Pyro On The Pitch #11: CS Universitatea Craiova vs Hajduk Split, UEFA Cup 1st Round-1st Leg, 14/09/1983

In the previous episode of Pyro On The Pitch, we went all “Pyro On The Print” with a special Shelbourne FC fanzine-exclusive to celebrate the 10th edition of the series, as well as our 50th article overall (including the Cold War Classic series produced in conjunction with Museum of Jerseys.com). You can see a preview and some of the pictures used here in the corresponding blog post, and perhaps in the future we will upload the post in full as a special treat. MAYBE.

But so as not to deprive you fine folks who aren’t lucky enough to frequent Tolka Park – and especially considering it’s been quite a while since Pryo On The Pitch #9 – we are rushing out a second consecutive episode in an unprecedented move not seen since the early days of the site when it was our only feature (a simpler time). And as one of our Cold War Classic posts linking to the full articles on Museum of Jerseys.com contained two instead of one, this is in fact the actual 50th post to appear on PyroOnThePitch.com, so it is still a sort of special occasion (not that any of this matters in the least).

Today’s featured game takes us to Romania for the first time, having already seen hints of the country’s pedigree through the national side’s ability to casually thrive in the face of pyro on the pitch away from home back in episode #5.

Background:

In the early ’80s, Clubul Sportiv Universitatea Craiova were one of Romania’s top sides. The club was originally founded in 1948 following an initiative by a group of students and professors from city’s first university-level institution, and upon dissolution of the area’s previous club – FC Craivoa – the team were quickly entered into the national league. Demonstrating the profound difference in which post-War communist Romanian football was run compared to that of a modern league, the entry of the team was coordination by the Ministry of Public Education and the National Union of Students under the mouthful team name “Uniunea Națională a Studenților din România Craiova”.

The new club proved popular among locals and those in the surrounding area, and after several name changes “CS Universitatea Craiova” was settled on in 1966. The following decade saw title challenges for the first time, with a 2nd place finish on goal difference to Dinamo București in the 72/73 season. But this moral victory was important for resulting in the creation of one of the greatest club nicknames in football history, and one that couldn’t have been more fitting for the decade: “The Champions of a Great Love”.

Coined by poet and supporter Adrian Păunescu, the name indicates Craiova’s status as a people’s champion in the face of the state-supported Dinamo side who dominated the league for much of the 20th century. A real league victory did indeed come the following year, cementing the Champions of a Great Love as champions of Romania as well.


Classic, grainy Iron Curtain footage of Craiova supporters celebrating the 73/74 Romanian league title win.

The 73/74 season was also notable for the club’s first continental involvement, with an impressive debut victory against Fiorentina in the 1st round of the UEFA Cup. Domestic cup wins in ’77 and ’78 kept the team in Europe before a return to league success saw back-to-back championships in 79/80 and 80/81, the latter of which was a league and cup double. This golden age demanded it’s own snazzy new moniker, totally apt for the dynamic ’80s: Craiova Maxima (“The Maximum Craiova”).

The league title brought a return to the European Cup, with the 80/81 edition seeing the visit of the club’s most distinguished foreign opposition to date: Internazionale. In a game that brought 35,000 supporters to the Stadionul Central, Craiova admirably held the Italians to a 1-1 draw. Despite this they were eliminated on aggregate, but the following year saw the greatest continental performance of any Romanian club up to that point with an advance to the quarter finals, before elimination at the hands of Bayern Munich.


The Stadionul Central crowd for the visit of Inter, UEFA Cup 80/81, 1980. Note the fans perched above the tunnel.

The distraction of these tournaments possibly helped contribute to 2nd place league finishes both of these years, but an 82/83 UEFA Cup run – only cut short by defeat to Benfica in the semi-finals – along with another Romanian cup win the same season, kept the Craiova Maxima’s momentum going. The period had seen victorious cup ties against significant opposition such as Dynamo Moscow, Monaco, Leeds United, Bordeaux, Kaiserslautern, and even Shamrock Rovers.


Craiova vs Bordeaux, UEFA Cup 82/83, 1982

Pyro emanating from off screen at Craiova vs Kaiserslautern UEFA Cup 82/83, 1983

On the back of this growing pedigree, confidence was no doubt high in progressing one step further the following season and reaching the final as Craivoa were drawn in the 83/84 UEFA Cup first round against Yugoslavian league runners-up Hajduk Split. The all Balkan battle would not be the club’s first European tie against a club from the Slavic super-state as they had been knocked out of the 75/76 UEFA Cup by Red Star Belgrade.

Somewhat interestingly, Craiova were not the only Romanian team with links to education in that year’s competition either, as FC Sportul Studențesc București – another club formed under the initiative of students and professors, established in 1916 – were taking part in one of six UEFA Cup campaigns for them in the era. But for comparison in status between the clubs, Sportul’s current ground only holds 1000 spectators.

As for Hajduk, it goes without saying that the Croatian side boast one of Europe’s most enviable supporter culture histories, with their “Torcida group having formed way back in 1950; the first of it’s kind in Europe. After some quarter final appearances, the club were of average European quality at the time with their most recent big tie a 3rd round defeat to Valencia in the 81/82 UEFA Cup, despite a 4-1 win in the home leg. This was followed in 83/83 with victory against Zurrieq of Malta before elimination to Bordeaux.


