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Geoff Hurst reunited with hat-trick ball 50 years on

London (AFP) – Geoff Hurst was reunited with the ball he hit a hat-trick with in the 1966 World Cup final on Saturday as English football marked the 50th anniversary of the country’s greatest football success.

It was on July 30, 1966 that Hurst scored three goals as hosts England beat West Germany 4-2 after extra-time at London’s Wembley Stadium.

It was the only time England have won the World Cup and former West Ham striker Hurst remains the only man to have scored a hat-trick in a World Cup final.

“You see the ball occasionally,” Hurst told a BBC Radio programme marking the anniversary. 

“(German midfielder) Helmut Haller stole it after the final — it was in Germany for 30 years — and they eventually brought it back from his loft in Germany during the Euros in 1996 and now it’s safely in our (England’s national football) museum in Manchester.

“It is such a priceless piece of memorabilia that anyone who touches it (has to wear white gloves).

“Apparently, anyone who won the World Cup can hold the ball without the gloves — Jimmy Greaves once said when he was told that, that ‘if it gets nicked, there’s only our fingerprints on it’.”

Hurst — not wearing gloves — then held the ball, to cheers from the crowd at the SSE Arena at Wembley.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino, also present at the event, joked about Hurst’s controversial goal.

With the match in extra-time after ending 2-2 after 90 minutes, Hurst let fly with a powerful shot that hit the underside of the crossbar.

England celebrated, convinced the ball had crossed the line, while the West Germans were equally adamant the ball had stayed out.

Tofiq Bahramov, the “Russian” linesman who was in fact from Azerbaijan, awarded the goal to make it 3-2 to England before Hurst completed his hat-trick in the closing stages with a powerful shot into the top corner.

Whether Hurst’s second goal did cross the line has been the subject of decades of debate, but a similar controversy is unlikely to arise in future after FIFA introduced goal-line technology in time for the 2014 World Cup. 

“I have the honour to be here together with you to celebrate this 50-year anniversary,” said Infantino. 

“Fifty years not of the inception of goal-line technology, but 50 years of a great World Cup which was celebrated here in England.

“England welcomed the world and today, 50 years ago, 11 heroes made legend as England were crowned world champions.”

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