By Onochie Anibeze

I remember many things about FOOTBALL COMING HOME.

I remember the slogan was popularised at Euro ’96 when England hosted the championship.

They worked so hard to host and win and celebrate the return of the beautiful game to it’s home.

Modern football, history tells us, started  in England in 1863. But the game appeared to have ‘travelled’ to other places where it found better homes as expressed in Brazilain Samba, Italian Catenaccio etc.

It pained the English that other countries became the symbols of the game they founded and still promote more than those now revered for it. Till date, they have only one World Cup to tell their story against Brazil (5 times), Germany (4times); Italy (4 times) and Argentina (2 times).

Euro ’96 was remarkable. It remains evergreen in my memory. It was one of the best championships I ever covered. Organisation was first class. The games were exciting.

I remember radio and television stations playing FOOTBALL IS COMING HOME as programme promotion jingles. It went ‘football is coming home, is coming home, is coming home, football is coming home.’

 I remember fans on the streets and everywhere singing it all the time.

The frenzy was unbelievable. England superbly stood behind their team and influenced everybody with their passion.

I remember Uncle Sam, our sports loving publisher, asking me why my reports portrayed England better than the kick and rush football they were known for. I told him that Terry Venables, their manager had changed all that. I remember Uncle Sam agreeing with me when the games started.

Nigerians admired the possession football Arsene Wenger introduced in Arsenal but it was actually Venables that started the revolution at Tottenham and continued with the national team.

England were superb at Euro ’96. They played amazing football. With David Seaman in goal, Garry Neville and Stuart Pearce at full backs. Adams and Southgate in central defence, Paul Ince, Steve McManamam, Paul Gascoigne, Teddy Sheringham and Alan Shearer; England were on the journey to bring football home but were unlucky to lose to Germany in a dramatic penalty shootout in a game they actually dominated.

If you say luck doesn’t count in football watch that match again. After mesmerizing their opponents and hitting the post two times they lost in a shootout they prepared five players who all scored. Germany also scored their five kicks. When it got to sudden death, Garry Southgate beckoned on the manager to allow him play. And that was how Germany beat them 6-5.

I remember Tony Ubani reading my report and casting a wonderful, captivating and award-winning headline, ENGLAND OUT THROUGH SOUTHGATE.

 The atmosphere at Euro ’96 was stupendous. If you never played the game and stepped into Wembley on the day England played and given England jersey I’m sure some spirit would have turned you into a player!

It was simply amazing. Gazza’s goal against Scotland in their 2-0 victory still stands as one of the best goals in English football. The flick over the head of charging defender and the clinical finish were a beauty to watch. Some said it intoxicated. And England boozed till morning.

Gazza reminded many of the skills of Chris Waddle, whose skills made him extraordinary in England. Venables had changed England and they were entertaining. Wembley still had the Twin Towers and about the greatest football shrine.

Scots had a song on their way to Twin Towers. WEMBLEY, WEMBLEY, WEMBLEY, WE’RE GOING TO WEMBLEEEEEY! They surged at train stations. The sights were amazing. I remember a kiosk that was also a newspaper stand at Brixton. There I saw Vanguard Newspaper, selling for one Pound Sterling when many newspapers sold for between 75 to 90 pence. I remember that only the Times and one other paper sold for one pound sterling at the time. I remember doing a dairy material on this with a title EXPENSIVE VANGUARD.

I remember being admired for wearing my media accreditation which showed I was freely going to Wembley. Going to Wembley of the Twin Towers era was special. I remember meeting Boris Becker and Ian Wright at Euro ’96. I remember meeting Daily Mirror’s Harry Harry who was acclaimed for his many exclusive stories that Exclusive became part of his name, Harry Harry Exclusive. I remember meeting the great Pele also in England. 

I remember soft drink giants, Coca Cola offering to sponsor me to the Atlanta Olympic Games , after their Corporate Affairs desk monitored Vanguard’s coverage of Euro ’96. Those good memories, the electric atmospheres of Euro ’96 flashed back to me Wednesday night when England qualified for the final of the ongoing European Championship. Can they bring the game home now? After the 1966 World Cup, England will be attempting to win another football diadem.

It’s been such a long time. One can understand the atmosphere in England as they file out tomorrow against Italy, three-time champions of the World Cup and once European champions in 1968.

England have done so much for the game. Arguably, they run the best league. But they have not leveraged from their investment in terms of titles. They have a rich football culture. You can’t fault their organisation of the game. But theirs have not been a sweet commentary with regard to titles.

And as they face Italy tomorrow, my heart is with them. The Italy I saw against Spain on Tuesday have the team to beat the England we saw against Denmark Wednesday night. However, anything can happen. The atmosphere at Wembley can spur them on to be in the history books like Sir Alf Ramsey and his boys of 1966.

What a classic and unique event it will be for football to come home through Southgate who is England manager. Italy may have the game, England may have the luck. The best don’t always win. It happened to England at Euro ’96. The gods may be with them this time otherwise Italy may be it. And if it’s England, Tony Ubani will be on duty to cast a fitting headline. Read Vanguard, always.

Vanguard News Nigeria

I remember many things about FOOTBALL COMING HOME.

