240 years of greatness

Between 23 and 31 October we are marking the birthdays of three footballers who all enjoyed glittering careers which were capped by starring roles in winning a World Cup Final. On 31 October, Fritz Walter, the captain of West Germany at the 1954 World Cup, would have celebrated his 100th birthday. 23 October marks Pelé’s 80th birthday, while on 30 October Diego Maradona turns 60.

To mark these 240 years of greatness we have been digging in our archives and will present to you ten pictures and historical facts for each of the three star players. We're also giving away three World Cup books to commemorate their place in football history. Scroll down to participate.

We start the series by paying tribute to Pelé and his role in a game that many regard as one of the finest of all time - the 1970 World Cup Final.

Pelé - 23.10.1940

Pele with Mario Zagalo

Pelé (on the left) said of coach João Saldanha that, "whenever we saw a group in one corner of the pitch, we knew João had invited someone there to settle things with fists." Saldanha was sacked before the finals when he allegedly confronted a critic with a gun. He was replaced by Mario Zagalo (on the right). © SportArchive / FIFA Museum

Pelé in the stands

Until 1974, only those players who took part in the Final itself received a winners medal. But Pelé (in the stands with a mini Chilean flag) ended up with three, despite only taking part in two Finals, because the Brazil football association made medals for the whole squad. © Popperfoto / GettyImages

Pelé and Tarcisio Burgnich

When Pelé (on the left) rose above Burgnich (right) to open the scoring in the 1970 Final, it was Brazil’s 100th goal at the World Cup. Pelé wasn’t the first, however, to score in two Finals as team mate Vava had scored in both the 1958 and 1962 World Cup Finals. © Popperfoto / GettyImages

Pelé's iconic celebration

Pelé’s iconic celebration was used by the military for propaganda purposes to help justify a brutal regime. “It had always been my way of celebrating a goal, with my fist in the air. The World Cup was played during a very troubled period. The connotation was not fair. It had nothing to do with what was happening in that period.” © SportArchive / FIFA Museum

Pelé celebrating a goal

Just four players have scored three goals in a World Cup Final. Along with Pelé (number 10) (1958 and 1962) are Vava (1958 and 1962), England’s Geoff Hurst (1966) and Zinedine Zidane of France (1998 and 2006). © Popperfoto / GettyImages

Pelé taking a free-kick

Pelé (second from the right) was denied a record fourth goal in a World Cup Final. Once again he had got the better of Burgnich following a free-kick, but just as he was firing the ball past Albertosi, the referee blew for half-time - a few seconds early according to the stadium clock. © Rolls Press / Popperfoto / GettyImages

Jairzinho celebration his goal at the 1970 World Cup Final

Pele (third from the left) can be accredited with two assists in the 1970 Final. For Brazil’s third goal he beat Burgnich (again!) to a header from which Jairzinho (on the left) bundled the ball over the line. © Rolls Press / Popperfoto / GettyImages

Carlos Alberto celebrates after scoring

Brazil’s fourth goal has been described as the greatest goal in a World Cup Final, personified by the way in which Pele (arms raised in the background) nonchalantly laid a simple square pass into the path of Carlos Alberto (celebrating in foreground) for Brazil’s fourth goal. It has been called the President’s goal as the Brazilian President had predicted they would score four. © Popperfoto / GettyImages

The Brazilian Team before kick-off

Pele is in no doubt as to the status of the 1970 team he played in. “This Brazil team was the best team of all time, without a doubt.” © Popperfoto / GettyImages

Pelé with the Jules Rimet Cup

1970 was the last we saw of the fabled Jules Rimet Cup as it was retired and later stolen. Pele was given a replica which he sold at auction in 2016 for half a million dollars to Swiss watch makers Hublot. © Popperfoto / GettyImages

Diego Armando Maradona – 30.10.1960

In the second of our series celebrating landmark birthdays over the past week, we pay tribute to Diego Maradona who turns 60 on 30 October. What better way of marking the birthday of one of the all-time great footballers than by focusing on the day he and Argentina conquered the world in 1986.

When Diego Maradona lined up for the 1986 World Cup Final it was his first. It could, however, have been his second. He had been part of the initial selection for the 1978 tournament won by Argentina but didn’t make the final cut. “I cried my eyes out when I was left out,” Maradona recalls. Afterwards he joined in the celebrations at the Obelisk after the Final. “The fact that I hadn’t been called into the national team was no reason not to celebrate the victory. Flaco Menotti had not been wrong, since he had won the World Cup.” © Bob Thomas / GettyImages

Maradona and Platini came to the 1986 World Cup with the reputation as the best players in the world, but there was to be no dream Final between the two of them. “Great players like Platini do not get the same importance because they haven’t won the World Cup,” according to Carlos Bilardo, Argentina’s coach in 1986. “Maradona won the World Cup, so he gets all the attention. If France had won, Platini would have been the superstar.” © Buzzi / Imago

