Football Special Report #4: BSV Stahl Brandenburg vs FC Bayer 05 Uerdingen, 2.Bundesliga Nord, 16/11/1991

Welcome back to the Football Special Report, a series in which we look at games that are noteworthy for unusual events on and/or off the pitch. After two gritty early-mid 90s affairs in Ireland and Scotland, we continue the era and the theme but shift over to the heartland of continental Europe as it began a new era of unity.

Background:

While the German political entity that appears on maps at the time of writing (it seems stable right now but you may be reading this 1000s of years in the future) seems a totally natural fit to the 21st century world, in the late 1980s many of Europe’s governments were “icy” at the idea of a potentially strong and militarised new German state, should the reunification of it’s two divided halves occur. In football too the potential was recognised, as Franz Beckenbauer predicted “Deutsche domination” (our words, not his) for many years to come should East Germany be wiped off the map, due to the quality of talent that would be combined in the playing pool.

But another aspect was at domestic level, and after German reunification in 1990, the 1991/92 league season was to the be the first that once again saw clubs from the former East and West compete against each other (apart from through European competition, which did occur throughout the years). Teams originally associated  with the old communist regime such as Dynamo Dresden entered the Bundesliga, and in it’s second tier, 2.Bundesliga, the likes of Lokomotiv Leipzig, Chemie Halle and BSG Stahl Brandenburg.


East meets West in Europe, UEFA Cup 79/80 (a tournament that would contain a combined six German teams across the two states, and ultimately be unique for it's all-West German semi-finals) second round 1st leg, 24 /10/1979.

The above clubs had at one time been associated with the secret police, the train industry, the chemical industry, and metallurgy, respectively, within the previous state system, before becoming traditional football entities. Some changed their name to reflect this, such as Lokomotive reverting to their former VfB Leipzig title, and Chemie Halle becoming Hallescher FC, but the Dynamo Dresdens of the world held on to an identity they had adopted as their own.

As a piece looking deeper into some of these matters is in the pipeline, we won’t dwell too much on the topic here. But there was one club who’s name only changed by one letter (sort of) in this period in the above mentioned Stalh (translating to Steel in English) – renamed as such upon their backing by the local steel company in 1955 having began life as BSG Einheit Brandenburg five years earlier – who merely changed their East German “BSG” (Betriebssportgemeinschaft – Cooperative Sports Collective) to a BSV (Ballspeilverein – ballgame club, effectively football club) upon reunification.

Meanwhile in West Germany, another club had been created in a similar way two years before Stalh in the form of FC Bayer 05 Uerdingen, who sprang into existence in 1953 due to the merger of FC Uerdingen 05 with a workers’ team from the Bayer chemical plant in the area. After hitting their high point in the 80s with a cup win and some European runs, 1995 would see Bayer ditch Uerdingen to focus solely on it’s original workers’ team founded all the way back in 1904, FC Bayer 04 Leverkusen.


Bayer 05 Uerdingen home end with banners vs Athletico Madrid, Cup Winners' Cup 85/86 semi-final 2nd leg, 19/04/1986.

So the 90s were a decade in which working class clubs like BSV Stalh were shedding their communist-connected past and entering the cut-throat capitalist world of the west, just as Uerdingen were about to be abandoned by their own corporate interests which in turn contributed to a calamitous fall down the leagues over the years that followed. As the rich western clubs snapped up all the best players the east had to offer, sadly the system also took it’s toll on Stalh as they declared bankruptcy in 1998, replaced by non-recovering legacy clubs in the regional divisions.

But before all that, the two teams mentioned had met for the first time in that inaugural unified season via the northern section of 2.Bundesliga. We now look to the second of their two games that year with a fixture that was anything but clean and commercialised; so much so that it would earn the title of “Das Skandalspie” (The Scandal Game).

