Jozef Štibrányi was a teacher of physical education and natural science. He was also the right-winger whose 80th-minute goal against Spain set Czechoslovakia on their way to the 1962 World Cup final. During the tournament, Štibrányi kept a diary. It has never previously been published1

It’s tempting to write that this goal changed his life and the lives of a whole generation of Czechoslovakian players. Štibrányi, then 22 and playing for the Slovakian club Spartak Trnava, took the ball in the middle of the field, got away from Jesús Garay and José Santamaría and lobbed the falling goalkeeper Carmelo Cedrún with a deft chip. That gave an underestimated Czechoslovakia a 1-0 victory over “the team of a million stars”. A draw against Brazil took them to the quarter-finals despite defeat to Mexico in their final group game and they then beat Hungary and Yugoslavia before losing to Brazil in the final.

Tempting, but it wouldn’t be true. Yes, without this goal, Josef Masopust may never have won the Ballon d’Or and Chile 1962 wouldn't have become the iconic tournament of Czechoslovakian football. But the life of Jozef Štibrányi would apparently have gone in a similar direction to the one it has taken. He has spent almost all of it in countryside. He loves spring. In the garden of his house in Križovany nad Dudváhom – a village near the town of Trnava – apple trees sprout and there are potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, onions, peas, cucumbers… A passionate gardener, Štibrányi tends the vines to produce his own Saint Laurent wine every year – like his father who used to produce cherry wine and proudly hosted the whole village that late spring day in 1962.

Crackling Slovakian commentary from the reporter Oskar Mana resounds from the transistor radio: “Goal! One-nil!” It is already night in Križovany, but the happy striker celebrates in the afternoon light far away in Chile. Before he goes to bed in the guesthouse in the mountains above Viňa del Mar, Štibrányi writes the most emotional chapter of his diary.

Unexpected result! It will be hard to fall asleep tonight! I scored a goal after Jelínek’s pass to the centre, and from there I went alone to the goal and scored! I thought I wouldn’t survive. I held my hands up and screamed: “I have scored a goal, guys!” Hugging – they nearly smothered me. But enough; after everything this won’t disappear from my mind. I can never forget this! There are only few moments like this in life. Now we’re already discussing the game against Brazil before we sleep. We got sweets from a Czech girl who had married here. It's around 10pm now. We're preparing our beds. It's warm here, so we turned off the stove. We have let in fresh air.

In the morning, Štibrányi looked at the local paper and read the headline: “Trnava hizo único gol”“Trnava scored the only goal”.


More than spring, Jozef Štibrányi enjoys winter. He celebrated his 77th birthday this year, but still left for the Tatra mountains again to be the oldest skier on the slopes. He grew up on the Trnava plain, but loves skiing. His friends call him ‘Snow Tiger’ for this passion. And his most famous goal came as a consequence of skiing.

Actually, he was not quite a teacher when he scored against Spain. He was a third-year student at the institute of education. “During Christmas and New Year [in the winter of 1961-62] we went to compulsory ski training at Kežmarok Hut in the Tatra mountains. All day we skied on a long slope, but there were no ski lifts at that time. We had to make our way on foot to the top again and again, with our skis on our back. We had worked hard this way for two weeks.”

His drudgery paid off at the end of January when he recorded amazing scores during the national team’s physical tests. “I had unbelievably strong legs and won every discipline,” Štibrányi said. “I had the best standing long jump, high jump and sprint. At Easter I did well in the friendly against Uruguay [Czechoslovakia won 3-1]. The defenders suffered from convulsions, even though they tried three different markers on me. I kept escaping them, dribbling, passing…

“After that I went back home on the Slovenská strela train. I got to Trnava station at 3.30am and had to walk 10km home. But still I got up early in the morning and went out to enjoy the Easter feast. The next day I found my name in the newspapers.” Štibrányi was among the first players to secure their place in the squad for the World Cup, something announced by the head coach Rudolf Vytlačil.

