Clive Gammon, who this week writes our story (page 32) setting the scene at the most widely followed sports event there is—the World Cup—comes to soccer from the back door, so to speak. British football followers are divided into two camps, soccer and rugby, and Gammon was born and raised in Wales, the heartland of rugger. When he was at school, to be caught kicking a round ball was a serious offense, although. Gammon confides, "Some of us would disappear down to the beach and play soccer on the hard sand after the tide had gone out." Later he took up the game more openly, if briefly, when he was with the R.A.F. "Once we were playing in a gale," he says, "and, theorizing that the goalkeeper could not put much power into a clearance kick against that wind, I came up to block it. I spent the rest of the weekend in sick bay and was only slowly convinced that a hole had not been ripped through me. After that, I became a spectator."
But not in all sports. Gammon is widely known in the U.S. and Britain for his prowess as a fisherman, and his first story for this magazine, in 1966, recounted his adventures with three Irishmen in search of sea bass. It also featured a good deal about the 15-year-old John Jameson Special that stiffened up the morning coffee of the anglers and their guide. Fishing is not the only sport nor Ireland the only place in which Gammon has described elbows being bent; he has built a reputation as a recorder of the vins du pays that accompany sport, going from bass and whiskey as far afield as barracuda and tequila. He also has written on tennis, rugby, skiing, boxing, steeplechasing, greyhounds, jousting and something called "hunting from the clean boot."
Through it all Gammon has stuck with soccer, grimly rooting for his home team. Swansea City, as it slowly lost ground in the British football league. "Apart from losing," Gammon says indignantly. "Swansea City's specialty is selling off promising young players. A few seasons ago it surpassed itself by releasing a young Italian for no fee at all. This was Giorgio Chinaglia, now one of the stars of Italy's World Cup team and valued at $1.5 million."
Gammon's interest in soccer, beyond Swansea, was heightened by a tour of duty as a teacher in the north of England. "I spent my time at Old Trafford in Manchester when Manchester United was in its heyday," he says. "One thought then in local or perhaps national terms, but soccer now is truly international. Kids in England talk as familiarly of Real of Madrid or Bayern Munich as they do of Arsenal or Leeds United. The game has changed, too. It is less physical and far more skilled, but is also is much more defense-minded and predictable, which is why I think whoever wins the World Cup will do it with individual stars who can break through the pattern: Johan Cruyff of Holland, maybe, or Luigi Riva of Italy, or someone the fans have not yet heard of, as they had never heard of Pelé until he burst on a dumbfounded soccer world in Sweden in 1958."
June 30, 1974
Thus, the compleat angler and frustrated fan watches for the compleat soccer story to surface. He may even have a stein of Germany's finest to comfort him as he waits.