The Match:

November 11, 1991: A crowd of 2400 are in attendance at the Stadion der Stahlwerker in  Brandenburg an der Havel near Berlin, where local side Stalh Brandenburg call home. As usual we  first take a look at the kits, with the home team using a “Chelsea style” blue/blue/white strip of unidentifiable make, featuring navy and white striped trim on the collar, sleeves and torso (and one short leg), and yellow “TRP” sponsor; very German, and all good stuff:

On the back appears a common German jersey trope in placing the team name above the number (as seen back in Retro Shirt Reviews #2). In this case we get a simple “BRANDENBURG”:

The visitors’ first choice jersey that year featured blue and red vertical stripes and so wouldn’t do against Stahl’s own blue. White was also an option, but an all-red kit was chosen with a shirt template featuring sleeve hoops and underarm panels, also used by the likes of Dynamo Dresden and Bulgaria (round-neck for long sleeve, v-neck for short):

Unlike their Leverkusen equivalents at the time, who instead used the company insignia in their crest, the logo of the Bayer corporation sits in the centre as sponsor. Evidently, the tight shirts of the previous decade are already beginning to head to the other extreme, but it would take shorts a little longer to follow suit.

On the back of the jersey the naming protocol differs to Brandenburg, as the city of Krefeld (located all the way over the other side of the country near the Dutch border) is represented above the number, within which the locale of Uerdingen is located. But Uerdingen also gets a place at the bottom, another positioning not uncommon in the country’s “trikot traditions”:

The fantastically named “Stadium of  the Steelworker” is a classically terraced and fenced small ground (capacity 15,000), which one would  be advised to keep an eye on in the background throughout. But getting to the match action, the first half is characterised by a series of wreckless challenges from Brandenburg with an apparent game plan to physically destroy the superior quality opposition:

Before long, a brutalised Bayer player needs medical attention. Thankfully for him, the most up to date procedures are employed by the crack physio team, mostly consisting of a draped blanket and giving the injured party a good, reassuring rub while a coach stands by shiftily:

Inevitably, after two enthusiastic challenges too many, the referee has enough and gives the first yellow card of the day to Stahl’s number 5 Falk Zschiedrich:

This is followed up by a vague incident where we are honestly not sure what is happening (if a German speaker can fill us in by watching the video in the link at the bottom, please get in touch!). Whatever has occurred, the referee once again summons Zschiedrich, who had not seemed to be involved:

Pleading his case, Zschiedrich’s teammates are incensed, particularly the number 6 who argues passionately and won’t get out of the referees way to let him do his job:

Despite this, the ref succeeds in delivering the red card. A slightly shaken Falk wanders off the pitch as his manager offers a token touch on the arm:

The manager in question, Günter Reinke, earnestly encourages his men to do things better. In the background can be seen an interesting corner section of the ground with a large German flag at the front; possibly the away supporters:

The hardcore home support are located at the other end of the  ground, as demonstrated by the impressive array of home made banners (the way we like it). Prevalent on one flag is one of the most popular club slogans: “Stalh Feuer” (Steel Fire):

We are honestly not exactly sure which side these agitated fans are on or what is happening in the game, but their message is clear: “Hey kameramann, das spiel ist in dieser richtung!”:

Things also boil over on the touchline as what appears to be the Stalh assistant manager is provoked in some way and starts fronting. Thankfully he is prevented by a player and the other non- plying staff from launching what was presumably about to be a lethal assault on some unfortunate soul from the opposition:

After a goal we forgot to mention earlier in the game, Uerdingen go into the half-time break battered and dazed, but in the lead. The focus is on the referee though – in a spiffingly sharp Erima ref’s kit – as while still walking off the pitch a media person brazenly asks if he has lost control of the game:

During the intermission we see that riot police of several varieties are hand in case the crowd turn as nasty as the match, along with other top level emergency personnel:

The second half would take everything the first half had brought and double it, starting with undoubtedly the highlight of the match (which you will be already aware of it you have been following our Facebook or Twitter pages).

