Monday, September 29, 2008

Bright decade for football. Bright? Let’s see the other side. Criticism was mounting and everything optimistic was also highly negative. Point by point in reverse, then.
This collage of Gerd Muller tells one thing: players think only of money and don’t care about the sport. Football is the last thing in their minds.

Becoming blown-up public face, the football player is more and more preoccupied with business activities having nothing to do with his profession. Advertisement contracts go well beyond the acceptable. Players are ready to do everything for money.
The acceptable advertising – sports products, clothing, shaving cream…
Gerd Muller posing with naked model. This photo brought heavy criticism from every possible quarter, including Bayern Munich. This was not acceptable. Ironically, Muller was not a playboy, but his image confronted the ‘values of the game’. Players had to be humble… yet, flashy.
Beppe Savoldi ‘bought’ Naples – his transfer from Bologna to Napoli in 1975 was considered almost insanely inflated. Players were becoming unreasonably rich.
Beckham’s Palace… unlike Savoldi’s, this one is real. The transformation started in the 1970s – from models of castles to real ones, so to speak. There is no football ground in Savoldi’s model and no football ground on Beckham’s property – critics were perhaps right? The new player cares for everything else, but football.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The new player. Of course, the stars and the focus on them were nothing new. The new was the accent, the new public image of the stars. Di Stefano and Puskas were superstars and hardly anybody cared how they were dressed, or what they had to say outside the last match, or how did they spend the night. In a sense, football stars belonged mostly to the supporters of the club they were playing for and nobody else. In a sense, until the end of the 1960s the stars belonged to ‘us’, a unity between club, players, and supporters. ‘We’ cared little, if at all, for the stars of ‘them’. But somehow during the 60s emerged the professional image of the player – disciplined and humble creature, training hard during the day, dressed neatly, but not flashy, after work, going to bed at 8 pm, never drinking, nor smoking, nor anything. The image of a saint, not a man. Not anymore after 1970: the public image of the star enlarged. The players were suddenly hip. They grew long hairs and beards, dressed in the latest colorful fashion, appeared with long legged girls and fast cars, gave interviews on non-football subjects, and smiled from advertising billboards. It was part and parcel of the changing culture, of the hippies and rock stars storming and scandalizing the conservative mainstream. George Best was perhaps the best example, to his own peril. It was fascinating at first, and even greatly liberating event… hip George with the new girl, hip George going to Palma de Mallorca instead to training, and so on… until George was out of form, did nothing on the pitch, and had to be sacked. It was 1971 and George was merely 26 years old. He plummeted from Player of the Year in 1968 to alcoholic playboy in 3 years.

