Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Between Brazil and Argentina, the third South American powerhouse – Uruguay – showed most clearly the troubles of the continent’s football. It was clearly and decline and lagging behind Europe. In the same time illusions were strong. Uruguay finished 4th in the 1970 World Cup. Good! Nacional (Montevideo) won both Libertadores and Intercontinental Cups in 1971. Good! What crisis? But after 1970 massive exodus of top players started. Nothing really new – Uruguay was main exporter for many years. But never in such numbers before… New talent, then… There was some, but was it sufficient? Hard to tell – today Uruguayan historians call the 1970s ‘transitional period’ for Penarol. Yet, in 1974 the World Cup selection was called ‘La Superseleccion’. Third World title was expected… Crisis or booming football? Uruguay after all is amazing: tiny population, yet, producing great talent. And not the whole country either, but only Montevideo. Now, Buenos Aires is the city with most professional football clubs in the World, but Buenos Aires has more than 10 times larger population than Montevideo. Besides, Argentine football is not only Buenos Aires. When it comes to percentages – there is no city like Montevideo: until 1999 not a single provincial club played in the First Division and hardly any in the Second Division. So far no club outside Montevideo won the national title. Only once a provincial club won the Second Division – Juventud (Las Piedras). Third Division – a record of 2 provincial winners: Juventud (Las Piedras) in 1995 and Oriental (La Paz) in 2004. Uruguayan football is Montevidean football… dominated by 2 clubs – Nacional and Penarol. The derby represents familiar division: the ‘people’ (Penarol) vs the ‘rich’ (Nacional). Penarol are more popular and more successful, yet, football is funny – the ‘people’s club’ was found by British railroad company. During the military dictatorship (1972-1984) the army supported Penarol, not Nacional.
Anyway, Penarol won their 19th title in 1973. They lost only one match.
1. Peñarol 22 14 7 1 38-16 35
2. Nacional 22 9 11 2 29-19 29
3. Danubio 22 10 8 4 26-15 28
4. Defensor 22 10 5 7 33-28 25
5. Rentistas 22 7 10 5 21-18 24
6. Liverpool 22 8 7 7 28-21 23
7. Cerro 22 8 7 7 24-24 23
8. Wanderers 22 4 13 5 16-15 21
9. CA River Plate 22 5 11 6 17-20 21
10. Huracán Buceo 22 3 10 9 22-29 16
11. Central Español 22 6 2 14 18-38 14
12. Bella Vista 22 1 3 18 10-39 5
How good they were? The team was aging and some former stars already moved to other countries. On the bright side – Fernando Morena. Perhaps the greatest Uruguayan player of the 1970s, the goalscorer played his first season for Penarol.

Morena won Uruguayan championships (1973, 74, 75, 78, 79, 81, and 82), 6 times he was the top goalscorer, amassing a total of 667 goals during his career in Uruguay and Spain.
Was Fernando Morena enough? Not really, but titles are titles.
19th title for Penarol in 1973
Top, left to right: Caetano, Corbo, Sandoval, Lamas, Fernandez, Gonzalez.
Bottom: Quevedo, Jimenez, Morena, Silva, Liucy (I am not sure about the name – this is frustratingly obscure player).
An aging team – Caetano, Quevedo, Lamas, Gonzalez. And apart from Morena only Jimenez seemed promising. Once upon a time I got this picture and was happy to have an Uruguayan team in my collection. The names of the players meant absolutely nothing… I guess they mean nothing to most people today.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Brazil had her third national championship in 1973 and only from a great distance it looked good. Imagine this: 40-team league! Only in Brazil – the best football in the world and corresponding huge league. Must be fantastic. Fantastic it was – but not because of football. Machinations, manipulations, intrigues, petty and no so petty interests plagued Brazilian football – it was already on the road of sheer lunacy. Consequently, great football was increasingly rare. Palmeiras won their second title at the end with pretty much the same squad as the year before. So far, one thing was obvious: Sao Paulo was getting the upper hand and Rio de Janeiro was left behind. Which increased the lunacy.

