These may have been adults, lavishly dressed in expensive shirts, ties, slick cream cardigans, bowler hats and flash shoes, arriving at work, but this group could be forgiven for rolling about in the sand like big kids!
They had, after all, just arrived on the beach at Montevideo after a mammoth 15-day, cross-Atlantic voyage by ship!
The men in question were Belgians who had been granted two months paid leave from their regular day jobs to undertake in their riveting part-time ones: representing their country at the maiden FIFA World Cup™!
The Belgians had boarded the Conte Verde in Barcelona, joining Romania, France and FIFA President Jules Rimet, who had the Trophy in his suitcase! The Italian ocean liner then picked up Brazil en route to Montevideo.
The Belgians’ joy at arriving in the Uruguayan capital swiftly soured though. Hector Goetinick’s team lost 3-0 to USA in their Group 4 opener, before exiting the tournament following a 1-0 defeat by Paraguay.
Belgium appeared in ten of the 18 FIFA World Cups thereafter, with their personal best a fourth-placed finish at Mexico 1986.Then, though, Jean-Marie Pfaff, Eric Gerets, Jan Ceulemans and Enzo Scifo had the advantage of traveling first-class on an aircraft rather than spending over 350 hours of a ship!