Every time the England of Southgate played a game of the World Cup in Russia, Gordon Banks (Sheffield, 1937) She approached the chest of drawers in her room, picked up a small red box, already discolored, opened it and caressed the gold medal that Queen Isabel had given her in the box at Wembley, on July 30, 1966 after winning the Copa del World.
It was his ritual. He believed that looking and caressing that medal could give luck to his team. He was also one of the few players in that final who retained that memory. Many had had to pawn her. He himself had sold, 15 years ago, the yellow jersey that he wore in the final against Germany, and auctioned his medal for 150,000 euros to help his children to buy a house. Then he recovered it. And when Gordon Banks became a professional footballer at Leicester, he charged only 20 pounds a week. He did not become rich, and also had to retire in 1972 after suffering a traffic accident in which he lost his right eye.
When Banks won the World Cup, soccer was only a man's thing, even in celebrations. When they arrived at the hotel in London with the Jules Rimet Cup, their women waited for them, after six weeks without being able to be together. Banks told his wife to get dressed for the celebration dinner, but Federation leaders told him that this was just a party for men. His wife stayed in the room. It was his first encounter with the FA; the last one, last June, when already ill of the kidney cancer of the deceased, felt marginalized by the federation, which did not invite the winners of the World Cup to the Russian appointment.
Banks arrived at Leicester, his first professional team, from Chesterfield. He had quit school in Yorkshire at the age of 15, and he could stop digging ditches and transporting bricks at a construction site. He played eight seasons and his only title was the World Cup, although he saved his club from relegation on several occasions. In 1967 he was transferred to Stoke City, where he remained seven seasons. He continued to be the goalkeeper of the English national team, with whom he played the World Cup in Mexico and in which he starred in what is considered the best stop in the history of the World Cup, after a center by Jairzinho and the shot by Pelé, chopped , which bounced on the ground, and the one that flew Banks from the first stick to get it out of the corner. In the quarterfinals, however, he played the substitute, Peter Bonetti. According to the official story, he drank a beer that made him feel bad. The unofficial affirms that it was not just one.
With the Stoke he won his only title in England, the League Cup of 1972. Then came the traffic accident and his return to the football fields in the United States, with the Cleveland Stokers and then with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. He was already in the decline of his career, which closed with 73 games with England.
He was considered the best goalkeeper in the world by FIFA for six consecutive years, at a time when goalkeepers were playing without gloves. A Banks, the best advice to be able to block the balls without fear of losing them was given Bert Trautmann, the German goalkeeper of Manchester City, paratrooper of the Lutwaffe, who was imprisoned in an English concentration camp after being captured on the western front. I had to chew two chewing gums and when they were sticky, stick them in my hand and then lick my palms with my tongue. In the semifinal of the 1996 World Cup, against Portugal, they forgot to take the chewing gum. The coach, Sir Alf Ramsey, sent his assistant to find a kiosk on Wembley Way to buy a package. Banks received them in the exit tunnel, with the teams already formed.
All those anecdotes reminded Gordon Banks in his last years, in his weekly walk with his ex-companions of Stoke City, each time a smaller group. From time to time he looked at his gold medal and remembered that 1966 World Cup they won "because we did not want to fail each other".