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.

*

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

*****

What Football Is Supposed To Look Like #10 (Gallery)

Welcome back to the series that celebrates all the aesthetics of old school football that we love. Aside from the fact that the sport at it’s top tier has moved so far away from what it was in the 20th century – bringing with it the non-sporting aspects that interest us more – the progression of technology and society in general that have propelled this change mean that the things we look back on fondly are simply gone forever. Except here.

Previously we have had special focus-installments, such as our look at Belgian league “grittiness” in the late 80s-early 90s, and the wacky world of the football TV presenter last time out. But now we return to a wonderful array of images from all over the colourful spectrum of vintage football.

Classic graphics, banners and pitch confetti, Mexico vs West Germany, World Cup 86 quarter-final, 21/06/1986:

Flag-tops display, Switzerland vs Estonia, World Cup qualifier, 17/11/1993:

Quintessential communist stadium (Ernst-Thälmann-Stadion in the former Karl-Marx-Stadt, named after the leader of the German Communist Party in the Wiemar Republic) fittingly hosting a “Fall of the Iron Curtain Derby”, East Germany vs USSR, World Cup qualifier, 08/10/1989:

Nightmarish masks worn by Dutch supporters, Netherlands, Euro 88, 1988:

Classic graphics and background pyro in Bari, Italy vs USSR, friendly, 20/02/1988:

Beautiful 70s scoreboard in Rheinstadion, Düsseldorf (Bökelbergstadion was being renovated), displaying an astounding scoreline (game would ultimately end 12-0) of one “Prussia” over another, Borussia Mönchengladbach vs Borussia Dortmund, Bundesliga, 29/04/1978:

From the same match as above – in which ‘Gladbach hoped to outscore first place 1.FC Köln to clinch the title on the last day of the season – fans listen to Köln vs St. Pauli on the radio (a game that would end 5-0 to give Köln championship), Borussia Mönchengladbach vs Borussia Dortmund, Bundesliga, 29/04/1978:

Memorable sponsor ‘Jesus Jeans’ at the San Siro, Italy vs Uruguay, friendly 15/03/1980:

The gargantuan, eastern majesty of Stadion Crvena Zvezda, with Belgrade looming in the background, for a rescheduled game that had been abandoned the previous day after 63 mins due to dense fog, Red Star Belgrade vs Milan, European Cup 10/11/1988:

Conversely to the classic communist Olympic bowl, the American other-sports arena; here the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington DC (home to the Howard Bison college American football team at the time), USA vs Ireland, US Cup 92, 30/05/1992:

The setting sun silhouettes a treeline behind the Drumcondra End of Tolka Park (played there as Richmond Park was too small), with a large Irish-tricolour draped above the goal, St. Patrick’s Athletic vs Hearts, UEFA Cup first round-1st leg, 07/09/1988:

An ominous line of riot police guard the pitch in Heysel Stadium as a penalty is about to be scored, Club Brugge vs KV Mechelen, Belgian Cup final, 15/06/1991:

Classic graphics and crest (and a multitude of extra people on and around the pitch), FC Nantes vs Paris Saint-Germain, Coupe de France final, 11/06/1983:

Architecture with local character at Eastville Stadium, and beds of flowers behind the goal, Bristol Rovers vs Sheffield United, Watney Cup final, 05/08/1972:

Oppressive fencing and concrete wastelands, Ajax Amsterdam vs Den Haag, Eredivisie, 27/08/1986:

Great Yugoslav tracksuits of the early 90s, Yugoslavia vs Northern Ireland, Euro qualifier, 27/03/1991:

Children in Swiss club kits ahead of the international match, Switzerland vs Scotland, Euro qualifier, 11/09/1991:

Flares on the tribune and a unique end, Hajduk Split vs Partizan Belgrade, Yugoslav League, 19/11/1989:

A regiment of Spanish police attentively watch the corner kick, Brazil vs Italy, World Cup 82 second round-Group C, 05/07/1982:

Sad Honduran, Mexico vs Honduras, World Cup qualifier, 11/11/2001:

Dancing in the snow manager, Blau-Weiß 1890 Berlin vs Hertha Berlin, 2.Bundesliga, 16/03/1985:

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Mexico vs West Germany, 1986
Switzerland vs Estonia, 1993
East Germany vs USSR, 1989
Netherlands, 1988
Italy vs USSR, 1988
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs Borussia Dortmund, 1978
Italy vs Uruguay, 1980
Red Star Belgrade vs Milan, 1988
USA vs Ireland, 1992
St. Patrick’s Athletic vs Hearts, 1986
Club Brugge vs KV Mechelen, 1991
FC Nantes vs Paris Saint-Germain, 1983
Bristol Rovers vs Sheffield United, 1972
Ajax Amsterdam vs Den Haag, 1986
Yugoslavia vs Northern Ireland, 1991
Switzerland vs Scotland, 1991
Hajduk Split vs Partizan Belgrade, 1989
Brazil vs Italy, 1982
Mexico vs Honduras, 2001
Blau-Weiß 1890 Berlin vs Hertha Berlin, 1985

*****

Kit Interested #1 – Chelsea; Australia; Portugal; Porto; Ireland

Welcome to our newest feature here on PyroOnThePitch.com, with a series for the kit interested, by the kit interested, and containing interesting kit things (of the vintage variety of course). “Kit Interested” joins Retro Shirt Reviews, the Cold War Classic (over on MuseumOfJerseys.com) and Champagne Kit Campaigns in our regular explorations into the ‘fabric of football’, the appeal of which often results in small decreases in social media followers when certain folk realise that we are equally likely to focus on the grittier side of supporter culture history.

We wanted to stress the “interested” part (rather than all-knowing), as we are also keen to learn ourselves, as well as inform. That’s where you lot hopefully come in , as any feedback to fill us in on what we may not know is very welcome.

Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea, 26/08/1978:

A common complaint of many modern kit-fanatics is that of away and third strips being used in fixtures where they were historically not necessary, mainly – it is assumed – due to marketing reasons (often correctly so). At best, this is considered a callous disregard for the team’s proud traditional colours and at worst can actually create somewhat of a clash where none had existed before (Sheffield Wednesday vs Arsenal in 2015 being a prime example, graciously provided by MuseumOfJerseys since the modern game is not really our era of expertise).

Like many aspects of football, however, the tradition of seemingly inexplicable changes stretches back far longer than many might imagine – at least to 1978 when Tottenham Hotspur took on Chelsea in a Division One match. The white shirts of Spurs against the blue of their London rivals never caused an issue of course, but the navy shorts of the former against Chelsea’s continued blue, along with both sides’ white socks, did create a “lower-half clash”.

This had been negated in various ways in the past, such as the 1967 FA Cup final in which full blocks of white and blue were worn – one of three times Chelsea used the combination that season:

In the 70s, Chelsea then had the innovative idea to introduce an “alternate first-choice kit” to be worn against teams who had white socks, in which amber socks were used (distinct from the yellow socks of the yellow and blue away kit). But delightfully, instead of simply pairing the alternates with the rest strip, these were accompanied by shirts and shorts featuring amber trim, replacing all white from the regular kit (seen here against Real Madrid in the 1971 Cup Winners’ Cup final):

Tottenham took a similar approach when playing away in Stamford Bridge for the 71/72 League Cup semi-final 1st-leg, by donning white shirts, white shorts, and yellow socks. In doing so, they also removed the shorts clash, although this was less-concerning than the socks which covered an area more in-need of distinction for officials:

When Chelsea traveled to White Hart Lane at the end of the 74/75 season – for a game that would ultimately see them relegated to the Second Division – another set of alternate home socks were used; this time blue like the rest of the kit, but featuring predominantly red trim:

The socks were slightly odd, as the red used now was a reference to the away version, which had green in place of the blue as the primary colour but contained the same red/white ratio on the turnovers. This trim was to compliment the red shirts and white shorts of the away kit, but the colour was only to be found on a sliver of the crest as far as the regular first-choice elements went at the time.

Following a season back in an all-yellow away kit (with blue detailing), Chelsea combined their recent change-colourways by bringing in a yellow/green/yellow strip for 1978/79, with Umbro sleeve-taping retained from it’s debut the year before. Now back in Division One, the campaign started with the previous season’s home attire employed against Everton at the Bridge, and away to Wolves.

But for any internet kit nerds of the day, all eyes would be on the Tottenham vs Chelsea derby coming up next to see how the sock issue would be handled this time. When the teams emerged, traditionalist Chelsea fans who made the short journey over may have been upset to see their side in an away kit for, perhaps, the first time ever at White Hart Lane:

Without home-alternates this year, the idea of blue and white shirts and shorts with yellow and green socks may have been out of the question even for Chelsea, who had questionably (in a fashion sense) combined their home shorts with the red and green away kit at Millwall in 1977:

While the change may have seemed utterly illogical to some, it seems that using the full away kit was considered the easiest option to avoid any sort of clash entirely. Except to a significant portion of the audience watching highlights at home on TV, a new clash was very much in effect that was far worse than anything seen in the fixture before.

