The English Gentleman and the bracelet

Telegram sent by Moore on 30 May 1970 to Morris Keston and his wife, thanking them for helping Bobby’s wife Tina through what was a stressful time.
© FIFA Museum

England travelled to the 1970 World Cup in Mexico with a squad that was regarded as stronger than the one that won the tournament four years previously. But preparations took an unexpected turn when the team landed in Bogotá for a warm-up friendly.

With the addition to the 1966 World Cup-winning squad of Terry Cooper in defence and Alan Mullery and Colin Bell in midfield, hopes were high in England before the 1970 World Cup. In order to best prepare for the heat and altitude that awaited the team in Mexico, The Football Association arranged for two friendly matches before the finals – in Colombia and then Ecuador. However, the one thing coach Alf Ramsey couldn’t legislate for was team captain Bobby Moore being arrested in Bogotá after he was accused of stealing a bracelet from a shop in the opulent Hotel Tequendama where the team was staying.

In the FIFA Museum Collection, we have a telegram sent by Moore on 30 May 1970 to Morris Keston and his wife, thanking them for helping Bobby’s wife Tina through what was a stressful time. The Kestons were family friends of Bobby and Tina’s, a friendship that flourished despite them being passionate Tottenham Hotspur fans and not fans of Bobby’s West Ham United!

Street vendor Álvaro Suárez (left) who claimed to be a witness to the alleged theft and Danilo Rojas (right), owner of the jewellery store. © Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images
Street vendor Álvaro Suárez (left) who claimed to be a witness to the alleged theft and Danilo Rojas (right), owner of the jewellery store. © Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images (click to enlarge)

Drama at the Hotel Tequendama
Twelve days earlier, at 16:00 on Monday, 18 May, the England squad had arrived at the Tequendama and were lounging around in the lobby waiting for their room keys. Moore and team-mate Bobby Charlton had gone into the Fuego Verde jewellery shop in the hotel lobby after Charlton had spotted an emerald ring through the window that he thought his wife might like. Put off by the price, they both left but were followed out by shop assistant Clara Padilla, who accused Moore of stealing a bracelet from a display cabinet. Both players were searched and when nothing was found, it seemed the incident would quickly be forgotten.

Both Moore and Charlton featured in the match against Colombia on 20 May, with Charlton scoring a goal in the 4-0 victory. There was genuine excitement in Bogotá at the presence of the England team, as this was the first time that any reigning world champions had played in Colombia. Danilo Rojas, the owner of the Fuego Verde jewellery shop, was not quite so enamoured, however, and in the two days after the incident he persuaded the police to question Moore again. He was now claiming the value of the bracelet as well as damages. The following morning Moore was questioned again and asked to put his hand through the gap in the display cabinet. It wouldn’t fit. Again, it seemed to be the end of the matter and later in the afternoon, the team left for Quito, where Moore appeared in the 2-0 victory over Ecuador three days later.

Moore is arrested
With no direct flights from Quito to Mexico, England had to make a stopover back in Bogotá, and it was at this point, on 25 May, that Moore was arrested. A witness called Álvaro Suárez had come forward, claiming that through the shop door he had seen Moore steal the bracelet. England coach Alf Ramsey wasn’t impressed, stoutly defending Moore. "I should have thought that the integrity of this man would be enough to answer these charges. It is too ridiculous for words". But the rest of the team departed for Mexico via Panama without Moore.

England captain Bobby Moore is surrounded by newsmen as he arrives at Mexico airport following his release from police custody in Bogotá, Colombia. © Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images
England captain Bobby Moore is surrounded by newsmen as he arrives at Mexico airport following his release from police custody in Bogotá, Colombia. © Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images (click to enlarge)

Instead, Moore looked set to be incarcerated in a jail in one of the most lawless parts of the Colombian capital until the intervention of Alfonso Senior, the President of the Colombian Football Association and a seminal figure in the history of the club Millonarios FC. He pleaded with the judge that Moore be allowed to be put under house arrest at his home. The Colombian press also came out in support of Moore, with the newspaper El Tiempo referring to him as “The English Gentleman” and saying “we should have more faith in Moore’s statement than those of witnesses who contradict themselves and lack seriousness”.

Contradictory evidence
That was in reference to the contradictory evidence given by both Padilla and Suárez. Most telling was Padilla’s testimony during a re-enactment of the supposed theft that she had seen Moore slip the bracelet into his tracksuit pocket, only for Moore to reveal that his tracksuit had no pockets. Suárez then cracked under pressure and revealed that he had been paid by the shop owner Danilo Rojas to concoct his story. Brazil’s coach during the 1970 World Cup qualifiers, João Saldanha, also later chipped in and let it be known that a similar scam had been tried on a couple of Brazilian players when staying in Bogotá and described the allegations against Moore as disgraceful.

When it appeared that it was turning into a serious diplomatic incident, Moore was released on the grounds of insufficient evidence and boarded a plane to Mexico City on 28 May.

Pelé and Bobby Moore exchange shirts after the World Cup Group C game at the Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico. © MSI/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
Pelé and Bobby Moore exchange shirts after the World Cup Group C game at the Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico. © MSI/Mirrorpix/Getty Images (click to enlarge)

Moore put on a brave face when interviewed on the plane, and the incident didn’t seem to harm him or the team. He played with his usual majestic brilliance at the finals in Mexico and who can forget the handshake and smiles between Moore and Pelé after their group game in Guadalajara? But it wasn’t a subject Moore liked to talk about, though with typical British humour, his wife Tina later joined up with him in Mexico bearing a gift – a bracelet!

“The most elegant man I’d ever seen”
No World Cup-winning captain had ever had to face such intense scrutiny as Moore did during those ten days in South America. However, we leave the last words to Hernando Rojas, a shoeshiner in the hotel foyer that fateful day and who was interviewed many years later by the Bogotá-based football journalist Carl Worswick, writing for The Guardian. “A giant,” said Rojas to Worswick. “The most elegant man I’d ever seen. Bobby Moore, champion of the world”.

Perhaps that’s the best way to remember one of just 21 men to have skippered their country to World Cup glory.