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 is 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 match, adding to the tension. As the game gets 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, which surely will have ruffled 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 denies Denmark a penalty after England goalkeeper Peter Shilton has seemingly taken down Preben Elkjær inside the box. The injustice of this is 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 smoke:

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 leads to a 2-2 draw in the game and 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:


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


Cold War Classic #1 + #2

You now love Pyro On The Pitch as an international institution, but did you know that we also contribute to the wonderful

If you enjoy any combination of interesting retro football kits, beautifully vivid illustrations of said retro football kits (by main man Denis Hurley), a bit of sociopolitical history and classic cold war era match ups (with maybe a bit of trademark Pyro On The Pitch absurdity), then we think you’ll dig the Cold War Classic.

Below are samples of the first two installments, and of course links to the full articles.


Cold War Classic no. 1 – Hungary v Netherlands, 1986

“The Netherlands would begin their journey to European glory in 1988 with a trip to a rather sombre Nepstadion, Budapest on October 15, 1986.

To avoid a clash of orange with the red of the hosts, the Dutch would wear a classic white/orange/white away strip, the same as they had worn the last time the two sides had met here in May 1985. On that occasion, Hungary had worn their traditional home kit of red shirts, white shorts and green socks and one would assume the same would be applied here…”

Cold War Classic no. 1 – Hungary v Netherlands, 1986

– – –

Cold War Classic no. 2 – Croatia v USA, 1990

“It is well-known now that top level football is essentially meaningless, but there have been times when the game has transcended sport and taken on a higher level of meaning.

As someone who grew up in Ireland, I can say that the Euro ’88 victory over England, for example, which was Ireland’s first game at a major tournament, certainly seems like something more emotional than just a sport being played when considering the historical and political context of the time. Another game like this occurred two years later when Croatia took on the USA in Zagreb on October 17, 1990.”

Cold War Classic no. 2 – Croatia v USA, 1990


Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #1

In a new feature here at Pyro On The Pitch, we take a brief look back at some lovely retro gaming images.

Here we have a “select-team” screen shot from Tecmo’s PC game “European Championship 1992“:

One glaring issue is the incorrect order of colours on the Russian flag, although since this is of course the Confederation of Independent States we’re talking about and not Russia, maybe this was intentional on Tecmo’s part. Also the CIS should be in red as their home shirt colour not white. Yugoslavia also incorrectly appear in away strip, so perhaps Tecmo was just making some sort of subtle commentary on collapsing states. We may never know, but hopefully the gamer did in fact choose to play as Luxembourg and lead them to glory.

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 at the time of writing having only occurred in 2010 (7 years ago), but certainly by the time the majority of people will read this after the author dies 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 ground 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, a professional hooligan (who shall be henceforth referred to by the code-name “HOOL”, with all due respect sir) takes up a position of command, perching high atop the plexiglass barrier. With flares already igniting below him, HOOL 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 the professional’s best work. Always the consummate professional, HOOl had done his homework and produced a pair of wire cutters brought from home in order to break 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 HOOL 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 HOOL dutifully holds the portal open for tossing:

While the majority of the unfolding chaos is occurring on the lower tier of the Serbian section with more flares, the upper tier also helps 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 HOOL 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 HOOL 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 reader “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 HOOL, 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 HOOL 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, we had not foreseen it being this long, but you have to admit it had a bit of everything. Of course HOOL 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, we are 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:

Pyro On The Pitch #1: Bayern Munchen away to PSV Eindhoven, European Cup, 21/03/1990

With the ominous sounds of a police dog barking, supporter horns, and confetti like materials on the pitch (that part’s not so ominous), along with pitch-side fences (back to ominous), great noise for a goal from the Baryen fans and the perfect timing and aim of some pyro, you nearly can’t find a more classic scene for a continental European game of this era.

Bayern fans, located behind and to the left of the goal, throw a flare after their side score the only goal of the game from a freekick with basically the last kick of the match. Working in reverse order to the actual broadcast, a clear view of the launching can be see in the action replay of the goal, displaying excellent form:

Back to “live time” and viewers across Europe were treated to what may have appeared to the untrained eye as a miniature hell fire missile raining down upon the pitch:

The PSV keeper could only put his hands on his hips as if to say “Dear, oh dear!”, but the fine launching of the flare can’t have been lost on him even in this moment of defeat:

Bayern also donned a fab white/blue/red strip:

Youtube link