Saturday, September 26, 2009

The end of Italian and Spanish market produced two results: the first is more or less the end of big imports from South America. Between 1966 and 1972 very few South Americans came to play in Europe and certainly no major star among them. Thus, the World Cup 1970 was not the market as the World Cup finals in later years – there were lots of high class players in Mexico and not a single one went to Europe after the tournament.
The second result is the shrunk European market – practically, it consisted of France, West Germany, Belgium, Holland, Austria, and Switzerland. None a big buyer. France was the most diverse importer by far – some South Americans trickled to French clubs, although nobody of recognizable name. European players traditionally went to play in France – this continued. But French clubs looked also to Africa, where nobody else looked at the time. African players were nothing new in France, thanks to colonies and later – former colonies. It was not even clear who were foreign and who domestic players: dual citizenship, local law considering former colonial subjects French citizens complicate the issue. African football was still young and lowly, so many a player did not find any reason to travel for days to join some half-baked national team in some ill organized and not exciting African tournament. But some did play for national teams, only to complicate further evaluation of French football. As a rule, Africans had no chance to play for France yet, so their own choices were limited. But French rules permitted only two foreign players and when one sees three Africans plus one or two Yugoslavs in the lineup, certainly at least three players were considered proper French.The real trouble comes when one suddenly the Africans are discovered going to play for Morocco, Mali, or whatever country down there. Or were quoted in the press as refusing to join such and such national team. But no matter what, France was the most diverse and lively buyer of foreign players. The only problem was that French clubs were not very rich and rarely bought huge stars.
Salif Keita, one of the biggest stars in the French championship, arrived from Mali in 1967. Did he ever played for Mali is unclear – he was asked to take French citizenship, so to play for Frnace, which by time meant he never played for his homeland. African football player of the year in 1970. However, it is known that he was selected for the Mali national squad in 1963 – years before the French offered him to play for them.