Champagne Kit Campaigns #6: Brazil, World Cup 1978

Welcome to the long-awaited sixth installment of Champagne Kit Campaigns, the series in which we have already featured some classic Norwegian, Russian, Dutch and Irish attires. For the first time we now turn our attention to a non-European nation in one of the world’s most recognisable and aesthetically pleasing teams, as seen during a suitably colourful era in which “modern” styles were slowly beginning to emerge.

Background:

From 1954 until 1976, Brazil’s famous yellow shirts, blue shorts and white socks were made by native sports-apparel manufacturers Athleta. No branding from the company appeared in any way on the exterior of the kits, as was the case for most nations at the time (but, since the late 60s, not all). Besides the trademark green collar-cuffs, green and yellow sock turnovers and crest, a lone, white stripe running down the side of the shorts was the only other design element in sight when the side played their last game of 1976 against the USSR.

When next in action – a friendly at home to Bulgaria on January 23rd, 1977 – there would be two small differences: the colour on the socks had been reversed from green-over-yellow to yellow-over-green; and on the shorts – which had remained a particularly light shade of blue throughout the 70s – the stripes had multiplied by three. There was apparently no other outward indication to say so (apart from the goalkeeper, see below), but it was clearly the beginning of the Adidas-era for the seleção (“selection”).


Brazil with (blurry) three stripes of Adidas on their shorts, vs Bulgaria, January 1977.

The same kit was worn for a scoreless World Cup qualifier in Colombia the following month, with the hosts graciously forgoing their – at this point – orange home shirt and wearing all-white instead. The Brazilians returned the favour when the two teams met again on front of more than 132,000 in the Maracanã Stadium in March, donning their blue and white away strip for the first time in the Adidas years, and were rewarded with a 6-0 win.

The darker shade of blue – for both the shirts and shorts trim – than currently seen on the home shorts made a future combination seem unlikely, yet it had already happened at the previous World Cup. The layout of the jersey remained identical to the home, continuing a lack of branding, but this time a trefoil appeared on the shorts of at least some of the players.


Brazil in away kit with trefoi-less (left) and trefoil (right) shorts, at home to Colombia, March 1977.

In the same group, which was in fact a preliminary stage before the final round, the only other country were Paraguay where Brazil traveled next a few days later. From this game comes the first confirmation of a trefoil on the home shorts (it may have already been worn by some players against Bulgaria or Colombia, but we have no visual evidence right now), as well as it seeming that both colour variations of the socks were in use within the team. After a 0-1 win and another draw at home to progress as group winners, a number of glamorous home friendlies (a rarity these days in the country with the money laying abroad) were scheduled for over the winter months.

The regular first-choice strip was used for the opener against England on June 8th (in which the English utilised a rarely-seen red/white/blue combination), before the visit of white-socked West Germany four days later gave an excuse to mix things up. Despite the fact that a sock-clash had recently been acceptable in a competitive setting against Colombia, plain blue (matching the shorts) alternates were chosen for this game, while again some players wore shorts with trefoils but some without.


A trefoil visible on Brazil's blue shorts, with blue sock combination, in the friendly against West Germany, June 1977.

The arrival of Poland with white jerseys on June 19th meant that the blue shirt was given another outing at home, and trefoil-less white shorts were preferred by (or forced upon) the majority. This was also the case when the home strip returned for games against Scotland on the 23rd and Yugoslavia on the 26th (where the goalkeeper, usually in blue or green, sported an interesting white jersey without the signature “Brasil”) but the logo was at least again present for the final friendly in the run against France on June 30th.


Brazil shorts clearly without a trefoil during the game vs Scotland, June, 1977.

