Margaret Thatcher praised England’s 1990 World Cup football squad for not diving like other teams, whose players she likened to acting out “the death scene from Richard III”, according to newly-released government files.
The former prime minister invited the national team to Number 10 after they returned from the competition in Italy after losing 4-3 on penalties to West Germany in the semi-finals.
According to Mrs Thatcher’s speaking notes, recently released by the National Archives in Kew, west London, the Iron Lady praised the Three Lions for not engaging in amateur theatrics on the pitch.
According to the draft speech, she said: “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.”
Her private secretary Dominic Morris advised allowing her speech to be filmed “since it would help promote the image that you are not anti-football (but simply anti-hooliganism)”, according to the files.
The draft notes show she wanted to congratulate the team for winning the Fifa Fair Play Trophy and note the players were often first to “stretch out the hand of friendship to the opposing team player”.
Bobby Robson’s team reached the semi-finals in 1990 after coming top of their group and beating Cameroon in the quarter-finals.
One memorable image from the semi-final was midfielder Paul Gascoigne in tears after realising he could not play in the final if England made it because he had been booked.
Gary Lineker was also famously caught on camera asking Robson to “have a word” with Gazza.