Monday, October 27, 2008

USSR refused to play the second leg of the qualification deciding the last spot at 1974 finals against Chile. The first match, in Moscow, finished 0-0. Before the second, General Pinochet led the coup d’etate against the Socialist government of Salvador Allende. The Soviets refused to play for political reasons and Chile went to the finals by default, yet, was it only politics? May be it was – imagine the Soviets losing the qualification from a country with fresh right-wing regime. General Pinochet should go into football history with one fantastic sentence – well, at least it sound fantastic in English. He said to the team’s star – Carlos Caszely – ‘I know you are left-wing, but you are right-wing.’ The unintentional pun, so awkward in English, is the referral to the political views of the player and his post on the football field – the politically involved Caszely was Leftist, but his position on the football pitch was right-wing. What Pinochet really meant was more prosaic and may be more sinister – Caszely was not to be arrested for patriotic reasons. And it was not only Chile – Zaire and Haiti played at the World Cup 1974. What fun were the ambitions of the dictators of those countries… but it will be too long here, I am saving the story for another time.
‘El Chino’ (The Chinese) Carlos Caszely, the star of the strongest Chilean club Colo-Colo (Santiago de Chile). Although one of the most vocal opposing General Pinochet’s junta, he played for the national team in World Cup 1974. And in World Cup 1982. And more… he moved to Spain in 1973, supposedly for political reasons – played for Levante and Espanol (which in Catalonia is regarded somewhat right-wing club) until 1978. Then he returned to Chile and Colo-Colo. Either ‘El Chino’ with Hungarian-sounding name was really ‘left-wing, which is right-wing’, or General Pinochet’s regime was not as bad as pictured, or footballers have no morals and convictions, or his career was not going as well as expected, or he became home sick. Which reason was the true one?