Commentator Brian Moore explains as the match kicks off:

And it’s Chelsea in a change strip of yellow shirts and green shorts, and yellow socks, who are attacking the goal to our right… We apologise if there’s something of a clash if you’re watching in black and white, Spurs in the slightly darker shorts and the slightly whiter shirts.

Maybe the amount of viewers effected was already negligible (we’d love to see some records for colour vs black and white TV licenses in the UK in 1978), but clearly there had been a significant oversight. For those who tuned in to watch on an older/cheaper set, we can see from converting a suitable screen shot to black and white that “something of a clash” was an understatement:

While it may have been unfair on some, the only eyes that really mattered were the ones witnessing and participating in the game live in colour, and to the players, officials and fans, there was a clear, if unusual, distinction. It would have been interesting to see if any of those in attendance that day were savvy enough to cop the potential problem the kit configuration would have without colour, and in fact many doubtlessly did realise when watching the game later on The Big Match.

Over the coming years, the black and white clash became less and less of an issue as technology advanced and prices of colour televisions lowered (although, surprisingly, 12,000 black and white TVs remained licensed in the UK as of 2014). But on a global scale, with the world’s varying degrees of ‘development’, the clash remained an important factor for FIFA and contributed to the the strict distinctions demanded (resulting in some memorable mash-ups) in World Cup matches for years to come.

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Greece vs Australia, 11/11/1980:

One kit trope that we love here at POTP, is when a team who aren’t usually known for it wear white shorts with their otherwise usual home colours. Two classic examples stem from the 1978 World Cup, when both Brazil and Spain (see last link above) were forced to swap their blue shorts for white due to clashes against Argentina and Sweden respectively.

In a similar way, we are also big fans of strips consisting of ‘colour/darker colour/white’ in terms of the shirt/shorts/socks. Australia sported this look to great effect at their debut World Cup in 1974 with yellow/green/white (seen vs West Germany below), while more notably wearing one of the most bizarre shirts of all time due to the fact that the double diamond of Umbro on the chest was accompanied by the three stripes of Adidas on the sleeves:

Several years later, Australia (now “fully-Umbro’d”) traveled to play Greece in November 1980, as part of a European tour that also included a game against England at St. Andrews, before a ‘club vs country’ affair with Leicester City. While the English match would be the main event, the Greeks themselves had just come off their first ever major tournament appearance at Euro 80, which they had followed with 0-1 World Cup qualifier defeat to Denmark.

As of that year, the “Socceroos” were still using their yellow/green/white format, as seen in another match against the English back in May (an Australian football centenary game in Sydney). But for the Greek encounter on November 11th in Athens, Australia reversed the shorts and socks colours to create a yellow/white/green strip, much to our satisfaction:

While not as crazy as the 1974 jersey, the Australian shirt by this time was still pleasingly odd in a perfectly Ozzie way. In the late 70s, Umbro had introduced a wordmark under their diamond logo, including on Australian kits. But uniquely (?) for the 80-82 iteration, the “umbro” now appeared on one side of the centralised crest, and the double diamond on the other.

The host side, meanwhile, were in their change strip of white/blue/white, which had actually been used with black shorts at the Euros. The logo of ASICS can just about be seen…:

…but an advertising hoarding with the same logo displays the word “Tiger”:

This is because the company had originally started life in 1949 as the Japanese footware-firm ‘Onitsuka Tiger’ and had only rebranded to ASICS (an acronym for the Latin “anima sana in corpore sano” – “healthy soul in a healthy body”) in 1977, with the logo having first appeared on running shoes back in 1966. The ‘Tiger’ theme is still used by ASICS to this day when it comes to trainers, but evidentially it might also have applied to their tentative first steps into the football kit world in the early 80s.

Breaking down the kit choices side by side, it seems plausible that the reason for the Greeks not to wear their home blue shirts may have been because the Australian ‘keeper was also wearing blue (see below), and so the away shorts and socks were also used. Then, even though sock clashes wouldn’t have been considered a pressing issue in friendlies, the Australians changed to their alternative white shorts and green socks, perhaps to account for the aforementioned “black and white clash” which would have occurred on certain TVs (presumably a greater issue in poorer Greece than it was in the UK in 1978).

After a 3-3 draw, the boys from Down Under moved on to Britain for their match against an English side who, like Greece, would be in white/blue/white. Unlike with the Greeks though, this was England’s expectant first strip so perhaps yellow/white/green had been the Australians plan for the tour all along.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any visual evidence for the England game or what was worn. But this brilliant website does display an Australia away jersey that was apparently used against Leicester a few day later, suggesting that two full kits were more than likely brought with each element used as needed. Or was there just two jerseys?

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Portugal, 1990/91

We have one more example of white shorts being surprisingly inserted into an established national kit, but this time it would not be a forced mash-up – rather, a conscious change of style direction. The country in question is Portugal, who may have took inspiration from their Iberian cousins change at World Cup 78 and decided they wanted the look for themselves…twelve years later.

As we saw in the recently published Euro 84 Football Special Report, the Portuguese were an Adidas side had who worn the stunning diagonal-pinstripe “Chelsea” template at the tournament. By the end of 1989, Portugal were playing out their fruitless World Cup 90 qualifiers in the usual red/green/red home colours, now with a with a greater presence of white on a shirt that featured dual sleeve ‘flashes’ (seen below away to Brazil in a friendly), and an all-white away kit that kept the same jersey template in reverse, but with different-style shorts (seen away to Switzerland in a qualifier):

After a 0-0 draw away to Czechoslovakia in the change kit on November 15th, 1989, Portugal would not take to the field again until August 29th, 1990, when they would host now-World Champions West Germany in Lisbon for a friendly. A 1-1 draw was played out, but the 20,000 in attendance at the Estádio da Luz were lucky enough to witness the home side’s new change in kit direction:

The jersey from 1989 remained but the green shorts were gone, now replaced by a rarely seen design in white with red details to better matched the shirt. The “missing” green was transferred downwards, however, to the socks (with white Adidas branding), where red lost out:

The kit made it’s competitive debut away to Finland in a Euro 92 qualifier the following month, before a visit of the Dutch to Porto for another qualifier on October 17th, 1990. With the away side in white/orange/white, both teams engaged in dual Adidas ‘jacket-porn’ before the match with two outstanding anthem-tracksuit tops on show (some of which didn’t have a crest on the Portuguese side):

A friendly in January 1990 away to Spain provided the answer to a question on everybody’s minds: which shorts would be used with the away shirt? As mentioned, the white shirt that had been around since at least 89 had been used with it’s own pair of shorts originally, when the home pair were green. But with the new shorts seemingly matched specifically with the shirt template (which was the same for home and away), it makes sense that 1990 shorts were indeed retained:

These configurations were used in qualifiers in February against Greece, Malta (away) and Malta (home). But come the Autumn, for the return tie against the Finns (see below; and possibly a preceding friendly against Austria), a new kit was introduced that revived the old red/green/red system. A friendly away to Luxembourg in October, in which a new white/green/white away kit was used, confirmed that this experimental era was over:

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Porto vs Werder Bremen, 24/11/1993

Ditching the white shorts theme, but very much continuing with the Portuguese theme, Portugal are well known around these parts for their continued use of an Adidas trefoil shirt as late as December 1994 (seen below vs Lichtenstein, December 94; the same template that had debuted in it’s away version against Luxembourg in 91). This seems shockingly out of date when some nations, such as Ireland, were on their third generation of shirt past the trefoil (Equipment; World Cup 94; Umbro), and were most likely the last ‘major nation’ to do so (at least in Europe).

It seems that at club level, things weren’t TOO different either, as demonstrated by 92/93 Primeira Divisão champions Porto in their Champions League campaign of the following season. Also with Adidas, Porto started the competition wearing a ‘trefoiled- kit’ that used the same shorts-template as Portugal 90/91 (see above), as used against Feyenoord in the second round…:

…before moving onto a strange new shirt featuring just an ‘adidas’ wordmark, but with a miniature variation of the “Equipment” logo incorporated into the collar, as seen against Milan:

The away and third kits that year, however, were full on Adidas Equipment – the “post-World Cup qualifers style” that added corresponding lower sections the diagonal shoulder bars. While most sides used this template with a primary background colour and secondary bar colour, Porto ingeniously only coloured the outlines of the bars, effectively creating all-white and all-blue strips that wouldn’t cause an issue against the blue or white clad team that had triggered the switch in the first place.

Considering that, the situation that would occur when Werder Bremen arrived for that year’s Champions League group stage (which only came after a first and second round and led directly to semi-finals) was most peculiar. The main issue was that the Germans had seemingly only brought their home strip of white/green/white, which wouldn’t do against the white and blue stripes of the home team:

Perhaps the blue version of the bars template was not yet produced by this stage, but needing some sort of alternate attire Porto emerged in a top that was presumably a change shirt from the season before. It appeared to be the Adidas Equipment template used the likes of Spain and France that featured a total of six bars across the two shoulders, but, unlike those, the Porto version incredibly displayed a trefoil in the collar (which was also white, unlike the other versions) instead of the “triangle” (or, eventually, a lone wordmark in the case of the French, meaning that this template had seen all three Adidas logo varieties):

The unusual jersey proved good luck, whatever the case, as a 3-2 victory was secured while wearing it (or Porto were just better). A few months later in March 1994, when Anderlecht were the Portuguese champs’ opponents in the same group, again white was worn by the visitors. But by now, the “correct”, up-to-date shirt was available, and Porto played and won – en route to making it to the quarter-finals – in the same template as their opponents:

Funnily enough, the only consistent feature throughout was those old 1990-shorts from the home kit, which had been retained in the first-choice strip when the trefoil shirt was dropped. This meant that during Porto’s 93/94 season, the shorts had somehow ended-up paired with at least four different jerseys that they had never intended to be used with.

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Finally, for this bumper first of edition of Kit Interested, we turn to the Republic of Ireland, who’s 1992-1994 Adidas strips were recently highlighted in Campaign Kit Campaigns #4 and #5. In the latter of these, it was mentioned that after two World Cups the Irish had yet to lose a WC finals match in their home shirt, and equally yet to win a WC finals match in their away shirt.

After switching to Umbro following the USA edition, amazingly the Boys in Green’s only other World Cup appearance to date at Japan/Korea 2002 produced the same result after four matches. We thought a sort-of handy graph/timeline was in order show how this phenomenon of the “cursed away” jersey unfolded:

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YouTube Links:

Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur, 1967
Real Madrid vs Chelsea, 1971
Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur, 1972
Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea, 1975
Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea, 1978
Millwall vs Chelsea, 1977
West Germany vs Australia, 1974
Greece vs Australia, 1980
Brazil vs Portugal, 1989
Switzerland vs Portugal, 1989
Portugal vs Germany, 1990
Portugal vs Netherlands, 1990
Spain vs Portugal, 1991
Portugal vs Finland, 1991
Luxembourg vs Portugal, 1991
Portugal vs Lichtenstein, 1994
Porto vs Feyenoord, 1993
Porto vs Milan, 1994
Porto vs Werder Bremen, 1993
Porto vs Anderlecht, 1994
Ireland vs England, 1990
Ireland vs Egypt, 1990
Ireland vs Netherlands, 1990
Ireland vs Romania, 1990
Ireland vs Italy, 1990
Ireland vs Italy, 1994
Ireland vs Mexico, 1994
Ireland vs Norway, 1994
Ireland vs Netherlands, 1994
Ireland vs Cameroon, 2002
Ireland vs Germany, 2002

Ireland vs Saudi Arabia, 2002
Ireland vs Saudi Arabia, 2002

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Champagne Kit Campaigns #5: Republic of Ireland, World Cup 1994

After the previous edition of Champagne Kit Campaigns, in which the Irish Republic’s road to USA 94 was examined, we continue with a sort of part two to that story by going on to the tournament itself. While a second round exit meant that not TOO much champagne was warranted (enough will have already been drank after the first game), it would be a historic time in terms of the strip, as Ireland played their last match to date wearing Adidas.

Thanks to world-renowned kit dealer Barry Rojack for some invaluable information.

Background:

For a full background on what was worn by Ireland leading up to 1994, of course check back to the aforementioned CKC#4. But briefly, having started the qualifying campaign still in a 1990-style “trefoil and stripes” design (with an updated crest), most of the matches saw the Irish wear the popular Adidas “Equipment” shoulder bar template in 92 and 93, with all but one in the traditional green shirt/white shorts/green socks combination. The odd game out was the historic last qualifier away to Northern Ireland in Windsor Park that secured a place at the finals, a result matched by the equally fantastic reverse strip.


Ireland's Adidas "Equipment" away kit in it's one and only appearance, worn vs Northern Ireland, World Cup qualifier, 17/11/1993.

The trefoil had been appearing on Adidas kits since the early 70s and even continued to be used by some “behind the times” nations past 1994. It’s Equipment-era successor, on the other hand, initially appeared to have an extremely short lifespan in comparison, with the bars logo first appearing in 1991 and, for the most part, disappearing by 94/95 (later resurrected sans-Equipment branding for World Cup 98). The French foreshadowed the forthcoming change of general direction by already dropping the element from their Equipment shirts in mid-1993, with an enlarged “adidas” wordmark remaining, giving it only little more than a year.


French Adidas "Equipment" away shirt on the left, already without Equipment logo in August 1993 (vs Sweden), contrasted with Portugal shirt with trefoil still being used in November 1994 (vs Austria).

Ireland were in a similar position due to their non-participation at Euro 92 – presumably the reason for their late adoption of the style. It would only be fourteen months from their first game in the new attire against Latvia in September of that year, until the “all-Ireland” clash in November 93; a relatively short time compared to the seven years that the trefoil had been seen on Irish shirts.

The countdown to the World Cup began on March 23rd, 1994, when Russia came to Dublin’s Lansdowne Road for a friendly, with the away side in a kit familiar to those who have read CKC#3. Most importantly though, it was the first chance for the Irish public to see what the team were going to wear that summer in the USA, although the game wasn’t broadcast live on TV.

Using a brighter shade of green than the last kit, the “Equipment” motifs were indeed a thing of the past, with a lone Adidas wordmark appearing on the chest opposite the crest. But incredibly, a trefoil did sort of make it back onto the shirt in the form of the sublimated shadow pattern, that basically portrayed the FAI logo bursting through the iconic Adidas “flower”. Subtle diagonal shadow stripes also incorporated FAI insignia, while a broad green/white/orange v-neck collar was complimented by small Irish tricolours on each sleeve.



The 1994 Ireland jersey in it's debut match, demonstrated by Liam O'Brien who ultimately would not be in the World Cup squad, Ireland vs Russia, friendly, 23/03/1994.

The shorts were mostly plain, but also included fabric pattern. The socks, however, were perhaps the most exciting part of the kit, due to their white turn-overs that featured green/orange/green stripes. This type of “French-formatting” (as seen with blue/red/blue stripes over white French kit elements) had been employed on Ireland’s old O’Neills strips in their green/white/gold colourway, but this was the first time in the Adidas era that Ireland’s stripes weren’t a uniform white or green.



Full Irish home kit featuring green/orange/green stripes over white sock turnovers, Ireland vs Russia, friendly, 23/03/1994.

At the previous World Cup, Ireland had been one of the only Adidas nations to wear a bespoke design, so the use of quite a common template afterwards may have disappointed some over-entitled fans (not us, since we love this era of templates). The 1994 shirt was a return to a unique kit (at least for the home, we’ll get to the away), but with quite a left-field design, it was maybe not what many had expected or hoped for. One source of continuity that hung on for now from the Equipment period was the numbers on the back, featuring an outline and three diagonal stripes in the corner.


The diagonal stripe numbering style first seen on Irish kits in 1991 retained for the new shirt, and Russia jersey, Ireland vs Russia, friendly, 23/03/1994.

As the 90s had progressed, the tight-fitting shirts of the last decade were replaced by looser, baggier cuts and longer shorts, as demonstrated by Ireland’s transition from trefoil to Equipment. But the location of the upcoming World Cup, and it’s devastating heat and humidity, gave another reason for a massive jersey besides style: ventilation. In the Russia game, the deliberate airiness of the new Ireland shirt was demonstrated by 19 year old debutante Gary Kelly especially, wearing the long-sleeve version which incidentally featured plain green cuffs.


Gary Kelly in his debut international wearing the long-sleeve version of the new home shirt, Ireland vs Russia, friendly, 23/03/1994.

New kits were introduced for the goalkeepers also, but, unlike the outfielders, they would be wearing a standard template known as “Predator” worn by many net-minders at the time that featured visible shoulder pads. “Blocks” of yellow and maroon on a black background covered most of the first choice jersey, with an “adidas” positioned on the round-neck collar and a central crest beneath.


Packie Bonner in Ireland's new goalkeeper shirt, Ireland vs Russia, friendly, 23/03/1994.

A 0-0 draw against the Russians was followed by an excellent 0-1 victory away to the Netherlands in April. The form continued to look good in May with a 1-0 win over Bolivia in Dublin on the 24th, and an even better display than the Dutch game with a 0-2 defeat of world champions Germany in Hanover four days later. Throughout all these games the standard home kit was used, but strangely the goalkeeper shirt of Alan Kelly didn’t feature a crest for Germany game (if not the other two also) having initially been seen on Packie Bonner’s version against Russia.



Ireland kit, front and back, above, and Alan Kelly's crestless goalkeeper jersey below, Germany vs Ireland, friendly, 29/05/1994.

The last warm-up fixture was on June 5th at home to the Czech Republic, who had most recently been part of the Representation of Czechs and Slovaks for a failed qualifying campaign and were now on their own for the first time. In a game most noteworthy for the away team’s rarely seen early Puma shirt, the class of the side that would burst onto the world scene at Euro 96 was already evident as they soured the going away party with a 1-3 defeat. But thankfully, the crest returned to Bonner’s goalie top.


The away side cause an upset at the World Cup going away party wearing an interesting early shirt, Ireland vs Czech Republic, 05/06/1994.

Bonner's jersey with crest reintroduced, Ireland vs Czech Republic, friendly, 05/06/1994.

Despite the loss the country prepared itself for World Cup fever, blindly optimistic for a repeat of the euphoria of four years earlier. Accordingly, opportunistic companies were ready to pounce on this enthusiasm with endless amounts of  World Cup Ireland-related merchandise, including “supporter jerseys”.




World Cup fever in Ireland with bunting, t-shirts (featuring a Denmark flag, who hadn't qualified) and O'Neills-made supporter jerseys (Hillary is modeling a 1990 Ireland/Italy version), June 1994.

True to form, former Ireland kit-supplier O’Neill’s produced many of their own “Adidas inspired” versions (based in an alternative timeline where Ireland used the “Spain 1992/93” Adidas template with a 1986-92 style Irish crest, which is actually beautiful), but a new development was the appearance of hideously inaccurate counterfeit shirts that tried to pass for Adidas. Among other missteps and poor material, the “home version” most prominently featured the instant give-away of a lace-up turnover collar.


A jolly fan wearing the hideous, counterfeit "collared" Ireland jersey, June 1994.

The actual official supporters replica shirts, like all Irish commercial jerseys since the 80s, could only be sold with the logo of the FAI’s corporate partner – in this case still Opel. It was a genius money-making move by the the association in which they had no problem turning their loyal supporters into walking billboards, when no other country did. However, lucky South American and Australian Ireland fans will have had versions produced in their regions devoid of the sponsor, as Opel had no presence in those markets.

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Republic of Ireland, 1994 FIFA World Cup

At the World Cup draw in December 93, Ireland had been placed in an all-European pot 3 and ended up in the so called “group of death”, Group E, along with:
Italy from pot 1 (hosts and top 5 ranked teams), Mexico from pot 2 (Africa and Americas) and Norway from pot 4 (lower Europeans and Asia). A grumpy minority lamented that it would have been better not to have qualified at all than face an early exit, but up to three teams could progress to the next round giving the aging Irish a decent chance.


The World Cup 94 draw in Las Vegas at the moment Norway were selected to complete Group E, 13/12/1993.

The specter of the grueling heat would also be present though, with games scheduled for daytime to suit global TV audiences and only two substitutions allowed per match. Somewhat over-cautiously, the Irish contingent brought a set of long-sleeves jerseys as well as short sleeves, but of course they would not be needed.

As always at the World Cup, kit distinctions were also more strictly enforced, meaning interesting kit mash-ups were certain. And rules against excessive corporate branding meant that certain kit-maker related elements sometimes had to be subtly changed for the tournament.

Round 1, Group E

ITALY
MEXICO
Republic of IRELAND
NORWAY

Match 1: Italy vs Ireland
Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, 18/06/1994

Ireland were to start the World Cup the way they had finished the last, with an encounter against Italy. Being the “away” side in the fixture they prepared to wear their change strip of white/green/white against the blue/white/blue of Italy, as they had done four years earlier on Italian soil. (From the pre-match graphics it is also interesting to note the branding of this being “World Cup XV” – evidently a Super Bowl-inspired marketing attempt to appeal to the home American audience.)

But upon viewing the Irish team fifteen minutes before kick-off, the FIFA official reported that the Italians had elected to wear their own away kit of white/blue/white, meaning that the Irish had one and a half minutes to change. As reported by Museum of Jerseys here, captain Andy Townsend suggested only changing the shirt to create a green/green/white strip – a request denied by the FIFA official. The teams emerged shortly after with Ireland in their first choice colours; the massive crowd (a majority of whom were Irish) none the wiser of the kit-chaos:

The rush turned out to be somewhat of a blessing, however, as ‘keeper Bonner later recalled how the quick turnaround meant there was no time to think, which in turn took the pressure off. What did cause pressure was the afternoon sun – clearly the reason for the Italians choice of white shirts (in the other match, the “home” Norwegians also chose to wear their white away jersey). In a vein attempt to counter this, notoriously pale left-back-turn-left-midfielder Steve Staunton and the Scottish-born Ray Houghton both took to the field in white caps (along with manager Jack Charlton and some subs), and kept them on as long as possible before kick-off:

As for the kit itself, there were two crucial differences to the version used in the pre-tournament friendlies. The text “Corn An Domhain USA ’94”, Irish for “World Cup USA ’94”, now ringed around the crest, doubtlessly enraging many consumers of the replica who’s shirts suddenly seemed out of date:

The other difference, which may have been lost to more viewers, was the numbers, which had been changed to a standard “box” format. This was a result of the aforementioned branding rules that meant the three stripes on the previous style could not be allowed, despite the fact that the numbers used at Italia 90 were really nothing but stripes. Tournament front-numbers also returned to an Irish shirt after their debut at the US Cup in 92, while players names on the back made their first ever appearance:

Also of note was the fact that left-back Terry Phelan missed team-photo, as he had put on boots with the wrong studs and was busy changing them. As we discussed last time, Phelan had been known for turning the tops of his socks inside out, or indeed simply wearing his own pair, due to muscle issues, and of course this continued into the World Cup with his altered versions clearly displaying less white trim than the other players:

The Italians “white-advantage” didn’t count in the end, as Houghton’s first half goal, along with a mammoth performance from centre-back Paul McGrath, gave the Irish a famous 0-1 win. Despite any reservations anyone might have initially had after the change from the arguably more classy Equipment gear, the new Irish jersey had now been worn in victories over the Dutch, the Germans and the Italians, with clean sheets in all. Could the luck continue for the boys in green?

Result: Italy 0-1 Ireland

Match 2: Mexico vs Ireland
Citrus Bowl, Orlando, 24/06/1994

Three days after the the Summer Solstice, Ireland took to field in Florida at the crazy time of 12:30pm for an ominous first-time encounter against the side in the group most-equipped to deal with the conditions – Mexico. In record heat and humidity for a World Cup match, again Staunton wore his now trademark cap along, no doubt grateful for the water-breaks allowed during the games. Thankfully the Mexicans decided to wear their home colours of green/white/red, meaning that the Irish could use their lighter white shirt and socks for the first time, and, since shorts clashes apparently weren’t an issue, white shorts, eliminating any sort of semi-clash:

If the home shirt was somewhat plain, the bold away equivalent more than made up for it. Remaining from the green jersey was the diagonal shadow pattern, sleeve flags, and a similar collar, although the order of colours was reversed and ratio of orange to green reduced. But the most striking and obvious difference was the vertical green bars emanating from the shoulders and collar, bordered by orange trim, and disintegrating into white as they descend down the shirt:

The ample amount of green meant that the “adidas” wordmark was placed over the colour, appearing in white like it did on the home shirt. The front numbers, on the other hand, were made orange to account for the fact that they spilled over onto the white when in double-figures, contrasting the green names and numbers used on back:

The crest too was placed over a green bar, meaning both badge and maker logo were positioned unusually wide – wider than on the home shirt. At first the template also appeared to be a bespoke design for the Irish, but was later used in modified form by the likes of Karlsruher SC (home and away, 96/97), Stockport County (home 96/97) and Turkey (away, 96-98). Lastly for the outfielders, the socks on display for the first time were not a straight reversal, as the turn-over stayed white allowing the green/orange/green stripes to remain:

In goal, meanwhile, Bonner kept with the first choice ‘keeper kit. The heavy, padded jersey certainly seemed unsuitable for the American baking, and looked an especially out of place oversight compared to the loose, short-sleeved masterpiece worn by a man famous for his shirts at the Mexican end – Jorge Campos:

After a 1-0 loss to Norway in their first match, Mexico bounced back by taking a 2-0 lead against the hot and sweaty western European islanders (Ireland that is). But after an infamous sideline spat that also involved a stubborn FIFA official – who inexplicably wouldn’t allow a change – and an irate Charlton, 35 year old substitute John Aldridge headed in a late consolation goal for the Irish, the goal difference implications of which still gave hope of progression to the next round.

Result: Mexico 2-1 Ireland

Match 3: Ireland vs Norway
Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, 28/06/1994

For another early kick-off, Ireland returned to Giants Stadium in New Jersey – contradictorily the home of the New York Giants American football teams. Finally the “home” side, the Irish were now free to choose any kit combination they wanted. But instead of staying loyal to the colour of their country, the choice was made to follow the Italians and Norwegians example by using the away kit and taking the supposed advantage of a white shirt.

For the third game in a row a different combination was achieved, as green shorts were inserted allowing the away kit to be seen in it’s intended form for the first time. From a functional stand-point, perhaps this allowed for more visual recognition for a team less used to playing in all-white, as well as not having to worry about green on the other team’s kit:

There was a change in goal too thanks to the Norwegian’s red clashing with maroon, as Bonner now did join his teammates in switching shirts (no more than that as black shorts and socks were used with both options) to a purple/grey-based version of the first choice. After Italy’s Diadora and Mexico’s Umbro, Norway were the first opponent to use also Adidas, and Bonner’s Norwegian equivalent, Erik Thorstvedt, was in the template too – a black/blue/green variant:

From the bench, we also get a nice look at the amazing Irish t-shirts worn by the players and staff. In an alternate world it could have made a suitable third-choice jersey had the green, white and orange on the sleeves been fully hooped (along with some other details) but, like the goalkeeper gear, the black theme was not a great fit for the heat:

After a frustrating game, 0-0 was the final score. At the same time in Washington, Italy and Mexico played-out their own 1-1 draw, creating the incredible situation where, for the first time ever, a World Cup group had ended with all four teams level on points (four) and goal difference (zero).

As the highest goalscorers, Mexico went through on top, with Ireland’s win against Italy and goal against Mexico being enough to send them through in second. Still reeling from the opening defeat, future finalists Italy crept through as the lowest ranked third placed qualifier, ahead of the eliminated Norway who had only managed one goal.

Result: Ireland 0-0 Norway

Elsewhere at the tournament, Adidas’ colourful templates would be an enduring highlight. Ten of the twenty-four nations present were contracted to the brand, with Romania, Sweden (who, continuing the theme of the heat, came with a white away shirt rather than the usual blue), Bulgaria and Norway (home) using an evolution of the Equipment template that featured dual “rib bars”. The collars and cuts of these jerseys were similar to the Irish effort, with the Swedish version also even featuring diagonal shadow stripes.



Above: The great Norwegian home strip used at the World Cup, which added navy raglan sleeves to the popular "rib-bars" template."; Below: Sweden's white away kit with the same shirt template.

The second most prevalent Adidas theme, thanks to Spain, Argentina (away), and Norway (away), used a smarter turn-over button collar and employed columns of stacked diamonds (not to be confused with Umbro) running down the right side. Already witnessed by Ireland in the friendly, Germany’s sensational first and second choice shirts, with their colourful diamond-flurried chests, were like the Irish away; not in design, but in at first appearing bespoke before being adopted by others.



Above: Spain's "diamond-columned" away shirt; Below: Germany's first choice strip - the away did not see use in the tournament.

The Irish home shirt was still joined by several other unique offerings from Adidas. In almost all cases, however, the templates at the tournament were the superior offerings, as the four specialised USA and Nigeria kits aren’t exactly looked back on favorably. But for kit nerds, the Irish shirt could be considered the most special of all as the only outfield jersey at the tournament to (sort of) feature a trefoil.



Above: The "stars" part of the USA's "stars and stripes" kits; Below: The Nigerian away shirt that looked designed for a trendy nightclub..

Round of 16

Match 4: Netherlands vs Ireland
Citrus Bowl, Orlando, 04/07/1994

On American independence day back in Orlando, it was an even earlier “high-noon showdown” for Ireland against the Dutch in the next round. Again a replay from Italia 90, this time it would be a replay of the kit configuration too.

The Netherlands, as the “home team”, elected to wear their usual (at the time) orange/white/orange strip. As seen back in April, under normal terms this would have meant Ireland in their first choice too, but now, like in 1990, white/green/white was required:

As we have discussed, the use of white suited Ireland anyway. But there was concern from some at this unprecedented third game in a row without the trademark green jersey, considering the alternative had proved less successful on the pitch. Even at the last tournament, a draw and a win on penalties had been delivered in the home kit, while the away had been used in two draws and a defeat.

Unlike when the sides met in Italy, during which the yellow Irish goalkeeper jersey was changed only for the yellow-wearing Romanians, Bonner also used his away top once again to avoid an orange vs maroon/yellow clash. It would turn out to be his last major competitive cap (a Euro qualifier against Lichtenstein would follow), although not his most pleasant one.

Early in the game, an error from Phelan allowed Denis Bergkamp to score, before an innocuous looking Wim Jonk strike was unfortunately palmed into the goal by Bonner. A second half disallowed McGrath effort was the closest Ireland came to a response, and they were out – the curse of the away shirt had struck again.

Result: Netherlands 2-0 Ireland

Rep. of IRELAND ELIMINATED at Round of 16

Baring the initial Italian game, the World Cup had not quite delivered the same delirium that had been unleashed four years prior, but that would have been extremely difficult. Never the less, the team returned to Dublin as heroes to most of the population and received a public homecoming reception/celebration/display of appreciation in the Phoenix Park:

As for the kits, which is the main reason we are talking about all this, amazingly that first game back in Giants Stadium proved to be the one and only time that the ’94 home jersey (and socks) was used in a competitive setting. This was of course because, following the World Cup, Umbro took over as Ireland kit manufacturers, ending a relatively short eight year relationship with Adidas.

Although not the first Irish kit to be only used once in competition, the set and setting for the game makes it’s use makes comparable to the much celebrated Dutch Euro 88 shirt, which was only ever worn for the five games of that tournament (the Irish kit was used more over all thanks to the friendlies). Despite the awkwardly blocky numbers, the lack of any real design elements, and the insane bagginess, the historic result against Italy (Ireland’s first win during 90 mins in a World Cup finals match) will always give this kit great meaning, and time has been kind to the concept as the 90s become more and more retro.

Breakdown
Team: Republic of Ireland 
Year(s): 1994
Competition: World Cup 94
Kit Supplier: Adidas
Competitive Games: 4
Kit Colour Combinations: 3
Kit Technical Combinations: 3

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Video Links:
Northern Ireland vs Ireland, 1993
Sweden vs France, 1993
Portugal vs Austria, 1994
Ireland vs Russia, 1994
Germany vs Ireland, 1994
Ireland vs Czech Rep., 1994
Irish World Cup report, 1994
Italy vs Ireland, 1994
Italy vs Ireland, 1994
Mexico vs Ireland, 1994
Mexico vs Ireland, 1994
Mexico vs Ireland, 1994
Ireland vs Norway, 1994
Ireland vs Norway, 1994
Norway kit 1994
Sweden kit 1994
Spain kit 1994
Germany kit 1994
USA kit 1994
Nigeria kit 1994
Netherlands vs Ireland, 1994
Netherlands vs Ireland, 1994
Irish homecoming, 1994

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Cold War Classic #10: West Germany vs East Germany, 1974

Our regular guest series over on MuseumOfJerseys.com is back, with installment number ten 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, regular POTP readers will remember the piece as part of Politics On The Pitch #5 – Groups of Death part 2, with our look at the all-Germany derby of 1974 now immortalised with kit illustrations.

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Cold War Classic no.10 – West Germany vs East Germany, 1974

When the short-lived, post-World War 2 state of the Saar Protectorate – administered by the French, but German in every other way – took part in their one and only World Cup qualifying campaign (for 1954), the geographically selected group was always going to see them come up against their West German countrymen.

The World Cup would come to West Germany itself 20 years later – by which time Saarland had been long absorbed back into the Federal Republic of Germany (as the West was formally known) – and it seemed inevitable that the remaining, third post-war German state would not only qualify for the first time, but also be drawn alongside the hosts for a debut showdown between capitalist west and communist east…

READ ON

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Politics On The Pitch #5: Groups of Death Part 2 (1970-1979)

Last time out in Politics On the Pitch, Groups of Death part 1 provided a looked at some controversial match-ups and politically motivated withdrawals of national teams in the post-WW2 period, finishing off with the infamous Football War between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969. We continue now with a decade not short on classic international incidents, as well as classic international football matches: the 1970s.

  • 1974 World Cup Qualifiers

As the Cold War went on without any actual battle in Europe, UEFA’s qualifiers continued to pit different ideologies against each other on the football pitch. Like the campaign for World Cup 1958, staunchly anti-Soviet Finland were once again surrounded by communist countries in Group 4; this time Albania, East Germany and Romania replaced the USSR and Poland.

Poland in Group 5 found themselves in a similar but reversed situation, with the all-British opposition of England and Wales. Group 7 was perhaps the most extreme, as Tito’s socialist Yugoslavia fought it out with both Franco’s fascist Spain and a Greece ruled by a far-right military junta. Conversely, Group 3 of Belgium, Iceland, Netherlands and Norway was a northern European purist’s dream.

As with previous World Cups, one legged play-offs on neutral ground were used to differentiate first and second placed sides who had finished level on points and goal difference, determining who would get the sole qualification spot in the group. Upcoming World Cup hosts West Germany were a natural choice for the venues, with Sweden defeating Austria in Gelsenkirchen, and Yugoslavia triumphing over Spain in Frankfurt.

Such “emergency” fixtures were later rendered obsolete, as “goals for” became the more important tie-breaking factor, especially away from home (although in 1995 Ireland and the Netherlands would uniquely play-off in Liverpool for the last Euro 96 spot, as the two lowest ranked 2nd placed finishers in qualifying). One play-off that would survive from this time however (if not always involving UEFA these days) was the inter-confederation version, returning after having been dropped for the previous two World Cup.

For the first time ever, the play-off was to be between European and South American teams; a positive move as far as the less well represented continents were concerned. But surprisingly, the “real world” events of September 1973 made the coinciding qualification clash a rather problematic fixture.

UEFA–CONMEBOL Play-Off:

USSR
Chile

The Soviet Union had been in Group 9 of  UEFA’s qualifiers along with France and Ireland, coming out on top. The winner of this group had somewhat unfairly been pre-determined to enter the play-off, rather than being the lowest ranked group winner as in the years that followed.

Their opponents, Chile, had been in Group 3 of the South American system, with Peru as their only opposition after Venezuela withdrew. In April and March 1973, 2-0 wins for the respective home team in both group games meant another play-off was needed to separate the sides, won 2-1 by Chile on August 5th in Montevideo, Uruguay.


A young fan runs on the pitch in Montevideo to celebrate with Chilean players after their defeat Peru in a qualification group play-off, 05/08/1973.

***If you are interested in countries withdrawing and not playing games, then you’ll love our look back at the 1950 World Cup qualifiers.***

Like with Europe’s Group 9, the winner of this group had always been destined to enter the intercontinental showdown, the first leg of which was scheduled for 26 September in Moscow. But then, on September 11th 1973, Chile’s democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende (in power since 1970) was overthrown in a US/UK backed coup d’état and replaced by an authoritarian, right-wing military junta that would come to be led by army chief Augusto Pinochet.

The new regime quickly cracked down on any left-leaning organisations, banned any travel out of  the country, and, to quote Wikipedia, “thousands of people deemed undesirable were taken to the Estadio Nacional in Santiago, (and) tortured and killed”; the same Estadio Nacional where the second leg of the football was to be played in November. With the anti-communist stance of the junta, it was somewhat fitting that the first international encounter of any kind for the “new Chile” was set to see it face off against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.


Estadio Nacional, Santiago, Chile, turned into a detention, torture and death camp by the new regime, September-Novermber 1973.

The Soviets had been an ally of the Allende presidency and relations between the two countries were immediately severed following the coup. Less that two weeks later, the Chilean national team traveled to Moscow for the first leg with tensions high.

Many of the team were apolitical, or even harboured ties to the previous government, and the players were under strict order not to state anything of a political nature on the trip under threat of their families lives. Indeed the Chilean government only allowed the squad to travel in order to project a veneer of normality, while institutionalised terror reigned at home (an all too familiar tactic).

Upon their arrival in Moscow airport, no authority was on hand to receive the South American team and some players were detained due to supposed passport irregularities. Adding to the drama was the rumour that the Soviets would arrest Chilean players to later exchange with socialist prisoners of war.

On September 26th nearly 50,000 entered the Central Lenin Stadium for the game, but among them were no journalists or cameras, as ominously ordered by the authorities. Admirably, Chile – who had made several World Cup appearances already including a 3rd place finish on home soil in 1962 – were able to hold their large and intimidating hosts to a 0-0 draw, much to the humiliation of all involved on the home side (both of a sporting and political nature).

With the return leg in Santiago scheduled for nearly two months later on November 21st, the horrors of the oppressive Chilean dictatorship continued in the national stadium and only came to an end on November 7th. The USSR appealed to FIFA to have the game moved to neutral ground, fairly refusing to play in what had been turned in to a legitimate death camp. But both FIFA – who as we have discussed were equal opportunists to states of all political orientations and atrocities – and of course Chile themselves, denied any such move.


Chilean Dictator Pinochet giving a press conference in the stadium, Autumn 1973.

The Soviets traveled to South America anyway to play stand-by friendlies against neighboring countries, showing that they were serious about the match should the venue be changed. It was not to be, and in fact the “game” was to go ahead without any opposition as approved by FIFA; mostly in order to display a political show, but also to avoid the loss of income from refunding all those already purchased match tickets.


Soldiers keep watch outside the ground before the "match", Chile vs an absent USSR, 21/11/1973.

Come match day and 15,000 were in attendance, with many younger supporters unaware of the political significance of the situation, as Austrian referee Erich Linemayr blew the whistle to kick-off what was to be quite literally a one-sided affair. The Chilean players casually ran the ball down field to score into the empty net, after which the ref blew the whistle again to conclude the farce. A 2-0 walkover was awarded, and Chile qualified for the World Cup.


Chile score into an empty USSR net; with no opposition present to take kick-off, the referee would then blow the full-time whistle, 21/11/1973.

With their place on the moral high-ground firmly secured, it was later suggested by players from the time that the Soviet authorities were motivated more through a fear of losing the game to their political “enemies”, rather than a concern for human rights. Either way, having finished runners-up in the 1972 European Championships, the aborted play-off was to prove a negative turning point for the USSR as they would miss out on the following two World Cups and Euros respectively.


The stadium scoreboard following the only goal in the one team game, Chile vs absent USSR, 21/11/1973.

Chile, on the other hand, went to West Germany for the 1974 tournament where they had been drawn in a group with the hosts, along with East Germany and Australia. But attention to the grim situation in their country was drawn once again at their final game against Australia, when shortly after kick-off a group of political protesters carrying a large Chilean banner invaded the pitch, causing the match to be paused.


Political protesters on the pitch interrupting Australia vs Chile, World Cup, 22/06/1974.

It would not be until 1988 that democracy would return to Chile. When the Estadio Nacional was eventually renovated in 2010, one sector of the ground – Salida 8 – was left untouched, to serve as a memorial and reminder of what happened on the site.

AFC/OFC Zone A

Hong Kong
Japan
Malaysia
Isreal
South Vietnam
South Korea
Thailand

As we saw in Part 1, the Asian and Oceanic section was always interesting to keep an eye on due to the inclusion of exiled “colonialist African” teams (South Africa for 1966, Rhodesia for 1970), and because of the Israeli problem, with neighboring Arabic and Islamic countries refusing to participate against the Jewish state. To avoid a repeat of the resulting withdrawals in 1957, Israel had originally been placed in UEFA for the 1962 and 1966 qualifying campaigns; strangely in the former as part of a mini knockout tournament group with Cyprus, Italy and, for some reason, Ethiopia.

Now, for the second time in a row they were back in the AFC section, but like 1970 were placed in an otherwise all-east Asian zone. One omission was North Korea, who had also refused to play Israel in the previous qualifiers on political grounds and so were conveniently swapped into Zone B-Group 1 along side the Middle Eastern states of Iran, Kuwait and Syria, where Israel should rightfully have been.

(Note: all Zone B-Group 1 games were played Iran, while in Zone B-Group 2 Iraq were forced to travel to the other side of the world to play in/against Australia, along side New Zealand and Indonesia)

The entirety of Zone A was to be held in Soul, South Korea, beginning with three classification matches on May 16th and 17th 1973 to determine which teams would be placed in what group (with the hosts already allotted to Group 2). Israel took on and beat Japan 2-1 on the opening day, but only after another controversial country in the midst of it’s own war of destruction amazingly took part in their first ever World Cup game.

Vietnam had won autonomy within the French empire in 1949 as the “State of Vietnam”, but by 1954 shock military victories for local communist forces drove the colonialists out for good. This resulted in the division of the country, creating of the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam – recognised by the likes of China and the USSR – and the formal foundation of the western-backed Republic of (South) Vietnam the following year. South Vietnam had quickly established a football team, participating in the Asian Games since 1954, and finishing a respectable 4th in the first two Asian Cups (granted, only four teams took part).


Flag of South Vietnam, 1949-1975.

But at home, with the Republic refusing to sanction elections that would potentially reunify the country as guaranteed by the Geneva Convention (which had formalised the partition but not been signed by South Vietnam), their strategy of US-backed force to retake the North began two decades of the Vietnam War. This didn’t stop participation of the football team in international competitions though, as they would continue to take part in Asian Games until 1970.

As the conflict went on and disaster unfolded, an embarrassed United States formally began withdrawing ground troops from the warzone in 1969, although air power and financial support were still used into the 70s to combat the North Vietnamese Army and it’s Viet Cong liberation front in the South. But in January 1973 the Paris Peace Accords were signed, officialy removing America from the war and creating a shaky ceasefire between North and South Vietnam.

Fighting still continued, however, and on March 15th, one day before South Vietnam were set to play Thailand in Seoul, President Nixon threatened more US military intervention should the North launch a new full offensive. Under this shadow, the team made it’s World Cup qualifier debut with a 1-0 win through an own-goal in the 83rd minute.

Throughout the rest of the month, the Zone A groups were played out with 1st and 2nd placed teams progressing to semi-finals, before a match to reach to an ultimate play-off against the winners of Zone B. Theoretically this could have ended with Israel coming up against a Middle Eastern team, but they were eliminated by the home side South Korea in the Zone A final.

South Vietnam, meanwhile, were unsuccessful in Zone A-Group 1, with 4-0 and 1-0 defeats to Japan and Hong Kong respectively. Along with the previous game against Thailand, they would turn out to be the only three World Cup games ever played by the state, as North Vietnam did indeed launch another offensive that year, and, far from successively intervening, the last US helicopter eventually left Saigon in chaos on April 30th 1975.


The US Embassy in South Vietnam is evacuated as Saigon is about to fall, 1975.

By the time the next qualifiers rolled around, the Republic of Vietnam was no more, now annexed into a unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam. It would not be until 1991 that a Vietnam side would once again take to a football field.

 

  • 1974 World Cup

Group 1:

Australia
Chile
East Germany
West Germany

We talked last time about how the short-lived post-World War 2 state of the Saar Protectorate – administered by the French, but German in every other way – took part in their one and only World Cup qualifying campaign (for 1954) in a group also featuring their West German countrymen. When the World Cup would come to West Germany itself twenty years later – by which time Saarland was long absorbed back into the Federal Republic of Germany (as the West was formally known) – it seemed inevitable that the remaining, third post-war German state would not only qualify for the first time, but also be drawn along side the hosts for a debut showdown between capitalist west and communist east.

The Democratic Republic of (East) Germany had been formed in 1949 and, under the Deutscher Fußball Verband der DDR governing body, participated in their first international football match against Poland three years later. As discussed back in in Politics on the Pitch #2, blue and white were chosen as kit colours to reflect the uniforms of the East German socialist youth organisation.


Flag of East Germany, 1959-1990.

After their entry to FIFA in 1952, 1958 to 1970 had seen fruitless World Cup qualifying campaigns before the aforementioned qualifying Group 4 brought real East German hope for the 1974 edition. Albania and Finland were like East Germany in having not yet made a tournament finals, leaving Romania – boasting three finals appearances back in the 1930s, and more importantly a spot at the recent 1970 World Cup in Mexico – as group favourites, although not exactly an elite squad either.

As they had done during World War 2 against the Russians, the Finns did the Germans a favour early in the group with a heroic 1-1 draw in Helsinki against Romania in September 1972. It would prove a vital slip up, as Romania would go on to take “all two points” (awarded for a win instead of three until the 1998 qualifiers) against East Germany in Bucharest the following May; ultimately the latter’s only dropped points in the group.

The most crucial group game came on September 26th 1973 in Leipzig for the return fixture, with a 2-0 win for East Germany putting them back in the driver seat. Still with a chance to go through, Romania would take their revenge over Finland at home with a desperate 9-0 drubbing in October, but it was to be in vein as a 4-1 East German victory away to Albania in November delivered top-spot by a point.


East Germany clinch World Cup qualification for the first time with a 4-1 away win over Albania, 03/11/1973.

While no internationals had yet taken place between the two divided halves of Germany, a number of friendlies did occur between club sides from East and West in the 1950s before the wall. The introduction of European competitions later resumed such encounters, starting with Dynamo Dresden vs Bayern Munich in 1973 for the 73/74 European Cup, and Fortuna Düsseldorf vs 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig in the UEFA Cup of the same season.

And so the stage was set in January 1974 for the final World Cup draw in Frankfurt. Seemingly admitting the fallibility of grown men in the 70s, FIFA used the “innocent hand” of a young, local choir boy to draw the teams, eliminating any element of potential dirty play from a morally corrupted adult.

With West Germany automatically placed in Group 1 as hosts, the dramatic moment came when East Germans were also drawn in the group, drawing first a moment of hushed shock from those in attendance before emotional, spontaneous applause. Even though it had always been a possibility, along with the fact that the tournament was on “enemy” soil anyway, it was later falsely rumored that the East German regime would withdraw the team to avoid the overtly political encounter.


Group 1 with the two Germanys, World Cup 74 draw, Frankfurt, 31/01/1974.

Adding to the intrigue, one of the locations for games in the group was the enclave of West Berlin, amazingly meaning that East Germany would play a World Cup game in a city entirely surrounded by itself. Unfortunately, the all-German clash wasn’t scheduled for here, but both sides fittingly took on none other than Chile in the Olympiastadion, less than 10 kilometers from the Berlin wall.


World Cup 74 opening ceremony in the Olympiastadion, Munich, 13/06/1974.

The political atmosphere was matched by surprisingly poor June weather for the tournament, with particularly dreary and wet conditions – perhaps the worst ever (at a World Cup that is, not of all time). As Chilean protesters attempted to grab the attention of the world with regards their country’s dictatorship in the match against Australia in West Berlin (three out of three at the venue for Chile, who technically could still progress), most fans and non-fans alike were concentrating on what was to come that evening across the country in Hamburg for the final group game.

On June 22nd more than 60,000 crammed into the Volksparkstadion – where West Germany had also taken on Saar in 1953 – for the 19:30 kick-off and thankfully the setting sun shone low in the sky. There was a respectful silence for the DGR’s national anthem and a section of East German supporters was visible in the ground.


East German team and fans after their national anthem, vs West Germany, World Cup, 22/06/1974.

East Germany, who had been primarily using white shirts and blue shorts as a first preference by this time, were the official “home team” in the tie, but had graciously emerged in their change kit of blue shirts and white shorts allowing West Germany to continue wearing their usual home white jerseys. Interestingly, the East Germans were in short sleeves while the hosts were in long sleeves.


Short sleeved blue shirts of East Germany vs the long sleeved white shirts of West Germany, World Cup, 22/06/1974.

Finally the time came and the heavy favourite western professionals kicked-off against a team who all had day jobs back in the East. Early on West Germany were close to opening the scoring, but it remained 0-0 until the 77th minute when Jürgen Sparwasser – a member of the 1. FC Magdeburg side that had just impressively beaten AC Milan to win the Cup Winners Cup in Rotterdam – broke through the West German defensive to score for East Germany.


Sparwasser scores the most famous goal in East Germany history, vs West Germany, World Cup, 22/06/1974.

The TV cameras went to the celebrating away supporters in the crowd, who were doubtlessly all involved in the East German government in some way rather than regular fans who may have taken the chance to defect. Permits had been in effect since 1972 that allowed younger East German citizens to cross the border (pensioners, who were less valuable to the state, had been able to visit the West since 1964), although in reality they were only usually granted to ruling party elites and their ilk.


East German players and social elite supporters celebrate the only goal of the game, vs West Germany, 22/06/1974.

The shocked home crowd looked on as the clock rolled down before the final whistle confirmed it: the lowly East had conquered the West. Granted, West Germany’s two prior victories against Australia and Chile had already secured them a place in the next round, but, like in qualifying, East Germany ended the group in pole position.


Classic graphics after a replay of the winning goal, East Germany vs West Germany, 22/06/1974.

In the end the result was possibly the best thing that could have happened for the hosts, as they entered a manageable Round 2 group alongside Poland, Sweden and Yugoslavia, while the unfortunate East were placed in the far tougher group with Argentina, Brazil and the Netherlands. Elimination came after two defeats, with respectable 1-1 draw against the Argentinians in the other game.

West Germany of course went on to secure their second World Cup trophy in the tournament, but East Germany had won the arguably more important all-German cup final, and would always have that. Well, until the 3rd of October 1990 at least, when the state would formally cease to exist.

  • 1980 European Championships Qualifiers

Group 1

Bulgaria
Denmark
England
Northern Ireland
Republic of Ireland

In the 1958 qualifiers, Ireland had met their former colonialist masters of England for the first time in a competitive setting. But following the the Irish War of Independence in 1921, not all of the country had been freed from the British crown.

Before it would happen to Germany, Korea or Vietnam later in the century, Ireland was partitioned as part of it’s independence treaty, with the Anglo-Scots-dominated north-east becoming “Northern” Ireland and remaining in the United Kingdom. As we have discussed before, Northern Ireland inherited the old Belfast based Irish Football Association that had been established under British rule, while a new organisation – the Football Association of  Ireland – was founded in Dublin to represent what would become the Republic (first the Irish Free State).

As with East and West Germany, there had been no football meeting of any sort between the two going in to the 1970s; a decade that would show the world that tensions on the island had not gone away. Sparked by civil rights protests from the discriminated ethnic Irish population, conflict between Irish nationalist paramilitaries, their British equivalents and the British Army exploded, with civilian atrocities from all sides along the way.

As things escalated and the body count rose, the slightly less significant soccer qualifiers for Euro 80 brought the Irish and English football teams into direct competition once again in Group 1. But this time, Northern Ireland were thrown in to the mix to create truly the “Group of Troubles” (not an official UEFA title), with Bulgaria and Denmark filling up the rest of the “non-Troubles” spots.

Ireland started the group away to Denmark with a thrilling 3-3 draw on May 24th, 1978; typically it was the home side who had clawed back the point from 3-1 down after 79 minutes. This would be followed by 3-4 and 2-2 affairs at home for Denmark against England and Bulgaria respectively, showing that Copenhagen was an unusual place to play at the time.

But next was to be the inaugural all-Ireland clash (at least in an association football sense, rather than the Gaelic games version) with Dublin as the location on September 20th for the first of the two ties between Republic and North. As soon as the Northern Ireland team bus had crossed the border it was joined by a police escort, which stayed all  the way to the stadium – the indomitable Lansdowne Road.

By the standards of the time, a heavy police presence was on hand at and around the historic ground also, as “football special” trains from the North arrived at the nearby station with groups with energetic away fans. Unease was in the air as Union Jacks were waved and unionist songs sung en mass in Dublin for the first time in about 57 years, but, despite some minor confrontations, no violence broke out.




Northern Ireland fans arrive by train near the stadium for the match vs Republic of Ireland, 20/09/1978.

Minor confrontation between home supporters with large Irish tricolour and Northern Ireland fans chanting "The Ulster" (province of Ireland within which Northern Ireland is located) on the way to the match, 20/09/1977.

Inside the ground, the traveling contingent occupied a large section of the North Terrace, which remained unsegregated. Like many of the continent’s major stadiums, imposing fences had at least been installed around the Lansdowne Road that year in an attempt to prevent any potential rowdies from taking their trouble away from the stands where it belonged.


Northern Irish away fans singing "Protestant songs" (according to the BBC News report) in Lansdowne Road's North Terrace ahead of the match with Ireland, 20/09/1977.

Even though green was worn by the Northern Irish team for historical reasons, many of their fans chose the blue, white and red colourscheme of Belfast’s Linfield, Glasgow Rangers and the Union Jack. With the Republic also of course usually in a green, sportspersonship akin to East Germany choosing not wearing white against West Germany seems to have been displayed, as the home side donned a fetching all-white change kit with delicious green and yellow trim.


The captains before the match with Ireland's white change shirt being worn at home, vs Northern Ireland, 20/09/1977.

The sense of anti-climax for those who had come to witness any potential trouble will have been matched by those who came solely for the football, as an Ireland containing stars like Brady, Giles, Highway, Lawrenson (who’s bloodied shirt suggests the tone of the game) and Stapleton were held to a 0-0 draw against a North led from the back by legendary goalkeeper Pat Jennings. Apparently nothing further of note occurred among supporters either, but things may not have been so serene had the events of the very next day – when the Provisional IRA bombed an RAF airfield in Derry destroying a terminal, two hangers and several planes (although no lives were lost) – happened slightly earlier.

Ireland next kept their streak of draws going with a somewhat satisfactory 0-0 in Lansdowne against England, while the North picked up excellent back to back wins at home to Denmark and away to Bulgaria, spurred on by striker Gerry Armstrong. Despite more good performances from the the Republic, results like England 4-0 Northern Ireland, Denmark 4-0 Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland 1-5 England, put the North out of the running going into the final series of games, with an unbeaten England looking set to claim the sole qualifying spot and their first tournament appearance in ten years.

Following a 3-0 win over Bulgaria in October 1979, Ireland still had a mathematical chance to pip the English in the unlikely event that the Bulgarians went to Wembley and won, followed by Ireland doing the same in February 1980. But first on November 21st would be a trip to Belfast’s Windsor Park, home of Linfield FC, for a Northern Ireland keen to kill any any Irish hopes in lieu of their own failed prospects (and not for the last time).

Unlike in Dublin, it will have been very unlikely that many, if any, away supporters traveled north of the border for the encounter, due to the potential “security risks” for those with caught with a “southern” accent among a certain type of hardcore British loyalist. In the 13 months since the reverse fixture, there had many more bombings, high profile assassinations, and civilian casualties from Northern Ireland to London and even The Hague, meaning the game was even more emotionally charged than before.

Keeping in the spirit of fair play though, the North returned the kit favour of the year before by emerging in their away strip. Minorly problematic was the fact that their white/green/white created an “overall clash” against Ireland’s green/white/green, an effect previously negated by Ireland’s use of all-white in Dublin.


Northern Ireland in white/green/white at home to Republic of Ireland, 21/11/1979.

With 15,000 creating an intimidating atmosphere in the small fortress of a ground, that man Gerry Armstrong popped up on the 54th minute to give the home side a lead they would hold on to until the end, thus dashing Ireland’s theoretical qualification hopes (had England not gone and defeated Bulgaria the next day anyway). Again blue was the most prevalent colour of those celebrating on the caged terraces.


Gerry Armstrong scores for Northern Ireland, vs Republic of Ireland, 21/11/1979.

The Windsor Park terraces celebrate the only goal of the game, Northern Ireland vs Republic of Ireland, 21/11/1979.

Unlike the Germanys, this would not be the last time that Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would be drawn together before one ceases to exist. And with the Troubles not ending any time soon in our timeline, we shall quite possibly see the tie rise again when Groups of Death continues into the 80s…

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Video Links:
Chile vs Peru, 1973
Estadio Nacional, Chile, 1973
Chile vs USSR, 1973
Chile vs USSR, 1973
Australia vs Chile, 1974
Albania vs East Germany, 1973
1974 World Cup draw
East Germany vs West Germany, 1974
East Germany vs West Germany, 1974
East Germany vs West Germany, 1974
Republic of Ireland vs Northern Ireland, 1978
Northern Ireland vs Republic of Ireland, 1979

*****

What Football Is Supposed To Look Like #8 (Gallery)

Last time in WFISTLL, we zoomed in on the Belgian league scene of the late 80s and early 90s with a whirlwind of pics and gifs illustrating the gritty supporter culture present in that time and place. Now we return to our usual format of a selection of images that demonstrate what used to make football so interesting, in a variety of classic 20th century ways.

Superb away jersey, Northern Ireland vs Republic of Ireland, World Cup qualifier, 14/09/1988:

Umbrella crowd, fence, classic hoarding and graphics, Chile vs Yugoslavia, Under-20 World Cup (hosted by Chile), 10/10/1987:

Raised stands and large entrance-way with row of people, Turkey vs West Germany, European Championships qualifier, 24/04/1983:

Snow-patch pitch, East Germany vs Scotland, European Championships qualifier, 16/11/1983:

Competing anthem bands (although the lot on the right look like children in comparison?) and angular team line-ups, West Germany vs Netherlands, World Cup 74 final, 07/07/1974:

Confetti pitch, Internazionale Milano vs AS Roma, Serie A, 24/03/1988:

Arabic Marlboro advert, Zaire vs Zambia, African Cup of Nations 74 (hosted by Egypt), 12/03/1974:

Amazing old-old school end with supporters on roof, Portugal vs Italy, friendly, 15/04/1928:

Rain plus no roof equals many, many umbrellas, Czechoslovakia vs Netherlands, European Championships 76 semi-final (hosted by Yugoslavia, match in Zagreb), 16/06/1976:

Classic graphics, USSR vs Netherlands, friendly, 28/03/1990:

*****

 

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

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

Background:

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

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

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

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

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

  • 1954 World Cup Qualifiers

Group 1:

Norway
Saar Protectorate
West Germany

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

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

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

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


Flag of The Saar Protectorate.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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  • 1958 World Cup Qualifiers

CAF/AFC Second Round

Egypt
Indonesia
Israel
Sudan

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

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

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

UEFA Group 6

Finland
Poland
USSR

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

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


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

UEFA Group 1

Denmark
England
Republic of Ireland

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

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

  • 1964 European Nations’ Cup Qualifiers

Preliminary Round

Greece
Albania

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 1966 World Cup and Qualifiers

World Cup Semi-Finals and Final

England
Portugal
USSR
West Germany

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

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


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

Asia/Oceania Qualifying Group

Australia
North Korea
South Africa
South Korea

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

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

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

  • 1970 World Cup Qualifiers

AFC/OFC Second Round, Group 1

Australia
Rhodesia 

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

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

AFC/OFC Second Round, Group 2

Israel
New Zealand
North Korea 

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

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

CONCACAF Semi-Final Round, Group 2

El Salvador
Honduras

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

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


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

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

*

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

*****

Politics On The Pitch #3: World Cup 1950 Qualifying

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

Background:

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

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

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

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

***

The 1950 World Cup Qualifiers

Info:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

Group 1

England
Scotland
Wales
Ireland-UK

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Pre-match entertainment.

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

ENGLAND QUALIFY

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Group 2

Turkey
Syria
Austria

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

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

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


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

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

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

NO QUALIFIER

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Group 3

Yugoslavia
Israel
France

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

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

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


Unique stadium, Israel vs Yugoslavia.

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

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

YUGOSLAVIA QUALIFY

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Group 4

Switzerland
Luxembourg
Belgium

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

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

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

SWITZERLAND QUALIFY

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Group 5

Sweden
Ireland
Finland

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

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

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

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

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


More pack terraces at Ireland vs Sweden in Dalymount Park.

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

SWEDEN QUALIFY

***

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).

*****

 

International Duty – Club Banners At National Team Games #4 (Gallery)

It’s time for another edition of the series where we look back to an era when supporters were often more likely to represent their local side when the national team was in town than the national team itself.

Italy vs Belgium, friendly, 1996
Vecchia Guardia” and other groups of U.S. Cremonese:

Germany vs Ireland, friendly, 1994
Bad Bramstedt” (region) of HSV Hamburg:

Brazil vs Japan, Olympic Games 1996
Santos FC and Cruzeiro:

Argentina vs Uruguay, World Cup 1986
La Plata FC and Boca Juniors:

Luxembourg vs Greece, World Cup Qualifier, 1993
Allez-Diddeleng“, F91 Diddeleng (aka F91 Dudelange)

***For all installments of “International Duty”, click here***