For more from Rushdie on the game, and on his history as a Spurs supporter, read this New Yorker essay from 1999: “The People’s Game.”
Part II (“First Love”) of the piece begins:
I came to London in January 1961, as a boy of thirteen and a half, on my way to boarding school, and accompanied by my father. It was a cold month, with blue skies by day and green fogs by night. We stayed at the Cumberland, at Marble Arch, and after we settled in, my father asked if I would like to see a professional soccer game. (In Bombay, where I had grown up, there was no soccer to speak of; the local sports were cricket and field hockey.)
The first game my father took me to see was what I would later learn was a “friendly” (because the result doesn’t count toward anything) between a North London team called the Arsenal and the champions of Spain, Real Madrid. I did not know that the visitors were rated as perhaps the greatest team ever. Or that they had just won the European Cup five years running. Or that among their players were two of the game’s all-time immortals, both foreigners: a Hungarian named Ferenc Puskas, “the little general,” and an Argentine, Alfredo di Stefano.
This is the way I remember the game: in the first half, Real Madrid tore the Arsenal apart.
Take the time to read the whole essay (although doing so online does require a New Yorker subscription).
(I’ve thought at times of doing a “CultFootball LongReads” series of posts–links to longer essays on the game. Rushdie’s New Yorker essay, along with some of The Blizzard pieces, are what got me thinking about doing such a thing. So consider this the first in a series–more will appear here if/when we get around to posting any more.)