It was a poignant moment for Bert Trautmann when he welcomed the West German football team to Manchester for the 1966 World Cup.
The Manchester City goalkeeper and former German paratrooper had stayed on in England after being captured in the Second World War.
He was released from the prisoner-of-war camp in Ashton-in-Makerfield in 1948 and played for St Helens Town then City in a memorable football career.
His bravery and resolve won widespread admiration when he played on in the 1956 FA Cup Final with a broken bone in his neck.
So it was with mutual respect that Bernhard Carl ‘Bert’ Trautmann shook the hand of his countryman and West German captain Uwe Seeler at Manchester’s Ringway Airport on July 8th 1966.
The German team had landed in Manchester to play group matches at Hillsborough, Sheffield, and Villa Park, Birmingham.
They were just some of the foreign star players who passed through or played in the city when England hosted the 1966 finals.
The great Pele was photographed on the platform at Manchester’s Piccadilly Station on July 21st – but he wasn’t in the mood for celebrating.
He and his Brazil team-mates had just been knocked out of the competition after failing to come through a tough qualifying group.
Brazil, who played their matches in Liverpool, were up against Hungary, Portugal and Bulgaria who played the majority of their games at Old Trafford.
Pele started the tournament well by scoring after 15 minutes in the 2-0 defeat of Bulgaria at Goodison Park on July 12th.
But it all went wrong for him and his team when they took on Hungary at the same venue.
Brazil were defeated 3-1 and then lost to Portugal by the same scoreline. Portuguese legend Eusebio netted twice against Brazil in the 27th and 85th minute.
Eusebio was emerging as a powerful force in the tournament. He had already scored in the 3-0 defeat of Bulgaria at Old Trafford – a match which started with Portuguese player Morays rescuing an injured thrush that had fluttered on to the pitch!
He also played a major role in the 3-1 defeat of Hungary in front of a crowd of nearly 31,000 at Old Trafford.
It was all smiles in the tunnel after the game even though Eusebio had been injured in a collision with the Hungarian ‘keeper – and had the plaster to prove it!
Throughout the tournament, players regularly took time off their training routines to tour the region and make friends in the local communities.
Brazilian ‘keeper Gylmar was spotted comparing prices in a Manchester clothes shop while Portugal’s Fernando Cruz and team-mate Figueiredo watched the England and Scotland women’s football match at Salford.
After completing the group stages, Portugal were back on the pitch for a quarter-final match against North Korea at Goodison Park.
The Koreans had pulled off a memorable 1-0 win against Italy in the group stages so would be no push-overs for Portugal.
Eusebio, once again, rose to the challenge. As much a national talisman then as Christian Ronaldo is now, he scored four goals, including two penalties, in Portugal’s 5-3 win.
Not surprisingly he was pursued by autograph-hunters as he sat among the team bags at Manchester’s Piccadilly Station waiting for the train to London – and the semi-finals.
Portugal were gearing up for a crunch game at Wembley against another team quietly making a name for itself in the competition – England.
Two Manchester United players proved to be Portugal’s undoing when the big match came. Tough-tackling midfielder Nobby Stiles kept Eusebio quiet while Bobby Charlton scored both goals in England’s 2-1 win.
Eusebio took his goal tally for the tournament to eight with an 85th minute penalty and scored another in the 2-1 victory over the Soviet Union for third place.
He finished the tournament as top-scorer with nine goals and was awarded the coveted golden boot. But it was no consolation.
He could only sit and watch as England played the final against the team Trautmann had welcomed to these shores three weeks earlier – West Germany.
The United duo of Charlton and Stiles were again strongly in evidence at the historic Wembley final on July 30th.
Both played their hearts out as England won 4-2 after extra time.
Nobby’s toothless smile and victory jig in his rolled-down socks will be etched on fans’ memories forever!
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