Rich Oxley:1972, Gunter Netzer, England v. West Germany

In 1972, aged 11, I experienced an awakening, a realisation that football existed beyond the shores of the UK.

I had heard about Ajax, but not seen them play. Remember this was an age before 24/7 football on TV and I was also young enough to have to go to bed before Sportsnight came on after 10.00 pm.

My only contact with anything that had a remotely foreign flavour, other than the Scots, Irish and Welsh players that each team contained, was seeing Tony Currie at Bramall Lane [sorry, weak but true].

That was until a match shown live [at least that is what I remember] in April 1972, when England played West Germany at Wembley.

I remember facing the realisation, for the very first time, that foreign players were better than English players - a realisation that is, unfortunately, still valid to this very day. The player that made this apparent to me was Gunter Netzer, who seemed to win the match by himself; a dominant player that controlled the game and projected a larger than life image - bigger and better than the English. In some ways he is perhaps the proto-type for the modern Bayern Munich player. Gunter left a lasting impression and opened my mind to appreciating the foreign player; which was a good thing as before too long you wouldn't have a choice.

Germany won this European Championship quarter-final first leg 3-1.

The strangest thing about this game is that we only had a black and white TV, if I did watch it home I can't envisage why I have vivid memories of the Germans playing in green. Either I watched it my friends house, who had a colour TV, or subsequent images from the newspapers and Shoot! magazine, replaced the images from watching the game in black and white. It is a long time ago!

Whatever, this game and Gunter Netzer made me appreciate the skills of foreign players for the first time. It seems this appreciation will never end. Thank you Gunter.

Rich Oxley

Memory added on December 11, 2013


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