World Cup Football ball
World Cup Football ball 1966
Diameter 22,2 cm
Weight 425 g
‘I can’t belive how passionate you can be about a little old football’, Helmut Haller told the Daily Mirrow as he handed over the famed 1966 World Cup ball to England’s hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst at a secret location in Essex. Haller had been storing the ball in his Augsburg cellar, apparently oblivious to the fact that for 30 years Geoff, and, seemingly the entire English nation, had been asking, ‘Can we have our ball back mister?’.
It had taken Mirror reporters two days of hard bargaining in the midst of a media frenzy, followed by car and fisticuffs involving rival sleuths from The Sun. But now, after Haller had accepted a reported GBP 70,000 in charity donations from the Mirror, Eurostar and Virgin combined, the ball was back just in time for the Euro’96 Championships in England, a tournament whose theme tune was aptly titled ‘Football’s Coming Home’.
But why did the former German midfielder have the ball in the first place? Haller, who had netted the opening goal in the 1966 Final, insisted that it was a German tradition for the first goalscorer to claim the match ball. But England a more celebrated tradition assigns that right to any player scoring a hat-trick.
Even so, amid the wild celebrations that ensued on that sun-kissed afternoon in July 1966, no-one in the England camp had stopped Haller from clutching the ball as he received his loser’s medal from the Queen, in full view of the watching millions. Nor had there been any complaints when he asked several England players to sign it at the post-match banquet that same evening.
Those signatures have long since faded, but the iconic ball – a 24 panel model handmade by a Slazenger employee, Malcolm Wainwright – retains far more than its amber glow. For this is English football’s Holy Grail, a symbol of victory, or, as one dewy-eyed observer noted after the ball’s return, the embodiment of our Faustian desire not to let a ‘beautiful moment’ fade away.