The French game presents us with a bigger bombshell however: a faint trefoil and Adidas word mark were actually present on the chests of the jerseys, and possibly had even been there since an earlier match. We know this thanks to the great work done by Soccernostalgia and specifically their Soccernostalgia: Retro Soccer Magazines Facebook page (which exists besides their regular Facebook page) and a post showing close-up shots of the match that clearly reveal the presence of the trefoil (as does this match-worn shirt from the time)

In July, World Cup qualification concluded with a round-robin of three teams who were to play each other once on the neutral soil of Cali, Colombia. The top two would advance to the finals, but the third still got a second chance through a play-off with a European group winner. A 1-0 win over Peru (with “trefoiless” shorts again) on the 10th of the month put one Brazilian foot in the World Cup, and four days later an 8-0 bullying of Bolivia emphatically announced Brazil as qualifiers, and contenders, for the 1978 World Cup in neighbouring Argentina.

1978, pre-World Cup

The 8-0 was the last international for nearly nine months as Brazil would not play again until a tour of “return friendlies” in April, 1978, against the highest profile opponents from the year before – France, West Germany and England. The visit of exotic, South American “royalty” was exciting enough on it’s own for Europeans, but, unbeknownst to the public, this Brazilian side was also bringing a visual treat in the form of some of their greatest kits to date (in our subjective opinion of course).

Ahead of the game on April 1st in Parc des Princes against the French (where the visitors would end up as “fools” after a 1-0 loss), captain and veteran of two World Cups already Rivellino displayed the first part of the gear-evolution with an amazing raglan sleeved tracksuit top, complete with stripes and trefoil.


Style-icon Rivellino ahead of the game against France, April, 1978.

When the warm-up jackets came off, the real feast for the eyes was revealed in the form of Brazil’s new jerseys. Employing Adidas’s “World Cup Dress” template beautifully, the collar and cuffs were perfectly primed to incorporate the ever-present darkish green, and a trefoil returned in a more obvious way while stripes finally now did appear on the sleeves. As was standard on this particular design, the Adidas logo sat particularly high on the chest of the shiny material.


The new Brazil home kit with complete Adidas branding, as seen against France, April 1978.

Besides the shirt, a trefoil was now also standard on the shorts, and the seemingly random green/yellow or yellow/green sock turnovers were replaced with perhaps the piece de resistance of the kit: green, yellow and green hooped-stripes over the white background.

The strip was not quite “complete”, however, at least for some. On the backs of the starting XI’s jerseys, solid green numbers appeared, akin to those on the previous jersey and mirrored by smaller, white numbers on the shorts. But for the substitutes, who were really the ones wearing the kit in it’s truest form, Adidas’s trademark striped number font appeared for the first time.


Above, the sold numbers on starting Brazilian players's backs, and below, striped numbers on substitutes, during France vs Brazil, 1978.

In Hamburg four days later, another of the great Brazil shirts was on show as a slightly new away kit was used. Unlike in Paris, the shirt sleeves were devoid of stripes, but a white trefoil sitting parallel to the crest still gave the shirt an early-contemporary look much like that of their West German opponents’ Erima shirts.

There was more classic 1970s inconsistencies, however, as some players’ jerseys had no trefoil. Considering the sock situation last time, it also would have been nice to see Brazil use their alternate home socks from the year before to avoid the clash, but perhaps this royal blue/white/sky blue combination would have been considered a step too far.


Brazil wearing their away kit in West Germany in April, 1978.

After a two-week break for Brazil (having beaten the Germans 0-1), 92,000 packed into Wembley for the grand finale against the English (a 1-1 draw). While back in the home kit, strangely it would not be the same shirt as used against France, although just as good. The trefoil was now lower, like on the away jersey, and the material seemed of the the less-shiny variety. Finally, on the back, the striped-numbers were now standard, although the solid style remained via the shorts.


The amazing Brazil jersey, front on back, as seen against England in Wembley, April, 1977.

The use of two distinct home shirts on the tour suggests a similar situation to that of the Dutch during the same year (as we saw in CKC#2) who rotated between kits supplied by Adidas Ventex and Adidas Erima. Indeed, examining the label of a Brazilian shirt from the time (via ebay) with the “upper trefoil” positioning (a different collar means that it is a “Santos/Nacional” template rather than “World Cup Dress”) shows the Ventex trademark, while the label of a jersey apparently used against England shows Erima.

Besides the fact that an updated, fresh look for the upcoming World Cup was warranted, the new jerseys’ appearances coinciding with visits to the home of Ventex (France, worn by the French national team), and subsequently to the home of Erima (likewise West Germany, making the similar layouts of the two jerseys used in the German match even more “suspicious”), makes us wonder if they were picked up en-route, or perhaps “part of the deal”.

To conclude their World Cup warm-ups, Brazil welcomed Peru and Czechoslovakia to Rio for friendlies in May, 1977. The weather must still have been balmy heading into southern hemisphere winter as a short-sleeved version of “World Cup Dress” was seen for the first time, with the trefoil now back in it’s “expected” raised position evidentially meaning a Ventex model. After 2-0 and 3-0 wins kept the home fans upbeat heading into the tournament, the question on everybody’s minds must surely have been “which shirt version will be used at the finals?”.


Brazil in the kit used for final World Cup warm-ups against Peru and Czechoslovakia (pictured), May 1978.

*

World Cup 1978, Argentina

At the draw in Buenos Aires on January 14th, 1978, top seeds Brazil ended up in group three of four along with all-European opposition: Sweden, Spain and Austria. As in 1974, when Brazil had finished 4th losing out to Poland in the third-place play-off, the group stage was to be followed by a second round of two more groups, with the top placed sides then ultimately progressing to the final.

With two of the teams in the group wearing yellow shirts as first preference, and three using blue shorts, clashes and combinations of some variety were inevitable. As always, stricter regulations on clashes in World Cups – in part due to those watching on black and white TVs – meant that some classic or unique kit mash-ups were already guaranteed.

Furthermore, following the dawn of World Cup finals kit branding in West Germany four years earlier, 1978 was naturally to be the most commercialised tournament to date. Most teams involved were now wearing some sort of visible trademark from the likes of Adidas, Puma, Erima, Umbro, and even Mexico’s Levis/Adidas hybrid.

Off the pitch it was also set to be one of the most politically charged, as sport was being used as a propaganda tool for not the first or last time. The deaths and disappearances of thousands at the hands of the ruling military Junta – for whom hosting was a proud honour and perfect PR exercise aimed at those home and abroad – resulted in Johan Cryuff famously boycotting the tournament, and, more clandestinely, rebellious groundsmen painting the base of each goalpost black to commemorate the victims of the regime.


First Round, Group 3:

Brazil
Sweden
Spain
Austria


Match 1: Brazil vs Sweden
Estadio José Maria Minella, Mar del Plata, 03/06/1978

Kicking off against Sweden on the third-day of the tournament in Mara Del Plata, it was finally time to see what Brazil were wearing. Seemingly the “non-shiny” Erima jerseys got the nod, complete with striped numbers, but notably absent from both shirt and shorts was the trefoil:

The fellow-yellows of Sweden, who like many others were also in the World Cup Dress template, had been drawn as the “away” side in the fixture and were hence wearing their own stunning blue and white change strip:

Showing that the Brazilian’s lack of manufacturer logo had nothing to do with the rules, the Swedes’ version of the same design quite clearly displayed a white trefoil (plus a wordmark, which evidently shouldn’t have been allowed judging by the Netherland’s cover-up job) that contrasted the otherwise yellow trim beautifully (the icing on the cake being the yellow numbers on the back):

Having gone 0-1 down on 37 mins, Reinaldo equalised for the seleção just before half-time to give us a good look at all those great yellow shirts and light blue shorts through the celebrations. Given it was winter in Argentina, which was apparent by the hats and jackets in the crowd, long sleeves were used by all squads throughout the tournament, much to the delight of stripe aficionados like ourselves:

The score would remain 1-1 until the last play of the game when one of the most bizarre incidents in World Cup history occured. With a corner to Brazil as the clock ticked past 90, the ball was swung in and headed into the goal by Zico:

But to his and his teammate’s dismay, the ref – Clive Thomas from Wales – had simultaneously blown for full-time:

As Thomas sternly walked away, while indicating that time had indeed ran out, the “neutral” Argentinians in the crowd enjoyed the disappointment and anger of their South American rivals:

Result: Brazil 1-1 Sweden


Match 2, Spain vs Brazil
Estadio José Maria Minella, Mar del Plata, 07/06/1978

Brazil returned to Estadio José Maria Minella – named after a former esteemed midfielder for the local club, but built by the Junta only two years earlier – four days later for the second of three consecutive visits to the stadium in the first group stage. However they were suddenly now the “away” team, which against the “blue-shorted” Spanish created the next noteworthy situation:

Due to the blue vs blue clash, Brazil emerged in their away shorts (also without trefoil if you’re counting) to recreate a great look also seen at the last World Cup – yellow/white/white:

The trim on the shorts was of course blue to match the away jersey, so the strip that had been created consisted of three different stripe-configurations across the shirt (green over yellow), shorts (blue over white) and socks (green, yellow, green over white). Of course this was also the case for the home kit, considering the usual white stripes over light blue, but there it was “intended”.

Other interesting highlights from the match included huge the Spanish flags surrounding much of the pitch, presumably the work of Argentine-based ex-pats:

…and the state of the pitch, which had not sufficiently recovered from the first game was clearly hampering play in certain areas:

Spain were incidentally one team without any branding at all on their kits, as one of the last hold-outs along with Italy. Spanish gear had been made by Deportes Cóndor since 1933 (thanks to POTP supporter Lucas for this info), but it would turn out to be the final year of partnership with the local firm and hence final World Cup wearing traditional plain shirts and shorts, while the Italians impressively saw out the rest of the century before giving in.

The pitch surely won’t have helped matters for either side and a 0-0 draw was played out. Following the robbery of victory through a certain Welshman already, a slightly worrying situation for Brazil had suddenly developed going into the last group game:

Result: Spain 0-0 Brazil


Match 3, Brazil vs Austria
Estadio José Maria Minella, Mar del Plata, 11/06/1978

Next up for the so far underwhelming Brazil was a surprisingly strong Austrian side, who had already won both their other matches. Back in the home kit, through the Brazilian team photo we see an interesting detail in that some players (see Oscár, no.3) were in jerseys with narrower outer-stripes on their sleeves. As demonstrated by this Nantes 1976 team photo, and later Sochaux in 1981, the variation wasn’t uncommon in France, perhaps meaning Ventex after all (although we don’t know if it was also used by Erima).

On the 40th minute, the 24 year old with boy-band-esq looks and a name to match, Roberto Dinamite, put his side in front for the first time in the tournament:

Austria were the only side repping Puma at the World Cup, and did so in a very smart template with black shorts and socks:

It was, of course, the Austrian’s third game in a row facing teams in blue shorts. Against Spain, they had combined their white shirts with the white shorts and red socks of their red-shirted away strip, but when facing Sweden, who used the same shade of shorts as Spain and with the added white/yellow TV clash, both sides were strangely allowed wear their full home kits. While we’re on the subject, Spain achieved one of their all-time great unintentional combinations at same time as the Austria-Brazil game through their meeting with Sweden, where their white away shorts were inserted into the otherwise home kit.

In the end, the single first half goal was enough to win it for Brazil, giving them second place and qualification ahead of Spain. Finishing behind Austria was a shock, but would it necessarily mean a more difficult “path” to the final? (since another group was more like a carpark than a path).

Result: Brazil 1-0 Austria


Elsewhere
, it transpired that Brazil weren’t the only big team to under-perform in the first round. In Group 2, West Germany’s 0-0 draws with Poland and Tunisia meant they finished runners-up, saved by a 6-0 demolition of Mexico in between. The Netherlands in Group 4 also drew 0-0 with Peru before a 3-2 loss to the Scottish, but progressed on goal difference after an opening 3-0 defeat of Iran.

In Group 1, the hosts had secured their qualification early with back to back 2-1 wins over Hungary and France, but a 0-1 loss at the hands of the Italians on the last day meant they too would be condemned to 2nd. Overall, these results mean that Austria, Peru and Poland were progressing as unlikely group winners, with Argentina, Brazil, West Germany and Netherlands making up a formidable list of runners-up.