Top, left to right: Eurico, Leao, Luis Pereira, Alfredo, Dudu, Zeca.
Bottom: Edu, Leivinha, Paulo Cesar, Ademir da Guia, Nei.Oswaldo Brandao coached the champions and the team was more than decent with strong players at all key positions: Leao between the posts, Luis Pereira directing the defense, Ademir da Guis in midfield, and Leivinha scoring constantly in front. It was also a bit different team than traditional image of Brazilian squad – instead of frivolous technical magic and fun, Palmeiras were disciplined and not particularly flashy. They had very skilled players, but played more team-oriented and defense-minded football. Luis Pereira was becoming not only the best Brazilian centre-defenseman, but a representative of new, more European kind of football: tough, pragmatic, and effective. By the end of the year Palmeiras players were key national players.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Simple facts of greatness are never simple. South Americans did not mind saying Independiente was the best club in the world, but did not think so on their own continental level. Brazilians shrugged them off; Uruguayans did not think Independiente better than their own Penarol and Nacional; Chileans very likely pointed at the final results – well, Colo-Colo was almost as great… How about Argentines? Certainly River Plate and Boca Juniors fans did not consider Independiente the best. Even from aside is hard to think them best – sure, after Estiduantes, Independiente was refreshing team. Estudiantes were anonymous tugs, having only one real star – ‘the Witch’ Veron. Independiente at least had much more impressive players – Santoro, Comisso, Sa, Semenewicz, Balbuena, the Uruguayan Pavoni, the young and talented Bochini and Bertoni. National players and future national players. Worthy squad… which was unable to win domestic title in 1973. Impressive team, yet, in those years both River Plate and Boca Juniors were in crisis and Estudiantes were declining. Even international success was open to questioning: South America had peculiar problems – traveling around was difficult and expensive, which was the reason many clubs boycotted Copa Libertadores. There was a gruesome example: Racing Club won everything internationally in 1967. The success was very costly – Racing Club accumulated so much debt, they never recovered. To this very day. To win internationally was to play hide and seek with bankruptcy. Independiente did not go bankrupt, but did not win the Argentine title in 1973 either. Who did then?
South America is a statistician’s nightmare. Different formats, legal and illegal championships, the peculiarities are endless. Between 1967 and 1985 Argentina run two different championships in a single year: Metropolitano and Nacional. The formats and the number of participants changed almost every season. In 1973 17 clubs played in standard Metropolitano championship and 30 clubs divided in two groups competed for the Nacional. Two champions, both winning berths in Copa Libertadores. But which one was the proper Argentine champion? Both, according to the Argentines. Dim witted Europeans took the Metropolitano champion to be the Argentine champion by the virtue of winning familiarly structured tournament. Thus, no attention was paid to Rosario Central, the Nacional winners. The champion was Huracan (Buenos Aires).
Huracan was and is among the smaller clubs of city bursting with football clubs. Founded in 1908, Los Quemeros (‘the burners’ – the nickname comes from their stadium, built on the site of old garbage burning station) had some glory days long ago: they were champions in 1921, 1922, 1925, and 1928. All titles came during the amateur era and after that – nothing. Their arch-rivals San Lorenzo de Almagro were a bit better known outside Argentina, but the derby was not big enough to attract interest. Thus, the 1973 title was sweet and dear to Huracan’s fans, but curious novelty for the larger world. And dear remains to Los Quemeros supporters… for it is their last success so far. Very likely not to be repeated.
However, more than intriguing squad: Alfio Basile surely is familiar name today – he coached Argentina twice 1991-94 and 2006-08. Rene Houseman, Miguel Brindisi, Carlos Babington, Roque Avallay, Jorge Carascosa, and Omar Larrosa were all national players and made up strong attacking-minded midfield and forwards. Carascosa, the left full back, had fearsome reputation. Hoeseman and particularly Brindisi were considered to be the next superstars of Argentine football. It was a squad at par with the usual big clubs, as far as star players names could tell. And the players delivered.
There was one more name – a name nobody paid much attention to in 1973: one Cesar Luis Menotti coached the champions. Unknown young coach, who had not been a star during his playing career, which ended in pre-NASL USA. Kicking the ball for New York Generals in the late 1960s was not exactly something suggesting greatness. But Menotti’s Huracan was a whiff of fresh wind of change. Just a whiff…

