Pyro On The Pitch #12: Real Madrid vs Athletic Club Bilbao, La Liga Primera División, 27/11/1983

After a brief mid-Summer break, we’re back and once again have rotated around to our original flagship series. In the last installment we checked out one of Romania’s unsung supporter communities of the early ’80s, in Universitatea Craiova and their fixture with Hajduk Split in 1983. Now we are going to revisit an encounter that we touched on back in Pyro On The Pitch #9: – Anderlecht vs Real Madrid 1984, while talking about the latter’s immediate prior history.

Background:

In 1920 Madrid FC were given the title “Real” by King Alfonso XIII of Spain, as an officially dubbed royal club of the kingdom. Having  been formed 18 years earlier after a split from a university team, they would go on to represent one of Europe’s great capital cities and become the favoured team of Spanish dictator Franco, who restored the “Real” title after it had been stripped during the years of the Second Spanish Republic, along with the crown on the club’s crest.

On the pitch Real were officially a continental powerhouse since the 1950s when the European Cup began. Success in this competition was appropriate, as the club’s president from 1943-1978, Santiago Bernabéu Yeste, was one of the three men to organise the start of the Cup for UEFA in 1955.

Considering all this, it is no wonder that the club became hugely supported and to house this support was also one of Europe’s biggest stadiums. In that same year of 1955, their Nuevo Estadio Chamartín was renamed to Santiago Bernabéu by the club’s board in honour of their chairman and was expanded from 75,000 capacity to a mammoth 125,000 (over-crowded to nearly 130,000 for a visit of Milan the following year, the ground’s record attendance).


Some of the record breaking 129,690 supporters in the freshly redeveloped Bernabéu, Real Madrid vs AC Milan, European Cup semi-final, 1956.

With their history of royalist-fasicst connections, it is also not surprising that the club’s support base swings to the right. In contrast, Madrid rivals Athletico were formed by Basque students as a feeder club for Athletic Bilbao, who’s Basque-only player policy marks them as a de-facto separatist Pays Basque team in the Spanish league, although there is a strong right-element in the Atheltico Madird support also.

By 1980, the movement of organised young supporter units that had been spreading in Europe reached Spain and Read Madrid’s Ultras Sur were formed. The group were based in the stadium’s South Stand terraces (sur of course meaning south), but rabid, colourful support was common on all sides of the massive ground. An especially large attendance was of course most guaranteed for big European ties.


Home fans celebrate a goal in what would be a 3-0 victory, Real Madrid vs Glasgow Celtic, European Cup quarter final, 1980.0.

100,000 in the Bernabéu for the visit of Spartak Moscow, European Cup 80/81.

A respectable crowd of 65,000 even came to see Real effectively play themselves in the 1980 Cope Del Rey final, also in the Bernabéu, when amazingly they ended up against their B-team Real Madrid Castilla. Unsurprisingly the A-team won 6-1, but hopefully there were a handful of hipster types disgusted by Madrid’s success who staunchly supported Castilla only, akin to a modern wrestling fan preferring NXT over WWE.


Real Madrid vs Castilla, Copa Del Rey final, 1980.

There would be a crowd of nearly twice that of the cup final for the following seasons visit of Internazionale – a slightly more challenging European Cup semi. En route to a 2-0 victory that would help win the tie (ultimately followed by defeat to Liverpool in the final), the home players could be seen scaling the pitch-side fence and saluting the packed Ultras Sur enclosure.


Players celebrate a goal at the South Stand, Real Madrid vs Internazionale, European Cup semi final 1981.

As mentioned, other areas of the ground were also home to passionate supporters. A particular section at the opposite end to the ultras and to the left of a dividing fence in the terrace was often eye catching as a sea of waving flags. But Ultras Sur, with their overtly right-wing leanings, had arrived as the dominant group at the in the stadium and would soon make their presence felt on the pitch as well as in the stands.


Home support in the North Stand enclosure, Real Madrid vs Barcelona, Primera División 83/84.

