People On The Pitch #2, Wales vs Scotland, European Championships Qualifier, 22/10/1966

Today we go back to a simpler time in football, a time filled with gentleman and happy children and when pitch invasions had more of an innocent, joyous vibe to them before becoming sinister in the 1970’s. One of the most famous early pitch invasions from this time was of course at the World Cup ’66 final between England and West Germany, when Kenneth Wolstenholme uttered the very same name of this feature.

But here we focus on a game from a few months later between the top two nations of the island of Great Britain (and indeed the United Kingdom), Wales and Scotland.

The game in Cardiff was both a Euro ’68 qualifier and a British Home Championship ’66/’67 game, as in a move that would definitely not happen today UEFA had ingeniously decided to combine this and the following ’67/’68 edition as the UK teams Euro qualifying group. As an interesting side note, because of this you can see some of the same games listed differently depending on which competition you’re looking it, as Northern Ireland was called as such in UEFA competitions but still referred to as “Ireland” sometimes in a UK context.

Euro version:

British version:

But enough of that nonsense, on to the big match you say. As it was the first fixture in the group anticipation was high and from the very first shot we can see some materials being thrown towards the Ninian Park pitch:

The earlier referenced Wolstenholme is again on commentary and mentions early that the two teams are wearing black armbands to commemorate the Aberfan disaster, which had only happened the day before a half an hour away. There were 144 deaths in the hellish catastrophe…

…and it is an incident well worth a look in to for those fascinated by the dark edge of the poorly regulated 20th century world, of which football was a part. If such a disaster happened today the game would nearly definitely have been called off and Wolstenholme comments on how the crowd isn’t as high as it might have been as “alot of people in Wales have no heart for football today.” As this is said and a minutes silence is about to take place, a car casually drives down the sideline as if it’s the most natural thing in the world:

Finally on to the game itself and at certain points we can see that plenty more paper-like material has been thrown from the crowd, creating a nice messy look:

Some of the easily removable, larger bits are just left there, perhaps considered a natural extra obstacle to challenge the players rather than something that shouldn’t be there, as we’d see with pyro in later decades:

It was a chilly, wet day and smartly some fans would refrain from throwing their newspapers on to the pitch and instead use them as a sort of make shift hat. Fashionable? No. Practical? I mean I can’t imagine news paper keeping you warm and dry but it was all they had back then:

And then on 76 minutes, yes, he’s scored, a goal for Wales. Instantly a string of youths begin pouring out of the crowd in raptures, mining disasters now the last thing on their minds:

This triggers a spontaneous encroachment from all sides of the ground as Wolstenholme exclaims “I’ve never seen such an invasion!”, displaying the innocence of the time:

He soon begins to worry that “if the Welsh fans soon don’t get off the park they might well see the game abandoned.”

Eventually the pitch is cleared and the game goes on with the Welsh in good spirits. But that is not all, as in the 86th minute the Scots scramble in a goal to equalise and not to be outdone, a pitch invasion follows from the visiting supporters. From the below gif we can see that it is not just youths as an older, balder gentleman can be seen cumbersomely making his way out of the enclosure and over to congratulate the players. Who knows how much whiskey had been consumed that day to propel this excursion of ecstasy:

This invasion isn’t as big as that of the hosts of course but some energetic supporters even make it past the half way line:

The game ends 1-1 and we have the third and final pitch invasion of the day. As we leave the scene, Wolstenholme describes how “hundreds stream on to the pitch…impossible for the players to shake hands with each other, they just got to run for safety”.

Youtube Link

Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #3

Today’s two screenshots come from everyone’s favourite 1993 “traditional soccer (football) simulation video game” as Wikipedia calls it. Of course it’s “Tony Meola’s Sidekicks Soccer” for the SNES (yes, “Sidekicks” is correct). We remember U.S. goalkeeper Meola’s name confusing us as ignorant children in the 90’s. We could never remember how to pronounce it correctly and we definitely remember thinking about it as recently as a couple years ago, although now seem to have no problem with it.

The game appears not to have been available in Europe; if it had been we’re sure we would have rented it.

First, we have a pretty nondescript team select page but I like the minimalism and the jaunty pose and tight outfit of the little fellow:

There is something also surreal and quaint about seeing North American “team” names in a game (countries and some European sides were also playable). But then there’s this, the match set up page:

In the middle we have a nice hour glass motif denoting the length of time the match you are about to play will be in real life. Like a real match, you can play up to 90 minutes and I’d be willing to bet that the amount of people who actually used this option and played a full hour and a half non-stop of this presumably poor game is zero. Beneath this, there is a marvelous system for indicating the game speed. Turtle for slow, horse for medium and cheetah for fast, presumably the first and only time any of these creatures have made an appearance in a football game.

But the best bit is at the top where we see several grotesquely misshapen skinny and muscular legs, with different size legs denoting the strength or difficulty level of each side (I’m not posting it again, scroll back up). It took me quite some time to figure this out as I didn’t realise at first that there was a difference in the “outer” and “inner” skinny legs. In “typical American” fashion, alpha male brawn is the order of the day. You’re either strong, weak or weak as fuck.

Incidentally, while the height of Meola’s fame was the 1994 World Cup, he would soon find his career diverting in two ways which would be unlikely for his European counterparts. Wiki explains:

“On December 14, 1994 Meola signed with the Buffalo Blizzard of the NPSL in the 1994-1995 indoor season. He became the team’s starting keeper, but on January 31, 1995, he announced that he had taken a lead role in the off-Broadway play Tony and Tina’s Wedding. He played five more games with the Blizzard before leaving to join the cast on February 16.”

Tony and Tina’s Wedding? I had really hoped that not content with just a video game to his name, this was a play written specifically for and about Tony Meola. Unfortunately though, it was as written in the mid 80’s and features “warm and intrusive stereotypes exaggerated for comic effect…Audience members are treated as guests at the wedding by the interactive, improvisational comedy cast.” Christ.

Pyro On The Pitch #5, Spain vs Romania, Friendly, 17/04/1991

After some extremely long winded posts (we like to go in depth where the footage allows), we are returning to our roots for this Pyro On The Pitch, with no story other than some good old pyro on the actual pitch.

We don’t have much to go on here except that Spain were hosting Romania for a friendly in Cáceres at the now demolished Estadio Príncipe Felipe, the first and only time the stadium was used for an international match. Unfortunately, we don’t see any actual tossing on camera (tossing of the pyro that is). But conveniently for this series, some Spanish supporters had indeed thrown some over the high netting just as Romania were about to score their first goal en route to an impressive 2-0 win. All the players casually disregard the flare laying in the box as if it’s the most natural thing in the world, proving that football was 157,958 times better back then.

There appears to be another flare in the crowd behind the goal as the goal is scored but it’s movements and the quality of footage are more reminiscent of a dubious UFO sighting in New Mexico. But these weren’t quality model pyro (which to be fair almost makes them more classic and heroic) meaning that they were not very powerful or visible, which might have been worrying for anyone who purchased them for their originally intended use. The replay of the goal shows that there is actually another flare just at the goal net.

Perhaps there was some sort of tangible motivation for the throwing of these flares, but more likely it was down to pure divilment (aka mild mischievousness). If it was intended to throw off the opposition it clearly did not work, in fact quite the opposite, and this failure may be the reason that the ground was never to see international football again.

Youtube link