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Independiente conquered South America before conquering the world. The club was relatively unknown in Europe – River Plate, Boca Juniors, and the ill-famed Estudiantes were the familiar Argentine clubs. Santos, Botafogo, Fluminense, Sao Paulo… Penarol, Nacional… somehow Independiente was not among the greatest. It was routinely announced as a club from Buenos Aires, something never done in South America – they are from Avellaneda (along with their arch-rivals Racing Club), an independent municipality of the Buenos Aires Province, although Avellaneda is part of Greater Buenos Aires, the megapolis. Of course, they never matched the popularity of River Plate and Boca Juniors, but records tell different story: in 1973 Independiente became the most successful South American club – they won their 4th Libertadores Cup, a record surpassing any other club. River Plate and Boca Juniors were nowhere near such international success. The forth Cup did not come easy – three games were needed to edge over Colo-Colo (Chile) and finally, in overtime, the Argentines scored the winning goal.
Final (May 22 & 29)Independiente Arg Colo Colo Chi 1-1 0-0
Playoff (Jun 6) (in Montevideo)Independiente Arg Colo Colo Chi 2-1 aet
1st leg. Cordero, Avellaneda, 22- 5-1973 Independiente - Colo Colo 1-171' Sá (own goal) 0-175' Mendoza 1-1
Independiente: Santoro, Commisso, Sá, López, Pavoni, Semenewicz, Raimondo, Martínez, Balbuena (Bertoni), Giachello (Maglioni), Mendoza.
Colo Colo: Nef, Galindo, Herrera, González, Silva, Páez, Valdés, Osorio (Caszely), Messen, Ahumada, Véliz (Lara).
Referee: Lorenzo (Uruguay)Attendance: 40,000
2nd leg. Estadio Nacional, Santiago, 29- 5-1973 Colo Colo - Independiente 0-0
Colo Colo: Nef, Galindo, Herrera, González, Silva, Páez, Valdés, Osorio,Caszely, Messen, Véliz.
Independiente: Santoro, Commisso, Sá, López, Pavoni, Semenewicz, Raimondo,Martínez, Balbuena (Bertoni), Giachello (Maglioni), Mendoza.
Referee: Arpi Filho (Brazil)Attendance: 80,000
Play-off. Centenario, Montevideo, 6- 6-1973 Independiente - Colo Colo 2-1 aet25' Mendoza 1-039' Caszely 1-1107' Giachello 2-1
Independiente: Santoro, Commisso, Sá, López, Pavoni, Semenewicz, Raimondo,Galván, Bertoni, Maglioni (Bochini), Mendoza (Giachello).
Colo Colo: Nef, Galindo, Herrera, González, Silva (Castañeda), Valdés, Páez,Messen, Caszely, Ahumada, Véliz (Lara). Referee: Romei (Paraguay)Attendance: 50,000
Colo-Colo – worthy finalists, but they also lost the Chilean title in 1973… grand losers?

Well, the best team in the world in 1973. Unbelievable in Europe, a simple fact of greatness in South America.

Monday, March 22, 2010

May be in May again… may be, because unlike 1972 Ajax did not win everything. On one hand, there was stiffer competition at home – PSV Eindhoven was getting stronger, Feyenoord too, and looked like Twente (Enschede) was on the road of becoming really good squad. On the other hand Ajax refused to participate in the Intercontinental Cup – it was valid refusal after the ugly experience of 1972, but still left an open question who was best: Europeans or South Americans. After all, in the South something similar was happening – Independiente (Avallaneda) dominated South America just like Ajax dominated Europe. Like 1971, in 1973 the European second best Juventus represented Europe in one-legged final – new format – for the Intercontinental Cup, staged in Rome. European home advantage... which did not help: Independiente won 1-0. Since history is largely statistic records, South America was better so far, total football or whatever. Statistics… Cruiff had 3 European Champions Cups and 1 Intercontinental. Miguel Angel Santoro, the Independiente goalkeeper, added the Intercontinental Cup to his resume, having already 4 Libertadores Cups. Slightly better than Cruiff?