The Match:

The apparent earliest evidence of Ultras Sur’s ire being directed towards the pitch would feature the visit of the aforementioned Basques of Athletic Bilbao, now long divorced from Real’s crosstown rivals. By the time the two were to meet in a November 1983 league encounter, the Bernabéu stadium had been redeveloped again for the 1982 World Cup and as a result had it’s capacity reduced to “only” 98,000, and then 85,000 for the 83/84 season.

Before the match report we see a cartoon image – accompanied by fantastic classic ’80s theme music which really is worth checking out at the end of the article – of what  appears to be an Athletic player with a flaming torch pulling back a Real player, who’s holding a sign containing the following cryptic message in Spanish:

Today we bore more than yesterday but less than tomorrow.

Unfortunately we only have black and white footage of the match, which makes it  look far older than it is. But as always, the Madridistas are unmistakable with their mostly white tifo material, which is the first sight we see from the stadium:

While we don’t have an attendance figure, the ground seems as packed as for any big game. Indeed Real had finished 2nd the previous year to Bilbao and the two were again main competitors for the title in 83/84. At the north end, the section to the left of the goal is even more densely flagged than as seen above against Bacrelona in the same season:

But of course the main action was to occur at the other “Sur” end of the ground, as while Real attack at some stage in the first half, at least one “Bengal” flare from the crowd lands near the penalty spot. The goalkeeper immediately points an accusatory figure towards the packed terraces behind him and the camera pans up following suit:

The black and white footage makes it hard to see what has happened at first, but the definite billowing of smoke from the pyro gives it away:

We have previously seen a situation at a Spanish home international fixture where a foreign referee happily allowed a match to go on around pyro on the pitch, but in this case the native official stops the game and runs to the touchline to alert the authorities that trouble is afoot:

The announcer of the footage possibly gives an explanation for the action as part of a protest of some sort, but unfortunately as we are not fluent in Spanish this is more of a guess. However if you do understand what is being said, please get in touch!

Back in the stand, fighting among the supporters has also broken out. Whether this is rival factions clashing over the flare being thrown, or something else, is again unclear. On the other side of the parameter fence below, the press quickly assemble to document  the unfolding drama:

Before long, a hand-full of local constabulary are on the scene. But displaying the obvious unreadiness for such an occurrence, they have to sprint from the main entrance to the pitch by the dugout – a common scenario in the era that we have seen several times before:

There may have in fact been more officers already on hand though, as quite quickly the first alleged perpetrator emerges and is forcibly escorted away from the mass of bodies at the front of the stand:

Even in black and white, the fashion of the time is evident by the supporter’s big hair, flared trousers and possibly heeled shoes. He is led away out of the stadium (presumably destined for a physical beating), swiftly followed by another captive who is more obviously a football fan due to his long scarf:

The next arrest is not so easy for the police. It appears an entire regiment have surrounded the Sur-suspect and are leading him away, when a Christ-like fall occurs, quite possibly resulting in some harsh treatment to get him back on his feet:

The football has been continuing as this is going down, but after a half-hearted scan back to the game the cameraman shows that the action off the field is far more captivating, much like the ethos of this very blog. Well done, sir (or should I say, sur):

Also ignoring the match – and in a scene you would be unlikely to see today (partly because most supporters would be taking their own videos and pictures anyway) – the press form a neat phalanx to get the best shot for Monday’s papers:

Having been sufficiently subdued and back on his feet, the supporter is finally led away as the journalist jackals scurry to get one last vantage point of the pathetic, defeated face of football crime:

This was the end of the off-field story, but the remnants of the situation can still be seen later in the game as a slight gap in the crowd is visible in the same section of otherwise congested terrace:

Those of you paying attention earlier will have noticed that the report opened with a spoiler that the match ended 0-0. It would be one of many instances of dropped points for Real Madrid that season that would ultimately cost them cruelly, as Athletic Bilbao took their second consecutive championship only by goal difference. But what may have hurt most for the capital city club was that including Real Sociedad’s two title wins at the start of the decade, it was the fourth year in a row that the title went to a Basque side since Real Madrid themselves had last won it in 1980.

Youtube link.

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Heroic Hang Jobs (Gallery) #3

We now take another enjoyable look at a selection of classic flag and banner hanging efforts from days gone by, highlighting both clubs and countries with arrays big and small, but always heroic.

FC Carl Zeiss Jena vs Sparta Rotterdam, UEFA Cup 83/84, 02/11/1983:




FC Carl Zeiss Jena vs Sparta Rotterdam, UEFA Cup 83/84, 02/11/1983:

Belgium vs Netherlands, World Cup ’86 qualifier, 16/10/1985:

Shamrock Rovers vs Dundalk FC, FAI Cup Final 1987, 26/04/1987:

Spain vs Greece, friendly, 24/09/1986:

Kispest Honvéd vs Nîmes Olympique, Cup Winners Cup 96/97, 26/09/1996:

Kispest Honvéd vs Nîmes Olympique, Cup Winners Cup 96/97, 26/09/1996:

Finland vs England, World Cup ’86 qualifier, 22/05/1985:

Slovenia vs Italy, Euro ’96 qualifier,  07/09/1994:

Universitatea Craiova vs Dacia Unirea Brăila, Romanian Cup Final 1993, 26/06/1993:

 

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Football Special Report #3: Falkirk vs Glasgow Celtic, Scottish Division One, 19/09/1992

Last time on the Football Special Report we looked at a heated clash in Derry from 1994 and some preceding League of Ireland supporter history. We now take a quick hop through time and space across to their celtic (pronounced “keltic”) cousins in the Scotland of 1992, for the quite appropriately named Celtic (pronounced “seltick”) of Glasgow and their hosts Falkirk (proncouned “falkirk”) of Falkirk.

Background:

There are several things of note about today’s featured match that collectively exemplify association football in the era. Besides kit fashion and ground configuration, this included the reality of potential crowd trouble at basically any given game, even if a general downturn had occurred down in England at the end of the ’80s.

But Scotland of course had their own fan culture scene, in which besides the obvious Old Firm and everything that went with it, Aberdeen can claim status as among the godfathers of the casual movement. There is also the anomaly of Dundee and Dundee United Sharing a firm, the excellently named Love Street Division of St. Mirren, and Aberdeen again being able to claim the earliest UK ultras group in the Red Ultras (slightly unimaginatively named in retrospect, but revolutionary for the time).


A display from Aberdeen's Red Ultras from a 2006 game vs Rangers.

Crowd trouble and supporter mischief were already marked issues at Scottish league games by the early 1970s, and this was particularly evident on a day in 1973 when the managers of the two big Glasgow clubs felt compelled to get involved. A newspaper reported that Celtic manager Jock Stein had entered his away fans enclosure at Sterling Albion to lambast young supporters who had been waving an Irish tri-colour and singing Irish rebel songs. At the same time back in Glasgow, Rangers manager Willie Waddell had addressed the Ibrox stadium before their game, including the following as reported by the newspaper:

“It is to the tykes, hooligans, touts and drunkards that I now pin point my message. This is no appeal to their better selves – this is a declaration of war. So you are warned – do not bring alcohol. Do not throw cans. Do not use obscene language. Do not sing provocative songs.”

The innocence of it. On the same day, there had also been trouble at Dumarton FC’s fixture against  Hearts, when visiting supporters were changing ends at half time. Several arrests were made to cheers from the “normal” fans.

At a national level, those down south would quiver in fear at the regular visits of Scottish hordes for British Home Championship games and club encounters alike, with a reputation for drunk and disorderly behavior. Statistically, alcoholism was five times more likely for a Scot than an Englishman as of 1967, and the stereotype was not helped by the likes of a Newcastle vs Rangers Fairs Cup semi-final in 1969 that had to be held up for 20 minutes due to rioting Rangers fans, and a friendly between Aston Villa and Rangers in 1976 that was called off for the same reason (games themselves both worthy of an article, but unfortunately footage does not seem to exist of either).

One of the most famous mass pitch invasions of all time occurred the following year at Wembley, after Scotland secured the Home Championship with a 2-1 victory over England in June 1977. During the celebrations – the highlight of which revolved around the destruction of the Wembley goalposts – commentator John Motson remarked how there had been a pitch invasion of the same sort from the Scots ten years earlier, and while fences were popping up at grounds around the country due to the general increase in crowd trouble, Wembley had yet to install their’s so the visiting supporters were free to encroach again here. He also mentions how these scenes of chaotic jubilation are “so typically Scottish”.


The goals come down as Scotland celebrate the 1977 British Home Nations championship victory in Wembley.

A few months later and the Tartan Army would be on English soil again, this time for a crucial World Cup qualifier away to Wales that was actually played at Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium. Wales had seen crowd trouble of their own when Yugoslavia were the opponents in Cardiff’s Ninian Park in 1976, and as a result the potentially volatile visit of the Scots was moved out of the usual national team home ground. The Welsh FA chose revenue over home-advantage by selecting to play the game across the border at the larger Anfield in order to sell more tickets, rather than Wrexham’s smaller Racecourse Ground.

Unlike Wembley, Anfield was in fact equipped with fences, which was a good thing for those intending to maintain order on the pitch, but in the terraces it was a different matter. The many thousands who had made their way down south for the game erupted into an epic sea of ecstatic chaos on the huge terrace behind the goal for Scotland’s two strikes late in the game, which secured World Cup qualification. Doubtlessly this would have spilled onto the pitch if not for the fences (as we have seen before at the same fixture 11 years earlier in People On The Pitch #2) and the amazing pandemonium demonstrated that a football match was certainly not a “family environment” at this time.


Scotland fans erupt as their side go 1-0 up "away" to Wales at Anfield in October 1977.

But it would be three years later back in Glasgow that Scottish football mayhem would reach it’s nadir, with the 1980 cup final riot between Celtic and Rangers fans. The conflict in Northern Ireland – to which the two clubs were inexorably linked due to their historical community affiliations – was at it’s height, doubtlessly spurring on the already existing tensions between the two huge rivals. After a Celtic victory, things would boiled over on that hot May day in Hampden Park, but as we definitely will be covering this game in full later, we won’t say more until then.


Scenes from 1980 Scottish Cup final riot between Celtic and Rangers supporters.

Throughout the following decade, more ogranised hooligan elements would spring up at Scottish clubs as they were doing throughout Britain, but good old spontaneous break-outs of trouble were still always a possibility. Celtic were again involved in another infamous incident at a UEFA Cup game in the mid-’80s that resulted in their following European fixture being played behind closed doors (again, we will come back to this later).


An empty Celtic Park as Celtic are forced to play Atletico Madrid behind closed doors in the 85/86 Cup Winners Cup.

That bring us up the dawn of the ’90s, and Celtic’s visit to Falkirk FC during the ’92/’93 season. Falkirk were a smaller team (although notably their foundation date of 1876 predates Celtic’s by 12 years) not as well known for violence, and today Wikipedia lists their two modern firms as the Falkirk Fear and Falkirk Yoof; names which ironically don’t really instill much fear at all. But while we’re not going to see any mass chaos at Falkirk here, we however will see how even a single individual can sometimes be enough to stop a match in it’s tracks.

The Match:

The first thing to highlight, as we often like to do, is the kits. Celtic’s Packie Bonner (“Packie” being a colloquial Irish shortening of Patrick) can be seen in a classic early ’90s Umbro goalkeepr strip in delicious yellow and dark green-tones that just hits the spot:

Visible in the above shot is also the fact that supporters in wheelchairs were positioned right beside the grass of the pitch, behind and to the sides of the goal. This seems heartwarming, but then again also indicates a lack of actual facilitates for such fans, as well as the proximity to goal creating a potentially uncomfortable situation if a particularly ferocious shot were to miss the target but connect with a vulnerable fanatic’s face, nearly surely knocking them clean out of their wheelchair if hit sweetly enough.

But anyway, continuing with the visitor’s attire, this was when Celtic were still maintaining the integrity of their sacred green and white hoops by uniquely not allowing numbers on the back of their shirts. Instead, the player’s number appeared on the front and back of their shorts. And despite having them since ’84/’85 season, Celtic were also devoid of a shirt sponsor for some reason in ’92’/93 (in the otherwise same kit as ’91/’92), delightfully making this strip feel even more minimal and retro for the era (retro-within-retro so to speak, and we’re sure someone knows the reason for the lack of sponsor, do get in touch if so!):

The hosts meanwhile were wearing an interesting Hummel kit, the make of which was not immediately obvious, although their recognisable arrows did feature on the sleeves and shorts. It seems Hummel were enthusiastically indulging as much as anyone in the increasingly outlandish nature of early-mid ’90s kits, leaving their sleek, stylish and iconic ’80s catalogue behind. It is perhaps no surprise then that the ’90s would not be a kind decade for them, but never the less the navy/white/red configuration of the Falkirk kit is a winner (and anyway, we like outlandish kits, and Hummel):

So that’s our early ’90s gear covered. As far as the ground itself – that being Falkirk’s old Brockville Park – the home fan’s main standing element were located on the small terrace behind the goal of the left, and a portion of the stand under the camera where police kept a watchful eye:

The sizable visiting support occupied terrace at the other end of the ground, and were also packed right around into the other end of the camera-side stand:

It would be at the away end that the first drama of the game would occur, when in the 27th minute Celtic defender Tony Mowbray used his hand to prevent the ball going into an empty net while Bonner was in no-mans-land. The future manager of Celtic among other clubs, Mowbray was promptly sent-off and the resulting spot-kick was converted much to the glee of the home support:

But it was extremely short lived joy, as only a minute later Celtic broke through the Falkirk defence and goalkeeper Gordon McDougall brought down attacker Andy Peyton in the box for another penalty. From this stemmed our main issue of the day, as while a Falkirk player tried to argue in vein with veteran referee Martin Clark, a small missile (perhaps a coin) was launched from the home end and connected with Clark right on the head:

As you can see, the player didn’t even seem to notice that anything was wrong at first, even as the ref was doubled over in pain, and acted like an awkward child around a parent who has just injured themselves doing DIY. Finally some linesmen and a slightly more concerned Celtic player come over and signal that assistance is needed for the distressed Clark:

The game was held up for a few minutes while medical treatment was given, and the veteran  ref – who doubtlessly had already experienced his fair share of football “rowdies” – was eventually able to continue. But as we mentioned earlier, here was an example of a “random” lower-key match (albeit massive for Falkirk due the visit  of one of the country’s biggest clubs) that had to be delayed due to the crowd; or in this case, a singe member of the crowd.

Celtic’s penalty was converted successfully, and as a result we can see thrugh the fan reaction that were was a decent percentage of those behind the goal who were in fact away fans:

Early in he second half, goals form both sides made it 2-2, before a frantic few minutes had the score at 4-3 going in to the last twenty minutes of the game (including an assist by a Falkirk player who had just lost his boot). After a sending off for the home side and another goal for Celtic to make things even once again (in both number of players and scoreline), a last minute goal from captain John Collins made it 5-4 to the Glasgow outfit, sparking an epic eruption from the away terrace:

As the players celebrated, we see that plenty of Celtic fans were also lactated in the main stand opposite the camera, meaning their huge traveling support were inhabiting at least parts of all four sides of the ground. The final whistle blew shortly afterwards to end the crazy game, which had seen it all:

Through a trouble lens, there was not outright chaos as in days gone by (although clearly a good atmosphere), but like with the Football Special Report #2 in Ireland, it was obvious that football in the early ’90s didn’t need oragnised gangs or per-ordained violence for incidents to still occur.

Youtube link

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