"I never played anywhere where I felt so comfortable and happy as Wembley."
English footballer Bobby Charlton
Wembley Stadium was already legendary when it was still there. It received this reputation because of the many renowned moments of glory and tragedy. The first event in the old stadium was the famous 'white horse cup final' of 1923. This first ever Wembley hosted FA Cup final was played between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United (2-0). The official attendance was 126,947 but in reality there were around 200,000 spectators. Chief of police Scorey had to ride his white horse well to keep the supporters in line.
A warm night in the summer of 1927 saw the first dog races in Wembley Stadium. These were held because football alone did not bring in enough cash. This day was legendary because of two reasons. Firstly there were no less than 50,000 spectators at the first race. Second of all it turned out to be a sad day: one of the dogs managed to indeed catch the artificial bait.
May 4, 1929 presented the first ever rugby final on Wembley. Wigan-Dewsbury for the Rugby League Challenge Cup ended in 13-2, of which 41,000 attendants were a witness. Since this day the rugby final has been almost as traditional as the FA Cup final.
Probably the first great national celebration in Britain in the post-war years was the Olympic games at Wembley Stadium in 1948. London had been allocated the 1944 games that were obviously impossible to organise during wartime. Legends of these Games were Fanny Blankers-Koen from the Netherlands, who won four gold medals in athletics, and the Czech long-distance runner Emil Zatopek who won the 10,000 meters in an amazing fashion.
The home of football was shocked in 1953, when England suffered its first home defeat in football ever. Wembley observed the strong Hungarians pocketing an easy victory. Led by the famous Ferenc Puskas they "shook English football on her foundations", 3-6.
It was on June 18, 1963 that Henry Cooper's left hand sent a young and up-and-coming boxer called Cassius Clay flat on his back in front of a packed Wembley Stadium. "We nearly had him, he was in trouble", the British would state so many years after. But the man we would later know as Mohammed Ali and as the greatest boxer of all time came back and defeated the favourite Cooper in the end.
Wembley Stadium's World Cup Final of 1966 is mainly remembered for Geoff Hurst's third goal. Was it a goal? Even today no single soul can tell for sure if the ball was indeed over the line, as the referee ruled. It blew the Germans title hopes 'though and England went on to win the World Cup, 4-2 after extra time.
The dominance of Ajax as the world's best football team of the early seventies started at the Wembley stage. The Amsterdam footballers led by Johan Cruijff won the first of their three consecutive European Champions' Cups by beating Greek Panathinaikos here on June 2, 1971: 2-0.
In 1985, Bob Geldof gathered all the great artists from the globe to perform at Wembley. Live Aid resulted in 100 million dollar to lend a hand to the victims of famine in Ethiopia and Sudan. Participants of the Show That Rocked The World included George Michael, U2, Queen, Madonna, Elton John, Phil Collins, Sting and Eric Clapton.
Chelsea and Middlesbrough were the FA Cup finalists in 1997. This May 17 would never have become this famous if Italian midfielder Roberto di Matteo had not set a record after 43 seconds. His goal was the fastest ever in a Wembley FA Cup Final. The game, which was quite boring apart from the exciting accomplishment early on, ended in 2-0.
The last Wembley moment of glory ended in misery for the Britons. Germany visited London for a World Cup qualification match and won, 0-1. Newcastle United's Dietmar Hamann was the last footballer to score in the shadow of the two towers of Wembley, on October 7, 2000.