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When Middlesbrough hosted the 1966 World Cup Koreans
Pak Doo-ik scores
Pak Doo-Ik's goal was enough to secure a win against Italy

In the summer of 1966, the whole of the country was gripped by World Cup fever as England lifted the trophy for the first, and so far only, time.

Alf Ramsay's wingless wonders got the headlines, but a group of North Koreans captured the imagination of Teesside.

Middlesbrough's Ayresome Park was chosen to host three games during the tournament from a group made up of Italy, the USSR, Chile and North Korea.

BBC Tees hears from those who saw the North Koreans play.

International festival

The North Korean side arrived in the region as complete football unknowns.

Placed in a group with Chile, a talented USSR team and an Italian side featuring greats such as Giacinto Facchetti and Gianni Rivera, they were given almost no chance of progressing to the knock-out stages.

But their underdog status seemed to work in their favour.

Ian Stubbs, curator at Middlesbrough's Dorman Museum, says the town took the side to their hearts.

"They stayed at the airport hotel and trained on the ICI pitch, so people going on and off shift got to know them well and they became quite popular.

1966 World Cup flower display
Special events were held to celebrate World Cup games coming to Teesside

"The town's Mayor, Jack Boothby, decided to have an international festival while the tournament was on, so Ayresome Gardens was turned into a floral football pitch and there were lots of events to celebrate the event."

"They were the underdogs expected to be going home before the competition had even finished locally", says Bernard Gent, the former voice of Ayresome Park.

"Seeing them do well made all the difference and made it a big occasion."

Tony from Stainton went to all three of North Korea's games, and contacted the John Foster Breakfast Show to tell him about a close encounter with the squad at a Middlesbrough hairdressers.

"I used to go to Benny's the barbers with my dad. It was a Saturday morning, and the whole squad came in for a haircut - I remember they were really small.

"The craze at the time was Batman and I had a t-shirt on, and they came over and started picking me up saying 'Batman! Batman!'

"I managed to get all their autographs but lost it when I moved."

Massive victory

More than 22,000 people turned up to see their opening game, a 3-0 defeat against the USSR.

Undeterred, they managed to grind out a point in their next match against Chile in front of a crowd of almost 16,000 fans.

However, their biggest challenge still lay in waiting as they took on the much-fancied Italians.

Almost 19,000 fans crammed in to Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough linesman Jack Quinn was among them.

North Korean signed pennant
The North Korean side returned to the region in 2002

"Everybody thought it was going to be a massive victory for the Italians, but you could sense that there could be an upset."

And there was, as Pak Doo-Ik's goal secured a famous victory and one of the biggest World Cup upsets in the tournament's history.

"The Italians were quite stupefied, they were going home and that's all there was to it", remembers Jack.

The North Koreans would eventually lose 5-3 against Eusebio's Portugal at Everton's Goodison Park in the quarter finals.

Lasting legacy

The 2010 World Cup Finals in South Africa is the North Korean's first appearance at the tournament since 1966.

More than 40 years on since their visit, their stay on Teesside still evokes memories today.

The remaining members of the 1966 side returned to Middlesbrough in 2002 to celebrate the release of 'The Game of Their Lives', a documentary about the exploits during the finals.

"They actually went back to the site of Ayresome Park and stood on the site where the goal was scored, and they brought a signed vase and a pennant for us to display", recalls Ian Stubbs.

Many of those items are on display at the Dorman Museum today at an exhibition entitled '1966 And All That'.

Korea's heroes revisit 1966 glory
15 Oct 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Flashback: Korea's 1966 stunner
19 Jun 02 |  Other News




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