Brain injuries, the flip side for English footballers at World 66

By Eric Albert

Posted on May 07, 2021 at 5:47 p.m., updated at 4:38 a.m.

The England team won world champions in 1966. Four former players died of senile dementia.

In the garden of his house, on the outskirts of Doncaster, in the north of England, John Stiles takes a deep breath. Once again, he is about to tell the painful story of the last years of his father, who died in October 2020. The emotion remains alive and, behind the jovial smile, his eyes mist at regular intervals. But John Stiles wants to talk. At 57, he who is, like his father, a former professional footballer is now campaigning to make it known: “It’s the biggest scandal in sport for a very long time. “

It is difficult, in this small pavilion without pretension or distinctive sign to guess that the father of John Stiles was a legend: Nobby Stiles, one of the eleven victorious holders of the final of the 1966 FIFA World Cup, organized in England. With his missing front teeth, his infectious smile and his little dance performed while holding up the trophy right after the victory, he had captured the hearts of the crowds forever. Decades later, long after he retired from the grounds, he was still stopped in the streets to sign autographs.

Nobby Stiles died at 78 in a nursing home, isolated, anxious and lost. The former champion died of senile dementia, no longer recognizing his relatives. The symptoms had started about fifteen years earlier. “First, memory loss. Then a complete change of personality, sums up his son. He became anxious, depressed, he needed his wife to be present at all times. From October 2013, he could no longer be left alone. The hardest part was this constant anxiety. When I visited him, I couldn’t calm him down. When I left, he was never appeased. “

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy

When he died, the emotion was strong in England. There followed a flood of tributes. The 1966 team is now semi-deified across the Channel. The country which codified the practice of football a century and a half ago has only won the World Cup once. Every passing international competition and every failure by the national team fuels a powerful sense of nostalgia.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also English football fans, champions of self-mockery

In 1996, the group The Lightning Seeds even wrote a song that entered popular culture, speaking at the time of “Thirty years of pain” since the victory. The death of Nobby Stiles, which the banter of English titi made all the more sympathetic, rekindled the flame of this distant event watched by 32 million British viewers on July 30, 1966 (60% of the population at the time).

You have 84.76% of this article to read. The rest is for subscribers only.