The perceptions of our collective memory are curious things, those of the collective imaginary of popular culture related to football. If somebody were to suddenly ask us for the greatest feat ever seen on the field of play, a great deal of us would activate that mechanism of collective memory to respond quickly: the Maracanazo. And against the glory of Ghiggia, Schiaffino, the great Obdulio Varela and the ill-fated goalkeeper Barbosa, sculpted so staunchly in that memory, only a critical and mocking minority would suggest the alternative candidacy of that otherworldly concept, das Wunder von Bern (The Miracle of Bern), that does not even occupy more than a secondary place in the attic of our memories. The miracle of Bern, the sensational 1954 World Cup final between the West Germans of Fritz Walter and the Magical Magyars of Ferenc Puskas, with a marvelous constellation included on the billboard. From Grosics to Bozsik, from Hidegkuti to Czibor, from Kocsis to Lorant, from Turek to Rahn, from Eckel to the Walter brothers, from Morlock to Posipal... And, above all, its backdrop of enormous dimension, eternal legend, a sure sign of the immense redeeming power of football.

Even the surroundings of that sparkling, surprising, electrifying meeting were of great scope. To mention an unknown collateral piece of information: Laci (as his compatriots called him) Kubala travelled from Barcelona to Switzerland to watch that final. Six long years after fleeing through the Austrian border, of mobilizing both sides of the Iron Curtain, in favour and against, the great Kubala was to again meet his former teammates. Such an emotional moment has passed unnoticed even by his biographers, but the newspaper records of that era still serve to delight us with the memories of that time in the first person. Kubala had just suffered the worst injury of his career in San Mamés, victim of Eneko Arieta I and of his own risky way of protecting the ball from defenders, a rupture of the lateral ligaments of his knee with the removal of the right meniscus. With the surgical and rehabilitation techniques of the time, the complexity of the operation did not generate any optimism. And with reason, as Lazslo lost forever part of his pace and potency. So, still limping, at the beginning of June 1954, he decided to find out, in a neutral country, how his people remembered him. The dispute four years previously between the Hungarians and Spanish was still dragging on. In his native country he was considered a deserter, a delinquent and he was pursued for pending penal proceedings, with very serious accusations. And nobody was able to stop this persecution, not even FIFA, nor Kubala's acquisition of full Spanish nationality, he was by now capped for the Spanish national team.

With a certain resentment and a ticket for the final in his pocket, Kubala keeps away from the hustle and bustle of the crowd, but word of his presence gets out and the great Nandor Hidegkuti swiftly comes to greet him. He brings him into the changing room, almost like somebody introducing an idol. The keeper Grosics hugs him while crying, Puskas smiles at him, he has his picture taken with them all and, on his return to the Catalan capital, he confesses to journalists: "It was such a great reception that I didn't know what to do. I was so moved and surprised that I spoke to them in Hungarian, Czech and Spanish all at the same time. Their spontaneous gesture caused me great joy. I even attended the team talk with the coaches. I have returned from Switzerland with extraordinary morale." Just what he needed for his troubles at the time, a remedy provided from the least expected emotional sector.

Focused on the definitive duel, we already know that Hungary had beaten the Germans 8-3 in the first round of the tournament, just as we know of their 30 game unbeaten run over a span of four years, their moniker of "Magical Magyars" transcended continents. They were incomparable to any other team of the time, and were favourites, despite Puskas having a nagging injury and having to play with the aid of an injection. The legend recalls that "Puskas" was an affectionate form of address, translated as "shotgun"; his real surname was Purczfeld though not even his family now knew him as that. That Hungary instituted the 4-2-4, with Hidegkuti turned into a European variation of Adolfo Pedernera or Alfredo di Stéfano: a false centre forward who drops back to organise offensive mischief beside the also tremendous Bozsik. They, along with the razor sharp Sandor "Golden Head" Kocsis and Zoltan "Mad Bird" Czibor, had been capable of dominating the England of Wright and Matthews for the first time with a 3-6 demolition in Wembley.

