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. It would turn out to be their 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

*****

 

Pixel Jersey Remix #2 – Romania Away 1994

For all the info on this new monthly series, click here for the first installment where we took Ireland’s first Umbro away jersey to the moon and back. Now, from the same year but a few months earlier, Adidas’ Romania away shirt as seen at the 1994 World Cup (identical in design to the home) gets the Pixel Jersey Remix treatment.

Original design:

*****

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

  • World Cup 1982 qualifiers

AFC and OFC Final Round

New Zealand
Saudi Arabia
Kuwait
China PR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Flag of the Republic of China/Taiwan.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

  • World Cup 1986 qualifiers

AFC Zone Group 4A

China PR
Hong Kong
Macau
Brunei

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

AFC Zone Groups 1B and 2B

Iraq
Qatar
Jordan
Lebanon

Bahrain
South Yemen
Iran

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Oceanian Zone

Australia
New Zealand
Israel
Chinese Taipei

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

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

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


Chinese Taipai Olympic flag.

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

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

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

  • World Cup 1986

Quarter-Finals

Argentina
England

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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




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

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

  • World Cup 1990 qualifying

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

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

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

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

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YouTube Links:

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

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