In the final part of our three-part interview with Roy Hodgson, the England manager speaks about his FIFA World Cup™ memories from 1958, when he was just ten years old, to 1994 as coach of Switzerland.
Having also toured Germany in 2006 as a member of FIFA's Technical Study Group and worked as a pundit for the BBC in 2010, Hodgson has had a wide experience of World Cups from which to draw. And as the former Inter Milan and Liverpool boss told FIFA.com, he believes that Brazil 2014 will be a little special.
FIFA.com: What is the first FIFA World Cup you remember? Roy Hodgson: 1958 would be the first one, but mainly because of my time in Sweden when I sort of got reacquainted with it. It was something that should have interested England and Great Britain enormously, as I think it’s the last time all four home nations actually took part. I learned a lot about the ’58 World Cup in Sweden and in particular I became close friends with Orvar Bergmark, who for many years was the most-capped player in the world with his 92 caps. That’s been surpassed many times since, but around the 1958 mark he was right up there. And of course, playing against us, managers and colleagues, a lot of the people who played in that: Bengt Gustavsson and Agne Simonsson. All of these people were coaches in Sweden when I was there, and famous players from the ’58 team. Then when I went going to Italy I got to know Nils Leidholm and Gunnar Gren, so I got to know seven or eight of the team and took more interest, I suppose. The ’62 World Cup I don’t remember well. And the ’66 one I of course remember very, very well!
Where were you during 1966?
At Crystal Palace, trying to be a player!
Brazil is considered such a football crazy country, where the people basically live for the game. Being a footballer is as good as it gets for anybody in Brazil.
What are your memories of the tournament? Did you go to any of the games?
No. To be fair, aside from the games that were played at Wembley, a lot of the games were played around the country at that time. I was never in a position to get a ticket to be perfectly honest. So I watched the games on TV. I remember the games and the England games quite well. I remember the various moments and controversies. The same with ’70. We had high hopes of doing well because the ’70 team was as strong as the ’66 team on paper because we still had the remnants of the ’66 team and a few interesting younger players had come on the scene. In ’74 I was in South Africa, so I only saw the Final. And I saw that in retrospect. I drove from Pretoria to Johanesburg to Wits University. They actually bought the tape of the film for their students and me and my friend were playing in Pretoria, we drove up and got ourselves tickets and watched it in a hall. It was just a taped version of the Final. We knew the score. But that’s the only game we actually saw in ’74. Then obviously in ’78 I was in Sweden so I quite liked following that one.
Which teams or which matches, particularly of the later World Cups, stick out for you?
It has to be 1994 when I was involved with Switzerland. I remember all of the games, but in particular the first two, the ones played in Detroit against America and then Romania. I remember those very, very well. Both were in an indoor dome, where they rolled the grass in, which was quite revolutionary at the time. I think in Europe it was only Arnhem (GelreDome) that had a similar system, where they had a dome allowing them to roll in different surfaces. It was quite a novelty in that respect.
The humidity in the games there was extreme, wasn’t it?
Our third game, in Palo Alto, was right in the midday sun. In terms of actual temperature it was the hottest. It was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, because it was right in the heat of the day, with the sun right above you in California. But the worst, in terms of heat and humidity, I thought was the Silverdome in Detroit. They measured the temperature in the low 30s (Celsius) but because it was very hot outdoors, indoors it was even hotter and of course you get the humidity in there as well. Washington I don’t remember as being too bad. I think it was in the evening, a later kick-off, and I remember Washington being a normal summer’s day, in the mid-20s.
What do you think will make the World Cup in Brazil so special?
I think the real feeling that this World Cup is special because of Brazil’s relationship to football. Everybody associates Brazil with football. Partly because of the success the Brazilian national teams have had and the tournaments they’ve won. But it’s not just that, it’s all the Brazilian players who have played all over the world. They export so many thousands of players. We’re all used to seeing the Copacabana and other beaches filled with people playing on the sand and Brazil is considered such a football crazy country, where the people basically live for the game. Being a footballer is as good as it gets for anybody in Brazil.
The other thing is the nature of the country: the colour, the samba dancing, the carnivals, the people, the incredible ethnicity of the place. It’s a true melting pot. And of course, the pictures of Rio de Janeiro with Sugarloaf and Christ the Redeemer statue - they’re iconic images. I think you could show a picture of the Christ the Redeemer statue to anyone in the world and ask, ‘Where’s this?’ And I would think almost everyone would say, ‘Rio de Janeiro.’ So I think we associate Brazil with football and also with the samba and the colour. And of course there aren’t that many people who can remember the World Cup in Brazil in 1950. We’re talking 64 years ago, so you probably have to be well into your 70s to say, ‘I remember the ’50 World Cup’. This one coming up is like a new event.