An appeal is being made to help find members of a County Durham youth football team that beat the Germans in their own back garden the day after England won the World Cup.
As part of an exchange with County Durham’s partner area of Kreis Moers – now known as Kreis Wesel – a team of under-18s from schools and youth clubs across the county defeated their German counterparts on 31 July 1966. With the 50th anniversary this year, Durham County Council’s International Office is trying to help two of the players track down their former teammates so they can hold a reunion to commemorate their victory.
As well as being key players for the team, Graham Comer and Brian Hopkins were best friends in 1966 and remain so nearly fifty years later. With the exchange arranged months in advance, neither of them dared to dream that England would reach the final, let alone against Germany and go on to win. But, on 30 July 1966, the group found themselves watching the match on a big screen in a dance hall in Rheinhausen, cheering England on alongside over 100 Germans students.
Graham, a former physics teacher who is now semi-retired but still working part time at Tanfield School, said: “The atmosphere was good natured but fraught at times – especially when Germany equalised in the 89th minute! Our hosts were extremely gracious in defeat though and when we all went back to the homes of the families we were staying with they insisted that we sat at the head of the table in celebration of England winning.”
The real match, however, was still to come and the boys lined up the next day against the Kreis Moers team determined to do as well as the national side. Which they did, with a solid victory, although exactly how solid is slightly uncertain some 49 years later. Graham and Brian are certain that they scored six and won, with Brian getting two goals – one a tap-in after a free kick from Graham came back off the bar – and think the final result was County Durham 6-4 Kreis Moers.
Graham continued: “With the fiftieth anniversary coming up we’d love to be able to have a reunion with the other lads from the team. So we’re hoping they see this or someone they know does and gets in touch with the council so we can make it a reality. It would be great if we could all get together again after so many years and even better if one of them can remember the final score!”
Brian Stobie, Durham County Council’s international officer, said: “We’re delighted to try and help reunite the team. Over the years we’ve arranged many collaborations and exchanges with our partner area in Germany and across the world which have strengthened County Durham’s international standing and given unique learning experiences to hundreds of young people.”
People with information about the team and their current whereabouts are asked to email the council’s International Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
County Durham and Kreis Wesel have a long history of exchanges and collaborations. Recent projects include pupils from Park View School visiting Germany in autumn last year researching employability and language skills. Pupils from Germany also memorably visited their counterparts at Seaham School of Technology to re-enact the First World War’s Christmas Day truce football match in December 2014.