But nevertheless the new player was fun, especially after the invention of total football – liberated game was played by liberated players. Flashy, long haired, colourful, opinionated, rich… even choosing the number on their jerseys, braking with any football tradition. True, Best was the risky downfall, but the bunch of ‘hippies’ – Ajax, West Germany – were hardly football disgrace. They performed, they were fit… Netzer may have been a rebel, but he played. Breitner may have been a Maoist, but didn’t show it on the pitch.
George Best celebrating his downfall. He liberated football in one way…
A superstar unashamed from dirty work – Netzer desperately trying to stop Keegan’s kick at 1973 UEFA Cup final Liverpool – Borussia Monchengladbach, which Liverpool won. Although Netzer had cars as flashy as Best’s and clashed with coaches as often as Best, he liberated football on the pitch. And the future was bright indeed – new broom Keegan already making his mark.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tactics. Rinus Michels has to be credited with the biggest change in the beginning of the 1970s – he invented the ‘total’ football’. According to him, the idea came from watching rugby one night on television. Michels was impressed by the collective effort of the whole team moving back and forth, from defense to offense, as one unit and covering the whole field. Why not trying the same in football, Michels mused over his beer? Luckily, he had just the players for such experiment: Ajax (Amsterdam) were young, highly skilled, technical players, who really enjoyed playing and also were very fit. The result was magic – Ajax disregarded traditional positions and roles. Everybody was playing the whole field – if the moment caught him in attack, a full back was attacking like a centre-forward; if the left winger was caught somewhere near his own goalkeeper, he acted like sweeper. It was pleasure to watch Ajax, for the team was inspired, highly motivated, dedicated to attacking football, very technical, but also tough and shrewd when necessary. They played speedily, never wasting or killing time, and because of the constant movement, they usually appeared as if they are more than 11 players on the field. No matter where the ball was, Ajax prevailed by numbers, was able quickly to recover the ball and start new attack. Tactically, it was a rich team – they were able to adjust to the opposition’s style, and especially against Italian and Spanish clubs Ajax played tough, physical game, pressuring the opposition everywhere and cynically committing faults. They were surely not above mere intimidation, but they never killed the game and constantly tried to score. No matter what circumstances and what opposition, Ajax never played dull football and having big technical arsenal, if something did not work, they tried another approach. Above everything, it was obvious they liked to play. They played with children’s joy and effectively liberated football from the defensive, careful stigma of the 1960s. So much fun the players had, they had to be restricted occasionally. Stefan Kovacs, who replaced Michels as Ajax’s coach, recalls in his autobiography excess out of place: for instance, in a domestic championship match Hulshoff, nominally the center-defenseman, injured himself trying to score a goal. It was the last minute of the match and Ajax was leading 4-0! The club fined Hulshoff for his joyous irresponsibility. The team was fun and also pointed to a new direction, one very much liked by football fans: attractive, fast, attacking, and highly technical football. Thus, at the beginning of the 1970s there was diversity of styles: the defensive Italian football was not dead yet; Brazil played their attacking samba, based on supreme technical skills and improvisation; England played dynamic and attacking football with long high balls; the Germans added elegance to their traditional physical play. Total football was the most attractive option, yet an option among many, and as a whole, it was interesting to watch games because of the diversity of styles and tactical approaches – the teams did not look alike at all; the struggle between different styles was exciting. And one thing was obvious: attacking football was back, it was going to dominate the decade, and eventually it would have been total football adopted by most teams. The 1970s were starting with a revolution. A liberating revolution, unleashing creativity.
Rinus Michels created ‘total football’, yet there is at least a bit of irony in it: he led Ajax to only one European Champions Cup. The next two were won under the guidance of Stefan Kovacs. Most Ajax players disliked the heavy handed disciplinarian Michels, and although he made them into superstars, they preferred the relaxed and mellow Romanian. As a coach of the Dutch national team, Michels had to wait until 1988 to win a trophy – Holland lost the World Cup final in 1974. None of the great players won anything with the national team – the only player of the 1970s Ajax winning a title with the national team is Arnold Muhren: he was a key part of Michels’ selection winning the European Championship in 1988. Ironically, Arnold Muhren was a reserve in the old Ajax – his elder brother Gerrie Muhren was a titular and a star. Yet, it was Arnold at the end, making his reputation in England (Ipswich Town and Manchester United) and 37 years old in 1988, but not Gerrie, who slowly sunk into obscurity in Spain (Real Betis player in the late 1970s and Seiko Hong Kong ).
Stefan Kovacs, typically with a cigarette or a pipe, was hired to replace Michels, who took over Barcelona. He brought freedom and relaxation to the team and had good relations with the players. And won two European Champions Cup to Michels’ one. According to his own book, he was quickly tested by the ringleaders of the team: when he was explaining to a group of players what to do at training, Piet Keizer savagely kicked the ball towards him. Kovacs immediately sensed that Keizer, then the captain of the team, was testing his authority and the judgment would come from his reaction. Kovacs pretended that nothing strange was happening, casually stopped the ball with his foot and passed it back to Keizer without stopping talking to the group of players. After that he never had any problems with the team and was respected by everyone. But, smiles Kovacs, I had been a professional player in Belgium when I was young and that helped. It was a deadly moment, muses Kovacs, if I hided from the ball, or the ball hit me and I was unable to play it, I would never had any authority – after all, they were already superstars, Cruiff, Neeskens, Krol… and who was I? Some Romanian. After leaving Ajax, Kovacs coached France for three years – not successful years, but he placed the foundations of the later great French selections.
Strangely, Kovacs is entirely forgotten everywhere – in his native Romania (where he was coaching successful Steaua before taking over Ajax, and the national team after 1976), in Ajax, where Michels is remembered fondly (unlike in the real time – Piet Keizer danced on a table from joy when Michels went to Barcelona), in France (where credits are given largely to Kovacs’s successors leading France to World and European Cups), and by the world.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Professional attitude on every level. Players were expected to be dedicated professionals – their job to come first on and off the pitch. Certainly the 1970s player did not look like Ferenc Puskas, but there is also the myth of the lean professional, who does not drink, smoke, nor spends his nights chasing girls. Pure fiction, of course. However, players trained more and were generally fit. But professionalism did not stop with that – amateurish approach was largely abandoned in other areas too: for instance, Sweden and Denmark changed their long standing policy to include only amateurs in the national team. Thus, foreign based professional players elevated the quality of the Scandinavians. Yugoslavia made similar change: until 1975 no foreign based player was permitted to play for the national team. Other countries opened their domestic championships for foreigners – the ascent of Greece and Turkey started with that and however slowly, both countries improved their football. In the same time new means of revenue were sought and found in advertising. France, Germany, Austria, Belgium were the earliest pragmatist, placing adds on team’s jerseys. More money meant better salaries – the players were no longer low working class. This is especially true for England, where the players were paid poorly and regulations prohibited increases. I am not speaking for the stars, but for the bulk of average players, who, as a rule, did not have much future after finishing their football careers, having no education, or skills in trades. The professional attitudes did not affect two rather different points: one is playing in all kinds of weather. Better stadiums still meant open air stadiums and the unpredictability of the game remained. No matter what, there is certain beauty in playing in mud, and snow, and ice – it is a different game then, bringing unexpected results. The other point is selections: even rich clubs were shrewd – squads were relatively small, consisting of core group of stars, two experienced foreigners, and the rest were reliable journeymen. Stars were rarely for sale – it was mostly mid-level players on the transfer lists. This is what preserved relative parity between the clubs and gave hope to the supporters of smaller teams. And still not everybody was entirely professional – with some luck, semi-professional teams were able to win a championship or two.
This is Turkish wall ‘preventing’ a German free kick at the World Cup finals in 1954. It is not surprising West Germany won 4-1, but it is surprising that, given the attitude, Turkey scored at all. Such scenes were unthinkable after 1970.
Czechoslovakia against Romania in a winter friendly in 1975. Football was still played in whatever the natural conditions were. Nehoda scored a weird one for Czechoslovakia – that is why rain, mud, and snow are fun. And Czechoslovakia won the European title in 1976.

Jan Janssens, the captain of K.S.K. Beveren, lifts the championship cup of Belgium in 1978. Unlike Anderlecht, FC Brugge, and Standard Liege, Beveren was semi-professional club. Most players trained part-time and had other jobs. One was a longshoreman. Champions nevertheless. Manchester United 1962-63. This kind of structure – first team (in the middle), reserves or youth team (at the right, very young George Best there – eight from right to left), and juniors (at the left) was still dominant in the 1970s. Only the first team were full professionals.
The first team are (left to right): Johnny Giles, Mark Pearson, Nobby Stiles, Bill Foulkes, Nobby Lawton, Albert Quixall, Bobby Charlton, Jack Crompton (coach), Maurice Setters, Matt Busby (manager), Shay Brennan, Denis Law, Alex Dawson, Noel Cantwell, David Herd, Dennis Violett.
Bayern Munich with their first European Champions Cup in 1974.
First row, left to right: Zobel, Hadewicz, Jensen, Robl, Maier, Hansen (Denmark)
Second row: Beckenbauer – captain, Kapellmann, Torstensson (Sweden), Schwarzenbeck, Durnberger, Roth, Gerd Muller, Breitner, Uli Hoeness, Udo Lattek – coach.
7 West German national players (Maier, Beckenbauer, Kapellmann, Schwarzenbeck, Muller, Breitner, and Hoeness), 2 foreigners (Torstensson played for the national team of Sweden, and Hansen played for Denmark), and three solid journeymen (Zobel, Durnberger, and Roth). The core of the team played together for years – the typical 1970s squad.
Bayern 2001-02.
Third row (left to right): Effenberg, Jancker, Santa Cruz (Paraguay), Sergio (Brazil), Thiam (Guinea), Sforza (Switzerland), Wojciechowski (Poland), Tarnat, Zickler.
Middle row: Binder (masseur), Gebhardt (masseur), Hoffmann (physiotherapeutic specialist), Jeremias, Di Salvo (Italy), Kuffour (Ghana), Robert Kovac (Croatia), Henke (assistant coach), Hitzfeld (coach)
First row: Fink, Scholl, Salihamidzic (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Wessels, Kahn, Dreher, Hargreaves (England), Niko Kovac (Croatia), Hauenstein (rehabilitation trainer)
Small photos on top: Linke, Sagnol (France), Lizarazu (France), Elber (Brazil), Pizarro (Peru).
21 national players, representing 11 countries. And if Hargreaves is included (for he was not yet English national player) – 22 players and 12 countries. Very different from the 1970s, yet the Bundesliga was the same – 18 teams, 34 games a season. A whole national squad permanently sitting on the bench… Significantly, practically nobody came from Bayern junior teams – and Bayern have very well organized junior system. So unlike the earlier years, when Breitner and Hoeness were lifted from the junior team before been old enough to sign professional contract, and from 1975, when Muller was injured, and one Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was called to replace him from the juniors.
The ‘ersatz Muller’ Rummennige in 1975 against lowly Tennis Borussia (West Berlin). It is not clear what exactly Rummenigge is doing – looks like helping the TeBe defenseman Mulack in the effort to stop Roth’s shot. And may be successfully: the match ended 2-2. No matter - TeBe was relegated and Bayern was still European Champions Cup holder.
Five seasons later: European player of the year 1980. Still sporting Bayern’s jersey.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Structural stability went hand in hand with serious professionalism. I don’t mean professional players – nothing new there – but professional attitudes in every aspect of the game. Better training, better stadiums, better tactics, better kits, better balls, better financing, better media coverage. The combination of all aspects suggested exciting future. For instance, television made possible watching foreign games – not as many as today, but may be once a twice a week: domestic championships were not threatened and people were still going to see their local clubs. But television had one more effect: it became possible to study foreign teams. Up to 1970 international games were romantic enigmas – players were known from the press, but rarely seen and most often noone knew neither the tactics, nor the current form of foreign opposition. After 1970 it was possible to film training and then watch on screen recent matches of foreign clubs, and thus to study their game and prepare schemes. Scouts became routine, sent to see how the opposition play and report back strong and weak points. Training itself became more scientific and included various innovation – from medical monitoring of players to serious diets. Gone were the muddy training pitches – everybody was training on descent grass and the training facilities were greatly improved. So were the stadiums – new were built and old stadiums at least got new pitch. Fan comforts were not an issue yet, but the pitches became better and more importantly – somewhat standard. So were the new balls. Everybody was playing with same balls and more or less on same grass. Football kits also improved – the new equiptment was lighter and much more comfortable. And more was expected from players in terms of fitness, skills, and attitude.

Peter McParland (Aston Villa and Northern Ireland). Such was football equiptment in the 1950s and good part of the 1960s. – heavy shoes, woolen socks, cotton jerseys. Leather balls, changing shape and absorbing water.
Andersson (Sweden and Bayern) pursues Dzajic (Yugoslavia) in mid-1970s. Everything was more comfortable for the players by then. Orthopedic shoes, synthetic light shorts and jerseys, water resistant standard balls, better pitch.
German training: the two national goalkeepers Maier and Franke in unison.

West Germany was leading the world in professional attitude. Heynckes flies over Hoeness in preparation for the World Cup 1974.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Domestic football appeared equally bright: domestic leagues were established everywhere. If this sounds strange today, it was not so then – Bundesliga did exist before 1964 and the Second league was organized after 1970. Most African and Asian countries established their domestic championships during the 1960s and regularity was still wanted. Brazil organized national league in 1971 – the last of the major football countries to have one. Structurally, everybody copied the British model – a pyramid of divisions, from the elite first to whatever bottoms, with winners promoted to a higher division and loser relegated down. And in parallel was the national cup tournament, giving chance to small clubs sometimes to reach to glorious heights. Generally, the system was fare – even countries dominated by two-three big clubs provided opportunity for small clubs either to play top level football or to surprise everybody by winning the cup. It was also possible big clubs to face relegation – if today no matter how bad Manchester United plays, nobody imagines a final place lower than 10th in the final table (may be even this is a big stretch of imagination), the same club went down to the Second Division in the early 1970s. Yet, United had players, at least judging by the names, more talented than half of the First Division. Unlike today, final tables were not so obvious before even the season started yet. And national cups were still important and attractive for both clubs and supporters. The element of surprise continued to be important – the relatively unknown outside Brazil Atletico Mineiro won the first Brazilian championship. The club did not have world-class superstars, unlike its famous rivals, some of which had to wait many years before winning domestic title.

Atletico Mineiro, the first champions of Brazil
First row left to right: Ronaldo, Humberto Ramos, Dario, Lola, Tiao
Second row: Renato, Humberto Monteiro, Grapete, Vanderlei, Vantuir, Oldair

Note their irregular jerseys. Not the first club to play with awkwardly mixed kit, but certainly one of the very last – in the 1970s kits became homogenous. Out of date jerseys perhaps, but champions! By contrast, Fluminense finished 16th in the 20-team league. On the strength of the title, Atletico Mineiro purchased a star – the Uruguayan Ladislao Mazurkiewicz, one of the best all-time goalkeepers – after the season. Alas, no second title…

Monday, September 15, 2008

International club competitions were also established – the three European club tournaments already had a good history behind them, as well as the South American Copa Libertadores. The winners played for the Intercontinental Cup since 1962. Asia and Africa also established their regular club tournaments which were gaining popularity, if not yet quality. But the system was already in place. And not only that: new boys were coming strong, challenging the Spanish-Italian dominance and defensive minded football.

Feyenoord (Rotterdam) won the European Champions Cup in 1970. Ajax lost the final for the same cup in 1969. Their archrivals were the first Dutch club to win the trophy next year.

At international level, smaller club tournaments still attracted the public and although diminishing in importance, there were no signs that they will disappear: the Anglo-Italian summer tournament, the Balkan Cup, Mitropa Cup either filled up sluggish summer months, or provided opportunity for smaller clubs to play international games. South American clubs continued to tour abroad, playing friendlies in Africa, USA, and Europe (although less in Europe than in the 1960s). It was source of revenue, but also gave chance to many to see great clubs and players live.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Continental championships were established by the end of the 1960s – Africa and Asia still lacked firm regularity, but it was obviously coming. Europe had a formula combining round robin qualification groups and direct elimination from quarter-finals to the finals. I still prefer the formulas of that time – 16-team World Cup finals and semi-finals and finals played in one country in the European Championship. The Olympic games were still monopoly of the Communist Eastern Europe, but there were signs that the West was incorporating their Olympic teams into the building structure of the national teams:
The West Germany Olympic team in 1972. Uli Hoeness, already a European Champion of the same year, was included along with a player yet to make a name for himself: Manfred Kaltz. Jupp Derwall was the coach – in 1980 leading the West German team to a second European Cup.
On the level of national teams, the world structure was established and either running well, or going to run well shortly.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The second part of reasoning is more complex and I will try to argue that the 1970s was time of positive change, of big hopes for the game and its development. Especially in the beginning of the decade everything looked very bright. From structure to media coverage, every aspect of the game and of public perception were on the road to improvement, ending the ‘romantic period’ of the sport. The new period seemingly promised professionalism without canceling the romantic elements, which make the game so attractive. I will attempt to take a look and discuss the whole pyramid of world football. The very top is, of course, the World Cup. The finals in Mexico 1970 were great success. First of all, geography expanded – a country outside of the ‘strongholds’ (Europe and South America) proved capable of hosting finals. The organization was praised, the games were interesting, the atmosphere was friendly, the stadiums comfortable, the attendance was strong. Television expanded coverage and the tournament was seen in places which earlier World Cups did not reach. But the most important part was maturity and stability: finally every continent had qualification formula, which was followed uninterrupted. One has to remember that until 1958 no tournament got 16 teams and some countries were invited to participate. This was no longer the case, especially after Africa and Asia managed to establish preliminary tournaments during the 1960s. The structure was finally running smoothly. As a whole the finals were strong: dynamic and interesting football was performed, exciting to watch. Brazil and Italy reached the final and Brazil won 4-1 – in a way, a symbolic victory of attacking football after of stiff decade, dominated by defensive tactics. The 1960s World Cup finals were characterized by ugliness: brutal tackling and fights tarnished the tournaments in 1962 and 1966, but violence on the pitch was absent in 1970. Read and yellow cards were introduced, which brought order and clarity for officials, players, and fans. Brazil won with exciting squad, which many consider the best Brazilian team of all time. There was no controversies during the whole tournament – perhaps the only tournament when everybody agreed that the best performing teams advanced by pure gamesmanship. Tactical variety existed, present to the very final and although attacking football won, other tactical schemes were still going strong. New stars emerged, promising fun in the future.
Brazil bows to the public before the beginning of the final match.
Third time World Champions.
Standing: Carlos Alberto- captain, Felix, Piazza, Brito, Clodoaldo and Marco Antonio;First row: Jairzinho, Gérson, Tostão, Pelé and Rivelino.
Mario Zagallo became the first man World Champion as a player and as a coach. According to the rules, the country winning three times the old World Cup was to keep it forever. A new cup was introduced in 1974.

Monday, September 8, 2008

To get all that was tricky – one had to get up early Monday morning to be able to get ‘People’s Sport’. Then Tuesday, 5 pm sharp, on the line to get the weeklies, except ‘Football’, for which Wednesday morning was the time. And sometimes one had to run from place to place, from one newsstand to another, hoping to find an issue. Often one newsstand did not get anything, but another did. Subscription worked for Bulgarian publications and some of the Soviet papers, but not for the others. And I am talking availability in Sofia – out in the country buying ‘Start’ and ‘Football’ was next to impossible.
It was not much back then, yet today the situation is different: I have rare photos from these old newspapers and magazines. Well, collecting is mild insanity… and as far as collecting goes, my most active period was the 1970s – hence, the bias.

People’s Sport – Monday morning people waited on long lines to get it – the third page was entirely football, covering the weekend rounds in Bulgaria and abroad. The other two issues published on Thursdays and Saturdays did not attract big readership – very little football and mainy coverage of other boring sports.

Sport Totto – this issue has the squads of the Bulgarian First Division for the new season plus articles introducing Boavista (Porto), FC Brugge, and some other clubs. Plus analysis of coming matches – everything one needs to place a correct bet. And someone just won 35 817 – if he can do it, you can do it.

Football – the weekly football paper was difficult to get – one had to get very early Wednesday morning. Along with Sport Totto, it still exists. At the right is Ivan Vutzov – you could see him in the Levski photo of 1965 as a player, but here is the young boss of the football section of the same club. Then he was a coach and led Bulgaria to the World Cup in 1986. In the 1990s he became a powerful and sinister functionary of the Bulgarian Football Union, earning the nickname ‘Black Cardinal’. He is still around…

Start shortly before giving up the ghost… The most coveted magazine for years did not survive the fall of Communism along with the oldest one – People’s Sport.
And the very reason for buying Start: the football team at the last page. Can you recognize them? Inter (Milan) from 1990-91.
First row, left to right: Brehme (Germany), Mandorlini, Verdelli, Bianchi, Guiseppe Baresi – captain.
Second row: Zenga, Matthaeus (Germany), Berti, Serena, Ferri, Klinsmann (Germany).

This team won the UEFA Cup, but finished only third in Serie A. Matthaeus scored more goals than Klinsmann in the championship – 16 to mere 14. Italy allowed three foreign players by that time and Germans were still hot in Italy… unlike today.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

It is time to explain why I focus on the 1970s. Two reasons, rather different. The first is simple collecting – I began my collection at that time, and naturally my oldest photos are from the early 1970s. At first it was just scrapbooks, but soon it was changed – no more scissors and glue. Instead, I was collecting whole magazines. Unfortunately ,this part of the collection is lost and what remains is just the scrapbooks of the earliest years. I have to mention sources, then. Living behind the Iron Curtain did not provide many opportunities.
Most of my sources were Bulgarian – the sports magazine (if that’s the word: the weekly was published in newspaper format) ‘Start’ was established in 1971-72. A soccer team was always on the last page and ‘Start’ became quickly the most loved publication for Bulgarian collectors. Then there was another weekly, a newspaper, named ‘Football’. This one covered domestic and foreign football, but without team photos. For some reason the paper was cancelled for a few years around 1975, but came back in the 1980s and still exist. The third was a newspaper coming three times a week, called ‘People’s Sport’. Monday issue was the most important, for its large football coverage. Another weekly newspaper, published by the State Lottery, and called ‘Sport Totto’ was poor on pictures, but had extensive regular information on English, Italian, German, and some other championships – the aim was obvious: to provide current news to the large betting population. In the late 1960s and early 1970s there were some other magazines of short existence – I cannot recall there names. Once a year statistical book came out, covering both domestic and international football of the previous year. Apart from that, one was able to find pictures in non-sport newspapers and magazines, but not regularly. It was more a matter of chance, yet, some interesting collectibles came out from regular publications. I was collecting ‘Start’ and ‘Football’ for nearly 17 years, but nothing exists today.
Foreign stuff was scarce. Soviet publications were available, and I was collecting their weekly fat newspaper ‘Football-Hockey’. Good coverage, interesting articles on Soviet and international football, many photos, but black and white. The daily ‘Soviet Sport’ I was buying irregularly – it was all sports and it was risky – not every issue had football stuff. The third publication was a magazine, a rather strange one, called ‘Sporting Games’. It is hard to describe – something in between professional publication for coaches and popular description of various sports and tactical schemes. It was an interesting read, but football was not a priority at all – there were issues without football, or very little of it.
Two great Czechoslovakian magazines were the most coveted: ‘Stadion’ from Prague, and ‘Start’ from Bratislava. Both were all-sports weeklies, but published football team pictures. The quality of print was far better than anything coming from Eastern Europe. After 1980 ‘Start’ changed their policy and rarely had team photos, so I did not buy it often, but I still collected ‘Stadion’. My main magazine collection consisted of many years of Bulgarian ‘Start’, ‘Football’, ‘Stadion’, and ‘Football-Hockey’ – this bulk was lost entirely, except occasional old photos in my oldest scrapbooks.
The rest foreign stuff was sporadic: a regular Polish magazine ‘Panorama’ published football teams in the 1970s, but stopped doing so after 1980. Another non-sport magazine – ‘NBI’ from East Germany occasionally published teams, but only East German ones. A Communist daily newspaper from West Berlin – don’t remember the name – supplied photo coverage of the West German championship, including the amateur divisions and the East German first division. British stuff came from another Communist daily – ‘Morning Star’. All of the above was regularly sold, but the crème was not – the French magazine ‘Miroir de Football’ was available now and then, but one never new when. I did not know then, but this magazine was founded by the French Communist Party (actually, one of the publications of Miroir Sprint, covering specific sport) – this explains why the French magazine occasionally reached Bulgarian newsstands.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Favourite all-time matches:
1.Levski – CSCA 7-2 – 1968. The championship derby with the archenemy. Levski did not have strong squad this year and the beginning of the match did not suggest anything good… until the boys started scoring. The army, the Communist, and the government club lost… we lost next year, when there was a ‘reform’ and Levski was no more… it was merged with the club of the Police. My father, along with most old supporters of Levski, refused to support the cops… and the Security Police. It was great in 1968, bitter years followed.
Collage of all goals scorers and the stadium’s scoreboard after the end of the match.
2. England – West Germany 1-3 – 1972. The tragedy of the first leg of the quarterfinal for the European Championship… I couldn’t watch the penalty Netzer scored… poor Banks. Fantastic match nevertheless.
The weather should have been helpful – it was raining, in true British manner. It was raining and the Germans were scoring.

3. Ajax – Bayern 4-0 – 1973. The first leg of the quarterfinals for the old European Champions Cup. In my opinion, Bayern played their best football that year. It should have been the final.

Breitner, nominally left fullback, trying to stop Cruiff, nominally centre forward. Total football made traditional positions irrelevant.
Three is enough – my bias is based on memories and impressions.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Favourite players of all-time. No, not Pele, Maradona, or this abomination Beckham – did not I tell you objectivity has no place in the heart of football fan?

1. Georgy Asparukhov

2. Johan Cruiff

3. Franz Beckenbauer

4. Socrates

5. Bobby Charlton

Sorry, no discussion here… sure, there were and are other great players. However, any list of the best is simply wrong. Ever.