Cold War Classic #8: Finland vs East Germany, 1986

Our regular guest series over on MuseumOfJerseys.com is back, with installment number eight of the Cold War Classic. In each edition we usually discuss a vintage east vs west international matchup from the Cold War era, specifically relating to the amazing and fascinating kits of the time and their evolution. Detailed backgrounds are included, and all retro kits relevant to the story are expertly illustrated in glorious colour by MOJ top boy Denis Hurley. This time we look at branding and sponsorship on national team jerseys and focus in on two great nations – one which continues to exist to this day.

*

Cold War Classics no. 8 – Finland v East Germany, 1986

…the brand we are talking about is of course adidas, which by the end of the era was being worn by the international football teams of every country in the eastern bloc. This apparent juxtaposition seems to prove that links to the west were more acceptable than may have been perceived, at least on state level, and that capitalist practices such as shirt branding were apparently compatible with communist ideals (even if trefoils were half-heartedly covered or removed at times). In retrospect, the adidas trend ties in with the eventual fall of communism in Europe, as, logically, they would not have been needed if all was going positively on that side of the Iron Curtain.

We have theorised before on how the need to realistically compete at the highest level, including when it came to kit and equipment, eventually trumped any ideological loyalty. Plus of course, there is the money. Adidas’ three stripes had started to appear on national teams’ kits of the region by the 1974 World Cup, with Poland, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria all donning the distinctive feature at the tournament. The Poland away shirt even displayed a trefoil too. Czechoslovakia were next in 1976, followed by Hungary, the USSR, Romania and Albania in the following years.

The last domino to fall was East Germany…

Read on

 

***

 

Politics On The Pitch #3: World Cup 1950 Qualifying

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

Background:

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

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

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

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

***

The 1950 World Cup Qualifiers

Info:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

Group 1

England
Scotland
Wales
Ireland-UK

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Pre-match entertainment.

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

ENGLAND QUALIFY

***

Group 2

Turkey
Syria
Austria

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

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

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


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

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

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

NO QUALIFIER

***

Group 3

Yugoslavia
Israel
France

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

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

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


Unique stadium, Israel vs Yugoslavia.

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

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

YUGOSLAVIA QUALIFY

***

Group 4

Switzerland
Luxembourg
Belgium

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

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

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

SWITZERLAND QUALIFY

***

Group 5

Sweden
Ireland
Finland

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

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

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

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

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


More pack terraces at Ireland vs Sweden in Dalymount Park.

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

SWEDEN QUALIFY

***

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

***

Group 7

Bolivia
  Chile
Argentina

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

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

BOLIVIA AND CHILE QUALIFY

***

Group 8

Uruguay
Paraguay
Ecuador
Peru

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

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

URUGUAY AND PARAGUAY QUALIFY

***

Group 9

USA
Mexico
Cuba

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

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

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

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

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

MEXICO AND USA QUALIFY

***

Group 10

Burma
Indonesia
Philippines
India

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

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

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

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

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

NO QUALIFIER

***

Total Qualified Teams (13):

Bolivia

Brazil

Chile

England

Italy

Mexico

Paraguay

Spain

Sweden

Switzerland

United States

Uruguay

Yugoslavia

*

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

*****

 

Cold War Classic no. 4 – Sweden v Austria, 1973

You now love Pyro On The Pitch as an international institution, but did you know that we also contribute to the wonderful MuseumOfJerseys.com? The fourth installment of our guest series over there, the Cold War Classic, is now up.

If you enjoy any combination of interesting retro football kits, beautifully vivid illustrations of said retro football kits (by main man Denis Hurley), a bit of sociopolitical history and classic cold war era match ups (with maybe a bit of trademark Pyro On The Pitch absurdity), then we think you’ll dig it. Preview and link to full article below.

*

Cold War Classic no. 4 – Sweden v Austria, 1973

“On November 11, 1973, UEFA’s qualifying Group 1 for the 1974 World Cup came to a close as Sweden defeated Malta 2-1 away from home. As with most things in football, or society in general, things were done differently back then and, curiously, the last game in the group before this had been played in June.

In fact, the first game in qualifying had taken place way back in November 1971, when of course in a modern-day system the last round of qualifiers for the following year’s Euros would have only been taking place. In the Malta-Sweden game, the hosts had taken an unexpected 1-0 lead on the 20th minute before the visitors came back to win.

But this goal would throw up a wrench, as it meant Sweden would finish level on both points and goal difference with Austria at the top of the group. With only one qualifying spot up for grabs, a play-off at a neutral venue (Parkstadion, Gelsenkirchen, West Germany, so there’s your Cold War connection) was deemed to be the best option…”

READ ON

What Football Is Supposed To Look Like #3 (Gallery)

Our now regular look back on the golden days of yore.

***Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2***

“Hollywood”, Brazil vs Finland, Friendly, 1986:

Ireland away to Luxembourg, European Championships Qualifier, 1987:

Turkey kits, Turkey away to Italy, Friendly, 1994:

West German boys in green securing the tunnel for West Germany boys in green and Swedish boys in Yellow, West Germany vs Sweden, World Cup 1974:

Classic fencing and (possible grassy knoll) terracing, Austria Vienna vs Laval, UEFA Cup, 1983:

“AiR B’A’RON”, Germany vs Italy, Friendly, 1994:

Packed end and banners, Belgium vs Netherlands, World Cup Qualifier, 1985:

Ticker-tape and confetti pitch, Brazil vs Argentina, Copa America, 1983:

Classic graphics, Norway vs Netherlands, World Cup Qualifier, 1992:

Gargantuan Aztec Stadium, Mexico vs Belgium, World Cup, 1986:

White pitch, orange ball, blue vs red, Arminia Bielefeld vs Bayern Munich, Bundesliga,1981/82:

Supporters safely packed to the cage, Italy vs Malta, European Championships Qualifier, 1987:

What Football Is Supposed To Look Like (Gallery) #2

The second installment of this HOT new series where we get straight to the aesthetics of real football! (For #1, click here)

Unorthodox stadium layout and muddy box, Hungary vs Cyprus, European Championships Qualifier, 1987:

Classic keeper, Austria away to Sweden, World Cup Qualifier, 1973:

Band, teams, press and officials, Sweden vs West Germany, World Cup, 1974:

Packed Cold War era bowl, Bulgaria vs Belgium, European Championships Qualifier, 1987:

Insanely packed terrace and classic replay “R”, Scotland away to Wales, European Championships Qualfier, 1977:

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

Quintessential old school score board, Romania vs Austria, European Championships Qualifier, 1986:

Birmingham hooligans pose mid-riot to have picture take, Birmingham City vs Stoke City, Third Division, 1992:

Pyro On The Pitch #6: Sweden vs Italy, European Championships Qualifier, 03/06/1987 (with Bonus)

The game featured in this edition of Pyro On The Pitch is noteworthy for the fact that this writer completed his very first full orbit around Earth’s sun on the day the match was played. I.e., it was our first birthday. But this entry might have been more appropriate last week on Halloween, as this is somewhat of a ghost pyro on the pitch.

Here we have a very similar situation to that featured in Pyro On The Pitch #4, when Denmark showed their supporter pedigree against the highly feared English in 1982. This time it’s their Scandinavian brothers in Sweden welcoming another of Europe’s premier supporting class, Italy. The pyro for both games revolved around a possible foul by a goalkeeper on an attacker and whether it should have been a penalty.

Just over 40,000 were in attendance at the Råsunda Stadium, Stockholm, which was the home of the Swedish national team until it’s demolition in 2012. Anticipation was high for the high profile game with the crowd perhaps particularly buoyed on by the reputation of the visitors in the football supporting world and smoke can be seen rising from the terraces before kick off in pictures.

Early in the first half, Roberto Tricella breaks free down the left for Italy and into the Swedish box. Famous Swdeish goalkeeper Thomas Ravelli comes out to challenge and his outstretched right leg appears to take down Tricella:

Immediately after the foul we can just about see a dangerous/exciting crowd heave (or avalanche) in the terrace behind the incident, typical of the time:

The penalty is given much to chagrin of the home supporters triggering a wave of protests in the form of projectiles on the pitch (Note to self: Possible future series “Projectiles On The Pitch”), and of course booing and jeering. Initially ticker tape/til roll is thrown into the box:

As paper rains down from the surly Swedish supporters, referee Dieter Pauly notices and picks up an altogether more serious foreign object:

Pauly, in nice Ermia ref shirt it must be said, sternly displays a golf ball which has just come from the packed terrace behind the goal. Now, either the golf ball was brought preemptively with a view for malicious activity at such an occasion in the match, or one supporter had simply come straight from the golf course and had merely let one of his/her balls slip from his/her pocket on to the pitch.

Pauly is not impressed at all and tosses the golf ball to a Swedish official with somewhat of a disgusted sneer, but with form as to suggest that this is not the first golf ball that he has had to remove from a field of play that wasn’t a golf course.

What happens next is extremely unfortunate for the interests of this website as another replay of the foul/maybe dive is played in slow motion and when we retrun to live time it is clear we have JUST missed some pyro being thrown on the pitch. What remains is a plume of smoke from a flare which has just gone out, or else the smoke is from it’s own weak smoke bomb:

A large cloud can be see coming from more pyro out of view to the left of the goal and a steward removes objects from the grass which may or may not have once been the flares. Unfortunately this is as close as we come to seeing any real pyro, but a bit of smoke, eh? Not bad. Or is it a cop out to include this?

All this combined to create quite a beautifully chaotic scene to be fair. But wait, that’s not all! Just when it seemed order is restored, more projectiles come hailing down including a possible coin which is a direct shot on the hear of poor, young 27 year old Ravelli. Other Swedish players can be seen removing more objects as Ravelli reels in shock at this apparent betrayal by his countrymen, although he also comically puts out his hand in a sort of “is it raining here or what guys, eh??” gesture:

Although more than a bit miffed, Ravelli is fine and returns to his goal ready for the penalty. But the supporters have one last laugh as one more roll is thrown into the box delaying things slightly longer:

Pauly makes a hilariously slow and deliberate walk over which just screams “…sigh” and takes so long to remove the paper that it has to be divided in to two gifs:

After all this, Ravelli saves the penalty with a nice one handed save to the left onto the post and the rebound is driven over the bar. Cue ecstatic jubilation from the terraces as the entire previous five minutes is forgotten:

Sweden would go on to win 1-0 for a famous victory, but Italy would ultimate pip the Swedes for top spot and qualification (not that that part is relevant but just thought I’d throw it in there to sound professional).

Youtube Link

Bonus: Greece vs Cyprus, European Championships Qualifier, 14/01/1987:

Even though I think the incidents covered above are a stellar example of a classic 80’s atmosphere, I do hold my head out for the chopping block for not being able to produce any physical pyro on the pitch in this edition. So for this sin, here is a special extra bonus…where unfortunately once again we cannot actually see pyro on the pitch. I am sorry about this.

Unlike with Sweden-Italy though, here we actually do see some flames. As Greece go 1-0 up en route to a 3-1 win against their Mediterranean rivals Cyrpus, what some would call an orgy of joy can be seen erupting in the crowd. Among this nearly cinematic scene of gay abandon, we catch a flare ignition, which is no sooner let off before the handler is launching it picth-ward. It is nearly in his/her blood to do so:

Unfortunately, in an inverse to the Sweden incident, the director cuts off to a replay just before we get to see if the flare actually reaches the picth or just lands on the running track. I would like to say I will make it my mission for the next several years to gain a categorical confirmation of this. But instead, I will just say that yes, it did reach the pitch.

Youtube Link

___________________________________________