Politics On The Pitch #6: Groups Of Death Part 3 – 1980-89

In this addition to the Politics On The Pitch series we come to the third installment of “Groups Of Death”, where qualifier/tournament groups and matches of dark political significance are discussed. Part 1 covered both the post-War period and the turbulent 1960s (also check out Politics #3 regarding 1950 World Cup qualifying as a “proto-Groups of Death”), while Part 2 looked at the even more turbulent 70s. Now, with plenty more hot encounters yet to come, the fascinating 1980s gets it’s turn.

  • World Cup 1982 qualifiers

AFC and OFC Final Round

New Zealand
Saudi Arabia
Kuwait
China PR

While most of the qualifiers for Spain 82 were devoid of political tension – apart from the now usual east vs west clashes in Europe – there was one strange situation in the Asian and Oceanian zone that caused matches to be moved to a neutral ground, due to a lack of diplomatic relations.

The zone was initially broken into four groups, with one side progressing from each:

1. The Southeast Asian and Oceanian group of Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Chinese Taipei (Republic of China), and Fiji, with the teams playing each other twice.

2. The Middle East group of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, Syria, with with the teams playing each other once.

3. The “we don’t like our neighbours” group of South Korea (to avoid North Korea) and Kuwait (the Middle Eastern country with the greatest freedom of expression and “liberal values”) combined with the “other south east Asians” (Malaysia and Thailand), with the teams again only playing each other once.

4. The Far East group of China PR (People’s Republic of China), Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, North Korea and Macau (competing under the flag of Portugal as a Portuguese dependent territory).

Perhaps due to the presence of North Korea, the last group was designed as a tournament with all the games played in Government Stadium, Hong Kong, from December 21st, 1980, to January 4th, 1981. A round of classification matches to determine seeds came preceded two groups of 3 and after playing each other once, the top two in each went through to semi-finals and a final to determine the winner – China PR.

But this Hong Kong-based Group 4 is not the neutral ground-affair to which we were referring to, as of course it was home soil for one of the teams anyway. The issue would arise due to the seemingly innocuous pairing of China PR – taking part for the first time in 25 years – with Saudi Arabia, along side Australia and Kuwait in a final group round from which the top two countries would qualify for the World Cup (a first for Asia).

The origins of the problem dated back to the Chinese civil war and the victory of communist forces in 1949, when the creation of the People’s Republic of China drove the government of the Republic of China – which had officially ruled since 1912 – to flee to the island of Taiwan. After original annexation from the Dutch by Qing Dynasty China in 1683, Taiwan had been under control of Imperial Japan from 1895 until their World War 2 defeat in 1945 when Republican China took control of the territory on behalf of the Allies.

Following their exile in 49, the Republican regime continued it’s own rule with what would go on to be variously known as the “Republic of China (Taiwan)”, “Republic of China/Taiwan”, “Taiwan (ROC)”, or, in sport, “Chinese Taipai” (see below). But the People’s Republic, who did not recognise the legitimacy of the island-isolated state, never gave up their own claim for Taiwan as part of China as a whole.


Flag of the Republic of China/Taiwan.

In the Middle East most countries established diplomatic links to the new “red” China, but there was one notable exception in Saudi Arabia who instead maintained their ties to the ROC. Taiwan was desperate not to lose the relationship due it’s reliance on Saudi oil and cited their respect for the country’s Islamic devotion, fittingly appointing a Hui Muslim general as Ambassador in the 1950s.

In 1971, the friendship held fast even as Taiwan was replaced on the United Nations Security Council, and in the UN altogether, by the People’s Republic as the only Chinese representatives (thanks to a motion by Albania, with Taiwan still no longer member at the time of writing). A trade-agreement between the two states was signed in 73, with agricultural, technological and construction-based assistance provided by the Taiwanese, with oil flowing in the other direction.

Throughout this time, Saudi Arabia and China PR were of course politically estranged, having found themselves on either side of the Cold War divide. Thanks to sport though, the two did find themselves having to interact through their national football teams, who first met at the 1978 Asian Games in neutral Bangkok (finishing 1-0 to China).

When the pair had then ended-up drawn together again for the World Cup 82 qualifying group, the games were due to be held on a home and away basis, but lack of diplomatic relations meant that this was impossible. A neutral venue for both matches was decided upon instead, with the south east once more deemed a suitable location as Malaysia was chosen.

The two ties were scheduled for November 12th and 18th, 1981, in Merdeka Stadium, Kuala Lumpur. The Chinese again proved the stronger of the two with 4-2 and 2-0 wins, amazingly on front of huge crowds of 40,000 and 45,000.


The Chinese and Saudi Arabian teams take to the field for the first of their two World Cup qualifiers in Kuala Lumpur, November 12th, 1981.

The victories weren’t enough in the end for China, as they finished 3rd in the group. But because their goal difference was level with New Zealand above them, a play-off was ordered, with the New Zealander’s superior goal’s scored tally and head-to-head record not considered tie-breakers in the rules of the time.

On front of another amazing 60,000 fans in Singapore New Zealand won 2-1 to send them to their first World Cup, along with fellow debutantes Kuwait as group winners, while China PR would have to wait until 2002. As of writing, Chinese Taiwan/Taipei have yet to make a World Cup finals, but we can’t wait for the inevitable, juicy Chinese derby at Brunei 2038 or something.

As for Saudi Arabia and Taiwan, the relationship did not last. As of 1989, the Saudis were the only Middle Eastern country yet to hold diplomatic ties with China PR, but tellingly, following the Tienanmen Square massacre, they had a change of heart. In July 1990, Saudi Arabia and China PR finally established relations, and in doing so ended over 40 years of the Saudi-Taiwanese alliance.

  • World Cup 1986 qualifiers

AFC Zone Group 4A

China PR
Hong Kong
Macau
Brunei

Staying with the China-theme, another interesting scenario arose in the next qualification campaign when the People’s Republic was again placed in an East Asian group with two Chinese territories currently ruled by European powers, along with Brunei. Macau on the southwestern Chinese coast had been a Portuguese trading post in the 17th century when still under Chinese rule, before Portugal were officially given power in 1887 (until 1999), while the islands and peninsula of near-by Hong Kong were taken by the British following the first and second Opium Wars in 1860 and 1898, respectively, but ultimately only for a 99 year lease.

Going into the qualifiers, China were undefeated against their Hong-Kongese cousins since the two first met in 1978, with three wins and one draw. The Chinese were heavy favourites to progress from the group, from which the winners would enter semi-finals and finals to determine one of two Asian representatives at the World Cup (or maybe three, due to the now separate Oceanian (supposedly) zone, but we’ll get to that).

While 495 watched Macau take on Brunei on February 17th, 1985, Hong Kong and China kicked off their own campaigns in Government Stadium, Hong Kong Island, on front of more than 20,000 supporters with the home side able to hold their much larger opponents to a scoreless draw. The Chinese showed their real strength in the games that followed, however, winning 0-4 away to Macau (on front of a swelling crowd of 1048), 8-0 at “home” to Brunei six days later (held also in Macau for convenience since Brunei were already there, on front of  960), 4-0 away to Brunei (but held in Hong Kong), and 6-0 finally at home to Macau, on front a far healthier 30,000 in Worker’s Stadium, Beijing, on May 12th.

Since Hong Kong had also won the rest of their matches (including another 8-0 thrashing of the poor Bruneians, three days before they suffered the same tally to China), this left the final group game between the two five days later on May 19th, 1985, as a virtual play-off for progression. As well as home advantage, the Chinese’ scoring prowess gave them the edge as their superior goal difference meant that a draw would be enough, leaving Hong Kong with the daunting task of needing a win in their estranged birth-father’s backyard.

80,000 citizens of the People’s Republic attended the “unusually tense” (according to the commentators) game in Worker’s Stadium and were duly shocked when Cheung Chi Tak gave the British colony the lead with a brilliant top-corner free kick on 19 minutes. Li Hui equalisied shortly after for the hosts, but, even more shockingly, the fabulously named Ku Kam Fai scored what would turn out to be the winner for Hong Kong on the hour mark.


The wonder-strike that put Hong Kong 1-0 up in Beijing, en route to the 2-1 scoreline that would eliminate China, May 19th, 1985.

After the heartbreak of the New Zealand play-off in 1981, China were again knocked out by the same scoreline, but his time it was on home soil and the disaffected Chinese supporters began to riot in the stadium following the full-time whistle. The People’s Armed Police were forced to move in to restore order, making 127 arrests. It was the first episode hooligan trouble in Chinese nation team history.


Hong Kong players celebrate their victory over China before trouble kicks off around the stadium, May 19th, 1985.

The affair would come to be known as the May 19th Incident, even by FIFA in their official video about the match which conveniently forgets to mention any of the trouble afterwards that actual made it an “Incident.” But in a move that would probably not have occurred in the west, both the Chinese manager and chairman of the Chinese Football Association resigned after in the wake of the defeat.

Hong Kong, meanwhile, were drawn against Japan in the semi-finals, where they were beaten 5-1 over two legs but with a very respectable turn-out of 28,000 in the home game when already 3-0 down. The territory was returned to China in 1997 upon completion of the British lease, but, in recognition of the distinctly separate entity that it had become, as a Special Administrative Region rather than a totally integrated Chinese province. This meant that Hong Kong were able to keep their international football team, with the 1985 victory over their now reunited father-land still the team’s most memorable football achievement to date.

AFC Zone Groups 1B and 2B

Iraq
Qatar
Jordan
Lebanon

Bahrain
South Yemen
Iran

Moving to the other side of the continent, the West Asian zone was comprised of Group 1A, 1B, 2A and 2B. An increase of participating nations had bloated the section, with teams like Oman, Lebanon, and North Yeman set to take part for the first time (the former pair actually withdrew before playing a match), and the return of Iran since their last appearance at the finals itself in 1978.

Iran had intended to take part in the 82 qualifiers, but, due to the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, had withdrawn before the campaign began. By the time the of the next qualifiers the war was still ongoing. however under the condition that their home games be played on neutral ground both Iran and Iraq were entered into the qualification system.

Of course, like others in similar situations, the rival-nations were kept apart in the carefully arranged groups: Iraq joined Qatar, Jordan and Lebanon in 1B, while Iran were placed in 2B alongside Bahrain and South Yemen. The South Yemenese were another side competing in their first, and –  as it would turn out – only qualifiers, having only been independent since 1967 and reunified with the North in 1990 following the collapse of communism.

Iraq started their campaign taking on the Lebanese in Kuwait City. Lebanon had been going through their own devastating civil war since 1975 (to 1990) and were also under orders to play on neutral soil, so the return game took place in the same venue three days later – both won by the Iraqi’s 6-0 (the Jordan vs Qatar match also oddly took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia).

Following further thrashings at the hands of the Qataris (7-0 and 0-8, both held in Qatar) Lebanon decided enough was enough and withdrew, rendering all their matches so far void (not that it mattered much). Having won in Ammam, Jordan, but defeated in Doha, Qatar, Iraq finished the group with 2-0 and 2-1 victories over the same opposition in Kuwait, and, somewhat strangely, Calcutta, India, respectively, en-route to qualification for their first World Cup.


Iraq and Qatar play out their World Cup qualifier in Yuva Bharati Krirangan Stadium, Calcutta, India, May 5th, 1985,

Group 2B, on the other hand, couldn’t have been more of a different story, as Iran refused the condition of playing their home games on neutral ground. As a result, the Iranians had entered and left before kicking a ball for a second consecutive World Cup. But unlike 82, when they withdraw, this time elimination came via disqualification.

Oceanian Zone

Australia
New Zealand
Israel
Chinese Taipei

Perhaps with a view to keeping certain countries confined to a distant international wasteland/safe-haven for political reasons, but done under the guise of giving the OFC teams their own section, a new Oceanian qualifying zone was created. The winner of the single group of four would progress not to the World Cup, but a play-off against the runners-up of UEFA Group 7.

Australia and New Zealand of course entered, but this time no Fiji. Instead, the locations of other two teams in the group, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) and Israel, ranged from “not really near” to “nowhere near”, in relation Australia and New Zealand.

The reason was of course to keep Taiwan – competing as Chinese Taipai due to an agreement with China PR to recognise each other in terms of International Olympic Committee activities – away from China PR, for reasons we have discussed above. Meanwhile, Israel were still outcast from their Middle Eastern neighbours who had  refused to play them since the team evolved from the previous Palestinian British Mandate in 1948.


Chinese Taipai Olympic flag.

As we have seen earlier in the series this was not without precedent, after apartheid-South Africa’s (intended) entry to the Asia/Oceanian zone in 1966, Rhodesia in 1970, and Israel’s positioning in the east-Asian side of the draw throughout the 70s. For the 82 edition Israel switched back to UEFA, where they had last been in 1962 in one of the strangest qualification groups of all time (played as a mini-tournament) due to it’s additional inclusion of Ethiopia, alongside Italy Cyprus, and Romania.

As a weaker, visiting team in the zone, Taipei did not play any of their home games in Taiwan but instead used their opponent’s grounds, with the return game in the same location a few days later. They conceded 36 goals and scored 1 over the six encounters in September and October, 1985. Israel were not so willing to give up home advantage, meaning the Asian and Oceanian sides were forced to travel to the other side of the globe to play their away matches there.

Despite a 3-0 victory over New Zealand on the last day of the group, there would be no repeat of 1970 when Israel had qualified for the their only finals to date by defeating Australia in a two legged AFC/OFC final round. This time the Australians progressed in top-spot from this “island of misfit toys” zone, but still ended up losing out to Scotland in the inter-confederation play-offs.

  • World Cup 1986

Quarter-Finals

Argentina
England

Despite being one of the most famous matches of all time, it would have been remiss of us not to cover the clash between Argentina and England in the summer of 1986, which took place just four years after the Falklands War between the two countries (or more correctly, between Argentina and the UK). The Falkland/Malvinas Islands were first claimed by English settlers in 1764 and would go on to be a subject of dispute among British, French and Spanish colonialists, as well as by the near-by United Provinces of the River Plate – later Argentina.

By 1833 the United Provinces had appointed a Governor to the “Islas Malvinas”, as they called them, and curtailed sealing rights assumed by the US and UK, resulting in the arrival of an American warship and British military “task-force”. The Argentinians peacefully abandoned the islands, which would remain thereafter in the hands of the UK –  first as Crown Colony, later as a British Dependent Territory in 1981.

In 1976, an Argentinian military junta seized power after a right-wing coup d’état, murdering thousands of civilian opponents in the process. The finest moment for the new ruling generals would come two years later when the football-crazy country hosted the World Cup, and won – mainly, it is presumed, thanks to heavy government influence over officiating and at least one significant bribe.

But this “sporting” success and the patriotic euphoria that it brought weren’t enough to paper over the cracks in society, and by the early 80s – after two changes in dictator – civil unrest had grown amid dire economic stagnation. As is often the case, the solution was to appeal to nationalistic sentiment by retaking the Malvinas for Argentina, under the false assumption that the British had lost interest in the islands and would not respond to an invasion (the junta were also working with the CIA in Nicaragua and hoped, as a reward, that the USA would also turn a blind-eye).

Having already severed relations in the lead-up, the war began when Argentinian troops landed and occupied the islands on April 2nd, followed by the invasion of South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands (other near-by British possessions in the South Atlantic). The militarily-superior British responded rapidly, as the Falklands Task Force set sail on from England April 5th, and, after more than two months of fighting and hundreds of causalities one each side, Argentina surrendered on June 15th.

Contrary to what it had set out to do, the junta found it’s image shattered and in 1983 a general election restored democracy to Argentina. But one right-wing regime had in fact benefited from the conflict, as Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government surged ahead in the polls in the aftermath of her boy’s victory.

Thankfully for the footballing authorities, the two were not on course to meet at that summer’s 1982 World Cup in Spain – which had kicked-off two days before the end of the war – unless both reached the final. It was unlikely and proved not to be the case for either, but what a final that would have been.

Four years later in Mexico, the final again seemed like the only place that the two would meet, as the winners of Argentina’s Group A and England’s Group F would be placed on either side of the draw in the knock-out rounds. The Argentinians progressed in first place as expected, with wins over South Korea and Bulgaria while drawing with Italy, but in Group F a shock defeat at the hands of the Portuguese and a 0-0 draw with Morocco meant that England’s saving 3-0 win over Poland put them through in second.

A quarter-finals meeting was now a distinct possibility, which would be the first between the two in a World Cup finals match since a bitter affair on British soil in 1966 when England manager Alf Ramsey had infamously called the opposition “animals”. On June 16th, Argentina dismissed their Uruguayan neighbours to secure the first quarter-final spot, with England also warming up against South American opposition two days later when they defeated Paraguay to formally book the Falkland dream-match.

A stifling 114,580 filled Mexico City’s Aztec Stadium on June 22, 1982, for the much anticipated game, with Maradona the main-event on the pitch. But one problem off it was a lack of segregation in the stands, meaning that clashes between fans were inevitable.

With a combination of alcohol, heat, political-history, tension, football, and a ridiculous amount of people, various violent incidents broke out around the huge ground. Some were involving the more “normal fans” caught up in the occasion and arguing over flag space (with many thefts), while banners from such groups as Portsmouth’s 657 Crew and West Ham’s National Front division ominously displayed that English firms had made the long voyage across the Atlantic too.




Trouble in the terraces at Argentina vs England (above), while some Argentines prove they can take British flags if not their islands (below), June 22nd, 1986.

Flag of Portsmouth's "657 Crew" hooligan firm at Argentina vs England, June 22nd, 1986.

Along with the display of banners referencing the Falklands/Malvinas, national flags were burnt on both sides, as they had been before and after the match when more trouble erupted. In the worse sections of the stadium police eventually made lines where they could, while on the pitch Maradona established some sort of revenge for his people by stealing the show and sending England home.




