Hornby says the 1970 World Cup (Mexico City) was the first meeting between European and South American footballing powers. For an English kid, watching Brazil and Pele' was something entirely new...
It wasn't just the quality of the football, though; it was the way they regarded ingenious and outrageous embellishment as though it were as functional and necessary as a corner kick or a throw-in. The only comparison I had at my disposal then was with toy cars: although I had no interest in Dinky or Corgi or Matchbox, I loved Lady Penelope's pink Rolls Royce and James Bond's Aston Martin, both equipped with elaborate devices such as ejector seats and hidden guns which lifted them out of the boringly ordinary. Pele's attempt to score from inside his own half with a lob, the dummy he sold the Peruvian goalkeeper when he went one way around and the ball went the other...these were football's equivalent of the ejector seat, and made everything else look like so many Vauxhall Vivas. Even the Brazilian way of celebrating a goal -- run four strides, jump, punch, run four strides, jump, punch -- was alien and funny and enviable, all at the same time.
In a way Brazil ruined it for all of us. They had revealed a kind of Platonic ideal that nobody, not even the Brazilians, would ever be able to find again; Pele' retired, and in the five subsequent tournaments they only showed little flashes of their ejector-seat football, as if 1970 was a half-remembered dream they had once had of themselves. At school we were left with our Esso World Cup coin collections and a couple of fancy moves to try out; but we couldn't even get close, and we gave up.
[Exerpted from Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch (Riverhead, 1992), p. 37.]