Politics On The Pitch #5: Groups of Death Part 2 (1970-1979)

Last time out in Politics On the Pitch, Groups of Death part 1 provided a looked at some controversial match-ups and politically motivated withdrawals of national teams in the post-WW2 period, finishing off with the infamous Football War between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969. We continue now with a decade not short on classic international incidents, as well as classic international football matches: the 1970s.

  • 1974 World Cup Qualifiers

As the Cold War went on without any actual battle in Europe, UEFA’s qualifiers continued to pit different ideologies against each other on the football pitch. Like the campaign for World Cup 1958, staunchly anti-Soviet Finland were once again surrounded by communist countries in Group 4; this time Albania, East Germany and Romania replaced the USSR and Poland.

Poland in Group 5 found themselves in a similar but reversed situation, with the all-British opposition of England and Wales. Group 7 was perhaps the most extreme, as Tito’s socialist Yugoslavia fought it out with both Franco’s fascist Spain and a Greece ruled by a far-right military junta. Conversely, Group 3 of Belgium, Iceland, Netherlands and Norway was a northern European purist’s dream.

As with previous World Cups, one legged play-offs on neutral ground were used to differentiate first and second placed sides who had finished level on points and goal difference, determining who would get the sole qualification spot in the group. Upcoming World Cup hosts West Germany were a natural choice for the venues, with Sweden defeating Austria in Gelsenkirchen, and Yugoslavia triumphing over Spain in Frankfurt.

Such “emergency” fixtures were later rendered obsolete, as “goals for” became the more important tie-breaking factor, especially away from home (although in 1995 Ireland and the Netherlands would uniquely play-off in Liverpool for the last Euro 96 spot, as the two lowest ranked 2nd placed finishers in qualifying). One play-off that would survive from this time however (if not always involving UEFA these days) was the inter-confederation version, returning after having been dropped for the previous two World Cup.

For the first time ever, the play-off was to be between European and South American teams; a positive move as far as the less well represented continents were concerned. But surprisingly, the “real world” events of September 1973 made the coinciding qualification clash a rather problematic fixture.

UEFA–CONMEBOL Play-Off:

USSR
Chile

The Soviet Union had been in Group 9 of  UEFA’s qualifiers along with France and Ireland, coming out on top. The winner of this group had somewhat unfairly been pre-determined to enter the play-off, rather than being the lowest ranked group winner as in the years that followed.

Their opponents, Chile, had been in Group 3 of the South American system, with Peru as their only opposition after Venezuela withdrew. In April and March 1973, 2-0 wins for the respective home team in both group games meant another play-off was needed to separate the sides, won 2-1 by Chile on August 5th in Montevideo, Uruguay.


A young fan runs on the pitch in Montevideo to celebrate with Chilean players after their defeat Peru in a qualification group play-off, 05/08/1973.

***If you are interested in countries withdrawing and not playing games, then you’ll love our look back at the 1950 World Cup qualifiers.***

Like with Europe’s Group 9, the winner of this group had always been destined to enter the intercontinental showdown, the first leg of which was scheduled for 26 September in Moscow. But then, on September 11th 1973, Chile’s democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende (in power since 1970) was overthrown in a US/UK backed coup d’état and replaced by an authoritarian, right-wing military junta that would come to be led by army chief Augusto Pinochet.

The new regime quickly cracked down on any left-leaning organisations, banned any travel out of  the country, and, to quote Wikipedia, “thousands of people deemed undesirable were taken to the Estadio Nacional in Santiago, (and) tortured and killed”; the same Estadio Nacional where the second leg of the football was to be played in November. With the anti-communist stance of the junta, it was somewhat fitting that the first international encounter of any kind for the “new Chile” was set to see it face off against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.


Estadio Nacional, Santiago, Chile, turned into a detention, torture and death camp by the new regime, September-Novermber 1973.

The Soviets had been an ally of the Allende presidency and relations between the two countries were immediately severed following the coup. Less that two weeks later, the Chilean national team traveled to Moscow for the first leg with tensions high.

Many of the team were apolitical, or even harboured ties to the previous government, and the players were under strict order not to state anything of a political nature on the trip under threat of their families lives. Indeed the Chilean government only allowed the squad to travel in order to project a veneer of normality, while institutionalised terror reigned at home (an all too familiar tactic).

Upon their arrival in Moscow airport, no authority was on hand to receive the South American team and some players were detained due to supposed passport irregularities. Adding to the drama was the rumour that the Soviets would arrest Chilean players to later exchange with socialist prisoners of war.

On September 26th nearly 50,000 entered the Central Lenin Stadium for the game, but among them were no journalists or cameras, as ominously ordered by the authorities. Admirably, Chile – who had made several World Cup appearances already including a 3rd place finish on home soil in 1962 – were able to hold their large and intimidating hosts to a 0-0 draw, much to the humiliation of all involved on the home side (both of a sporting and political nature).

With the return leg in Santiago scheduled for nearly two months later on November 21st, the horrors of the oppressive Chilean dictatorship continued in the national stadium and only came to an end on November 7th. The USSR appealed to FIFA to have the game moved to neutral ground, fairly refusing to play in what had been turned in to a legitimate death camp. But both FIFA – who as we have discussed were equal opportunists to states of all political orientations and atrocities – and of course Chile themselves, denied any such move.


Chilean Dictator Pinochet giving a press conference in the stadium, Autumn 1973.

The Soviets traveled to South America anyway to play stand-by friendlies against neighboring countries, showing that they were serious about the match should the venue be changed. It was not to be, and in fact the “game” was to go ahead without any opposition as approved by FIFA; mostly in order to display a political show, but also to avoid the loss of income from refunding all those already purchased match tickets.


Soldiers keep watch outside the ground before the "match", Chile vs an absent USSR, 21/11/1973.

Come match day and 15,000 were in attendance, with many younger supporters unaware of the political significance of the situation, as Austrian referee Erich Linemayr blew the whistle to kick-off what was to be quite literally a one-sided affair. The Chilean players casually ran the ball down field to score into the empty net, after which the ref blew the whistle again to conclude the farce. A 2-0 walkover was awarded, and Chile qualified for the World Cup.


Chile score into an empty USSR net; with no opposition present to take kick-off, the referee would then blow the full-time whistle, 21/11/1973.

With their place on the moral high-ground firmly secured, it was later suggested by players from the time that the Soviet authorities were motivated more through a fear of losing the game to their political “enemies”, rather than a concern for human rights. Either way, having finished runners-up in the 1972 European Championships, the aborted play-off was to prove a negative turning point for the USSR as they would miss out on the following two World Cups and Euros respectively.


The stadium scoreboard following the only goal in the one team game, Chile vs absent USSR, 21/11/1973.

Chile, on the other hand, went to West Germany for the 1974 tournament where they had been drawn in a group with the hosts, along with East Germany and Australia. But attention to the grim situation in their country was drawn once again at their final game against Australia, when shortly after kick-off a group of political protesters carrying a large Chilean banner invaded the pitch, causing the match to be paused.


Political protesters on the pitch interrupting Australia vs Chile, World Cup, 22/06/1974.

It would not be until 1988 that democracy would return to Chile. When the Estadio Nacional was eventually renovated in 2010, one sector of the ground – Salida 8 – was left untouched, to serve as a memorial and reminder of what happened on the site.

AFC/OFC Zone A

Hong Kong
Japan
Malaysia
Isreal
South Vietnam
South Korea
Thailand

As we saw in Part 1, the Asian and Oceanic section was always interesting to keep an eye on due to the inclusion of exiled “colonialist African” teams (South Africa for 1966, Rhodesia for 1970), and because of the Israeli problem, with neighboring Arabic and Islamic countries refusing to participate against the Jewish state. To avoid a repeat of the resulting withdrawals in 1957, Israel had originally been placed in UEFA for the 1962 and 1966 qualifying campaigns; strangely in the former as part of a mini knockout tournament group with Cyprus, Italy and, for some reason, Ethiopia.

Now, for the second time in a row they were back in the AFC section, but like 1970 were placed in an otherwise all-east Asian zone. One omission was North Korea, who had also refused to play Israel in the previous qualifiers on political grounds and so were conveniently swapped into Zone B-Group 1 along side the Middle Eastern states of Iran, Kuwait and Syria, where Israel should rightfully have been.

(Note: all Zone B-Group 1 games were played Iran, while in Zone B-Group 2 Iraq were forced to travel to the other side of the world to play in/against Australia, along side New Zealand and Indonesia)

The entirety of Zone A was to be held in Soul, South Korea, beginning with three classification matches on May 16th and 17th 1973 to determine which teams would be placed in what group (with the hosts already allotted to Group 2). Israel took on and beat Japan 2-1 on the opening day, but only after another controversial country in the midst of it’s own war of destruction amazingly took part in their first ever World Cup game.

Vietnam had won autonomy within the French empire in 1949 as the “State of Vietnam”, but by 1954 shock military victories for local communist forces drove the colonialists out for good. This resulted in the division of the country, creating of the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam – recognised by the likes of China and the USSR – and the formal foundation of the western-backed Republic of (South) Vietnam the following year. South Vietnam had quickly established a football team, participating in the Asian Games since 1954, and finishing a respectable 4th in the first two Asian Cups (granted, only four teams took part).


Flag of South Vietnam, 1949-1975.

But at home, with the Republic refusing to sanction elections that would potentially reunify the country as guaranteed by the Geneva Convention (which had formalised the partition but not been signed by South Vietnam), their strategy of US-backed force to retake the North began two decades of the Vietnam War. This didn’t stop participation of the football team in international competitions though, as they would continue to take part in Asian Games until 1970.

As the conflict went on and disaster unfolded, an embarrassed United States formally began withdrawing ground troops from the warzone in 1969, although air power and financial support were still used into the 70s to combat the North Vietnamese Army and it’s Viet Cong liberation front in the South. But in January 1973 the Paris Peace Accords were signed, officialy removing America from the war and creating a shaky ceasefire between North and South Vietnam.

Fighting still continued, however, and on March 15th, one day before South Vietnam were set to play Thailand in Seoul, President Nixon threatened more US military intervention should the North launch a new full offensive. Under this shadow, the team made it’s World Cup qualifier debut with a 1-0 win through an own-goal in the 83rd minute.

Throughout the rest of the month, the Zone A groups were played out with 1st and 2nd placed teams progressing to semi-finals, before a match to reach to an ultimate play-off against the winners of Zone B. Theoretically this could have ended with Israel coming up against a Middle Eastern team, but they were eliminated by the home side South Korea in the Zone A final.

South Vietnam, meanwhile, were unsuccessful in Zone A-Group 1, with 4-0 and 1-0 defeats to Japan and Hong Kong respectively. Along with the previous game against Thailand, they would turn out to be the only three World Cup games ever played by the state, as North Vietnam did indeed launch another offensive that year, and, far from successively intervening, the last US helicopter eventually left Saigon in chaos on April 30th 1975.


The US Embassy in South Vietnam is evacuated as Saigon is about to fall, 1975.

By the time the next qualifiers rolled around, the Republic of Vietnam was no more, now annexed into a unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam. It would not be until 1991 that a Vietnam side would once again take to a football field.

 

  • 1974 World Cup

Group 1:

Australia
Chile
East Germany
West Germany

We talked last time about how the short-lived post-World War 2 state of the Saar Protectorate – administered by the French, but German in every other way – took part in their one and only World Cup qualifying campaign (for 1954) in a group also featuring their West German countrymen. When the World Cup would come to West Germany itself twenty years later – by which time Saarland was long absorbed back into the Federal Republic of Germany (as the West was formally known) – it seemed inevitable that the remaining, third post-war German state would not only qualify for the first time, but also be drawn along side the hosts for a debut showdown between capitalist west and communist east.

The Democratic Republic of (East) Germany had been formed in 1949 and, under the Deutscher Fußball Verband der DDR governing body, participated in their first international football match against Poland three years later. As discussed back in in Politics on the Pitch #2, blue and white were chosen as kit colours to reflect the uniforms of the East German socialist youth organisation.


Flag of East Germany, 1959-1990.

After their entry to FIFA in 1952, 1958 to 1970 had seen fruitless World Cup qualifying campaigns before the aforementioned qualifying Group 4 brought real East German hope for the 1974 edition. Albania and Finland were like East Germany in having not yet made a tournament finals, leaving Romania – boasting three finals appearances back in the 1930s, and more importantly a spot at the recent 1970 World Cup in Mexico – as group favourites, although not exactly an elite squad either.

As they had done during World War 2 against the Russians, the Finns did the Germans a favour early in the group with a heroic 1-1 draw in Helsinki against Romania in September 1972. It would prove a vital slip up, as Romania would go on to take “all two points” (awarded for a win instead of three until the 1998 qualifiers) against East Germany in Bucharest the following May; ultimately the latter’s only dropped points in the group.

The most crucial group game came on September 26th 1973 in Leipzig for the return fixture, with a 2-0 win for East Germany putting them back in the driver seat. Still with a chance to go through, Romania would take their revenge over Finland at home with a desperate 9-0 drubbing in October, but it was to be in vein as a 4-1 East German victory away to Albania in November delivered top-spot by a point.


East Germany clinch World Cup qualification for the first time with a 4-1 away win over Albania, 03/11/1973.

While no internationals had yet taken place between the two divided halves of Germany, a number of friendlies did occur between club sides from East and West in the 1950s before the wall. The introduction of European competitions later resumed such encounters, starting with Dynamo Dresden vs Bayern Munich in 1973 for the 73/74 European Cup, and Fortuna Düsseldorf vs 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig in the UEFA Cup of the same season.

And so the stage was set in January 1974 for the final World Cup draw in Frankfurt. Seemingly admitting the fallibility of grown men in the 70s, FIFA used the “innocent hand” of a young, local choir boy to draw the teams, eliminating any element of potential dirty play from a morally corrupted adult.

With West Germany automatically placed in Group 1 as hosts, the dramatic moment came when East Germans were also drawn in the group, drawing first a moment of hushed shock from those in attendance before emotional, spontaneous applause. Even though it had always been a possibility, along with the fact that the tournament was on “enemy” soil anyway, it was later falsely rumored that the East German regime would withdraw the team to avoid the overtly political encounter.


Group 1 with the two Germanys, World Cup 74 draw, Frankfurt, 31/01/1974.

Adding to the intrigue, one of the locations for games in the group was the enclave of West Berlin, amazingly meaning that East Germany would play a World Cup game in a city entirely surrounded by itself. Unfortunately, the all-German clash wasn’t scheduled for here, but both sides fittingly took on none other than Chile in the Olympiastadion, less than 10 kilometers from the Berlin wall.


World Cup 74 opening ceremony in the Olympiastadion, Munich, 13/06/1974.

The political atmosphere was matched by surprisingly poor June weather for the tournament, with particularly dreary and wet conditions – perhaps the worst ever (at a World Cup that is, not of all time). As Chilean protesters attempted to grab the attention of the world with regards their country’s dictatorship in the match against Australia in West Berlin (three out of three at the venue for Chile, who technically could still progress), most fans and non-fans alike were concentrating on what was to come that evening across the country in Hamburg for the final group game.

On June 22nd more than 60,000 crammed into the Volksparkstadion – where West Germany had also taken on Saar in 1953 – for the 19:30 kick-off and thankfully the setting sun shone low in the sky. There was a respectful silence for the DGR’s national anthem and a section of East German supporters was visible in the ground.


East German team and fans after their national anthem, vs West Germany, World Cup, 22/06/1974.

East Germany, who had been primarily using white shirts and blue shorts as a first preference by this time, were the official “home team” in the tie, but had graciously emerged in their change kit of blue shirts and white shorts allowing West Germany to continue wearing their usual home white jerseys. Interestingly, the East Germans were in short sleeves while the hosts were in long sleeves.


Short sleeved blue shirts of East Germany vs the long sleeved white shirts of West Germany, World Cup, 22/06/1974.

Finally the time came and the heavy favourite western professionals kicked-off against a team who all had day jobs back in the East. Early on West Germany were close to opening the scoring, but it remained 0-0 until the 77th minute when Jürgen Sparwasser – a member of the 1. FC Magdeburg side that had just impressively beaten AC Milan to win the Cup Winners Cup in Rotterdam – broke through the West German defensive to score for East Germany.


Sparwasser scores the most famous goal in East Germany history, vs West Germany, World Cup, 22/06/1974.

The TV cameras went to the celebrating away supporters in the crowd, who were doubtlessly all involved in the East German government in some way rather than regular fans who may have taken the chance to defect. Permits had been in effect since 1972 that allowed younger East German citizens to cross the border (pensioners, who were less valuable to the state, had been able to visit the West since 1964), although in reality they were only usually granted to ruling party elites and their ilk.


East German players and social elite supporters celebrate the only goal of the game, vs West Germany, 22/06/1974.

The shocked home crowd looked on as the clock rolled down before the final whistle confirmed it: the lowly East had conquered the West. Granted, West Germany’s two prior victories against Australia and Chile had already secured them a place in the next round, but, like in qualifying, East Germany ended the group in pole position.


Classic graphics after a replay of the winning goal, East Germany vs West Germany, 22/06/1974.

In the end the result was possibly the best thing that could have happened for the hosts, as they entered a manageable Round 2 group alongside Poland, Sweden and Yugoslavia, while the unfortunate East were placed in the far tougher group with Argentina, Brazil and the Netherlands. Elimination came after two defeats, with respectable 1-1 draw against the Argentinians in the other game.

West Germany of course went on to secure their second World Cup trophy in the tournament, but East Germany had won the arguably more important all-German cup final, and would always have that. Well, until the 3rd of October 1990 at least, when the state would formally cease to exist.

  • 1980 European Championships Qualifiers

Group 1

Bulgaria
Denmark
England
Northern Ireland
Republic of Ireland

In the 1958 qualifiers, Ireland had met their former colonialist masters of England for the first time in a competitive setting. But following the the Irish War of Independence in 1921, not all of the country had been freed from the British crown.

Before it would happen to Germany, Korea or Vietnam later in the century, Ireland was partitioned as part of it’s independence treaty, with the Anglo-Scots-dominated north-east becoming “Northern” Ireland and remaining in the United Kingdom. As we have discussed before, Northern Ireland inherited the old Belfast based Irish Football Association that had been established under British rule, while a new organisation – the Football Association of  Ireland – was founded in Dublin to represent what would become the Republic (first the Irish Free State).

As with East and West Germany, there had been no football meeting of any sort between the two going in to the 1970s; a decade that would show the world that tensions on the island had not gone away. Sparked by civil rights protests from the discriminated ethnic Irish population, conflict between Irish nationalist paramilitaries, their British equivalents and the British Army exploded, with civilian atrocities from all sides along the way.

As things escalated and the body count rose, the slightly less significant soccer qualifiers for Euro 80 brought the Irish and English football teams into direct competition once again in Group 1. But this time, Northern Ireland were thrown in to the mix to create truly the “Group of Troubles” (not an official UEFA title), with Bulgaria and Denmark filling up the rest of the “non-Troubles” spots.

Ireland started the group away to Denmark with a thrilling 3-3 draw on May 24th, 1978; typically it was the home side who had clawed back the point from 3-1 down after 79 minutes. This would be followed by 3-4 and 2-2 affairs at home for Denmark against England and Bulgaria respectively, showing that Copenhagen was an unusual place to play at the time.

But next was to be the inaugural all-Ireland clash (at least in an association football sense, rather than the Gaelic games version) with Dublin as the location on September 20th for the first of the two ties between Republic and North. As soon as the Northern Ireland team bus had crossed the border it was joined by a police escort, which stayed all  the way to the stadium – the indomitable Lansdowne Road.

By the standards of the time, a heavy police presence was on hand at and around the historic ground also, as “football special” trains from the North arrived at the nearby station with groups with energetic away fans. Unease was in the air as Union Jacks were waved and unionist songs sung en mass in Dublin for the first time in about 57 years, but, despite some minor confrontations, no violence broke out.




Northern Ireland fans arrive by train near the stadium for the match vs Republic of Ireland, 20/09/1978.

Minor confrontation between home supporters with large Irish tricolour and Northern Ireland fans chanting "The Ulster" (province of Ireland within which Northern Ireland is located) on the way to the match, 20/09/1977.

Inside the ground, the traveling contingent occupied a large section of the North Terrace, which remained unsegregated. Like many of the continent’s major stadiums, imposing fences had at least been installed around the Lansdowne Road that year in an attempt to prevent any potential rowdies from taking their trouble away from the stands where it belonged.


Northern Irish away fans singing "Protestant songs" (according to the BBC News report) in Lansdowne Road's North Terrace ahead of the match with Ireland, 20/09/1977.

Even though green was worn by the Northern Irish team for historical reasons, many of their fans chose the blue, white and red colourscheme of Belfast’s Linfield, Glasgow Rangers and the Union Jack. With the Republic also of course usually in a green, sportspersonship akin to East Germany choosing not wearing white against West Germany seems to have been displayed, as the home side donned a fetching all-white change kit with delicious green and yellow trim.


The captains before the match with Ireland's white change shirt being worn at home, vs Northern Ireland, 20/09/1977.

The sense of anti-climax for those who had come to witness any potential trouble will have been matched by those who came solely for the football, as an Ireland containing stars like Brady, Giles, Highway, Lawrenson (who’s bloodied shirt suggests the tone of the game) and Stapleton were held to a 0-0 draw against a North led from the back by legendary goalkeeper Pat Jennings. Apparently nothing further of note occurred among supporters either, but things may not have been so serene had the events of the very next day – when the Provisional IRA bombed an RAF airfield in Derry destroying a terminal, two hangers and several planes (although no lives were lost) – happened slightly earlier.

Ireland next kept their streak of draws going with a somewhat satisfactory 0-0 in Lansdowne against England, while the North picked up excellent back to back wins at home to Denmark and away to Bulgaria, spurred on by striker Gerry Armstrong. Despite more good performances from the the Republic, results like England 4-0 Northern Ireland, Denmark 4-0 Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland 1-5 England, put the North out of the running going into the final series of games, with an unbeaten England looking set to claim the sole qualifying spot and their first tournament appearance in ten years.

Following a 3-0 win over Bulgaria in October 1979, Ireland still had a mathematical chance to pip the English in the unlikely event that the Bulgarians went to Wembley and won, followed by Ireland doing the same in February 1980. But first on November 21st would be a trip to Belfast’s Windsor Park, home of Linfield FC, for a Northern Ireland keen to kill any any Irish hopes in lieu of their own failed prospects (and not for the last time).

Unlike in Dublin, it will have been very unlikely that many, if any, away supporters traveled north of the border for the encounter, due to the potential “security risks” for those with caught with a “southern” accent among a certain type of hardcore British loyalist. In the 13 months since the reverse fixture, there had many more bombings, high profile assassinations, and civilian casualties from Northern Ireland to London and even The Hague, meaning the game was even more emotionally charged than before.

Keeping in the spirit of fair play though, the North returned the kit favour of the year before by emerging in their away strip. Minorly problematic was the fact that their white/green/white created an “overall clash” against Ireland’s green/white/green, an effect previously negated by Ireland’s use of all-white in Dublin.


Northern Ireland in white/green/white at home to Republic of Ireland, 21/11/1979.

With 15,000 creating an intimidating atmosphere in the small fortress of a ground, that man Gerry Armstrong popped up on the 54th minute to give the home side a lead they would hold on to until the end, thus dashing Ireland’s theoretical qualification hopes (had England not gone and defeated Bulgaria the next day anyway). Again blue was the most prevalent colour of those celebrating on the caged terraces.


Gerry Armstrong scores for Northern Ireland, vs Republic of Ireland, 21/11/1979.

The Windsor Park terraces celebrate the only goal of the game, Northern Ireland vs Republic of Ireland, 21/11/1979.

Unlike the Germanys, this would not be the last time that Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would be drawn together before one ceases to exist. And with the Troubles not ending any time soon in our timeline, we shall quite possibly see the tie rise again when Groups of Death continues into the 80s…

*

Video Links:
Chile vs Peru, 1973
Estadio Nacional, Chile, 1973
Chile vs USSR, 1973
Chile vs USSR, 1973
Australia vs Chile, 1974
Albania vs East Germany, 1973
1974 World Cup draw
East Germany vs West Germany, 1974
East Germany vs West Germany, 1974
East Germany vs West Germany, 1974
Republic of Ireland vs Northern Ireland, 1978
Northern Ireland vs Republic of Ireland, 1979

*****

What Football Is Supposed To Look Like #8 (Gallery)

Last time in WFISTLL, we zoomed in on the Belgian league scene of the late 80s and early 90s with a whirlwind of pics and gifs illustrating the gritty supporter culture present in that time and place. Now we return to our usual format of a selection of images that demonstrate what used to make football so interesting, in a variety of classic 20th century ways.

Superb away jersey, Northern Ireland vs Republic of Ireland, World Cup qualifier, 14/09/1988:

Umbrella crowd, fence, classic hoarding and graphics, Chile vs Yugoslavia, Under-20 World Cup (hosted by Chile), 10/10/1987:

Raised stands and large entrance-way with row of people, Turkey vs West Germany, European Championships qualifier, 24/04/1983:

Snow-patch pitch, East Germany vs Scotland, European Championships qualifier, 16/11/1983:

Competing anthem bands (although the lot on the right look like children in comparison?) and angular team line-ups, West Germany vs Netherlands, World Cup 74 final, 07/07/1974:

Confetti pitch, Internazionale Milano vs AS Roma, Serie A, 24/03/1988:

Arabic Marlboro advert, Zaire vs Zambia, African Cup of Nations 74 (hosted by Egypt), 12/03/1974:

Amazing old-old school end with supporters on roof, Portugal vs Italy, friendly, 15/04/1928:

Rain plus no roof equals many, many umbrellas, Czechoslovakia vs Netherlands, European Championships 76 semi-final (hosted by Yugoslavia, match in Zagreb), 16/06/1976:

Classic graphics, USSR vs Netherlands, friendly, 28/03/1990:

*****

 

Heroic Hang Jobs (Gallery) #4

In this gallery series we take a look back at a somewhat random assortment of flags and banner collectives at both international and club level from the 80s and 90s (and maybe even the 70s some day), united through being made correctly and hung the way banners were supposed to be hung (that is, chaotically). The first three installments can be found by clicking here, here and here.

Luxembourg vs Hungary, World Cup 94 qualifier, 09/09/1992:

Malta vs Italy, World Cup 94 qualifier, 19/12/1992:

Vitesse vs Parma, UEFA Cup 94/95, 13/09/1994:

(Click here for our Supporter Snap Back episode on this match)

Bayern Munich vs AS Roma, Cup Winners Cup 84/85, 06/03/1985:

Bayern Munich vs AS Roma, Cup Winners Cup 84/85, 06/03/1985:
(Noteworthy: use of “Celtic cross” right-wing symbol)


(Click here for full image)

AS Roma vs Bayern Munich, Cup Winners Cup 84/85, 20/03/1985:

Athlone Town vs Derry City, League of Ireland 94/95 Premier Division, 22/04/1995:

Hajduk Split vs Partizan Belgrade, Yugoslav First League 89/90, 19/11/1989:


Netherlands vs Germany, European Championships 1992, 18/06/1992:

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International Duty – Club Banners At National Team Games #6 (Gallery)

In this photo-series we take a look at some low-fi old school examples of ultras and hooligan group banners, club supporter group banners and regular club flags, when used in the context of an international match. This was particularly common for countries who would rotate home stadiums on a regular basis and hence visit a lot of clubs’ home grounds (with the most prominent example being Italy), while away games provided the opportunity for the likes of England’s firms to display banners that would not have been seen at Wembley. 

Italy vs Argentina, friendly, 21/12/1989
“Sconvolts” and others of Cagliari Calcio:

England vs Germany, US Cup, 19/06/1993
Bristol City
:

Germany vs Portugal, World Cup 98 qualifier, 06/09/1997
“Dietmar
Bottrop” and “Menden Sieg” of FC Schalke 04, “Blue System” of “Hamburger SV”, and many others:

Switzerland vs Scotland, Euro 92 qualifier, 11/09/1991
Arbroath FC:

Switzerland vs England, friendly, 28/05/1988
Hull City, “Blades Business Crew” of Sheffield United, and “6:57 Crew” of Portsmouth FC:

Slovenia vs Ukraine, Euro 00 qualifier, 13/11/1999
“Green Dragons”
of NK Olimpija Ljubljana:

*****

People On The Pitch #8: Greece vs USSR, European Championships 1980 Qualifier, 12/09/1979

In our last People On The Pitch we took at look at some FA Cup semi-finals, involving the contrast between the venues involved and the consequences. We now switch to the other side of Europe and – for the first time on the site – to one of the most classic supporter culture nations in the world (as well as classic culture of any kind for that matter).

Background:

The late 70s/early 80s was a time when English hooligans abroad were increasingly making their presence felt in many of continental Europe’s great cities, both at club and international level. The English national team’s travels to Switzerland, Luxembourg, Norway, Finland and Denmark to name a few, as well as international tournaments during the period, saw trouble both inside and out of the stadium. But in the middle of all this, there was one country where a reduced and meek English traveling support would cower in the face of an intimidating and rabid home crowd: Greece.

That particular game in 1982 we will come back to later (and may well use the exact same intro). But going back before then to the 70s, Greece had yet to  really make any sort of an impact on international football. The expansion of the European Championships from 4 to 8 teams for the 1980 edition gave the Mediterraneans their first real chance at a finals appearance of any sort, as they were drawn in a winnable qualification group with Finland, Hungary and a waning USSR.

Things did not start promisingly and indeed all hope may have already seemed lost after the first two games, as a 3-0 loss away to Finland in May 1978 – themselves on Europe’s lower tier of footballing nations – was followed by a 2-0 defeat away to the Soviets in September. But Greece’s first and second home games of the group in October saw a resounding turn around as the Finns were smashed 8-1 in Athens, with a 4-1 victory over Hungary in Thessaloniki a few weeks later. While the passion and colour of Greek supporters at domestic level proceeds itself, this fanaticism of course also translated to the national team of this proud people.



Greek supporters celebrate the reemerging hope of European qualification in Thessaloniki, Greece vs Hungary, Euro 80 qualifier, October 1978.

By the following year, the old Greek flag of a white cross on a blue background had been retired for good, as the country transitioned from the age of monarchies and dictatorships to democracy. The football team too continued its hopeful march of progression as an important point was taken from a 0-0 draw away to Hungary in May 79. This result provided a great chance for qualification going into the last group game in September, with their Soviet opponents – who hadn’t qualified for anything since their Euro 72 runner-up performance – only managing a loss and two draws since the sides had last met in Moscow.

 
Flags of Greece: 1822–1969/1975–78


Flags of Greece: 1970-1975/1978-present

The Match:

Even a win for the hosts would not guarantee qualification – as Finland’s surprisingly good form (apart form the 8-1) meant that they could still clinch top spot in the unlikely event they earned four points or more from their two remaining games-in-hand, both away in October – but the last time the USSR had come to Greek soil for a 1977 World Cup qualifier, the home side had won 1-0.

With that in mind, more than 25,000 hopeful Hellenics fill the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium (more commonly known as the Leoforos Alexandras Stadium) to capacity in downtown Athens on a sunny Wednesday, September 12th, creating an awe-inspiring scene:

The ground was home to Panathinaikos, who were participants along with Bayern Munich in a 1967 Cup Winners Cup game when the official highest attendance of nearly 30,000 was recorded. Even more than that would have been in attendance here if facilities had allowed, for what was the biggest match in Greek international football to date.

Appropriately quintessential ubran Greek architecture leers over each side of the ground, within which a caged orgy of flags, confetti, ticker-tape, smoke and general compressed mayhem surrounds the dry pitch as the teams emerge:

Some vivid late 70s hoardings run along-side the pitch and a nicely-hung Greek flag:

Behind this side stand is another huge, interesting building with two giant legs at the front, as a blurred mass concentrates hard on the game below:

At the other end, the proximity of what appears at a glance to be an ancient aqueduct (but is probably a much more modern structure) shows how entwined the stadium really is in the dense city-scape:

After only 8 minutes, Takis Nikoloudis barges into the Soviet box and scores to send the mostly-white shirted Greek fans in the terraces into deliriums:

As the celebrations begin, the first “person on the pitch” can be seen: a figure in black (oddly enough) who is just about visible sprinting past the right-side of the goalposts, before more jubilation on other sides of the ground is shown:

Both versions of the Greek national flag can be seen flying side by side amid the sea of squashed supporters:

That is how things stay as the scoreline of 1977 is repeated and the Soviets are once again defeated in Greece, which would ultimately doom them to the embarrassment of bottom of the group (a low-point which may have galvanised their future recovery and qualification for World Cup 82). For the home fans it means that the opposite is likely true, as people stream from the main grandstand in celebration at what appears to be qualification secured:

As groups of Youths run victory parades around the pitch, a row of police can be seen standing along the perimeter of the more “raucous” end terrace in the stadium to make sure that this particular element does not encroach:

The celebrations continues in the stand nevertheless as more confetti clouds (there must have been many tons of the stuff in the ground that day) fill the air. Riot police stand to the bottom left, content to tolerate the innocent expression of joy taking place on the grass:

And so the scene ends, and despite what our opening gambit alluded to earlier, no trouble – only passion. The following month the Greeks could finally rest easy and officially celebrate qualification, as Hungary defeated Finland 3-1. Although they ended up finishing bottom of their group at the tournament, a generation of young Greeks would have been inspired by the impressive achievement of reaching the finals to at all, planting the seeds to continue the nations over-achieving continental tradition with the unexpected European Championship victory 24 years later.

Panathinaikos only remained in the Leoforos for another five years when they  would move the 70,000 capacity Olympic Stadium in 1984, along with AEK Athens and Olympiakos for a time, which would also be the new main host of national team games. But happily, for various reasons the old, small ground was resurrected for several periods in the future.

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Youtube Link 1
Youtube Link 2

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Supporter Snap Back #2: Switzerland vs Scotland, European Qualifier, 11/09/1991

In this series we take a “quick” no-nonsense look at a given game, highlighting impressive kits, intriguing stadium architecture, and whatever else interesting that we can find. But must importantly, the supporters and their actions.
Click here for the previous installment with Parma’s visit to Vitesse in 1994. But now – on a date that would become noteworthy on exactly ten years to the day – we  go back to when Switzerland welcomed the Scottish horde for a European qualifier in 1991.

The early-mid 90s were a time in which Scotland and Switzerland would get to know each other well. Before our featured European qualifier game in September 1991, they had already clashed in Glasgow the previous October in the reverse fixture, and a month later in October 1991 Celtic were paired with Neuchatel Xamax in the UEFA Cup.

The two national teams had also been drawn together for the World Cup ’94 qualifiers and so would continue to play each other for a further two consecutive Septembers. The fixture came up again two years later at Euro 96, but after this it would be another ten years until the sides would next meet.

The Euro 92 qualifying group was a tough one with Romania and Bulgaria also strongly in the running, leaving only San Marino as the only team with no real chance of taking the one qualification spot up for grabs. With the two East Balkan countries not far behind, the game on September 11th in Berne was crucial for both teams and played on front of a suitably hot crowd.

Match File:

  • Switzerland vs Scotland
  • Euro ’92 Qualifier
  • UEFA Group 2
  • 11/09/1991
  • Wankdorfstadion, Berne, Switzerland
  • 42,012 spectators

As the teams are coming out we get our first shots of the crowd, with plenty of colour from both home and away fans:

The ever popular yellow and red Royal Banner/Lion Rampant flag of Scotland is well represented:

There is also pyro from the Swiss supporters, but equally notable is the celtic cross flag visible on the left – a well regocgnised symbol of right-wing nationalism in Europe:

Meanwhile, Scottish banners are being hung on the fence at the other end – the way they should be:

As the teams line up for the anthems, a flare can just about be seen in the left corner of the ground:

The small group of people to the left of the marching band is actually one of the best things on show, as it turns out to be a group of children fantastically dressed in Swiss league club kits, interspersed with national strips:

Speaking of kits, we should look at the teams. As the visitors, the Scottish anthem is first and here get a look at their classic early 90s goal keeper jersey – a category that we love (who doesn’t?):

The Swiss are even more 90s in their attire, wearing a unique kit made for them by little known manufacturer Blacky. This relationship came in between their stints with Adidas and Lotto:

The diagonal shoulder and shorts strips, as well as triangular brand logo, are all quite of reminiscent of Adidas’ new Equipment template from the time. But with the Swiss shirt having debuted the year before, perhaps inspiration had been drawn from the style to create the new Adidas look. Apart from the giant Swiss cross in the middle that is:

Click here for a closer look at a matchworn shirt  from the game.

On the bench, a Swiss coach is also decked out in an interesting training top which looks extremely similar to Chelsea’s Umbro made away shirt of the time, suggesting more plagiarism somewhere. The word Suisse is across the torso:

During the Swiss anthem red and white strips of material are unfurled in the fanatics section, and again the celtic-cross flag in the national-scoialism style is visible:

We then get a good look at the packed away section, with plenty of banners at the front:

One of which states “Pencaitland Boys Are In Berne; Pencaitland being a tiny village near Edinburgh:

While the captains shake hands and the team sheets are shown, we can see that more pyro is going off in the Swiss end:

The ground itself, the Wankdorf (unfortunately now demolished and rebuilt as the Stade de Suisse), has some interesting features. A wide gap at the half way line divides the supporters into two main enclosures opposite the main camera:

Large towers covered in advertising occupy at least two corners of the ground:

The Scottish section is separated from the home fans by a tunnel behind the goal and is noticeably more dense in bodies:

In the space of eight mins in the first half, the Swiss go 2-0 up. As the team celebrate one of the goals in heaving mass on the pitch while their manager pumps his fist, we also get a look at an excellent Adidas tracksuit being worn by what we assume is the extra UEFA official:

As half-time is blown for, the home fans celebrate what looks set to be a comfortable win to help propel them to their first Euros:

After the break it is evident that there has been more pyro, as clouds drift from the home end and linger above the pitch:

But it would be the away fans who next have cause to celebrate as their side pull one back only two minutes after the restart. We get a nice panning shot of the jubilation that  occurs in the immediate aftermath:

And then in the 83rd minute, Allie McCoist scores the equaliser for Scotland. Chaos in the away sector:

The game ends 2-2 with the result clearly favouring the visitors, who’s supporters celebrate as if a victory has been claimed:

We are curious to know what the red flag with a yellow circle that raises from the left is. If you know, as always give us a shout:

The draw would secure an important point for Scotland and the slip-up from the home side that would cost them and their fellow group rivals badly. As despite next losing 1-0 away to Romania, the Scots would end up topping the group on 11 points – only one point ahead of both the Swiss and Romanians.

Youtube link 1
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Heroic Hang Jobs (Gallery) #3

We now take another enjoyable look at a selection of classic flag and banner hanging efforts from days gone by, highlighting both clubs and countries with arrays big and small, but always heroic.

FC Carl Zeiss Jena vs Sparta Rotterdam, UEFA Cup 83/84, 02/11/1983:




FC Carl Zeiss Jena vs Sparta Rotterdam, UEFA Cup 83/84, 02/11/1983:

Belgium vs Netherlands, World Cup ’86 qualifier, 16/10/1985:

Shamrock Rovers vs Dundalk FC, FAI Cup Final 1987, 26/04/1987:

Spain vs Greece, friendly, 24/09/1986:

Kispest Honvéd vs Nîmes Olympique, Cup Winners Cup 96/97, 26/09/1996:

Kispest Honvéd vs Nîmes Olympique, Cup Winners Cup 96/97, 26/09/1996:

Finland vs England, World Cup ’86 qualifier, 22/05/1985:

Slovenia vs Italy, Euro ’96 qualifier,  07/09/1994:

Universitatea Craiova vs Dacia Unirea Brăila, Romanian Cup Final 1993, 26/06/1993:

 

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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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Heroic Hang Jobs #2 (Gallery)

It’s high time for another edition of this new series where we look at classic flag and banner hanging, great and small. Throw in some of the best sinister old school railings and fences for a winning formula.

Austria Vienna vs Zalgiris Vilnius, UEFA Cup, 07/10/1988:

Netherlands vs Greece, Euro ’88 qualifier, 25/03/1987:

West Germany vs Argentina, friendly, 12/09/1984:

Slovakia vs Romania, Euro ’96 qualifier, 15/11/1995:

FC Den Bosch vs Feyenoord, Eredivisie, 14/09/1986:

Hamburger SV vs Nottingham Forrest, European Cup Final, 28/05/1980:

Northern Ireland vs Republic of Ireland, World Cup ’94 qualifier, 17/10/1993:

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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: