Politics On The Pitch #6: Groups Of Death Part 3 – 1980-89

In this addition to the Politics On The Pitch series we come to the third installment of “Groups Of Death”, where qualifier/tournament groups and matches of dark political significance are discussed. Part 1 covered both the post-War period and the turbulent 1960s (also check out Politics #3 regarding 1950 World Cup qualifying as a “proto-Groups of Death”), while Part 2 looked at the even more turbulent 70s. Now, with plenty more hot encounters yet to come, the fascinating 1980s gets it’s turn.

  • World Cup 1982 qualifiers

AFC and OFC Final Round

New Zealand
Saudi Arabia
Kuwait
China PR

While most of the qualifiers for Spain 82 were devoid of political tension – apart from the now usual east vs west clashes in Europe – there was one strange situation in the Asian and Oceanian zone that caused matches to be moved to a neutral ground, due to a lack of diplomatic relations.

The zone was initially broken into four groups, with one side progressing from each:

1. The Southeast Asian and Oceanian group of Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Chinese Taipei (Republic of China), and Fiji, with the teams playing each other twice.

2. The Middle East group of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, Syria, with with the teams playing each other once.

3. The “we don’t like our neighbours” group of South Korea (to avoid North Korea) and Kuwait (the Middle Eastern country with the greatest freedom of expression and “liberal values”) combined with the “other south east Asians” (Malaysia and Thailand), with the teams again only playing each other once.

4. The Far East group of China PR (People’s Republic of China), Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, North Korea and Macau (competing under the flag of Portugal as a Portuguese dependent territory).

Perhaps due to the presence of North Korea, the last group was designed as a tournament with all the games played in Government Stadium, Hong Kong, from December 21st, 1980, to January 4th, 1981. A round of classification matches to determine seeds came preceded two groups of 3 and after playing each other once, the top two in each went through to semi-finals and a final to determine the winner – China PR.

But this Hong Kong-based Group 4 is not the neutral ground-affair to which we were referring to, as of course it was home soil for one of the teams anyway. The issue would arise due to the seemingly innocuous pairing of China PR – taking part for the first time in 25 years – with Saudi Arabia, along side Australia and Kuwait in a final group round from which the top two countries would qualify for the World Cup (a first for Asia).

The origins of the problem dated back to the Chinese civil war and the victory of communist forces in 1949, when the creation of the People’s Republic of China drove the government of the Republic of China – which had officially ruled since 1912 – to flee to the island of Taiwan. After original annexation from the Dutch by Qing Dynasty China in 1683, Taiwan had been under control of Imperial Japan from 1895 until their World War 2 defeat in 1945 when Republican China took control of the territory on behalf of the Allies.

Following their exile in 49, the Republican regime continued it’s own rule with what would go on to be variously known as the “Republic of China (Taiwan)”, “Republic of China/Taiwan”, “Taiwan (ROC)”, or, in sport, “Chinese Taipai” (see below). But the People’s Republic, who did not recognise the legitimacy of the island-isolated state, never gave up their own claim for Taiwan as part of China as a whole.


Flag of the Republic of China/Taiwan.

In the Middle East most countries established diplomatic links to the new “red” China, but there was one notable exception in Saudi Arabia who instead maintained their ties to the ROC. Taiwan was desperate not to lose the relationship due it’s reliance on Saudi oil and cited their respect for the country’s Islamic devotion, fittingly appointing a Hui Muslim general as Ambassador in the 1950s.

In 1971, the friendship held fast even as Taiwan was replaced on the United Nations Security Council, and in the UN altogether, by the People’s Republic as the only Chinese representatives (thanks to a motion by Albania, with Taiwan still no longer member at the time of writing). A trade-agreement between the two states was signed in 73, with agricultural, technological and construction-based assistance provided by the Taiwanese, with oil flowing in the other direction.

Throughout this time, Saudi Arabia and China PR were of course politically estranged, having found themselves on either side of the Cold War divide. Thanks to sport though, the two did find themselves having to interact through their national football teams, who first met at the 1978 Asian Games in neutral Bangkok (finishing 1-0 to China).

When the pair had then ended-up drawn together again for the World Cup 82 qualifying group, the games were due to be held on a home and away basis, but lack of diplomatic relations meant that this was impossible. A neutral venue for both matches was decided upon instead, with the south east once more deemed a suitable location as Malaysia was chosen.

The two ties were scheduled for November 12th and 18th, 1981, in Merdeka Stadium, Kuala Lumpur. The Chinese again proved the stronger of the two with 4-2 and 2-0 wins, amazingly on front of huge crowds of 40,000 and 45,000.


The Chinese and Saudi Arabian teams take to the field for the first of their two World Cup qualifiers in Kuala Lumpur, November 12th, 1981.

The victories weren’t enough in the end for China, as they finished 3rd in the group. But because their goal difference was level with New Zealand above them, a play-off was ordered, with the New Zealander’s superior goal’s scored tally and head-to-head record not considered tie-breakers in the rules of the time.

On front of another amazing 60,000 fans in Singapore New Zealand won 2-1 to send them to their first World Cup, along with fellow debutantes Kuwait as group winners, while China PR would have to wait until 2002. As of writing, Chinese Taiwan/Taipei have yet to make a World Cup finals, but we can’t wait for the inevitable, juicy Chinese derby at Brunei 2038 or something.