I remember the slogan was popularised at Euro ’96 when England hosted the championship.

They worked so hard to host and win and celebrate the return of the beautiful game to it’s home.

Modern football, history tells us, started  in England in 1863. But the game appeared to have ‘travelled’ to other places where it found better homes as expressed in Brazilain Samba, Italian Catenaccio etc.

It pained the English that other countries became the symbols of the game they founded and still promote more than those now revered for it. Till date, they have only one World Cup to tell their story against Brazil (5 times), Germany (4times); Italy (4 times) and Argentina (2 times).

Euro ’96 was remarkable. It remains evergreen in my memory. It was one of the best championships I ever covered. Organisation was first class. The games were exciting.

I remember radio and television stations playing FOOTBALL IS COMING HOME as programme promotion jingles. It went ‘football is coming home, is coming home, is coming home, football is coming home.’

 I remember fans on the streets and everywhere singing it all the time.

The frenzy was unbelievable. England superbly stood behind their team and influenced everybody with their passion.

I remember Uncle Sam, our sports loving publisher, asking me why my reports portrayed England better than the kick and rush football they were known for. I told him that Terry Venables, their manager had changed all that. I remember Uncle Sam agreeing with me when the games started.

Nigerians admired the possession football Arsene Wenger introduced in Arsenal but it was actually Venables that started the revolution at Tottenham and continued with the national team.

England were superb at Euro ’96. They played amazing football. With David Seaman in goal, Garry Neville and Stuart Pearce at full backs. Adams and Southgate in central defence, Paul Ince, Steve McManamam, Paul Gascoigne, Teddy Sheringham and Alan Shearer; England were on the journey to bring football home but were unlucky to lose to Germany in a dramatic penalty shootout in a game they actually dominated.

READ ALSO: Resuscitate roles of media as watchdog, vanguard of democracy now — Masari tell Editors

If you say luck doesn’t count in football watch that match again. After mesmerizing their opponents and hitting the post two times they lost in a shootout they prepared five players who all scored. Germany also scored their five kicks. When it got to sudden death, Garry Southgate beckoned on the manager to allow him play. And that was how Germany beat them 6-5.

I remember Tony Ubani reading my report and casting a wonderful, captivating and award-winning headline, ENGLAND OUT THROUGH SOUTHGATE.

 The atmosphere at Euro ’96 was stupendous. If you never played the game and stepped into Wembley on the day England played and given England jersey I’m sure some spirit would have turned you into a player!

It was simply amazing. Gazza’s goal against Scotland in their 2-0 victory still stands as one of the best goals in English football. The flick over the head of charging defender and the clinical finish were a beauty to watch. Some said it intoxicated. And England boozed till morning.

Gazza reminded many of the skills of Chris Waddle, whose skills made him extraordinary in England. Venables had changed England and they were entertaining. Wembley still had the Twin Towers and about the greatest football shrine.

Scots had a song on their way to Twin Towers. WEMBLEY, WEMBLEY, WEMBLEY, WE’RE GOING TO WEMBLEEEEEY! They surged at train stations. The sights were amazing. I remember a kiosk that was also a newspaper stand at Brixton. There I saw Vanguard Newspaper, selling for one Pound Sterling when many newspapers sold for between 75 to 90 pence. I remember that only the Times and one other paper sold for one pound sterling at the time. I remember doing a dairy material on this with a title EXPENSIVE VANGUARD.

I remember being admired for wearing my media accreditation which showed I was freely going to Wembley. Going to Wembley of the Twin Towers era was special. I remember meeting Boris Becker and Ian Wright at Euro ’96. I remember meeting Daily Mirror’s Harry Harry who was acclaimed for his many exclusive stories that Exclusive became part of his name, Harry Harry Exclusive. I remember meeting the great Pele also in England. 

I remember soft drink giants, Coca Cola offering to sponsor me to the Atlanta Olympic Games , after their Corporate Affairs desk monitored Vanguard’s coverage of Euro ’96. Those good memories, the electric atmospheres of Euro ’96 flashed back to me Wednesday night when England qualified for the final of the ongoing European Championship. Can they bring the game home now? After the 1966 World Cup, England will be attempting to win another football diadem.

It’s been such a long time. One can understand the atmosphere in England as they file out tomorrow against Italy, three-time champions of the World Cup and once European champions in 1968.

England have done so much for the game. Arguably, they run the best league. But they have not leveraged from their investment in terms of titles. They have a rich football culture. You can’t fault their organisation of the game. But theirs have not been a sweet commentary with regard to titles.

And as they face Italy tomorrow, my heart is with them. The Italy I saw against Spain on Tuesday have the team to beat the England we saw against Denmark Wednesday night. However, anything can happen. The atmosphere at Wembley can spur them on to be in the history books like Sir Alf Ramsey and his boys of 1966.

What a classic and unique event it will be for football to come home through Southgate who is England manager. Italy may have the game, England may have the luck. The best don’t always win. It happened to England at Euro ’96. The gods may be with them this time otherwise Italy may be it. And if it’s England, Tony Ubani will be on duty to cast a fitting headline. Read Vanguard, always.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.