Santoro was not exactly world famous, yet more successful than Cruiff by 1973. Was Ajax the best club in the world? Not according to historic statistics… Statistics… to the Europeans, the Intercontinental Cup was tainted by South American violence. The tournament was in deep crisis. Clubs were not interested any more… so, who was best anyway?
Final:Rome. Field: Olimpico.November 28, 1973
Juventus (Italy) 0-1 Independiente (Argentina)
Goal: Ricardo "Bocha" Bochini
Independiente: Miguel Ángel Santoro - Miguel Ángel López, Ricardo Elbio Pavoni - Eduardo Comisso, Miguel Ángel Raimondo, Francisco Pedro Manuel Sa - Agustín Alberto Balbuena, Rubén Galván, Eduardo Andrés Magglioni, Ricardo Enrique Bochini, Ricardo Daniel Bertoni.
Juventus: Zoff - Spinosi (Longobuco), Marchetti, Gentile, Morini, Salvadore, Causio, Cuccureddu, Anastasi, Altafini, Bettega(Viola).

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The epic of Ajax’s advance to the final kept the other teams in the shadows. From the shadows Juventus (Turin) reached the final after eliminating Olimpique (Marseille) 0-1 and 3-0 in the 1/16 finals; 1. FC Magdeburg (East Germany) 1-0 and 1-0 in the 1/8 finals; Ujpest Dosza (Budapest) 0-0 and 2-2 (away goals favoured the Old Lady) in the ¼ finals; and Derby County (England) 3-1 and 0-0 in the ½ finals. Only the semi-final attracted some attention during the progress of the Italians, but even that was low key interest compared to the drama of Ajax – Real.
The final was played in Belgrade with Yugoslavian referee – unlike the scandalous Cup Winners Cup final, Mr. Gugulovic did not taint the final.

Final, Crvena Zvezda Stadium, Beograd, 30 May 1973, att 89000

Ajax (1) 1 Juventus (0) 0
4' 1-0 A: Rep

Ajax (trainer Kovacs)
Stuy; Suurbier, Hulshoff, Blankenburg, Krol; Neeskens, G.Mühren,
Haan; Rep, Cruijff, Keizer
Juventus (trainer Vycpalek)
Zoff; Salvadore, Marchetti, Morini, Longobucco; Causio (Cuccureddu),Furino, Capello; Altafini, Anastasi, Bettega (Haller)
Referee: Gugulovic (Yugoslavia)

It was tough final and not very attractive. Ajax scored early with a header by their newest star Johnny Rep. The rest of the match was largely outfoxing in which Ajax emerged winners. To a point, the Italians were outplayed at their own game: winning by a goal; not giving a chance to the opposition to score… but this time they were at the receiving end. Unable to score. Ajax proved to be more Italian than Italians, when needed. In fact, they proved everything – head and shoulders better than anybody else in total football; more Spanish than the Spaniards; more Italian than Italians. No matter the opponent, the Dutch were capable to adjust their game and win. Skill, fitness, intelligence – they had everything in abundance. The new dynasty – it was obvious they were going to dominate world football for many years to come, perhaps to better Real (Madrid) record of 6 European Champions Cups. Perhaps better team than legendary Real… Ajax were still very young, they had about 10 years ahead of them to play. They were very good at replacing aging players too – every new player was better than the one he replaced. The future was clearly white and red.
Some hippies? Casually not paying attention to national anthems.
Roberto Bettega attacking and Johhny Rep defending. Ajax pulled one more trick: for the final players used new numbers. Normally Blankenburg played with #12 and Rep with #16.
The golden header of Johnny Rep.
Krol and Gerry Muhren with their third Cup.
Cruyff, the champion. Never mind the Juventus’ jerseys – it is Ajax.
This is 1971, but still the same in 1973.

