When the stadium announcer in Stockholm introduced the friendly match between Spain and Sweden in 1951 with the words: "Take a look at the second-best head in Europe after Churchill", it was clear to everyone present that Telmo Zarraonandia Montoya was the subject in question.
The former Athletic Bilbao forward still retains iconic status in Spanish football due to the astonishing number of goals, especially headers, he scored throughout his career. However, one strike in particular, this time with his foot, was enough to secure him a lifetime of hero worship. Mention 'Zarra's goal' to any Spain fan and they will instantly know which of the more than 350 he scored is being referred to.
The famed goal was Zarra's first-time dink over England goalkeeper Bert Williams in Spain's final group game at the 1950 FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil. The 1-0 victory at the Estadio do Maracana over the 'Perfidious Albion', as England were dubbed in the media at the time, helped the Iberians into the four-team final round, which included the famous title-decider between Uruguay and Brazil. Spain finished a respectable fourth, which was their highest placing for many years at a World Cup.
Years later, Zarra gave his version of events: "Gabriel Alonso burst forward from the back and when he approached [Estanislao] Basora, he crossed towards the back post. It went to Gainza, who headed it back across goal. [Silvestre] Igoa let it go past him and an English defender couldn't hook it clear. I was running in and just hit it."
His description is rather more modest than the eulogising commentary of Matias Prats, who conveyed the action for the Spanish population on radio, with live television broadcasts unavailable at the time.
That Zarra should score such an important goal is all the more striking when set against the backdrop of his childhood. The seventh of ten siblings, Zarra, whose railwayman father disapproved of the game, was known as 'scared little Temo'. "I've always been very shy and timid - even on the pitch," the former forward once said.
He started out playing in his neighbourhood team, but was soon scouted by Athletic Bilbao, who were looking for players to rebuild their side following the civil war. It turned out to be an inspired signing, as Zarra netted a brace on his league debut against Valencia, setting the tone for the remainder of his career.
Zarra's total of 251 league goals, scored when there were only either 14 or 16 participating teams, still stands as the record tally in the Spanish top flight. Furthermore, he still holds the honour of finishing as top scorer most frequently, having won the pichichi on six occasions.
His incredible feat of 38 goals in the 1950/51 campaign was the single-season best mark for over 50 years. Only Hugo Sanchez managed to equal it, before Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi overtook him. It should be noted, however, that Zarra only needed 30 games to rack up his total.
Rafael Iriondo, who, alongside Zarra, Venancio Perez, Jose Luis Panizo and Agustin Gainza, formed part of one of the most devastating front lines in Bilbao's 100 year-plus history, described playing with Zarra thus: "You could just hit the ball forward because you knew he'd be there and would score".
Somewhat paradoxically, Bilbao's triumph in the 1945 Spanish Cup final also marked one of the lowest points of Zarra's playing days, as he was sent off for the only time in his career. Zarra called the moment a "misunderstanding", after the referee interpreted a "joking" gesture as one of aggression. A goal from Iriondo eased his pain considerably, earning Los Leones a 3-2 victory over Valencia.
In 1955, 15 years after joining the club, Zarra decided to make way for younger players to have their chance to shine. He continued playing, without payment, in the second division for a further two years.
After hanging up his boots for good, Zarra moved into the business world, setting up a sports shop and a restaurant, although he still took part in benefit matches from time to time to raise money for various charities.
Given the manner in which Zarra is revered in Bilbao, it is curious that the testimonial promised to him in his final contract with the club was not played until 1997. That match between Bilbao and a select league 11 included, among other famous faces, Bert Williams, the English goalkeeper who conceded the now mythical goal in the Maracana all those years ago.
Zarra passed away aged 85 following a heart attack on 23 February 2006.
Date of birth: 20 January 1921 (Date of death: 23 February 2006)
Place of birth: Erandio (Bilbao, Spain)
Clubs: Erandio Club (1939/40), Athletic Bilbao (1940-1955), SD Indautxu (1955/56), Baracaldo AHV (1956/57)
National team: 20 matches, 20 goals
Spanish championship: (1943)
5 Copa del Reys: (1943, 1944, 1945, 1950, 1955)
Copa Eva Duarte: (1950)
6 times top scorer in the Spanish League (Pichichi winner): 1945, 1946, 1947, 1950, 1951, 1953
Top scorer in league history (251 goals)
Top scorer in cup history (81 goals)
In the player’s honour, Spanish sports daily Marca created the Zarra Trophy, awarded to the Spanish national with the highest number of goals in La Liga every season.
Zarra’s father hardly batted an eye when his son scored that historic goal at the Maracana. Having never approved of Telmo’s choice of profession, he simply continued his card game as normal.