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historical states such as pre-Soviet Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, the Irish Free State, the Second Spanish Republic (withdrawn by the ’38 qualifiers due to the Spanish Civil War), Palestine-British Mandate (made of Jewish and British players), Dutch Guiana and Dutch East Indies.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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Total Qualified Teams (13):

Bolivia

Brazil

Chile

England

Italy

Mexico

Paraguay

Spain

Sweden

Switzerland

United States

Uruguay

Yugoslavia

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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).

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Heroic Hang Jobs #2 (Gallery)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Football Special Report #2: Derry City vs Shamrock Rovers, League of Ireland 1994

Last time on the Football Special Report, we debuted the series with a look at a peculiar all-West African affair from 1973. We will continue to examine unique or interesting situations that don’t fit in our other categories, this time with a visit to Ireland in 1994.

While most of the country was focused on the national team and the upcoming 1994 World Cup, the long suffering League of Ireland ticked away as always in the background with it’s relatively small, but loyal, fan-base. The country tried to boast “the best fans in the world” at international level, but at home a League of Ireland game had yet to even be shown live on TV. A hardcore supporter of a local side was an increasingly mythical creature, and had somewhat become seen as a figure of ridicule. But this had not always been the case.

Background:

Domestic football in Ireland achieved it’s popularity hay day back in the 1950’s, with respectable attendances such as 11,000+ for Shelbourne FC vs Shamrock Rovers in 1954 and an FAI Cup semi-final crowd of 28,504 to watch Drumcondra FC and Waterford FC (later United) in 1955.

Dublin sides Rovers and Drumcondra were the top two teams of the late 50’s and their game in January 1958 was to be the first all-ticket affair in League of Ireland history. A capacity 19,503 filled Drumcondra’s Tolka Park with thousands locked outside, but after 25 minutes the mass of ticket-less supporters broke through the gates and into the ground. With the terraces already full, hordes of desperate Dubliners spilled onto the pitch and the match was abandoned.


Another packed house watch Drumcronda and Shamrock Rovers, FAI Cup Semi-Final, 1964.

Over the coming decades, attendances would gradually decline. This was in part due to mis-managment at home, along with the eventual marketing domination of the neighboring British clubs to who many would turn. Ireland is also in the unique position in Europe in having it’s own native competition to the sport in the form of Gaelic football.

Gaelic had it’s own fan scene that at times looked far more similar to continental football terraces. In the 1970s and ’80s you wouldn’t have been hard pressed to find crowd disturbances in the Gaelic football stadium of Croke Park (specifically the Hill 16 end of the Dublin GAA Supporters) as well as other supporter culture tropes such as flags and banners, swaying terrace masses, fighting with police, and people/projectiles/pyro making it’s way onto the pitch.


Dublin score a point as Hill 16 erupts, Dublin vs Kerry, GAA All-Ireland Football Final 1975.

Even though crowd figures at big GAA games dwarfed their League of Ireland counterparts, the League still maintained somewhat of it’s own supporter culture identity. More tifo-centric features like oceans of big flags (apart from cup finals) and pyro would take a while longer to translate over, but clashes between supporters were a reasonably common occurrence for certain clubs, even since the late ’60s. A St. Patrick’s Athletic vs Waterford game in 1968, for example, received media coverage for it’s terrace trouble.

As society itself “hardened” in the ’70s, along with the rise of youth subcultures, incidents and tension at games naturally increased. Like abroad, sinisterly named groups now attached themselves to some clubs, such as “Black Dragons” of Limerick FC (Aka Limerick United/City), “Red Alert” and “Bootboys” of Sligo Rovers, and “SRFC Mob” of Shamrock Rovers. A 1975 cup game between Limerick and Sligo was a particularly violent affair with hundreds involved, reported at the time as the Battle of Market’s Field, Limerick’s stadium.


Limerick fans invade the pitch as their team secure the league title, Athlone Town vs Limerick United, League of Ireland 1980.

The blossoming casual culture that was about to spring up in Britain would not yet spread to Ireland, but the ’70s and early ’80s did see the intermixing of the anarchy-driven punk/skin head/boot-boy scene into the football supporting population, which added to the potential for chaos (by 1973 they were already a problem in Limerick, as reported in another “Battle of Markets Field”).

One infamous situation even occurred when Waterford’s “Freewheelers” motorcycle gang traveled with supporters for a 1986 FAI Cup game between St.Pat’s and Waterford in Dublin, with the intention of causing trouble. The resulting projectile throwing and general ructions caused the referee to stop the game after 19 minutes and lead the players back into the dressing room.

Coinciding with the birth of the English Premier League, the League of Ireland as a whole slumped further by the 90’s and with even less in attendance, notable examples of supporter culture became more scarce. But the same media access to big foreign leagues that hurt the League of Ireland would also provide a window for a generation of youths becoming familiar with continental supporting styles that would go on to strongly influence and inspire the birth of the Irish ultras scene in the early 2000s.