Just after the hour mark Stalh have a kick-out, but as goalkeeper Wolfgang Wiesner attempts to retrieve the ball a Uerdingen ball-boy scoops it up and casually flicks it in the other direction:

For one thing, this raises the subject that apparently away teams took youth players as their own ball-boys in this time and place (and presumably elsewhere). But evidently, as the boys did not move with their team’s keeper after half-time, scenarios of skullduggery like the above were bound to occur.

Wiesner, obviously a stern disciplinarian of a certain ilk – while no doubt also motivated by the personal slight – immediately takes matters into his own hands once he has the ball and proceeds straight to the offender. After a sort of faint-turned-warm up swing, the large 24 year old (ok, we were hoping he would be a more grizzled veteran for greater effect)  delivers a devastating slap to the troublesome teen before jogging off like a remorseless terminator, while the other shocked youths react:

Besides the bodily harm to the culprit, it is an undoubtedly hilarious moment. The referee of course has no choice but to summon Wiesner over, and literally shrugs him a red car rather than show him one:

A kindly coach consoles the keeper as he leaves the pitch, but the ridiculous situation has meant that with two men down, Stalh also have to use one of only two allowed substitutions on a fit outfielder in order to put someone else in goal:

As is clearly customary, the TV crew are instantly on hand to get the dismissed players thoughts (as had been the case for Zschiedrich earlier in the game). While gesticulating in disgust, we get a closer look at his interesting pink and black Uhlsport top (Note: as this was the era when separate goalkeeper kits were not uncommon, goalkeeping specialists Uhlsport were probably not the brand of the outfield gear despite also later producing very goalie looking outfield shirts for the likes of Albania), which features diagonal bars coming down from the shoulders, coincidentally (or not) similar to the design Adidas had just launched themselves that Autumn:

Elsewhere on the sidelines, manager Reinke and his top coach consider their next move carefully. But the most important thing here is that we get a better look at his tracksuit top, which was visible briefly under under his jacket earlier. The design is of course the famous West German 88-91 template (among others, also used on official tracksuits of several teams) in a groovy colourway:

The next incident occurs on the 72nd minute, as Brandenburg midfielder Jan Voß (Voss) over-zealously cuts through a Uerdingen player while in pursuit of an equaliser, bringing him down:

While an innocuous enough foul, the ref deems it a bookable offensive and as Voß had already been given a yellow card…:

That’s right, it’s another red card and the home side are now down to 8 players. We see another crowd shot of what this time must be Uerdingen fans, who are clearly enjoying their long adventure from Krefeld:

The rapidly over-populating Beandenburg sin-bin, meanwhile, looks a very sorry sight as Voß has joined a dejected Wiesner and Zschiedrich:

Shortly afterwards, karma takes it’s toll on Stahl’s dangerous play as one of their own go off injured. We don’t see exactly what has happened, but clearly it’s something horrific:

With a large percentage of their XI now nowhere to be seen, the home team quickly fall apart and conceded two goals in two minutes to make it 0-3 with eight minutes to go. As the ball goes in for the latter, the bodily position of replacement goalkeeper Detlef Zimmer says it all:

The payback continues as before the end another Stahl player ends up on the thick end of a tackle and limps off the pitch in agony, amazingly leaving Brandenburg with only 6 outfield players in addition to their emergency keeper:

With their boys in blue now a bewildered husk, the home support are undoubtedly simply laughing in bemused shock at this point, although probably not overly surprised. But at the death, incredibly Stalh have the chance to score what considering the circumstances would be the greatest goal of all time:

It would have meant everything, but unfortunately the shot went wide and the game ended in a 3-0 defeat, with an even greater margin in terms of men on the field. It had been a beautifully tragedy and was basically a perfect microcosm of the season, as come May FC Bayer 05 Uerdingen found themselves promoted as league winners, while somewhat unsurprisingly the heroes of BSV Stalh Brandeburg were relegated in last place.

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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.

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Football Special Report #2: Derry City vs Shamrock Rovers, League of Ireland 1994

Last time on the Football Special Report, we debuted the series with a look at a peculiar all-West African affair from 1973. We will continue to examine unique or interesting situations that don’t fit in our other categories, this time with a visit to Ireland in 1994.