Štibrányi bought a ring-bound notebook, wrote his name on the top-left corner of the first page and the word “Chile” on the top right. Then he created a vocabulary of basic Spanish phrases with pronunciation rules, wrote down main geographical data of the host nation, turned to a new page and wrote:

11. V. 1962

I packed everything yesterday. Mama is still sewing and ironing something for me. We’re talking and remembering. Mama has cooked a festive goodbye dinner. We’re going to sleep at 10pm.

Wake-up call at 6am. I’m shaving and packing the shaving stuff into my suitcase. It weighs 10kg. Mama has cried (as ever) and Otek [Dad] took me with the suitcase to the bus stop. I join Jožo [the forward Jozef Adamec] and our flight [to Prague] is at 9.50am from Blava [Bratislava]. The flight was good (I was sleeping). Together with Jožo [Adamec] we go to the barracks and then to eat at Café Paris. After that to the cinema to see the movie Kohout plaší smrt (The Cock Beats Death). At 5pm meeting in the hotel. Free time until 7pm – we go to buy shoes. I bought one pair in the House of Fashion for 160 koruna. After dinner we go to the cinema again: Tři vejce do skla (Three Eggs to the Glass). Great movie. Now we’re in the room already. Number 394. We’re going to sleep in a while. We’re listening to the transistor radio.

Tomorrow we’re going to Kozí ulice [where the football federation is based] to get our kit. It’s 10.30pm. News on the Czechoslovak Radio. What’s new at home? Otek is at work. Mama at home alone crying for sure. What can you do – she’s just like that. I’ve forgotten my toothbrush and toothpaste. I have to buy: socks, Alpa (massage cream), slippers.


Czechoslovak clubs used to travel round the world in the 1960s to earn money and encourage football development. But Štibrányi earned his nickname not far from home, in a fellow socialist country. 

He cannot remember what the name of the movie was. But he knows that it began at 11pm in the amphitheatre in Constanţa, eastern Romania. The Spartak Trnava squad was watching a film about Romanian fishermen with a hero called Vasil, who bore a remarkable resemblance to Štibrányi. “Look, Vasil!” shouted Karol Tibenský, Spartak’s captain, and pointed at Štibrányi. The nickname is still used today.

In Chile and at the training camp in Italy before the World Cup, Štibrányi usually roomed with his former Spartak teammate Jozef Adamec. He was the youngest member of the Czechoslovak team and played for Dukla Prague at that time. He was two years younger than Štibrányi, but they were of similar temperament.

16. V.

… Had an argument with Jožo and nearly fought, but it’s OK now. It was over nothing. We both wanted to use the writing desk. He wanted to use it alone, although there was space enough for both. I’ve scratched my palm on his pen (it's broken now). But it’s already over.

17. V.

... We're having dinner, some half-hour walk and then going to sleep. Jožo is gassing (he can only talk about “girls” etc.), I am losing my temper. After the argument I am not talking to him much any more. Too bad to get annoyed by such an egotist. When I think how he was when he came to Trnava… But he’ll have to struggle more in the future. Tomorrow we are leaving for Vicenza. It's around 200km (3 hours bus drive).

Czechoslovakia were not exciting anybody at that time. The world press rated them alongside Switzerland as the biggest outsiders in the tournament. At home, people predicted that they wouldn't go anywhere. They thought the team would only cause embarrassment, return soon and that the journey would be a waste of money. The football authorities decided that the squad for the World Cup wouldn't have 21 members as they were allowed, but only 18 to save money. Even at the camp in Italy in May during the last games before departure, the performances and results of the national team weren't good – a 1-1 draw against Internazionale, 0-0 against Vicenza – and so the coach Rudolf Vytlačil took a risk.

At the very last moment he called up Andrej Kvašňák, a Sparta Prague midfielder with brilliant technique and an odd sense of humour who was recovering from knee surgery. And there was another problem as well – Vytlačil was not allowed to nominate Kvašňák as an extra player: one of the 18 in his initial squad would be left behind. Anxiety spread.

