Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #11

Plunging head first into APMFVGFH time warp once again, this edition takes us to the heady days of the late 90s and early 2000s as we look at a groundbreaking series that straddled the millennia.

If it wasn’t clear from the blurry, vague image above, in this edition we are highlighting both LiberoGrande – released by Namco for the PlayStation in 1997 – AND LiberGrande 2: International –  released in 2000.

The name of the latter suggests that the series had expanded from clubs to also include national teams, when in fact national teams are all that’s playable in either game. But the main point was players rather than team, as instead of playing as a whole XII and continually controlling who was on or nearest the ball, as in most conventional football games, LiberoGrande demands the gamer select one world-class player to control for the entire match.

Having originally appeared as an arcade title, “libero grande” itself translates to “free big” in Italian, referring to the historic calcio position of libero (sweeper), and implying that the game gave the player more freedom than ever before. While nothing spectacular in terms of gameplay (as far as we recall), luckily we care not one jot about that in this series and over both games there are some funny and genuinely impressive moments.

For one thing, like International Superstar Soccer the actual player’s names are not allowed appear due to licensing reasons, and the 21 playable “characters” and 10 unlockables are all parodies, often with unintentionally hilarious results. But we always love some fan action in the coded stands also, and thankfully this game provides more of it than most.

After the title screen, the intro video immediately sets the tone for what this game is going to be like:

Later in the intro, it appears as if the game is being played in an ancient crumbling stadium, or one that’s been bombarded. Some commendable Danish banner hanging is also visible:

Before getting to a match, the gamer must select their player which includes a snap shot of the legend’s face. The real life equivalent of each is fairly easy to figure out, and a full list can be found on the LiberoGrande Wikipedia page, but given the Japanese origins of the game it is not surprising that many of them turn out like anime characters.

First is Raimundo, the friendly N64 Legend of Zelda villager:

Then there’s the inflatable Alfred Shaffer from England:

Lion-Man, Cornelio Valencia:

The Romanian Redneck, Godwin Hasdeu:

Concerned aunt, Jordan Krüger:

Arrogant pirate princes, Antonio Del Pacino and Robin Garrick:

Stoic Latin hero, Renato Gallegos:

And the only Serbian ever to have an “x” in his name, Dormen Smixolovic:

Some other interesting name choices include the combination of Oliver Bierhoff with an 19th century emperor, creating “Oswald Bismarck”; Andreas Möller going Ducth to become “Ajax Möbius”; Romario’s metamorphosis into a keyboard – “Roland”; and they transformed George Weah into “Gerald Wells”, an accountant from the American mid-west.

Another sidenote from the Wikipedia page is that someone thought it important enough to include the  “Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.” just in case the FIFA rules-audit people are skimming through old football game pages.

At last we come to the teams emerging – in this case the Netherlands and USA (the angle of the camera at first makes it appear as if the flags and country names are aligned to the wrong side, but this is rectified as the camera spins around). Immediately the eye is drawn to the crowd in the background as we see flares, strobos, tifo flags, and banner hanging from the Dutch supporters:

The pyro looks even more impressive for night games, and who better than Italy’s virtual ultras to demonstrate:

One thing we love in soccer simulators is when your players crumple the ground pathetically upon conceding a goal or being sent off, and happily, this is the case here. Upon France scoring against Italy early in a friendly game, an intensely huge “GOAL” scrolls along as the whole Italian squad drop to the grass to cry and pound the pitch, and ask God why they were born:

In the background, a quite disturbing celebration is taking place between two French teammates, who are engaging in unholy communion through some sort metaphysical alien bio-technology. But in quite a lovely kit:

You may have noticed above that the wavy flags continue around the pitch in the crowd, with four behind this goal alone:

Getting a closer look, the flags are quite massive with the white pole a pleasing touch, although the flag appears to be waving itself:

Moving on to LiberoGrande 2 as it was known in Japan, or LiberoGrande International in Europe, the game for the new millennium had an updated, clean look that we love:

