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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People On The Pitch #1: Aston Villa away to Anderlecht, European Cup Semi Final 2nd Leg, 21/04/1982

Imagine you’re a 16-25 year old disaffected Birmingham male on a beautiful evening in the spring of 1982. We wish we could say “so and so are number one in the charts” but unfortunately that was this song which doesn’t really fit our scene at all, so just imagine some appropriate new wave/punk/ska shit playing in your head. You are in Belgium to watch your beloved Aston Villa take on one of Europe’s classic sides, Anderlecht, on the way to eventual European Cup glory. And yes, of course you are exceedingly drunk.

With all that in mind, the events that unfold are fairly easy to comprehend. 38,000 were packed into Anderlecht’s “tight English style ground”, known at the time as the Émile Versé Stadium. While there was a separate official Villa supporter section, a large number of Villa fans ended up sharing an Anderlect home terrace behind the goal. Of course this was not accidental (allegedly some supporters had traveled over the previous weekend to secure batches of tickets for the terrace) and for the time period and the parties involved, it would have been extremely suspicious if some sort of incident HADN’T occurred. Comparing camera shots, we can see that early in the game somewhat of gap has already appeared on the terrace suggesting disturbances:

Duly, business really picks up mid-way through the first half as the camera shows clashes between Villa supporters and both the home fans and police. Commentator Martin Tyler remarks that there were also “problems” before the game had started.

Play goes on for a few moments before we see the young man that you are still imagining you are from the first paragraph, and the main subject of this first installment of People On The Pitch here at Pyro On The Pitch. Perhaps overcome with the ecstasy of youth and the novelty of the occasion, he has spontaneously used the ongoing chaos as an opportunity to exit the supporter’s enclosure and in fact enter the field of play. As he triumphantly lays down at the 6 yard line, the referee blows his whistle to temporarily suspend the sports game.

If you look closely, you can see that in addition to his fine burgundy polo top, he also has a black jumper in hand which he drops beside him on the pitch. This was a mistake and he would never see the jumper again, as police are swiftly on hand to apprehend the casualistic ruffian and several of them rush him away along the pitch. But the discordian moment has had already made it’s mark on the parchment of time.

Leading the pitch invader away proves harder than the police had imagined, resulting in a Christ-like fall:

The poor lad seems to have suddenly lost all energy and simply cannot move another muscle. Humorously, the rest of his journey from the pitch is provided at the expense of King Leopold himself as a result, much to the delight of the home crowd:

Meanwhile, Villa goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer, among other players, naively appeals for calm as trouble continues behind his goal:

Riot police stream up the terrace to try and separate the groups of fans while another separate regiment of authoritarians make their way onto the pitch, who’s uniforms suggest they are not exactly prepared for physical confrontation.

The home supporters respond to the situation with the topical chant of “Argentina! Argentina!”, referencing the Falklands War as a sort of verbal retaliation as the fighting continued. In a trademark display of willful ignorance, the commentator mentions that it is “impossible of course to say who started it”. The fact that the rest of the Villa supporters were apparently chanting “You’re the shit of Birmingham” to those behind the goal was perhaps evident enough.

Some unfortunate casualties (literally, because casual) from the mayhem can be seen being taken away for treatment. We hope they made a speedy recovery and that they are living good lives these days.

Eventually the situation is resolved to a somewhat satisfactory degree, at least enough for the referee to resume the game:

But in one last display of the absurdity of man, we can quite clearly see one Villa supporter who has cunningly alluded the police line, who are apparently blind to his extremely conspicuously Union Jack waving:

With the match back in action, we see that it is in fact not the end of the action on the terrace either:

The game would finish 0-0, enough to send Aston Villa to the final, but Anderlecht would appeal to UEFA to have the game overturned due to psychological damage of the traumatic events seen above. While Villa were punished by being ordered to play their next European home game behind doors (vs Besiktas the following September), Anderlecht’s request was denied, clearly indicating that at the time players were expected to be able to deal with your run of the mill crowd trouble as part of the job. Truly a golden age.

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