18. V.

Tense situation. One of us will go home – they already called up Kvašňák! It’s stupid, but you can feel that everybody is wondering whether he is going to be the unlucky one. There is a rumour that it’s going to be one of these: Jožo, Kadraba, Molnár. We will see. Just not me. That would be horrible.

19.V.

It’s been decided who is going home. [Vladimir] KOS. It is horrible. Even though I don’t like him much, it’s terrible. Hard to understand it. They would better to extend the squad to 19 people (or to replace one F…). They bought him a nylon raincoat for 4500 liras as a consolation. Better than nothing. I bought a jumper and swimming suit. I have only 7300 left. I was walking around today. They have very varied streets here. I even met a man playing harmonica and begging children. It's still raining. We are in our apartments after lunch now waiting for V [the coach] who is going to wake us up. I would like to go shopping. Pepík [Josef Masopust] bought two nice shirts for summer time, each for 2500 liras. I want the rain to stop finally. Today I am not in the mood to play football, I have some pain in my right thigh muscle. Ĺado N [Novák, the captain] stood up against Kvašňák. It’s the opinion of the older guys, so he went to the coaching staff to tell them that nobody likes him and that he will destroy the team spirit, etc. It’s hard to say from my point of view – I have not met him before; I don't know what is he like. However, we will see.


The yellowish pages of the diary aren’t the only souvenir that survives. One of the other relics brought from Chile by Štibrányi is a sea urchin. Taken from the Pacific 55 years ago, it still decorates the Štibrányis’ living room.

What he did not bring home was a lot of money. Members of the Czechoslovakia team earned 5000 koruna (roughly £160) but only if they played in every game in the tournament. Štibrányi played only in the group stage, so he earned 500 koruna less, but he has been enjoying his World Cup salary ever since. “After the tournament there were some more games in the national league to play, but not immediately,” he said. “The school holidays had already started, so I went to camp in a tent for a week with my friends. When I came back, I found out that my father had already spent the money. He had bought oak parquet flooring – I still walk on it now.”

Apart from the oak-floor money, Štibrányi was awarded numerous socialist diplomas, badges and cups, received invitations for public discussions and was given gifts by grateful fans, including a mixer and an iron. “Can you imagine Hamšík getting an iron for playing for the national team?” Štibrányi laughed.

The most original present prepared for Jozef Štibrányi and his compatriot Jozef Adamec came from cooperative workers from Trnava. “Both of us got a pig,” he said. “I had one weighing 15 kilos with a red bow round his neck. I still have a photo of me taking the pig to the Trnava stadium. But the local newspaper printed that picture and that was a problem. When the Communists found out what happened, they got angry.

“Especially a guy called Karel Bacílek. He had a big head, but a brain like fingernail – total jerk!” Štibrányi still cannot believe what happened more than half a century later. “He got mad that the co-op workers weren’t able to fulfil their quota, but they gave pigs to footballers. So he commanded us to return the animals. But Joža Adamec’s mum had already sold the pig and at our home there was also chaos.”

Two policemen came to solve it. “I thought that they were going to tell me about the next public discussion as usual,” Štibrányi said. “But this time they wanted the pig back. Jesus Christ, you should have seen my father… how he ran out after them. He hated Communists and those guys wanted to take the pig together with the mobile sty my ocka had made for it.”

“No – you take the pig, but the sty is mine!” he said. “He opened the sty, the pig ran out with straw and other mess on its body – and the policemen were trying to catch it. Then they put the excited pig directly into the car. Those were times that our current football players should experience!” Štibrányi was promised another, bigger pig but he is still waiting for it.

The pig was not the only thing that Czechoslovakia team had to return. The players also had to give back all of the clothing designed for the 1960 Olympic squad that they’d collected from a store in Prague. Some blue berets were missing and they had to pay for them.

Saving money was a priority of the trip to Chile, yet funds were found for two secret policemen to accompany the team as cultural attachés. They didn’t speak any foreign languages and just checked whom the players were meeting and what they did in their free time. Yet as well as being three players short, that Czechoslovakia squad was also missing a kit man and a masseur.

One day, a Chilean with a holdall appeared at the guest house where the team was staying and gave the players a perfect massage. “Let’s keep him,” said the head coach Vytlačil and Daniel Parra remained with the team.

He was proud to be the only Chilean to reach the final of the tournament. The players taught him Czech or Slovak words, sometimes deliberately telling him the wrong thing, but he accepted that sort of humour and took care not only of the players’ muscles but also morale, leaving his family of eight children to stay with the squad. The players wanted to give him something to remember their shared experience so gave him nine berets – one for him and one for each of his children. The quartermaster in Prague was not minded to be so generous.


… It means that now it is already 22 May.

It's a long way to our destination yet. We expect to be in Santiago at 5.45pm.

The route:

15:00 MILAN - 16:10 ZURICH

18:30 ZÜRICH - 22:10 RABAT - 5:00 DAKAR

7:30 DAKAR  - RIO - SÃO PAULO - 22:00 BUENOS AIRES - SANTIAGO

They were late. They landed, welcomed by people who had listened to the foreign service of Czechoslovak Radio, and travelled by bus to the guest house. “The bus was waiting for us,” Štibrányi said. “We went through the city – hotels and residencies everywhere around. But we went further and further until we found ourselves outside the city. We thought the driver had got lost, but it wasn't like that – he was certain.”

22. V.

… The way is uphill and serpentine. There were significant ups and downs on the approach to the hotel. It lasted three hours. The hotel was an unpleasant surprise for us: it was cold and dirty there and there was only cold water. It seemed like they weren’t expecting us. Really mournful mood and discussions about that.

“While the Spanish players stayed in a beautiful hotel and Brazilians in the Hilton, we got this one. At least, there was billiard table in the hall, a great fireplace, armchairs, a big sofa and gramophone with records by Bill Haley which we were listening to constantly.”

23. V.

Damn! Mašek kicked the ball and hit my nose again. It is not possible any more! I am bleeding a little bit. We don’t have hot water which is quite stupid, because we’re sweaty. I am washing my socks and polishing my shoes and football boots (two times). We had stolen the stove from the opposite room. But now they’ve taken it back! Now we’re waiting for the right moment to get it again. They should already have served dinner. And they're shouting for dinner right now. It tastes good: + enough juices (orange, Coca-Cola, soda) + fruit (bananas). After that we’re playing cards, billiards. The gramophone is playing (they have nice desks here). In the fireplace a big log is burning so it’s warm here. We are allowed to get as much fruit and juice as we want, so I am not thirsty.

The surroundings are very romantic. Palm trees, various plants, high cedars interestingly losing their bark in long strips. I can see a small lagoon full of fish. There is very nice atmosphere in our apartment now. The stove is heating with satanic power. We’re going to sleep in a while. A masseur came to us and he will stay until the end. That’s good. We also have a translator (Czech), some doctor with a stipend here. Three girls serve us (probably sisters). Before lunch elementary-school children and their teacher came to sing for us. We gave them badges and things such as jacks-in-the-box. They were very happy about that. The teacher got a flag and beads! We have basketball pitch here.”


There is a football game underway on the school pitch in the village of Križovany nad Dudváhom. The ball is out and Štibrányi kicks it back to the field – his passes are still precise. “So this is our Slovak PE lesson…” A few boys are wearing jeans while playing. “That couldn’t happen in my classes. I used to require a white T-shirt and red shorts!”

“I’ve spent my life here,” the retired teacher tells me as we approach the school building and the gymnasium. But he gave the lesson of his life far away from here, when he was still a student. The recipients were the Barcelona and Real Madrid players Garay and Santamaría. After the World Cup, he qualified as a teacher and for 33 years he taught PE, natural science and land management at the countryside elementary school here in Križovany.

“From time to time people ask me why I didn’t remain in football after my playing career – as a coach for example,” Štibrányi said. “But I have never been impressed by this. It’s such a wandering way of life, running away so quickly, children growing up and you nearly never notice. I am used to a different way of life, I am happy here in the village.”

In 2012, the football enthusiast Jiří Hora bought flights and brought Štibrányi back to Chile. The 72 year old stood again at the Sausalito stadium in Viña del Mar. He dreamed and once again became the nimble student in the white Czechoslovak jersey. He took the stray ball and went from the centre circle to the goal. His head was full of endorphins again, his hands flew high.

31 V

Here we go! After a very restless night V [the coach] wakes us up at 8.30am. Warm up and breakfast. Immediately in the dining room preparation for the game. Line-up:

                            SCHROIF

  LÁLA            POPLUHÁR          NOVÁK

PLUSKAL            MASOPUST

ŠTIBRÁNYI SCHERER KVAŠŇÁK ADAMEC JELÍNEK

The line-up was expected. It’s strange, but I don’t feel any tension, as if it’s not a big match, but a regular little game. We are going to play the system 4 – 2 – 42 (Kvašňák sitting in behind, Pepík as an attacking midfielder). To fight, to fight and to fight! It’s easy to say, but anything can happen. In football, you cannot win only by fighting. You have to play + fight!

Is there anything more prestigious than the World Cup? I don’t know, but I don’t think so. It is the most prestige that a football player can achieve. I would love to deliver as good a performance as possible. To succeed with some action at the very beginning! That is important for me. I would feel good after such start.

We have: white jersey

white shorts

tricolour socks

White colour is a colour of cheerfulness, happiness,

to make us happy.

It will be terrible if they beat us by three goals.

The weather is very bad, drizzling and drizzling since morning. We will not see if it will be good or bad for us (wet, soft terrain) before the game. It is worse for heavy defenders than for attackers. You can dribble, but it is necessary to be centimetre-precise, otherwise the ball is lost. I wish to play without nervousness and stage-fright. That is the worst that can happen. In that case the team usually cannot play well and the match is lost. 

Vytlačil is asking us to press them immediately from the beginning, to shatter them. Would that be efficient against such experienced pros?


I am very happy while writing this diary. After all I managed to do what I hadn’t expected even in my wildest dreams. I scored the goal which helped us to beat Spain 1-0. About 10 minutes before the end of the game! We were at the height of euphoria! We are all unspeakably thrilled by the win. By this we have proved that even we can play football! The gossip of those people who had not believed in us at all was all empty words! I don’t know what to write, because I am totally beside myself. The boss of our hotel bought me and Vilda [the goalkeeper Viliam Schrojf] a big cake. Congratulations from all sides. People were all along the streets, waving and shouting “Checo – checo…” Living completely through the World Cup. We earned broad support. However they [Spain] began to play brutally and mischievously, while we were calm and played “piggy-in-the-middle” with them.


The imprint of that day 55 years ago is indelible on the memory of Jozef Štibrányi – including his emotions at the time. “I couldn't stop shouting 'Goal! Goal! We’re winning 1-0!' And the other guys – 'Yes, Pepík, you’ve scored!' The Spaniards were frustrated and when we were leaving the pitch after the game, I saw their coach Helenio Herrera taking his stool and smashing it to pieces.

“I came to the dressing-room, sat down and I was thinking, 'Did I score the goal? How could I score such a goal?' I still didn’t believe it. I went to sleep that night and I was afraid that there was no goal scored by me at all.” 

1. VI.

The atmosphere is tense again, because the match against Brazil is coming. Once again against millionaire forwards and superstars. Bellini and Pelé are going to play. So the strongest line-up!

2. VI.

9:00 – Warm up and breakfast. Short walk and preparations for the game. Line-up is the same.

It’s a beautiful day. It’s warm, the sun is shining, the sky is blue. But rainy weather would suit us better! Lunch at 11.30am and then a rest. The coach always emphasises shooting. It’s really our weakness. We haven’t shown a single proper strike yet.

We are finally leaving for the game. I hate waiting for the kick-off. It really makes me nervous. The match was good – Pelé got injured (torn muscle). We got a 0-0 draw. Both defences played very well. It is very tough to overcome a defence playing always with four or five men. They don't allow you to dribble. Maybe if Pelé was all right, the game would have ended differently. If he had played, they wouldn’t have secured the defence so much; they would have attacked, which would have allowed us to play and manoeuvre in their half better. But it’s a fine result: after all we have three points from two games! Only a small step to the quarter-finals. It depends on the following matches as well.

I am only sorry to see that our bosses are not satisfied with this draw. But what more do they want? We came here as if to the graveyard and now we are riding high… I am marvelling about that a lot.

6. VI.

We are getting up at quarter to ten. Without a warm up. At 10am we are going to train at that place we usually pass on the way to the beach. Easy, entertaining training session. At 12 we are having lunch, then having a rest and at quarter to two we’re leaving for the game. Brazil won 2-1 (0-1)! They are qualified after that and so are we (we can even lose against Mex.). If we win by three or more goals, we are going to play here in Viña. (By two goals it will be decided by drawing lots). Otherwise we will play in Rancagua against Hungary. Spain played with a changed line-up and it was bad luck for them. They controlled the game, were leading 1-0, but the Brazilians were very lucky. In the end they won. One supporter broke his leg when jumping over the fence after the match. He will remember the World Cup for a long time!

No more news, only three players are coming from Czechoslovakia. As reinforcements! I think it's completely pointless. They won't play, so why have they selected them? It's an excursion for them. They are saving money, saving money and now they blow $3,000 for nothing!

The mood is peaceful. I hope to succeed tomorrow and everything will be OK.

7. VI. 1962

Wake-up call at quarter to 10; warm up. Breakfast, short walk and entertainment. The three came: Kos, Bomba, Schmucker. They've brought newspapers and told us what's new at home. Lunch at 12.00. At 1.30pm we are leaving for the game. We lost 3-1 (Mašek scored). Unlucky match which we could have won at least 3-0. We were already 1-0 in the lead in the first minute, then we had great chances, but they scored the goals. 2-1 at half-time. We conceded the third goal one minute before the end from a penalty kick after Lála's handball. Awful coincidence! I cannot understand our leaders. What do they want? That we are going to play in Rancagua? Even there we can make the result. The mood is like we are rag-and-bone-men. We are leaving for Rancagua tomorrow after lunch. On Sunday we are playing against Hungary.

10. VI.

Warm up at 8:45am – breakfast and preparation. Schrojf, Lála – Popl. - Novák, Pluskal - Masopust - Pospíchal, Scherer – Kadraba – Kvašňák - Jelínek. Lunch at 11.30am.. Relaxation and at 1.30pm we are going to Rancagua.

Why say unnecessary words; the result is enough 1-0 for Czechoslovakia. Dolfi [Scherer] scored the goal.

Unusual joy and happiness. We are already in the last four and we will play against Yugoslavia for a place in the final! I cannot imagine what is happening at home. There has to be amazing happiness and joy. I cannot find words!

Dinner and various ceremonies + wine. We were at a party until 10.30pm. Even after that we were fooling around more until midnight. Pavel and Sváťa [Kouba and Pluskal] went crazy.

13. VI.

Half past nine warm up, at 9 breakfast. After that there is preparation. I got a letter from mama. It made me very happy. They are healthy and everything is OK. There is a great enthusiasm at home. I am pleased about that. I am looking forward to being back home. The preparation was as usual. Much talk and one doesn't know how to play exactly. The line-up is the same. I am curious how it will end after lunch. Lunch at 11:00am – then relaxation. At 1.30pm we left for the stadium. We arrived around one hour before the game. It is a nice day, maybe too hot. Anthems etc. and then football began. Yugoslavs started very well and had three chances. We did play badly and were defending. And yet it was Kadraba who scored the first goal! They equalised, were dominant and had chances. But our defence and Vildo [Schrojf] saved us every time at the last moment. Around 10 minutes before the end Dolfi scored the third goal with a penalty kick – so we won 3-1 and we were through to the final.