Having scored all of Argentina’s goals in their quarter-final and semi-final wins, Maradona didn’t get onto the scoresheet in the Final. Instead, Argentina’s first goal was scored by Jose-Luis Brown, a relation of the famous Brown brothers, two of whom played in Argentina’s first ever game in 1902. It was the only international goal scored by Brown in his 36 caps. © Bob Thomas / GettyImages

Jorge Valdano, who scored Argentina’s second goal in the Final, was in no doubt that he was playing alongside a genius. “We were very lucky to find a Maradona who was from another planet, who was at his peak of his professional career. He was generous, brave, with a great sense of the team.” © Bob Thomas / GettyImages

The biggest duel of the day was between Maradona and West Germany captain Lothar Matthäus. With the score at 2-0 and the game drawing to a close, Matthäus was released from his marking duties and the Germans fought back, scoring two late goals from corners. @ Michael King / GettyImages

When West Germany levelled the scores at 2-2, after having been 2-0 behind, heads didn’t go down in the Argentina team according to Jorge Valdano. “I said to Maradona and Burruchaga that we had lost a great opportunity, but they were very calm. They told me not worry and that we were going to win. There was a great serenity and self-confidence in the team at that moment.” © Bob Thomas / GettyImages

Rudi Völler’s equalising goal was the last for a losing team in the Final until 2006. Only three losing Finalists have scored since - Zidane in 2006, and Croatia’s Perisic and Mandzukic in 2018. In fact, Maradona and Argentina were the first ever team to fail to score in a World Cup Final when they lost four years later to West Germany in Rome. © Steve Hale / FIFA Museum

Jorge Burruchaga’s winning goal came courtesy of an extraordinary pass from Maradona. “The mind of a genius works at amazing speed and with an extraordinary complexity,” notes Jorge Valdano. A former Argentina captain, Antonio Rattin also knew genius when he saw it. “I would have been a world champion if I had had Maradona in my team at the 1966 World Cup. There can be no doubt about that!” © Bongarts / GettyImages

It is often said that that World Cups are won by great teams, but that the 1986 World Cup was won by Maradona himself. Maradona doesn’t agree. “No, no, no! We had a fantastic team.” © GMT Sport / Pier Giorgio Giavelli / FIFA Museum

It wasn’t always easy for his team mates according to Valdano. “A football team must know how to cope with a genius. Maradona is an artist, but we were very mature and knew how to fit in with Maradona.” © GMT Sport / Pier Giorgio Giavelli / FIFA Museum

It wasn’t always easy for his team mates according to Valdano. “A football team must know how to cope with a genius. Maradona is an artist, but we were very mature and knew how to fit in with Maradona.” © GMT Sport / Pier Giorgio Giavelli / FIFA Museum

Maradona on lifting the World Cup… “There’re no words to express the feeling but I can tell you that it is something like touching the sky with your hands, there’s no… I find it hard to describe. Every time they ask me that question it is like, I don’t know… all joy is wonderful, you can’t compare, but being able to lift that World Cup for your country is something special. I remember every detail. I can recall every moment” © Kazuyoshi Shimizu / Kishimoto / FIFA Museum

Fritz Walter – 31.10.1920

In the final part of our series of milestone birthdays over the past eight days, we turn our attention to West Germany’s World Cup winning captain of 1954. Fritz Walter, who died in 2002 at the age of 81, would have been 100 on 31 October-.

Our focus is on that epic 1954 World Cup Final which the Germans won 3-2 against the mighty Hungarians, a team who lost just one game from 1950 through to 1956 – the 1954 World Cup Final. Ottmar Walter played alongside his brother that afternoon in Berne and it is through his words that we recall the events of that day.

Fritz Walter (left) and his brother Ottmar (5th f.l.) were the first siblings to win the World Cup, the only others were Bobby and Jack Charlton in 1966. Ottmar recalls that “while playing together we always understood each other blind”. © FIFA Museum

Fritz Walter (left) and his younger brother Ottmar (5th f.l.) were not the first siblings to play in a World Cup Final - that honour went to the Evaristo brothers in 1930 - but they were the first to win the World Cup. Ottmar recalls that “while playing together we always understood each other blind. The press used to say ‘Fritz and Ottmar are a unique pair of brothers in the whole of Europe’”. They, along with Bobby and Jack Charlton, are the only other brothers to have appeared in a World Cup Final. © FIFA Museum

Sepp Herberger’s right-hand man was the captain, Fritz Walter. His brother Ottmar stated, “[Herberger] welded the team together … so that there was no doubt that everyone was there for each other and would do their utmost.” © Sport Archive / FIFA Museum

Fritz Walter was more than just a captain for Germany. He was coach Sepp Herberger’s right-hand man. During the war Herberger kept in close contact with his captain who was fighting on the Eastern front. “Herberger was a sly fox” according to Ottmar. “He always knew which lever to pull. He welded the team together with few words, so that there was no doubt that everyone was there for each other and everyone would do their utmost.” © Sport Archive / FIFA Museum

