Pyro On The Pitch #10: Shelbourne FC Away to Bohemian FC, League of Ireland, 23/10/1994

The following piece was first published in the June 2018 edition of the Shelbourne FC fanzine Red Inc., produced by the group Reds Independent (as reported here at the time). As a festive, end of year treat we now present online this special “print debut” installment of Pyro On The Pitch in full.

 

Intro:

Although a health and safety aficionado’s nightmare, the practice of pyrotechnics emanating from the stands and ending up on the playing surface at football matches has a proud, mischievous tradition that goes back decades and can represent several profound meanings. Sometimes it’s appearance acts as a symbol of euphoria upon a goal or team victory, while on other occasions flares and smoke bombs have been used as a tool by disaffected supporters in “political” fan actions. Random pyro on the pitch was somewhat of a regular occurrence in the ’80s and ’90s in certain European grounds with players and referees alike often happy to play on around the flaming phallus on the grass, contently accepting an intimidating and difficult atmosphere as simply part of the magic of the game back then. Of course on other occasions, it was a straight forward act of belligerent “hooliganism”.

The League of Ireland is no exception to any of these tropes, with it’s own unique supporter culture added into the mix. Indeed the use of pyro in Irish football has a far longer heritage than one might imagine, with a Dublin newspaper reporting in 1905: “Tar Barrels and bonfires were blazing across Ringsend and Sandymount that night as the Irish Cup was paraded around the district”. The team responsible for such celebrations were local side Shelbourne FC, the first winners of the IFA Cup not to have come from present day Northern Ireland.

In the early 2000s, the modern cultural ancestor of that 1905 mentality emerged in the form of the Irish ultras scene, now approaching two decades of existence at the time of writing.  Tifo-centric features such as pyro, large flags, stadium displays and most notably organised named groups have become commonplace for the larger League of Ireland clubs. St. Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers led the way with establishment of the Shed End Invincibles and SRFC Ultras respectively in 2001, and heavily influenced by continental leagues that had become accessible in the media driven ’90s, “tifo flags” began appearing at clubs even yet without groups – as evident at Shelbourne vs Drogehda United in 2003:


Shelbourne and Drogheda supporters with flags in 2003. Credit to Marucie Frazer - Youtube

By the end of that season Shels would have their own group in the form of Briogáid Dearg (BD), with the appearance of an “SFC Ultras” banner at games even preceding this. The one remaining Dublin club, Bohemains, were still on the “tifo flags level” and would take a few more years to progress to a named ultras group in the Notorious Boo Boys, although the existence of the Bohs Soccer Casuals since 1992 perhaps filled the vacuum. Meanwhile, BD would be recognised among the Irish supporter culture community as an influential player with it’s own unique identity, and will no doubt go down in future histories as an integral part of the original scene.

Despite this, as most Shelbourne fans will know, it is common for derision to come from the likes of Bohs regarding the perceived gap in support between the clubs. Obviously this sort of “banter” is tiresome at best, and while it may be true that there is somewhat of a gulf in numbers at games these days, it is also likely that the Bohemian support base would find themselves in a very similar position had their club gone the through the financial collapse and year-after-year of First Division football that the Shelbourne loyal have had to put up with.

Further to this, the league can actually thank Shelbourne fans for being among the original pioneers of bringing the European supporting style to Ireland, even before any of Ireland’s ultra groups had been conceived of. For the reasons why, we must go back to the proto-years of the era we have been talking about.

Background:

Non-club affiliated “supporter units” were nothing new as, like in England, feared organsied mobs had sprang up in the 1970s. The “Black Dragons” and skinheads of Limerick FC, along with “Red Alert” and the boot-boys of Sligo Rovers were among the most notorious and violent. Waterford also had a bad reputation, and games involving certain Dublin clubs always had the propensity for trouble.


Front page of a Limerick newspaper after some of the worst Irish domestic football violence to date, involving a mob of 80 Sligo youths following a tense Limerick FC cup game against Sligo Rovers, 1975.

 

***For more old school League of Ireland grittiness, click here for Football Special Report#2: Derry City vs Shamrock Rovers 1994***

For Shelbourne, the ’70s were a decade of gradual decline that would continue into the ’80’s when the club experienced one of their lowest ebbs until modern times. For comparison, in the domestic attendance golden age of the ’50s, a league game against Shamrock Rovers had drawn 11,000+ spectators to Tolka Park and the ’60s saw European competition for the first time. But many poor years cumulated in 1987 as the Reds suffered relegation and were soon being watched by a paltry fraction of the above figure at a derelict Harold’s Cross.

However, there was one bright spark born of the dark days of the era. This arose in the form of a new supporters group, autonomous from the club but also not hell bent on mindless violence like the chaotic mobs of the ’70s. The politically minded and opinionated Alternative Reds Club (ARC) was formed in the 84/85 season, with a new mentality more in style with continental sides.

While Shels were not in European competition themselves, some ARC members were known to travel abroad with the national team and perhaps this experience of foreign environments was influential at club games back home. Either way, Shelbourne’s long awaited return to success with a 1992 league win saw some exemplary fence climbing on the last day of the season away to Dundalk, fitting for any classic European arena; or indeed Oriel Park:

One outlet for the ARC to express themselves was through the group’s fanzine “From Home To Home” (presumably the first fanzine in Shels history) from which their philosophies could be spread to other supporters. The title was in reference to the clubs varied history of home grounds which included Shelbourne Park, Irishtown Stadium and at times Dalymount Park, as well as the aforementioned Tolka Park and Harold’s Cross. It remained an appropriate name as Shelbourne moved again to Tolka Park on a more permanent basis in 1989.


A 1993 ARC fanzine.

The ARC were also making their presence felt in the grounds with the appearance of an another important development: the group banner. Along with other flags, the banners went a step further in using the platform of the football stadium to deliver an overtly political message; also a feature of certain continental support basses. At the above mentioned Dundalk game for example, we can see the classic ARC banner baring group initials along side hammer & sickle, while at a home game against Bohs the same season, an actual Soviet Union flag is also present. Both left little doubt regarding the direction of the group’s leanings:

At the corresponding fixture the following year – where we can also see another beautiful ARC banner, in this instance devoid of other insignia – the hammer & sickle flag (now with added Irish tri-colour) is humorously placed near an American Confederate flag. The “Battle Flag”, as it is known to American history, is commonly displayed as an extreme right-wing symbol in certain European countries, but more than likely innocently employed for the colour-scheme here:

Despite the appearance over the coming years of some other left-associated symbols at Shels games, such as Che Guevara (see the picture vs Drogheda above), the Starry Plough (associated with Irish socialism), and the national flags of Euskal Herria & the Lebanese Republic, the support base remains apolitical on the whole. If anything in these divided times, the club provides a common ground for Dubliners of different ideals to come together over the slightly absurd but shared cause of the Reds, which can only be a positive thing. In that way, the Confederate flag sitting side by side with the Soviet symbol is an apt image, although a little extreme for most supporters real ideological beliefs these days.

Speaking of flags and banners, the European style was also appearing through external forces as Shels’ resurgence on the pitch brought back continental competition. Being drawn in consecutive years against recently independent Ukrainian opposition – Tavriya Simferopol in the 92/93 Champions League preliminary, Karpaty Lviv in the 93/94 Cup Winners Cup preliminary – meant that at first very few away fans were present, with ARC banner again visible at the latter; perhaps wisely without hammer and sickle:

But victory against Lviv meant the visit of ultras royalty Panathinaikos in the Cup Winner’s Cup first round proper on September 29th, 1993, and the resulting adornment of Tolka Park with several impressive standards displaying exotic Greek characters and symbols:

Visible on one banner is a “13”, of course referencing the mammoth Gate 13 supporters association that was founded in 1966 – more than likely the first ultras group to be represented in Tolka Park. At the same game on the Shels side, a very pleasing, long red and white banner could be seen, the bold simplicity of which is quite beautiful. The thoughts of one inspired and heroic supporter (or several) going to the effort of constructing this piece, bringing it to matches, and erecting it on fences brings us much joy, as well as indicating the increased pro-activity of the display minded Shelbourne fans:

At Dalymount Park (home of Bohemians) in the same season, the Shels fans inhabited the Tramway End (now closed) behind another classic parameter fence, perfect for hanging flags. While the ARC flag appears notable by it’s absence (or just off camera), an amazing large red and white banner with huge black “SFC” text can be seen to the left of the goal, more than making up for it.

The ARC would soon wind down as an active and cohesive unit, their mythical place in Shelbourne folklore already sealed as the revered, original fan culture group of the club. But the next generation had already begun, doubtlessly spurred on by the presence of a respectable “in the know” group like the ARC paving the way. This new attitude was especially evident the following season, as yet another game with northside neighbours Bohemians would provide a seminal supporter culture moment for the Reds.

The Match:

The game in question was the first of three league encounters between the sides for the 94/95 season, with a home tie for Bohemians on October 23rd, 1994. Again the away fans were in the Tramway End, as always providing a perfect banner hanging fence at the front of the terrace with the vintage staple of some steamers on the pitch. An interesting red and white saltire is also in view:

But from that same terrace early in the game would come the whole reason we are writing this article, bringing us right back around to where we started hours ago. As a Shelbourne team in sky blue away shirts (unlike the previous year’s white) defended their goal, a small but definite smoking flare landed on the pitch just inside the box:

If you had to classify it, the throwing of the flare was of the random mid-match variety that we highlighted earlier; a truly pure endevour of European supporter passion. As was expected of professionals in this gilded age, the players played on around the burning hazard and the game continued without question, as a closer camera angle gives us a better shot:

After this, the match went on as usual and eventually ended in what would probably be described as a thrilling 3-3 draw in some publications. But more importantly, history had gone down with what we are calling beyond doubt the first reported incident of pyro on the pitch in League of Ireland history (that may not be true but it suits our narrative). Incidentally, we have it on very good authority that the launcher of said flare, also present as a young supporter at Dundalk in ’92, would unsurprisingly go on to be a highly influential member of the Shelbourne supporter community.

Aftermath:

Up until this point we have not yet included an “Aftermath” section in our articles, but our story here certainly warrants it’s debut. As the decade progressed, usage of pyro at games involving League of Ireland clubs increased, all leading up to the inevitable evolution to actual ultras groups post-millennium. Sligo Rovers, for example, could be seen lighting up Tolka Park’s Ballybough End away to Shels in the 1996 League Cup 2nd leg, a match that we will cover in full in the future:

As for Shelbourne themselves, new groups such as Reds Independent and BD would pick up where the ARC left off, resulting in this very fanzine and many future flags, banners and displays at Shels games. While the likes of Shamrock Rovers will always try to boast the biggest following, and St. Pat’s the earliest Irish ultras group, we have demonstrated here that Shelbourne supporters were as important as any in introducing a more dynamic atmosphere to the country’s domestic league, as well as a new mentality. And since that Dalymount game in ’94, rightly or wrongly flares have made their way on to the pitch to accompany several other historic Reds moments including a last minute winner away to Bray Wanderers, an FAI Cup Final goal in the Aviva Stadium, and perhaps some other obscure occasion. Of course we would never condone or condemn such actions, as we are a 100% objective website. We are simply reporting history.

*****

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

*****

International Duty – Club Banners At National Team Games #7: Euro 88 Special (Gallery)

Following our recent What Football Is Supposed To Look Like focus on the Belgian league scene of the late 80s and early 90s, our also-usually “random” International Duty gallery series now gets a similar treatment with a special look at the club banners of the 1988 European Championships.

Of course we cannot highlight every flag representing a domestic side present at the tournament, as we are beholden to the TV directors, distant blurriness, and the general footage available, while certain country’s supporting styles mean more numerous example than others. As a result, England, Italy and the hosts West Germany are unsurprisingly the best represented, while the likes of eventual champions the Netherlands, who surely must have had some such banners present among their large array, have unfortunately not made the cut.

Group 1:
Denmark
Italy
Spain
West Germany

Group 2:
England
Republic of Ireland
Netherlands
USSR

Group 1: West Germany vs Italy
Rheinstadion, Düsseldorf, 10/06/1988:
West Germany
VfB Stuttgart
and Rot-Weiss Essen:

TSV 1860 Munich:

Borussia Dortmund (with “SS” far-right symbolism):

Italy
Irriducibli of SS Lazio:

Commando Yankees Curva Sud of HC Meran:

AS Roma:

Group 2: England vs Republic of Ireland
Neckarstadion, Stuttgart, 12/06/1988:
England
Swindon Town and Chelsea FC:

Plymouth Argyle:

Bristol City:


(Possibly Bristol Rovers)

Southampton:

Leeds United:

Manchester City (“Beer”) and neutral (West Germany) Vfb Stuttgart:

Bushwhackers of Millwall FC:

Ireland
Jacobs FC:

Group 1: West Germany vs Denmark
14/06/1986, Parkstadion, Gelsenkirchen:
West Germany
Rot-Weiss Essen
and VfB Stuttgart:

Group 1: West Germany vs Spain
Olympiastadion, Munich, 17/06/1986:
West Germany
Rot-Weiss Essen
and 1.FC Koln(?):

Hamburger SV:

Arminia Bielefeld:

Group 1: Italy vs Denmark
Müngersdorfer Stadion, Cologne, 17/06/1986:
Italy
Testaccio possibly of AS Roma:

Group 2: England vs USSR
Waldstadion, Frankfurt, 18/06/1986:
England
Blades Business Crew (BBC) of Sheffield United:

Bolton Wanderers (BWFC):

Semi-Final 1: West Germany vs Netherlands
Volksparkstadion, Hamburg, 21/06/1988:
West Germany
Hamburger SV:

Freiburger FC:

Semi-Final 2: Soviet Union vs Italy
Neckarstadion, Stuttgart, 22/06/1988:
Italy
Vis Boys of Vis Pesaro 1898 and Viking of Juventus:

Internazionale Milano:

Boys Novara of Novara Calcio:

SSC Napoli:

Final: Soviet Union vs Netherlands
Olympiastadion, Munich, 25/06/1988:
Neutral (West Germany)
Wuppertaler SV (WSV):

Netherlands
And so as not to end on somewhat of an anti-climax, we can see that one reason for the lack of Dutch flags is that most of them are laid out flat on the running track. But luckily they are virtually visible from space:

*

Video Links:

West Germany vs Italy
England vs Ireland
West Germany vs Denmark
West Germany vs Spain
Italy vs Denmark
England vs USSR
West Germany vs Netherlands
USSR vs Italy
USSR vs Netherlands
General (“Tor! Total Football (Euro 88)”)

*****

 

Retro Shirt Reviews #8

It’s been far too long since our last Retro Shirt Review, as the previous edition was an exclusive article for the pages of Shelbourne FC fanzine Reds Inc. and focused mainly on Shels’ lesser known shirts of the late 70s to early 90s. Now we return to our usual formula with a close up look at a vintage jersey from our own collection, and a piece of fabric that was definitely worth the wait (plus, stick around for the bonus International Selection at the end).

  • Club: N/A
  • Year: Early 1980s
  • Make: Le Coq Sportif
  • Sponsor: Brousse-Cardell
  • Number: 13
  • Similarly Worn By: ?

Sweet baby Jahova, will you look at what what we have here. A strong contender in the “best thing we own” category, this sleek, long-sleeved, double pin-striped(!) LCS effort from the early 80s can be perfectly described with one word: *insert one of several superlatives here*:

The shiny white material is perfectly complemented by the blue collar and cuffs, with the former a rather thick wrap-around style. As usual, we have no idea what club this is, but from the make and sponsor it is safe to say that this is the shirt of a French amateur team.

The sponsor in question is French firm Brousse-Cardell (brousse=bush), which as far as we can tell were (are?) an import company. Both their wordmark and the manufacturer’s logo are of dark blue felt:

Going closer we get a better look at the glorious and lovingly created double pin-stripes, individually stitched on to the shirt, which are a lighter blue than both the collar’n’cuffs and corporate logos. Speaking of which, the Le Coq Sportif logo is perhaps the most interesting thing on the shirt, as it is our main clue as to when the jersey is from:

Like with Adidas’s logos, there have been several iterations of the trademark triangle-cockerel over the years, corresponding to different eras. Since the 70s this often saw the cockerel standing “on front” of the triangle, or sometimes within while touching the sides, and usually a Le Coq Sportif wordmark was underneath.

As you can see above, none of this applies to our shirt as a more minimal design was preferred, used by LCS back in the 60s. With the shirt material and pin-stripes suggesting an 80s shirt anyway, the closest we can find in terms of the logo is on Argentina’s 1980-82 model so we’re going to haphazardly guess that what we’re looking at is from around then (or maybe a couple years after to account for the style).

Unfortunately the inner label has faded and is completely blank, eliminating it as a possible source of information. But on the back we have one last feature in the number, which employs thin, blue felt stripes of it’s own to beautifully form a 13:

Really outstanding stuff all around. A classy crest applied to the front would be the only thing we can think of that could improve things, although we are now well used to crestless-shirts in this series given the nature of who they were used by.

With this gem from “The Sporting Cock”, we have continued our streak of highlighting a different shirt manufacturer in every installment of Retro Shirt Reviews to date. This will change for the coming episodes, but with a whole lot of old-school Adidas awesomeness on the horizon you won’t mind too much.

International Selection:

  • Country: Republic of Ireland
  • H/A: Home
  • Year: 199899
  • Make: Umbro

Back in Retro Shirt Reviews #5 we checked out not one but two white Republic of Ireland away shirts from 1994, that featured a whole lot of green and orange. A few years later and the Irish had mostly abandoned orange, save for their crest, with navy introduced instead.

This began with an interesting and unique jersey debuted at home to Croatia in the first game of Euro 2000 qualifying in September 1998. Below we have the replica version featuring an Opel sponsor, as all Ireland supporter shirts had done since the 80s – a delightfully capitalistic practice we are surprised hasn’t spread to other countries (click here for our look at when sponsors were a semi-regular sight in international matches themselves):

The shirt is noteworthy as the first Irish jersey to feature a central crest since 1985. The main body consists of a sort of shadow-stripe system, where one of the alternating stripes is made of two dark green borders and a “mesh” of diagonal dark green squares within. Interesting to note is that the stripes on the right side align with those on the sleeve while those on the other side do not.

The mesh is also used in the large sublimated rendering of the FAI logo that dominates the shirt, sitting over the stripes, with the half of another crest in the left corner overlaying it in turn. The navy element is confined to the trim on the collar turn-over and it’s lower section, which is unfortunately missing the original button, while single white hoops toward the end of either sleeve complete the look.

