Here we are again - four years on from the last World Cup semi final - and the fans are in a frenzy as they worship their heroes and pillory their villains. We have made more appearances in the World Cup - and in the final - than any team or player.
Who are we?
We are the Acme Whistle.
We were there in 1966 when we did something really unusual and heart-warming. We blew an England victory. Before then, or indeed after then, all we have done is blow England out of the competition. What joy to, at last, have given a triumphant roll of the pea. These days they can’t do that with their airfast (no pea) Tornado whistles. The long drawl that you can only get from an Acme Thunderer is not like any other football referees’ call, so therefore unmistakeable, and was always what signalled the end of time. You listened for that sound as you knew it wasn’t a foul or a free kick, it was the final word.
World Cup Winners of '66
We never knew what had become of the whistle used 52 years ago until 2014 when, out of the blue, an email arrived from Klaus Kammerling. He sent us a picture of his grandfather’s whistle and told the story. Gottfreid Dienst, the 1966 referee of the World Cup final, had given the whistle he used on England’s day to his grandfather. His grandfather died in 1979 and the whistle was thought lost. But in 2014 it was found in a cupboard in his parents' cellar in Switzerland. The children, now grown up, had never forgotten the story and recognised it at once.
It is Acme Thunderer model no 059. It was discontinued from the Acme catalogue at the end of the 70s but was a very popular whistle from 1940 to 1970. Its medium tone was rounded and mellifluous when compared to the explosive shriek of the modern whistle. But fashions in whistles change like fashions in anything. We have seen whistles from the 1920s return to find a new lease of life. The sound of soccer is not immutable - its day may not be done. To England fans it is a rhapsody.
Then, as now, the whistle performed one of the greatest moments of communication on Earth. 400 million people were watching the ’66 final and at the sound of that long, drawn out roll, half of them erupted with joyous acclamation whilst the other half were devastated. Two contradictory emotions experienced simultaneously by millions. A command performance in every sense.