Friday, 30 May 2014

World Cup Stories - Ramon Quiroga 1978

Many South American goalkeepers have earned the nickname ‘El Loco’, as in madman, but Peruvian goalie, Ramon Quiroga, certainly worked hard to make it his own.  The 1978 tournament in Argentina was into its Second Phase, another round of group matches.  Peru and Poland met in Mendoza having both lost their opening games in Group B.  Szarmach had put the Poles in front midway through the second half Peru continued to push forward.  As the game reached the final five minutes Poland played the ball forward into the Peru half down the left hand side, when suddenly Quiroga appeared from out of shot to tackle Deyna about 30 yards from goal.  He then calmly brought the ball forward before playing it down the right wing.  In an era when keepers rarely ventured from their areas, this brought delight from the crowd.

For English viewers, commentator Gerry Harrison and his summariser, Ian St. John, had alerted the audience to the keeper’s antics but the television director had yet to pick up on it.  Then with just a couple of minutes to go and Poland camped in their own half, Gorgon desperately cleared the ball from his own area to find Lato free on the right about 10 yards in his own half.  Suddenly there was Quiroga in the opposition half to try and tackle the Polish striker.  Lato knocked the ball round the keeper who then rugby-tackled him.  To great howls of delight from St. John, English referee Pat Partridge had no option but to book Quiroga, who duly clasped his hands behind his back bowing in contrition.  Argentinian born, Quiroga had certainly endeared himself to the crowd.

He wasn’t just a clown, he had pulled off some fine saves during the tournament although it ended in controversy as Argentina, needing to win by 4 clear goals in their final Group match to reach the Final, beat Peru 6-0.  But for El Loco he had won a place in many people’s hearts for his antics.

Go to 1:33:58, this is where the fun starts

Thursday, 29 May 2014

World Cup Stories - John Aldridge Loses it - 1994

With none of the home nations qualifying for USA ’94, Republic of Ireland carried the hopes of British fans and had pulled off a real shock beating Italy in New Jersey.  In their next game they were losing 0-2 to Mexico and manager, Jack Charlton wanted to make a double substitution but became a victim of increasing officiousness from FIFA.  The procedure was to fill in a form indicating the change you wanted to make, which the manager would sign and then it would pass to the Fourth official who would sanction the switch.  For some reason a FIFA official arrived on the scene taking the form and not giving it to the Fourth official, thereby denying one of the Irish subs, John Aldridge.  The farcical situation developed when Owen Coyne came off, believing he’d been subbed yet Aldridge was still being held back from coming on.  Cue the red mist falling over Aldo and he, in his own words, ‘lost it’. 

Unaware of the cameras on him, Aldo launches into a foul-mouth tirade at the 4th official, accusing him of cheating, resembling various appendages and ignorant of who his father was.  Eventually Aldridge is allowed on and gets a consolation goal for the Irish, who eventually lose.

For Jack Charlton this was his 2nd run-in with FIFA officials in successive games as he was increasingly frustrated with not being allowed to give his players water in the game against Italy.  Charlton, who berated the FIFA official on the touchline after Aldo went on, was fined by FIFA and banned from the touchline for their final group game, which they drew to progress to the knockout stages.

For Aldridge, this remains an incident many will remember him for more than his goal and further enforced the idea Irishmen and scousers had short fuses.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

World Cup Stories - World Cup Draw 1982

After the 1978 tournament in Argentina, FIFA announced the next one would be bigger and better.  They expanded the format from 16 to 24 teams.  Spain were the hosts and they spent over £60m to stage it.  A worldwide TV audience sat down to watch the draw and were left open-mouthed at the farce which ensued.  The draw in Argentina had been decidedly amateur with poor quality television coverage, all the countries referred to in Spanish and you could be forgiven for believing you had walked in on a local council meeting in Buenos Aires.  But this time FIFA were determined their new tournament was going to be the biz.  It was anything but.

Ever keen to add some razzmatazz to the proceedings a young Sepp Blatter had presided over an elaborate format as an alternative to simply drawing names out of a hat.  Large cages contained little replica footballs, in which each one had the name of a qualifier.  Little boys stood beside these waiting for one ball to drop from the cage and they would walk over to the top table where an official would tantalisingly open the ball and reveal the name.  Well, from the very first minute hardly any of this worked at all.  Firstly, balls wouldn’t drop from the cages at the right moment, then the officials couldn’t unscrew the ball to reveal what was inside and at one stage a cage jammed snapping a ball in half before a poor little chap could get his hands on it.  The audience was left with the uneasy spectacle of actually seeing the country’s name contained within that ball.  But it was when Scotland was drawn out that things turned a shade of brown.

Scotland was drawn out to go into the same group as Argentina.  But with few people able to understand the babble which was going on at the top table, eventually another little Spanish boy took the ball back to the cage and appeared to put it back in.  Then Blatter, in his best Basil Fawlty, tried to explain they had already made a mistake when drawing Belgium into Italy’s group and that Scotland had merely compounded the error.  Eventually, they moved Belgium, who ironically had complained about England’s seeding, back to Argentina’s group and poor old Scotland now had to go into Brazil’s group.

More farcical behaviour was to follow as FIFA had tried to arrange that neither Peru or Chile would appear in the same group as either Brazil or Argentina and they decided to concentrate on the groups containing those two to begin with.  Therefore the miniature footballs containing those countries were supposed to be left out of the initial draw.  Unfortunately, nobody had informed the guy whose job it was to fill the cages with footballs.  Further embarrassment was to befall the suits of FIFA when it emerged the little Spanish boys were actually from a Madrid orphanage but they endeared themselves to the worldwide audience when one of the FIFA members shouted “get it sorted, boy!”, a rebuke clearly picked up by the microphones.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

World Cup Stories - Clive Thomas & Brazil 1978

For those who followed English football in the 1970’s, Clive Thomas was well-known.  In the days when referees were less conspicuous than they are today, the mere fact one of them was ‘well-known’ had to be because he was controversial.  Ask any Everton fan, preferably one of at least over 45 and they will regale tales of exasperation at a decision to rule-out a perfectly good looking winner in the FA Cup Semi-Final against Liverpool in 1977.  He had done something similar in the Semi-Final in 1975 when he denied Ipswich a perfectly good goal against West Ham.  Ironically, both incidents were against the same player, Brian Hamilton.
Bryan Hamilton

A stickler for the rules, Welsh-born Thomas was respected by FIFA and officiated in the 1974 World Cup Finals as well as the 1976 European Championships.  But it was at the 1978 World Cup Finals he managed to earn a reputation as one of the most officious referees in the game.

Cue day three of the tournament and Brazil is in action.  The hosts, Argentina, had taken their bow the night before, coming from a goal down to beat Hungary.  This had been a nervous first showing in Buenos Aires but they were up and running.  Brazil turned up at the Jose Maria Minella Stadium in Mar del Plata, in the Buenos Aires region.  The stadium had been purpose built for the tournament, and had hosted the Italy v France game the day before.  Now Brazil were there to meet Sweden.  After having one of the finest teams ever seen in 1970, the 1974 Brazilians had been disappointing despite finishing fourth.  Gone were Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson and Carlos Alberto and along with them went the samba football.  Rivelino was still there and in this tournament we had our first glimpse of Zico, ‘the white Pele’.  Sweden had only had to beat Norway and Switzerland to get to this stage and had a rather ageing side, captained by 35-year old Bjorn Nordqvist.

Both sides missed a host of chances, especially Brazil and then with 8 minutes before the break Tomas Sjoberg put the Swedes a goal up.  Right on half-time, Reinaldo grabbed an equaliser.  The second half was full of mistakes and disjointed play and remained level deep into injury time.  Brazil earned a corner on the right, when the linesman ordered Nelinho to re-spot the ball as it seemed outside the corner arc.  Nelinho then took the kick, and bent it with the outside of his right foot into the 6-yard box where Zico headed it in.  Brazil had seemed to have won with a dramatic late goal.  But just as they were celebrating everyone noticed Clive Thomas was walking off shaking his finger.  Thomas had placed himself on the angle of the bye-line and the 6-yard box at the far post and once the ball went into the net Thomas blew his whistle for full-time.  As he walked off he was surrounded by distraught Brazilian players yet he just waved his arms, and then with maximum pedantry he pointed to his watch signalling time up.  Looking rather pleased with himself he continued to be the first person off the pitch with an air of a school-master who has just signalled the end of break-time.  The Brazilians were stunned, with the Swedes ecstatic having gained a point, but Thomas was unmoved.

He later claimed that Nelinho had used up so much time taking the corner that he blew his whistle as the ball was in the air.  Replays remained inconclusive as it appeared Thomas waited until the ball was in the back of the net to decide to disallow it.  Remember, there were no fourth officials in those days, no board signalling time added on so no one in the stadium had any idea how much time a referee would allow at the end.  Thomas maintained he told the Brazilians to get on with it, although whether any of them could understand a man from Rhondda valley is unclear.

In Thomas’s defence he wasn’t the first referee to do this in this tournament and ironically the first incident was at the same stadium the day before.  Italy met France with Bernard Lacombe scoring, what was then, the fastest goal in World Cup history, before the Italians hit back with two goals.  At the end of the game the French had a free-kick on the right wing near the bye-line.  As they’re preparing to take it, there’s a two-man Italian wall and everyone else in the area.  The French player is just about to take the kick when the referee, standing on the 6-yard box, suddenly whistles for the end of the game.  Whether the French would’ve scored is uncertain and the ref on that occasion, Nicolae Rainea of Romania, certainly whistled before the kick was taken whereas Thomas didn’t.  But Thomas will always be remembered for this incident, something he seemed to be very proud of.

Monday, 26 May 2014

World Cup Stories - 1973 The Match That Never Was

For the 1974 World Cup Finals in West Germany, UEFA split their countries into nine qualifying groups.  The winners of Groups 1 to 8 went through automatically, with the Group 9 winners going into a play-off with a country from CONMEBOL (South America).

USSR (Soviet Union), Republic of Ireland and France were drawn into Group 9.  The first three matches saw a win for each country, but then Onyshchenko scored the only goal for USSR when they beat the Irish in Moscow, and when France and Ireland drew in Paris, the Soviet’s knew a draw against the French in their final match would be enough to see them through.  Goals in the last 10 minutes from two Ukrainians, Oleg Blokhin and Onyshchenko, gave the home side the win and USSR had won the group.

In South America teams were divided into three groups of 3, as Brazil automatically qualified as holders.  Uruguay and Argentina won two of the groups and in Group 3, the winners knew they would be in the intercontinental play-off.  Chile, Peru and Venezuela were drawn into the group but before things got started the Venezuelans had withdrawn.  Chile and Peru then found themselves only needing to play two matches to qualify.  In the first meeting, in Lima in March 1973, Sotil scored both goals to give Peru a 2-0 win.  A month later, Chile also won 2-0 when Ahumada and Crisoto scored.  Therefore a play-off on a neutral ground was arranged.  August 1973 in Montevideo, Farias and Valdez scored to give Chile a 2-1 win and they were through to another play-off, against USSR.

USSR was drawn at home first and the game in Moscow ended 0-0.  21st November was the date set for the crucial 2nd leg in Santiago.

Politically, though, things were in turmoil in Chile.  In 1970 they had elected the first Marxist President in Latin America, Salvador Allende.  His government had adopted socialist policies which were very soon unpopular with the military, who, as with most South American countries of the time, were used to wielding the power.  Given the philosophy of the government, this sat well with the rulers in the Soviet Union, and definitely not with the White House.  President Richard Nixon believed Chile was on a dangerous journey and set about encouraging the military to overthrow Allende.  Nixon is alleged to have said

“If in the wake of Vietnam I can no longer send in the Marines, then I will send in the CIA”

September 11th 1973 was the date the military moved in, in what was to be known as the Chilean coup d’etat.  The Navy was the first to change sides and soon the Army, led by General Augusto Pinochet, followed.  Allende fled to the presidential palace, La Moneda, and, realising his days were numbered, gave a farewell speech to thenation.  Pinochet sent his troops in to attack La Moneda but were forced back and it was attack from the air which eventually forced the surrender from the palace.  With all this going on, Allende committed suicide and Pinochet was now in charge.  So began one of the most controversial and turbulent periods in Chilean history.

Pinochet, like many dictators, set about rounding up his opponents and they used the national football stadium in Santiago as a detention centre.  Torture and interrogations were rife with many people never being seen again.

Amongst this all, the Chile team left for Moscow for the first leg and it is remarkable they were able to concentrate enough to play out the draw.  .

Some of the Chilean players were known to be sympathetic to communist views and must have clearly feared for their families whilst they were away, and although USSR dominated much of the game the Chileans managed to hang on.  It has also been suggested the referee had been persuaded to be sympathetic to the Chileans plight and may have made decisions which helped them considerably.

But by the time of the second leg, the consequences of Pinochet’s actions were starting to be felt.  Once an ally of Chile, the Soviet Union was now completely cut out of things as the new rulers reversed all of Allende’s policies, receiving considerable support from Washington.  Remember that the Cold War was in full flow around this time so anything USA did angered the Soviets and vice versa.

The Soviets had got wind of the treatment being handed out in the Santiago Stadium and requested FIFA choose an alternative venue.  FIFA refused.  The Chilean FA also wanted the venue changed by Pinochet was adamant keeping it at Santiago would show the world all was well in the capital.  FIFA sent a delegation to Santiago on 24th October to see for themselves.  Unsurprisingly, they found no evidence of torture or detainees at the stadium, and so they reported back giving the place a clean bill of health.  Unbeknown to the delegates, many prisoners were hidden inside the stadium threatened with their lives if they ever revealed their whereabouts.

The Soviets were adamant they couldn’t allow their players to play in that stadium on moral grounds, believing FIFA and its President, Sir Stanley Rous, guilty of conspiracy against them.  Either way, they refused to travel and Chile had all but qualified for the finals.  Unbelievably, the second leg did actually take place.  Chile lined up, waving to the crowd, kicked off and attacked the Soviet goal.  But there was no opponent to play against, as the Soviets had stayed at home, so the pathetic futility of the Chileans passing the ball between them as they move towards the opposing goal where one of them rolls the ball into the net.  Equally, the authorities managed to persuade/force 18,000 fans to witness the farce.  Chile was awarded the victory, 1-0 and had booked their place in the finals.

In the finals they were beaten by the hosts, West Germany, with Carlos Caszely becoming the first player to be sent off with a red card in a World Cup match.  Paul Breitner scored the only goal of the game and that was followed by draws against Australia and then East Germany, before the Chileans made an early exit.

The whole affair must have been the worst possible nightmare for FIFA and football, as had Peru won the play-off against Chile, it is unlikely the whole scenario would have taken place.

In a fascinating twist, UEFA had the same draw format four years later and unbelievably USSR was again drawn in Group 9 giving rise to the possibility of them reaching another play-off.  Fortunately for FIFA, USSR lost out to Hungary and Chile was narrowly beaten by Peru to deny any possibility of a rematch.