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.)