Wednesday, October 29, 2008

1974 World Cup was West German problem. On one hand players were accused of shameless commercialization: the stars demanded very lucrative sums, and the German Federation considered replacing them with another selection, presumably, more patriotic and less cynical. Commentators lamented the good old days of ‘pure’ football and predicted the end of the game killed by greed. Yet, the Dutch outdid the Germans in the money matters – see Cruiff above. On the field, there was the highly suspect round robin match between West and East Germany. The West lost and finished second in their group, which placed them in the easier semi-final group with Poland, Sweden, and Yugoslavia, instead of Brazil, Holland, and Argentina. West Germany ended as World Champions, but were severely criticized for under-performing and scheming. The old story of 1954 scheme against Hungary was recalled. Then, the shame of 1982 came… 1974 was hardly an incident.
It was to be the clash of political systems: Breitner (left) and Beckenbaur (right) ‘squeeze’ the East German player. East and West Germany met for the first time on the pitch at the World Cup 1974. The West was to win not only for political ‘rightness’ – their team simply was superior.
East Germany arriving in West Germany for the World Cup 1974. Long flight from Berlin to Hamburg. Translator in the middle? Sorry… hostess.
East Germany won 1-0. This is the winning goal, scored by Jurgen Sparwasser (blue shirt, in the middle). Ironically, Sparwasser defected to West Germany in the 1980s – after his football career was over (why not in 1974? He played for 1.FC Magdebourg, which won the Cup Winners Cup just then and he was a hot item. Mysteries, never mind.) The West Germans maintain the match was real – the political side of the game was very important. But… I thought in 1974 they deliberately lost and all my friends thought the same back then. See, it was not calculation to avoid Holland in the next stage – Brazil, as dreadful as it was that year, was the bigger worry. Both met in the winter before the finals, when Brazil was touring Europe as part of their preparation for the finals. In West Germany, in winter, on snowy pitch Brazil won. The Germans never played well against Brazil and generally lost. Losing from East Germany, the West Germans finished second in their round robin group, thus, avoided facing Holland and Brazil (Argentina was not a problem in 1974) in the next stage. The lost match opened the road to the title. Honest match? Politically important? For the East Germans may be. But it is one Germany today, so… it was ‘honest’ somehow.