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Obituary for England's soccer world champion George Cohen: The worker


George Cohen was one of the unspectacular of the 1966 World Cup team. Nevertheless, England's World Cup triumph was unthinkable without him. Many only realized later how valuable he was for the team.

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George Cohen in October 2016

Photo: Javier Garcia/Shutterstock/BPI/IMAGO

Others have shone, George Cohen has worked.

One had to imagine an English defender of that time like him.

Not one to push himself into the limelight, instead he's been plowing down his right-back, solid, dependable.

Game after game, year after year.

When the English World Cup triumph in 1966 is mentioned, the talk is of the Wembley goal, of Geoff Hurst, of the dandy Bobby Moore, of the Charlton brothers Jack and Bobby, but certainly not first and foremost of the worker George Cohen.

The then 26-year-old was a jewel in coach Sir Alf Ramsey's defensive line-up and, since 1964, has been an indispensable part of England's defensive line-up alongside Jack Charlton, Bobby Moore and Ray Wilson.

At the World Cup tournament in his own country, he completed all six games up to the final triumph, in the way Benedikt Höwedes became world champion in 2014.

Only Charlton and Hurst are still alive

Cohen didn't want to make a fuss about himself and his job.

37 internationals, no goal.

Such players used to be called team-friendly, the expression has been somewhat forgotten.

The heroic deeds of 1966, hardly anyone who was there at the time can still tell about them today.

So many have already died.

Cohen, the third to last survivor from England's final starting XI, passed away on Friday at the age of 83.

Now only Bobby Charlton and Geoff Hurst are left, everyone else is already dead.

Cohen played his way through the tournament in a no-frills manner, watching the backs of midfielders Alan Ball and Martin Peters and using his physicality when he had to.

Just like in the game against the Argentines in the quarter-finals, a wild encounter, full of aggression and emotions, even back then, when nobody knew what the hand of God would be like many years later.

Deflected the ball in the final

England won 1-0 with a late goal from Hurst.

When Cohen got ready to swap shirts with his opponent Alberto Gonzales after the final whistle, he was stopped by his angry coach Alf Ramsey.

The Argentines didn't deserve it, after all they behaved "like animals".

A photo from the scene is one of the incunabula of British football history.

From the final against the Germans, it is remembered how Cohen unluckily deflected a ball in the direction of Wolfgang Weber, who was then able to equalize to make it 1-1 and made the Wembley drama possible in the first place.

No one took offense at the defender – after all, he paved the way for England to the final in the semi-finals with his preparation for the 2-1 winner over Portugal.

Cohen was duly honored for this much later.

In 2000 he and his four teammates Wilson, Ball, Nobby Stiles and Roger Hunt were awarded the Order of Members of the British Empire.

But only after massive public criticism arose that these five players never received the proper credit.

Pattern of club loyalty

Just like in the national team, Cohen was also in the club.

He has played exclusively for Fulham FC all his life, changing clubs was never an option for him.

Not even when Fulham were relegated to second division in 1968.

For 13 years he was a professional at the London club, which has never reached the glamor of city rivals Arsenal and Chelsea. In the end, he had 469 competitive games for Fulham under his belt.

And if his knee hadn't given up the necessary service for a professional footballer at the age of 29, it would probably have gone on for years, with him and Fulham FC.

They loved him for it at the club, and there is now a memorial with his statue at Craven Cottage Stadium.

"Everyone at Fulham Football Club is deeply saddened to learn of the death of one of our greatest players of all time," his club, to which he has always been loyal, said on Friday.

Manchester United icon George Best, a kind of anti-Cohen in personality, once said of the defender that he was "the best defender I've ever played against".

Such praise must be earned.

But after the career, Cohen did not fare well.

He ran into financial difficulties, so much so that he had to sell his World Cup final medal.

His club intervened and bought the medal for £80,000.

Today it is exhibited in the club museum.

In the 1980s, Cohen was diagnosed with cancer, but his fighting spirit as a World Cup defender woke up and he beat the disease.

But later he suffered a stroke of fate in a different way.

His brother Peter, who owned a nightclub in London, was killed in a shootout.

He was voted right-back in a poll on British television for England's best eleven in football history.

In the end, everyone understood how valuable George Cohen's football work was.

Source: spiegel

All sports articles on 2022-12-23

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