Pele and Bobby Moore

Iconic Photos looks back on one of the greatest moments of soccer and of sportsmanship. 

England and Brazil came into the 1970 world cup in Mexico with high hopes. England were the reigning champions; Brazil, the winners of 1958 and 1962, lost embarrassingly and were kicked out at the group stage in 1966. Now they were back, with a team of “five number 10s” – Pele, Jairzinho, Rivelino, Gerson and Tostao.

Many people predicted that the groupmatch between England and Brazil would be the dress rehearsal for the eventual inevitable final. It wasn’t, but the match in did not disappoint. Even today, even those who do not know much about football and its history (like your writer) would recognize the iconic moments from this match: Alan Ball’s and Jeff Astle’s misses, Bobby Moore’s tackle on Pele and, of course, Gordon Banks’s remarkable save from Pele’s header, which had been repeatedly called the best save ever.

Jairzinho’s memorable goal led to Brazil winning by 1 – 0, but this game still had one more iconic moment to offer: of Pele and Bobby Moore, the great striker and the great defender, exchanging their jerseys. What made this photo so timeless was that you can hardly tell who had won and who had lost based on their touch, their smiles, and their eyes. Both players considered it a defining moment of their careers.

The photo, which would later come to symbolize the World Cup passing from England to Brazil as the latter won the tournament that year, was taken by John Varley. After the final whistle, Varney stayed close to Bobby Moore, hoping that Pele would approach. He did, and the rest was photographic history.

Varney, one of a few photographers shooting in color, nearly didn’t make it to Mexico; his car had broken down, and he had to hitchhike. The Daily Mirror’s war and foreign correspondent, Varney was an avid football fan, and he requested in his contract that the newspaper give him a break every four years to cover the World Cup, which he did from 1966 to 1982.

(Correction: Originally, this photo was posted mirror-imaged; comments below and the New York Times point that Pelé should be on the left and Moore on the right. The Times also writes this picture broke down racial prejudices. That might be a little hyperbolic.)

33 thoughts on “Pele and Bobby Moore”

  1. If you look between their heads, you can see a banner it clearly says Mexico. The version you put up, is therefor the mirrored one. Other giveaways are the fact that people have their shutter button on the wrong side. Also almost all people in the picture are lefties?

  2. Re: mirror-image> The image presented here looks to be the mirrored image – this is suggested by the photographer in the background (right of Pele) notice the shutter finger – it appears as his left hand.

  3. Mirror-imaged or not? The photographers could give a glue. I can see two watches in “right” hands and some of the photographers seem to be left handed. This is not the the norm (at least where I come from) so I’d say this photo is mirrored.

  4. My grandad took this picture. Very Proud!

    It is the real picture as Pele should be on the left side of the pic.

    The guy who wrote this needs to get our surname right! Varley not Varney!

  5. Great photo and piece. There have been some iconic shots already in this World Cup. Robin Van Persie’s goal and celebration thereafter have to be high on the list.

  6. very interesting read thank you. I wasn’t around in the era of this so it was good to read something informative on the pictures and how they symbolism aided relations and a positive image of football in general.

  7. This is when men were men and football was sexy, unlike now, when football boils down to cash – filthy lucre. Last night’s Brazil v Mexico game boasted £400 million worth of footballers!

  8. I was in Indonesia at the time and remember seeing the photo on a magazine cover, but I hadn’t learned the language yet, so I didn’t know what the photo was about. But I recall being struck by it all the same.
    Race was still a front page issue in the US, and people on all sides of the race issues were struck by photos such as this one – two world-admired celebrities being human.

  9. While this picture didn’t break down racial prejudice, it was undoubtedly a step forward. Hard as it may be for younger people to imagine, back in 1970 Australian government was still kidnapping mixed race children under various laws like Victorian Aboriginal Protection Act 1869. Reagan (future American president) was calling African diplomats at U.N. ‘monkeys’ which made the then President Nixon laugh and share ‘the joke.’ Hollywood legend John Wayne was an open and quite proud racist. U.S. was waging an illegal war in Vietnam and calling people there ‘gooks, dinks, yellow men’ and other racist names. India, then one of the poorest country in the world, had taken in 15 million refugees from East Pakistan while Nixon and Kissinger were calling Indians ‘bastards.’

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