The evening in the Wankdorfstadion was infernal. A muddy pitch, a lead-coloured grey sky, rain, cold, fog. As the Germans still say as a common phrase, "a day for Fritz Walter", famous for playing better as the meteorological conditions worsened. The Germans, under the instruction of Sepp Herberger, a studious tactician and analyser of opposition, arrived at the stadium singing a little tune from their homeland to ward off the fear they had of receiving a terrible beating. They were right to fear this: after eight minutes of the final they were already 2-0 down, goals scored by Ferenc himself and Czibor. But the miracle happened. Between the ailments of Puskas, the great saves of the keeper Turek, four efforts hitting the woodwork and a Magyar goal controversially disallowed, Walter's men decided to come back to life when normally a team would sink without trace. They did so starting from Herberger's tactics, who positioned the young midfielder Horst Eckel on Hidegkuti and put Werner Liebrich on what was left of Puskas, thereby breaking the links in the renowned "Magical Square", another of the admiring aliases attained by the Magyars. Morlock and Rahn equalised before the break. And then, in the agonising final act of the game, with the result in the balance, in the 84th minute, a pass by Fritz Walter to Helmut Rahn provoked the musical accompaniment of a choir of Valkyries with a Wagnerian backdrop. The death knell, the absolute stupefaction. And the best feeling for one side, the misfortune of the other, as usually happens.

Some German football historians named the unexpected gift "the purge of the demons of the Second World War". Nine years after that defeat, something had brought a smile back to their faces. At last. That victory against all odds in the '54 World Cup meant much more than a triumph in Germany. According to the historian Joachim Fest, "For the Germans it meant liberating themselves from all that weight that had been on their shoulders since the defeat in the War. The 4th of July 1954 marked, in some aspects, the founding day for the German Federal Republic." The day in which they could recover torrents of pride and self confidence. It is worth refreshing history: after the Potsdam Conference, the country was divided into four portions controlled by the Allied forces and nations, borders are moved meaning the loss of 100,000 square kilometres of land and, above all, the country mourns the death of some eleven million compatriots.

Fritz Walter himself had been a soldier, captured and imprisoned in a Hungarian concentration camp - the paradoxes of destiny - for three years, where he contracted malaria before being sent to a Soviet gulag, to which he never arrived, saved by his footballing fame. He was so respected, so great was his contribution to Kaiserslautern, that he was never considered a Nazi, merely another victim of the circumstances of history.

Eckel himself, author of a book of memories titled, of course, "The 84th minute", confessed decades later: "Our country had been devastated. Thousands and thousands of German soldiers were still confined, held captive. In many aspects, Germany had hit rock bottom. Our title win helped the nation to pick itself up again. We gave them confidence and courage to fight for a better future. We all became motivated in the intimacy of our reflections when saying to ourselves "if we could do it in Bern, we can achieve it in any other place".

In contrast, every coin has another side. There ended the Magyar hegemony. Two years later, the revolution of '56 would destroy Hungary, its revered Honved and its talent would scatter elsewhere. In another macabre twist of fate, Kocsis and Czibor would even return to Bern, to the same stadium, to the same dressing room as '54 to again trip against destiny wearing the blaugrana shirt in that 1961 final against Benfica, "the final of the square posts", a defeat just as cruel as the previous one, which would again rip apart the team in which they played. Wonderful things have been written about the circumstances of the great match, its whims and those aspects of analysis which very much exceed the simply sporting side. There is no other game that can boast of its condition as a stimulus to resuscitate a country wounded by the delirium of both war and the expansionism of its psychopathic leaders. The 4th of July 1954 and it was Bern, a day for Fritz Walter.

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Article translated from Spanish to English by Julio Smith, originally published at the Perarnau Magazine by Frederic Porta. Martí Perarnau is one of Grup 14's partners.

WRITTEN BY: Perarnau Magazine

The Perarnau Magazine was founded by Martí Perarnau, former high jump athlete, currently working as a journalist and known author of "Pep Confidential". The magazine is one of Grup 14 partners, publishing their content in English and Spanish.