As for Saudi Arabia and Taiwan, the relationship did not last. As of 1989, the Saudis were the only Middle Eastern country yet to hold diplomatic ties with China PR, but tellingly, following the Tienanmen Square massacre, they had a change of heart. In July 1990, Saudi Arabia and China PR finally established relations, and in doing so ended over 40 years of the Saudi-Taiwanese alliance.

  • World Cup 1986 qualifiers

AFC Zone Group 4A

China PR
Hong Kong
Macau
Brunei

Staying with the China-theme, another interesting scenario arose in the next qualification campaign when the People’s Republic was again placed in an East Asian group with two Chinese territories currently ruled by European powers, along with Brunei. Macau on the southwestern Chinese coast had been a Portuguese trading post in the 17th century when still under Chinese rule, before Portugal were officially given power in 1887 (until 1999), while the islands and peninsula of near-by Hong Kong were taken by the British following the first and second Opium Wars in 1860 and 1898, respectively, but ultimately only for a 99 year lease.

Going into the qualifiers, China were undefeated against their Hong-Kongese cousins since the two first met in 1978, with three wins and one draw. The Chinese were heavy favourites to progress from the group, from which the winners would enter semi-finals and finals to determine one of two Asian representatives at the World Cup (or maybe three, due to the now separate Oceanian (supposedly) zone, but we’ll get to that).

While 495 watched Macau take on Brunei on February 17th, 1985, Hong Kong and China kicked off their own campaigns in Government Stadium, Hong Kong Island, on front of more than 20,000 supporters with the home side able to hold their much larger opponents to a scoreless draw. The Chinese showed their real strength in the games that followed, however, winning 0-4 away to Macau (on front of a swelling crowd of 1048), 8-0 at “home” to Brunei six days later (held also in Macau for convenience since Brunei were already there, on front of  960), 4-0 away to Brunei (but held in Hong Kong), and 6-0 finally at home to Macau, on front a far healthier 30,000 in Worker’s Stadium, Beijing, on May 12th.

Since Hong Kong had also won the rest of their matches (including another 8-0 thrashing of the poor Bruneians, three days before they suffered the same tally to China), this left the final group game between the two five days later on May 19th, 1985, as a virtual play-off for progression. As well as home advantage, the Chinese’ scoring prowess gave them the edge as their superior goal difference meant that a draw would be enough, leaving Hong Kong with the daunting task of needing a win in their estranged birth-father’s backyard.

80,000 citizens of the People’s Republic attended the “unusually tense” (according to the commentators) game in Worker’s Stadium and were duly shocked when Cheung Chi Tak gave the British colony the lead with a brilliant top-corner free kick on 19 minutes. Li Hui equalisied shortly after for the hosts, but, even more shockingly, the fabulously named Ku Kam Fai scored what would turn out to be the winner for Hong Kong on the hour mark.


The wonder-strike that put Hong Kong 1-0 up in Beijing, en route to the 2-1 scoreline that would eliminate China, May 19th, 1985.

After the heartbreak of the New Zealand play-off in 1981, China were again knocked out by the same scoreline, but his time it was on home soil and the disaffected Chinese supporters began to riot in the stadium following the full-time whistle. The People’s Armed Police were forced to move in to restore order, making 127 arrests. It was the first episode hooligan trouble in Chinese nation team history.


Hong Kong players celebrate their victory over China before trouble kicks off around the stadium, May 19th, 1985.

The affair would come to be known as the May 19th Incident, even by FIFA in their official video about the match which conveniently forgets to mention any of the trouble afterwards that actual made it an “Incident.” But in a move that would probably not have occurred in the west, both the Chinese manager and chairman of the Chinese Football Association resigned after in the wake of the defeat.

Hong Kong, meanwhile, were drawn against Japan in the semi-finals, where they were beaten 5-1 over two legs but with a very respectable turn-out of 28,000 in the home game when already 3-0 down. The territory was returned to China in 1997 upon completion of the British lease, but, in recognition of the distinctly separate entity that it had become, as a Special Administrative Region rather than a totally integrated Chinese province. This meant that Hong Kong were able to keep their international football team, with the 1985 victory over their now reunited father-land still the team’s most memorable football achievement to date.

AFC Zone Groups 1B and 2B

Iraq
Qatar
Jordan
Lebanon

Bahrain
South Yemen
Iran

Moving to the other side of the continent, the West Asian zone was comprised of Group 1A, 1B, 2A and 2B. An increase of participating nations had bloated the section, with teams like Oman, Lebanon, and North Yeman set to take part for the first time (the former pair actually withdrew before playing a match), and the return of Iran since their last appearance at the finals itself in 1978.

Iran had intended to take part in the 82 qualifiers, but, due to the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, had withdrawn before the campaign began. By the time the of the next qualifiers the war was still ongoing. however under the condition that their home games be played on neutral ground both Iran and Iraq were entered into the qualification system.

Of course, like others in similar situations, the rival-nations were kept apart in the carefully arranged groups: Iraq joined Qatar, Jordan and Lebanon in 1B, while Iran were placed in 2B alongside Bahrain and South Yemen. The South Yemenese were another side competing in their first, and –  as it would turn out – only qualifiers, having only been independent since 1967 and reunified with the North in 1990 following the collapse of communism.

Iraq started their campaign taking on the Lebanese in Kuwait City. Lebanon had been going through their own devastating civil war since 1975 (to 1990) and were also under orders to play on neutral soil, so the return game took place in the same venue three days later – both won by the Iraqi’s 6-0 (the Jordan vs Qatar match also oddly took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia).

Following further thrashings at the hands of the Qataris (7-0 and 0-8, both held in Qatar) Lebanon decided enough was enough and withdrew, rendering all their matches so far void (not that it mattered much). Having won in Ammam, Jordan, but defeated in Doha, Qatar, Iraq finished the group with 2-0 and 2-1 victories over the same opposition in Kuwait, and, somewhat strangely, Calcutta, India, respectively, en-route to qualification for their first World Cup.


Iraq and Qatar play out their World Cup qualifier in Yuva Bharati Krirangan Stadium, Calcutta, India, May 5th, 1985,

Group 2B, on the other hand, couldn’t have been more of a different story, as Iran refused the condition of playing their home games on neutral ground. As a result, the Iranians had entered and left before kicking a ball for a second consecutive World Cup. But unlike 82, when they withdraw, this time elimination came via disqualification.

Oceanian Zone

Australia
New Zealand
Israel
Chinese Taipei

Perhaps with a view to keeping certain countries confined to a distant international wasteland/safe-haven for political reasons, but done under the guise of giving the OFC teams their own section, a new Oceanian qualifying zone was created. The winner of the single group of four would progress not to the World Cup, but a play-off against the runners-up of UEFA Group 7.

Australia and New Zealand of course entered, but this time no Fiji. Instead, the locations of other two teams in the group, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) and Israel, ranged from “not really near” to “nowhere near”, in relation Australia and New Zealand.

The reason was of course to keep Taiwan – competing as Chinese Taipai due to an agreement with China PR to recognise each other in terms of International Olympic Committee activities – away from China PR, for reasons we have discussed above. Meanwhile, Israel were still outcast from their Middle Eastern neighbours who had  refused to play them since the team evolved from the previous Palestinian British Mandate in 1948.


Chinese Taipai Olympic flag.

As we have seen earlier in the series this was not without precedent, after apartheid-South Africa’s (intended) entry to the Asia/Oceanian zone in 1966, Rhodesia in 1970, and Israel’s positioning in the east-Asian side of the draw throughout the 70s. For the 82 edition Israel switched back to UEFA, where they had last been in 1962 in one of the strangest qualification groups of all time (played as a mini-tournament) due to it’s additional inclusion of Ethiopia, alongside Italy Cyprus, and Romania.

As a weaker, visiting team in the zone, Taipei did not play any of their home games in Taiwan but instead used their opponent’s grounds, with the return game in the same location a few days later. They conceded 36 goals and scored 1 over the six encounters in September and October, 1985. Israel were not so willing to give up home advantage, meaning the Asian and Oceanian sides were forced to travel to the other side of the globe to play their away matches there.

Despite a 3-0 victory over New Zealand on the last day of the group, there would be no repeat of 1970 when Israel had qualified for the their only finals to date by defeating Australia in a two legged AFC/OFC final round. This time the Australians progressed in top-spot from this “island of misfit toys” zone, but still ended up losing out to Scotland in the inter-confederation play-offs.

  • World Cup 1986

Quarter-Finals

Argentina
England

Despite being one of the most famous matches of all time, it would have been remiss of us not to cover the clash between Argentina and England in the summer of 1986, which took place just four years after the Falklands War between the two countries (or more correctly, between Argentina and the UK). The Falkland/Malvinas Islands were first claimed by English settlers in 1764 and would go on to be a subject of dispute among British, French and Spanish colonialists, as well as by the near-by United Provinces of the River Plate – later Argentina.

By 1833 the United Provinces had appointed a Governor to the “Islas Malvinas”, as they called them, and curtailed sealing rights assumed by the US and UK, resulting in the arrival of an American warship and British military “task-force”. The Argentinians peacefully abandoned the islands, which would remain thereafter in the hands of the UK –  first as Crown Colony, later as a British Dependent Territory in 1981.

In 1976, an Argentinian military junta seized power after a right-wing coup d’état, murdering thousands of civilian opponents in the process. The finest moment for the new ruling generals would come two years later when the football-crazy country hosted the World Cup, and won – mainly, it is presumed, thanks to heavy government influence over officiating and at least one significant bribe.

But this “sporting” success and the patriotic euphoria that it brought weren’t enough to paper over the cracks in society, and by the early 80s – after two changes in dictator – civil unrest had grown amid dire economic stagnation. As is often the case, the solution was to appeal to nationalistic sentiment by retaking the Malvinas for Argentina, under the false assumption that the British had lost interest in the islands and would not respond to an invasion (the junta were also working with the CIA in Nicaragua and hoped, as a reward, that the USA would also turn a blind-eye).

Having already severed relations in the lead-up, the war began when Argentinian troops landed and occupied the islands on April 2nd, followed by the invasion of South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands (other near-by British possessions in the South Atlantic). The militarily-superior British responded rapidly, as the Falklands Task Force set sail on from England April 5th, and, after more than two months of fighting and hundreds of causalities one each side, Argentina surrendered on June 15th.

Contrary to what it had set out to do, the junta found it’s image shattered and in 1983 a general election restored democracy to Argentina. But one right-wing regime had in fact benefited from the conflict, as Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government surged ahead in the polls in the aftermath of her boy’s victory.

Thankfully for the footballing authorities, the two were not on course to meet at that summer’s 1982 World Cup in Spain – which had kicked-off two days before the end of the war – unless both reached the final. It was unlikely and proved not to be the case for either, but what a final that would have been.

Four years later in Mexico, the final again seemed like the only place that the two would meet, as the winners of Argentina’s Group A and England’s Group F would be placed on either side of the draw in the knock-out rounds. The Argentinians progressed in first place as expected, with wins over South Korea and Bulgaria while drawing with Italy, but in Group F a shock defeat at the hands of the Portuguese and a 0-0 draw with Morocco meant that England’s saving 3-0 win over Poland put them through in second.

A quarter-finals meeting was now a distinct possibility, which would be the first between the two in a World Cup finals match since a bitter affair on British soil in 1966 when England manager Alf Ramsey had infamously called the opposition “animals”. On June 16th, Argentina dismissed their Uruguayan neighbours to secure the first quarter-final spot, with England also warming up against South American opposition two days later when they defeated Paraguay to formally book the Falkland dream-match.

A stifling 114,580 filled Mexico City’s Aztec Stadium on June 22, 1982, for the much anticipated game, with Maradona the main-event on the pitch. But one problem off it was a lack of segregation in the stands, meaning that clashes between fans were inevitable.

With a combination of alcohol, heat, political-history, tension, football, and a ridiculous amount of people, various violent incidents broke out around the huge ground. Some were involving the more “normal fans” caught up in the occasion and arguing over flag space (with many thefts), while banners from such groups as Portsmouth’s 657 Crew and West Ham’s National Front division ominously displayed that English firms had made the long voyage across the Atlantic too.




Trouble in the terraces at Argentina vs England (above), while some Argentines prove they can take British flags if not their islands (below), June 22nd, 1986.

Flag of Portsmouth's "657 Crew" hooligan firm at Argentina vs England, June 22nd, 1986.

Along with the display of banners referencing the Falklands/Malvinas, national flags were burnt on both sides, as they had been before and after the match when more trouble erupted. In the worse sections of the stadium police eventually made lines where they could, while on the pitch Maradona established some sort of revenge for his people by stealing the show and sending England home.




Banners referncing the Falklands War, flag burning, and police line intervention at Argentina vs England, June 22nd, 1986.

It was to be the end of this period in the Anglo-Argentinian rivalry, as diplomatic links between the two countries were once again established in 1990. Of course in the 1998 World Cup a new chapter would begin, at least in football terms, before a fresh claim to the Falkands itself was briefly made by the Argentine government of 2007-2015.

  • World Cup 1990 qualifying

To briefly update two regions already covered in GoD parts 1 and 2: the World Cup 90 qualification system placed the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland together once again, nearly ten years to the day after their tense debut meeting in a Euro qualifier, while in Central America El Salvador had moved on from the Football War with Honduras in 1969 to continue it’s military dictatorship, before a brutal civil war began in 1979 which was still on going.

In Northern Ireland the “Troubles” were also still flaring, as heading into the first match at Windsor Park in November 1988 there had already been assassinations of IRA men in Gibraltar, murders at funerals and the bombings of military vehicles that year. Few if any fans from the 26 Counties (the Republic) made the journey up due to the obvious security concerns, where a tetchy 0-0 was played out, but the Irish finally enjoyed their first victory against the North in a more relaxed 3-0 encounter the following October in Dublin, en route to qualification.

In the Central and North American CONCACAF zone, meanwhile, El Salvador went into the qualifiers in June 1989 on the heels of right-wing paramilitary bomb attacks against trade-union workers. More violence would come later in the year with a renewed offensive by the left-wing FMLN guerillas in November, followed by the return of the opposing side’s ominously named “death squads” (infamously backed by the CIA originally) in 1990.

Prior to all this, the Salvadorians played their first match against Trinidad and Tobago in San Salvador, but then mysteriously shifted all their remaining home games out of the country to Honduras and Guatemala (although the latter was cancelled as both sides were already eliminated). We are honestly not sure what the exact reason was for this, but given the atmosphere in the country it seems likely to have been related to politics, violence, or some combination of the two.

*

YouTube Links:

China vs Saudi Arabia, 1981
China vs Hong Kong, 1985
China vs Hong Kong, 1985
Iraq vs Qatar, 1985
Argentina vs England, 1985
Argentina vs England, 1985

*****

What Football Is Supposed To Look Like #10 (Gallery)

Welcome back to the series that celebrates all the aesthetics of old school football that we love. Aside from the fact that the sport at it’s top tier has moved so far away from what it was in the 20th century – bringing with it the non-sporting aspects that interest us more – the progression of technology and society in general that have propelled this change mean that the things we look back on fondly are simply gone forever. Except here.

Previously we have had special focus-installments, such as our look at Belgian league “grittiness” in the late 80s-early 90s, and the wacky world of the football TV presenter last time out. But now we return to a wonderful array of images from all over the colourful spectrum of vintage football.

Classic graphics, banners and pitch confetti, Mexico vs West Germany, World Cup 86 quarter-final, 21/06/1986:

Flag-tops display, Switzerland vs Estonia, World Cup qualifier, 17/11/1993:

Quintessential communist stadium (Ernst-Thälmann-Stadion in the former Karl-Marx-Stadt, named after the leader of the German Communist Party in the Wiemar Republic) fittingly hosting a “Fall of the Iron Curtain Derby”, East Germany vs USSR, World Cup qualifier, 08/10/1989:

Nightmarish masks worn by Dutch supporters, Netherlands, Euro 88, 1988:

Classic graphics and background pyro in Bari, Italy vs USSR, friendly, 20/02/1988:

Beautiful 70s scoreboard in Rheinstadion, Düsseldorf (Bökelbergstadion was being renovated), displaying an astounding scoreline (game would ultimately end 12-0) of one “Prussia” over another, Borussia Mönchengladbach vs Borussia Dortmund, Bundesliga, 29/04/1978:

From the same match as above – in which ‘Gladbach hoped to outscore first place 1.FC Köln to clinch the title on the last day of the season – fans listen to Köln vs St. Pauli on the radio (a game that would end 5-0 to give Köln championship), Borussia Mönchengladbach vs Borussia Dortmund, Bundesliga, 29/04/1978:

Memorable sponsor ‘Jesus Jeans’ at the San Siro, Italy vs Uruguay, friendly 15/03/1980:

The gargantuan, eastern majesty of Stadion Crvena Zvezda, with Belgrade looming in the background, for a rescheduled game that had been abandoned the previous day after 63 mins due to dense fog, Red Star Belgrade vs Milan, European Cup 10/11/1988:

Conversely to the classic communist Olympic bowl, the American other-sports arena; here the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington DC (home to the Howard Bison college American football team at the time), USA vs Ireland, US Cup 92, 30/05/1992:

The setting sun silhouettes a treeline behind the Drumcondra End of Tolka Park (played there as Richmond Park was too small), with a large Irish-tricolour draped above the goal, St. Patrick’s Athletic vs Hearts, UEFA Cup first round-1st leg, 07/09/1988:

An ominous line of riot police guard the pitch in Heysel Stadium as a penalty is about to be scored, Club Brugge vs KV Mechelen, Belgian Cup final, 15/06/1991:

Classic graphics and crest (and a multitude of extra people on and around the pitch), FC Nantes vs Paris Saint-Germain, Coupe de France final, 11/06/1983:

Architecture with local character at Eastville Stadium, and beds of flowers behind the goal, Bristol Rovers vs Sheffield United, Watney Cup final, 05/08/1972:

Oppressive fencing and concrete wastelands, Ajax Amsterdam vs Den Haag, Eredivisie, 27/08/1986:

Great Yugoslav tracksuits of the early 90s, Yugoslavia vs Northern Ireland, Euro qualifier, 27/03/1991:

Children in Swiss club kits ahead of the international match, Switzerland vs Scotland, Euro qualifier, 11/09/1991:

Flares on the tribune and a unique end, Hajduk Split vs Partizan Belgrade, Yugoslav League, 19/11/1989:

A regiment of Spanish police attentively watch the corner kick, Brazil vs Italy, World Cup 82 second round-Group C, 05/07/1982:

Sad Honduran, Mexico vs Honduras, World Cup qualifier, 11/11/2001:

Dancing in the snow manager, Blau-Weiß 1890 Berlin vs Hertha Berlin, 2.Bundesliga, 16/03/1985:

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Mexico vs West Germany, 1986
Switzerland vs Estonia, 1993
East Germany vs USSR, 1989
Netherlands, 1988
Italy vs USSR, 1988
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs Borussia Dortmund, 1978
Italy vs Uruguay, 1980
Red Star Belgrade vs Milan, 1988
USA vs Ireland, 1992
St. Patrick’s Athletic vs Hearts, 1986
Club Brugge vs KV Mechelen, 1991
FC Nantes vs Paris Saint-Germain, 1983
Bristol Rovers vs Sheffield United, 1972
Ajax Amsterdam vs Den Haag, 1986
Yugoslavia vs Northern Ireland, 1991
Switzerland vs Scotland, 1991
Hajduk Split vs Partizan Belgrade, 1989
Brazil vs Italy, 1982
Mexico vs Honduras, 2001
Blau-Weiß 1890 Berlin vs Hertha Berlin, 1985

*****

Kit Interested #1 – Chelsea; Australia; Portugal; Porto; Ireland

Welcome to our newest feature here on PyroOnThePitch.com, with a series for the kit interested, by the kit interested, and containing interesting kit things (of the vintage variety of course). “Kit Interested” joins Retro Shirt Reviews, the Cold War Classic (over on MuseumOfJerseys.com) and Champagne Kit Campaigns in our regular explorations into the ‘fabric of football’, the appeal of which often results in small decreases in social media followers when certain folk realise that we are equally likely to focus on the grittier side of supporter culture history.

We wanted to stress the “interested” part (rather than all-knowing), as we are also keen to learn ourselves, as well as inform. That’s where you lot hopefully come in , as any feedback to fill us in on what we may not know is very welcome.

Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea, 26/08/1978:

A common complaint of many modern kit-fanatics is that of away and third strips being used in fixtures where they were historically not necessary, mainly – it is assumed – due to marketing reasons (often correctly so). At best, this is considered a callous disregard for the team’s proud traditional colours and at worst can actually create somewhat of a clash where none had existed before (Sheffield Wednesday vs Arsenal in 2015 being a prime example, graciously provided by MuseumOfJerseys since the modern game is not really our era of expertise).

Like many aspects of football, however, the tradition of seemingly inexplicable changes stretches back far longer than many might imagine – at least to 1978 when Tottenham Hotspur took on Chelsea in a Division One match. The white shirts of Spurs against the blue of their London rivals never caused an issue of course, but the navy shorts of the former against Chelsea’s continued blue, along with both sides’ white socks, did create a “lower-half clash”.

This had been negated in various ways in the past, such as the 1967 FA Cup final in which full blocks of white and blue were worn – one of three times Chelsea used the combination that season:

In the 70s, Chelsea then had the innovative idea to introduce an “alternate first-choice kit” to be worn against teams who had white socks, in which amber socks were used (distinct from the yellow socks of the yellow and blue away kit). But delightfully, instead of simply pairing the alternates with the rest strip, these were accompanied by shirts and shorts featuring amber trim, replacing all white from the regular kit (seen here against Real Madrid in the 1971 Cup Winners’ Cup final):

Tottenham took a similar approach when playing away in Stamford Bridge for the 71/72 League Cup semi-final 1st-leg, by donning white shirts, white shorts, and yellow socks. In doing so, they also removed the shorts clash, although this was less-concerning than the socks which covered an area more in-need of distinction for officials:

When Chelsea traveled to White Hart Lane at the end of the 74/75 season – for a game that would ultimately see them relegated to the Second Division – another set of alternate home socks were used; this time blue like the rest of the kit, but featuring predominantly red trim:

The socks were slightly odd, as the red used now was a reference to the away version, which had green in place of the blue as the primary colour but contained the same red/white ratio on the turnovers. This trim was to compliment the red shirts and white shorts of the away kit, but the colour was only to be found on a sliver of the crest as far as the regular first-choice elements went at the time.

Following a season back in an all-yellow away kit (with blue detailing), Chelsea combined their recent change-colourways by bringing in a yellow/green/yellow strip for 1978/79, with Umbro sleeve-taping retained from it’s debut the year before. Now back in Division One, the campaign started with the previous season’s home attire employed against Everton at the Bridge, and away to Wolves.

But for any internet kit nerds of the day, all eyes would be on the Tottenham vs Chelsea derby coming up next to see how the sock issue would be handled this time. When the teams emerged, traditionalist Chelsea fans who made the short journey over may have been upset to see their side in an away kit for, perhaps, the first time ever at White Hart Lane:

Without home-alternates this year, the idea of blue and white shirts and shorts with yellow and green socks may have been out of the question even for Chelsea, who had questionably (in a fashion sense) combined their home shorts with the red and green away kit at Millwall in 1977:

While the change may have seemed utterly illogical to some, it seems that using the full away kit was considered the easiest option to avoid any sort of clash entirely. Except to a significant portion of the audience watching highlights at home on TV, a new clash was very much in effect that was far worse than anything seen in the fixture before.

Commentator Brian Moore explains as the match kicks off:

And it’s Chelsea in a change strip of yellow shirts and green shorts, and yellow socks, who are attacking the goal to our right… We apologise if there’s something of a clash if you’re watching in black and white, Spurs in the slightly darker shorts and the slightly whiter shirts.

Maybe the amount of viewers effected was already negligible (we’d love to see some records for colour vs black and white TV licenses in the UK in 1978), but clearly there had been a significant oversight. For those who tuned in to watch on an older/cheaper set, we can see from converting a suitable screen shot to black and white that “something of a clash” was an understatement:

While it may have been unfair on some, the only eyes that really mattered were the ones witnessing and participating in the game live in colour, and to the players, officials and fans, there was a clear, if unusual, distinction. It would have been interesting to see if any of those in attendance that day were savvy enough to cop the potential problem the kit configuration would have without colour, and in fact many doubtlessly did realise when watching the game later on The Big Match.

Over the coming years, the black and white clash became less and less of an issue as technology advanced and prices of colour televisions lowered (although, surprisingly, 12,000 black and white TVs remained licensed in the UK as of 2014). But on a global scale, with the world’s varying degrees of ‘development’, the clash remained an important factor for FIFA and contributed to the the strict distinctions demanded (resulting in some memorable mash-ups) in World Cup matches for years to come.

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Greece vs Australia, 11/11/1980:

One kit trope that we love here at POTP, is when a team who aren’t usually known for it wear white shorts with their otherwise usual home colours. Two classic examples stem from the 1978 World Cup, when both Brazil and Spain (see last link above) were forced to swap their blue shorts for white due to clashes against Argentina and Sweden respectively.

In a similar way, we are also big fans of strips consisting of ‘colour/darker colour/white’ in terms of the shirt/shorts/socks. Australia sported this look to great effect at their debut World Cup in 1974 with yellow/green/white (seen vs West Germany below), while more notably wearing one of the most bizarre shirts of all time due to the fact that the double diamond of Umbro on the chest was accompanied by the three stripes of Adidas on the sleeves:

Several years later, Australia (now “fully-Umbro’d”) traveled to play Greece in November 1980, as part of a European tour that also included a game against England at St. Andrews, before a ‘club vs country’ affair with Leicester City. While the English match would be the main event, the Greeks themselves had just come off their first ever major tournament appearance at Euro 80, which they had followed with 0-1 World Cup qualifier defeat to Denmark.

As of that year, the “Socceroos” were still using their yellow/green/white format, as seen in another match against the English back in May (an Australian football centenary game in Sydney). But for the Greek encounter on November 11th in Athens, Australia reversed the shorts and socks colours to create a yellow/white/green strip, much to our satisfaction:

While not as crazy as the 1974 jersey, the Australian shirt by this time was still pleasingly odd in a perfectly Ozzie way. In the late 70s, Umbro had introduced a wordmark under their diamond logo, including on Australian kits. But uniquely (?) for the 80-82 iteration, the “umbro” now appeared on one side of the centralised crest, and the double diamond on the other.

The host side, meanwhile, were in their change strip of white/blue/white, which had actually been used with black shorts at the Euros. The logo of ASICS can just about be seen…:

…but an advertising hoarding with the same logo displays the word “Tiger”:

This is because the company had originally started life in 1949 as the Japanese footware-firm ‘Onitsuka Tiger’ and had only rebranded to ASICS (an acronym for the Latin “anima sana in corpore sano” – “healthy soul in a healthy body”) in 1977, with the logo having first appeared on running shoes back in 1966. The ‘Tiger’ theme is still used by ASICS to this day when it comes to trainers, but evidentially it might also have applied to their tentative first steps into the football kit world in the early 80s.

Breaking down the kit choices side by side, it seems plausible that the reason for the Greeks not to wear their home blue shirts may have been because the Australian ‘keeper was also wearing blue (see below), and so the away shorts and socks were also used. Then, even though sock clashes wouldn’t have been considered a pressing issue in friendlies, the Australians changed to their alternative white shorts and green socks, perhaps to account for the aforementioned “black and white clash” which would have occurred on certain TVs (presumably a greater issue in poorer Greece than it was in the UK in 1978).

After a 3-3 draw, the boys from Down Under moved on to Britain for their match against an English side who, like Greece, would be in white/blue/white. Unlike with the Greeks though, this was England’s expectant first strip so perhaps yellow/white/green had been the Australians plan for the tour all along.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any visual evidence for the England game or what was worn. But this brilliant website does display an Australia away jersey that was apparently used against Leicester a few day later, suggesting that two full kits were more than likely brought with each element used as needed. Or was there just two jerseys?

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Portugal, 1990/91

We have one more example of white shorts being surprisingly inserted into an established national kit, but this time it would not be a forced mash-up – rather, a conscious change of style direction. The country in question is Portugal, who may have took inspiration from their Iberian cousins change at World Cup 78 and decided they wanted the look for themselves…twelve years later.

As we saw in the recently published Euro 84 Football Special Report, the Portuguese were an Adidas side had who worn the stunning diagonal-pinstripe “Chelsea” template at the tournament. By the end of 1989, Portugal were playing out their fruitless World Cup 90 qualifiers in the usual red/green/red home colours, now with a with a greater presence of white on a shirt that featured dual sleeve ‘flashes’ (seen below away to Brazil in a friendly), and an all-white away kit that kept the same jersey template in reverse, but with different-style shorts (seen away to Switzerland in a qualifier):

After a 0-0 draw away to Czechoslovakia in the change kit on November 15th, 1989, Portugal would not take to the field again until August 29th, 1990, when they would host now-World Champions West Germany in Lisbon for a friendly. A 1-1 draw was played out, but the 20,000 in attendance at the Estádio da Luz were lucky enough to witness the home side’s new change in kit direction:

The jersey from 1989 remained but the green shorts were gone, now replaced by a rarely seen design in white with red details to better matched the shirt. The “missing” green was transferred downwards, however, to the socks (with white Adidas branding), where red lost out:

The kit made it’s competitive debut away to Finland in a Euro 92 qualifier the following month, before a visit of the Dutch to Porto for another qualifier on October 17th, 1990. With the away side in white/orange/white, both teams engaged in dual Adidas ‘jacket-porn’ before the match with two outstanding anthem-tracksuit tops on show (some of which didn’t have a crest on the Portuguese side):

A friendly in January 1990 away to Spain provided the answer to a question on everybody’s minds: which shorts would be used with the away shirt? As mentioned, the white shirt that had been around since at least 89 had been used with it’s own pair of shorts originally, when the home pair were green. But with the new shorts seemingly matched specifically with the shirt template (which was the same for home and away), it makes sense that 1990 shorts were indeed retained:

These configurations were used in qualifiers in February against Greece, Malta (away) and Malta (home). But come the Autumn, for the return tie against the Finns (see below; and possibly a preceding friendly against Austria), a new kit was introduced that revived the old red/green/red system. A friendly away to Luxembourg in October, in which a new white/green/white away kit was used, confirmed that this experimental era was over:

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Porto vs Werder Bremen, 24/11/1993

Ditching the white shorts theme, but very much continuing with the Portuguese theme, Portugal are well known around these parts for their continued use of an Adidas trefoil shirt as late as December 1994 (seen below vs Lichtenstein, December 94; the same template that had debuted in it’s away version against Luxembourg in 91). This seems shockingly out of date when some nations, such as Ireland, were on their third generation of shirt past the trefoil (Equipment; World Cup 94; Umbro), and were most likely the last ‘major nation’ to do so (at least in Europe).

It seems that at club level, things weren’t TOO different either, as demonstrated by 92/93 Primeira Divisão champions Porto in their Champions League campaign of the following season. Also with Adidas, Porto started the competition wearing a ‘trefoiled- kit’ that used the same shorts-template as Portugal 90/91 (see above), as used against Feyenoord in the second round…:

…before moving onto a strange new shirt featuring just an ‘adidas’ wordmark, but with a miniature variation of the “Equipment” logo incorporated into the collar, as seen against Milan:

The away and third kits that year, however, were full on Adidas Equipment – the “post-World Cup qualifers style” that added corresponding lower sections the diagonal shoulder bars. While most sides used this template with a primary background colour and secondary bar colour, Porto ingeniously only coloured the outlines of the bars, effectively creating all-white and all-blue strips that wouldn’t cause an issue against the blue or white clad team that had triggered the switch in the first place.

Considering that, the situation that would occur when Werder Bremen arrived for that year’s Champions League group stage (which only came after a first and second round and led directly to semi-finals) was most peculiar. The main issue was that the Germans had seemingly only brought their home strip of white/green/white, which wouldn’t do against the white and blue stripes of the home team:

Perhaps the blue version of the bars template was not yet produced by this stage, but needing some sort of alternate attire Porto emerged in a top that was presumably a change shirt from the season before. It appeared to be the Adidas Equipment template used the likes of Spain and France that featured a total of six bars across the two shoulders, but, unlike those, the Porto version incredibly displayed a trefoil in the collar (which was also white, unlike the other versions) instead of the “triangle” (or, eventually, a lone wordmark in the case of the French, meaning that this template had seen all three Adidas logo varieties):

The unusual jersey proved good luck, whatever the case, as a 3-2 victory was secured while wearing it (or Porto were just better). A few months later in March 1994, when Anderlecht were the Portuguese champs’ opponents in the same group, again white was worn by the visitors. But by now, the “correct”, up-to-date shirt was available, and Porto played and won – en route to making it to the quarter-finals – in the same template as their opponents:

Funnily enough, the only consistent feature throughout was those old 1990-shorts from the home kit, which had been retained in the first-choice strip when the trefoil shirt was dropped. This meant that during Porto’s 93/94 season, the shorts had somehow ended-up paired with at least four different jerseys that they had never intended to be used with.

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Finally, for this bumper first of edition of Kit Interested, we turn to the Republic of Ireland, who’s 1992-1994 Adidas strips were recently highlighted in Campaign Kit Campaigns #4 and #5. In the latter of these, it was mentioned that after two World Cups the Irish had yet to lose a WC finals match in their home shirt, and equally yet to win a WC finals match in their away shirt.

After switching to Umbro following the USA edition, amazingly the Boys in Green’s only other World Cup appearance to date at Japan/Korea 2002 produced the same result after four matches. We thought a sort-of handy graph/timeline was in order show how this phenomenon of the “cursed away” jersey unfolded:

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YouTube Links:

Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur, 1967
Real Madrid vs Chelsea, 1971
Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur, 1972
Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea, 1975
Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea, 1978
Millwall vs Chelsea, 1977
West Germany vs Australia, 1974
Greece vs Australia, 1980
Brazil vs Portugal, 1989
Switzerland vs Portugal, 1989
Portugal vs Germany, 1990
Portugal vs Netherlands, 1990
Spain vs Portugal, 1991
Portugal vs Finland, 1991
Luxembourg vs Portugal, 1991
Portugal vs Lichtenstein, 1994
Porto vs Feyenoord, 1993
Porto vs Milan, 1994
Porto vs Werder Bremen, 1993
Porto vs Anderlecht, 1994
Ireland vs England, 1990
Ireland vs Egypt, 1990
Ireland vs Netherlands, 1990
Ireland vs Romania, 1990
Ireland vs Italy, 1990
Ireland vs Italy, 1994
Ireland vs Mexico, 1994
Ireland vs Norway, 1994
Ireland vs Netherlands, 1994
Ireland vs Cameroon, 2002
Ireland vs Germany, 2002

Ireland vs Saudi Arabia, 2002
Ireland vs Saudi Arabia, 2002

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