Poland and Peru were the real losers in this, as the would have hoped to have been facing Austria rather Brazil in their group, along with either Argentina or Italy. As it was, they were up against all-South American opposition, while the plucky Austrians were rewarded for their round 1 performances with the delightful prospect of Italy, Netherlands and West Germany.

Second Round, Group B

Argentina
Poland
Brazil
Peru


Match 4, Brazil vs Peru
Estadio Ciudad de Mendoza, Mendoza, 14/06/1978

Having ended up in the South American-heavy Group B in Round 2, Brazil finally “escaped” Mar del Plata and headed west to Mendoza. The familiar faces of Peru were the first opposition in this new pool, with the two teams jousting for the third time in less than a year.

In the home kit once more (with the thin stripes again noticeable), that kid Dinamite was on hand to win a penalty that would help his side go 3-0 up:

But wait, what’s that on the shorts? For the second time in this CKC, it’s another bombshell:

While slightly blurry above, a trefoil was clearly visible. As with the year before, perhaps some had already been wearing shorts with the Adidas’s trademark off-camera, but certainly the intended World Cup kit had been meant to be sans-trefoil. However, like how we saw with the Netherlands it was not unheard of for squads as this World Cup to bring slightly different versions of their kit.

Against a hapless (later suspiciously hapless while playing the hosts) Peru, 3-0 it ended. At least the opponents’ famous sash shirts get a look in here:

Result: Brazil 3-0 Peru

 

Match 5, Argentina vs Brazil
Estadio Gigante de Arroyito, Rosario, 18/06/1978

Another fixture that was no stranger to the international calendar awaited in Rosario four days later, and on paper it was the toughest the date for Brazil. Argentina had beaten Poland 2-0 on the same day that Brazil defeated Peru, and, assuming both Brazil and Argentina would repeat these results when they switched opponents, this meant the game between the two was a near semi-final.

When usually facing each other, including at the most recent Copa America in 1976, both would wear their regular home strips. But interestingly, the last time they had played at a World Cup  in 1974 (also first World Cup meeting), Brazil wore their blue/white/white kit, with Argentina in grey socks avoiding a clash on that level.

The jersey change was slightly odd back then considering that it meant both teams ended up wearing alot of blue, and one would have assumed that Argentina’s vertical stripes gave enough distinction as it was. A lesson may have been learned, as this time Brazil repeated the look from the Spain game, while Argentina substituted their white socks for black creating an equally fetching look:

Again, it at least appears that no trefoils were found on anyone’s shorts, but, given what we have seen, there may have been one lurking somewhere among the squad. One of what there was definitely not, though, was goals, as the supposed play-off ended in a 0-0 stalemate. The results of both final games were now crucial.

Result: Argentina 0-0 Brazil


Match 6, Poland vs Brazil ,
Estadio Ciudad de Mendoza, Mendoza, 21/06/1978

Back in Mendoza one last time on the southern hemisphere’s shortest day of the year, a repeat from 1974 again lay in store for Brazil in the final group game. Back in West Germany it had been the 3rd place play-off, and now Brazil or Poland could well end up there again next. But a win could potentially take either to the World Cup final too, especially in the unlikely event that Peru beat Argentina later in the evening.

Again the “away” side, the allocation luckily gave the need for the away kit to be finally used in possibly it’s last chance. It was confirmed that, like the home, the blue shirt was devoid of a trefoil, but stripes and stripy numbers were now seen on a senior Brazilian away jersey for the first time ever:

This was another case of a different set of kit-colours being used from the previous World Cup, when Brazil wore the yellow/white/white strip against Poland’s all red. The Polish, in a home outfit nearly as amazing as Sweden away, were another side in World Cup Dress, wearing what appears to be the Ventex version:

Like Argentina before, Poland added their red away socks to the white shirt and red shorts of their home kit to accommodate Brazil’s ever present white pairs. In retrospect, the fact that the whites were the Brazilian’s only option seems like a significant oversight, as the onus was always automatically on the opponents to change. But this sort of thing is of course typical when considering the lack of regulations from era, and we wouldn’t change it for anything.

