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Enigmatic, Prolific and a Gentleman par excellence – Bobby Moore, One of a kind

In the year 2002, the British Broadcasting Company made a television series named “100 Greatest Britons”. This was a television poll to determine the greatest Britons of all time in its history which goes beyond 1000 years.

As one would expect, there wasn’t much space in it for Footballers and only two names made it to the top 100 among a plethora of legends the land produced.

One was David Beckham, the English and Manchester United stalwart who didn’t just master his skills on the field but also became a fashion tycoon for the country.

The other was England’s World Cup-winning skipper and the greatest West Ham player of all time, Bobby Moore.

Some footballers bask in the glory of the clubs they represent, play a role in continuing the legacy forward. Some end up collecting trophies how kids collect shells in a sea and then there are individuals like Bobby Moore – who work hard until they no longer have to introduce themselves and finish their careers as not just one of the best, but also the nicest.

Journey from youth academy to replacing his mentor in the senior side

In his early teenage days, Moore joined Barking FC and in a matter of time, he stepped into the West Ham Youth Academy in 1956 Some of the junior coaches were so impressed with this teenager, who was always one step ahead of the attacker in front of him. Word of mouth did its job, Moore’s name was the talk of the hour in and around the club.

This was the time when West Ham rose up the ranks once again and managed to earn promotion to top division under the stewardship of Ted Fenton (In 1958) and their first game of the season was against Manchester United. This was just seven months after the Munich air disaster, which took the lives of many United stars.

Picture Source: FIFA

Prior to the start of this season, West Ham lost their biggest star player in Malcolm Allison, who was suffering from tuberculosis and a lung was removed from his body.

Allison never played a game again and on 2nd September 1958, Moore walked out as a Hammer wearing the number 6 jersey, replacing Allison as the center-half.

 Allison mentored the 18-year-old Moore and helped him read the game better. Blessed with great tactical awareness and foresight, the youngster kept rising up the ladder, and Allison in the background, was doing a tremendous job.

​He was beginning to make an impression all across the country and soon flew to South America with the English national squad for the friendlies before the 1962 World Cup. He eventually made his debut against Peru in a 4-0 win for the Three Lions.

 Also making his debut that day was Spurs’ Maurice Norman, who ended up forming the centre-back partnership in that edition of the World Cup for England, where they lost to Brazil in the quarter-finals

Captain of England and a love affair with Wembley

John Haynes had retired and Jimmy Armfield was suffering from an injury in 1963, when England had no other option but to look beyond them for the captain’s arm-band.

This was an important time as England were about to host the next World Cup, perhaps their best shot at winning the tournament for the first time.

A 23-year-old Moore was made England’s captain, at a time when he was at the top of his game. He was becoming one of the toughest defenders to play against. He wasn’t much into the dirty stuff, he would just anticipate every opposition move so well, he barely lunged into harsh tackles.

This was also the time when he found great success with West Ham. They won the FA Cup in 1964, first of the three big trophies he was about to lift at the Wembley in the years to come.

The European Cup Winners’ Cup, the second major trophy he lifted at the Wembley saw Moore escalate himself from one of the best in England to one of the best in the business.

Yet, the biggest prize was scheduled on 30th July, 1966 – World Cup final at the Wembley. England did not concede a single goal till they reached the semifinal, where only the legend of Eusebio could march past that defense and score.

 However, England emerged victorious 2-1 and Moore’s defensively solid Englishmen were about to face the nasty West Germans.

The greatest World Cup final of the 20th century

Geoff Hurst and Helmut Haller scored one each as both sides went into half-time at 1-1. Martin Peters’ 78th minute strike sent Wembley into wild celebrations, but Wolfgang Weber’s goal just one minute before normal time came against the run of play, stunning the home crowd.

In front of a 96,000 packed Wembley crowd, Geoff Hurst scored one of the most controversial goals in Football history which put England ahead in extra-time.

A heart-broken German unit ended up conceding another goal before full-time, making Geoff Hurst the first and only player to register a hat-trick in a World Cup final. After Extra time, it was England 4 – 2 Germany.

The dream was achieved – Bobby Moore, collected the Jules-Rimet Trophy in the city he was born, in front of the people who worshiped him and the ones he loved.

That day, England’s prolific center-half transcended from a great to a legend, having produced a stunning defensive performance throughout the tournament, all at the age of 25.

A gentleman, a hero, a once-in-a-lifetime “Hammer”

Picture Source: Four Four Two

In the following years, many big English and European clubs knocked Moore’s doors for a signature, but he was determined to offer his service only to the Hammers.

 He continued playing for England and also captained them in the 1970 World Cup, where the side narrowly lost out to Brazil in West Germany.

The group stage game between England and Brazil in that tournament gifted two of football’s most unforgettable moments, with Moore taking center stage. His tackle on Jarizinho is hailed as the most “perfect tackle” any defender ever pulled off.

And after the game, when he went towards Pele to exchange jerseys, an arch-rivalry between the greatest striker and greatest defender on the planet turned into a friendship.

The National Museum in Manchester still has both the shirts kept in the exhibition for the viewers. His heroics in 1970 earned him the runners-up spot in the Ballon d’Or race.

After 647 appearances for West Ham, he finally left the Boleyn Park and explored life in the US as a “Soccer” player. He also made his final appearance for England a year prior to this, taking his tally to 108 caps for the national side.

Life was rather harsh after retirement having shown him so much glory in his early days. Failed businesses, a broken marriage, underwhelming spells as a manager and eventually, lung cancer – There weren’t many special days.

On 24th February, 1993, Bobby Moore passed away aged just 51, sending shockwaves across the fraternity.

Some of the most eye-watering and touching tributes followed across the country to commemorate his life. A statue was built outside the same stadium where he lifted England’s only World Cup, the Wembley and years later in 2008, West Ham United announced that his number 6 jersey will be retired forever in his memory.

Moore’s legacy was his identity – As a footballer loyal to the club he’s supported all his life, a man who was more like a family to his teammates, a friend to every opponent off the field and a football mastermind like no other– he was just the perfect gentleman and ambassador for the game we all call beautiful.

The greatest centre-half the English lands had witnessed, a crowning jewel in the Hammers’ history and an icon every parent would want their kid to follow, Robert Frederick Chelsea Moore, best known as Bobby Moore, was born this day (April 12th), 1941. 

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