Hajduk Split fans celebrating a goal against Valencia, UEFA Cup 81/82, 1981

The Match:

We join the action late in the game on that beautiful, sunny September 14th of 1983, along with 40,000 fans in the stadium. The figure shows the increase in popularity of the club since the Inter game, who in theory should have been a bigger draw than Hajduk. With the score at 0-0 in the 86th minute, midfielder Ion Geolgău breaks into to the box and strikes the ball in to the net for the hosts, queuing a pitch invasion from the ball boys. Through the resulting celebration we also get a nice look the Craiova kit, which had changed from Adidas the previous year (any ideas on the brand, get in touch!).

This triggers jubilation from the stands the the likes of which could maybe only be seen in a country suffering through an authoritarian regime, with the ecstasy of football providing a release valve for real world problems as it does on some level for supporters in stadiums all over the world. First we see two smoke bombs coming from the grass behind the running track (extra points for athletics stadium, which we love) before another explodes in the middle, as the perpetrator appears to retreat into the mass other of cheerful Craiovans:

These are proper, old “bombs” rather than the modern colourful kind, with an aurally satisfying bang like a distant gun shot accompanying each one, as well as the defining noise coming from the supporters themselves. A wider shot reveals several more going off around the ground along with many flags, as the players continue to celebrate:

As many other plumes of grey smoke billow, it is important to recognise that this is coming from all around the ground rather a single, dedicated ultras section as you might expect in western stadiums, demonstrating the immense supporter culture at the club:

The Hajduk players prepare to kick-off but the bombardment goes on:

Oddly for the era, experienced French referee Michel Vautrot is reluctant to restart the game while this is happening. Ion and co. must continue to wait as the stadium continues to erupt, giving us another look at the unusual jersey which appears to have branding on the sleeve:

But instead of subsiding to allow the game to finish, the rapturous display only gets closer. As you can see below, one bomb lands right at the border where the track meets the field, which for our purposes we are happy to acknowledge as pyro on the pitch. A Craiova player can be seen reaching the end of his patience and appeals to the crowd with arm gestures, as the flash of yet another bomb lights up the running track itself:

It turns out is the player in question is the hero of the hour himself, Ion, who is now clearly lamenting his sporting achievement due to the fact it has caused this evidently distressing display of positive emotion which is preventing the sport itself from reaching it’s conclusion. You could call it the ultimate “Ion-y”.

The irritable Ion had need not fret, as the game is eventually restarted and the last few mins played out, his goal enough to secure the win on the night. We leave with with one last scan around the packed Stadionul Central, as grey of clouds of Maximum Love still hang in the air:

Despite those scenes, it was not to be a happy ending for Craiova in that year’s competition. The return leg in Split saw the hosts win 1-0 to draw level on aggregate before securing the tie on penalties, which set them on their way to what would turn out to be the greatest continental run of all time for a Croatian side in reaching the semi-finals before defeat to eventual winners Tottenham Hotspur. Unsurprisingly for Hajduk, the game saw plenty of it’s own pyro action:

While we say goodbye to Craiova, who’s fans we can thank for the amazing images above, we will leave you with some more scenes from the second leg as a reminder of Hajduk’s own supporter heritage, as we are definitely not saying goodbye to them. Look out for their return in the not too distant future, on another episode of Pyro On The Pitch.



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Pyro On The Pitch #10: Shelbourne FC Fanzine Special

Well, it’s been a while since the previous edition of the feature that originally gave this blog it’s name. We last checked out a hot atmosphere at Anderlecht vs Real Madrid, 1984, but unfortunately for those of you online (and if you’re reading this then you obviously are online), the wait for a new full article will have to go on for a little bit longer. That is because to mark the 10th episode of the series, as well as our 50th article overall, “Pryo On The Pitch” is going “Pyro On The Print” with a special edition that is for now exclusive to the Shelbourne FC fanzine “Red Inc.”.

Red Inc. is produced several times a season by the supporter group Reds Independent (RI) who formed in 1998, and is now the longest running fanzine in the League of Ireland. We were kindly invited by RI to produce a piece for their latest issue and we were happy to oblige, focusing on a pyro on the pitch incident when Shelbourne visited near-by rivals Bohemians in 1994, and some of the club’s preceding supporter culture history. This of course also follows up nicely with our recent League of Ireland themed Football Special Report #2.

The Red Inc. in question went on sale for Shelbourne’s home game against Wexford Youths yesterday (01/06/2018) and thankfully early reactions have been positive:

So if you are desperate to get your hands on a copy of this historic issue, then do order one over at RedsIndependent.com. For the rest of you, below are some shots of the fanzine and a preview, along with some of the photos used in the piece. Peace!

“…Although a health and safety aficionado’s nightmare, the practice of pyrotechnics emanating from the stands and ending up on the playing surface at football matches has a proud, mischievous tradition that goes back decades and can represent several profound meanings. Sometimes it’s appearance acts as a symbol of euphoria upon a goal or team victory, while on other occasions flares and smoke bombs have been used as a tool by disaffected supporters in “political” fan actions. Random pyro on the pitch was somewhat of a regular occurrence in the ’80s and ’90s in certain European grounds, with players and referees alike often happy to play on around the flaming phallus on the grass, contently accepting an intimidating and difficult atmosphere as simply part of the magic of the game back then. Of course on other occasions, it was a straight forward act of belligerent “hooliganism”.

