Pyro On The Pitch #2: Netherlands vs Ireland, World Cup Qualifier, 09/09/1981 (Plus Bonus)

Today, the image of Dutch football supporters to the world at large is that of smiling, orange clad children’s entertainers (just put “Dutch football supporters” into Google right now and look at the images), but as far back as possibly the late 60’s onward, the nation saw it’s fair share of football related “madness”.

This included supporters of both clubs and the national team, as we will delve into further in the future. Therefore, the scene covered here was not at all out of the ordinary, in what is possibly one of the most underrated countries in Europe in terms of supporter culture history.

Back in the good old days, De Kuip stadium in Rotterdam had an extremely sinister…railing? Fence?…at each of the ends, as seen above. Adding to the aesthetic was often silhouetted rows of presumably shady individuals, hanging around watching the game behind the bars. Was it a prison maybe? That would be novel. Although considering Chile, maybe not. Moving swiftly on, the terraces were above this and here, behind and to the side of one of the goals, the Ireland support’s banner-hanging effort (which incorporated the fence to great effect) is definitely worthy of note and praise:

There was of course an intense atmosphere for this important World Cup qualifier (although neither side would end up qualifying) which would manifest in the throwing of some pyro by what we can only assume was a young Dutch fanatic, presumably overcome with exhilaration brought on by the occasion.

In the the 64th minute, a penalty was awarded to the hosts at the opposite end to the Ireland supporters and firstly a “bomb” can be heard going off as the Irish players protest the decision. Then, as Arnold Mühren stepped up to take the spot kick, our unknown enthusiast takes the opportunity to ignite and launch what at first appears to be a flare (seen just above the penalty takers head below):

Unfortunately, it does not make it past the advertisement hoardings (although if the supporter was merely trying to encourage his team, while harbouring no intention of disrupting actual play, then it was an excellent shot).

When on the ground, we can see that what was thrown is actually some sort of of firework which starts a miniature fizzing blaze all around it. I am sure that concern will have swiftly spread round the ground for any valuable, cool, retro 1981 electronic equipment that may have been inadvertently damaged. The smoke and fireworks can be seen to the right of the goal as we look on, under the red hoarding:

Yes, the fact that the pyro was at least thrown toward the pitch and landed kind of beside, if not on the actual grass, qualifies it for this series. As the goal is scored to put the Netherlands 2-1 up, an utterly dejected Liam Brady, clearly already accepting of defeat, lethargically walks away. The plumes of smoke billowing behind him appear to be the last thing on his mind:

Despite this display of despair from captain Brady, Frank Stapleton would later equalise for Ireland to secure a 2-2 draw.

Youtube link

Extra Time Bonus: France vs Ireland, World Cup Qualifier, 28/10/1980

Brady, already at Juventus, will have no doubt been familiar with the type of scene featured above due to his time in Italy, as perhaps might some other top players due to experience in European fixtures with their clubs. Any other seasoned pro would have been already well acclimatised to pretty chaotic scenes on British terraces and pitches (where most of the Irish squad were based), but it is interesting to think how this foreign “continental” vibe might have phased them.

When Ireland played France in Paris just under a year earlier in the same group, forwards Stapleton and Michael Robinson couldn’t help but take note when a flare from behind the goal landed in between them near the center circle, just before the start of the match. Considering the distance, this was probably some sort of rocket flare, but for the sake of whimsy we shall leave the door open to an absolutely Herculean throw from some brutish Parisian. Perhaps this consideration may have thrown off the Irish strike-force, who were helpless in preventing Ireland from suffering a 2-0 defeat. Unfortunately, we only have a couple of old, literal screen shots and cannot at this time find footage of the game, so instead of it being it’s own entry we are sneakily including it here:

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