via Juniper Jungle on Flickr Bobby Moore Statue outside Wembley Stadium.
Even people who never miss an opportunity to declare that they are utterly uninterested in sport could hardly fail to identify Bobby Moore as a national hero; he was famous not merely for great prowess on the football field, most conspicuously for leading England to victory in the 1966 World Cup final. Beyond anything else he conveyed the clear sense of an integrity that was entirely his own, a combative kind of integrity that is as unusual in football as it would be unusual anywhere.
Ken Jones (1993) Obituary: Bobby Moore, Available at:http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-bobby-moore-1475166.html(Accessed: 5th february 2015).
I thought this might be the best opening point to remember the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup win, this article will then look back on one of the most iconic images in post-war Britain, and then finally, the impact Moore’s death had upon the national psyche.
Chas Critcher, in his insightful article England and the World Cup : World Cup Willies, English Football and the myth of 1966 wrote of Bobby Moore’s death as being eulogised in the Daily Mirror editorial which describes him as a ‘great footballer’, ‘a true gentleman’, ‘an ambassador’ and ‘represented a past which the nation desperately needs to recover’. :-
Here in condensed form we can find the myth of the ‘66 and the elements which comprise it. First there is quite clearly the element of nationalism : an ambassador for his country, symbol of the nation’s triumph, loss to Britain. ……We look to the past for guidance but then admit we cannot reproduce it; nationalism is rooted in past glories with which present is unfavourable compared……The ‘pride in pulling on an England shirt’ has an implication been lost, it being a familiar complaint in the popular press that today’s players, cosseted and overpaid, lack real passion when playing for England.’
(Chas Critcher. (1994). England and the World Cup : World Cup Willies, English Football and the myth of 1966. In: Tomlinson. A and Sugden, J. Host and Champions : Soccer Cultures, National Identities and the USA World Cup. Aldershot: Arena. p.77-92.)
I want to now take a look at the impact of Bobby Moore on the British culture,as an emblematic footballer and as a ‘national treasure’ (as the Daily Mirror described him in their editorial).
The myth-making surrounding Bobby Moore is not unique. In 1965 and the passing of Sir Winston Churchill or more recently the eulogising of Princess Diana after her death in 1997 caused a national outpouring of grief that would affect society, media and culture.
In an article by Cath Davies from 2010 (Davies, C. (2010). Technological Taxidermy : Recognisable faces in celebrity deaths. Mortality. 15 (2), p.141.) She describes the ‘embalming tradition’ within the context of celebrity deaths within the digital age, saying:-
Aries (1994) describes the embalming tradition as a ‘certain refusal to accept death’ (p.99) and an integral concept in society’s willingness to confront the dead body in a wake for example. The concept of embalming is a restoration of a lifelike visage in a similar tradition to that of the taxidermist.
In Bobby Moore’s case, with his death being in 1993 and a precursor to the Internet age, the embalming tradition could be said to come via statues. Bobby Moore has two statues on public display. One, outside Wembley stadium (see above), one near the West Ham United football ground, where he predominantly played as a professional player. These ‘lifelike’ images portray Moore as a player and retain his youthful zest. The Metro newspaper, when the statue near West Ham was attacked, the persons who have defaced the statue with paint are called ‘scum’ by a twitter account (Bellshaw, G. 2015).
The damaging of statues in Britain, especially those of high prestige, is frowned upon by the English media. An example of this can be clearly seen when the Daily Mail described the student protest of 2010 as a ‘baying rabble of masked and hooded troublemakers’ after urinating on the Sir Winston Churchill outside Parliament Square.
In some ways, the death of Bobby Moore and its cultural resonance has antecedents in the 1989, with the Hillsborough disaster, when 96 Liverpool fans died during an FA Cup Semi-final in Sheffield. James Thomas said of the incident and its impact that it:-
Saw a marked intensification of this de-privatisation of death, beginning with …..Hillsborough [of 1989]…….The aftermath saw a rediscovery of communal mourning…….Flowers and scarves were left at Anfield. (Thomas, J (2002). Diana’s Mourning : A People’s History. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. p.91
Although Hillsborough was a loss of communal rather than individual proportions, the passing of Bobby Moore had a similar impact with flowers, shirts and scarves left outside West Ham United’s ground, Upton Park. Jack Santino has called them ‘spontaneous shrines’ saying :-
I use the word ‘shrine’ because these are more than memorials. They are places of communion between the dead and the living….They are sites of pilgrimage, as Grider has noted (2001). They commemorate and memorialize, but they do far more than that. They invite participation even from strangers. They are ‘open’ to the public. (Santino, J. (2006). Performative Commemoratives : Spontaneous Shrines and the Public Memorialization of Death. In: Santino, J Spontaneous Shrines and the Public Memorialization of Death. Houndmills: Palgrave. p5-16.)
The image of Bobby Moore always seems to remain strong within the English psyche. In being captain of the England World Cup winning team he is ‘the voice’ of the team.As an iconic image in victory as he is in defeat. It could be argued that the most iconic image Bobby Moore as England Captain is him being held aloft by his England team-mates whilst holding the Jules Rimet trophy. But the second image with which Bobby Moore is most likely associated with, is the 1970 World Cup game against Brazil (England had lost 1-0), in which a shirtless Pele and Moore exchange jerseys seems to underline two things.
Firstly, the image seems to highlight a time when players were able to be friends rather than opponents, in which a ‘win at any cost’ was not important and was played for the “joie de vivre”.
Secondly, it signifies Moore (and by consequence, as England captain, England) as someone who can get on with anyone from any country. This would be later emphasised by Bobby Moore’s biographer Jeff Powell, who uses quotes from ex-international opponents such as Franz Beckenbauer and Pele after Bobby Moore passed away, in which the latter says of Moore:-
He was my friend as well as the greatest defender I ever played against. The world has lost one of its greatest football players and an honourable gentleman.
(Powell, J (2014). Bobby Moore: The Definitive Biography. 2nd ed. London: Robson Press. p340.)
The iconographic relevance this image still resonates within [British] football culture, as it is used as the dust jacket of David Goldblatt’s opus ‘The Ball is Round’.
In conclusion, 23 years on from Bobby Moore death, his legacy of English mind still seems to be strong to some degree. Whether it is the statue at Wembley that looks down upon the fans, with him dressed in his England kit, the book cover dust jacket of a book or even more recently the Kickstarter funding of a new film BO66Y THE MOVIE – The Bobby Moore documentary, Bobby Moore carries a cultural relevance far beyond his footballing prowess.
*The Bobby Moore Fund can be found here. The Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK was set up by Stephanie Moore MBE, Bobby’s widow, in his memory to fund pioneering, life-saving bowel cancer research.
Ken Jones (1993) Obituary: Bobby Moore, Available at:http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-bobby-moore-1475166.html (Accessed: 5th february 2015).
James Thomas (2002) Diana’s Mourning : A People’s History, 1st edn., Cardiff: University of Wales.
Chas Critcher. (1994). England and the World Cup : World Cup Willies, English Football and the myth of 1966. In: Tomlinson. A and Sugden, J. Host and Champions : Soccer Cultures, National Identities and the USA World Cup. Aldershot: Arena. p.77-92.
Davies, C. (2010). Technological Taxidermy : Recognisable faces in celebrity deaths. Mortality. 15 (2), p.138-152.
Bellshaw, G. (2015). Statue of England’s 1966 World Cup heroes defaced on day of Premier League clash between West Ham and Chelsea Read more: Available: http://metro.co.uk/2015/10/26/statue-of-englands-1966-world-cup-heroes-defaced-on-day-of-premier-league-clash-between-west-ham-and-chelsea-5462956/. Last accessed 6th Feb 2016.
Harris, P. (2010). Defacing the Cenotaph, urinating on Churchill… how young thugs at student protest broke every taboo Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1337315/TUITION-FEES-VOTE-PROTEST-Thugs-deface.
Santino, J. (2006). Performative Commemoratives : Spontaneous Shrines and the Public Memorialization of Death. In: Santino, J. Spontaneous Shrines and the Public Memorialization of Death. Houndmills: Palgrave. p5-16.
Jeff Powell (2014) Bobby Moore: The Definitive Biography