As the caption says: “This is the ultimate Football game”. As in the last one ever? Here’s some more nice screens:

Libero 2 switches things up by focusing on the country first, rather the players. The team select screen is also great, with four elegant globes above the national flags:

Once you have your team the player then is selected, and this time it can be any of them. Here a nice Portugal kit is on display:

Lastly, we come to a match between Sweden and Germany in the San Siro. As the teams emerge, we see an immense traveling mob of Swedes in mostly black jackets with banners, flags, and bouncing in unison. The slight time delay between the rows creates an amazing effect:

It is one of the greatest scenes in any football video game:

LiberoGrande 2 would not be the ultimate football game, but it would be the ultimate game in the series. The idea of controlling a single player may have seemed boring and pointless to some at the time, but it was later adapted by both the Pro Evolution and FIFA series, showing that Libero really was a trailblazing legend of a game.

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YouTube Links:

Libero Grande Italy vs France
Libero Grande Netherlands vs USA
Libero Grande 2
Libero Grande 2 Sweden vs Germany

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Gif of the Day Superpost, Part 2: #26-50

Part two of our compilation of Facebook/Twitter “Gifs of the Day”, follow the pages to catch the gifs as they come in real time (thick and fast). Click here for part 1, 3 or 4.

Gif of the Day #26: PAO pryo, Panathinaikos vs Olympiakos, Greek Cup Final, 28/05/1986:

Gif of the Day #27: World Cup 90 coverage on Japanese TV, 1990:

Gif of the Day #28: Red Star banners, Red Star Belgrade vs Portadown FC, Champions League, 19/09/1991:

Gif of the Day #29: Home fans celebrate the third goal in 3-1 win, Lithuania vs Albania, World Cup 94 qualifier, 14/04/1993:

Gif of the Day #30: Winning goal in Ghana 3-2 Italy, Olympics, Atlanta, 23/07/1996:

Gif of the Day #31: AS Roma supporters, Cup Winners Cup 84/85, vs Bayern Munich, 20/03/1985:

Gif of the Day #32: The disappointed “just conceded a goal” terrace sway, Everton vs Bayern Munich, Cup Winners Cup Semi-Final, 24/04/1985:

Gif of the Day #33: In 1992, BSV Stahl Brandenburg goalkeeper Wolfgang Wiesner disciplines a Bayer 05 Uerdingen ball-boy for kicking the ball away. He is immediately sent off:

Gif of the Day #34: Netherlands vs Germany, European Championships, 18/06/1992:

Gif of the Day #35: Crazy Dortmund terrace after goal, Borussia Dortmund vs Auxerre, UEFA Cup semi-final 1st leg, 06/04/1993 (credit to the YouTube channel of the amazing Soccer Nostalgia blog that we love https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrJOu5SKZimBK2s6N4VYUUw):

Gif of the Day #36: Packed Bayern Munich terrace vs AC Milan, European Cup semi-final 2nd leg, 18/04/1990:

 

Gif of the Day #37: Recipe for trouble, Ajax Amsterdam away fans celebrate a goal in a terrace also populated by home supporters, vs FC Utrecht, 1979/80:

Gif of the Day #38: FAI Cup final 1996 – after Shelbourne FC goalkeeper Alan Gough is sent off with no sub GK on the 3-man bench (on either side), an unhappy Brian Flood is forced to go in goal. vs St. Patrick’s Athletic, 05/05/1996:

Gif of the Day #39: 1983 – Scoreboard and fireworks, Anderlecht vs Benfica, UEFA Cup Final 1st leg, 04/05/83:

Gif of the Day #40: Italian TV “EuroGol” graphics, 1987:

Gif of the Day #41: 1977 – Superb bicycle trick pre-match entertainment ahead of Hafia FC (Guinea) vs Ghana, 28/09/77:

