The Beautiful Game

Reuel Golden’s New Book Looks Back at the Culture, Fashion and Photography of 1970s Football

Every four years, The World Cup comes around and takes centre stage, captivating people the globe over. This year is no different, especially with the fact that this tournament takes place in the spiritual home of ‘The Beautiful Game’, Brazil.
The Age of Innocence is a new book that celebrates football of the 70s, which editor Reuel Golden argues, was a much brighter time for the game. He adds that the Brazilian ‘1970 World Cup winning team is the finest manifestation of that beautiful and joyful ethos’.

The book, which is chronologically ordered, contains three chapters starting on the subject of The World Cup in 1970,1974, and1978, before covering the ensuing years in varying degrees. It contains a collection of vintage photographs and essays written by four of the most renowned football writers and is titled after a phrase in the essay by Barney Ronay, which Reuel believes captures the spirit of the decade. He said ‘By the 1980s, the game had become more cynical, faster, with the emphasis on denying your opponent’s spaces, rather than trusting your own creative instincts’

Despite this, Reuel does see some hope in modern football. He adds ‘A few weeks ago I would have said “yes,” [football has lost it’s beauty], but with what’s currently happening in the World Cup, I’m not so sure.’

We caught up with Reuel to talk about the changes in the game, and the making of this book.

The Plus: How did you pick what images would go in it?
Reuel Golden:
For every interesting concept, you need to find the photos that illustrate and bring that concept to life. We never wanted to do a typical football book. Our goal (don’t excuse the pun) was to move the camera away from the pitch and focus more on the culture and lifestyle of the game in the 1970s.
This book celebrates this decade as much as it does football. Of course, you can’t have a football book without action shots, but we also thought that people would be intrigued by seeing superstars such as Cruyff, Beckenbauer and George Best enjoying the 1970s good life. The more obscure the better.

TP: Do you have a favourite image from the book, or one that sticks out particularly?
The image that people are most intrigued by is of Péle and Beckenbauer naked in the showers after a game when they were both playing for the New York Cosmos. It’s extraordinary to think that not only was the photographer Volker Hinz allowed the access, but also that there was no outcry from the players themselves, when it was published in the German magazine Stern.

TP: What are the main differences between football then, and football now?
That shower photo illustrates one of the main differences. Can you imagine that happening today? Now players are protected by agents, lawyers and sponsors. Money and commercial considerations were starting to creep in and there were a handful of football millionaires, but it wasn’t this money guzzling “brand football” that we have today.

I remember how exciting it was seeing The Netherlands on television for the first time in the 1974 World Cup, their orange shirts, long hair, skill and arrogance was totally compelling. We wanted to replicate that excitement in the book.

In terms of the quality of football, the World Cup so far has proven that the game can still be free flowing, beautiful (biting aside) with teams committed to attack, long may it continue.

TP: Who do you think will win the world cup this year?
Not England!

The Age of Innocence. Football in the 1970’s is published by TASCHEN.