Features such as "tifo flags" became common in some Irish grounds by the early 2000's, as seen at Shelbourne vs Drogheda United, League of Ireland 2003.

Until then, the Irish hardcore domestic supporter would remain largely ignored and underground in a sort of twilight era. But while the likes of Black Dragon and Red Alert were no more, supporter groups possessing a new mentality such as Shelbourne’s politically minded Alternative Reds Club had sprang up in the 80s, along with Bohemians’ Bohs Soccer Casuals on the pronounced hooligan side of things in 1992, and the era did see it’s own moments of mayhem that hearkened back to the chaotic days of the ’70s. Well, kind of.

The Match:

After all that background, our featured incident is a relatively short affair coming after a league game that pitted candystripes against hoops, Derry City vs Shamrock Rovers; a fixture that had seen trouble go down when last previously played. The footage comes from an Ulster Television (UTV) sports-news broadcast that couldn’t look more 1994:

UTV, being a station from Northern Ireland, were covering the game since Derry lies within the borders of the UK. The Derry team competes in the Republic of Ireland based League of Ireland, but this had not always been the case. As we do not have time to go into why here, check out People On The Pitch #4 fore more information on Northern Ireland’s footballing ethno-complexities (as well as a literal pitch battle between Linfield and Glentoran), and for the general split between Irish and Northern Irish football, check out Politics On The Pitch #2.

The game was in Derry’s Brandywell ground (now redeveloped), who’s fences, small terraces, tall walls and barbed wire gave a classic, rustic look (so “shit” to your modern barstool fan, which can only be a good thing).

The lack of crowds demonstrate the dwindling numbers of the League, although in saying that most supporters would have been underneath the camera side. Of course some also watch from outside the ground:

As mentioned, Shamrock Rovers were (and continued to be) one of Ireland’s most prominent clubs sides, both in terms of numbers as well as reputation for “troublesome” fans. Their visit to Derry, therefore, may have seen a larger traveling support than usual in the Brandywell, and after a long, no doubt thirsty journey from the capital to what is a traditionally belligerent area, and considering the existing history, it was not out of the realms of possibility that something might kick off.

And after a 1-0 win for Rovers, that is of course exactly what happened. All we know is that two groups of grown men from opposing sides come face to face at the away section, and following some sort of confrontation, a punch is thrown triggering the melee:

(Note the supporter, wrapped in Irish tri-colour, stood still as a statue in the seats, quite possibly experiencing a heroin comatose.)

Clearly this was a far cry from the mob warfare of the ’70s, or indeed the stylised, organised casual culture that was seeping in. Yes, just a good, old fashioned, spontaneous outbreak of violence between otherwise regular civilians, perhaps sparked by some sort of passing slight. Meanwhile in the back the of the stand, bodies scamper hither and thither as in any good donnybrook:

Ok, that part wasn’t very exciting. But the highlight of the whole fuss comes next, in the form of a Rovers fan who pretty much looks and acts exactly as Alan Partridge did at the time. “Alan”, obviously thinking enough is enough, has managed to find himself the corner flag, and after breaking free from his mates comes out swinging like a man possessed:

As you can see, the connection of the appropriated weapon with it’s initial northern target is followed by a shake of the poll and few little hops (clear body language suggesting “Come on then, who else wants it??” in angry, flustered Alan Partridge voice), as an innocent, bewildered, jersey clad by-stander attempts to take down his banner from the fence. A young child in a goalkeeper shirt also looks on attentively from a fine vantage point atop the greyhound boxes, as the Brandywell is also a greyhound racing stadium:

(It is worth noting that this is not the first time we have seen a supporter on Northern Irish soil commandeering a corner flag, refer to the afore mentioned People On The Pitch #4.)

The footage concludes with another Rovers fan approaching and engaging in some seriously menacing finger pointing, along with a few more threatening shakes of the poll for good measure. A good-hearted lady attempts to interject and cool things down, rightly concerned that another vicious “polling” is coming somebody’s way.

Very humorously, the perspective gives the impression that the pointing and threatening is directed straight at the kid in the goalkeeper top, who is also now the size of a man:

As we leave the scene, the UTV reporter informs us that Derry were considering banning Shamrock Rovers fans from the Brandywell for future games. Whether this was enacted or not, we do not know. But regardless, that is enough League of Ireland for today. We shall of course revisit the heroicness of Ireland’s little-known but fascinating fan culture soon, but for now, this is Pyro On The Pitch signing off for another Football Special Report.

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Youtube link

Sources for some of the background info:

These Footballing Times: 1950’s Attendances

Come Here To Me (Dublin culture blog): Some media coverage of Dublin GAA fans and Hill 16 in the 1970s.

Come Here To Me: “Some examples of football violence in Richmond Park, Inchicore (1972- 1986)”

Rabble.ie: “Bootboys, Casuals and the Beautiful Game”

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Politics On The Pitch #2: The Non-Flag Kit Colours Of Europe

Last time, for the inaugural edition of Politics On The Pitch, we took a frankly fascinating look at how the break up of communist Europe influenced World Cup ’94 qualifiers. Now we go in a more historical direction as we examine the national teams of Europe who have represented their country wearing a primary kit colour that is NOT featured on their national flag – and hopefully explain why.

Sport is something that people will try and distance from politics, but of course nearly everything is political on some level. This extends to what the athletes are wearing, specifically the colours and badge, as one person’s national flag can be another person’s “butcher’s apron”.

As all world states are political entities, the national football teams that represent them are inherently political. In romantic theory, these teams embody the spirit of their state, sometimes including it’s political system or ideology, and this is reflected most prominently through the kits. For example, when the USSR was created what else but red would their football team have worn?

But of course some of the world’s most prominent national sides play in colours that are nowhere to be seen on their country’s flag and can survive several regime changes. So used to these seemingly random colourways are we that the general football fan probably rarely thinks twice about them, but the reasons are often of a deep, historically political nature. More interesting still is why certain colours, despite maybe appearing on a states flag, are unavailable or unacceptable to use.

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Germany/West Germany

The modern German national side can trace it’s lineage back to 1908 and a first international vs Switzerland. The black, red and gold of the future national flag (conceived in 1848 but officially introduced with the Weimar Republic) was still 11 years away. Instead, the 1908 side was representing the German Empire who’s flag was made up of black, white and red horizontal bars.

But by far the largest and most dominating kingdom within the Empire was Prussia and it was their traditional white and black colours, the “Schwarz und Weiss”, that were the inspiration for the national team kit. The shirt originally featured black more prominently with a Prussian imperial eagle and sometimes with white shorts (Germany at the 1912 Olympics), but soon the famous white shirt and black shorts combination was settled on (originally with black socks, later white) and retained by the team of the new republic after the collapse of the German Empire in 1918.

It would remain to the present day (with all-white occasionally also seeing action), having transcended the the Nazi and West German states that were to come, and eventually be inherited by modern, reunified Germany in 1990.


The "Weimar" German national side in Prussia's black and white, vs Hungary, 1920.

Germany continued to use white shorts in the early years, vs Uruguay, Olympic Games 1928

"Third Reich" Germany, away to England, 1935.

First official match of West Germany, vs Switzerland, friendly, 1950.

West Germany in all-white strip to avoid clash with the home sides dark shorts, away to Argentina, friendly, 1982.

First match of reunified Germany, vs Switzerland, friendly, 1990.

As well as their home shirt, Germany is famous for an away shirt that also is not reflected in their flag and while the colour is not exactly political in itself, the reason for it’s need is. Black and then red were originally used as away shirt colours, which continued into the Nazi era. But after World War 2, the red associated with the previous regime was not no longer acceptable and similarly black was the colour of the SS.

Neutral green was decided upon instead, often incorrectly attributed as a tribute to Ireland as the first non-German speaking side to play West Germany after World War 2. The colour had in fact been adopted by the Deutscher Fußball-Bund in 1926 and, in the same vein as the Prussian colours on the home shirt, it has been theorised that green was chosen to reflect the flag of the state of Saxony giving another possible political link. But perhaps green had been favoured by the DFB simply as a nod to the grass on which their sport was played.

As for the Ireland myth, it appears that West Germany had already worn green in their three proceeding games of 1951, including vs Turkey which also blows the German speaking part of the story  (the other two games were against Switzerland and Austria). But in the absence of colour footage we cannot be sure. Whatever the case, West Germany’s alternate green (used with several shorts and sock combinations, as well as finding it’s way into the home kit on one notable occasion to avoid a World Cup sock clash, see below) would be a welcome, vibrant staple of many international fixtures to come, occasionally giving Ireland fans a brief glimpse of what it might have looked like if their team was at international tournaments.


West Germany most likely in green away shirts before a month beofre playing Ireland, vs Austria, friendly 1951.

West Germany in green shirts and black shorts, vs Turkey, World Cup 1954.

West Germany classic away kit, away to England, Euro '74 qualifier, 1972.

West Germany in away shirt and shorts but home colour socks, away to Bulgaria, Euro '76 qualifier, 1975

West Germany in home shirt and shorts but away colour socks due to World Cup clash rules, vs Mexico, World Cup 1978

West Germany in a rarely seen green/green/white kit combination, vs Turkey, Euro '84 qualifier, 1983.

West Germany in all green, vs Argentina, friendly, 1984.

