Many people’s memories of the 1982 football World Cup in Spain might centre on the stylish passing football of the Brazil team, led by the chain-smoking doctor of medicine, political philosopher and activist, Sócrates; or perhaps the goal-scoring feats of Paolo Rossi, and Marco Tardelli’s emotional celebration during Italy’s victorious final; or maybe even the adorable mascot for the tournament, Naranjito.
The impact of the home nations (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) was ultimately not hugely significant. Scotland fell at the first hurdle, losing out narrowly in a group containing Brazil and the Soviet Union, and while Northern Ireland exceeded expectations by reaching the second group phase (and recorded a shock win against the hosts), both they and England were knocked out at that stage, before the semi-finalists took their spots. However, memories of David Narey’s superb strike against Brazil, Gerry Armstrong’s winner against Spain, and Bryan Robson’s early goal against France would not exist if a boycott of the tournament had been carried out by the British participants.
Argentina had invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands on 2 April of that year, and Britain soon dispatched a naval taskforce to reclaim the islands. After two months of conflict Britain finally reclaimed the Falklands on 14 June. The crisis had political ramifications – including the only time the House of Commons has sat on a Saturday (3 April) and the resignation of Lord Carrington as Foreign Secretary; it caused strains with some of Britain’s closest allies; and a substantial casualty list on both sides, with many lives ruined or taken away.