Olympiastadion, Berlin, 20.04.1994
Fixture cancelled following withdrawal of English FA
Berlin, 1994: The game that never was.
With over sixty-thousand match tickets sold, the English FA chose to pull out of the fixture for fear of it all kicking off – and they were not talking about football here – on what was the 105th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birthday. One has to wonder who the bigger idiots were: those who had organised the fixture in the first place, or the FA for pulling out less than two weeks before.
While it would have been easy to criticise the Berlin organisers – who would have been more than aware of the date – the logical counter-argument would have been that any decision to red-flag the 20th of April would have simply validated its significance. Many argued that in withdrawing their commitment to the fixture, the FA had simply given in to both the neo-Nazi thugs and Antifa rabble who between themselves had threatened to wreck the occasion; the FA more or less admitted that the decision was akin to quitting while behind. Many former German and English internationals, among them goalkeeping greats Sepp Maier and Gordon Banks, were aghast at what was clearly a surrender to a loudmouthed minority on the political and social fringe.
No matter what position one chose to adopt, the simple fact was that much time and money had been wasted: travel arrangements had been made, tickets had been purchased, and suddenly it was all off.
Not longer after the FA had pulled out the story took another curious turn: when the DFB requested the European Championship qualifier against Wales be moved to April 26th in order to recoup some of the losses, it was discovered that this day happened to be the 100th anniversary of the birth of Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess. Having had enough, the Berlin authorities decided to cut their losses and draw a line under all the silliness.
Whether it was in jest or not, the mass-circulation tabloid Bild then went on to publish a list of no-go dates based on the birthdays of leading Nazi figures; in doing so, it just showed how comical the entire issue had become. No alternative date was arranged for the England game: the fixture was simply cancelled without further ceremony.
Over two years would pass until the next meeting between the two sides, which would take place on a warm June evening at Wembley. Almost thirty years after England’s one and only international triumph and with a place in the final of the European Championships at stake, it was always going to be a classic.