Pelé’s finest hour – captured by FIFA

IT IS good to see the official FIFA film of the 1970 World Cup is available to watch on the BBC’s archives at present, a cinematic treat that was very much of its time. Like other FIFA films, there is an air of naivety and cliché around the narrative, a glimpse into “FIFA Land” or at least how the governing body would like the world to look. It has the spirit of a scout jamboree about it.

In 1970, the script centres on a small boy who blags his way into key matches at the World Cup with his mother wondering where the hell her son has gone. This blond-haired, blue-eyed lad was certainly not a boy from Mexico City, but more likely he was plucked out of a drama school in Zurich or Munich. He leaves home in search of Pelé, Charlton, Riva and Beckenbauer, cadging a lift from a US journalist and his girlfriend.

The lack of reality in this story has been made more bizarre by time. The football-mad Martin’s mother would be in big trouble in today’s cynical world. Martin somehow works his way into stadiums, dressed as a cub scout, sitting among a crowd of Mexicans or suited and booted with a jaunty cravat around his neck. There’s simply no way he can be stopped, but meanwhile, his Mama has no idea where he might be, finally spotting him on TV in a stadium while she is nursing another of her children.

We see Brazil in their pomp, all improvisation and agility, as well as the formidable Italians, making their way to the final. England’s game with West Germany is featured with the Mexicans rejoicing and being “ever hostile to England” as the 1966 winners capitulate after being 2-0 ahead.

The legendary “game of the century” between Italy and West Germany gets substantial coverage, with the brave young Franz Beckenbauer taped-up after dislocating his shoulder. This was a riveting contest but the 4-3 win for Italy denied everyone the chance to see the second best side from Mexico ’70 in the final, the exciting West Germans and the competition’s leading scorer, Gerd Müller.

Certainly, you get the feeling the Germans would have made a better fist of the final against Pelé and his ball-juggling pals. It would seem unlikely that they would have lost 4-1 in the Azteca Stadium.

The film is a period piece with stadiums emblazoned with advertising of the time – Cinzano, Martini, Philips, Hertz, Zeiss of Jena and Marlborough. But there are similarities to the modern day in that Brazil – like Argentina 2022 – were the team everyone wanted to win. The reason was primarily to reward an icon of the game – in 2022 it was Lionel Messi, in 1970 it was Pelé, playing in his last World Cup.

It was so marvellously colourful, those Brazilian yellow shirts standing out against the most vivid of crowds in a bold stadium that was built to impress. Little wonder we remember Mexico 1970 and Pelé for leaving us with such wonderful and enduring memories.