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The Independent Online
Wembley final?

WHAT a crying shame! In England they are getting serious: they want to close Wembley stadium ...

No, my friends, they shouldn't really do this to me. Wembley is not a stadium, it is a footballer's myth. I've always told my viewers on Telemontecarlo that if they really want to get a thrill out of the game they should go to London and visit Wembley. Go and see the FA Cup semi-finals or final and you will see: it's like going to the theatre. In the royal box, they give you a blanket and cups of tea. Everyone else gets beer. And then there are those pale pink towers at the entrance. It feels

like you are entering a palace, and in fact a palace is what it becomes when the royal carriages and cars come in. And then there are the changing-rooms, big and wide and spacious, with clothes hangers for every player. And then there is the turf. In my time it was perfect, a real carpet ... not like that awful stuff you see at Italian grounds.

For the last few years I have gone back to Wembley every year. I like that stadium, even as a television commentator. You can see the pitch really well. The stadium officials dressed in traditional clothes. The Royal Family in the stands. The gentlemen in their bowlers and the ladies in their fine hats. It's like taking part in a rite. Wembley, my friends, is a myth. And myths cannot die.

Jose Altafini, former Italian soccer international, writing in `Unita'.

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