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East Germany

You can’t talk about West Germany without East, and like their western neighbours, East Germany also adopted the Weimer flag upon their creation in 1950 with the addition of the state’s coat of arms. But the foundation of the East German national football team in 1952 (and their federation who would go on to be known as the Deutscher Fußball Verband der DDR, great name) also saw the need for a new shirt colour. As with West Germany’s away shirt, black was not an option due to the Nazi link and while red with it’s connection to socialism maybe could have still worked despite it’s fascist connotations in Germany, it was also already the home shirt colour of the Soviet Union.

Obviously the white and black retained by West Germany was out of the question, and a side representing a new worker’s republic wouldn’t have made much sense taking to the field in the colours of the old Kingdom of Prussia anyway. Very few options remained, with even an obscure choice like green also snapped up by the West.

It would seem by this process of elimination, the only reasonable colour left available to choose was blue – which would also worn be East German athletes in other sports. But the use of blue was in fact not so random and actually had a direct link to the state. We can thank read Lucas for enlightening us by sending the following fascinating explanation:

East Germany wore blue because was the colour of the uniforms worn by the youth of the then-ruling party, the SED (Unified Socialist Party).

White trim was used, with white shorts and blue socks, and a reversal of this colour scheme was used for the away kit and later as first preference. Combinations such as white/blue/blue, white/white/blue and all-white were also used when required. The blue and white palette would be employed from their very first (unofficial) international in 1952 against Poland until their last ever match, vs Belgium in 1990.


East Germany in early blue and white strip, away to Czechoslovakia, World Cup '58 qualifier, 1957.

East Germany in all-white, vs Yugoslavia, friendly, 1962.

East Germany in white and blue, vs Italy, World Cup '70 qualifier, 1969.

East Germany vs West Germany, World Cup 1974.

East Germany vs Greece, friendly, 1983.

East Germany vs Belgium, Euro '84 qualifier, 1983.

East Germany's last match shirt, away to Belgium, 1990.

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Italy

Back in Aesthetically Please Moments From Video Game Football History #6, we briefly examined how wrong it would look for Italy to wear the green, white and red of their national flag. When an Italian side first took to the field, vs France in 1910, white shirts and black shorts were worn. But within a year, vs Hungary in 1911, the Azzuri we know today was birthed as they graduated to blue and white, along with the red shield/white cross of Savoy as the crest.

Like with Germany, the relevance of blue predates the Italian state as it was the royal colour of the House of Savoy as early the 14 century. Savoy united Italy into a kingdom in 1868 with blue becoming the national colour and it was adopted by many sporting, political and military bodies including the football team. I have also seen it said that until the 90’s the national football team was technically part of the military, with representing the country counting as national service, and this was why blue was “allowed” to be worn on the kit/uniform. This is unverified, but noteworthy to include as at least a fun theory.

During the years of fascist rule, the coat of arms of Savoy was accompanied by the “fasces” associated with Mussolini’s regime. The symbolism went a step further at the 1938 World Cup, where at the quarter final vs host nation France there was one notable exception to Italy wearing blue or white. In the midst of political tension between the two countries and anti-faicst protests in France, Italy wore a fascist inspired all-black strip instead of their usual white away, apparently at the behest of Mussolini himself.

After the fall of both fascism and the monarchy – and the start of the modern Italian republic in 1946 – the coat of arms was removed from both the flag and the national team shirt. But blue remained as the national colour with any royal connotation now long forgotten to the sporting world. White shorts have most often been used with the blue shirt, with an occasional all blue strip, but black shorts have continued to be worn at times adding another colour not seen on the flag.


Italy wearing white and black for their first international match, vs France, 1910.

Italy in blue and white, with the "fasces" on the crest accompanying the coat of arms of Savoy signifying the fascist era, circa 1935.

Italy's "blackshirt" strip, vs France, World Cup 1938.

Italian goalkeeper shirt with "fasces and Savoy" crest more visible, World Cup Final 1938.

Italy in blue and black, vs North Korea, World Cup 1966.

Italy in all blue, vs Hungary, World Cup 1978.

Italy in familiar blue and white, away to Romania, Euro '84 qualifier, 1983.

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Netherlands

Like Germany and Italy, the Netherlands started international football in white and black, but with the colours of the Dutch flag sashed across the torso of the shirt (the popularity of white and black can also be attributed to the ease of production at the time compared to other colours). This was worn for their first international, vs Belgium in 1905, and the look was later revived as the inspiration for their 2006 away shirt. Black shirts were also used in the early years, as seen at the 1908 Olympics.

But post World War 1, at least by the 1924 Olympics, the famous orange was adopted. The origins of orange can be found in the southeastern French commune (municipal region) of Orange. It had been a principality in medieval times and the Prince of Orange title was eventually inherited by the German-Dutch House of Nassau in 1544.

Prince William of Orange led a successful revolt against Hapsburg rule in the Netherlands in 1581 and his grandson, the infamous/famous (depending on where you’re from) William III became ruler of the Netherlands, Britain and Ireland by 1689. The symbolic use of the colour orange relating to these events would have connotations long into the future, including the Orange Order, orange featuring on the Irish flag, why carrots are orange, and of course ultimately the wearing of orange by the Dutch team as the national colour of the Netherlands.

White shorts and blue socks were originally used but the black element seen in the early years was brought back by the 70’s to create the look most associated with the Netherlands, and used intermittently since then.


Netherlands in orange shirts, white shorts and blue socks, away to Belgium, friendly, 1925.

Netherlands in black shorts and orange socks, away to Luxembourg, Euro '72 qualifier, 1971.

Netherlands in white shorts and orange socks, away to Ireland, World Cup '82 qualifier, 1981.

For more recent writings on all things Dutch, specifically their amazing World Cup ’78-era kits, click here for our Netherlands special Champagne Kit Campaigns #2.

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Northern Ireland

So, where to start with this one. First off, the team of “Ireland” became the 4th ever national side to appear  in football history (after the three British nations) when they took to the field for the first time in 1882, welcoming England to Belfast in a 13-0 loss. Their Belfast based federation, the Irish Football Association (IFA), had been founded two years before. Of course this is when Ireland itself as a whole was still part of the United Kingdom, so the political entity that the team represented was not in the interest of an independent, sovereign Ireland. Hence, we shall refer to this team as “Ireland-UK”.

In these early years, Ireland-UK wore blue shirts – “St.Patrick’s blue”- and white shorts. The use of blue stems from the Anglo-Irish “Order of St. Patrick” (again, an organisation not in the interest of Irish freedom) who adopted it in 1780. It became an unofficial national colour during this time of British rule, along with the more traditionally Irish and well known green. Of course Ireland did not have a national flag of it’s own back then and was instead represented on the Union Jack from 1800 with the red diagonal cross of St. Patrick, another British invention. But the blue on the Jack coincidentally meant that Ireland-UK were playing in a colour that technically did appear on their state’s flag.

With the conclusion of the Irish War of Independence in 1921, the country was partitioned into the mostly-autonomous Irish Free State and the smaller Northern Ireland, which remained in the UK. But this did not apply to the IFA, who continued to claim jurisdiction over the whole island and field teams as Ireland-UK while still wearing blue. This was coupled with the need for a new national team to represent independent Ireland, and it’s governing body – the Football Association of the Irish Free State (FAIFS) – was created in Dublin and accepted into FIFA in 1923. Of course this side wore green shirts.

In 1931, Ireland-UK switched from blue to green jerseys also, apparently to avoid clashes against the navy-blue of Scotland. The socks remained blue for some years before also becoming green and blue would later be commemorated and return as a third colour on some future kits. Meanwhile, the Irish Free State became “Ireland” in 1936, the FAIFS became the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and, like with Ireland-UK, players from “north” and “south” were selected. The IFA had withdrawn from FIFA along with the other UK “Home Nations” in 1928 after long running disputes, meaning that by the mid-30’s there were two Ireland’s, both wearing green, one in FIFA and the other outside of FIFA.

As the official flag of Northern Ireland remained the Union Jack, Ireland-UK were now playing in a colour not seen on their flag (and this later remained true even considering the well known, but unofficial, flag of Northern Ireland, the red and white “Ulster Banner” introduced in 1953, see above). The crest, originally a Celtic-cross and harp motiff, was changed to a shamrock badge, similar to what Ireland were using adding another parallel.

During World Cup 1950 qualifiers, after the UK teams had rejoined FIFA, amazingly the two Irelands participated in different groups with certain players representing both. After this farcical situation, FIFA enforced in 1953 that from now on Ireland-UK be designated as “Northern Ireland” (although they remained Ireland-UK within internal British competition until the 70’s) and Ireland as “Republic of Ireland”. Players could now only be picked for one side based on the political boarders, and the IFA also changed it’s badge back to the original concept.

But as the century went on, and the political situation in Northern Ireland between British loyalists and Irish nationalists deteriorated, the use of green to represent the Northern Irish team became slightly odd. As divisions of identity widened, old symbols which acceptably represented “Ireland within the UK” in previous eras (what today would be called “cultural appropriation”) became unusable as the of the likes of the Celtic-cross, harp and shamrock were now more associated with the fight for Irish independence and unity, as well of course as the colour green. The blue, white and red of the Union Jack , or the orange of the Orange Order referenced earlier, became the “national colours” of Northern Ireland with some hardcore loyalists even known to “ban” green from their houses.

Despite this, the green shirt with it’s “typically Irish” crest remained for Northern Ireland and in replica form has doubtless been the only green garment worn by many an Ulsterman. But to them, the tradition of this green represents a golden age when the green of Ireland came with the caveat that it was the green of an Ireland happily loyal to the UK. Humorously, the use of the more loyalist orange on the shirt is basically out of the question as along with the green and white, this would create the colour palette of the Republic of Ireland flag. Especially ironic since the orange on said flag is there as symbol of peace to the Orangemen who despise it.


Northern Ireland (still referred to as "Ireland" in the British Pathé newsreel) in green shirts, with Celtic-cross badge visible, white shorts and green socks, vs Italy, World Cup '58 qualifier, 1958.

Probably the only instance of "The Troubles" era where Northern Irish loyalists were on the side of "green" against "orange" and not vice versa, vs Netherlands, friendly, 1977.


For even more reading on Northern Ireland, some of which relates to the above, click here for People On The Pitch #4: Linfield vs Glentoran, 1983.

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Extra Time: Honorable Mentions or Non-Political

Republic Of Cyprus

Like Ireland, Cyprus is an island divided into “Republic of” and “Northern” regions. A slight majority of the country is made up of the historically ethnic Greek Republic of Cyprus, who claim the entire island, while the de facto state of Northern Cyprus is of mostly Turkish blood. A British colony as a whole until 1960, Cyprus was partitioned in 1974 following the Greek military junta’s failed attempt to unite the island with Greece and the resulting invasion of Turkish troops.

As Turkey is the only state that recognises Northern Cyrpus, their football team obviously is not in UEFA or FIFA. The Cyrpus that is a member – originally one of Europe’s weakest footballing nations until the introduction of micro states such as Andorra and Faroe Islands – wear white shirts, which is the colour of their mostly white flag (apart from an orange map of the (whole) island and two wreaths). But they do pay homage to their Hellenic heritage with blue trim and shorts, and with blue as the away shirt colour. A Greek white cross on a blue background is also the country’s naval jack.


Cyprus in blue shirts, away to England, Euro '76 qualifier, 1975.

Cyprus in their home white shirts and blue shorts and classic pitch/stadium, vs Yugoslavia, Euro '80 qualifier, 1979.

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Slovenia

Like many states in the region, the flag of the former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia features the pan-Slavic colours of white, blue and red, and these were the colours of Slovenia’s shirt, shorts and socks respectively for their first international football match, post-Yugoslavia, vs Estonia in 1992. But by the time of their first qualifying campaign as a UEFA member in 1994
(for Euro’96) they had graduated to green as a secondary colour with the removal of blue and red, giving them a distinct look from their neighbours.

As well as featuring prominently on the flag of capital Ljubljana (quite similar to Wales), green is said to represent the mountains and countryside of the lush Balkan state. It is also used by other national sports teams such as basketball, but in recent times has been abandoned by the football team.


Slovenia in green shorts, vs Italy, Euro '96 qualifier, 1994.

Slovenia vs Yugoslavia, World Cup '02 qualifier, 2001.

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Belgium

While all three colours of their flag often appear on their kits (the black, yellow and red of the historical Duchy of Brabant), Belgium share a trait with Romania in that both teams wear a shirt colour that is featured on their flag but not the “first” colour. By normal logic, Belgium would wear black as a home colour insread of red and Romania would wear blue instead of yellow.

But Belgium also have used white as a fourth colour and for away kits, and in the 1970’s their devotion to white went a step further. White became the colour of their first strip in 1970 and for the rest of the decade the previously red devils could be seen in white-hot kits at home, until the normal mostly red and black ensembles returned for the 80’s. This seems to have been a purely aesthetical change, but worthy of inclusion as an unexpected side to have worn a non-national flag colour at home. But like Cyprus’ blue, the Belgian naval ensign does actually feature white, perhaps giving us a deeper link after all.


Belgium in all white, vs Portugal, friendly, 1971.

Belgium vs Norway, World Cup '74 qualifier, 1973.

Belgium, vs Norway, Euro '80 qualifier, 1978.

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People On The Pitch #4: Linfield vs Glentoran, Irish Cup Final, 30/04/1983

After two fairly innocent editions of People On The Pitch (a genteel, all-British affair from 1966 and a French rugby union final from 1979 for crying out loud) we thought it was time to turn sharply back around to a more sinister sort of slant. And where better place to turn than Windsor Park, Belfast in 1983.

While the serious issues of ethno-political tensions and conflict dominated the region, it is perhaps comforting to note that members of the same community also still had time to come together in violence, divided only by what football team they supported. This was particularly evident at the 1983 Irish Cup Final.

Background:

For the uninformed, the “Irish” part of “Irish Cup”, along with “Irish League” and “Irish Football Association”, refers to Northern Ireland. This is because these institutions were founded when the whole of Ireland was still under British rule. Four-fifths of the country broke away from the UK in 1922 to form what would eventually become known as the Republic of Ireland and they would create their own “Football Association of Ireland”, “League of Ireland” and “FAI Cup”.

In the North, which was dominated by those loyal to Britain (mostly of British roots), there continued to be “Irish” stuff, but it was more like “(British) Ireland”. See the “Irishman” Denis Taylor.


Snooker player Denis Taylor.

A sizeable minority of the population in Northern Ireland however were still Irish nationalists who desired a united Ireland. In a sporting context, these folks would have been more likely to have followed the traditional Irish sports of Gaelic football or hurling. And in fact, the infamous, old “rule 27” of the Gaelic Athletic Association stated that members were forbidden from playing or watching “foreign” sports such as association football.

Despite this, there existed football clubs with strong nationalist traditions, such as the lower-league Donegal Celtic, Derry City (who would eventually be forced out of Irish League due to sectarian reasons and join the League of Ireland in 1985) and Cliftonville, who still compete in what is now known as the Northern Ireland Football League Premiership.


Cliftonville supporters in 2016.

Two clubs from a very much British tradition though are Belfast’s Glentoran and Linfield, the top two clubs from Northern Ireland, who were to meet each other in the “Irish Cup Final” of 1983. Both side’s supporters have seen trouble against “Irish identifying” clubs from both sides of the border throughout the years, but games against each other provide the opportunity to imagine a wonderful, Protestant utopia where Northern Ireland was free of the ethnic Irish and the sons of Britannia could just go back to beating the tea out of each other instead.

Indeed there had already been reports of trouble between the two at a game earlier in the season, and a fan had gotten on the pitch at a Northern Ireland vs Albania game a few days before the cup final, also at Linfield’s Windsor Park where the final was to be played.

Most information on our featured incidents comes from a news report the following night, hosted by a Northern Irish newsman (apologies sir, I do not know your name) with guests, and some of their comments are very interesting, but we will come back to that shortly.

The Match:

We learn from the report that the first spark of trouble at the cup final was just after half time when Glentoran’s goalkeeper was subject to a hail of coins, bottles and other projectiles from Linfield’s “spion kop” end.

But it’s two minutes after the game ends (a 1-1 draw demanding a replay in Gelntoran’s ground the following week) that business really picks up, as “groups of youths” (at least they weren’t gangs) invade the field from the Linfield end and rush towards their counterparts:

(Apologies for the poor video quality, turning down screen contrast helped for me)

Anything available to hand is of course thrown (quite possibly objects already launched from their rivals), but the Glentoran fans mobilise quickly and themselves have little issue getting over, or through, the pitchside fence. Engagements of combat are shortly thereafter the order of the day:

Below we see a “Glenman” (in white top) attempt a good, old kick up the arse, but it’s a swing and a miss. However, his colleague swiftly rectifies matters with an unorthodox but fine kick to the inner thigh of the same Linfield target. Sure whatever works, and yes, it is effective as the “kickee” goes down to be feasted on by the vultures:

The kicking continues for some time. But what’s also important to note here is the appearance of several pairs of black and white Adidas trainers, suggesting that casual culture had arrived in Belfast by this point although supporter scarves still seem more prevalent than in England:

Interestingly, the cornerflag is also utilised to great effect as a weapon (although it couln’t hurt THAT much), before a Glentoran fan who is wearing a scarf and hat in club colours (it’s May…), adorned in what maybe an unintentional rasta flag, and moving so slowly to suggest mental anomalies if not sloshed drunk, gets in a cowardly kick for good measure:

Aside from the aforementioned obvious casual influence on the style, the main fashion of the day was of course the skinhead-bootboy look and there are several instances on show from both sides:

But a Linfield skinhead is on the receiving end of what can only be described as an excellent double-team attack. The Glentoran supporter in white top and jeans travels an insane distance with a chair raised above his head, apparently in vein, until his colleague performs a rugby tackle (albeit maybe a foul in rugby, not sure) on the Linfield fan in suspenders who had been running for his life. At this point, the chair-man can strike in a WWF-like attack as if he always knew this was going to happen:

Again a Linfield fan is left helpless to a mass attack, but as the original protagonists in this affair they can’t really complain and they know this.

Menacing reinforcements arrive to save the day, one carrying a 2×4; perhaps the original inspiration for Haksaw Jim Duggan’s WWF character several years later to continue the wrestling theme (or the British Bulldog, considering his fetching, sleeveless, Union Jack muscle top). Humorously, among the many bootboys, the slow Glentoran fan nonchalantly walks into frame again creating a scene like an oblivious time traveler from 1973 has been transported to a futuristic, dystopian wargame, which is basically what it was:

Below we see that a Linfield man, in a suit no less, also has the cornerflag idea (perhaps cornerflags are commonly used in such instances throughout Europe, please send examples), but before he can use it to inflict pain and suffering on his fellow Ulstermen the police are on the scene to start rounding people up and give them a good tongue lashing (not in that way you filthy animal):

Finally things settle down, leaving several bodies strewn across the pitch:

Ok, maybe just the one body, but he is certainly strewn. Lastly, the police arrest some people who aren’t necessarily skinheads, but definitely some very 1980’s Northern Irish men as the pitch is finally cleared:

Back to the studio and our host makes the mandatory “they were not football supporters” statement despite later referring to them as “the fans”, before moving on to the head of the IFA Billy Drennan, who sheepishly explains that his organisation cannot make any comments because the game only finished at 5 o’clock the previous day. Perhaps this implies that he cannot condemn the violence just yet in case it is decided that it was a justifiable action, Billy boys will be Billy boys and all that.

The host next asks about the obviously inadequate fencing at Windsor Park, to which Billy responds after a pause:

“Well….You say it’s inadequate, the fencing at Windsor Park is there as a deterrent for people to come on the playing pitch. But the people get over the fence at Wembley, they get over the fence at Old Trafford…”

Basically admitting that the fence is there for show and can’t actually stop anyone getting over and there’s nothing in the world that can possibly be done about this so fuck it. Billy goes on to lament the fact that the game had been built up as a big occasion between Northern Ireland’s top two only to be marred by the trouble, and that:

“..these two clubs, they both have the same affiliations mainly, and yet a small section of each of these spectators from both clubs had to have a confrontation after the match was finished.”

So now the issue for Billy is that both club’s supporters stem from largely Loyalist backgrounds. Obviously it wouldn’t be so upsetting if one side came from the opposite side of the societal divide. He goes on:

“If that confrontation hadn’t happened at Windsor Park, it would have probably happened down the road or down the street on their way home.”

Billy actually does make sense, as if it’s going to happen (and it is), may as well let it happen on the pitch. Those who want to be involved can easily get over the “deterrent fence”, and those who don’t can safely watch from the comfort of the stands. But if only it was those damn Taigs who were getting the beating, isn’t that right Billy?

Lastly on Billy, when pressed about what can be done to prevent this in the future he basically throws up his hands and asks “What would YOU suggest?”, in a defeated manor. The hosts suggestion of “a higher fence” leaves Billy in silent bafflement:

We now turn to the stern Chief Superintendent of the then Northern Irish police, the “Royal Ulster Constabulary”, Ivan Sterritt. He states that it took his men three minutes to get to the scene after the fracas had begun and in fact praises this response time. Anyone who has been in a fight will know that three minutes is an extremely long time in that environment, but as Ivan states, the police could not have foreseen this event occurring. This displays the innocence of the time even in the midst of an explosive society.

The host in fact asks if it is policy to allow the hooligans to fight it out among themselves on the pitch away from the the general public, but Ivan of course denies this and on the subject of security arrangements for the replay in Glentoran’s Oval ground, with the hint of a smug grin states:

“Next Saturday’s replay will not be at Windsor Park and will not be my responsibility…”

Extra:

Before we leave the topic, it is slightly interesting to note the national designation of some of Northern Ireland’s clubs on Wikipedia and see how they align to their perceived political leaning. And of course, from football clubs to Wikipedia, nearly everything is political.

Starting with Linfield, the club is not listed as being Northern Irish, but based in Northern Ireland:

Looking at another Belfast club with strong British unionist links, Cursaders, “Northern Irish” is in fact used:

Some variation of the above two is used for all members of the NIFL with two exceptions. First, unsurprisingly Clifonville are deliberately classed as an Irish club, not Northern Irish:

But what is slightly surprising is that Glentoran are the other exception, steering clear of the issue altogether:

Lastly, we look at a club mentioned earlier, Derry City. Derry are the one team from across the border to play in the League of the Republic and their ground is quite close to the infamous Bogside, an area synonymous with Irish nationalism. Despite this, and actually having their team name listed in Irish as well as English, they are surprisingly described as a Northern Ireland based club. Particularly odd considering Cliftonville’s Irishness and Glentoran’s ambiguity:

Youtube Link

What Football Is Supposed To Look Like (Gallery) #1

Some classic grounds, shirts and general aesthetics of what football used to be.

Sand dunes, a car park, unorthodox ground sectioning, other random stuff laying around (handy for a riot) and a beautifully filthy pitch at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea vs West Ham, Division 1, 1986:

Away shirt of vintage post-Cold War side Representation of Czechs and Slovaks vs Wales, World Cup Qualifier, 1993:

Ireland away to Northern Ireland, World Cup Qualifier, 1988:

Classic advertisements, Brazil vs Chile, Friendly, 1985:

Brentford FC vs Blackburn Rovers, FA Cup, 1989:

Malta score away to Hungary, World Cup Qualifier, 1989:

“English Supporters Please Remain In This Stand”, England away to Luxembourg, European Championships Qualifier, 1983:


(Taken from Pyro On The Pitch #4)

Dutch flags, Netherlands vs Greece, European Championships Qualifier, 1987:

“HOOLIGANS”, Italy vs Scotland, Friendly, 1988:

Armed guards behind the goal, Ecuador vs Romania, Friendly, 1984: