Pyro On The Pitch #12: Real Madrid vs Athletic Club Bilbao, La Liga Primera División, 27/11/1983

After a brief mid-Summer break, we’re back and once again have rotated around to our original flagship series. In the last installment we checked out one of Romania’s unsung supporter communities of the early ’80s, in Universitatea Craiova and their fixture with Hajduk Split in 1983. Now we are going to revisit an encounter that we touched on back in Pyro On The Pitch #9: – Anderlecht vs Real Madrid 1984, while talking about the latter’s immediate prior history.

Background:

In 1920 Madrid FC were given the title “Real” by King Alfonso XIII of Spain, as an officially dubbed royal club of the kingdom. Having  been formed 18 years earlier after a split from a university team, they would go on to represent one of Europe’s great capital cities and become the favoured team of Spanish dictator Franco, who restored the “Real” title after it had been stripped during the years of the Second Spanish Republic, along with the crown on the club’s crest.

On the pitch Real were officially a continental powerhouse since the 1950s when the European Cup began. Success in this competition was appropriate, as the club’s president from 1943-1978, Santiago Bernabéu Yeste, was one of the three men to organise the start of the Cup for UEFA in 1955.

Considering all this, it is no wonder that the club became hugely supported and to house this support was also one of Europe’s biggest stadiums. In that same year of 1955, their Nuevo Estadio Chamartín was renamed to Santiago Bernabéu by the club’s board in honour of their chairman and was expanded from 75,000 capacity to a mammoth 125,000 (over-crowded to nearly 130,000 for a visit of Milan the following year, the ground’s record attendance).


Some of the record breaking 129,690 supporters in the freshly redeveloped Bernabéu, Real Madrid vs AC Milan, European Cup semi-final, 1956.

With their history of royalist-fasicst connections, it is also not surprising that the club’s support base swings to the right. In contrast, Madrid rivals Athletico were formed by Basque students as a feeder club for Athletic Bilbao, who’s Basque-only player policy marks them as a de-facto separatist Pays Basque team in the Spanish league, although there is a strong right-element in the Atheltico Madird support also.

By 1980, the movement of organised young supporter units that had been spreading in Europe reached Spain and Read Madrid’s Ultras Sur were formed. The group were based in the stadium’s South Stand terraces (sur of course meaning south), but rabid, colourful support was common on all sides of the massive ground. An especially large attendance was of course most guaranteed for big European ties.


Home fans celebrate a goal in what would be a 3-0 victory, Real Madrid vs Glasgow Celtic, European Cup quarter final, 1980.0.

100,000 in the Bernabéu for the visit of Spartak Moscow, European Cup 80/81.

A respectable crowd of 65,000 even came to see Real effectively play themselves in the 1980 Cope Del Rey final, also in the Bernabéu, when amazingly they ended up against their B-team Real Madrid Castilla. Unsurprisingly the A-team won 6-1, but hopefully there were a handful of hipster types disgusted by Madrid’s success who staunchly supported Castilla only, akin to a modern wrestling fan preferring NXT over WWE.


Real Madrid vs Castilla, Copa Del Rey final, 1980.

There would be a crowd of nearly twice that of the cup final for the following seasons visit of Internazionale – a slightly more challenging European Cup semi. En route to a 2-0 victory that would help win the tie (ultimately followed by defeat to Liverpool in the final), the home players could be seen scaling the pitch-side fence and saluting the packed Ultras Sur enclosure.


Players celebrate a goal at the South Stand, Real Madrid vs Internazionale, European Cup semi final 1981.

As mentioned, other areas of the ground were also home to passionate supporters. A particular section at the opposite end to the ultras and to the left of a dividing fence in the terrace was often eye catching as a sea of waving flags. But Ultras Sur, with their overtly right-wing leanings, had arrived as the dominant group at the in the stadium and would soon make their presence felt on the pitch as well as in the stands.


Home support in the North Stand enclosure, Real Madrid vs Barcelona, Primera División 83/84.

The Match:

The apparent earliest evidence of Ultras Sur’s ire being directed towards the pitch would feature the visit of the aforementioned Basques of Athletic Bilbao, now long divorced from Real’s crosstown rivals. By the time the two were to meet in a November 1983 league encounter, the Bernabéu stadium had been redeveloped again for the 1982 World Cup and as a result had it’s capacity reduced to “only” 98,000, and then 85,000 for the 83/84 season.

Before the match report we see a cartoon image – accompanied by fantastic classic ’80s theme music which really is worth checking out at the end of the article – of what  appears to be an Athletic player with a flaming torch pulling back a Real player, who’s holding a sign containing the following cryptic message in Spanish:

Today we bore more than yesterday but less than tomorrow.

Unfortunately we only have black and white footage of the match, which makes it  look far older than it is. But as always, the Madridistas are unmistakable with their mostly white tifo material, which is the first sight we see from the stadium:

While we don’t have an attendance figure, the ground seems as packed as for any big game. Indeed Real had finished 2nd the previous year to Bilbao and the two were again main competitors for the title in 83/84. At the north end, the section to the left of the goal is even more densely flagged than as seen above against Bacrelona in the same season:

But of course the main action was to occur at the other “Sur” end of the ground, as while Real attack at some stage in the first half, at least one “Bengal” flare from the crowd lands near the penalty spot. The goalkeeper immediately points an accusatory figure towards the packed terraces behind him and the camera pans up following suit:

The black and white footage makes it hard to see what has happened at first, but the definite billowing of smoke from the pyro gives it away:

We have previously seen a situation at a Spanish home international fixture where a foreign referee happily allowed a match to go on around pyro on the pitch, but in this case the native official stops the game and runs to the touchline to alert the authorities that trouble is afoot:

The announcer of the footage possibly gives an explanation for the action as part of a protest of some sort, but unfortunately as we are not fluent in Spanish this is more of a guess. However if you do understand what is being said, please get in touch!

Back in the stand, fighting among the supporters has also broken out. Whether this is rival factions clashing over the flare being thrown, or something else, is again unclear. On the other side of the parameter fence below, the press quickly assemble to document  the unfolding drama:

Before long, a hand-full of local constabulary are on the scene. But displaying the obvious unreadiness for such an occurrence, they have to sprint from the main entrance to the pitch by the dugout – a common scenario in the era that we have seen several times before:

There may have in fact been more officers already on hand though, as quite quickly the first alleged perpetrator emerges and is forcibly escorted away from the mass of bodies at the front of the stand:

Even in black and white, the fashion of the time is evident by the supporter’s big hair, flared trousers and possibly heeled shoes. He is led away out of the stadium (presumably destined for a physical beating), swiftly followed by another captive who is more obviously a football fan due to his long scarf:

The next arrest is not so easy for the police. It appears an entire regiment have surrounded the Sur-suspect and are leading him away, when a Christ-like fall occurs, quite possibly resulting in some harsh treatment to get him back on his feet:

The football has been continuing as this is going down, but after a half-hearted scan back to the game the cameraman shows that the action off the field is far more captivating, much like the ethos of this very blog. Well done, sir (or should I say, sur):

Also ignoring the match – and in a scene you would be unlikely to see today (partly because most supporters would be taking their own videos and pictures anyway) – the press form a neat phalanx to get the best shot for Monday’s papers:

Having been sufficiently subdued and back on his feet, the supporter is finally led away as the journalist jackals scurry to get one last vantage point of the pathetic, defeated face of football crime:

This was the end of the off-field story, but the remnants of the situation can still be seen later in the game as a slight gap in the crowd is visible in the same section of otherwise congested terrace:

Those of you paying attention earlier will have noticed that the report opened with a spoiler that the match ended 0-0. It would be one of many instances of dropped points for Real Madrid that season that would ultimately cost them cruelly, as Athletic Bilbao took their second consecutive championship only by goal difference. But what may have hurt most for the capital city club was that including Real Sociedad’s two title wins at the start of the decade, it was the fourth year in a row that the title went to a Basque side since Real Madrid themselves had last won it in 1980.

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Pyro On The Pitch #9: Anderlecht vs Real Madrid, UEFA Cup 3rd Round-1st Leg, 28/11/1984

We first came across Anderlecht back in People On The Pitch #1, with the infamous visit of Aston Villa to the then Emile Versé Stadium in 1982. Like with their Dutch, German and French neighbours, supporter mischief had no doubt been progressively observed through traveling British support at games such as this.

In a culture like Belgium’s, where not all was as innocent as it would seem, this influence would converge with growing youth cultures and continental Europe’s own unique supporter style to manifest in intimidating atmospheres that on their night could stand equal with their international equivalents, especially on big European occasions.

Background:

Just over a year after the Villa game (a European Cup semi-final defeat on aggregate), Anderlecht cemented their place as one of Europe’s top clubs by beating Benfica in the 1983 UEFA Cup final, graduating from Cup Winner’s Cup wins in ’76 and ’78. We shall take this moment to lament the loss of the Cup Winners Cup, which was a great competition in our eyes and can also be celebrated for having the word “cup” in it’s name twice (and also shares an acronym with another great institution of our time). On the other hand, it would obviously be ruined by now anyway so maybe it’s better off left in our memories.


Anderlecht supporters celebrate at the conclusion of the 1983 UEFA Cup Final.

En route to a second successive UEFA Cup final the following season, a third round fixture against RC Lens in November ’83 would prove that English teams needed not to be involved for trouble to spark at European games. First, in an incident which must again be covered if we ever follow through on a “Projectiles on the Pitch” series, a rock apparently thrown from the home Lens supporters caused a back-passed ball to bauble past Anderlecht goalkeeper Jacques Munaro and into the net:

This had come in the 89th minute, only two minutes after the Belgians themselves had scored to take the lead, and naturally chaotic scenes followed with Munaro clutching the offending rock and several beer cans also thrown from the terraces. After the final whistle the Anderlecht support retaliated, launching projectiles of their own at a home section resulting in riot police moving in:

As with Villa in Belgium in ’82, Anderlecht now knew what it was like to be antagonists faced with local constabulary on foreign soil. They were eventually defeated in the 1984 final by Tottenham Hotspur, where in the home leg at least one supporter had to be stretchered away. For the sake of narrative, we are going to assume this was a result of malicious actions:

This would prove the end of Anderlecht’s golden age on the pitch, as to date they have not reached another final in European competition. But supporter culture in Belgium was still on the rise, as would be evident in our featured match.

Meanwhile, for their part, supporters of Real Madrid were also already known to be no angels. The foundation of Ultras Sur had come in 1980 and disturbances at games such as against Athletic Bilbao on November 26th, 1983, (which we will revisit at a later date) resulted in police intervention in the Bernabeu:

The Game:

If this was an actual football website, I’d probably say something about how Anderlecht were unlucky to come up against eventual winners Real Madrid in the third round of the ’84/’85 UEFA Cup, perhaps prematurely preventing the expected progress of the previous few seasons. But I wouldn’t know about that. What is true is that the visit of the Spanish giants (ugh, what a cliché, sorry), a year and 5 days after the toxic game in Lens, provided the perfect scene for a hot atmosphere (perhaps hot like a pyronical device) in what would be a famous European night for the Belgian giants.

By this time, the Emile Versé had been revamped and renamed as the Constant Vandan Stock Stadium, which would be more heroic if it wasn’t named after the reigning club chairman of the time, although I’m just going to assume he was a lovely man (I guess I’m also assuming he must be dead by now). Whatever the name, 41,000 were packed into the beautifully classic, compact ground on November 28th, 1984, eager to witness the first leg battle of what may well have been Europe’s top two white and purple clad sides.

The home team went 1-0 up on the 65th minute through Vandenbergh, cueing great noise from the Constant Vandan Stock Stadium faithful. A mere minute later, Czerniatynski (yes, the names are irrelevant, but they’re good names) doubled the Belgian’s lead with a nice header, causing a jubilant, ecstatic orgy of denim in the terrace behind the goal to which he ran, with at least one supporter making it out of the enclosure:

With a big victory now in their sights, the density of the passionate home support could be seen even at the halfway line of the pitch. Flags flew from within an uncomfortably tight mass of bodies as police kept a watchful eye:

In the 85th minute, a penalty converted by Vercauteren made it 3-0 to Anderlecht, putting them in an excellent position going into the away leg in Madrid a fortnight later (I mean I would say that if this was a football site). One Real Madrid player displayed extreme petulance in response to this by crankily slamming the football to the ground:

With the win on the night now all but secured, it would be only fitting that pyro should make it’s way on to the pitch, perhaps as a beacon representing the historical magnitude of the game.

And this is exactly what happened as a flare swiftly appeared in the Anderlecht box, with a “smoking gun” effect from the section of support parallel to the box seeming the suggest the origin:

Contrary to being phased (of course, since he was an 80’s footballer), an Anderlecht player nearly appeared to halfheartedly perform some soccer skills on the the flaming phallice before it naturally reached the end of it’s life and burned out, content in death having fulfilled it’s ultimate destiny:

But as the flare burned out, so too would Anderlecht’s European hopes that season as they would lose the tie after a dismal 6-1 defeat in the return leg. At least that’s the kind of crappy metaphor I would probably use if this was an actual football website. Instead, their inclusion here has earned them a sort of intangible, metaphysical, hyper-dimensional honour, greater than could ever hope to be achieved through sport.

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