Inside the collar the words “VAPA TECH” are repeated over and over – Umbro’s name for their futuristic fabric technique of  the late 90s. The label on the lower left side of the shirts says “Only Ireland”, reflecting Umbro’s “Only Football” tag line of the time, but accurate here as this certainly is a bespoke design.

The back of the shirt, if nothing else, provides a nice look a the stripes without the gigantic badge:

While not exactly considered an all time-classic, the shirt has grown on us to the point that we consider it a respectable entry in the pantheon of Irish shirts. Certainly better than most of what was to come over the 2000s and the future crest we like to call the “modern marketing abomination“.

***

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:

*****

 

Champagne Kit Campaigns #4: Ireland 1992/1993, World Cup 94 Qualifiers

After looking at the unique and interesting style in which both Norway and Russia successfully managed to qualify for World Cup 1994 (with Netherlands 1978 in between), as promised we once again return to the early 90s for our latest Champagne Kit Campaign project. This time it’s the turn of the Irish Republic, making it an unintentional four in a row of teams who wore Adidas in this series (albeit briefly in the case of Russia, which was an anything-but-brief installment).

Background:

Since the late 70s Ireland had worn three stripes on their kits, but unlike much of Europe it was not the coveted three stripes of Adidas. Well, it basically was, but not produced by them. Domestic brand O’Neills had taken over production of the Irish kits in 1976 and flagrantly used the sleeve design – also adding it to the collar and cuffs – for the national team shirt, as well as their club and Gealic games kits (and would expand to taking inspiration from other styles in the future). A legal battle eventually declared that O’Neills would actually be allowed to continue using the three stripes – in Ireland only.


Ireland in three striped kits of the O'Neills variety, vs France, World Cup qualifier, 14/10/1981.

Although some of the shirts became legendary in their own right, it did sort of feel like an Adidas rip-off, while the neighbours from the North had been wearing the “real thing” since 1977. But in 1986 Ireland too switched to Adidas, finally giving “legitimate stripes” to the country.

Unlike some of their other kits, the new kit partners never attempted to replicate O’Neills’ practice of often adding the tertiary colour to the middle stripe (at least on a shirt) and a French/Belgian flag-stripe layout also never materialised. But the simple green and white style perhaps suited the colourway more, as during Adidas’ reign bold orange trim replaced the more understated yellow/gold of O’Neills and was soon represented on the collar, crest and cuffs instead.


Ireland's Adidas shirt that added orange to the white collar and cuff trim, seen at Euro 88, vs England, 12/06/1988.

In late 1991, the crest was updated from the “green shamrock in an orange ring” (originally introduced briefly on an O’Neills Irish jersey in the 70s) to a half green/half orange circle containing a small shamrock and FAI text, divided by the white trails of a shooting ball. While the crest had been “upgraded” rather needlessly (although not as needless as the “modern marketing” crest change to come in 2004), the rest of the kit used in the 1990 World Cup and into 91 remained mostly unchanged when Ireland debuted the new badge away to Turkey in November.




Above, Ireland crest 1977/1987-1991; Below, Ireland crest 1991-2004.

After successfully making it to Euro 88 and World Cup 90, failure in the following European qualification system meant participation in the inaugural US Cup in 1992 instead – essentially a friendly tournament. But this foreshadowed the next task at hand: qualification for the 1994 World Cup, also to be held on American soil.

*

Ireland, 1994 FIFA World Cup Qualification

Despite not making it to the Euros, Ireland had been undefeated in the qualifying campaign and were seeded in pool 2 for the World Cup draw in December 91. But with a whopper 7 teams in their eventual Group 3 (with two qualifying spots up for grabs), a difficult and diverse path lay ahead as drawn along side them were:
Spain from pool 1, who were rivals from the previous World Cup qualifiers; soon to be European Champions Denmark from pool 3; Northern Ireland from pool 4, with whom there was still high political tension and again a repeat opponent of the 90 edition; and the recently post-communist states of Lithuania, Latvia and Albania, who were all experiencing their own challenging times.

**For more information on how the collapse of communism in Europe effected these qualifiers, click here for Politics On The Pitch #1**

UEFA Qualifying Group 3:

Spain
Republic of Ireland
Denmark
Northern Ireland
Lithuania
Latvia
Albania

Match 1, home to Albania , 26/05/1992:

Before the 1992 European Championships had even started, Ireland’s World Cup qualifiers began with the arrival of Albania for the first ever meeting between the two countries. The visitors had already kicked-off the group away to Spain the previous month in a game that saw the home side debut it’s new Adidas Equipment template (complete with new “pyramid”/triangular Adidas logo), while Albania wore a virtually plain all-white strip.

As Ireland were of course also with Adidas, maybe it was expected that they too would debut a new kit (although to be fair Spain had just switched over from Le Coq Sportif). But as had been the case in friendlies earlier in the year against Wales, Switzerland and USA, the new crest sat across from a trefoil once again on the bespoke “shadow-chevron” green jersey, with it’s white v-neck and orange trim. Unlike the 1988/89 edition, the sleeves were cuff-less when short on this shirt, although the white and orange was applied to the cuffs of long-sleeved versions used in 90/91. The top was accompanied by the usual white shorts and green socks, with three stripes applied to all:

On the back was in fact the first part of the shirt that had evolved since World Cup 90, in the number font. The new Adidas style, featuring three diagonal stripes in the top corner rather than striped numbers themselves, had debuted away to England in March 91 (pic below), hinting at what was to come of the over-all layout later:

From the above graphic can be seen the Irish crest, as well as it’s Albanian equivalent. At first glance the latter’s “planet and star(?)” theme appears to be just some 80s stock image that a TV person had found, but the Albanian FA had long used something similar – a ball with a scroll around it rather than a planet – so an official, hastily produced rendering seems the most likely source.

More important than a TV graphic was what the Albanian team themselves were wearing. Following the collapse of the previous regime in 1991, the traditionally poor country was experiencing one of many periods of turmoil in it’s history, and as a result the national team had not traveled with a kit or training equipment (including balls). In a situation you can read more about here, with MuseumOfJerseys.com’s piece on the topic, a deal was made in which money was donated and a Cork sports gear factory – producing Adidas-licensed apparel at the time – stepped up to make a set of kits the day before the game.

It was not the first time that domestic upheaval had effected Albania’s international football, as they had taken a long hiatus from competition in the 70s. Now with a new tentatively-democratic system, an updated crest (separate to the one discussed above) had been created by Albanian government decree 11 days earlier and was faxed over to Ireland to be included on the jerseys the day before the game. The template of the shirt itself was the same “Equipment style”, with three bars over each shoulder, that Albania had just come up against when playing Spain, in which their own plain white kit (along with some similar financial help from the Spanish FA) was seemingly a result of the same situation:

Albania’s shorts and socks featured trefoils, mish-mashing the kit in terms of Adidas motif-generations. But the unusual scenario had a occurred where one of Europe’s weakest sides had ended up in a more up-to-date shirt than their superior quality hosts, at the hosts’ own cost:

Ireland weren’t the only nation in this UEFA qualifying system to still use an “old” Adidas style, as another collapsing state in Czechoslovakia failed to progress to the Equipment line for the rest of their existence, while Portugal, Norway and the Faroe Islands all played in similar shirts to each other that featured a trefoil and stripes, although these were basically hybrid attempts which bridged the generations with the incorporation of joined shoulder bar “flashes”.

Either way, while Ireland won the match 2-0 it would turn out to be an even more historic occasion as the last time that three stripes would appear on an Irish jersey-sleeve in a competitive game to date:

Result: Ireland 2 – 0 Albania

US Cup, June 1992:

While aficionados of the US Cup (1992-2000) might be upset at us for not classing it as a competitive competition, the four team invitational was indeed the scene as Ireland once again used the same jersey that had debuted in it’s original form more than two years before, when taking on the hosts on May 30. But frontal numbers were required on players’ shirts at the tournament (the first time that they would be seen on an Irish shirt) and all-green/all-white home and away strips were also used against Italy and Portugal (not the first or last time for either, but rare), all of which combined with the new crest and updated number-style to make the two of the most surreal Irish kits of all time (again, check out what Museum of Jerseys had to say on the matter).


Ireland in all green wearing the rare sight of frontal shirt numbers along with a trefoil, vs Italy, US Cup, 04/06/1992.

It would be interesting to know if Ireland would have used the same outfits had they qualified for Euro 92, commencing three days after the US Cup ended (which also would have added player names on the back) or if they would have switched to the Equipment style sweeping across Europe, as the other qualified Adidas-contracted nations had done.

Either at football association or manufacturer level, it somehow seems that an upgrade may not have been considered quite as urgent for Ireland without a place at the premier international tournament of that summer, although with the new crest, back numbers, front numbers and colour-combos, everything else about the kit had been quietly evolving around it nevertheless. And the fact that they did not switch meant that the Irish shirt at the US Cup was one of the very few instances of an international jersey featuring both a trefoil and a frontal number (with the original example dating back to 1972 – again head to MOJ for our own story on that).

Match 2, home to Latvia , 09/09/1992:

The qualifying campaign resumed in the autumn as Ireland faced another first-time opponent in Latvia, but – unlike Albania who Ireland had merely avoided in previous draws – this was mostly because Latvia had been part of the USSR from 1944 to 1991. The Latvians were lucky to even make it into the draw, as only they and their fellow Baltic states Estonia and Lithuania had become independent early enough to be accepted by UEFA, with Russia later inheriting the Soviet Union’s place.

The big story on the pitch was that Ireland finally graduated to a new kit and for the first time wore an Adidas Equipment template, with it’s centralised, updated Adidas logo incorporated into the collar. While the likes of  France, Spain, CIS, Ghana, Azerbaijan, and, for at least one match as we have seen, Albania, used the version with basically a large divided triangle on each shoulder, Ireland entered the field that September day with three white diagonal bars coming over the right shoulder, corresponding to green bars on the opposite short leg – one of which pleasingly also contained the brand logo (reflecting the original plan for the shirt itself as seen on the Liverpool version from the season before):

This template was used in the period by the likes of BulgariaFinland Sweden (with a centralised crest), and domestically for the Irish Cork City. But it proved even more popular outside of Europe at international level, as shown by AustraliaCanada,  Japan, Nigeria (see the shorts and socks, “mashing” Adidas generations in the opposite way to Albania), SenegalZambia and the USA, who had worn it twice against Ireland already in 1992.

Unlike all of the above though, the Irish version was given the added feature of trim on the v-neck collar: white/green/orange, like an Irishified-Russian flag. At club level trim was used on the “dual-shoulder bar” shirt of Glasgow Rangers, as well as the “single-shoulder” Olympique de Marseille jersey, and was standard on the separate but related German style. But at international level, it appears that Ireland may have been the only side in either of the two main templates granted the honour of trim, demonstrating their standing at the time:

Using a slightly deeper green than the previous couple of editions and with subtle vertical shadow striping, it turned out that the Irish colourway was perfect for the template. The crest that debuted nearly a year earlier also at last looked in place, as well as the number style on the back. The collar trim was the icing on the cake, with the whole ensemble looking particularly classy.

In saying that, it is worth mentioning the reservations held by some at the application of what was basically enormous corporate branding across the sacred green jersey. But given the ever-evolving nature of football and football jerseys, and the purely objective style of the shirt, we are not too hung up about it.

Another thing separating the new design from it’s predecessors was that the shirt was made out of two main pieces of material for the front and back and sown along the top of the sleeves and down the sides, rather than separate pieces for each sleeve (a system still used on some other teams’ versions). A baggier style was replacing the tight fitting gear of the previous decade and the sowing technique had become a popular practice among kit makers in the early 90s, as can be seen on a jersey we Retro Shirt Reviewed (that we described as a Reebok equivalent to the same Irish jersey here).

Some players such as Tommy Coyne displayed the long sleeved version, showing that the cuffs were also green this time. And speaking of “long”, the shorts were considerably longer than the last kit also keeping with the universal football trends, although not at their maxium:

We mentioned earlier how the game against Albania was to be the last competitive setting in which three stripes (at least thin ones) would appear on an Irish jersey sleev. We specified the shirt rather than kit, as they continued to be used on the socks for this match. Liverpool in the same template were wearing socks with plain white turn-overs, which was presumably the intended design to match the kit, but the Swedens and Bulgarias of the world had also continued to use striped versions, seeming to indicate that it was simply a design choice left up to each club or country:

As Ireland romped to a 4-0 victory, it is worth mentioning the visitors who were using a crestless version of the multi-shaded geometric Umbro template also being employed by Northern Ireland at the time (their first since leaving Adidas in 1990). But unlike the North, Latvia’s shorts unusually featured an Umbro double diamond with no Umbro wordmark, a style that had been last been common in the 70s and wouldn’t be again until the 2000s.

Result: Ireland 4 – 0 Latvia

Match 3, away to Denmark , 14/10/1992:

Having gotten two of the less challenging home matches out of the way, Ireland were next due tough back-to-back aways in October and November against the other two top teams in the group. First up was Denmark, who had been the opponents in a 1985 qualifier when Ireland had last worn an O’Neills kit, featuring the short-lived shield-less shamrock crest.

Before the game the Irish squad informally surveyed the pitch in their delightful green and navy tracksuits with large white hoops on the arms. Continuing the theme of overlapping branding, a trefoil was the Adidas logo on the tracksuit rather than the “three diagonal bar triangle” (for want of a better name) on the kits:

Ireland’s last two visits to Copenhagen back in 78 and 84 had seen them face the red shirts of Denmark in away kits – white/white/white and white/green/white respectively (with the latter featuring superb green/yellow/green trim) – seemingly to accommodate black and white TV and those with green/red colorblindness. But it was not to be the debut of a new away kit here as Ireland emerged in a green shirt for the first time in Denmark since 1969, which has remained the only instance at the time of writing with two more repeats of the fixture to date:

Confirming the “colourblind clash”, the Danes were in the same Hummel home kit they had unexpectedly won the European Championships in four months earlier, minus the tournament mini-number on the front of course. To make matters slightly more concerning to the ultra-fastidious, like the right side of the Irish shirt there was a lot of white on the shoulders and the white shorts meant a clash in that department (as had been the case against Latvia), but the white Danish away socks were preferred to the regular red:

The Irish kit meanwhile had surprisingly evolved again slightly since the Latvia match, technically meaning three different kits in as many qualifying games. This time, the “old” Adidas stripes on the socks were joined on the lower part with the new Adidas triangle logo:

Adding to the fluidity of the kit, there was one player in an entirely different pair of socks: Terry Phelan. Phelan had a habit of tucking the tops of his stockings inside themselves for his clubs, but here for Ireland he appeared in socks featuring neither stripes nor Adidas logo. It would be nice to think of him as a sort of modern day Johan Cryuff, refusing to be chained by the commerciaised stripes of Adidas (ignoring the massive ones on his shirt and shorts of course), but apparently it was relating to calf muscle problems which required a looser sock:

Ireland managed to keep the score at 0-0, proving they may well have been adequate contenders for the Euros had they managed to get there, with Denmark having only been granted a place due to the banishment of Yugoslavia. The large traveling support, as well as such players as goalkeeper Pat Bonner in an exchanged Dnaish jersey, celebrated the hard-earned point like a win:

Result: Denmark 0-0 Ireland

Match 4, away to Spain , 18/11/1992:

Before the next match with Spain in Seville, John Aldridge’s time at Real Sociedad provided the opportunity for him to give an interview in Mersey-flavoured Spanish, which in turn provides us with a closer look at the trefoil tracksuit top:

For the fourth group game in a row Ireland were up against a team on the red-spectrum (a bit of a stretch for the Latvia jersey, but still, it would clash with a red-clad team). But for the first time in this campaign, the same kit was used on two consecutive occasions as the sock variation seen against Denmark was retained (except of course by Phelan) :

Unlike with Danish games, here there had never been a shorts clash due to the home sides beautiful blue hallmark, which pretty much negated the colourblind issue and prevented Ireland ever needing to use an away kit in Spain:

While Spain had started the campaign ahead of Ireland in terms of up-to-date kit fashion, the Irish had actually surpassed Spain by this point thanks to the goalkeepers. Zubizarreta in nets for the home side was wearing a template which had been seen as early as the previous World Cup:

But as in the last two games, Bonner at the other end was in a new Equipment template seen below, which we will come back to look at later. After a disallowed Aldridge goal for a questionable off-side, Ireland held on to another well deserved draw, closing out the year undefeated and with four clean sheets. Having swapped with Schmeichel in Denmark, Bonner held on to his jersey this time – unlike the Spanish shirt-wearing Niall Quinn beside him:

Result: Spain 0 – 0 Ireland

Match 5, Ireland vs Northern Ireland , 31/03/1993:

After a February warm-up friendly against Wales in Tolka Park, Ireland next welcomed their co-habitual island cousins from the North, who at one time undoubtedly held the grander achievements of the two with World Cup appearances in 1956, 82 and 86, before the Republic had made it to any tournament at all. But with Ireland’s progression to two of the last three major competitions and some impressive results therein, as well as a 3-0 home victory the last time the fixture was held in October 1989, things had definitely shifted.

By this time Northern Ireland had switched from the style employed by Latvia to a newer, large-collared template, but of course could not wear their first choice green in Dublin. As with the previous generation, navy hearkening back to the original Ireland (UK) shirts was the theme of their away kit used here, with green-bordered white vertical stripes combing to create a pajama-like effect:

On their way to a repeat of the 1989 result, including a Steve Staunton goal scored directly from a corner (his second in less that 12 months for Ireland having accomplished the same feat at the US Cup), incredibly the home side’s kit continued to change, and again it was the socks. Although it would turn out that stripes would return later, now at last the same style used by Liverpool was introduced with plain white turn-overs. The one difference in design was that the lower section was also plain, where a crest appeared on the Liverpool version:

Once again though, uniformity was not archived due to the presence of Phelan. His own trim-less socks were also conspicuous by the fact that they at least appeared to be a slightly different shade of green:

Result: Ireland 3 – 0 Northern Ireland

Match 6, Ireland vs Denmark , 28/04/1993:

With five games gone and no goals yet conceded, the following month saw the return of the Danes to try and dirty Ireland’s clean sheet record going in to the half-way point of the campaign. Unsurprisingly, the first choice shirt was retained by the hosts:

Ireland also took to the field again wearing the new socks seen against Northern Ireland, confirming their place as a permanent fixture, while this time a lack of Terry Phelan in the squad meant that it was finally the first instance of the kit was being worn correctly by all players. Unlike in Copenhagen, here the visitors did wear an alternate strip as white shirts and red shorts replaced red and white respectively, with the white socks seen before remaining as part of it’s intended ensemble:

Ireland did at last concede a goal, but equalised to give both teams a share of the points. With six games completed and six to go, the result left the Irish still outside the two qualification places despite their unbeaten record, serving as a reminder of the “undefeated failure” of European qualification. Even though Ireland did have two and three games in hand over Spain and Denmark, and with the two toughest away games on paper already satisfactorily navigated, three potentially-tricky trips to the “unknown” east were yet to come, with a date in Northern Ireland’s intimidating and grim Windsor Park looming on the last match day in November.

Result: Ireland 1 – 1 Denmark

Match 7, away to Albania , 26/05/1993:

A year to the day after Albania had worn donated kits in Ireland’s first group game, the return fixture was to take place in Tirana. As a brief aside on the south Balkan side, thankfully by this stage the Albanians had nailed down permanent gear for themselves and were wearing a tidy Umbro strip with white trim, as pictured below from their away game against Northern Ireland in 1992:

But while not the style used back in Dublin, one Adidas artifact had actually remained for Albania through the goalkeeper, who in early 1993 (seen below away to Lithuania in April) was for some reason using the same Adidas template as Ireland’s goalkeeper tops:

Although the use of a mismatched-manufactured goalie jersey was not uncommon at the time, it may have been an indication that all was still not perfect in the Albanian camp. This would be confirmed as the need for a change strip at the following month’s visit to Denmark saw the unnatural use of a basic all-blue and white Hummel kit – clearly a donation from their hosts with whom the brand is most associated (perhaps as any white and red away kit, if they indeed owned one at this point, might have clashed too much with the Danes’ red and white):

Albania would later finish out the group wearing Uhlsport, amazingly giving them a least 4-5 different brands worn throughout qualifying. But getting back to the visit of Ireland, the all-red Umbro kit was worn and a new non-Umbro/Adidas goalkeeper kit was also in use:

Surprisingly, the home side became the second team to score against Ireland by taking the lead. But the boys in green (and a lot of white) came back to score twice, keeping their qualification hopes alive in an amazingly archaic stadium that featured steep concrete terracing surrounding much of the pitch:

Result: Albania 1-2 Ireland

David O’Leary Testimonial, May 1993:

With so many teams in Ireland’s group, there was little time or need for friendly matches, apart from the low-key affair against the Welsh. Three days after playing in Albania though, there would be a game that would be considered a friendly for a least one team involved. The occasion was veteran defender David O’Leary’s testimonial match, in which an Irish selection was to take on Hungary in Dublin.

But due to some sort of misunderstanding, FIFA and Hungary were under the impression that the game was a full international and the Hungarian players who played were awarded full caps that stand to this day (thanks to kit collector and expert Barry Rojack for this information). For the Irish, as with all their testimonial sides, shirts baring the Opel logo that appeared on replica versions were used, creating a new unique club-like feel and giving us another rare example of a sponsor being used in a (half) international game.


The Opel wearing Ireland XI celebrate going 1-0 up after 10 seconds, David O'Leary testimonial, vs Hungary, 29/05/1993.

Considering which club side was using the same template with the same sponsor at the same time, we would like to call this the “Bireland Munich” jersey. The appearance of players like Phil Babb in the game, who would not earn full caps while the Equipment shirt was being worn, also added to the other-worldly effect. Despite the Irish XI going  2-0 up, including a goal after just ten seconds from Roy Keane, Hungary came back to score four in the second half and take the win, at which their commentator was naturally very excited.


Phil Babb in action for the Irish XI the year before making his full debut, in a shirt he would never play in at senior level, David O'Leary testimonial, 29/09/1993.

Match 8, away to Latvia , 09/06/1993:

To the untrained eye, Ireland’s first trip to Riga may have appeared to have been an exact kit-match of their previous meeting in September 1992. Of course because of Ireland’s updated socks this wasn’t the case, but it was not the only reason. The hosts too had slightly altered their strip, as a crest was now applied to the shirt and opposite short leg, and the double diamond on the shorts now had it’s Umbro wordmark:

Another two goals and a return to a clean-sheet meant that the first half of Ireland’s Baltic mission had been successfully completed.

Result: Latvia 0-2 Ireland

Match 9, away to Lithuania , 16/06/1993:

A week after the Latvia win, Ireland were in Vilnius for the last game of the summer to take on their one remaining opponent in the group, again for the first time ever. Lithuania had perhaps been the strongest of the three weaker sides so far, with draws against Denmark and Northern Ireland, and wins over Albania and Latvia.

The still relatively new host nation, who used an Umbro template featuring a black zig-zagging line, had apparently yet to settle on first choice kit colours, as orange shirts and green shorts were used at home and away to Spain, but with an all-green strip preferred when playing Albania and Denmark. Seemingly, with Ireland’s famous green jersey in mind, orange shirts were kindly chosen here to allow the visitors to continue using their own regular home kit:

Similarly to how the Irish away shirts worn previously in Denmark were apparently no longer required, here it seemed that compared to days gone by (check out our reviews of Bulgaria vs West Germany, 1984, and Bulgaria vs Ireland, 1977) rules on less-obvious clashes had been relaxed. But with the amount of green on show from both sides, as well as both teams’ kits blending in with with the green, white and orange of the ever-present Irish away support’s banners around the ground, the unplanned use of an all-white away kit in the spirit of the US Cup may have actually been the best option for the visitors:

Any perceived visual difficulty was rendered irrelevant though, as a single goal was enough to give Ireland another two points (as three points for a win had yet to be introduced). The tricky summer tour of the east was over.

Result: Lithuania 0-1 Ireland

Match 10, home to Lithuania , 08/09/1993:

Going into the crucial last stretch of games, it was the Lithuanians again next in Dublin. Here we will once more refer to Museum of Jerseys’ feature linked to earlier, as a similar situation arose to that of the Albania game the previous year.

The visitors proved that who ever was in charge of their kits had perhaps merely chosen orange by pure luck last time, and in fact didn’t have a clue what Ireland would be wearing as here Lithuania arrived with only their green strip. As the idea of Ireland reverting to a charge kit was obviously out of the question, a set of white Adidas trefoil jerseys with green v-neck trim was loaned to the former Soviet republic, accompanied by black shorts and matching white and green socks:

It was actually quite a nice look, even though the only player still wearing the red badge of Lithuania was the goalkeeper. But unlike Albania in Dublin – who had basically been able to create a unique version of their home strip with the correct colours and badge – this was a second instance in the group after Albania’s other blue-strip situation in Denmark of a hastily arranged, completely made-up kit.

The situation was quite ironic after Ireland had nearly had done the exact same thing in the previous game, had the Lithuanians decided to use green as a home shirt colour that day. Instead, Ireland’s Lansdowne Road stadium had once again witnessed a game in this campaign between two sides wearing different generations of Adidas templates – now with the roles reversed in terms of the Irish being the more up to date side – and unlike the Albania game it was also a long shorts vs short shorts affair.

A comfortable 2-0 win completed an important five wins a row for Ireland, with a sterner test against Spain coming up next. The excellent form brought top spot in the Group, although both the Danes and the Spanish had a game in hand.

Result: Ireland 2-0 Lithuania

Match 11, at home to Spain , 13/10/1993:

Before the game against Spain, who had last succumbed to a 1-0 defeat in Dublin in 1989, Ireland wore tracksuit tops-come-anthem tops that were similar to those shown earlier before the Denmark game. There was one major difference though, as a simple Adidas wordmark had replaced the trefoil, again foreshadowing what was to come on the actual shirts the following  year.

The traditional green/white/green strip of Ireland and the red/blue/black of Spain seemed to combine to create quite a delightful aesthetic when the two teams would play. This was amplified with the addition of the large amounts of white and yellow respectively on the Adidas Equipment templates of both teams used here:

The only difference in the kits to the previous meeting was the updated Irish socks. But there was one Irish player who was in the exact same attire thanks to his individual preference, as Terry Phelan had continued his sock-switching practice after returning to the team in the summer:

Through substitutions could be seen another of the Irish teams jackets (along with the ever pleasing UEFA official tracksuit style of the 90s) featuring another new Adidas theme of three large vertical stripes. This had yet to appear on a shirt, but something not far off was also in the pipeline:

As promised, below we get  a better luck at Pat Bonner, with a humorous banner hung on the fence behind him. In our opinion the selected colourway of yellow, black and green could not have been better for an Irish goalkeeper jersey in the template:

Despite the beautiful jersey, the home crowd were shocked as the Celtic stopper was powerless to prevent Spain going 3-0 up within half an hour, making a mockery of the aforementioned banner. Having also at last switched to a newer style, Zubizarreta at the other end was interestingly now wearing a goalkeeper version of the Ireland outfield template in grey tones:

John Sheridan pulled one back for Ireland in the second half, but cap-wearing English manager Jack Charlton and his bench looked on concerned (yet stylish) as qualification was now far from guaranteed going in to the last-day showdown with the North. Furthermore, and perhaps even more depressing to Big Jack, it was the last time Ireland would play in the home Adidas Equipment shirt:

Result: Ireland 1-3 Spain

Match 12, away to Northern Ireland , 17/11/1992:

Having been defeated 1-0 away to Denmark on the same day Ireland lost to Spain, Northern Ireland were mathematically out of the running to qualify by the time the last round of fixtures came around. But the next best thing would clearly be to eliminate the Republic in Windsor Park.

The wins over the two Irish sides for the Danes and Spanish in October had left Denmark in top spot with 18 points, while Spain and Ireland behind them on 17 points each were separated only by the Spaniards’ superior goal difference. But Spain and Denmark were also playing each other on the last day, meaning points would be dropped somewhere, and this left the North needing a win in order to definitively block Ireland’s progress.

As Northern Ireland was largely supported by those who fell on the “British loyalist” side in the region’s decades long conflict (as opposed to ethnic Irish nationalists desiring an independent reunification of the island, who would have been more likely to identify with the Republic’s team), the Irish national anthem was roundly booed before the match. With the yellow lights of a dark and moody Belfast setting the backdrop, given the tense atmosphere it may not have been wise to have sang along anyway, as due to security risks only a handful of away fans had made the journey “up the road.”

One thing that couldn’t be booed by anyone though was more new “anthem tops” being worn by Ireland. First, during the warm-up older green sweatshirts had actually been used that featured a trefoil and a “logo-less” Opel sponsor, which would have appeared to have been a remnant of the squads’ World Cup 90 line if it wasn’t for the updated crest:

Then when the two teams properly emerged, a spiffing new over-garment was on show; this time featuring a lot of black and the addition of orange to the trim:

Meanwhile at the dugout the older navy themed jackets were still around, including at least one trefoil being worn by physio Mick Byrne, while the UEFA official nonchalantly assumed style-icon status near by:

Besides the politics the most important thing by far was the kits, as with Northern Ireland back in their green/white/green home strip it was finally time to see the away version of Ireland’s Adidas Equipment kit. It was nearly a straight reversal of the home version, apart from the fact that the collar trim was now green/white/orange rather than white/green/orange, and the shade of green used seemed brighter compared to the home strip – at least under Windsor’s lights:

Of course the main issue was that the green/white/green vs white/green/white match-up had created an overall clash, as elements of both teams kits blurred together at a glance. As we have mentioned earlier, any guidelines on avoiding such clashes were not being enforced at the time. But we love Museum of Jersey’s idea that had the referee deemed the Irish kit unsuitable, a theoretical Irish orange third kit (conceived by ourselves) would have been a hilariously apt replacement considering the setting:

At half-time during the Irish broadcast, an interesting advertisement for Mars was shown (followed by an even better commercial promoting Street Fight 2 Turbo for the Super Nintendo, staring Rik Mayall) in which a fictional (and headless) Irish team prepared for a match wearing the 88/89 home kit, minus a trefoil on the shirt:

An Adidas sports bag is visible at one point though – despite earlier having been edited to appear blank – followed swiftly by a close up of a Puma boot, and later a trefoil does actually sneak in for a split second. While the players are getting ready, “fans” can be seen eagerly entering the “stadium” with one amazingly wearing the 1987 Irish shirt which had not yet featured orange trim on the cuffs or collar:

As the team emerges (still on the ad here) and the fake crowd erupts into ecstasy, an unusual Irish crest unused on an actual shirt is also shown, with the words “Football Association” appearing instead of their initials as in the original “FA Ireland” version:

After the break in the actual match, Northern Ireland’s manager Billy Bingham confidentially swaggered out from the dressing rooms and gestured to the crowd in an attempt to rile up the home support even more.  Underneath his large black and green Umbro coat was an eye catching purple tracksuit top, with quintessentially intricate 90s patterning and IFA insignia:

The fact that the top was not covered up by the coat indicates that the November evening can’t have been too cold. This was confirmed on the pitch as many players used short sleeve jerseys, but the likes of Aldridge and Alan Kernaghan (the latter having represented Northern Ireland as a schoolboy) played their part for Ireland by modeling the long-sleeved version of the debut shirt. And speaking of personal preferences, at last Terry Phelan fell in line by wearing the same socks as the rest of the team, but, true to form, with as little of the green trim showing as humanly possible:

Later, news came in that Spain had gone 1-0 up against Denmark, inserting them into first position and dropping the Danes behind Ireland on goal difference as things stood. This had come despite an early sending off for Zubizarreta. Meanwhile, his Irish counterpart Bonner – who had also surprisingly also been sent off the previous year in the US Cup – was distinguished from his team mates in being able to retain his yellow and black home strip, which contained white trim on the socks à la the 1990 kit:

To the visceral delight of the crowd, on 74 mins Northern Ireland went 1-0 up meaning their opponents were once again outside the qualification positions. But the shock was equally palpable just four minutes later as substitute Alan McLoughlin scored the equaliser, and the accompanying audible reaction of the small away contingent displayed an understandable loss of any earlier sense of caution:

That was how things would stay until the end, when the RTE broadcast switched over to the dying stages of the Spain vs Denmark game as the reigning European Champions desperately sought a goal. It was a nervy few minutes for Ireland, as had Denmark succeeded in scoring, the point gained would have secured top spot while Spain’s goal difference would ensure they still beat Ireland to second place.

There was no need to worry though as the Spanish held on, meaning Ireland and Denmark both finished on 18 points with a goal difference of +13, but Ireland’s “goals for” tally of 19 – compared to the Dane’s 15 – just about gave them the edge. The group seeding had turned out to be spot on, as it ended in  the exact same order it was drawn; Denmark were out, and the Republic of Ireland had officially qualified for their second consecutive World Cup.

Among the scenes on the pitch back in Belfast, the goal scorer McLaughlin passionately embraced Bonner, who had turned out to be the only man in the Irish squad to have played in the exact same kit in every game since the old kit used all those months before against Albania:

This fact meant that the alternate goalkeeper top – if one had even been prepared – never saw the light of day. But at last the outfield away had made what would turn out to be it’s one and only appearance, as new strips were introduced the following  year in the lead up to the World Cup. Given the significance of the game in which it was worn, as well as the iconic design and our particular fondness of away gear as well as this particular template, we give it the nod as the greatest “one-off” Irish jersey and kit of all time.

 Result: Northern Ireland 1-1 Ireland

IRELAND QUALIFY FOR WORLD CUP 1994 

Breakdown
Team: Republic of Ireland 
Years: 1992, 1993
Competition: World Cup 94 qualifiers
Kit Supplier: Adidas
Competitive Games: 12
Kit Colour Combinations: 2
Kit Technical Combinations: 5

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Youtube Links:

Ireland vs France, 1981
Ireland vs England, 1988
England vs Ireland, 1991
Ireland vs Albania, 1992
Ireland vs Italy, 1992
Ireland vs Latvia, 1992
Denmark vs Ireland, 1992
Denmark vs Ireland, 1992
Spain vs Ireland, 1992
Spain vs Ireland, 1992
Ireland vs Northern Ireland, 1993
Ireland vs Denmark, 1993
Albania vs Ireland, 1993
Northern Ireland vs Albania, 1992
Denmark vs Albania, 1993
Ireland vs Hungary, 1993
Latvia vs Ireland, 1993
Lithuania vs Ireland, 1993
Ireland vs Lithuania, 1993
Ireland vs Spain, 1993
Ireland vs Spain, 1993
Northern Ireland vs Ireland, 1991
Northern Ireland vs Ireland, 1991

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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.

  • 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.

*

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

*****

Politics On The Pitch #3: World Cup 1950 Qualifying

To be honest, the following episode of Politics On The Pitch was originally intended as a Football Special Report. But as politics, war, and global history are so intertwined in the 1950 World Cup qualifiers, it seemed more than appropriate to transfer the post to Politics On The Pitch. One of the main tenants of this time was the inability of many teams to actually travel to the World Cup in Brazil, whether they had qualified of not. This was of course in large part due to the proximity of the World War 2, who’s shadow from 5 years before still loomed large and had left many nations in poverty.

Background:

One of the great things about mid-20th century tournaments was the random stuff like extra unscheduled play-off games as tie breakers; groups of four instead of a final game; and coin-tosses to decide things. But the first three FIFA World Cups were actually fairly straight forward affairs: four groups of 3 with the winners progressing to the semi-finals in 1930, and straight knock-out tournaments of 16 teams in ’34 and ’38 (eventually 15 in the latter after the the withdrawal of Austria due to the “Anschluss” with Germany).

Thankfully, the introduction of World Cup qualifiers for the ’34 edition onwards did provide some classic old-school chaos. As this was in the days before regional federations such as UEFA, all potential World Cup candidates were divided into 12 groups based on location. The pre-WW2 system was marked by:

  • The frequent withdrawal of participating nations.
  • Groups of mostly two or three teams, arranged by region rather than drawn.
  • Host nation Italy forced to qualify for their own tournament in 1934.
  • Automatic ’34 qualification for Czechoslovakia from a group of two as a result the Polish government’s denial of visas for their own team to travel.
  • ’38 qualifiers Group 1 containing four teams while the rest contained two or three.
  • The abandonment of games if teams had already mathematically qualified/could not qualify.
  • No British teams, who were currently on boycott of FIFA.
  • Egypt being the only African nation competing in either campaign, as most were not yet independent.
  • Participation of historical states such as pre-Soviet Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, the Irish Free State, the Second Spanish Republic (withdrawn by the ’38 qualifiers due to the Spanish Civil War), Palestine-British Mandate (made of Jewish and British players), Dutch Guiana and Dutch East Indies.

For no apparent reason, FIFA decided to take a break for the next two would-be tournaments. But with the World Cup set to return in 1950, new qualifiers were scheduled for ’49 and ’50. Some big countries would compete for the first time, while others disappeared. A world which had been ravaged and changed by World War 2 (economically and politically if not physically and emotionally) was entering a new era, and so with it came a new era for the tournament, and more importantly for us, it’s preliminary rounds.

***

The 1950 World Cup Qualifiers

Info:

  • The 12-Group system of the pre-WW2 years was reduced to 10.

  • Groups 1-6 were to be of (mostly) European composition, with Groups 7-9 for the Americas and Group 10 for Asia.

  • Groups were arranged roughly by region, not drawn, with mostly different qualifying rules for each.

  • Two points were awarded for a victory rather than three.

  • 14 qualifying spots were available, with both Brazil (upcoming hosts) and Italy (champions in 1938) qualifying automatically to make 16.

  • West Germany, East Germay and Japan – still occupied after World War 2 – were not permitted to take part.

  • Eastern Block states such Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Hungary refused to take part.

  • No African teams were participating; the only currently independent African states were Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Liberia.

  • Other notable countries to not take part included Canada, Australia, New Zealand and China.

  • The first game of qualifying (Sweden vs Ireland) was played on 02/06/1949, and the last game (Scotland vs England) on 15/04/1950, just over two months before the World Cup kicked-off.

*

Group 1

England
Scotland
Wales
Ireland-UK

***For the purposes of continuity, we shall refer to the team now known as Northern Ireland as “Ireland-UK”, but at the time of 1950 qualifiers it was just “Ireland”. We will come back to this later, but for some in-depth information regarding why, check back to the Northern Ireland section of Politics On The Pitch #2.***

This campaign was the first that saw the appearance of the the UK sides in FIFA competition. All had been members of FIFA since near the beginning of the century (England-1905, Scotland and Wales-1910, Ireland-UK-1911), but tension was already evident following a brief period of withdrawal (1920-1924) in protest at the continued inclusion of the Central Powers following World War 1.

A “permanent” split from FIFA was to come for the four federations in 1928, as a result of the new FIFA law requiring football associations to pay compensation to their athletes who played at the upcoming Olympics football tournament. But time heals all wounds, rules change and stubborn people die. Some combination of these meant that the UK nations rejoined FIFA in 1946, perhaps now craving more global competition in the absence of the recently completed World War 2.

Two qualification spots were up for grabs, and since the groups weren’t randomly selected, Group 1 could also double as the 1949/50 British Home Nations tournament; an ingenious practice that would return for the 1954 qualifiers. The combination was dropped following the introduction of non-local qualifying groups for 1958, but it was delightfully revived for Euro 1968 when that competition went to a group based qualification system, incorporating both the 66/67 and 67/68 Home Nations tournaments.

With each team to play each other once, Ireland-UK vs Scotland kicked off the group in Belfast on October 1st with a classic old school scoreline of 2-8 to the visitors. This would have been the highest scoring game in the entire global qualifiers, except for the fact that England then beat Ireland-UK 9-2 at home the following month on front of nearly 70,000 fans in Manchester. Crowd shots displayed the alarmingly dangerous density of the audience, doubtless desperate for any entertainment in this post-War rebuilding era.


Disturbingly packed terrace at Maine Road for England vs Ireland-UK, November 1949.

As Wales didn’t fare much better than Ireland-UK – only scoring one goal in their three games – England traveled to Scotland on April 15th, 1950 with both sides assured of qualification following two wins each,  but with top-spot and the Home Nations championship yet to decide. A nauseating 133,300 spectators compressed into Glasgow’s Hampden Park, with footage showing one of (presumably) many fans who had to be stretchered away from the crush. Men in traditional dress playing saxophones, along with dancing girls (reminiscent of a Nazi Youth rally) also entertained the masses.


One fan is stretched away from the Hampden crush at Scotland vs England, April 1950..

Pre-match entertainment.

A 1-0 away win secured the honours for England, now destined for their first ever World Cup appearance. Scotland in the second qualifying position could have joined them, but declined the opportunity, apparently as they had vowed only to travel if they had won the Home Nations. As we shall see, it would be a reoccurring theme.

ENGLAND QUALIFY

***

Group 2

Turkey
Syria
Austria

Now you can see why we said Groups 1-6 were “mostly” European, as here we have what is basically the Middle Eastern qualifying section, plus Austria of course. The rules of this group, as well as Groups 3 and 4, were that the lesser two sides would play each other home and away in a First Round, before the winner would play the seeded team in the same way with a qualifying spot up for grabs.

Both Turkey and Syria were competing for the first time. Turkey had been set to take part in the 1934 qualifiers in Group 12, along with Egypt and Palestine-British Mandate, but had withdrawn before playing a game. Syria, meanwhile, had itself been a French Mandate until 1946 and were set to play their debut match as an independent state in the qualifiers.

In the first of many vintage Cold War black-ops moves, an American led military coup had overthrown the democratically elected Syrian government in  March, 1949. But eight months later, the country’s new authoritarian overlords will have been disappointed as their nation’s footballing representatives slumped to a 7-0 debut defeat at the hands of their Turkish neighbours to the north. Perhaps because the result was now a foregone conclusion – or due to the utter shame doubtlessly emanating from the generals – Syria withdrew before the return leg could be played, leaving Turkey to advance.


Players and officials at the end of Turkey's 7-0 defeat of Syria.

Turkey and Austria shared a history of their own, as the Ottoman Turks had been at the gates of Vienna more than once in the post-Middle Ages. This was probably not on the mind’s of their country’s footballers hundreds of years later, but even still the Austrians also withdrew before the games could be played.

Turkey thus qualified automatically for their first World Cup. Or that is they would have, if not for the fact that they TOO then withdraw. The Syrians were no doubt asking why the Turks couldn’t have just done this in the first place before humiliating them out of the competition.

NO QUALIFIER

***

Group 3

Yugoslavia
Israel
France

Here we have a group that doesn’t even pretend to be geographically logical, but would actually perhaps look like the beginning of a modern UEFA qualifying group if not for the fact that Yugoslavia doesn’t exist any more. France were World Cup veterans having competed at all three previous tournaments, with Yugoslavia also making an appearance as one of the few other European representatives at Uruguay 1930, and now becoming the first Socialist state in the continent to take part.

Like Syria, Israel was a newly sovereign post-WW2 nation having been created in 1948. The Israeli  national team debuted against the USA later that year, but can trace it’s footballing lineage back to the aforementioned Palestine-British Mandate who competed in the ’34 and ’38 qualifiers. Like in later years, it maybe made more sense not to place the Irealis in a group with some of their more hostile neighbors, with this perhaps explaining why Austria were in Group 2 instead of this group, and vice-versa for Israel.

The first round took place over August and September, 1949, and the obvious gulf in quality seen in Group 1 and 2 continued as Yugoslavia beat Israel 6-0 in Belgrade and 5-2 in Tel-Aviv. The Yugoslav’s following games against France in October would prove more evenly balanced as both games ended 1-1, and since this was not a modern two-legged affair (sensible tie-breaking mini-games such as extra-time and penalties were distant future dreams at this point, and players in the ’40s would have undoubtedly been too unfit to play another half an hour anyway), the only solution was for the two sides to play each other yet again in a play-off on neutral ground.


Unique stadium, Israel vs Yugoslavia.

Italian news reel reviewing France vs Yugoslavia with crowd in the background.

The deciding game took place in Florence in December, with Yugoslavia finally running out 3-2 winners and qualifying for their second World Cup. Classically, after all that, France were also offered a place in the finals but declined, rendering the previous 270 minutes of football utterly pointless.

YUGOSLAVIA QUALIFY

***

Group 4

Switzerland
Luxembourg
Belgium

Group 4 makes a little more sense geographically speaking, with the epic clash of central-west Europe’s richest, smallest, neutralist countries with long names in the first round. Compared to Groups 1-3 we finally get a bit of normality here, as all three countries had existed for some time before the qualifiers and would continue to exist to the present day.

On the pitch there was nothing too surprising either, as the Swiss picked up a 5-2 result at home in Zurich in June, 1949. Their advancement was sealed with a 3-2 win in Luxembourg, capital city of Luxembourg, in October. A nice, solid and dependable group so far, very relaxing compared to earlier. I have a good feeling that nothing can possibly go wrong.

But of course things would not be complete without a good-old withdrawal, and we get just that before another ball can be touched. Belgium had taken part in the first three World Cups, but the streak was broken through this self-imposed expulsion, graciously leaving Switzerland to qualify for their third successive tournament.

SWITZERLAND QUALIFY

***

Group 5

Sweden
Ireland
Finland

Group 5 was set to be a refreshingly straight-forward affair, comprising of a straight round robin of home and away matches between the three teams and the resulting top side qualifying for the World Cup. While Norway had competed in the 1938 qualifiers, there was no sign of them here, leaving Ireland to take what presumably would have been their spot in the token Nordic group (Denmark and Iceland had yet to take part).

“But wait” you exclaim, “another Ireland!?” Yes, here we have our second Ireland of the qualifying system. Of course this team is now referred to as the Republic of Ireland, but at this stage they were just known as “Ireland”, same as Ireland-UK  from Group 1. Ireland-UK – as the successor team of the “original Ireland” that had competed while Ireland was still fully under British rule – were still calling themselves “Ireland”, and in-fact selected players from all over the island, despite only claiming league jurisdiction over Northern Ireland.

Amazingly, some players who represented Ireland in Group 5 ALSO played for Ireland-UK in Group 1 (Ireland had also previously capped Ireland-UK capped players). Both teams also wore green shirts with near identical shamrock themed crests, adding to the uniquely confusing situation.

Anyway, back to the group, and as mentioned earlier Sweden defeated Ireland in the first game of the entire qualifying system with a 3-1 win in Stockholm in June. They followed this up with an 8-1 trouncing of Finland in October, this time in Malmö to shake things up. Ireland had also beaten the Finns 3-0 in Dublin in September, and the return fixture, eight days after the 8-1 game, saw a 1-1 draw in Helsinki.

At this point, the poor old Finns (for whom we harbour a particular affinity) saw the writing on the wall and in typically logical fashion withdrew from the group instead of facing their final, meaningless group game (and in doing so conserved energy as well as avoiding another possible thrashing on home soil). This left Ireland’s home game against Sweden in November as a virtual play-off to get to the World Cup, even though Finland’s premature exit meant Ireland would have played an extra game than Sweden. The Swedes ran out 3-1 winners, qualifying for their third successive World Cup having finished fourth at France ’38.


More pack terraces at Ireland vs Sweden in Dalymount Park.

Ireland would have to wait another 40 years to make it to the finals but this need not have been the case as, in the wake of all the withdrawals, they were in fact invited to take part anyway by FIFA. But off course money doesn’t grow on trees, especially in economically struggling, post-“Emergency” Ireland (as WW2 was known there) and the offer was turned down due to the traveling costs. This really raises the question: what was point in attempting to qualify in the first place, or were they just not thinking that far ahead?

SWEDEN QUALIFY

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Group 6

Spain
Portugal

With their internal political issues well and truly resolved, a new Spain returned following their absence for 1938. Like the ’34 qualifiers they were placed in the “Iberian Group” with Portugal, with FIFA clearly deeming that one of the two simply needed to be at the World Cup.

In the previous version, Spain had breezed through with a 9-0 win at home propelling victory. This time Franco’s men didn’t score quite as many, but a 5-1 win in Madrid in April 1950 did basically the same job. Portugal at the time were in the midst of their own fascist dictatorship, or “corporatist authoritarian regime”, and they welcomed their peninsular pals to Lisbon eight days later. A 2-2 draw was played out allowing Spain to reach the finals as expected with little fuss.


Spain score the first of 5 goals against Portugal, on front of  a huge crowd.

Spain score the first in the 2-2 draw away to Portugal, in a ground devoid of side stand.

That is except for the fact that Portugal, of course, were then also invited to play at the World Cup, as a replacement for Turkey. And of course they declined, meaning all six European groups contained some sort of withdrawal or declination to play. This left FIFA throwing their hands up and shouting “Why do I even bother!” before bursting into tears, and then finally saying “fine then”, deciding to just leave the World Cup short of teams instead of inviting anyone else, dashing any last Luxembourgian hopes in the process.

SPAIN QUALIFY

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Group 7

Bolivia
  Chile
Argentina

After the mess that was Europe, we now come to the Americas where things are always calmer and more settled. The three teams were set to play home and away, with the top two progressing to the final. Would a nice competitive group, played to completion with the winners going through and the losers definitively not going through, be too much to ask?

The answer is yes, as 1930 finalists Argentina withdrew leaving Bolivia and Chile (also both present in 1930) free to qualify automatically without a single second of football being played. Obviously their scheduled games to be played against each other were cancelled, as they would have been utterly fucking pointless.

BOLIVIA AND CHILE QUALIFY

***

Group 8

Uruguay
Paraguay
Ecuador
Peru

The intuitive among you (as well as those who look at nature and society in a deeper way and notice patterns) may well have already guessed the outcome of this group. And sure enough, Ecuador and Peru withdrew from the group faster than you can say “unstable puppet government propped up by the CIA”. They really could not wait to withdraw.

1930 champions Uruguay had boycotted the previous two tournaments, first in 1934 as an act of retribution against the European teams who had refused to travel to their home tournament in 1930, then along with Argentina in anger at FIFA’s decision to stage World Cup 1938 again in Europe rather then a return to South America. Paraguay had also made their only previous appearance in 1930. Both qualified again without a ball being kicked.

URUGUAY AND PARAGUAY QUALIFY

***

Group 9

USA
Mexico
Cuba

As with the British Home Nations tournament of Group 1, Group 9 also doubled as the 1949 North American Football Confederation Championship; the last time that competition would be played until 1990. However, unlike the Home Nations, all the matches would be played in a host nation – in this case Mexico – and all take place over the month of September 1949, more in lieu with a traditional tournament. The teams would play each other twice with the top two advancing to the World Cup, as well of course as North American Football Confederation Championship glory to the country on top.

The group was like the ill-fated Group 7 in that all teams had previously played at World Cups. Mexico had been statistically the worst team in their only appearance to date in 1930. The US had also taken part, both then and in ’34 where they replaced Mexico as poorest performing participant.

A pre-Castro Cuba can boast not just a finals appearance, but an oft-forgotten World Cup quarter final to their name in 1938. This is slightly less impressive when you remember that they only had to win one game to make the quater-finals, but slightly more impressive again by the fact that they drew 3-3 with Romania after extra time and then beat them 2-0 in a replay. However, the 8-0 drubbing received at the hands of Sweden in the quarter final itself does slightly take the shine off things.

Things didn’t go so well for Cuba this time though, as their only point of the Group came from a 1-1 draw with the US. The return game saw the Americans run out 5-2 winners. But the top side had not been in doubt since day one when hosts Mexico had destroyed the USA 6-0, and proceeded to put the same number past them when the sides would meet again while conceding their only two goals of the campaign. Comfortable 2-0 and 3-0 wins against Cuba, including on the last day of the group, gave Mexico the NAFC crown and qualification, along with the USA in second.

And there it is, finally after nine groups we have found one that was actually played to completion, and with the agreed upon rules adhered to through to the end. The real miracle here is the the Cuban revolution thankfully held off for a few years, for if it had happened in 1949 it would have undoubtedly disrupted the group.

MEXICO AND USA QUALIFY

***

Group 10

Burma
Indonesia
Philippines
India

Group 10 contained the only Asian side to have previously made a World Cup appearance in Indonesia, who played at the 1938 finals in their previous form of the Dutch East Indies. This feat is again made less impressive by the fact that they only reached said finals due the withdrawal (surprise, surprise) of their one opponent Japan. Tragically, after coming all the way to Europe for the World Cup, they were promptly beaten 6-0 by Hungary and sent straight home. Still, their name is in the history books. Well, their name when it was a different name.

India, meanwhile, had played their first game while still a British possession in 1938, and in 1948 had made their first appearance as an independent state. The Philippines had been around a surprisingly long time in comparison, with their first international dating back to 1913, but had not previously had the chance to qualify for a World Cup. Burma went into the qualifiers yet to take part in an international fixture of any sort.

And unfortunately this would remain the case, as wouldn’t you just know it, Burma, Indonesia and the Philippines all withdrew before the group drew could even take place. This left India to qualify by default in the one available spot, and you wouldn’t have it any other way, would you?

Except there is one last twist in the tale as India, true to these qualifiers to the very end, gave one final withdrawal. They powerfully withdrew from their default position of World Cup qualifier, amazingly with a view to prepare for the next Olympic games instead, proving that the World Cup was not exactly the global phenomenon it is today.

The infamous rumored reason had been that FIFA would not allow India to play barefoot at the World Cup, which seems too “sexy” of a story to be true and with more than a hint of racism. But while it apparently did not have a baring on their decision to pull out, they had in fact played barefoot to great effect at the 1948 Olympics, and would do so again at the 1952 edition.

NO QUALIFIER

***

Total Qualified Teams (13):

Bolivia

Brazil

Chile

England

Italy

Mexico

Paraguay

Spain

Sweden

Switzerland

United States

Uruguay

Yugoslavia

*

And there we have it, qualifying done and dusted. Out of the 32 teams that entered, 11 out of the originally intended 14 qualified to join the hosts and champions, 15 either withdrew during qualifying or declined an invitation to the finals, and 9 didn’t play a game at all. Fair to say a roaring success as far as this time period goes. As for the actual 1950 World Cup, well you’ll just have to Google that for now, as it’s a story for another day (we mean that rhetorically, there are currently no plans for us to cover the 1950 World Cup).

*****

 

Cold War Classic #7: Bulgaria vs Ireland, 1977

Our Cold War Classic series, made in conjunction with the brilliant Museum of Jerseys, continues this month with a second appearance for Bulgaria, while politically neutral Ireland make their debut. The mid-late ’70s saw a number of interesting of kit developments for both, including one particular Irish crest. See below for a preview and a link to the full article over on Museum of Jerseys.com. As usual amazing illustrations come from M.o.J. master Denis Hurley.

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Cold War Classic no. 7 – Bulgaria v Republic of Ireland, 1977

…Compared to other western nations, this neutrality may have slightly lessened the intensity of trips across the Iron Curtain – such as the World Cup qualifier in Sofia in 1977 that we will be looking at – while no doubt also still a daunting task.

But with such journeys almost unheard of to the general public at the time, the athletes were probably more enlightened than most in being able to witness first-hand that locals from the ‘monstrous’ communist countries were actually friendly humans, just like at home.

On the kit front, the 1970s had already thrown up a couple of interesting situations for Ireland that have been covered on this website previously. With the likes of the French, Dutch and Germans leading the way in new concepts and designs, it was a time for change facilitated by new production techniques and a general creative freedom not seen in past generations…

-READ ON-

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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: