scored another career defining goal at Wembley Stadium. He pulled Colin Hendry’s pants down as he played keepy up with him. The last keepy up was volleyed past Andy Goram. This enabled a welcome reunion with his old mate The Dentist Chair.
Holland were dismantled. Shearer and Sheringham scored about seven goals each in a 14-1 victory. England even conceded a last minute goal to stop Scotland from going through.
England won a penalty shootout. Stuart Pearce made peace with his miss six years ago. He went absolutely mental celebrating. That scared me. How can a man have so much anger?
Life was good. Baddiel and Skinner were singing ‘Three Lions‘ with The Lightening Seeds. Oasis and Blur were knocking around and I was able to enjoy watching matches having a few beers. Life was not good; it was bloody brilliant.
The curse had been lifted. Thirty years of hurt meant it was gone. I heard Baddiel and Skinner sing about it. It had to be true. England had Germany in the semi-final. They were not West Germany anymore, surely this meant the curse was gone for ever. I was not worried. Adam, my best mate wasn’t worried. His dog, Zoe wasn’t worried. We were up for it. The beers were flowing.
Shearer headed home after two minutes. We went mental. Stefan Kuntz equalised for the Germans. Yes, I called him a ‘Jammy Kuntz.’ However, it was not going to plan. The game filtered out to extra time. The dreaded Golden Goal would come into play. Basically it was next goal wins. Unless you can’t score in half an hour. That would mean penalties.
Looking back, I realise Der Kaiser’s curse reappeared in that extra time and was here to stay. It made Anderton miss an open goal. He says the ball was behind him but come on the goal was open. Zoe the dog could have scored it. Gazza then lost his hand and eye coordination with his foot. He anticipated the flow of the ball all wrong. The keeper missed it. Gazza missed it. We all missed it.
Penalties. Here we go again. England scored all five. Germany scored all five. England’s penalties were assured. Looking back, they are actually some of the best penalties you could see in a shootout. Seaman, the penalty specialist borrowed Shilton’s Sondico’s. He couldn’t get near any German penalty.
Up stepped the renowned penalty specialist Gareth Southgate. Say no more. The curse won. We lost. We should never wear grey.
To add insult to injury the Germans won Euro 96. They flew home with our trophy and adopted our very own ‘Three Lions’ song. How very kind of them. We lost our song, our hearts and Terry Vanables.
We were given the gift that is Glenn Hoddle and there were some tasty performances. David Beckham was played as a wing back to complement our three at the back. Shearer was captain and Gazza was hanging on in there. It would not last forever.
Gazza got lashed up with the crew of TFI Friday and Rod Stewart.
He then played in Belgium with a bandage on his head. He looked a mess. Hoddle dropped him for the World Cup Squad. A shame as he had played a vital role during qualification. If only the France 98 was France 97. He would have been a big player there.
Beckenbauer and his curse appeared in France 1998 and told David Beckham to perform a horizontal version of River Dance. The Lord of the Grass saw red against Argentina with a subtle flick of his foot. A move that that Lord Michael Flatley must have approved of.
Not even eight-and-a-half-year-old Michael Owen could save the day running in and out of the legs of the Argentian defence. Sol Man had his header unfairly disallowed and more penalties happened. David Batty stepped up and England were stepping in the Departures Lounge. Beckham’s balls were anything but golden at this time.
Hoddle got into some flack and King Kevin Keegan tried his luck. In Euro 2000 Shearer won me forty quid on the sweepstake as first goalscorer against Germany. England actually beat Germany 1-0. The curse was having none of this.
A ‘must win’ game against Romania became a ‘we must do our best to cock this right up’ game. Phil Neville demonstrated the art of having patience and staying on your feet to push the attacker away from goal. This meant England qualified and won Euro 2000.
No, wait a minute, I woke up. He dived in. Kicked the shit out of the nippy winger and Romania scored the winning penalty to win 3-2. England went home early.
At least they had a celebration of the last ever game at the old Wembley to look forward to. A real festival of football during the autumn of 2000. Surely their last match would be a 5-0 win against Luxemburg. It wasn’t. They had the Germans.
Der Kaiser made sure he would have the last say at The Twin Towers. He had the last say, of course he did. Germany won 1-0. David Seaman had started growing his hair and it must have hindered him seeing the seventy-yard strike from Hamann. It slip past him in the Wembley rain. This would have to make him have a trim for future reference.
King Kev did a Keegan when he buggered off away from the pressure. Along came Sven. What a guy Sven is. He slipped into the routine and gave us hope. We had the ‘Golden Generation’ after all. Sven was still in his ‘Golden Generation’ by having a cheeky fling with Ulrika Jonsson on the eve of a major tournament. The press loved it. I hope Ulrika did.
Sven’s England qualified for three consecutive quarter finals. A Now twelve-and-a-half-year-old Michael Owen put England ahead against Brazil in the 2002 Quarter Final. However, David Seaman’s ponytail deflected Ronaldinho’s cross into the top corner. England were going home.
Not even David Beckham’s redemption against Argentina could save us. He was now Golden Balls as he used super powers to over come Greece. Well super powers to equalise in the last minute against Greece. This sent England to South Korea and Japan. He was like one of those Buggs Bunny multiple characters who does everything. He should have taken the Sondico’s off Seaman.
In the following two competition’s England conceded two last minute goals against France, whilst leading 1-0. Beckham missed a penalty at 1-0 too. The new Wayne Rooney was causing havoc for all concerned. He even completed a somersault in celebration.
It was all looking good but Rooney damaged a metatarsal against Portugal. I studied sport but had never heard of a metatarsal before. Beckham broke his whilst slipping on his sarong. Rooney damaged his again on the eve of the World Cup in….Germany! Rooney even saw red in Germany for copying Beckham’s River Dance eight years earlier.
Euro 2004 and World Cup 2006 saw England eliminated by Portugal in the quarter final in both. England lost both penalty shootouts. Portugal’s keeper, Ricardo scored the winner and even took his gloves off for the penalties. Up stepped Jamie Carragher. Say no more.
Sven left. Steve McClaren came in. Say no more.
Fabio Capello came in. Non dire altro. That would have been different if Frank Lampard’s goal was given. He scored a screamer from thirty yards to bulge the net and equalise against… yes you’ve guessed it. England had Germany in the second round of the World Cup in South Africa. No, no, no. The goal was not given and Germany won 4-1.
Harry Redknapp came in in to give us some Olympic cheer in 2012 and help us enjoy the Euros as a last minute sub for the booted on Capello. I then woke up from another optimistic dream and Roy Hodgson was in charge.
I have nothing against Roy and I really like him but he lasted three major competitions. His legacy? Being knocked out on penalties against Italy. Getting knocked out of the World Cup in Brazil 2014 after the second game. Iceland in 2016. This flipping curse. It was going nowhere. It was punishing us beyond fifty years now.
Big Sam came in and went after one match. He was barred from Wembley at St George’s Park after a dodgy interview where he ballsed up. He was unbeaten though and won his only game in charge. Not a bad record.
Our Gareth was now in charge. Sir Gareth Southgate has come in to save the day. He does not have a cape to display his super powers. He has something much more powerful than that. His waistcoat. He has brought pride to proceedings and English football seems credible again.
The curse potentially ends at the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. England somehow managed to fluff their way to the semi-final and were winning from about the first minute against Croatia.
Well we lost 2-1 against Croatia. Looking back at that game I was gutted because I saw it as a missed opportunity. It had taken twenty-eight years to get to a World Cup Semi-Final. I was twelve back in 1990. I was now forty. Will I be sixty-eight come the next semi-final? I sincerely hope not.
This was a strange feeling as no one really thought England would do anything in Russia. They were not given any chance. Hopes were built when they started to do something and before you know it, we were suckered in. We had hope.
The curse of Beckenbauer had spoken, hopefully for the last time. It had built us up and lured us in. I have lost count the number of years this has happened. I hope Der Kaiser’s curse has gone for good.
A disease was spreading around the glorious English summer of 2018. A disease of ‘It’s Coming Home.’ In reference to the lyrics in ‘Three Lions’. They took out the two hundred years of hurt line in this 25th edition of the song. We believed.
I think the pain 2018 caused me was the hope. The hope got hold of me. The hope lured me in. The curse of Beckenbauer dealt the cruellest of blows to me that year. It made a forty-year-old feel like he was twelve again. You know what? If I got the opportunity to meet this dreaded curse, I would shake it by the hand.
In 2018, it made me love football again. It had the power to transport me back to that twelve-year-old expectant lad. That twelve-year-old lad who was staying up late on a June Saturday night in 1990. That lad was biting his nails watching the 1966 World Cup Final in black and white. I loved remembering what it felt to be twelve again.