While most of the country was focused on the national team and the upcoming 1994 World Cup, the long suffering League of Ireland ticked away as always in the background with it’s relatively small, but loyal, fan-base. The country tried to boast “the best fans in the world” at international level, but at home a League of Ireland game had yet to even be shown live on TV. A hardcore supporter of a local side was an increasingly mythical creature, and had somewhat become seen as a figure of ridicule. But this had not always been the case.

Background:

Domestic football in Ireland achieved it’s popularity hay day back in the 1950’s, with respectable attendances such as 11,000+ for Shelbourne FC vs Shamrock Rovers in 1954 and an FAI Cup semi-final crowd of 28,504 to watch Drumcondra FC and Waterford FC (later United) in 1955.

Dublin sides Rovers and Drumcondra were the top two teams of the late 50’s and their game in January 1958 was to be the first all-ticket affair in League of Ireland history. A capacity 19,503 filled Drumcondra’s Tolka Park with thousands locked outside, but after 25 minutes the mass of ticket-less supporters broke through the gates and into the ground. With the terraces already full, hordes of desperate Dubliners spilled onto the pitch and the match was abandoned.


Another packed house watch Drumcronda and Shamrock Rovers, FAI Cup Semi-Final, 1964.

Over the coming decades, attendances would gradually decline. This was in part due to mis-managment at home, along with the eventual marketing domination of the neighboring British clubs to who many would turn. Ireland is also in the unique position in Europe in having it’s own native competition to the sport in the form of Gaelic football.

Gaelic had it’s own fan scene that at times looked far more similar to continental football terraces. In the 1970s and ’80s you wouldn’t have been hard pressed to find crowd disturbances in the Gaelic football stadium of Croke Park (specifically the Hill 16 end of the Dublin GAA Supporters) as well as other supporter culture tropes such as flags and banners, swaying terrace masses, fighting with police, and people/projectiles/pyro making it’s way onto the pitch.


Dublin score a point as Hill 16 erupts, Dublin vs Kerry, GAA All-Ireland Football Final 1975.

Even though crowd figures at big GAA games dwarfed their League of Ireland counterparts, the League still maintained somewhat of it’s own supporter culture identity. More tifo-centric features like oceans of big flags (apart from cup finals) and pyro would take a while longer to translate over, but clashes between supporters were a reasonably common occurrence for certain clubs, even since the late ’60s. A St. Patrick’s Athletic vs Waterford game in 1968, for example, received media coverage for it’s terrace trouble.

As society itself “hardened” in the ’70s, along with the rise of youth subcultures, incidents and tension at games naturally increased. Like abroad, sinisterly named groups now attached themselves to some clubs, such as “Black Dragons” of Limerick FC (Aka Limerick United/City), “Red Alert” and “Bootboys” of Sligo Rovers, and “SRFC Mob” of Shamrock Rovers. A 1975 cup game between Limerick and Sligo was a particularly violent affair with hundreds involved, reported at the time as the Battle of Market’s Field, Limerick’s stadium.


Limerick fans invade the pitch as their team secure the league title, Athlone Town vs Limerick United, League of Ireland 1980.

The blossoming casual culture that was about to spring up in Britain would not yet spread to Ireland, but the ’70s and early ’80s did see the intermixing of the anarchy-driven punk/skin head/boot-boy scene into the football supporting population, which added to the potential for chaos (by 1973 they were already a problem in Limerick, as reported in another “Battle of Markets Field”).

One infamous situation even occurred when Waterford’s “Freewheelers” motorcycle gang traveled with supporters for a 1986 FAI Cup game between St.Pat’s and Waterford in Dublin, with the intention of causing trouble. The resulting projectile throwing and general ructions caused the referee to stop the game after 19 minutes and lead the players back into the dressing room.

Coinciding with the birth of the English Premier League, the League of Ireland as a whole slumped further by the 90’s and with even less in attendance, notable examples of supporter culture became more scarce. But the same media access to big foreign leagues that hurt the League of Ireland would also provide a window for a generation of youths becoming familiar with continental supporting styles that would go on to strongly influence and inspire the birth of the Irish ultras scene in the early 2000s.


Features such as "tifo flags" became common in some Irish grounds by the early 2000's, as seen at Shelbourne vs Drogheda United, League of Ireland 2003.

Until then, the Irish hardcore domestic supporter would remain largely ignored and underground in a sort of twilight era. But while the likes of Black Dragon and Red Alert were no more, supporter groups possessing a new mentality such as Shelbourne’s politically minded Alternative Reds Club had sprang up in the 80s, along with Bohemians’ Bohs Soccer Casuals on the pronounced hooligan side of things in 1992, and the era did see it’s own moments of mayhem that hearkened back to the chaotic days of the ’70s. Well, kind of.

The Match:

After all that background, our featured incident is a relatively short affair coming after a league game that pitted candystripes against hoops, Derry City vs Shamrock Rovers; a fixture that had seen trouble go down when last previously played. The footage comes from an Ulster Television (UTV) sports-news broadcast that couldn’t look more 1994:

UTV, being a station from Northern Ireland, were covering the game since Derry lies within the borders of the UK. The Derry team competes in the Republic of Ireland based League of Ireland, but this had not always been the case. As we do not have time to go into why here, check out People On The Pitch #4 fore more information on Northern Ireland’s footballing ethno-complexities (as well as a literal pitch battle between Linfield and Glentoran), and for the general split between Irish and Northern Irish football, check out Politics On The Pitch #2.

The game was in Derry’s Brandywell ground (now redeveloped), who’s fences, small terraces, tall walls and barbed wire gave a classic, rustic look (so “shit” to your modern barstool fan, which can only be a good thing).

The lack of crowds demonstrate the dwindling numbers of the League, although in saying that most supporters would have been underneath the camera side. Of course some also watch from outside the ground:

As mentioned, Shamrock Rovers were (and continued to be) one of Ireland’s most prominent clubs sides, both in terms of numbers as well as reputation for “troublesome” fans. Their visit to Derry, therefore, may have seen a larger traveling support than usual in the Brandywell, and after a long, no doubt thirsty journey from the capital to what is a traditionally belligerent area, and considering the existing history, it was not out of the realms of possibility that something might kick off.

And after a 1-0 win for Rovers, that is of course exactly what happened. All we know is that two groups of grown men from opposing sides come face to face at the away section, and following some sort of confrontation, a punch is thrown triggering the melee:

(Note the supporter, wrapped in Irish tri-colour, stood still as a statue in the seats, quite possibly experiencing a heroin comatose.)

Clearly this was a far cry from the mob warfare of the ’70s, or indeed the stylised, organised casual culture that was seeping in. Yes, just a good, old fashioned, spontaneous outbreak of violence between otherwise regular civilians, perhaps sparked by some sort of passing slight. Meanwhile in the back the of the stand, bodies scamper hither and thither as in any good donnybrook:

Ok, that part wasn’t very exciting. But the highlight of the whole fuss comes next, in the form of a Rovers fan who pretty much looks and acts exactly as Alan Partridge did at the time. “Alan”, obviously thinking enough is enough, has managed to find himself the corner flag, and after breaking free from his mates comes out swinging like a man possessed:

As you can see, the connection of the appropriated weapon with it’s initial northern target is followed by a shake of the poll and few little hops (clear body language suggesting “Come on then, who else wants it??” in angry, flustered Alan Partridge voice), as an innocent, bewildered, jersey clad by-stander attempts to take down his banner from the fence. A young child in a goalkeeper shirt also looks on attentively from a fine vantage point atop the greyhound boxes, as the Brandywell is also a greyhound racing stadium:

(It is worth noting that this is not the first time we have seen a supporter on Northern Irish soil commandeering a corner flag, refer to the afore mentioned People On The Pitch #4.)

The footage concludes with another Rovers fan approaching and engaging in some seriously menacing finger pointing, along with a few more threatening shakes of the poll for good measure. A good-hearted lady attempts to interject and cool things down, rightly concerned that another vicious “polling” is coming somebody’s way.

Very humorously, the perspective gives the impression that the pointing and threatening is directed straight at the kid in the goalkeeper top, who is also now the size of a man:

As we leave the scene, the UTV reporter informs us that Derry were considering banning Shamrock Rovers fans from the Brandywell for future games. Whether this was enacted or not, we do not know. But regardless, that is enough League of Ireland for today. We shall of course revisit the heroicness of Ireland’s little-known but fascinating fan culture soon, but for now, this is Pyro On The Pitch signing off for another Football Special Report.

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Youtube link

Sources for some of the background info:

These Footballing Times: 1950’s Attendances

Come Here To Me (Dublin culture blog): Some media coverage of Dublin GAA fans and Hill 16 in the 1970s.

Come Here To Me: “Some examples of football violence in Richmond Park, Inchicore (1972- 1986)”

Rabble.ie: “Bootboys, Casuals and the Beautiful Game”

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Football Special Report #1: Ivory Coast vs Ghana, African Cup of Nations 1974 Qualifier, 29/07/1973

Here we are again with another new feature where we are going to take a look at random incidents, interesting matches or general football related events that don’t fit into any of our other categories. This is the Football Special Report.

For Football Special Report #1 we cast our eye to the West African derby of 1973 between coastal neighbours Ivory Coast and Ghana. The two were paired together for the final round of African Cup of Nations ’74 qualifying; a two legged affair that saw Côte d’Ivoire take the first game 3-0 away from home on July 15th, 1973.

Going into the return leg on July 29th in the Ivorian city of Abidjan, the hosts with their advantage were naturally feeling confident of victory. All that was needed was to kill time and let the clock run down while maintaining possession. But apparently, this was combined simultaneously with the need to take the complete piss out of the opponents, manifesting in one of the strangest sights ever seen in an international football match.

First it is worth noting the end behind the goal where throngs of people casually appear to be on the move, as seen during the throw-in below. Presumably, and hopefully, this occurred throughout the entire match.

Then, perhaps in an attempt to entertain the restless crowd during the dull game – or indeed themselves, or just in complete and utter contempt of Ghana – the Ivorian players begin to cruelly showboat and mess around, such as standing and sitting on the ball:

This occurs to overwhelming delight from the home supporters who vocally display their approval. As the ball is passed around, other players have their turn:

The Ghanaian players seem baffled and unsure how to react, but their restraint in not immediately descending into fury at this patronising display must surely be commended.

Later, as the visitors are taking a corner, a home substitute close by can be seen dropping a white hand towel to the ground and standing sternly with hands on hips. This may well be an innocuous moment, but given the spirit of the game I’m going to go ahead and assume it is some sort of local passive aggressive intimidation tactic:

Things get even more farcical from here as first the home side abandon a perfectly good chance to counter attack to do literally nothing…

…before one of the Elephants (official nickname of the Ivory Coast team, and I didn’t want to say “Ivorian” again) proceeds to lay down on the grass behind the ball:

This actually results in Ghana stealing possession shortly after and making at attempt on goal, albeit a failed one. Not to be deterred by this close call, an Ivorian (dammit) defender uses the dead ball situation to demonstrate his solo skills as throngs of supporters can again be seen in motion in the end behind the goal and we wouldn’t have it any other way:

So then: spontaneous and lighthearted fun that is sorely missed from the modern game, or a cynical, premeditated attack displaying unprofessionalism to a disgraceful degree? You decide. Either way, Ivory Coast were rewarded for their tomfoolery with a 1-0 win on the night, 4-0 on aggregate, and proceeded to the Nations Cup in Egypt the following year.

Ghana could take some solace from that fact that the Elephants would be knocked out of the tournament in the first round, bottom of their group and without a win. But the wounds inflicted, by way of the theft of their dignity on that July 1973 day, would doubtless take far longer to heal.

Youtube link