Why all true football lovers should watch Brazil v Italy 1970 on SBS


Australians were not able to watch the 1970 FIFA World Cup final live. But on Thursday from 2:40pm (AEST), we have a chance to watch a match that saw football go up to a higher level.

WATCH 10 FIFA World Cup classic matches - starting with the 1970 final between Brazil and Italy - starting Thursday May 21 at 2:40pm (AEST) on SBS and streamed via The World Game website / app and SBS On Demand.

In the dead of winter in 1970, Les Murray sat on the balcony of his flat in Bondi, trying to pick up the BBC’s short wave radio signal.

Freezing winds, crackling audio and no one but himself for company, a 25-year-old Les was determined to hear even the barest descriptions of what was happening in Mexico. 

Down in Melbourne, an eight-year-old Santo Cilauro smoked a cigarette with his father, an Italian immigrant, as they too listened but instead to an Italian broadcast. 

No one in this country saw the colour, the drama, or the glory of the 1970 World Cup until it arrived months later to be shown at cinemas. 

“In 1970 Australia was an isolated black hole for the undernourished fans of the world game,” Les later wrote. 

How lucky we are now. Every year it seems that we can stream more and more leagues and tournaments around the world on an increasing number of devices to suit our ever-changing demands. 

But for all the incredible access we have now, we have perhaps traded away some of that mythical wonder that surrounded the great players. 

For many right around the globe, World Cups were their first glimpse at some of these legendary names. 

And what a sight this would have been for anyone watching for the first time. 

It’s actually quite rare that a player or team lives up to the hype on the biggest stage. But Brazil and Pele did it that day. 

The Italian right-back Tarcisio Burgnich was given the task of man-marking a 29-year-old Pele. 

"I told myself before the game: 'he's made of skin and bones just like everyone else' - but I was wrong,” Burgnich said. 

In the 18th minute, Rivellino volleyed a cross to the far post, where both Burgnich and Pele waited. 

“We jumped together, but when I landed, I could see Pele still floating in the air,” Burgnich said.  

It’s that angelic imagery that made millions around the world fall in love with the divine beauty of football. 

For anyone who, like myself, was born many years after this match was played, Thursday’s match on SBS is a chance to witness one of the pillars that modern football was built on. 

It was nearly 50 years ago, but so much about what we love about our game is there. 

The iconic kits, the boisterous crowd of over 100,000, the joy of watching greatness be cemented.  

A third World Cup for Brazil meant they got to keep the Jules Rimet trophy, and almost as an allegory of the ugly side of modern football - greed saw that same trophy melted down and sold. 

This match on Thursday is a chance to witness Pele’s greatness - an honour for anyone who considers themselves a football lover. 

While it’s a perfectly valid argument that his status as the greatest of all-time has been usurped by some of the modern greats, he was at the time the king. He took what it meant to be the greatest ever to a new level. 

Pele set a standard that gave us Cruyff, Maradona, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. 

And, while you’re soaking in the brilliance of Pele, treat yourself to some of the more forgotten greats who played alongside him. 

Football is a team sport, and we too often focus on the individual - both in the expectations we place on them, and the praise we give them. 

Pele will forever be on the lips of football fans around the world, but it was Jairzinho who scored more goals that tournament.

In fact, he scored in every single match of that tournament. 

Or what about Gerson?

On top of scoring in the final with an incredible bullet, we get to witness why he was considered the ‘brain’ behind this incredible team. 

Before Andrea Pirlo, Xavi and Luka Modric were dictating play for deep midfield positions, the great Gerson produced a sublime performance to dominate and set the tempo. 

Dani Alves is now the most decorated player in the history of football with over 40 trophies, but without Carlos Alberto there would be no Dani Alves. 

At 3-1 up in the 85th minute, Brazil were on their way to eternal glory - but maybe we would not remember them as one of the greatest teams of all-time if it hadn’t been for the sheer breathtaking beauty of Carlos Alberto’s goal to make it 4-1. 

It was perfect.

One of the all-time great goals crowned one of the all-time great teams world champions, in one of the all-time great World Cups. 

Seven players touched the ball as Brazil entertained the world with ‘tiki-taka’ football nearly 40 years before Spain perfected it. 

Pele received the ball on the edge of the box, and paused in a way that only someone who knew the whole world waited for their move could. 

Captain Carlos Alberto sprinted past him with the confidence of someone who knew what glory awaited them. 

“Pele and I played so often together that he knew where I was – I didn’t need to shout. He saw me coming and rolled his pass in front of me so I didn’t have to break stride. And I caught it perfectly,” he told the Guardian in 2013. 

As Australians, we couldn’t watch it live in 1970, but we can watch it on Thursday.

We can witness a distinct moment where one of the great teams, with many of the great players, took this sport to a different level.