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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Politics On The Pitch #4: Groups of Death Part 1 (1950-1969)

Back in Politics On The Pitch #3 we looked at how the football world adjusted to life after World War 2, with carefully selected qualification groups removing the chance of “politically awkward” clashes. Now we take a look back to when this was not necessarily the case, and at some historical competitive fixtures with a non-sporting significance that could not be ignored.

Background:

Despite being widely recognised as one of the most corrupt organisms on the face of the planet, and turning their flagship tournament into a money making facade where sport is basically an afterthought (it is on this site too to be fair), FIFA is responsible for some good.

The World Cup’s hideous over-commercialisation can always be countered by the fact that the festival of football does bring simple folk from random corners of the world together when their teams are drawn. The often good-natured affairs, as well as the conscious global gaze upon each match, displays through the medium of football that no matter where somebody’s from, their class, race or if they’re religious, humans do have common ground through our unifying love of the game.

Even teams representing states of competing ideologies and their fans can come together in friendly rivalry, as an average population can often be far less enthusiastic about hating their fellow members of the species than their national regimes, or stereotypes, might lead you to believe. With countries like Cuba and North Korea joining the USA and it’s allies in the organisation’s ranks, the case of FIFA’s corruption is at least equal opportunity corruption.

But of course FIFA’s global inclusiveness also creates the opposite situation, where two peoples with a genuinely tense political or ethnic history (or present) are occasionally brought together for a sporting manifestation of their international grudge. At times this will be deemed concerning enough an issue for a country to not play altogether, as was the case when the British nations withdrew from FIFA in 1919 in protest at the continued inclusion of the Central Powers teams after World War 1.

Many times these games have gone ahead though, which inevitably creates interesting situations in the stadium, and on some occasions the simple novelty or expectation of an interesting draw is enough to secure its place in history. In this vein we will now look back at some of the most noteworthy groups, tournaments and match-ups from the 20th century that had elements beyond mere football competition.

  • 1954 World Cup Qualifiers

Group 1:

Norway
Saar Protectorate
West Germany

For the 1954 World Cup qualifiers, FIFA itself rather than it’s regional confederations was still arranging all qualification groups. They were organised by geographical consideration, although not necessarily by continent as Egypt and Italy proved in Group 9. Groups 7 (Hungary and Poland) and 8 (Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Romania) comprised solely of eastern European communist representatives.

However it was Group 1 that stood out for it’s inclusion of a small side making it’s one and only appearance in a competitive campaign, and another much larger new state making it’s first in it’s current form. The group did not actually pit sworn rival nations against each other, quite the contrary. But the two referenced participants were born out of the greatest period of slaughter the world has known.

Located in southwest Germany, the Saarland (after the River Saar, which flows from northwest France into Germany) had become the French and British ruled Territory of the Saar Basin in the aftermath of World War 1. A plebiscite with 90.4% in favour returned the region to German hands in 1935, but ten years later the Allies would be back and again take control of the now renamed Westmark of the Third Reich. Following the end of World War 2, the region was partitioned from the rest of Germany and placed squarely under French control, becoming the Saar Protectorate in 1947.

The mostly ethnic German population still considered their land as part of Germany and never intended Saar to become it’s own country. Never the less, such national symbols as a flag (paying homage to both nations involved with the colours of the French flag divided by a white Nordic cross) and an international football federation were created. The clubs of Saar competed in the local Ehrenglia league, with the strongest club 1. FC Saarbrücken competing and winning in France’s Ligue 2 as guests in 1948/49.


Flag of The Saar Protectorate.

Three months after the Saar Fussball Bund was admitted to FIFA in 1950 (having rejected merging with it’s French equivalent the previous year), the Deutscher Fussball Bund also rejoined, now representing the Federal Republic of Germany, aka the partitioned state of West Germany, but claimed mandate over Germany as a whole. Both teams were placed in Group 1 of the upcoming World Cup qualifiers along with Norway, whose status as part of the Nazi occupied lands in WW2 under the puppet Quisling regime officially made this the “Reich group”.

By the time the qualifiers were to begin in 1953, Saar had already played a number of friendlies and had participated in several other sports at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. But as stated, they preferred not to be referred to as their own country, and in football the term “selection” was more commonly used than national team. Given the area’s German self-identification, it seems slightly frustrating that one of their few shots at international football competition was “wasted” on their follow countrymen, and not someone more exotic.

The Saarlanders would go on to display the prowess of German football even if  confined to a very small area, by defeating Norway 3-2 away from home and earning a 0-0 draw in Saarbrücken. Logically then, their bigger, but no more proudly Germanic neighbours would prove impassable. A 3-0 home win in Stuttgart on 11 October 1953 was followed by the last game of the group in March 1954, as West Germany again scored three (with the home support politely applauding each goal) but Saar at least grabbed a consolation penalty on home soil.


Interesting section of Hamburg's Volksparkstadion, West Germany vs Saar Protectorate, World Cup '54 Qualifier, October 1953.

The West German’s 5-1 demolition of Norway also guaranteed that Saar would not finish bottom of the group, securing a German one-two final positioning. As West Germany went on to win the World Cup they had qualified for, the people of Saar doubtlessly would have been rooting for them and over joyed at their success. As the following year, 20 years after the original plebiscite to join Nazi Germany, another referendum was held with the same result. The Saar Protectorate was absorbed into West Germany and once again became the region of Saarland in 1957, ending it’s brief adventure in international football.

 
The crowd applaud the home side's goal in a 3-1 defeat, Saar Protectorate vs West Germany, World Cup '54 qualifier, March 1954.

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  • 1958 World Cup Qualifiers

CAF/AFC Second Round

Egypt
Indonesia
Israel
Sudan

For the next World Cup, FIFA handed over responsibility to the regional confederations for the organisation of their own qualification systems, and enforced defined geographical zones. This proved particularly problematic in Africa/Asia (with the CAF and AFC sections combined for this campaign), first as Turkey withdrew in protest at not being included in Europe. They had been scheduled to play Israel, who progressed automatically into a second round group (somewhat surprisingly Cyprus were also in Asia, giving it three different teams who would later “become” European)

This created another issue due to the Arab League boycott of Israel, the current iteration of which being in effect since the end of the Arab-Israeli War in 1949. The Arab League members of Egypt and Sudan hence refused to play Israel – who had actually previously competed as Palestine British Mandate before their independence in 1948 – and withdrew. It was to be the first of two successive World Cup qualification campaigns from which the pair would withdraw without playing a game, as for 1962 – with Egypt then competing as United Arab Republic –  FIFA refused their ultimatum to reschedule matches to avoid the monsoon season.

Another mostly Islamic state in Indonesia was the remaining team left in the group, and although they were prepared to play the Israelis, they were not prepared to travel the entire length of Asia to do so. Like Israel, the Indonesians had once competed under their pre-independence colonial name: the Dutch East Indies. But this time FIFA refused the Indonesian request for the game to be played on neutral ground which forced them to also withdraw, meaning that Israel had made it through two rounds to an intercontinental play-off without touching a ball. Here they would be at last stopped, as Wales were happy to play and defeat them for a place at the tournament.

UEFA Group 6

Finland
Poland
USSR

Back in the UEFA section itself, countries were also still placed in groups rather than drawn by seed. Cross Iron-Curtain encounters were now becoming more common, although still somewhat regional with Finland going to the USSR and Poland, Greece to Yugoslavia and Romania, but again slightly further afield for Wales who were placed with Czechoslovakia and the newly created East Germany (who’s entry during the years of Saar existence meant there had been three different German federations in FIFA at one point).

Group 6 with Finland, Poland and the USSR was the most emotionally charged on paper with both the Finns and Poles being former colonial subjects of Russia, and much more recently the Soviets’ (unsuccessful) Winter War against former and partition of the later (as well as events such as the Katyn Massacre, although Poland was by this time a satalite-state of the USSR). But knowing the steadfast resolve characteristic of all three peoples, it was surely business as usual as the Soviet Union ultimately made it to their first finals (Poland had previously competed too at 1938).


Finland vs USSR, World Cup '58 Qualifier, August 1957.

UEFA Group 1

Denmark
England
Republic of Ireland

On the other side of Europe, the Republic of Ireland met their own former colonial masters of England for the first time in a competitive setting, along with Denmark in Group 1 (with the English coming out tops). Although distrust of Englishness remained for many, with 36 years having elapsed since the Irish War of Independence the encounter was perhaps now not as significant as it would become later in the century when tensions on the island of Ireland dramatically increased once again.

At this time Ireland was also somewhat sportingly-divided between football and it’s own native Gaelic sports, with the rules of the latter forbidding those who played, or indeed watched, the “foreign” (English) sport of soccer from their ogranisation. Those who preferred football were sometimes scornfully looked down upon as “less-Irish” than those involved in Irish games, with more nationalist types therefore likely avoiding international football altogether.

  • 1964 European Nations’ Cup Qualifiers

Preliminary Round

Greece
Albania

Greece are a country well-known to hold national rivalries with the likes of Turkey and Northern/FYR Macadonia, but a third, less remembered country with whom tensions have arisen throughout the years is nearby Albania. The two have shared a border since Albania’s declaration of independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912, after which disputes arose due to ethnic Greeks now being stuck on Albanian soil and declaring their own short lived republic before Italy and Austria-Hungary intervened.

During World War 2, Italian-occupied Albania assisted in the Greco-Italian theater, resulting in Albanian and Greek forces coming into direct conflict. Furthermore, in the aftermath of WW2, the Greeks callously expelled thousands of Cham Albanians from the Epirus region of northern Greece under the accusation of collaborations with the Nazis.

The new Yugoslav-backed (until 1948) People’s Republic of Albania (later People’s Socialist Republic) meant that a Cold War-divide had also been created. During the Greek Civil War of 1946-49, southern Albania had acted as a base for communist gorillas with several invasions launched from across the border, followed by retreats flowing back the same way.


Flag of the People's Socialist Republic of Albania, 1946-1992.

This all meant that diplomatic links between the two states were non-existent going into the 1960s, when Albania would enter continental football competition for the first time in the form of the 1964 European Nations’ Cup. Greece were slightly more experienced, have unsuccessfully attempted to qualify for World Cups since 1934 (apart from 1950, due to the Civil War) as well as the first Euros in 1960, while the Albanians’ team had existed since the 30s but only played their first international against Yugoslavia in 1949.

Twenty-nine countries entered the 1964 Euro qualifying Preliminary Round with three drawn to progress automatically (Austria, Luxembourg, USSR) and the rest to play each other on a home and away basis (or a third game, in the case of two draws). This would be followed by a First and Second Round played out the same way, with the four winners at this point progressing to the finals proper in Spain.

Unlike World Cup qualifying groups at this time, which were carefully selected rather than drawn due to the many politically tense situations that existed between countries around the world, UEFA decided to create the ties randomly. The first two names out of the hat were Norway and Sweden – “so far, so good”, thought the bureaucrats – but of course next came the not-so-friendly neighbours of Greece and Albania.

Instead of using sport as a stepping-stone to reach out to their politically-estranged opponents, the wounds of the past were deemed too deep and Greece withdrew from the competition, leaving Albania free to progress to the next round. There they met a Denmark side who had no problem facing and defeating them – 4-0 in Copenhagen on June 16th, 1963, before a respectable 1-0 consolation win for the Albanians months later on October 30th in Tirana.

A few years later in 1971, Albanian-Greek relations were finally re-established when Albania’s communist regime of Enver Hoxha and Greece’s right-wing military junta surprisingly came together over economic and strategic co-operation. Football would again prove a contentious point, however, when in 2014 nationalist Albanians attacked ethnic Greeks following the abandonment of the Serbia vs Albania Euro 2016 qualifier – but that is a story for another day.

  • 1966 World Cup and Qualifiers

World Cup Semi-Finals and Final

England
Portugal
USSR
West Germany

The ’66 World Cup in England was somewhat of a reunion for several of the major players from World War 2. While England, the USSR and West Germany had all qualified for the previous two editions, the West Germans had avoided their old regime’s two European enemies in ’58 (who played each other in the group stage) and all three had been knocked out in the quarter finals of ’62 before having a chance to meet.

But in 1966 the Germans would finally come up against their former double-fronted foes, first beating the Soviets in a Goodison Park semi-final before the famous final defeat to the hosts, which also crucially involved a Soviet linesman erroneously awarding England’s third goal.


Many men in suits and ties watch West Germany vs the Soviet Union in Goodison Park, World Cup 1966.

Asia/Oceania Qualifying Group

Australia
North Korea
South Africa
South Korea

The other stand-out thing was the appearance of North Korea, although the authoritarian dictatorships present in their fellow qualifying countries of Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Hungry, Portugal, Soviet Union and Spain at the time makes it not so novel. Their surprise debut at the finals was helped by the withdrawal of their South Korean cousins, citing logistical reasons in the combined Asian/Oceanian qualifying group. Given that few states held political ties with the North Koreans, all games were to be hosted by their allies Cambodia, but South Korea had been expecting Japan and left the group after the decision.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the group was also to contain South Africa (a weak Australia was the fourth team). Kicked out of the Confederation of African Football in 1958 due the apartheid regime’s player policy – by law only an all-white or all-black team could be selected – South Africa were in fact admitted to FIFA in the same year and placed in the Asian zone for the time being. But FIFA did give them one year to comply with their own anti-discrimination laws, which of course wasn’t done.

While the rest of the African teams boycotted the qualifying system entirely due to the lack of an automatic qualifying spot – as well as the original acceptance of South Africa into FIFA – South Africa were banned before their group games started (formally expelled in 1976 following the Soweto uprising) and wouldn’t play another international until 1992. This left North Korea with just two easy games against the Australians to qualify.

  • 1970 World Cup Qualifiers

AFC/OFC Second Round, Group 1

Australia
Rhodesia 

The following tournaments qualifiers saw a similar situation: this time the unrecognised state of Rhodesia switched continents to play in the Asian/Oceanian section. Like South Africa, the country was ruled by a white minority elite, who had broken away from the British Empire in 1965.

But as Rhodesia agreed to FIFA’s regulations regarding mixed-race squads, they were allowed to stay in. Their only group opponent was Australia, with both games (and a third play-off game after two draws, won by Australia) played in Mozambique after the Rhodesian players could not attain Australian visas.

AFC/OFC Second Round, Group 2

Israel
New Zealand
North Korea 

Israel were also back in Asian/Oceanian having played in the UFEA zone for geographical reasons at the previous qualifiers (and originally Syria too before withdrawal). Although no other Middle Eastern side was involved this time, their presence still caused an issue as now North Korea refused to play them on political grounds and withdrew.

Victories over New Zealand and Australia meant that Israel were now going to their first World Cup, but under the initiative of Kuwait they would be expelled from an AFC with more middle eastern influence in 1974, and return to playing European and, later, more Oceanic opponents in the following decades.

CONCACAF Semi-Final Round, Group 2

El Salvador
Honduras

One of the most famous war related match-ups occurred during this campaign in the semi-final round of the North/Central American and Caribbean CONCACAF section, when El Salvador were drawn with neighbours Honduras. It is often said that their violent three games (again a play-off was needed and held in neutral Mexico City) sparked what is known as the Football War between the two countries, a 100 hour conflict (and so also known as the 100 Hour War) that remains officially in dispute at the time of writing.

While intense rioting had occurred at the two regular group games (as it was considered a group of two as opposed to a two-legged knock-out game), as well as violent play on the pitch, it was more a case of perfect timing rather than the actual cause of the war, as tensions had already been growing between the countries for bigger reasons. With the backing of large American fruit corporations, harsh new land and tax laws had come into effect in Honduras, that were particularly threatening to the large, undocumented El Salvadorian ethnic minority in the country.


Supporters of both teams and riot police, El Salvador vs Honduras, World Cup '70 qualifier, June 1969.

By the day of the play-off on 26 June, 1969 (3-2 to El Salvador after extra-time), the smaller but more populous El Salvador officially cut of ties with Honduras and would invade on July 15th starting the war. The situation was resolved through negotiation from the Organization of American States, lasting 100 hours, but the reluctance of El Salvador to withdraw meant their troops remained occupying part of the country until August. The bad blood between the two states, who share a common language, religion, general look and very similar flags, proves that not matter how close groups of humans seem, we can always find other reasons to hate each other.

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Youtube Sources:
West Germany vs Saar, 1953
Saar vs West Germany, 1954
Finland vs USSR, 1957
USSR vs West Germany, 1966
El Salvador vs Honduras, 1969
El Salvador vs Honduras, 1969

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What Football Is Supposed To Look Like #6 (Gallery)

In this series we’re not really suggesting that football go back to looking like any of the pictures below, since the world they are from is gone forever and there’s nothing you can do about it. But we can at least bask in rays of nostalgic wonder by looking at the variety of features that made old school football magical, and sometimes hilarious.

Cold War-era stadium with built-in administrative building and running track, Yugoslavia vs Denmark, World Cup qualifier, 1980:

Slightly wet pitch, Derry City vs Shamrock Rovers, League of Ireland, 1989:

Classic kits, Romania vs Azerbaijan, European Championships qualifier, 1994:

Marching band and giant scary rabbit, Netherlands vs Austria, friendly, 1974:

Ticker-tape pitch, Argentina vs Colombia, Copa America, 1993:

Classic graphics and Cold War-era stadium with massive tunnel, Poland vs Greece, friendly, 1978:

Tracksuit and sweat tops, Preston North End vs Swansea City, Division Two, 1981:

Wonderfully muddy pitch, Everton vs Liverpool, FA Cup, 1981:

Concerned young supporter/style icon with camera at terrace fence, FC Schalke 04 vs Borussia Dortmund, Bundesliga, 1993:

A stadium at what appears to be some sort of holiday resort, Australia vs Taiwan, World Cup qualifier, 1985:

A stadium at what appears to be some sort of holiday resort,  Canada vs Honduras, World Cup qualifier, 1985:

 

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What Football Is Supposed To Look Like #5 (Gallery)

We are back with another visually delicious gallery of the interesting sights and general old school greatness, that that at one point made football magic.

Classic post-communist/pre-modern ground with fence, Lithuania vs Italy, European Championships Qualifier, 1995:

Random mid-match pyro, Italy vs Portugal, World Cup Qualifier, 1993:

Plethora of reporters and other individuals at pitchside, Chile vs Uruguay, Copa America, 1983:

Classic graphics and sparsely covered terraces, Norway vs Denmark, friendly, 1986:

“…anyhow have a Winfield” and running track, Australia vs Israel, World Cup Qualifier, 1985:

“DAILY POST”, Wales vs Czechoslovakia, World Cup Qualifier, 1977:

“FALK”. Classic graphics, hoardings and stadium, Austria vs Brazil, friendly, 1973:

Communist-era athletics bowl, classic “R” graphic, sparsely covered terraces and seemingly recorded through a spy camera, Poland vs Greece, friendly, 1978:

What Football Is Supposed To Look Like #4 (Gallery)

This is the place where we look at stuff that for better or worse, we’ll never see in football again (the answer is worse).

Classic graphics, Italy vs Malta, World Cup Qualifier, 1993:

Malta tifosi, Malta vs Italy, World Cup Qualifier, 1992:

Herd of military personnel nonchalantly watching on as players celebrate, Chile vs Uruguay, Copa America, 1983:

Classic graphics and Hebrew hoardings, Isreal vs Australia, World Cup Qualifier, 1985:

Athleticism stadium, Denmark vs Norway, Friendly, 1992:

Exacerbated, bearded supporter, Netherlands vs Belgium, World Cup Qualifier, 1973:

Muddy pitch and shed end, St. Patrick’s Athletic vs Cork City, League of Ireland, 1987:

Coach smoking pipe in classic Diadora trainers, Italy vs West Germany, Friendly, 1985:

Checkered pitch, Tunisia vs Algeria, World Cup Qualifier, 1985:

“Give Drugs…the boot”, Ireland vs Finland, Friendly, 1990:

Snowy pitch and goal line wall, Glentoran vs Linfield, Irish League, 1995: