There are only five Commonwealth countries which will be participating in the 2014 Finals of the FIFA Football World Cup which will begin in Brazil on 12 June:- Australia, England, Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria.
Only two Commonwealth countries have hosted the World Cup finals - England in 1966 (an event which remains as much in the English consciousness as the defeat of the Spanish Armada or the Battle of Agincourt) and South Africa in 2010.
Only one Commonwealth country has ever won the World Cup - England - when the finals were held in the country.
Not many reasons therefore, you might think, for there to be many Commonwealth stamp issues to collect on the subject of the World Cup. Wrong! Fuelled partly by the English perpetually over-optimistic confidence that their team will actually win the World Cup again, no matter how much evidence exists to the contrary, and also by the fact that football is, simply, the most popular sport in the world, there are in fact numerous stamp issues from a large number of Commonwealth countries on the subject.
It all starts in 1966 with the holding of the World Cup Finals in England. Great Britain's Post Office, as we usually called it then, issued 3 stamps to commemorate the hosting of the Finals in England. The 4d value was designed by the great stamp designer, David Gentleman, the 6d by William Kempster and the 1/6d by David Caplin. 120 million copies of the 4d value were sold together with 17 million of the 6d and almost 9 million of the 1/6d (all 3 values were available with and without phosphor coating on the paper). The stamps were printed in photogravure by Harrison and Sons.
In the finals of the tournament, held on 30 July 1966, England beat Germany in extra-time by 4 goals to 2. The colossal morale-boosting effect for an England which was then in a post-World War II, post-imperial decline is probably impossible to fully comprehend by those who have been born since that event.
The Post Office commemorated England's memorable victory over Germany by overprinting the 4d value of the original set with the inscription "ENGLAND WINNERS" and releasing it in England, Wales, Isle Of Man and The Channel Islands on 18 August 1966. It was not felt tactful to issue the stamp in Scotland or Northern Ireland since the stamp celebrated an English rather than a Britsh success and it was felt that the Scots and Irish would not have experienced the same sort of pleasure at an English victory as the inhabitants of the southern part of Great Britain did. The stamp was finally put on sale in Scotland on 22 August 1966 (depicted above).
As mentioned above, the English have had a ridiculously optimistic belief since 1966 that their team could win the World Cup again. This has led to the British postal service releasing stamp issues repeatedly for World Cup Finals held abroad.
In 2002, for the World Cup Finals held in Japan and Korea, a miniature sheet was released which included 4 stamps which made a composite picture of the flag of St.George with a football on each stamp and a 5th stamp which depicted a heraldic lion holding a shield with the Cross of St. George placed on it. The item was issued on 21 May 2002 and designed by Howard Brown and printed in photogravure by Walsall Security Printers:-
The miniature sheet was accompanied by a £1.62p self-adhesive booklet which contained 4 x 1st class orange Machin Head definitives and 2 stamps from the miniature sheet:- the upper left and upper right designs. The booklet was also printed by Walsall Security Printers:-
Not content with all of the above, Royal Mail also released a 20 stamp "Smilers" generic sheet with only the bottom right design included in it, all stamps having labels attached to them mostly showing enthusiastic England football supporters some of whom had gone so far as to paint their faces in the national colours:-
Despite this patriotic philatelic sporting extravaganza, the English team only reached the quarter finals where they were defeated 2-1 by Brazil.
Nothing daunted, Royal Mail was quite prepared to try it all over again by issuing on 6 June 2006, a set of 6 stamps to commemorate the 2006 World Cup Finals which were held in Germany. The designs depicted football kit of the 6 nations which had won the World Cup trophy previously, with England featured on the 1st class value. The stamps were designed by Madeleine Bennett and lithographed By Walsall Security Printers.
A "Smilers" Generic sheet was also issued and this time again included 20 of the 1st class value with the attached labels depicting the story of the 1966 final:-
The label designs included the nationally famous quote from the BBC television commentary, "Some people are on the pitch, they think it's all over...it is now" and a depiction of Geoff Hurst scoring the 4th English goal which ensured England's victory:-
The bottom right label of the sheet depicted the English captain, Bobby Moore, held aloft by his teammates with his right hand raised clutching the Jules Rimet Cup:-
2006 proved to be a rather less heady year for English football as England lost in the quarter finals to Portugal by 3-1 in penalties.
After that, Royal Mail began to realise that the hopes of England supporters were usually based on optimism rather than realism and failed to issue stamps for the 2010 and 2014 World Cup Finals.
But the above issues are not the only British stamps to take notice of the 1966 England victory. A set of 5 stamps and a £6.48p prestige booklet were issued on 14 May 1996 to commemorate England's hosting of the European Football Championships and the designs by Howard Brown featured "Football Legends" with the 25p value depicting Bobby Moore in action but not in his England captain role:-
Another stamp depicting Bobby Moore, this time with him holding the Jules Rimet Trophy and with Wembley Stadium in the background, was issued on 1 June 1999 as part of the "Entertainer's Tale" Millenium set (the other designs featured, bizarrely, the pop group "Queen", Charlie Chaplin and a photograph by the Queen's brother-in-law, Lord Snowden, of a Dalek!). The Bobby Moore design was titled "World Cup" and designed by Mike White:-
On 17 May 2007, Royal Mail issued a "Smilers" generic sheet of 20 of the stamps which had been originally included in the 2002 World Cup miniature sheet and one of the attached labels depicted the same image of Bobby Moore holding the Jules Rimet Cup:-
A new image from the 1966 World Cup Final appeared on one of the 4 stamps included in the "Age Of Windsors And Saxe-Coburg-Gotha" miniature sheet which was issued on 2 February 2012. This particular stamp depicted the England team lined up standing to attention during the playing of the National Anthem before the start of the match:-
Three England heroes of the 1966 World Cup Final were featured on stamps from the set of 11 which was issued on 9 May 2013 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of The Football Association. The three World Cup winning players were Bobby Moore, Gordon Banks the goalkeeper, and Bobby Charlton:-
The stamps were designed by True North and printed in lithography by Cartor on gummed paper as was a miniature sheet which combined all the values but a £11.11p prestige booklet contained the stamps printed on 2 self-adhesive panes which were lithographed by Walsall Security Printers. The Bobby Moore stamp, again self-adhesive, was also issued in a 6 value £3.60p counter booklet (with 4 orange Machin Head definitives and the stamp which depicted George Best, a Northern Ireland player).
The photograph in the margins of Pane 1 of the prestige booklet depicted a scene from the 1970 World Cup Finals which were held in Mexico and shows the England goalkeeper, Gordon Banks, saving a goal attempt from the Brazilian player, the immortal Pele, in England's 1st round group match which they lost 1-0. In the Mexico tournament, England's progress was ended when they lost their quarter finals match against Germany 3-2 at the end of extra time:-
A number of British territories participated in an omnibus series produced by the Crown Agents to commemorate the holding of the 1966 World Cup Finals in England. Each territory released 2 stamps in the same design which was the work of Victor Whiteley with printing being carried out in lithography by Harrison And Sons. The participating territories were:- Antigua, Ascension, Bahamas, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Fiji, Gibraltar, Gilbert And Ellice Islands, Grenada, New Hebrides, Pitcairn, St. Helena, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, Seychelles, Solomon Islands and Tristan Da Cunha. The issues from Gibraltar and Bermuda are depicted below:-
Since 1966, Gibraltar has issued further stamps on the subject of England's World Cup victory. The World Cup issue of 1998 consisted of 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet and 1 stamp depicted a scene from the 1966 final:-
One miniature sheet comprised of 7 different stamps was issued on 4 May 2006 to commemorate the 2006 World Cup and adopted the subject of children with face paintings in the colours of countries which had won the World Cup. This was a similar idea to that mentioned above for the designs of some of the labels of the Royal Mail 2007 "Smilers" sheet:-
A set of 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet had been issued on 29 April 2002 to commemorate the World Cup Finals in Japan and Korea. The subject, "World Cup History 1966 - 2002", was actually devoted to the 1966 Final and Bobby Moore was depicted on all 4 stamps including a design which showed Bobby Moore with Queen Elizabeth II after she had presented him with the Jules Rimet Cup:-
Like Gibraltar, the independent postal administrations off Britain's shores have tried to cash in with stamp issues which arbitrarily feature England's 1966 World Cup success.
Isle Of Man issued 6 stamps on 4 July 2013 to commemorate the 225th anniversary of The Times newspaper and featured historic headlines from the newspaper in the designs. The 42p value was centred on England's 1966 World Cup victory with the headline "Ramsey Proved Right In World Cup" which gave credit to the England team manager, Alf Ramsey, for his part in guiding the team to victory:-
Alf Ramsey has not been depicted on a British stamp but his successor, Joe Mercer, who was caretaker England manager in 1974, was included in the "Remarkable Lives" set of 10 stamps issued on 25 March 2014:-
Guernsey issued a £1.75p miniature sheet on 7 May 1998 which commemorated the "150th anniversary of Football" and the stamp contained in the sheet depicted, once more, Bobby Moore holding the Jules Rimet Cup with Queen Elizabeth II:-
And so, to the second of the World Cup Finals held in a Commonwealth country - the 2010 competition held in South Africa. South Africa joined with 8 other Commonwealth countries to produce the third joint SAPOA issue which, having previously depicted birds and mammals of the respective countries in the first 2 issues, was dedicated to the World Cup Finals in South Africa. Sheetlets of 9 different stamps were issued - each stamp depicting the flag of one of the countries participating in the omnibus - and each participating country issued a sheetlet. The participating countries were South Africa, Namibia, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho and Zambia. The stamps were designed by Anja Denker, a regular designer of Namibian stamps.
The sets were all issued on 9 April 2010 except the Malawi set which was released on 20 December 2010 and the issue from Zambia the date of issue of which is usually stated to be 9 April 2010 although its release was actually delayed until June 2010. In addition to the gold foil sheetlets, Botswana, Malawi and Zimbabwe issued all 9 values in separate sheets without the gold foil background while Zambia issued 3 values (South Africa, Namibia and Zambia(0) as separate non-gold foil values and Mauritius released its Mauritius stamp separately again without gold foil.
The announcement that South Africa had been awarded the 2010 Finals was made by FIFA on 15 May 2004 and the country released its first commemorative stamp to mark its hosting of the Finals on 7 July 2006. The issue took the form of a miniature sheet which contained one stamp which depicted a Cape hunting dog standing with its forepaws resting on a football (perhaps this design was felt appropriate because dogs like chasing balls!):-
Subsequent issues followed:-
23 November 2008 - 1 miniature sheet:-
5 September 2008 - 1 miniature sheet:-
14 June 2009 - 1 miniature sheet:-
9 April 2010 - Joint SAPOA issue as described above;
11 June 2010 - 5 stamps depicting the mascot Zakumi issued in a sheetlet of 10 (2x5 designs):-
11 June 2010 - 6 stamps (2x3 designs) issued in a circular miniature sheet:-
Among the Commonwealth countries which commemorated the 2010 World Cup with a stamp issue was Malta. Two stamps and 1 miniature sheet were released on 11 June 2010 and were designed by Frank Azzopardi and lithographed by Printex. One of the designs featured the mascot Zakumi:-
The Commonwealth countries other than England which are to participate in the 2014 Finals in Brazil have all issued stamps to commemorate previous World Cup competitions. Since it joined The Commonwealth in 1995, Cameroon has issued World Cup stamps in 1998 and 2002. The 2002 issue comprised 2 stamps and a circular miniature sheet. President Biya of Cameroon is featured prominently on one of the stamps. The miniature sheet is particularly rare and expensive:-
Ghana, influenced by its foreign philatelic agents has released numerous World Cup issues over the years but its participation in the 2006 and 2010 finals had more local relevance. The 2006 set consisted of 10 stamps and 2 miniature sheets and the latter were later overprinted in the sheet margins with the results and scores of the games Ghana played in the Finals:-
|Overprinted with match results|
|Overprinted with match results|
The 2010 World Cup issue featured Ghana's national and Under 20 football teams and though the date of issue was said to be in 2010 the stamps certainly did not appear on the international philatelic market till about 2012:-
Nigeria issued a set of 3 stamps with a 2009 imprint to commemorate its team's participation in the 2010 World Cup Finals:-
Australia issued a set of 4 stamps and (yet another) circular miniature sheet to commemorate its participation in the 2006 World Cup Finals in Germany. I do dislike large circular miniature sheets purely on the grounds that they are so difficult to mount properly on an ordinary album page:-
So far, I have not seen any news of new stamp issues to commemorate the 2014 Finals from any of the 5 participating Commonwealth countries but I expect that we will eventually have news of issues from Ghana and Nigeria at least.