Gif of the Day #42: 1980’sKarlsruher SC home terrace in their recently deceased Wildparkstadion. Click here for our recently existing article that looked at their UEFA Cup tie with Bordeuax in 1993:

Gif of the Day #43: 1997Italian supporters in Stadio Nereo Rocco, Trieste; the city near Italy’s most eastern point that’s less than 10km from the Slovenian border. Vs Moldova, World Cup 98 qualifier, 29/03/97:

Gif of the Day #44: 1988 – Dutch supporters burn the host country’s flag after victory in the semi final. West Germany vs Netherlands, European Championship, Volksparkstadion, Hamburg, 21/07/88:

Gif of the Day #45: 1987 – A firm of Chelsea arrive in the away end at Vicarage Road with their side’s FA Cup fourth round tie against Watford already underway, 01/02/87:

Gif of the Day #46: 1979 – A passionate/delirious Inter fan wishes a nerazzurri player well before the match (continuing on for several more seconds after the gif). Internazionale Milano vs Juventus, Serie A, 11/11/79:

Gif of the Day #47: 1970 – Classic terrace avalanche of Chelsea fans in White Hart Lane for the FA Cup semi-final vs Watford, 14/03/70:

Gif of the Day #48: 1991FC St. Pauli going 1-0 up en route to a famous win in the Olympiastadion, away to Bayern Munich, Bundesliga 02/03/91:

Gif of the Day #49: 1985 – *clap clap clap* “United!” The Red Army occupy Manchester City’s Maine Road at Manchester United vs Liverpool, FA Cup semi-final replay, 17/04/1985:

Gif of the Day #50: 1986 – Linesman can’t abide time wasting. Mexico vs West Germany, World Cup quarter-final, 21/06/86:

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Pyro On The Pitch #14: Venezia vs Hellas Verona, Serie B, 19/10/1997

We took our first look at Italy’s rich domestic fan scene back in People On The Pitch #9, with Salerntiana’s invasion of Pescara and their pitch. Check out that article for our original introduction to Italian ultras but we are certainly not stopping there, as we now once again head to Serie B in the 1990s.

Background:

The idea of two clubs merging together is one that most supporters instantly balk at, and understandably so. Most modern mergers involve smaller clubs, but some examples of famous teams who exist as the result of mergers include Ipswich Town (1888) and Newcastle United (1892) in England; FC Twente (1965) and FC Utrecht (1970) in the Netherlands; Hamburger SV (1919) and 1.FC Köln (1948) in Germany; and Fiorentina (1926), AS Roma (1927) and Sampdoria (1946) in Italy.

All of the above became huge staples of the community, and any opposition to a union with a local rival at the time of the merger has been long forgotten. Of course these were of a different era, with the proposed merger of Sampdoria with enemies Genoa in 2001 being an example of a modern mash-up that was never going to fly.

Many other Italian clubs have complicated histories of name changes and mergers, one of which being Venezia FC from the city of Venice, founded as Venezia Foot Ball Club in 1907 after the union of Palestra Marziale (Martial Gym) with Costantino Reyer. Over the years they would also be known as Association Calcio Venezia, Società Sportiva Serenissima, Associazione Fascista Calcio Venezia, Calcio Venezia, Calcio VeneziaMestre, Associazione Calcio Venezia 1907, Società Sportiva Calcio Venezia, Foot Ball Club Unione Venezia, and Venezia Football Club Società Sportiva Dilettantistica before finally simplifying back to Venezia FC in 2015.

The main merger in question with regards Venezia occurred in 1987, as club chairman Maurizio Zamparini took over as owner of financially weak neighbours Mestre, also of Serie C2 at the time. The clubs were fused together and became Calcio VeneziaMestre, moving to Mestre’s Stadio Francesco Baracca and adding orange to Venrzia’s traditional black and green strip.

Naturally none of this went down well with many supporters in Venice, particularly the team being moved out of town. In response, Calcio Venezia – a new amateur team claiming the true spirit of the club and wearing the traditional black and green strip – was formed and entered the lower leagues at the start of the 90s.

But there was those who were not opposed to the changes and accepted it as part of football. While old ultras groups at the club such as Panthers, Brigate Neroverdi (Black-Green Brigades) and Gioventu’ Neroverde (Black-Green Youth) had already dissolved pre-merger, Vecchia Guardia (Old Guard) of 1986 continued to offer support into the new era and were joined by a large new group who’s name reflected the reality: Ultras Unione VeneziaMestre.


Banners of groups such as Front, Kaos, and Ultras Unione, Venezia vs Casale, 90/91.

The name VeneziaMestre only officially existed for two seasons and the club moved back to the Stadio Pierluigi Penzo in Venice upon their promotion to Serie B in 1991 (a result of the combination of talent from both former teams), the popularity of which saw the collapse of the amateur Calcio Venezia side. The change of ground also gave rise to new legacy sides in Mestre, who were now without a team.

The memory of the merger was still maintained through the kits (the neroverdi now the  arancioneroverdi) and through the terraces, as the huge Ultras Unione VeneziaMestre banner hung for many more years. The progress that had seen the club rise from Serie C2, to Serie C1 to Serie B continued, and hopes were high as the 97/98 season started that this would be the year top flight football would return to Venice for the first time since the 1940s.

Another side in Serie B that season with an eye on promotion were recently relegated Hellas Verona, who had been unexpected Serie A champions in 1985. Financial collapse soon after brought demotion and the folding of the club, reborn simply as Verona in 1991 before becoming Hellas Verona once more in 1995.

Verona of course possess one of the top followings in the country with dozens of ultra groups throughout the years, spearheaded by the historic Brigate Gialloblu’ (Yellow Brigades) to which many sub-groups claim allegiance. Despite the name being originally drawn from left-wing influences (based on the terrorist Brigate Rosse group, founded in 1970), the Verona curva became known as mostly right-wing by the 1980s, although the peaceful co-existence of left-wing groups such as Rude Boys prove that love of the club trumps politics.


Hellas Verona supporters following a goal during a home match against Udinese, 90/91.

The Match:

1997: A fine sunday in October sees a packed Stadio Pierluigi Penzo in Venice, named after a World War 1 fighter pilot. The ends of the ground are unusual in having no discernible sides or roof:

Many Veronese have made the 121km journey for the clash between two of northern Italy’s famous historical cities:

Before the teams come out, it’s scarves in the air time in Venezia’s curva sud:

With the arrival of the two squadrons green and orange smoke is let off, thickly billowing in an impressive  effect:

Zooming back we can see the reason that this match is eligible for a POTP entry, as a white smoke bomb has made it’s way into the penalty box. A fireman dutifully jogs over to remove it:

The rest of the smoke continues to rise:

A text banner is also unfurled among the home fans, but unfortunately we cannot make out what it says:

Demonstrating a common expression of displeasure, the Venezia ultras banners are placed upside down, probably in lament of some sort of disagreement with the club. From this shot we can also see the “VeneziaMestre” portion of the Ultras Unione banner.

With the comparatively short distance between the cities, the two clubs are among each other’s known rivals and as always security personal are on hand:

While nothing major occurs, carabinieri are on the scene at the away end as the traditionally belligerent Verona supporters get extremely animated at some sort of injustice:

At the other end, Venezia’s capos watch on pensively:

In the end, a single second half goal is enough to give the home side the win and send curva sud bouncing to see out the day:

The scoreline would be repeated when the sides met again in March 1998 with both results being crucial in Venezia’s ultimate 2nd placed finish and promotion to Serie A, while Verona would have to wait another year. The dream of Zamparini had been realised, but whether the merger from 11 years before was a success for the city or remained a soulless selling out of the Venezia’s football tradition, is up to you.

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YouTube Link 1
YouTube Link 2
YouTube Link 3
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