My 1970 Football (Soccer) World Cup.
At 27 years of age, just on 50 years ago in less troubled times, I had the confidence of youth on my side. In my remaining days of bachelorhood I had money, and the advertisement in the newspaper submitted by James Vance Travel caught my eye.
They were advertising a holiday package to Mexico, covering the full period of the forthcoming 1970 World Cup, following the England football team and inclusive of all flights and accommodation. Our “minders” were to be one Roger Hunt of Liverpool and England fame and one Charlie Cooke of Chelsea and Scotland.
At that time Mexico to me was a far-off land, inhabited largely by “The Baddies” in black-and-white cowboy films. One or two locations like Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco were exclusively occupied and/or vacationed by the wealthy “Goodies” of the multi-coloured Hollywood blockbusters. Mere mortals, myself included, were just about getting used to our annual two weeks in the cheaper parts of Southern Europe.
As I mentioned, still unmarried [although dating the girl who is now my wife], I was at the time reasonably financed, although a crawling visit to theall-powerful bank manager was in those days essential. After my much “sucking up” I managed to secure the additional funds needed for such an opportunity. So off I went.
As England were to play their group stage matches in Guadalajara, I along with my fellow package travellers, were based for this period in Chapala, at a hotel not a stone’s throw away from the magnificent lake.
After getting acquainted with each other and with our surroundings, we proceeded to a bar and met local residents and fellow World Cup devotees from distant parts. If I recall correctly it was during that evening that a group of us arranged a football match against a team made up of Chapala and district residents. To our concept this was to be a friendly “knockabout” to cement relationships during our stay.
To our complete surprise, the very next day a large poster appeared in the square next to our hotel advertising the forthcoming “CHAPALA vs ENGLAND” game at the local stadium.
Rather than take advantage of a few days light training to prepare for the event, we generally chose to take the time to really get to know the wonderful world of Chapala and its people. Their genuine friendliness was overwhelming.
As we strolled to the stadium, a few days later, it was quite noticeable the number of people moving in a similar direction (maybe to some other event in the area?).
On arrival we realised our match was the event. The local children must have been given time off school, the stadium appeared full and the whole carnival atmosphere was electic. To embrace the occasion, we, the England team, decided to each adopt the name of an English player. I was Keith Newton, who also played for my home team, Everton.
As we waited on the touchline with a crate of beer provided by our hosts, the opposition appeared to a tremendous enthusiastic reception and proceeded to go through their pre-match warm up routine. We saw they were fit, well drilled and had obviously played together as an organised team for some time. As the spectacle unfolded before us, without comment we sheepishly discarded our beer.
If I recall correctly, the final score was Chapala 1 England 0. The local team had beaten the current world champions much to the delight and enthusiasm of the Chapala youth support. However, I feel obliged to say that the score did flatter us incredibly.
We were later honoured to be invited by the mayor to a reception at what I think was the municipal palace, which again proved to be an exhilarating and unbelievable experience.
Although, as time passes and memories fade, I do remember my whole experience of that 1970 World Cup finals was of breathtaking occasions from start to finish. England were eventually knocked out of the competition by West Germany in León, but our group carried on to the zenith in Mexico City and the Brazil versus Italy final.
If I recall, our team played three more matches on our travels in your magnificent country. The amazingly scenic diversity and beauty was a joy to witness and everywhere the people always warmly welcomed our group, none more so than in Guadalajara and particularly Chapala.
I thank you all.
Now here’s the rub. I was not in possession of a camera during my trip and would like to know if your newspaper or your readers would have any photographs of that match in Chapala or the reception at the municipal palace; or for that matter any of our group in the Guadalajara stadium. I would greatly appreciate copies to reboot the details in my memory of a remarkable journey.