Ajax fans celebrating and not getting tired from it. In 1973 it was clear that Amsterdam will feast every next May.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The next opponent was very different: Ajax played against Real (Madrid) in the ½ finals. The Spaniards were a far cry from the great real of the 1950s and early 60s, but may be because of that they were particularly difficult team to beat. During the 1970s and the early 1980s Spanish teams hardly played football – they played war instead. So involved they were on fighting that it was hard to tell were they good or bad players – football was the last thing on their minds. For which they paid heavy price – their games were ugly affairs of kicking, wasting time, simulating, and arguing with the referees. Italians were playing the same kind of game, but at least one was able to glimpse occasional brilliance – by contrast, the Spaniards were so carried away by the war, they routinely forgot football at all. The ugliest and meanest tugs. Real fought from the first referee’s whistle to the last second and both legs were not fun to watch. Their anti-football was particularly difficult to beat simply because it was not football. However, Ajax showed another side of their brilliance – their tactical awareness and versatility. The fought as well, but never forgetting that they have to score and win. It was pragmatic approach nothing to do with freewheeling. The first match ended 2-1 for Ajax, a result seemingly favouring Real.
The second leg was no different, yet, the hostile Madrid did not scare the Dutch – they attacked and attacked. It was good tactical scheme: Real had to score and win, which was very likely given their anti-football approach. They needed 1-0 to go to the final and defensive tactics would not work against unpredictable because chaotic team – Ajax chose to attack whenever they got a chance, but in rather German manner. That is, playing physical football, waiting for opportunity without panic, and trying the unexpected. Again and again, and again. It was next to impossible to penetrate Spanish defense and get a scoring opportunity in the penalty area. Well, let’s try something else… which Gerry Muhren did – his shot from great distance was unexpected, looked frivolous, and hardly dangerous. It was lightning bolt of a shoot, but the goalkeeper clearly saw it and plunged to cover. The ball deflected from a unfortunate defenseman, trying to block it, and went into the net. Muhren did the unexpected and caught Spanish defense off guard – it was not that much lucky goal, but rather a result of determination to use whatever chance emerges. That was Ajax’s approach to the second leg and it paid off - they won 1-0.

A rare moment: Cruyff looks desperate. Very likely Real (Madrid) were the most difficult opponent the Great Ajax ever met – football was the last thing in the minds of the Spaniards. But anti-football lost at the end.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Going ahead, Ajax met Bayern (Munich) in the ¼ finals. The irony of it… it should have been the final. Both clubs played total football. The most exciting footballers at the time played for either Ajax or Bayern. Cruyff vs Beckenbauer.

The first leg in Amsterdam remains one of the best games I ever saw. Fast, attacking football. Fun to watch. Exquisite. And also showing how great Ajax really were – Bayern were the closest thing, yet far behind. The Germans lost 0-4. Ajax rarely had opportunity to play against opposition dedicated to their own kind of football, which made them display their real qualities – and having such a chance, the Dutch were unbeatable. Perhaps their finest hour.
Breitner vs Cruyff. The Flying Dutchman easily wins.

Unstoppable Cruyff, unstoppable Ajax. The second leg was hardly important and was played differently. Tougher, less exciting match, in which Ajax preferred just to preserve their advantage. Of course, Germans never give up, but there was no way to eliminate Ajax. Bayern won 2-1 and Ajax qualified. Retrospectively, this duel proved very important: Bayern learned their lesson and never played real total football again. Instead, they changed it into something less exciting and free: they emphasized physical condition and discipline. No more fun and improvisations – just outrun the opposition, establish physical superiority, and win no matter how. Bayern killed total football and… dominated European football for many years. It was utilization of traditional German fitness combined with the vast talent of few key players. Even when winning cups, Bayern were largely tough journeymen helping few superstars. Fun they were not. Ironically, the best display of total football was the end of total football.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

There was little optimism in the Bulgarian camp after learning their next opponent. Even the usual the usual nonsense about long haired, expensive spoiled lackeys of capitalism, blind to exploitation, and serving wrong cause was spared. The tone was ‘objective’ – Ajax were the better team, but CSKA were to play their best anyway and with a bit of luck… but luck played no part on the pitch. Ajax were light years ahead of CSKA and effortlessly won both legs – 3-1 in Sofia and 3-0 in Amsterdam. What I remember is the invisibility of the Bulgarians: everywhere massive numbers of Dutch players and hardly anyone with red shirt. It was as if only one team was on the pitch. Ajax were simply playing different football and most of Europe was lagging far behind, looking outdated and hopeless.
Just about the only parity existed in handshake between Penev and Cruiff before the match started.
Illusionary parity: Cruiff and Penev looking for the ball. There was no real duel … Cruiff was more than a step ahead. Years later both coached Christo Stoichkov.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

After the disgrace to the glory. After all, 1973 is the year corresponding to the great Ajax remembered fondly ever since. The mythical Ajax. If this line is followed, 1973 was the finest year of the Dutch… but myths are built on slightly different basis: along with previous successes there was something still in the future: 1974 World Cup. When Dutch players excited world-wide audience and retrospectively amplified the squad of 1973: Johnny Repp is remembered; