Sport World Cup

Tuesday 13 November 2018

The top 10 controversies that rocked the World Cup

No 10: A 'disgraceful exhibition of football' from Italy and Chile in 1962.
No 10: A 'disgraceful exhibition of football' from Italy and Chile in 1962.
No 5: Geoff Hurst and the Russian linesman.
No 8: Ronaldo played in the 1998 final shortly after a seizure.
No 4: Harald Schumacher, who raced from his goal and took out the inrushing Frenchman Patrick Battiston
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

From Maradona's handball to the 'Russian Linesman' and Ronaldo's 1998 meltdown, the moments that cast long, dark shadows across the world's footballing landscape are recounted.

1 MARADONA'S HAND OF GOD

The replays demonstrated that the world's greatest player had jumped to apply the final touch with his hand. As the man himself famously confessed, it was: "A little with the head of Maradona, a little with the Hand of God."

England were still fuelled by a sense of injustice as Maradona danced around them to grab the decisive second in front of a staggering crowd of 114,580 in the the heat of Mexico City, as Argentina progressed past Bobby Robson's side on the way to claiming the trophy.

Maradona became a pantomine villain and, while he did apologise in 2008, he admitted four years later that he found the fuss a bit funny. There was no sense of shame in Argentina at the time either. Coming just four years after the Falklands War, they didn't care much for England's feelings.

2 THE ANSCHLUSS

This was a scandal that changed the format of the World Cup forever. In 1982, the final round of group matches didn't take place simultaneously, and that created a scenario that was disgustingly exploited by West Germany and Austria.

Algeria were the surprise packages of Group 2, storming out of the blocks to shock a German side that had mocked them beforehand.

"One player even said that he would play against us with a cigar in his mouth," recalled defender Chaabane Merzekane in 2010.

The Algerians failed to reach that level in losing their second match to Austria, and finished up with a cavalier 3-2 win over Chile. Still, they would become the first African side to reach the second round unless the group's concluding tie between Germany and Austria – which would take place a day later in Gijon – finished in a one or two-goal win for the Germans. That permutation would see both European nations progress.

Horst Hrubesch put the Germans ahead in the 10th minute and then nothing else much happened for next 80. There were no shots on goal, few tackles, and a complete absence of urgency. A small number of Algerians that were present burned pesetas and alleged there was a fix, and representatives of the competing nations were embarrassed.

One Austrian commentator told viewers to turn off their TV sets and said nothing for the last 30 minutes of the match.

A former West German international, Will Schulz, called his country's players 'gangsters'.

Fans who gathered at the German team hotel to protest had water bombs thrown back in their direction, while the head of the Austrian delegation Hans Tschak made disgraceful comments about 'sons of the desert' wanting to trigger a scandal because they have too few schools.

In Algeria, they refer to the episode as 'The Anschluss'. They were intelligent enough to know what was going on. FIFA had no option but to change the rules.

3 ARGENTINA-PERU, 1978

Two years ago a former Peruvian senator, Genaro Ledesma, told Channel 4 News that the 1978 World Cup should be annulled. "Argentina should give it back," he claimed, "It should be investigated by FIFA and the Argentian judiciary."

This was a competition staged in a country that was under the grip of military dictator General Jorge Videla, an environment where strange things happened. Thousands of left wing activists simply disappeared.

Ledesma, then a trade union organiser, claims that Peru's government were tied into a deal with Argentina which centred around rebranding the latter's reputation through success in the World Cup.

He claimed that Peru owed a favour because they would send their political prisoners to Argentina so they would vanish. This brings us to the infamous meeting of the two nations where, under the old format, Argentina required a four-goal success in their concluding second phase group game to progress to the final.

Peru were no mugs, but played like it and lost 6-0. Much of the innuendo surrounded Argentine-born 'keeper Ramon Quiroga but Jose Velazquez, a star Peruvian player, claimed that it ran far deeper.

"Were we pressured (to lose)?" he said. "Yes, we were pressured. What kind of pressure? Pressure from the government. From the government to the managers of the team, from the managers of the team to the coaches."

It later emerged that Videla had entered the Peruvian dressing-room beforehand, bringing former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger with him. For what reason?

Some have denied all knowledge of the visit, with the episode cloaked in a mystery familiarly associated with a strange renewal.

4 SCHUMACHER HAMMERS BATTISTON

The picture tells a thousand words. Germany's epic semi-final win over France in 1982 was marred by a shocking challenge by their 'keeper Harald Schumacher, who raced from his goal and took out the inrushing Frenchman Patrick Battiston with a vicious flying challenge that left the Bordeaux man unconscious and minus three teeth.

He later slipped into a coma. Incredibly, the referee didn't even deem the incident worthy of a free-kick. Schumacher went on to contribute to a penalty shoot-out success, but his name is indelibly associated with his misdemeanour, to the extent that Battiston admitted in 2012 that he even felt a tinge of sympathy for the netminder.

5 GEOFF HURST AND THE RUSSIAN LINESMAN

The 'Russian linesman' had a name. In today's world, Tofiq Bahramov would be listed as an Azerbaijani.

It's claimed that Bahranov thought that Geoff Hurst's crucial goal in the 1966 World Cup final had bounced down off the roof of the net so, as far as he was concerned, whether it crossed the line or not was irrelevant. Certainly it's an interesting take on a famous picture.

There's a dubious story that when Bahramov lay on his deathbed, he was asked about his famous Wembley error and simply replied 'Stalingrad', a reference to the thousands of Russians killed by the Germans during World War II.

He'd fought against the Nazis himself.

Whether that's true or not, they were proud of Bahramov in Azerbaijan and there's a statue of him outside the national stadium in Baku.

Guests at the unveiling in 2006 included FIFA president Sepp Blatter and, fittingly enough, hat-trick hero Hurst. German conspiracy theorists noted the significance.

6 THE DOPING GERMANS

The 1954 World Cup was supposed to be Hungary's destiny. After exposing English football's inadequacies in Wembley in 1953, the Mighty Magyars went to Switzerland tipped for glory and they were hot favourites to triumph in the decider over a West German team they had decimated by an 8-3 margin in the group stages.

Alas, after racing into a two-goal lead, the Hungarians were pegged back and then fell 3-2 behind before their star Ferenc Puskas had an equaliser chalked off for offside.

The trophy belonged to the Germans on a night that was christened as 'The Miracle of Bern'. That memory is tarnished by subsequent revelations about injections that the victors received in the run-up to the tournament.

Described as vitamin concoctions, the after-effects were more serious, with many of the players struck down by jaundice. The Humboldt Report, commissioned in 2008, found that the jabs contained the the methamphetamine Pervitin. This was a booster, known as 'fighting chocolate' that was issued to soldiers during World War II. It supported the belief there was something unnatural about how that competition was decided.

7 MUSSOLINI AND THE SWEDE

Any dictator worth his salt has copped on that sport is a fantastic way to spread propaganda. Benito Mussolini was on top of that. In 1938, a clash of kits meant that Italy, the eventual winners, wore black shirts – a fascist symbol – in their quarter-final win over hosts France.

The Italian players also made a provocative salute before the match that outraged fans of both nations in the crowd. Benito had form, though. Four years previously, Italy had picked up the silverware on home turf.

Legend has it that Mussolini played his part by taking a prominent role in referee appointments.

Il Duce recommended young Swedish referee Ivan Eklind for their semi-final against a fancied Austrian side.

The story goes that they dined together on the eve of the match to 'talk tactics' and a contentious goal gave the natives a passage to the final where, incredibly, Eklind ended up in charge again. Czechoslovakia were undone in extra-time and Mussolini's popularity soared.

8 RONALDO PLAYS IN THE 1998 FINAL

There was a time when Brazilian Ronaldo didn't need the prefix. In France 98, there was only one Ronaldo and he was the most exciting young player in the world, the dynamic attacker who carried the Samba Boys all the way to the final and a showdown with the hosts. What happened next remains a source of debate.

It's a good thing Twitter wasn't around then because this saga would have broken it: 72 minutes before kick-off in the Stade De France, Ronaldo was ruled out of the Brazilian team and then 30 minutes ahead of the start time he was suddenly back in it again.

The uncertainty was personified by his abject performance in an emphatic defeat as Zinedine Zidane's headers sent the Parisian crowd wild.

It's now accepted that Ronaldo had a seizure in his hotel on the day of the match that left him in a seriously bad way. The cause is disputed, with Roberto Carlos attributing it to the pressure of living up to the hype.

Then there's theories on why a sick man was forced to play in the match. Was it the demands of sponsors Nike? Was it the Brazilian federation and the team's manager Mario Zagallo? The various parties have kept schtum on the specifics. It was a surreal end to a special tournament.

9 BYRON MORENO AND TRAPATTONI

When Giovanni Trapattoni walked into his press conference after the hand of Henry saga in Paris, he muttered the name 'Moreno' in the direction of the Italian media. They didn't need any further elaboration. Missing out on the 2010 World Cup was a painful experience for the Italian, but one was always left with the impression that nothing could ever match the agony of Korea in 2002.

This could have been Trapattoni's finest hour, leading his homeland in a World Cup that was potentially there for the taking. Byron Moreno, an Ecuadorian referee, was put in charge of their round of 16 tie with co-hosts South Korea.

The potted history will record that match as a famous 2-1 win for Guus Hiddink's underdogs. But in Italy, they didn't see the romance in a fixture where they had a perfectly good goal disallowed, lost Franceso Totti when he was wrongly sent off for diving and conceded a very dubious penalty.

Spain also felt there was an extreme form of home advantage at play when a couple of poor calls from an Egyptian official helped Hiddink and Co through the quarter-final stage, but the legacy of Moreno's decisions is stronger.

Perhaps that's because of the other entries on his CV. He picked up a 20-game ban for allowing injury-time in a domestic game to run for 13 minutes – even though he originally signalled for six – Liga de Quito scored an equaliser and a winning goal during the bonus minutes.

While the fall-out from that effectively led to the end of his refereeing career, he still managed to hit the headlines when he was subsequently arrested and jailed for heroin smuggling. Trapattoni always felt that he belonged in prison.

10 THE BATTLE OF SANTIAGO

First, the context. Chile's preparations for hosting the '62 finals were curtailed by a devastating earthquake in 1960. When the tournament came around, two visiting Italian media inflamed tensions by reporting home that the capital, Santiago, was effectively a dump packed with loose women. They fled the country before play began as angry mobs were looking for them.

So, when the two nations met on June 2, there was a bit of nationalistic fervour around a joust with significant footballing implications.

The teams didn't like each other very much, and spit was exchanged before kick-off, with English referee Ken Aston left in an unenviable position as a first foul was recorded within 12 seconds and a first red card – to an Italian – was produced inside 12 minutes. Police were called to remove the irate Honorino Landa from the field and their services were required on several more occasions in a game where headers and volleys were secondary to kicks and punches.

Amazingly, there was only one more red brandished – to another Italian – in an anarchical hour and a half that finished in a 2-0 scoreline in favour of the Chileans.

Reflecting years later, Aston said: "I wasn't refereeing a football match. I was acting as an umpire in military manoeuvres."

BBC legend David Coleman captured the essence of the fixture with his introduction of the highlights package.

"Good evening," he told viewers. "The game you are about to see is the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game."

Irish Independent Supplement

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