The title of the film by German film maker Stefan Keber suggests what many people already know: England have not won any major trophy since their World Cup triumph at Wembley in July 1966: England are cursed by Wembley and the third goal. Not just that, every time they appeared to be coming close to another final, there were German teams eliminating them from the tournament. The last time in 1996 at the Euro held in England.
The title of Stefan Keber’s film The Course of Wembley from 2006 seems to place supernatural forces onto the third goal and England’s triumph. As it turns out, the film is quite the opposite. The first minutes show the scandal around the theft of the Jules Rimet Cup months before the tournament and emphasized the successful run England had against Germany until 1966: 2 draws and 9 victories since 1908. Dettmar Cramer, Helmut Schön’s assistant, voiced his confidence that despite a 1-0 defeat in February 1966, Germany were the better team already then and thus were not without a chance in the final. The film dissects the game meticulously and interrupts at important points. The first comes in the 12th minute when Germany take the lead through Helmut Haller. The narrator points out that it took 32 seconds for Rudi Michel, the German television commentator, to speak again after his Goal! exclamation. Michel argued: ‘We were the first post-war generation. We knew what radio reports have caused in the Third Reich. This was scaring us.’ It was too early to cheer German goals excessively in England and against England. This is where the film goes back to Bernd Trautmann and the start of the Anglo-German football relationships post 1945.
Who awarded the ‘Third Goal?’
When Martin Peters put England 2-1 ahead after 78 minutes, the film makes an excursion into the history of the World Cup and England’s absence from the competition until 1950. Of course, Germany’s triumph in 1954 is not left out. The narrator duly states that Germany have achieved what England were aspiring to 12 years previously. Germany scored with 15 seconds left to play through Wolfgang Weber. Extra-Time. After Geoff Hurst made it 3-2 in extra-time, the plot of the film suggests that Tofik Bahramov, the linesman made the decision to award the goal, not Gottfried Dienst, the Swiss referee. The film seems to suggest that Bahramov came from behind the Iron Curtain and as an international referee had the chance to go to Western Europe and more importantly, taste freedom. He therefore was crucially influenced, if not biased. Bahramov himself confessed that he has not seen the ball bouncing on the ground. He only saw the ball hitting the net and then moving towards the ground. In his biography he admitted that he was for a moment at least frozen by what he saw. The fourth goal also comes under scrutiny as ‘some people are on the pitch.’ German photographer Sven Simon presented evidence that the goal should not have been allowed. Mark Perryman, also interviewed in the film, says the same: the goal was certainly irregular.
Psychologically important victory for Britain and England
The most interesting statement is delivered by Thomas Kielinger. He compared victory for England in 1966 with the German victory in 1954 as an important factor for the well-being, at least mentally, for England and Britain. Considering the economic problems Britain had to endure during the so-called ‘Swinging Sixties’ certainly a valid argument. The pound crisis of the summer of 1966 led to the de-valuation of the currency a year later. Thus, it can be argued the crisis (crises?) that beset Britain during the most of the 1970s had their causes in the 1960s when the country was supposed to be ‘swinging.’ This comparison by Kielinger is an interesting one as Germany’s triumph helped to amalgamate the Germans for the new state they were living in and has subsequently become an important date in the history of West Germany. So much so, that it is argued that 4 July 1954 was portrayed as the real foundation date of the Federal Republic and further stimulated the economic miracle. Quite the opposite was true for England. The triumph at Wembley on 31 July 1966 was a useful distraction from the difficult circumstances Britain found herself in post 1945. Opium for the Masses indeed!
The film further asks the question, what if Dienst had not decided to award the goal? Speculations were that the media would have quickly found out that Gottfried Dienst’s parents were Germans. Ironically, it was a Swiss Magician Uri Geller who predicted an English victory in the semi-final in 1996. He said, he had psyched out the Germans. The result is well known: Germany won on penalties, adding more pain to England’s misery and prolonging the ‘curse of Wembley.’
- England’s Goal Mystery (donotmentionthewar.wordpress.com)
- 28 July 1962: The birth of the Bundesliga (anoldinternational.co.uk)
- England’s goal line controversies (timesofmalta.com)
- Crossing the line: England’s goal-line controversies – are we lucky or unlucky? (mirror.co.uk)
- Football Voices (donotmentionthewar.wordpress.com)
- 10 Historic Sporting Events in London – 4. The 1966 FIFA World Cup at Wembley… (exploringlondon.wordpress.com)