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Jimmy Magee: My Memories from the World Cup


29-05-2014 11:30

With only two weeks to go until the FIFA World Cup kicks off in Brazil, Jimmy ’Memory Man’ Magee writes about the electric atmosphere of the World Cup in Argentina.

The following year I returned to South America for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. It was the second time that year I had been to Argentina, because I had also covered Ireland’s participation in the hockey World Cup a few months earlier.


But the trip for the World Cup began on a worrying note when, as we were coming in to land in Buenos Aires, the pilot decided to abort his landing at the last moment and steer the plane back into the sky. While doing this he narrowly missed the control tower, and passengers sitting around me were as white as ghosts and some were screaming. For me it wasn’t really a frightening experience, but it would have been if I fully realised what was going on. When I saw my fellow-passengers’ reaction I told them, out of bravado, that there was nothing to worry about. The pilot had to make three attempts to land before touching down.


When I wasn’t at games I would tag along with some of my colleagues to try the many wonderful restaurants in Buenos Aires. In fact the fellows had this thing about wanting to discover the best restaurant, and who had found it. To settle it all once and for all, four of us decided one night that we would have a dinner in Buenos Aires in five different restaurants. We had soup in one place, a starter in another, the main course in yet another, then desert in a fourth restaurant and coffee in a fifth. It was mad, but it was a sensational experience.

Of course it did help to have some perfect scenery—and I’m not talking about the landscape! For me Argentina can lay claim to having the most beautiful women in the world. The women between the ages of seventeen and twenty-four were just incredible. Yes, I was a happily married man, but I never felt it was a crime to admire such beauty.


The atmosphere at the matches was electric. Argentina were deserved winners of the tournament. They had some amazing players, such as ‘Ossie’ Ardiles, Mario Kempes, Daniel Passarella and Tarantini, who were managed by the chain-smoking César Menotti.

There were strange allegations about Peru throwing a match. I covered that match in Rosario. Before Argentina scored, Peru hit the post twice; so tell me how that could be a set-up. Argentina won, 6-0, and they had to win by four clear goals.

On the evening of the final, when they beat the Netherlands—who had also lost out in the previous World Cup at the last hurdle to Germany, after extra time—it was spectacular watching what appeared to be every fan in the stadium ripping up their tickets and throwing them high up in the air. I wouldn’t have envied the cleaning staff in the stadium!

Afterwards I struggled back to my hotel. There was no transport, but no problems; there was bedlam, but no rowdiness. I circumnavigated the estimated two million people wildly celebrating on the streets as they sang ‘Vamos, vamos, Argentina!’ All the singing and shouting, noise, singing, noise, singing . . . it went on and on.

Memory Man by Jimmy Magee is now available in hardback and as an ebook.



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