JUNE 24TH 1996
A Ball’s Bearing
After England’s disappointing 1-1 tie with Switzerland on June 8 in the first round of soccer’s European Championship, spoon-bending psychic Uri Geller suggested that team members rub the ball England used in its 1966 World Cup final victory over West Germany for good luck.
Some players did, which apparently helped, because England bead Scotland 2-0 last Saturday to advance to the quaterfinal.
And so, after three decades, the ball (being kissed by England’s Geoff Hurst, hero of the ’66 game, in inset photo) is back in play. It had been all but forgotten until early this year, when English soccer officials and media decided to track the ball down for the celebration of the 30th anniversary of England’s only Cup championship.
The ball turned up in the cellar of Jurgen Haller, 34, an insurance salesman in Augsburg, Germany, whose father, Helmut, played on the ’66 West German team. When the title game at London’s Wembley Stadium ended, he grabbed the ball, got some signatures on it (Pele’s among them) and gave it to Jurgen for his fifth birthday.
“My first thought was, Sure, I’ll give the ball back, I don’t need it,” says Jurgen. “But then there were so many journalists chasing us with helicopters.” After courting offers from media outlets, Jurgen sold the ball to London’s Daily Mirror for an undisclosed amount. The rest of the English press promptly roasted him for being greedy and labelled his father a thief. “I didn’t steal the ball,” says Helmut. “I was the last one to have my foot on it when the match ended.”
While the British press lambasted the Hallers (one London Observer headline referring to Jurgen read HALLER HAS GOT ONLY ONE BALL), the German media recalled that the ball had been involved in the most hotly disputed goal in German soccer history. Early in overtime of the 1966 Cup final, England took a 3-2 lead on a shot by Hurst that was ruled a goal, though replays show that the ball hit the upright and bounced away. England went on to a 4-2 win and to this day the phrase “Wembley Tor” (Wembley goal) is used in everyday German to mean “illegitimate” or “unfairly gotten.”
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“Uri Geller gave an absolutely resonating talk on his life and career. He had every single magician in the room on the edge of their seats trying to digest as much information as they could. Uri emphasized that the path to frame is through uniqueness and charisma and that professional entertainers must be creative in their pursuits of success and never shy away from publicity.”
Tannens Magic Blog
“The man is a natural magician. He does everything with great care, meticulous misdirection and flawless instinct. The nails are real, the keys are really borrowed, the envelopes are actually sealed, there are no stooges, there are no secret radio devices and there are no props from the magic catalogues.”
James Randi (In an open letter to Abracadabra Magazine)
Sir Elton John
“Eternity is down the hall And you sit there bending spoons In your mind, in your mind”
“I Have watched Uri Geller… I have seen that so I am a believer. It was my house key and the only way I would be able to use it is get a hammer and beat it out back flat again.”
“Better than watching Geller bending silver spoons, better than witnessing new born nebulae’s in bloom”