“In hindsight it seems natural that (they) should have arrived in our living room the year after the first moon landing. They were, after Apollo11, the second great event of the new telecultural age.”
Garry Jenkins journey in search of Pelé and the 1970 Brazilians began when he was a 12 year old, living in a small village in West Wales, and dazzled by the images on his television.
The Mexico World Cup was the first to be widely broadcast in colour and multi-racial Brazil, brilliant in gold and blue against the bleached turf, embraced the new palette as if it had been created for them.
World Cup winners define successive epochs in the game and the way it is won. The casual brilliance of the Brazilians was the fullest expression to date of everything that is beautiful about the sport.
Jenkins meets the surviving titans and finds unexpected answers to the questions of how they came to play the way they did and why the world has waited in vain for the Brazilians to show us again the summits that can be reached by 11 men and a football.
Following their progress from ignominious defeat in the 1966 tournament to the legendary dismissal of Italy and the rest of the world four years later, Jenkins vividly recreates the games themselves, but it is the stories from off the pitch that make this a uniquely entertaining portrait.
This thoughtfully crafted work is infinitely richer than the usual, breathless homages to the team. A definitive tribute to the definitive 11. —Alex Hankin