Schrojf, Lála - Popl. - Novák, Pluskal - Masopust, Posp. – Scherer – Kadraba – Kvašňák - Jelínek.

It's fantastic, but it's true, even though it's unbelievable. Our style of play isn't very nice, but fortune is always on our side. The opponents don’t score from great chances and we often do, none of us knows how. The results and wins are spreading around the world. I only believe that in the final against Brazil we will keep our good fortune and we will win again! That would be something big, unforgettable. It is 10pm. Tomorrow we're leaving for Santiago.

17. VI.

3-1

I am giving up secondary things and I am coming straight to the final. We didn't manage what I had been hoping in secret. We lost to Brazil 3-1! Vildo, who had played like he was unbeatable in previous games – failed in this match. He conceded two silly goals which were the reason for our quite big loss. We went into the lead thanks to Masopust. Our joy was great – we were almost in a trance. But in the very next minute Amarildo equalised with a very easy, accidental goal from a narrow angle (nearly from the goal line). Vildo thought that the ball was going wide. The first half ended 1-1. During the second half we played very well, but they scored through Zito and then Vavá. This time we weren't lucky; just the opposite. We were very near to the title. Pity!

But our performance was proof of our ability to play football. There was a closing banquet at 10pm lasting until midnight. We did not get to bed before 1am. I drank some wine and was in a good mood. But I mixed my drinks which put me in a terrible mood in the morning and during the next day.


Štibrányi got a hangover but not a medal. The organisers had only twelve for the runners up, so only those eleven who played the final game and Rudolf Vytlačil got one. The coach dedicated his medal to Jan Lála who played all the games in the tournament except the final, because of the injury he suffered during the semi-final. Even today the scar caused by the Yugoslav forward Dragoslav Šekularac is still visible.

But for Štibrányi, the very first game of the World Cup against Spain was his personal final. “Even today I can see their gelled hair and smell how they were perfumed when we met them in the tunnel on our way to the pitch. We could also have become multi-millionaires – after the World Cup, we could all have left Czechoslovakia and earned money in the West. But we were not allowed.” The Communist regime didn't want its footballers to leave Czechoslovakia. Only later in the decade were selected national team players in their thirties allowed to go abroad. It was the mission of socialist athletes to entertain the working classes at the weekend and to serve as idols for young people, not to disappear into the capitalist world and earn money there.

But half a century later, when you ask Štibrányi if he regrets that he lives in the village as an old man with a standard Slovak pension, he shakes his head. He has the garden where many footballs lie around. From time to time he sits in a room of his house where he watches football and plays a banjo. Occasionally he still takes his racquet to play tennis or puts on his skis and he looks happy. “Very happy! My wife still looks great. We're living in elegance,” he smiles.

“Does one need millions? For what? How many dumplings or sausages can you eat at once? When you lie on that bed, you realise how stupid the things are which make us angry during life – what trivialities. Everyone wants branded T-shirts, shoes… but for what? When you lie there and you don't know if you will ever get up from that bed, you start to think in a different way about life.”

Jozef Štibrányi beat prostate cancer in 2010. They removed his hormonal glands and once a day he takes a tablet which gradually releases the necessary medication into his body. “We managed to dig our way from the deepest pit,” said Štibrányi’s wife Lydia. “When he was undergoing surgery, he was open for eight hours. The doctor didn't believe that my husband would survive. They found out that he had had three tumours inside. It helped him that he used to do sports all his life. He was strong.”

21. VI. 1962

Long live football and let's be healthy!

Trnava hizo único gol!!