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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Somerset

1966 World Football Cup

Even the most apathetic will be aware that the World Football Cup has recently been taking place. The 21st tournament, which has been held in Russia, had its final match on Sunday 15 July. In light of the football fever it seemed an appropriate time to share the story of how the Jesuits had a football team stay with them during the 1966 Cup.

The inclusion of this photograph of Fr Peter Blake SJ with some footballers in the timeline of the most recent Jesuit and Friends issue reminded me that there were some artefacts of interest in the Loyola Hall archive collection, which came to the

Jesuits in Britain Archives in 2014.

Back in 1966 the 8th World Cup was held in England from 11 to 30 July. Although perhaps it is best remembered in this country as the occasion on which England was victorious, it was also notable for North Korea, who as a debutant, reached the quarter finals after a 1-0 win against Italy.

In the Province Notes of Letters and Notices of November 1966 a section entitled ‘Communists at Loyola Hall’ gives a description of how the North Korean team came to stay at Loyola Hall in Liverpool. The Italian team had expected to be in the Finals of the World Cup and had so arranged to stay at Loyola Hall. However, the North Korean team, who had had no such hope and therefore had not made any arrangements, asked if they could take the place no longer needed by the Italians. According to the extract,

There were about 30 players and 40 organizers, including their own cooks. They stayed almost a full week …They were very well behaved,according to their ideas, and seemed pleased with everything that was done for them. Of course, the language difficulty stood in the way offraternization. They had with them some interpreters, including one wife who was a Korean from London, the only woman in the party. As theywere bidding farewell, their leader brought an elaborate ink-stand as a gift to Fr Blake and some “elixir of life”, specially made in Korea.

Among the small box containing material commemorating the Korean World Cup football team’s visit to the Hall in the Loyola Hall archive there is the book Game of their Lives…: the greatest shock in World Cup history: the book of the film, 2002. The documentary, Game of their Lives..., which was first broadcast by the BBC shortly before the start of the 2002 World Cup and shown in its entirety in both North and South Korea, was the result of unprecedented access to North Korea granted to an independent production company VeryMuchSo in 2001. They found the surviving members of the 1966 football team and told their story. We do not have a copy of the film itself, but the book provides some further insights into this historic stay.

The Italians were booked to come. Because this is a Roman Catholic centre I suppose it was the natural place for them to think of coming to stay when they were here. When they got knocked out, the North Koreans hadn’t got anywhere booked. I don’t know if they hadn’t been expecting to get through, but they certainly didn’t have anywhere. So we got a frantic contact from them saying could they possibly stay here instead. At the time, this place would have mainly been used by priests and nuns and perhaps a few particularly religious laypeople. You certainly wouldn’t have expected a communist football team to be here at all.(p 65)

It is interesting to hear the impression of a North Korean visitor that is given on the next page of the book as:

Over the desk were many strange objects, pictures and things. Looking at them made it difficult to stay there… At night, when I looked outside, Icould see a chapel. Inside was a statue of Jesus on the Cross with scary nails in his palms. In the middle of the night, this chapel was lit by aspotlight. It was the first time we had seen such things. They caused us worry and fear, and we couldn’t sleep well. (p 67)

Among the collection there are also a small football signed in 2002 by members of the 1966 Korean World Cup team, a DPR Korea pennant signed by players and lapel badges.

If you would like to know more about the Loyola Hall archives or would like to find out more about the Jesuits in Britain Archives please contact us.

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