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

People On The Pitch #1: Aston Villa away to Anderlecht, European Cup Semi Final 2nd Leg, 21/04/1982

Imagine you’re a 16-25 year old disaffected Birmingham male on a beautiful evening in the spring of 1982. We wish we could say “so and so are number one in the charts” but unfortunately that was this song which doesn’t really fit our scene at all, so just imagine some appropriate new wave/punk/ska shit playing in your head. You are in Belgium to watch your beloved Aston Villa take on one of Europe’s classic sides, Anderlecht, on the way to eventual European Cup glory. And yes, of course you are exceedingly drunk.

With all that in mind, the events that unfold are fairly easy to comprehend. 38,000 were packed into Anderlecht’s “tight English style ground”, known at the time as the Émile Versé Stadium. While there was a separate official Villa supporter section, a large number of Villa fans ended up sharing an Anderlect home terrace behind the goal. Of course this was not accidental (allegedly some supporters had traveled over the previous weekend to secure batches of tickets for the terrace) and for the time period and the parties involved, it would have been extremely suspicious if some sort of incident HADN’T occurred. Comparing camera shots, we can see that early in the game somewhat of gap has already appeared on the terrace suggesting disturbances:

Duly, business really picks up mid-way through the first half as the camera shows clashes between Villa supporters and both the home fans and police. Commentator Martin Tyler remarks that there were also “problems” before the game had started.

Play goes on for a few moments before we see the young man that you are still imagining you are from the first paragraph, and the main subject of this first installment of People On The Pitch here at Pyro On The Pitch. Perhaps overcome with the ecstasy of youth and the novelty of the occasion, he has spontaneously used the ongoing chaos as an opportunity to exit the supporter’s enclosure and in fact enter the field of play. As he triumphantly lays down at the 6 yard line, the referee blows his whistle to temporarily suspend the sports game.

If you look closely, you can see that in addition to his fine burgundy polo top, he also has a black jumper in hand which he drops beside him on the pitch. This was a mistake and he would never see the jumper again, as police are swiftly on hand to apprehend the casualistic ruffian and several of them rush him away along the pitch. But the discordian moment has had already made it’s mark on the parchment of time.

Leading the pitch invader away proves harder than the police had imagined, resulting in a Christ-like fall:

The poor lad seems to have suddenly lost all energy and simply cannot move another muscle. Humorously, the rest of his journey from the pitch is provided at the expense of King Leopold himself as a result, much to the delight of the home crowd:

Meanwhile, Villa goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer, among other players, naively appeals for calm as trouble continues behind his goal:

Riot police stream up the terrace to try and separate the groups of fans while another separate regiment of authoritarians make their way onto the pitch, who’s uniforms suggest they are not exactly prepared for physical confrontation.

The home supporters respond to the situation with the topical chant of “Argentina! Argentina!”, referencing the Falklands War as a sort of verbal retaliation as the fighting continued:

In a trademark British display of willful ignorance, the commentator mentions that it is “impossible of course to say who started it”. The fact that the rest of the Villa supporters were apparently chanting “You’re the shit of Birmingham” to those behind the goal was perhaps evident enough.

Some unfortunate casualties (literally, because casual) from the mayhem can be seen being taken away for treatment. We hope they made a speedy recovery and that they are living good lives these days.

Eventually the situation is resolved to a somewhat satisfactory degree, at least enough for the referee to resume the game:

But in one last display of the absurdity of man, we can quite clearly see one Villa supporter who has cunningly alluded the police line, who are apparently blind to his extremely conspicuously Union Jack waving:

The game would finish 0-0, enough to send Aston Villa to the final, but Anderlecht would appeal to UEFA to have the game overturned due to psychological damage of the traumatic events seen above. While Villa were punished by being ordered to play their next European home game behind doors (vs Besiktas the following September), Anderlecht’s request was denied, clearly indicating that at the time players were expected to be able to deal with your run of the mill crowd trouble as part of the job. Truly a golden age.

Youtube Link 1
Youtube Link 2

Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #2

In today’s edition of APMFVGFH, we look at some classic scenes from “Fever Pitch Soccer” for the SNES, released in 1995. We join the action as Kuwait, have just scored against Denmark:

As you can see, a man (or possibly man-beast, ala Street Fighter’s Blanka) with fabulous orange dread locks is decked out in Kuwait’s famous green and grey and has just scored what must have been an absolute belter. The Danish opponent can only look towards the ground with an embarrassed smile, quite possibly in recognition of a personal error directly preceding the goal.

We later rejoin as Denmark have just pulled one back after having conceded another couple of goals:

From his face, I would not be surprised to find out that the goalscorer was a heroin addict. Not that there is anything wrong with that of course. The devestated Kuwaiti defender also seems to have a serious case of “roid gut”, and his large, bulging thighs only support the theory that performance enhancing supplements may have been involved in many a pre-match meal for this particular individual. A rotund package hangs proudly in between the thighs.

Lastly, we come back late in the game after Denmark had scored again, but now Kuwait have just added a 4th to seal the game. And wouldn’t you know it, but it’s only “roided-up defender” who’s popped up to score it, and he is looking seriously devilish and even bigger than before. Jesus Christ look at those forearms:

Interestingly, the Danish keeper seems to be wearing some sort of version of the Adidas 1994 era goalkeeper shirt template in an LA Laker colourway. The hardfaced keeper (he’s been around the block) looks irate and is pointing sternly at the goalscorer as if to exclaim “He’s on steroids!”