John Motson Dead at 77; Remembering His Top Five Moments on the Call

  • John Motson passed away Thursday at 77 years old
  • Motson was on the call for many historic soccer moments
  • He called FA Cups, World Cups, the Euros, and more
  • Moston was referred to as “the voice of a (soccer) generation”
John Motson
The incomparable John Motson passed away Thursday and have compiled some of his best moments in the booth. [Image: / Ben Sutherland]

John Motson passes

Legendary English soccer commentator John Motson, 77, has passed away, his family confirmed.

“It is with great sadness we announce that John Motson OBE died peacefully in his sleep today,” Thursday’s statement from the family said.

over 50 years covering soccer

Motson, nicknamed “Motty,” spent over 50 years covering soccer for the BBC and other entities. He retired in 2018 after working ten World Cups and European Championships and 29 FA Cup Finals.

An immortal figure

Motson began his career as a newspaper reporter at the Sheffield Morning Telegraph before climbing the ranks and eventually becoming one of the most influential voices in the sport.  

Sky Sports pundit Martin Tyler had the following to say about Motson.

“First of all, he was somebody I admired in terms of the profession enormously,” said Tyler. “His preparation was second-to-none, his attention to detail, his wish to know everything possible about the game he was about to broadcast.”

the voice of a footballing (soccer) generation

BBC director-general Tim Davie referred to Motson as “the voice of a footballing (soccer) generation.” As his passing is mourned, we revisit his most memorable moments in the booth.

John Motson’s top calls

Beckham has virtually played Greece on his own

The 1992 World Cup qualification process was a tricky one for England. Although it had the largest profile of any nation in its qualifying group (Germany, Albania, Finland, and Greece), it found itself trailing Greece 2-1 and in need of a point to go to the top of the group and avoid a qualification playoff.

With the roaring fans at Manchester United’s Old Trafford lamenting the performance, Manchester’s own David Beckham stepped up for an injury-time free kick. A specialist by trade, he curled the ball into the top corner and earned his team a decisive point in spite of their dreadful performance.  

Motson said that Beckham had virtually battled Greece on his own on that fateful day. England went on to secure the top spot in the group ahead of Germany on goal difference.

Zidane’s career ends in disgrace

The 2006 World Cup Final pit two giants of the sport, Italy and France, against one another. 34-year-old Zinedine Zidane gave his side an early advantage with a seventh-minute penalty kick, and Marco Materazzi drew Italy level in the 19th minute.

The match was nip-and-tuck from there on out. It ultimately dragged into extra time and appeared destined for penalties until one of the most shocking moments in soccer history happened.

Zidane and Materazzi, the two goal scorers, exchanged some words right around the 110th minute. The notoriously hot-headed Zidane turned around and took a few steps backward before he charged into the Italian and head-butted him in the chest. 

“You can’t excuse that!”

“You can’t excuse that!” Motson exclaimed on the call. “Zidane’s career ends in disgrace!”

Italy went on to win the World Cup 5-3 on penalties. Materazzi was one of five Italians that converted his kick from the spot.

One, two, three for Michael Owen!

As unbiased as commentators are trained to be, Motson was an avid supporter of his native England. That is what made it so sweet when in 2001 they looked like they were ready to win their first World Cup since 1966.

During the same qualifying period as the 2-2 draw with Greece, England blasted past Germany 5-1 in Munich. Motson revealed in an interview that it was his favorite match he ever commentated on.

The Germans netted the opener, but Michael Owen and Steven Gerraded ensured they were on top heading into the break. Owen furthered the advantage shortly after the restart and then completed his hat trick in the 66th minute.

“Oh, this is getting better and better and better,” Motson called from the press box. “One, two, three for Michael Owen!”

Reminiscing on the night, Motson said that he “never expected such a performance on German soil” after enduring endless disappointments.

What a goal! Radford the scorer!

Motty spoke often about how much he loved the FA Cup – not just for its high-level matches, but because of the aura it created. Arguably his best moment in this event came in only his second year working for the BBC during a match between Hereford United and Newcastle United.  

In a third-round replay of the 1971-72 FA Cup, Hereford became the lowest-ranked non-league side to take down a top-flight team and the first non-league team to beat a top-league club since 1949. 

treated to one of the best goals in English history

Spectators had packed the stadium so much so that many were standing in trees and nearby vantage points. They were treated to one of the best goals in English history when late in the game and with his team trailing, Hereford’s Ronnie Radford lashed a long-range effort past the Newcastle keeper.

As onlookers stormed the pitch to celebrate, the then-26-year-old Motson delivered one of the calls of his life. Hereford went on to win the match 2-1 in extra time and moved into the next round.

The Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club

The 1988 FA Cup Final ended in another memorable upset. Wimbledon had only been in the Football League First Division for two seasons and in the football league for 11 years.

Dave Beasant became the first goalkeeper to save a penalty in an FA Cup Final as Lawrie Sanchez’s lone goal was enough to earn Wimbledon its only FA Cup win in club history. Even more impressively, it achieved this feat against one of the best teams of the era. 

Seconds after the final whistle blew, Motson delivered his artistic interpretation of what had just happened on the pitch.

“The Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club!” Motson screamed into the microphone.

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