Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Up For The World Cup (1986)

Under what circumstances can a large piece of printed paper be given such reverence and adoration? When it is printed with the fixtures for the first World Cup to ever ignite your growing love of international football.

The 1986 World Cup was going to be majestic in all its colour and magnificence. I'd seen bits of the 1982 tournament, but it had all arrived slightly too early for me, as if I'd become a fan of The Beatles in the year they split up. Fragmented imagery and an awareness of past glories was fine, but I wanted to see what a new World Cup would really be like. My eyes were wide open and I simply couldn't wait.

In order to get myself in the right frame of mind for Mexico '86, I bought and read whatever items I could find as part of a relentless campaign to educate myself on this sensational sporting spectacle. World Soccer magazine (a publication I'd discovered in 1985) helped, to say nothing of Shoot! and Match Weekly, and that was without the growing mountain of memorabilia being created in readiness for the event.

There was, however, one item that trumped the lot; a single thing that crossed the line between useless tat and treasure for the ages. It was a 'wallchart magazine' and it was called Up For The World Cup.

I knew about the humble domestic origins of this wallchart ('magazine' was stretching things a little far, to be fair). Up For the FA Cup had been a previous purchase of mine and similarly worked its way into my affections with its ability to brighten up a dowdy bedroom wall and my boring mid-teen existence. That version, like this new World Cup equivalent, had a Unique Selling Point that captured the imagination of school-age kids like myself - stickers.

On the FA Cup editions, those stickers were small thumbnail graphics of English club badges, backed with adhesive and ready to be applied to the wallchart. For the 1986 World Cup version, the stickers were flags - 96 in all, 30 millimetres tall and 35 millimetres wide, each one named in clear, bold text. It was one thing to be so excited about filling in all the gaps on your wallchart, but just imagine the potential for decorating school exercise books and pieces of household furniture with them.

I'm happy to say my wallchart did find a home on my bedroom wall - not folded in a cupboard for me. It was proudly displayed above the bed in which I slept, results written in neatly, flags applied with care and attention for those all-important knockout matches. In fact such was the high esteem I held that wallchart in that I designed, painted, cut and mounted a cardboard version of the Mexico 86 tournament logo to go above it. The entire display was a manifestation of my love for the World Cup that probably peaked that year, and I wasn't embarrassed to show it.

Bedroom display: artist's reconstruction
Before it went on my wall, I'd studiously read every word of its 'magazine' part on the reverse, and observed the beautiful colour pictures of all 24 competing nations. Teams I'd never seen before in kits I was unfamiliar with; Iraq and Algeria in green, Morocco and South Korea in bright red, the gold of Brazil and the blue of Italy. Even the tracksuits had an exciting design element.

There was information on the venues to digest, details about the tournament format and history, plus interviews with key figures from the world game. Northern Ireland's Sammy McIllroy and Scotland's Graeme Souness assessed their group opponents while admitting to knowing very little about them. Morten Olsen, captain of Denmark, discussed his team's preparations for the tournament while former Blackpool goalkeeper Tony Waiters (head coach of the Canada's World Cup squad) spoke of the importance of the NASL in developing the skills of many a Canadian football player.

But that was all a far cry from the star attraction: the front of the wallchart with all its flags, empty boxes in which to write the scores and colour photos of the world's top players. The version you see here is one I bought some time ago from eBay. On it, the previous owner has commendably filled in lots of details right up to the quarter finals and stopped before the tournament reached its end. On my original, I filled it in completely; no details missed, nothing overlooked.

You'll have to take my word for that as my original wallchart has long since slipped quietly from my possession, but I did, because this was my everything back in the summer of 1986. And owning another one now, despite it being someone else's? Well that makes no difference to me. This is something truly special, and it makes me happy to have it in my possession again.


  1. Mexico '86 was a little too early for me but it's nice to see Canada and the World Cup mentioned in the same sentence. Maybe someday I'll actually get to see them score a World Cup goal. A boy can dream.

    1. I thought it was great seeing Canada at the World Cup and am only sorry they've not been back since. Next time - fingers crossed... :)

  2. Yep,i had that too..and until now,hadnt seen it since 1986!!