While fighting in WWII, Fritz Walter caught malaria and found it difficult to play in hot weather. Luckily for him it rained on the day of the 1954 Final. A rainy cool day is still known as ‘Fritz Walter weather’ in Germany. © Popperfoto / GettyImages

While fighting on the eastern front, Fritz Walter caught malaria and he found it difficult playing in hot weather. Luckily for him and Germany, it poured with rain in Berne on the day of the 1954 Final. A rainy cool day is still sometimes referred to as ‘Fritz Walter weather’ in Germany. © Popperfoto / GettyImages

The 1954 World Cup winning team had a core of 5 players from Kaiserslautern, including the Walters. To Ottmar this was decisive ... “We were players who were used to playing together. The others adjusted themselves to that.” © Sport Archive / FIFA Museum

The 1954 World Cup winning team was based around a core of five players from Kaiserslautern, including the Walter brothers (Fritz 3rd from the left, Ottmar 7th f.l.) , Horst Eckel (5th f.l.), Werner Kohlmeyer (3rd f.r.) and Werner Liebrich (6th f.r.). This was a huge factor according to Ottmar. “I think, it was decisive. We were players who were used to playing together. The others adjusted themselves to that.” © Sport Archive / FIFA Museum

Fritz Walter always credited Horst Eckel with being a decisive influence on the game. Ottmar agreed. “He ran Puskás into the ground. When Puskás looked here, Horst was right behind him. … He had him under full control.” © FIFA Museum

Fritz Walter always credited Horst Eckel with being a decisive influence on the game. After falling behind to two very quick goals, Eckel nullified the threat of Puskas. Ottmar agreed with his brother. “He ran Puskas into the ground. When Puskas looked here, Horst was right behind him. When he looked there he was just behind him again. He shadowed his every move. He had him under full control. And that was probably decisive in the success.” © FIFA Museum

Germany’s Posipal spoke Hungarian and overheard overconfident Hidegkuti and Czibor: “We’ll let them hang on for a bit, then we’ll score another two and that will be the game done.” Within ten minutes it was 2-2. © FIFA Museum

The Germans preyed successfully on Hungary’s over confidence. Germany’s right back Josef Posipal spoke the language and overheard the following exchange between Hidegkuti and Czibor. “We’ll let them hang on for a bit, then we’ll score another two and that will be the game done the game done.” Within ten minutes it was 2-2. © FIFA Museum

The winner was scored by Helmut Rahn. “[He] drove the ball home from 17 meters out!” recalled Ottmar. “At that point it was clear to us that we would get through the last minutes and that we would be world champions.” © Sport Archive / FIFA Museum

The winner was scored by Helmut Rahn, a “very odd and independent player” according to Ottmar Walter. “My brother and I were standing completely free and we both screamed like mad at him to pass to one of us. But he played around yet another opponent and drove the ball home from 17 meters out! At that point it was clear to us that we would get through the last minutes and that we would be world champions.” © Sport Archive / FIFA Museum

There was a great deal of sportsmanship between the two teams that became a strong friendship in future years. According to Ottmar Walter, “We would go to Hungary one year and they would come here the next.“ © Sport Archive / FIFA Museum

There was a great deal of sportsmanship between the two teams which showed in the way in which Puskas congratulated Fritz Walter at the end. And it continued in future year according to Ottmar Walter. “We would go to Hungary one year and they would come here the next. It became such a strong friendship.” © Sport Archive / FIFA Museum

Ottmar spoke for Fritz and the whole team when reflecting on the 1954 World Cup win. “We contributed to Germany being respected again. We showed that Germans aren’t barbaric, that we are in terms of sports decent people.” © Popperfoto / GettyImages

In later years Fritz Walter shied away from the limelight, but his brother, who famously owned a petrol station, spoke for him and the whole team when reflecting on the 1954 World Cup win. “We contributed to Germany being respected again. With the way we became world champions we showed that Germans aren’t barbaric, that we are in terms of sports decent people, who proudly won the world championship and enjoyed it, which we openly admit, because we did not expect it.” © Popperfoto / GettyImages

West Germany’s win had a deep post-war impact. Franz Beckenbauer recalled, “We had tried to reconstruct Germany and then came this terrific victory … it was certainly the most important victory in German football history.” © Sport Archive / FIFA Museum

And a final word from Franz Beckenbauer, who went even further… With much of Germany still lying in ruins nine years after the end of the Second World War, West Germany’s success in winning the 1954 World Cup had far reaching effects. “We were ostracised” recalls Beckenbauer. “We had tried to reconstruct Germany and then came this terrific victory at the World Cup and suddenly we got back on track again. Therefore this victory at the 1954 World Cup was certainly the most important victory in the history of German football.” © Sport Archive / FIFA Museum