We mentioned our love for sleeve stripes earlier, and one great thing about this age of World Cups is the lack of official badges that would later haunt the sleeves of modern tournaments. For Argentina 78 in the winter, this meant satisfyingly long, uninterrupted stripes on the Adidas team’s jerseys, with the very notable exception of left Polish arms:

Instead of some sort of juicy political gesture (which probably would not have been allowed even by 1970s standards), the badge, containing a letter C with a heart in the middle, was strangely to represent a children’s hospital in Warsaw that had opened the year before.

At the this late stage, we finally take a look at the goalkeeper kit worn by Brazil’s – or “Brasil” as his jersey said – number 1, Émerson Leão. Since goalkeeper attire was always a bit different in the 70s and 80s (sometimes featuring far more branding and occasionally of a different make altogether) and therefore in a category of their own, we haven’t drawn too much attention to the fact that his “shades of green” strip featured trefoils throughout the tournament :

In the game, three Brazilian goals – including two from Roberto D. – and some South American class were enough to were enough to take the two points (three points for a win wouldn’t be introduced until USA 94), with one consolation goal in return from the Poles:

Two points clear and with a six goal advantage over Argentina, Brazil were in top spot. For now. But their fans celebrated like they were already in the World Cup final:

Result: Poland 1-3 Brazil


Of course
a couple of hours later, Brazil and the rest of the world would watch on as one of the most infamous matches in World Cup history unfolded. Peru completed their hapless destiny (losing all three games in the phase and without scoring a goal) and were suspiciously beaten by the six needed for the Junta’s team to advance.

Without losing a game, incredibly Brazil were out of the tournament. Except for one last thing.


Third Place Play-Off

Match 7, Brazil vs Italy
Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires, 24/06/1978

At last Brazil had made it to the stage of the World Cup final, except a day before the actual final itself between Argentina and the Netherlands. Instead, River Plate’s Estadio Monumental was also the host of the 3rd/4th place play-off on June 24th.

For the game against Group A runners-up Italy, the full Brazilian home kit was worn one more time with the trefoil shorts again used by at least Roberto:

Before leaving the World Cup, we also get once last look at those great sock turnover hoops:

Italy, for their part, were notable at this tournament for tiny, numbered pockets on the front of their shorts, and uniquely styled numbers on the backs of their jerseys. Often incorrectly attributed to brand-less Adidas at this World Cup, Italian firm Baila Landoni produced the kits:

With the Italians having taken the lead (as evident by above) on 38 minutes, Rivellino – in what would turn out to be his last cap for Brazil – attempted to settled his team mates:

In the second half, Nelinho pulled one back on 64 minutes:

…before Dirceu scored his third of the tournament seven minutes later to win it for Brazil, with the wild celebrations displaying how much this “meaningless” play-off actually still meant:

Result: Brazil 2-1 Italy

BRAZIL – THIRD PLACE

Breakdown
Team: Brazil 
Year(s): 1978
Competition: World Cup 78
Kit Supplier: Adidas
Competitive Games: 7
Kit Colour Combinations: 3
Kit Technical Combinations: 5


Aftermath:

After initial disappointment in the first round Brazil had ended up third in the world, which was at least an improvement on the last tournament, and without having lost in seven games. Furthermore, they could quite legitimately claim that they were “cheated” out of a win in the first game, and a possibly even a place in the final.

Brazil would continue wearing Adidas into 1979, including during that year’s Copa America (held across several countries). In the January summer heat, a short sleeved, “trefoiled” version like that seen before the World Cup was back, but the Adidas logo was level to the crest rather than raised on some player’s shirts.

By 1980, the three stripes and trefoils were gone, replaced by logos of the kit manufacturer for the next decade – Topper. The brief, highly underrated Adidas era – our undisputed favourite for Brazil – was over. Or at least at senior level it was, as their Adidas-produced Olympic 84 and 88 (with, shockingly, green shorts) kits provides us with what an alternative timeline might have looked like where they had stayed on for a few years longer.

*****

YouTube Links:

Brazil vs Bulgaria, 1977
Brazil vs Colombia, 1977
Brazil vs West Germany, 1977
Brazil vs Scotland, 1977
France vs Brazil, 1978
West Germany vs Brazil, 1978
England vs Brazil, 1978
Brazil vs Czechoslovakia, 1978
Brazil vs Sweden, 1978
Spain vs Brazil, 1978
Brazil vs Austria, 1978
Brazil vs Peru, 1978
Argentina vs Brazil, 1978
Poland vs Brazil, 1978
Poland vs Brazil, 1978
Poland vs Brazil, 1978
Brazil vs Italy, 1978
Brazil vs Italy, 1978

*****

 

Gif of the Day Superpost, Part 4: #76-100

It’s another weird and wonderful array of gifs from our not-quite-daily Gif of the Day on the POTP Facebook and Twitter pages. Once the series goes past another century we will add the next four blocks, but for now click here for parts 1, 2 or 3.

January – February 2019

Gif of the Day #76: 1992Nigerian supporters celebrate in Stade de l’Amitié, Dakar, Senegal, after their team go 1-0 up against Kenya. African Cup of Nations, first round, 14/01/92:

Gif of the Day #77: 1991 – Days before Croatia’s independence referendum, Davor Šuker scores his one and only goal for Yugoslavia on his second and last cap (having already played for an unofficial Croatian selection against Romania in 1990) with the 7th goal in a 7-0 drubbing of Faroe Islands. Great kit too. Euro 92 qualifying group 2, Belgrade, 16/05/91:

Gif of the Day #78: 1986 – Not phones, but lighters in the air act as make-shift pryo for a penalty. Nantes vs Internazionale, UEFA Cup quarter-final 2nd leg, 19/03/86:

Gif of the Day #79: 1983 – 36 years ago today Leeds go on the rampage by the family seats of the Baseball Ground. Derby County vs Leeds United, League Division 2, 22/01/83:

Gif of the Day #80: 1980 – A cold weather European classic with beautiful luminous yellow Adidas Tango ball, often overlooked for it’s equally great orange counterpart. Sochaux vs Eintracht Frankfurt, UEFA Cup 3rd round 2nd leg, 10/12/80:

Gif of the Day #81: 1981 – Raucous scenes in the Idrætspark, Copenhagen, following a fabulous 3-1 victory for the home side. Denmark vs Italy, World Cup qualifying Group 5, 03/06/81:

Gif of the Day #82: 1988Manchester United in beautiful away kit score against Liverpool in Anfield, note the pockets of United fans on the left celebrating in the home sections. League Division 1, 04/04/88:

Gif of the Day #83: 1988 – Ultras Bari in action. Bari vs Bologna, Serie B, 24/04/88:

Gif of the Day #84: 1992 – Classic Adidas Ghana kit and line-up graphics for the day, vs Zambia, African Cup of Nations first round, 15/01/92:

Gif of the Day #85: 2008 – Not as retro as usual, but one of the most emotional and beautiful moments born out of tragedy in football history (along with the Christmas truce of WW1 in our book) as Rome unites in memory of Gabriele. Lazio vs Roma, Serie A, 19/03/08:

Gif of the Day #86: 1973 – Police try to create a terrace divide (apart from one nonchalant fan) between rival supporters in the Eastville Stadium. Bristol Rovers vs West Ham United, Watney Cup first round, 11/08/73:

Gif of the Day #87: 1993 – Flags! Padova vs Ascoli, Serie B, 13/06/93:

Gif of the Day #88: 1988 – What at first may appear to be a running flare-launch attack turns out to be the fusing of an elaborate chain of pyro arranged by Cosenza’s Nuclei Sconvolti (Stoner Core). Cosenza va Reggina, Serie B 23/10/88:

Gif of the Day #88.5: 1988 – Heartwarming joy as the display is deemed a success. Cosenza vs Reggina, Serie B 23/10/88:

Gif of the Day #89: 1966 – Welsh ecstasy in Ninian Park, Cardiff, as the home side go 1-0 up in what was both a British Home Championship 66/67 game and a Euro 68 qualifier. Wales vs Scotland, 22/10/66 – taken from People On The Pitch #2:

Gif of the Day #90: 1979 – A packed terrace, flags and torrential rain combine to make a perfect European night as fans celebrate the goal that will win the tournament (the result of a dubious penalty), Borussia Monchengladbach v Red Star Belgrade, UEFA Cup final 2nd leg, Rheinstadion, Düsseldorf, 25/05/79:

Gif of the Day #91 – 1977Everton in Swindon Town’s County Ground, FA Cup 4th round, 29/01/77:

Gif of the Day #92: 1994 – Bizarre/great footage of fan-band on pitch (with unplugged instruments..) spliced in between that of supporters and the match. US Alessandria vs Mantova, Serie C1 Group A, 22/05/94:

Gif of the Day #93: 1978Italian fans in Mar del Plata, Argentina, for their tie with France, World Cup first round, Group 1, 02/06/78:

Gif of the Day #94: 1990 – A pre-match fracas breaks out at Landsdowne Road as an English mob scatters the crowd. There would be clashes in Dublin after the game also, coinciding with a protest march against the extradition of an IRA political prisoner (now a sitting member of the Irish parliament) to Britain. Republic of Ireland vs England, Euro 92 qualifier, 14/11/90. (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4F2IY–CnjM):

Gif of the Day #95: 1993 – Heroic head-gear, tracksuits, and a great Puma template of the era on show from the home team. Ruch Chorzów vs Widzew Łódź, Ekstraklasa (Polish top flight), 21/05/93:

Gif of the Day #96: 1983 – Mesmerising flag and Roma is magic. Roma vs Cagliari, Serie A, 16/01/83:

Gif of the Day #97: 1992/93 – This is great, player for the away team scores a penalty and then runs the length of the pitch, ignoring every team mate as he goes, to celebrate on front of the traveling fans. Cavese vs Nocerina, Eccellenza Campania (Italian 6th tier) Group B, 92/93:

Gif of the Day #98: 1989Japan vs North Korea, kits including a unique Adidas affair for Japan in red, and fans including a sizable amount of Korean support (made up of state officials no doubt) with even a card coreo visible to left. World Cup 90 qualifiers AFC 1st Round Group 6, Kita, Tokyo, 04/06/89:

Gif of the Day #99: 1990 – Absolute terrace carnage and a flying Yorkshireman. Leeds United away to Oxford United, Division 2, 10/03/90. Taken from Supporter Snap Back #4:

Gif of the Day #100: 1985 – ULTRAS, Avellino vs Atalanta, Serie A, 14/04/85:

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

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

Background:

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

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

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

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

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

  • 1954 World Cup Qualifiers

Group 1:

Norway
Saar Protectorate
West Germany

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

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

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

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


Flag of The Saar Protectorate.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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  • 1958 World Cup Qualifiers

CAF/AFC Second Round

Egypt
Indonesia
Israel
Sudan

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

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

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

UEFA Group 6

Finland
Poland
USSR

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

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


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

UEFA Group 1

Denmark
England
Republic of Ireland

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

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

  • 1964 European Nations’ Cup Qualifiers

Preliminary Round

Greece
Albania

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 1966 World Cup and Qualifiers

World Cup Semi-Finals and Final

England
Portugal
USSR
West Germany

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

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


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

Asia/Oceania Qualifying Group

Australia
North Korea
South Africa
South Korea

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

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

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

  • 1970 World Cup Qualifiers

AFC/OFC Second Round, Group 1

Australia
Rhodesia 

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

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

AFC/OFC Second Round, Group 2

Israel
New Zealand
North Korea 

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

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

CONCACAF Semi-Final Round, Group 2

El Salvador
Honduras

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

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


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

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

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

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