Banners referncing the Falklands War, flag burning, and police line intervention at Argentina vs England, June 22nd, 1986.

It was to be the end of this period in the Anglo-Argentinian rivalry, as diplomatic links between the two countries were once again established in 1990. Of course in the 1998 World Cup a new chapter would begin, at least in football terms, before a fresh claim to the Falkands itself was briefly made by the Argentine government of 2007-2015.

  • World Cup 1990 qualifying

To briefly update two regions already covered in GoD parts 1 and 2: the World Cup 90 qualification system placed the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland together once again, nearly ten years to the day after their tense debut meeting in a Euro qualifier, while in Central America El Salvador had moved on from the Football War with Honduras in 1969 to continue it’s military dictatorship, before a brutal civil war began in 1979 which was still on going.

In Northern Ireland the “Troubles” were also still flaring, as heading into the first match at Windsor Park in November 1988 there had already been assassinations of IRA men in Gibraltar, murders at funerals and the bombings of military vehicles that year. Few if any fans from the 26 Counties (the Republic) made the journey up due to the obvious security concerns, where a tetchy 0-0 was played out, but the Irish finally enjoyed their first victory against the North in a more relaxed 3-0 encounter the following October in Dublin, en route to qualification.

In the Central and North American CONCACAF zone, meanwhile, El Salvador went into the qualifiers in June 1989 on the heels of right-wing paramilitary bomb attacks against trade-union workers. More violence would come later in the year with a renewed offensive by the left-wing FMLN guerillas in November, followed by the return of the opposing side’s ominously named “death squads” (infamously backed by the CIA originally) in 1990.

Prior to all this, the Salvadorians played their first match against Trinidad and Tobago in San Salvador, but then mysteriously shifted all their remaining home games out of the country to Honduras and Guatemala (although the latter was cancelled as both sides were already eliminated). We are honestly not sure what the exact reason was for this, but given the atmosphere in the country it seems likely to have been related to politics, violence, or some combination of the two.

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YouTube Links:

China vs Saudi Arabia, 1981
China vs Hong Kong, 1985
China vs Hong Kong, 1985
Iraq vs Qatar, 1985
Argentina vs England, 1985
Argentina vs England, 1985

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Football Special Report #7: Euro 84

Our previous Football Special Report was the first to deviate from the original format of highlighting a specific interesting match and what it entailed (but that is currently a fanzine exclusive installment). Now, having continued to peer quizzically around the retro footballing world, we cast our gaze upon the Euros of 1984.

Background:

The 1980 European Championships in Italy had been the first to feature eight teams in the competition, rather than the four that had been involved since the inaugural 1960 edition. But, uniquely for an eight team format, 80 would only see the top placed team in each group progress, with the two runners-up granted the “honour” of a third place play-off.

West Germany defeated Belgium in the final in Rome to take their second championship in the last three Euros, after the Soviet Union, Spain, Italy and Czechoslovakia had also picked up continental wins in the 60s and 70s. The latest West German triumph, following their second World Cup victory in 1974 (with further runner-up spots at both a Euros and World Cup to their name), had consolidated their status as Europe’s top team, and the nation’s footballing administrators hoped to be rewarded by bringing the tournament to their country in 1984.


The West German squad celebrate on the pitch after winning the Euro 80 final against Belgium, 22/06/1980.

The only other nation to contest the bidding process was France, who had hosted the original competition in 1960. The 74 West German World Cup was perhaps too fresh in the memory of the UEFA Executive Committee, who unanimously voted for the French to hold the next European Championships in a December 1981 meeting (although Germany would not have too long to wait for their turn).

With the ball for Euro 84 now rolling, the next step was the qualifying draw in Paris in January 1982. France of course entered automatically as hosts, leaving 32 other European nations to make up seven groups of four and five where the top placed finishers would progress.

Played out between May 1982 and December 1983, the only group that proved particularly clearly cut for the eventual victors was Belgium’s Group 1. Entering a third European Championships, the Belgians had comfortably seen off Switzerland, East Germany and a poor last placed Scotland, with their only group loss coming to the Swiss after qualification had already be secured.


Belgium vs Scotland in the yet-to-be-infamous Heysel Stadium, 15/12/1982.

Group 2, conversely, came down to a last day decider between Portugal and the USSR in Lisbon. With Poland and Finland already out of the running, the Portuguese claimed a 1-0 win to leapfrog the Soviets into first, and in doing so made their first major finals since World Cup 66.

Group 3 started with a smoky affair in Copenhagen between Denmark and England where the points were shared. A further blip occurred for the the English when they drew 0-0 at home to Greece in March 83, before the Danes astonishingly took “all two points” (still awarded for a win instead of three at this time) in Wembley in September. 9-0 and 0-4 defeats of Luxembourg, as well as home and away victories over Hungary, were not enough for the unconvincing English, as a 0-2 win over Greece in November 83 sealed an exciting Denmark team’s qualification by a single point.

In Group 4, three-time tournament participants Yugoslavia proved too strong for the Welsh, Bulgarians and Norwegians, taking pole position with eight points to Wales’ seven. Similarly in Group 5, Romania impressively came out trumps over Sweden by a point, as supposed heavyweights Italy and Czechoslovakia disappointingly finishing third and fourth with Cyprus propping up the table.


The picturesque scene for Yugoslavia and Wales' Euro qualifier in Titograd (now Podgorica, capital of Montenegro) that would end in a 4-4 draw, 15/12/1982.

While Austria, Turkey and Albania made up the numbers, Northern Ireland looked set to qualify ahead of West Germany in Group 6 after a marvelous 0-1 upset in Hamburg in November, 1983, having already won on home soil in Belfast. The Germans still had to play Albania in Saarbrücken five days later, but the waiting North were on course to make it to their first ever Euros until the 79th minute when the home team finally went 2-1 up; both West Germany and Northern Ireland finished level on 11 points, but the former went through on goal difference.


Northern Ireland fans in Hamburg for their side's 0-1 Euro qualifier win away to West Germany, 16/11/1983.

The last group, Group 7, turned out to be a similar situation, as Netherlands and Spain emerged ahead of Ireland, Iceland, and group whipping boys Malta (although they did beat Iceland 2-1 in the first game of the group). But what was to come in the final round of fixtures proved the most intriguing situation in all the qualifiers.

Having lost only once (away to each other) in their games up to now, the Dutch and the Spanish went to into December 1983 level on eleven points, both with one last respective home game against Malta to come. It would effectively be a straight shoot out against the poor Maltese, to see who could amass the greater goal difference and advance.

First came the attempt of the Netherlands who ended up 5-0 winners in Rotterdam, delivering a final goal difference of +16. As Spain currently had +5, this meant an eleven goal victory was needed in Madrid five days later for the home side to qualify, but the Maltese goalkeeper brazenly and bizarrely claimed beforehand that the Spanish could not even score eleven goals past a team of children.

Spain missed a penalty minutes into the match, before going into the break only 3-1 up. To the delight of the crowd though, an amazing nine goals were scored after half time, with the last in the 84th minute making it 12-1 come the final whistle. The Spanish were through, but of course questions of bribery were instantly raised, along with sinister claims by two Maltese players of doping as “they (the Spanish players) had foam in their mouths and could not stop drinking water”.


The 12th goal in the 12-1 win over Malta that sent Spain to Euro 84, 21/12/1983.

Like the 78 World Cup final, the Dutch could perhaps feel hard done by and, after already missing out on Euro 80 and World Cup 82, they would have to wait another four years before they would finally return to the big time when they would at last win a trophy. Regardless, the eight finalists going to France had been decided, pleasingly with two debutante qualifiers (Portugal and Romania); two making their second appearance (Denmark and France); two making their third appearance (Belgium and Spain); and, you guessed it, two making their fourth appearance (Yugoslavia and West Germany).

The format for the upcoming tournament was again adapted, as the top two countries in each group would now thankfully progress to semi-finals before the final; equally thankfully, the rather useless third place play-off was dropped. The eight cities of Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Saint-Étienne, Lens, Nantes, Strasbourg were to host the matches, and a trim squad of twenty was to be brought by each qualifying nation.

UEFA European Championships 1984

We cannot confirm, but presumably the final draw took place in Paris sometime between December 83 and January 84. The two groups created were:

Group 1

Belgium
Denmark
France
Yugoslavia

Group 2

Portugal
Romania
Spain
West Germany

One thing that jumps out about this tournament was some amazing synchronicity in scorelines between games played on the same day. Only one goal in each group would end up preventing identical scorelines in Group 1, and identical results in Group 2.

Another major feature was some of the revolutionary jerseys on show, with both France and Belgium in spectacular bespoke Adidas designs that were primed for retro-revivals in years to come. The Germans and Romanians used Adidas’s slightly more understated “Aberdeen” template, with Portugal and Yugoslavia rocking the mega-classy, diagonal pin-striped “Chelsea” variety. The only non-Adidas apparel was provided by recent converts Spain, now in Le Coq Sportif, along side the always welcome Hummel of Denmark.


France home, Belgium away, Portugal home.

Round 1:

The hosts kicked off the show taking on the Danes in a sold out Parc des Princes, Paris, on June 12th. The real talking point for us was the huge plume of smoke coming from outside the stadium at half time. Whether this was a controlled industrial blaze, or if something was seriously on fire is unknown (it was probably explained by the commentators but we don’t speak French):

A huge marching band also entertained the fans before the game and during the break:

As can be seen in the background, the visitors were well represented in the stands with some nice flags on show:

Not so nice, however, was the injury suffered by Danish striker Allan Simonsen, after a 50-50 challenge left him with a broken shin. Apparently the sound in the stadium was like “a branch breaking in a tree” as it occurred:

Despite a red-card for Frenchman Manual Amaros – for throwing the ball at/headbutting Jesper Olsen – a second half Platini goal gave the home side the win. The following day in the Lens’ intimdating Stade Félix-Bollaert, Belgium took on and beat Yugoslavia with a comfortable 2-0 win, as many fans with yellow hats looked on:

Group 2 was to commence on June 14th, first with the meeting of West Germany and Portugal in Strasbourg – a game notable as the scene for the only major hooligan disturbance during the final. Apparently a group of Germans were responsible for the incidents (we are unclear on what happened exactly), but were swiftly arrested and sent the short distance back across the border.

Of course when it came to hooligans, the main difference between Euro 80 and the other European Championships of the time (Euro 80, 88 and 92) was a lack of England, who’s presence would have almost certainly increased the rate of trouble by several hundred percent. The failure to qualify also meant that the ever-insular English decided against broadcasting most of the tournament live on TV, with only the Spanish-German match and final set to be shown in the UK as they happened.

In the match itself at Stade de la Meinau, the Portuguese managed to hold the cup holders to 0-0. As always, the Germans were well represented in the stands, as evident by their array of flags which included one banner in the German Empire colours:

The less political, but just as colourful, Portuguese savored their first summer back in action in nearly two decades, as well as celebrating a great result:

Later that evening in Saint-Étienne’s Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Romania began their first ever major finals. Like Portugal earlier, they will have been satisfied to take a 1-1 draw from their encounter with another former champion in Spain, especially having come from behind:

Back to Group 1 and June 16th would see the first regional derby of the Cup, with France taking on Belgium in Nantes’ Stade de la Beaujoire. The teams emerged to show that France – led by a Platini who looked dead inside – were debuting their stunning change kit (as they were the “away” team in the tie), while the Belgians strangely wore what looked like Argentinian-inspired anthem jackets:

Once the jackets came off, the traveling team’s own home jersey was revealed for the first time in tournament, which was another masterpiece:

A match-fixing scandal involving Belgian clubs Standard Liege and Waterschei a few years earlier had left the Belgium without several key defenders, who were suspended. This weakness, as well as the host’s strength, was evident as the French booked their place in the semis with an embarrassing 5-0 defeat for the visitors, as a now smiling Platini bagged a hat-trick (pictures of fans are more interesting though):

Stade de Gerland in Lyon was the scene a couple of hours later for Denmark vs Yugoslavia and amazingly it would be another 5-0 scoreline, this time with the Danes taking the points. The heavy loss was not what you would expect of the “Brazil of Europe” (as the Balkan superstate were known with regards only to football) and, reflecting this, their manager Todor Veselinović was admitted to hospital after the game for stress and exhaustion.

The next day, Lens hosted a now “hooligan-free” German contingent for their game against Romania. Although the team were under-performing, the German supporters on the terraces more than made up for it with their banners:

In this “battle of the Aberdeen shirts”, the Romanians in their red change kit will have been hopeful for a repeat of their earlier match, as the sides went into the break at 1-1. But Rudi Voller’s second of the game after the break secured West Germany’s first win of the competition:

That evening, Marseille’s Stade Vélodrome – the largest stadium in the Championships with 55,000 capacity – saw it’s first use for the Iberian derby between Spain and Portugal. Unfortunately, less than half the ground was filled as only 24,464 watched another 1-1 draw.

On June 19th, Group 1 would conclude with simultaneous games in Saint-Étienne and Strasbourg. The French continued their championship form with a 3-2 win over the hapless Yugoslavs (although they had gone 0-1 up), as Platini bagged his second consecutive hat-trick – seven goals in only three games overall:

But continuing on from the manager’s health scare following the Belgium game, there would be more darkness for Yugoslavia at full time as the team doctor of all people suffered a heart attack on the pitch and later died in hospital. The cause of death may indeed have been the sudden appearance of a nightmarish chicken-man:

After what must have seemed like a cursed tournament, Veselinović unsurprisingly resigned as Yugoslavia coach as short time later. The other match between Denmark and Belgium, meanwhile, was a more exciting affair to see who would take second place in the group:

The Belgians were 2-0 up after 40 minutes, but one pulled back before the break followed by two in the second half gave the delirious Danes a famous 3-2 victory. And, for the second time in two Group 1 days, five goals had been scored in both games:

Nantes and Paris played host to last group matches on June 20th, with Portugal taking on Romania in Stade de Beaujoir. The game saw both sides in their away kits, with guards conspicuously standing on front of the stands:

Just about coming out on top both in the fashion stakes and on the pitch, the classy-kitted Portuguese were able to secure their place in the next stage with a 1-0 win:

But the big game was happening in the capital, as even the English watched on from home to see West Germany take on Spain. With the Spanish having only managed two points so far, the Germans looked set to progress until the 90th minute when goal scoring defender Antonio Maceda – who had found the net four times during qualifying – arrived in the box to head in a 1-0 winner:

Like the “miracle of Madrid” against Malta, once again the Spanish had somehow managed to progress, while the Germans would be following their hooligans with an early trip home:

Semi-finals:

On June 23rd, the Velodrome would at last be used to it’s potential as locals filled the stadium to capacity for the home nation’s semi against Portugal – ultimately the biggest crowd of the tournament. With the score at 1-1 after 90 minutes, extra-time was needed in which another two goals made it 2-2 with seconds to go:

Penalties looked assured, until that man Platini scored in the last minute of extra-time to deliver another 3-2 win. Absolute carnage of course ensues, and pyro:

The second semi-final in Lyon on the 24th proved an equally tight encounter between Denmark and Spain. The Danes went one-up early on through Bayern Munich’s Søren Lerby, but amazingly Maceda was again on hand to equalise in the 67th minute:

This time, after two hours of football, it did go all the way to a shoot-out. Unfortunately, Danmark’s star man Preben Elkjær was the only player to miss his spot-kick as the Spanish triumphed by five penalties to four, but his displays at the tournament earned him a transfer from Belgium club Lokeren to Italy’s Hellas Verona shortly afterwards.

Final:

Only 15 days after they had started the cup there, France returned to Paris for the final against Spain on June 27th. The media hyped an epic contest and of course all eyes were on Platini, who kicked off the game to a vintage cacophony of horns from the crowd:

Pockets of colourful Spanish also made themselves seen among the overwhelmingly home support:

The match turned out to be somewhat of an anti-climax for the neutral. At the break it was still 0-0, as we can see from the excellent graphics:

The French substitutes demonstrated some of the other beautiful gear that the team had, with an array of sweat-shirts based off the jersey (one not pictured was devoid of any insignia):

The home nation soon reveled as Platini did indeed fulfill his destiny of scoring in every game (9 overall, still a record) by giving France the lead on 57 minutes. Winger Bruno Bellone secured the trophy with a second goal on the 90th minute – the French had won their first ever piece of silverware at senior level:

With some exciting games, decent football, and a lack of major trouble, the tournament was deemed a resounding success. These would go on to be crucial factors in France’s bid to host the 98 World Cup, which would turn out to be scene as they next won a trophy in the exact same stadium – fittingly wearing a tribute shirt to the 84 design. But worryingly, unlike 1984, this time the English were coming.

*

Helpful ‘1980s Sports Blog’ post on Euro 84
Video links:
West Germany vs Belgium, 1980
Belgium vs Scotland, 1982
Yugoslavia vs Wales, 1982
West Germany vs Northern Ireland, 1983
Spain vs Malta, 1983
France vs Denmark, 1984
Belgium vs Yugoslavia, 1984
Portugal vs West Germany, 1984
Spain vs Romania, 1984
Belgium vs France, 1984
Denmark vs Yugoslavia, 1984
West Germany vs Romania, 1984
France vs Yugoslavia, 1984
Denmark vs Belgium, 1984
Romania vs Portugal, 1984
Spain vs West Germany, 1984
France vs Portugal, 1984
Spain vs Denmark, 1984
France vs Spain, 1984
France vs Spain, 1984

*****

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…

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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

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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.

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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 look 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

*

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

*****

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

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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

***

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

***

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).

*****

 

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.

*****

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: