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Thatcher slammed 1990 World Cup divers as she praised England stars

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Margaret Thatcher praised England’s footballers for not succumbing to diving “unlike other teams” during the 1990 World Cup, newly-released government files show.

The then prime minister held a Downing Street reception for the squad – which included Paul Gascoigne and Gary Lineker – following the team’s penalty shoot-out defeat to West Germany.

Mrs Thatcher’s speaking notes from the event showed the Iron Lady was complimentary about the behaviour of the players, at a time when there was an often strained relationship between government and the game.

She told them: “We all noticed too that when an England player was brought down, unlike other teams, our players did not immediately seek the Oscar for best actor for impersonating the death scene from Richard III.

“You got on calmly with the game and always accepted the referee’s decisions without demur.”

File photo dated 25/05/1990 of England manager Bobby Robson with Paul Gascoigne and other members of the squad leaving Luton to fly to Italy for the World Cup
Image:
Some of the England squad pictured with manager Bobby Robson at Luton airport

The papers, released by the National Archives, also revealed the prime minister’s private secretary Dominic Morris advised allowing her speech to the players to be filmed.

He felt “it would help promote the image that you are not anti-football (but simply anti-hooliganism)”.

The draft notes showed Mrs Thatcher wanted to congratulate the team for winning the Fifa Fair Play Trophy at the tournament.

She noted that England’s footballers were often first to “stretch out the hand of friendship to the opposing team player”.

The reception came after Bobby Robson’s team reached the semi-final at Italia 90 before being knocked out 4-3 in an agonising penalty shoot-out.

It was still England’s best World Cup performance since winning in 1966, with Gascoigne’s skills and Lineker’s goals captivating the nation.

The tournament was also famous for Gascoigne’s tears after he was given a yellow card during the semi-final – a decision that would have meant him missing the final if England had made it.

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