The League of Ireland is no exception to any of these tropes, with it’s own unique supporter culture added into the mix. Indeed the use of pyro in Irish football has a far longer heritage than one might imagine, with a Dublin newspaper reporting in 1905: “Tar Barrels and bonfires were blazing across Ringsend and Sandymount that night as the Irish Cup was paraded around the district”. The team responsible for such celebrations were local side Shelbourne FC, the Reds; the first winners of the IFA Cup not to have come from present day Northern Ireland…”

Shelbourne away to Dundalk, 1992:

Shelbourne vs Bohemians, 1992:

Shelbourne vs Bohemians, 1993:

Shelbourne vs Karpaty Lviv , Cup Winner’s Cup 93/94:

Panathinaikos away to Shelbourne, Cup Winner’s Cup 93/94:

Shelbourne away to Bohemians, 1993:

Shelbourne away to Bohemians, 1994:

Shelbourne away to Bohemains, 1994:

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Pyro On The Pitch #9: Anderlecht vs Real Madrid, UEFA Cup 3rd Round-1st Leg, 28/11/1984

We first came across Anderlecht back in People On The Pitch #1, with the infamous visit of Aston Villa to the then Emile Versé Stadium in 1982. Like with their Dutch, German and French neighbours, supporter mischief had no doubt been progressively observed through traveling British support at games such as this.

In a culture like Belgium’s, where not all was as innocent as it would seem, this influence would converge with growing youth cultures and continental Europe’s own unique supporter style to manifest in intimidating atmospheres that on their night could stand equal with their international equivalents, especially on big European occasions.

Background:

Just over a year after the Villa game (a European Cup semi-final defeat on aggregate), Anderlecht cemented their place as one of Europe’s top clubs by beating Benfica in the 1983 UEFA Cup final, graduating from Cup Winner’s Cup wins in ’76 and ’78. We shall take this moment to lament the loss of the Cup Winners Cup, which was a great competition in our eyes and can also be celebrated for having the word “cup” in it’s name twice (and also shares an acronym with another great institution of our time). On the other hand, it would obviously be ruined by now anyway so maybe it’s better off left in our memories.


Anderlecht supporters celebrate at the conclusion of the 1983 UEFA Cup Final.

En route to a second successive UEFA Cup final the following season, a third round fixture against RC Lens in November ’83 would prove that English teams needed not to be involved for trouble to spark at European games. First, in an incident which must again be covered if we ever follow through on a “Projectiles on the Pitch” series, a rock apparently thrown from the home Lens supporters caused a back-passed ball to bauble past Anderlecht goalkeeper Jacques Munaro and into the net:

This had come in the 89th minute, only two minutes after the Belgians themselves had scored to take the lead, and naturally chaotic scenes followed with Munaro clutching the offending rock and several beer cans also thrown from the terraces. After the final whistle the Anderlecht support retaliated, launching projectiles of their own at a home section resulting in riot police moving in:

As with Villa in Belgium in ’82, Anderlecht now knew what it was like to be antagonists faced with local constabulary on foreign soil. They were eventually defeated in the 1984 final by Tottenham Hotspur, where in the home leg at least one supporter had to be stretchered away. For the sake of narrative, we are going to assume this was a result of malicious actions:

This would prove the end of Anderlecht’s golden age on the pitch, as to date they have not reached another final in European competition. But supporter culture in Belgium was still on the rise, as would be evident in our featured match.

Meanwhile, for their part, supporters of Real Madrid were also already known to be no angels. The foundation of Ultras Sur had come in 1980 and disturbances at games such as against Athletic Bilbao on November 26th, 1983, (which we will revisit at a later date) resulted in police intervention in the Bernabeu:

The Game:

If this was an actual football website, I’d probably say something about how Anderlecht were unlucky to come up against eventual winners Real Madrid in the third round of the ’84/’85 UEFA Cup, perhaps prematurely preventing the expected progress of the previous few seasons. But I wouldn’t know about that. What is true is that the visit of the Spanish giants (ugh, what a cliché, sorry), a year and 5 days after the toxic game in Lens, provided the perfect scene for a hot atmosphere (perhaps hot like a pyronical device) in what would be a famous European night for the Belgian giants.

By this time, the Emile Versé had been revamped and renamed as the Constant Vandan Stock Stadium, which would be more heroic if it wasn’t named after the reigning club chairman of the time, although I’m just going to assume he was a lovely man (I guess I’m also assuming he must be dead by now). Whatever the name, 41,000 were packed into the beautifully classic, compact ground on November 28th, 1984, eager to witness the first leg battle of what may well have been Europe’s top two white and purple clad sides.

The home team went 1-0 up on the 65th minute through Vandenbergh, cueing great noise from the Constant Vandan Stock Stadium faithful. A mere minute later, Czerniatynski (yes, the names are irrelevant, but they’re good names) doubled the Belgian’s lead with a nice header, causing a jubilant, ecstatic orgy of denim in the terrace behind the goal to which he ran, with at least one supporter making it out of the enclosure:

With a big victory now in their sights, the density of the passionate home support could be seen even at the halfway line of the pitch. Flags flew from within an uncomfortably tight mass of bodies as police kept a watchful eye:

In the 85th minute, a penalty converted by Vercauteren made it 3-0 to Anderlecht, putting them in an excellent position going into the away leg in Madrid a fortnight later (I mean I would say that if this was a football site). One Real Madrid player displayed extreme petulance in response to this by crankily slamming the football to the ground:

With the win on the night now all but secured, it would be only fitting that pyro should make it’s way on to the pitch, perhaps as a beacon representing the historical magnitude of the game.

And this is exactly what happened as a flare swiftly appeared in the Anderlecht box, with a “smoking gun” effect from the section of support parallel to the box seeming the suggest the origin:

Contrary to being phased (of course, since he was an 80’s footballer), an Anderlecht player nearly appeared to halfheartedly perform some soccer skills on the the flaming phallice before it naturally reached the end of it’s life and burned out, content in death having fulfilled it’s ultimate destiny:

But as the flare burned out, so too would Anderlecht’s European hopes that season as they would lose the tie after a dismal 6-1 defeat in the return leg. At least that’s the kind of crappy metaphor I would probably use if this was an actual football website. Instead, their inclusion here has earned them a sort of intangible, metaphysical, hyper-dimensional honour, greater than could ever hope to be achieved through sport.

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Pyro On The Pitch #8: Eintracht Braunschweig away to VfL Osnabrück, Regionalliga Nord, 05/02/1998

Eintracht Braunschweig (of course also known as Braunschweiger Turn- und Sportverein Eintracht von 1895 e.V.) are a club that have been tangentially mentioned here already through Retro Shirt Reviews #1, so it is truly a glorious occasion that they can now take pride of place as the featured side in this edition of Pyro On The Pitch.

The scene was February 1998 and the heroically unglamorous Regionalliga Nord, part of the third tier of German football at the time. Eventual league winners VfL Osnabrück played host to their biggest rivals for dominance, the aforementioned Eintracht Braunschweig.

Background:

Statistically, Eintracht were the best supported team in the Regionalliga Nord for six of the first eight seasons since the league began in 1994. For most of it’s existence, the club had been Bundesliga regulars with a national title win in 66/67, but a decline in the mid-80’s would see them bounce between the 2nd and 3rd tiers for the next couple of decades.


Eintracht Braunschweig supporters celebrating in 1967

While the Regionalliga Nord featured many smaller clubs and some B-teams, such as Hamburger SV II and Werder Bremen II, Braunschweig’s major rivals Hannover 96 were also present. As for Osnabrück, they too possessed one of the bigger support basses in the league, despite having never reached the top tier of German football. And so, combined with the fight for the league title, Eintracht’s visit to their Stadion an der Bremer Brücke was always going to be a big occasion.

The Match:

We join the action in the 89th minute with Osnabrück leading 1-0. Perhaps in an attempt at one last passionate push to motivate their players to pull a goal back, or more likely in a display of joyous abandon in the face of inevitable defeat (aka “fuck it”), the Braunschweig ultras have decided that it’s pyro show time:

You can’t blame them really as it would have been a waste to have come all that way with all that pyro and not use it just because the team hadn’t performed. A fabulous red glare can been seen in the sections of the ground close to the Eintracht end:

Some great banners are also on show such as the above “Braunschweig ‘Family'” and “Cor Leonis” (“Lion Hart” in Latin):

As Eintracht prepare for a free kick we can see that at least one flare has already been launched pitchward, of course amidst much booing and whistling from the home supporters. An as of now unidentified man casually tosses one off to the side (a flare that is, to the side of the pitch):

The classic 20th century football sound of police dogs barking can be heard as police keep a watchful eye on Eintracht supporters perched high atop the perimeter fence.

Yes, I know it appears as if the man above is delivering a politically alarming salute. But don’t fret, through the power of gif we can see that he is actually in the midst of giving a friendly wave and maybe a misguided attempted at a “cool” hand gesture:

Nice man. If you thought we were done with pyro on the actual pitch here, you’ll be happy to hear that you are very wrong. As the game enters injury time and Eintracht attack again, we can see that a flare has now been launched into a very prominent position on pitch. A fine effort, but perhaps not ideal for the players to have to deal with as they attempt to find their way through the Osnabrück defence:

As we showed back in Pyro On The Pitch #5, a little bit of intensely burning flame on the playing surface wasn’t really a big deal back in the day. Here, the referee shows tremendous discretion as he at first appears to go to blow his whistle upon sight of the flare, but realising that the supporters cerebral placing of the flare is merely an extra-dimensional part of the game, he allows play to go on:

Sure enough the flare burns out with seconds as play goes on around it, proving the referee right for not holding play up. The ref probably had experience with such instances in the past and was more than likely able to identify the brand of flare and it’s specific characteristics from quite a distance away. Similarly the players must be commended for not being phased in the slightest, although as mentioned it really wasn’t that big a deal to these real 20th century pros, and it only goes to show the decline of the game that I would even feel the need to commend them for playing around such a natural element.

So Osnabrück don’t feel too left out, I will mention there is a nice terrace running all along the side of the pitch. The sight of people standing in a side-stand like this I’m sure is even more foreign to modern eyes than than standing in the ends:

Also a small mish-mash of their flags (of course there could be many more hung off camera):

The Braunschweig end is by now an impressive chaotic collage of blue, yellow and red, along with a lot of smoke:

More police can be seen tentatively keeping an eye on things as the pyro goes on til the final whistle, but the last of the main action is over:

With their side defeated, the Eintracht fans show themselves as jolly good sports and give their team a very positive reception despite the loss:

Ok, there may or may not have been one politically alarming salute in there.

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Pyro On The Pitch #7: Brazil vs Chile, World Cup Qualifier, 03/09/1989

Over time, World Cup qualification in South America has been consolidated into a pretty cool and unique system that sees all countries play each other twice in a league format. The top four sides earn qualification and the fifth advances to an inter-continental play-off. Before this, for the ’94 campaign when the World Cup had less teams, it had been two groups of four and five teams with three automatic qualification spots along with the play-off for the next best side.

But before THAT, for 1990, it had been three groups of three with only two guaranteed qualifying places and the play-off for the worst group winner. It was this system that saw Brazil face Chile in the last game of qualification in Group 3 on 3rd September, 1989. With the sides even on points, a spot in the following year’s World Cup was on the line.

Background:

The previous meeting in the group between the two sides had taken place less than a month earlier in Santiago and had been marred by a controversial Chilean equaliser in the 81st minute. After the Brazilian goalkeeper apparently holds on to the ball for too long, an indirect free kick is awarded inside the box and Chile quickly take advantage of the confusion to score:

In a classic, old school South American scene, pandemonium reigns on the touchline with a heard of generals (I’m just going to say they were all generals) and of course journalists surrounding an incensed Brazilian management team, and I think there’s a FIFA official in there somewhere:

The last competitive game between the two nations before that was also an embarrassment for Bazil, with a 4-0 Chilean victory in the 1987 Copa America:

The Match:

So all this made for an extra spicy occasion for that crucial last game of Group 3 in ’89, as a nauseating 141,072 spectators filled (well, not even filled) the world famous Estádio do Maracanã:

As was more common in those days, supporters of local sides proudly display their clubs colours rather than Brazilians flags in a move that would absolutely baffle some modern football fans:

Due to superior goal difference, a draw would do Brazil to go through and they increase the likelihood of this by going 1-0 up on the 49th minute to much jubilation:

With time running out for Chile, a commotion can suddenly be heard from the crowd in the 67th minute as the ball is being played around the Chilean half. The camera cuts and we see that Chilean goalkeeper Roberto Rojas is writhing on the ground clutching his face with smoke billowing around him like a literal smoking gun. It seems apparent that some pyro has indeed been thrown on the Maracanã pitch:

Roajas teammates surround him in concern and gesture in dismay at no one in particular:

As the Chilean physio tends to the injured party, one of the other players performs a staple of the classic, angry athlete with an “up yours” gesture towards the offending supporter, or maybe at Brazil in general:

An action replay (in this case a supporter action) shows the offending flare, whitish green in colour, fizzing away. Unfortunately they weren’t quick enough to catch the actual moment of impact but this is good enough for me:

After some moments of deliberation, the referee makes the decision to abandon the match as Rojas is carried off with a bloody face. As this was in the days before stretchers were invented, his team mates carry him in a huddled mass as if he was a martyred comrade in a depressing Middle Eastern conflict:

Naturally the crowd are not at all happy and quickly become pensive, as the implication is that the game will now be awarded to Chile, meaning qualification for them and an unthinkable elimination for Brazil. The Chilean team disappear down the tunnel (which is actually more like a big hole at the side of the pitch) surrounded by the press, apparently on their way to the World Cup in Italy:

But something clearly wasn’t right. Any logical thinking person will have wondered why an attack would have occurred by a Brazilian, knowing it may well disrupt the match and Brazil’s qualification hopes, when Chile would have needed two unlikely goals at the time to knock Brazil out. And lo and behold, shock horror, after an investigation it turns out the whole thing was a ruse. Through video evidence it was revealed that the flare never actually hit Rojas, who feigned injury and cut himself with a razorblade hidden under his glove in a move straight out of a worked professional wrestling match.

A treacherous Brazilian named Rosemary had been had been hired by Chilean manager Orlando Aravena and team doctor Daniel Rodriguez to participate in the cunning scheme. How she was acquisitioned is not known (well, I mean by me, somebody knows), but she was perhaps chosen on the basis of her excellent throwing skills, as despite not exactly hitting her target it was one hell of a shot. So maybe there was some sort of trial under the guise a free public flare throwing exhibition, used as a recruiting scheme by Chileans who had infiltrated Brazilian society.

With the brazen plan having backfired embarrassingly, the game was forfeited as a 2-0 victory to Brazil while Chile were punished with expulsion from the next World Cup qualifying campaign, along with lifetime bans for Rojas, Aravena, and Rodriguez. But the incident shows that by the late 1980’s, the social phenomenon of football crowd trouble was so fully woven into the fabric of society where the game was popular, that it would inevitably be subverted and used as a tool by some within football themselves. Corruption like this is of course usually the result of a hideous lust for profit, which would have been plentiful if the desired goal of World Cup Qualification had been achieved.

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Pyro On The Pitch #6: Sweden vs Italy, European Championships Qualifier, 03/06/1987 (with Bonus)

The game featured in this edition of Pyro On The Pitch is noteworthy for the fact that this writer completed his very first full orbit around Earth’s sun on the day the match was played. I.e., it was our first birthday. But this entry might have been more appropriate last week on Halloween, as this is somewhat of a ghost pyro on the pitch.

Here we have a very similar situation to that featured in Pyro On The Pitch #4, when Denmark showed their supporter pedigree against the highly feared English in 1982. This time it’s their Scandinavian brothers in Sweden welcoming another of Europe’s premier supporting class, Italy. The pyro for both games revolved around a possible foul by a goalkeeper on an attacker and whether it should have been a penalty.

Just over 40,000 were in attendance at the Råsunda Stadium, Stockholm, which was the home of the Swedish national team until it’s demolition in 2012. Anticipation was high for the high profile game with the crowd perhaps particularly buoyed on by the reputation of the visitors in the football supporting world and smoke can be seen rising from the terraces before kick off in pictures.

Early in the first half, Roberto Tricella breaks free down the left for Italy and into the Swedish box. Famous Swdeish goalkeeper Thomas Ravelli comes out to challenge and his outstretched right leg appears to take down Tricella:

Immediately after the foul we can just about see a dangerous/exciting crowd heave (or avalanche) in the terrace behind the incident, typical of the time:

The penalty is given much to chagrin of the home supporters triggering a wave of protests in the form of projectiles on the pitch (Note to self: Possible future series “Projectiles On The Pitch”), and of course booing and jeering. Initially ticker tape/til roll is thrown into the box:

As paper rains down from the surly Swedish supporters, referee Dieter Pauly notices and picks up an altogether more serious foreign object:

Pauly, in nice Ermia ref shirt it must be said, sternly displays a golf ball which has just come from the packed terrace behind the goal. Now, either the golf ball was brought preemptively with a view for malicious activity at such an occasion in the match, or one supporter had simply come straight from the golf course and had merely let one of his/her balls slip from his/her pocket on to the pitch.

Pauly is not impressed at all and tosses the golf ball to a Swedish official with somewhat of a disgusted sneer, but with form as to suggest that this is not the first golf ball that he has had to remove from a field of play that wasn’t a golf course.

What happens next is extremely unfortunate for the interests of this website as another replay of the foul/maybe dive is played in slow motion and when we retrun to live time it is clear we have JUST missed some pyro being thrown on the pitch. What remains is a plume of smoke from a flare which has just gone out, or else the smoke is from it’s own weak smoke bomb:

A large cloud can be see coming from more pyro out of view to the left of the goal and a steward removes objects from the grass which may or may not have once been the flares. Unfortunately this is as close as we come to seeing any real pyro, but a bit of smoke, eh? Not bad. Or is it a cop out to include this?

All this combined to create quite a beautifully chaotic scene to be fair. But wait, that’s not all! Just when it seemed order is restored, more projectiles come hailing down including a possible coin which is a direct shot on the hear of poor, young 27 year old Ravelli. Other Swedish players can be seen removing more objects as Ravelli reels in shock at this apparent betrayal by his countrymen, although he also comically puts out his hand in a sort of “is it raining here or what guys, eh??” gesture:

Although more than a bit miffed, Ravelli is fine and returns to his goal ready for the penalty. But the supporters have one last laugh as one more roll is thrown into the box delaying things slightly longer:

Pauly makes a hilariously slow and deliberate walk over which just screams “…sigh” and takes so long to remove the paper that it has to be divided in to two gifs:

After all this, Ravelli saves the penalty with a nice one handed save to the left onto the post and the rebound is driven over the bar. Cue ecstatic jubilation from the terraces as the entire previous five minutes is forgotten:

Sweden would go on to win 1-0 for a famous victory, but Italy would ultimate pip the Swedes for top spot and qualification (not that that part is relevant but just thought I’d throw it in there to sound professional).

Youtube Link

Bonus: Greece vs Cyprus, European Championships Qualifier, 14/01/1987:

Even though I think the incidents covered above are a stellar example of a classic 80’s atmosphere, I do hold my head out for the chopping block for not being able to produce any physical pyro on the pitch in this edition. So for this sin, here is a special extra bonus…where unfortunately once again we cannot actually see pyro on the pitch. I am sorry about this.

Unlike with Sweden-Italy though, here we actually do see some flames. As Greece go 1-0 up en route to a 3-1 win against their Mediterranean rivals Cyrpus, what some would call an orgy of joy can be seen erupting in the crowd. Among this nearly cinematic scene of gay abandon, we catch a flare ignition, which is no sooner let off before the handler is launching it picth-ward. It is nearly in his/her blood to do so:

Unfortunately, in an inverse to the Sweden incident, the director cuts off to a replay just before we get to see if the flare actually reaches the picth or just lands on the running track. I would like to say I will make it my mission for the next several years to gain a categorical confirmation of this. But instead, I will just say that yes, it did reach the pitch.

Youtube Link

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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

Pyro On The Pitch #4, Denmark vs England, European Championships Qualifier, 22/09/1982

After the chaotic behemoth that was Pyro On The Pitch #3, we’re not going quite as lengthy or intense this time. But our highlighted episode was enough to get a game stopped for a brief period.

The scene was a sold out Parken Stadium, Copenhagen, with Denmark welcoming England for a Euro qualifier in September 1982. The English of course carried the fearful reputation of Europe’s premier hooligans at the time and serious incidents involving them in that decade already included Euro ’80 against Belgium in Turin and a World Cup qualifier away to Switzerland in 1981:

The Danes though for their part regularly created intimidating and loud atmospheres in the Parken, with an especially tense vibe for an evening game against a team like England. It nearly goes without saying that an afternoon of trouble in the city had preceded the game, adding to the tension. As the game got underway, close up shots displayed how tightly the 44,300 supporters were packed into the ground:

With the first goal putting England 1-0 in the 8th minute, we can just about see a group of English supporters celebrating wildly (bit blurry in the gif, my apologies, but they were, I promise), which surely will have rustled a few feathers in the otherwise Danish terrace:

It would later be from the Danish supporters in the same terrace that our main incident would stem. Eight minutes into the second half, Dutch referee Charles Corver denied Denmark a penalty after England goalkeeper Peter Shilton had seemingly taken down Preben Elkjær inside the box. The injustice of this was too just too much for some, who perhaps anticipating such a shambolic refereeing decision (sort it out UEFA!) had cunningly smuggled some pyro into the ground to be used in protest. After all, the aggrieved supporters could hardly issue the referee a postcard of complaint, which might have only arrived weeks later at which point nobody would have given a fuck.

During a replay, a white smoke bomb lands on the pitch inside the goal and attention is quickly drawn to it as the smoke billows in a rather satisfactory manor. English commentator Martin Tyler expertly describes the scene: “And now, the reaction from the crowd in terms of fire crackers and smoke bombs being thrown behind Peter Shilton’s goal.”

The game continues briefly before the referee susses out the situation and holds up the game. Martin (can we call you Martin, Mr Tyler?) compares the spectacle to that of the aforementioned Euro ’80 game against Belgium, when Italian police had let off tear gas in an attempt to subdue English hooligans, just one of many post-apocalyptic scenes involving football in this era. Meanwhile, a group of confused primates assemble near the pyro:

The powerful, double barreled, industrial grade smoke bomb (clearly a tremendous model) continues to erupt without sign of slowing down, leaving the authorities helpless but to allow nature to run it’s course. A nice camera shot from behind the ground showing the smoke rising should be appreciated:

A gust of wind causes much of the smoke to carry over the crowd, and soon it disperses altogether:

The game was restarted, and later we see there was at least one pitch invasion after England go 2-1 up. The inclusion of a viking hat was a disappointing note to the otherwise well dressed young man’s attire:

A late Danish goal led to a 2-2 draw in the game. This may have contributed to the fun which would immediately follow. Sensible folk will have swiftly fled the scene as fighting broke out between Danes and English. Running battles and an orgy of violence would consume the terraces:

Surprisingly, the English supporters retreat, displaying the fortitude of the Danish supporters. However, the experienced English are quick to regroup and attack once more with a “broadside of bottles” as a news reporter put it:

The English news reporter ensures to mention that the reaction of the Danish supporters is “no less violent” than the English, which makes one wonder if he expected them to be lenient on the English for some reason, or perhaps not fight back at all. Of course the adrenaline released for many involved on both sides would have created an intense natural high which will have been no doubt recalled with fondness for years to come.

Eventually some police came in, some arrests were made, people left and the world went on turning.

Extra:

The match had been the first game played in qualifying and over a year later the group would be book-ended by more violence involving England and linked to the Danes. The final game for England was away to poor Luxembourg, who must have been filled with dread of this visit since the draw was made. The justified anticipation of trouble was displayed in the ground, as evident by the police’s pre-prepared banner:

Despite a 4-0 win for England, a Danish victory in Greece at the same time was enough to see them pip the English for top spot in the group and the only qualifying position. In a predictable situation, the unfortunate and innocent Luxembourgers would be helpless but to feel the wrath of the English horde that night, a far superior force than any security agency in the Duchy:

Youtube Link 1, Switzerland vs England, 1981
Youtube Link 2, Denmark vs England, 1982
Youtube Link 3, Denmark vs England, 1982
Youtube Link 4, Denmark vs England 1982
Youtube Link 5, Luxembourg vs England, 1983

Pyro On The Pitch #3: Serbia away to Italy, European Championships Qualifier, 12/10/2010

The incidents featured in today’s bumper edition of Pyro On The Pitch are not exactly retro having only occurred in 2010, but certainly by the time the majority of people will read this after I die in 29 years time, it will be looked back on as a classic crowd trouble episode.

The scene was the Stadio Luigi Ferreris in Genoa for a Euro qualifier between Italy and Serbia, two nations who’s proud supporter heritage goes without saying. Trouble outside the grounded preceded affairs inside and allegedly included Serbian supporters of Red Star Belgrade storming their own national team’s bus and attempting to assault goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic, who’s crime was recently joining rivals Partisan Belgrade (on loan from Sporting Lisbon) having previously been a Red Star favourite. A shaken Stojkovic withdrew from the squad.

Once inside their section of the ground, the real “fun” could start for the Serbs. What happened would result in kick-off being delayed for 36 minutes, and as there is a lot to cover here we might not get the order exactly right. But first of all, professional hool I*** B******** (name censored in case he comes to destroy use, and shall be henceforth referred to as “I.B.”) takes up a position of command, perching high atop the plexiglass barrier. With flares already igniting below him, I.B. first savours the moment…

…before he lights his own flare, gives it a good old swing around, and (to the sound of rapturous cheers from his fellow countrymen) launches it effortlessly in the direction of Italian supporters in the neighbouring stand:

Naturally, this occurs much to the chagrin of the Italians, many of whom feel compelled to rush towards the Serbian section, perhaps with the intention of physical retribution. Some of the Serbian supporters welcome this reaction and indeed appear to goad their harrowed hosts with the raising of arms and such:

The miracle of television was to pick up I.B.’s best work. Always the consummate professional, I.B. had done his homework and produced a pair of wire cutters brought from home in order to cut through the protective netting, which hung down to the top of the barrier. Whether this was a trusted tool used in many such actions, or a shiny new pair bought specially for this occasion remains unclear.

A hooded accomplice of I.B. appears to assure the concerned stewards and stadium officials of his colleague’s expertise in the field. “Don’t worry, lads, he’s a safe pair of hands.”

With a large opening now produced in the netting, Serbian supporters are free to fulfill the pitch-bound destiny of a few flares, as I.B. dutifully holds the portal open for tossing:

While the majority of the unfolding chaos was occurring on the lower tier of the Serbian section, the upper tier also did it’s part to contribute. From up here, some pyro inadvertently creates a sort of “waterfall” effect of smoke which I have no problem describing as beautiful:

Quite a humerous episode is next captured by videographer Lider, as some Serbians attempt to antagonise a steward in an adjoining sector. One has just revealed his buttocks to the steward, who is looking quite unimpressed. The bare-all bully then turns around while apparently forgetting to re-fasten his lower garment, as a couple of seconds later his arse is again hanging out and the angle suggests that perhaps his male sexual organs were also making an appearance:

The steward’s reaction seems to confirm the inadvertent full-frontal reveal as he turns away embarrassed, no doubt dismayed at the state of society these days, or perhaps uncomfortable in his own sexuality and therefore unable to consume the male form in a healthy way. The Serbian supporter hastily attempts to make himself respectable again and in the process comically stumbles backwards through the admittedly cumbersome terrace steps. He and the steward had shared a moment that neither would forget for years to come:

Eagle-eyed Lider next spots (presumably) Serbian supporters who have infiltrated deep within the Goldeneye-esque complex of the stadium and are unsuccessfully attempting to break through a locked door. The intentions of the would be intruders once on the other side may have been unknown even to them, but perhaps deep-seeded “holes” within their psyche brought about by socioeconomic and/or environmental issues during their upbringing contributed to this manifestation of rage here in Genoa years later:

At this point, our old friend I.B. makes an executive decision that it is time to send more heat the way of some innocent Italians, and lets fly with a direct hit. Objectively speaking, it’s a fine throw. A steward is immediately on hand with a fire extinguisher:

This latest display of aerial aggravation was just too much for one blue-jacketed Italian fan, who perhaps in a display of “classic Mediterranean passion” rushes to the Serb sector and earnestly climbs the dividing barriers. He at first appears to symbolically throw his own projectile, before switching tack and making a passionate (but frankly useless) plea to end the aggressive behaviour. The Serbians eagerly welcome their new friend and urge him to come closer in a similar way to how a scorpion might, before officials are able to remove the have-a-go hero:

An at least partial motivation for all the trouble is revealed when I.B. produces the flag of Albania to burn and later a “Kosovo is Serbia”-related banner is displayed. The political status of Kosovo, which had declared independence from Serbia in 2008 (and who’s population comprises an ethnic Albanian majority), was and continues to be a commonly referred to topic of supporter actions in Eastern Europe. Here we have another example of sport being used as a tool for the expression of a “greater” cause.

Eventually, a crack team of Carabinieri arrive on the scene in a somewhat disorganised fashion before standing around for a while trying to figure out what’s to be done. Naturally, the Serbian supporters use this as a cue to launch more flares:

Lider again catches a novel incident on camera as a Serbian supporter manages to scale quite a height in order to whip a dividing glass barrier with his belt, while seething Italians swarm around the other side. As “One Of The Lads Said” upon seeing this (he requested to be referred to that way) “You’d have to wonder what he was hoping to achieve there, he doesn’t even seem angry…He’s like a dog pawing a door to get back in the house.” Too true. This is a scene you are unlikely to see anywhere else in life, cherish it:

The two teams had at some stage come out and then been brought back to the dressing rooms by the referee upon review of the chaotic situation. Shots from around the ground show sinister hooded and masked figures on both sides preparing for further escalations…

…and from a wide shot of the Serbian sector we see some commendable banner-hanging:

Going back once more to de facto leader of the Serbian actions, I.B., we see him descend from his perch, but first he displays what can only be described as a primate-like feat of strength as he hangs down from the top of the barrier by his arms and repeatedly propels himself with force, feet first into the glass. This was clearly a symbolic gesture of alpha male dominance, as a seasoned vet’ like I.B. will have likely known that there was little chance of the barrier giving way. Duly, the Carabinieri looked on like captivated school children:

The game eventually did start, but amid more flares and more chaos the game was swiftly called off after about 7 minutes. A 3-0 victory would be declared for Italy:

It’s been a long and emotional journey in this edition of Pyro On The Pitch. Frankly, I had not foreseen it being this long, but you have to admit it had a bit of everything. Of course I.B. was arrested and spent months in Italian prison before doing more time at home for other offenses. Sources later revealed that he and other supporters had always intended on having the game called off, perhaps for awareness of their political cause, or in protest of the president of Serbian football association (among other theories). But throughout those long, endless days behind bars I am sure that his heart will have been warmed by the enduring memory of the Serbian players that night, who before being forced to originally leave the field had made sure to show their respect for their supporter’s efforts, as a chorus of boos rained down from the rest of the stadium:

Youtube link 1
Youtube link 2
Youtube link 3
Youtube link 4
Youtube link 5
Youtube link 6

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: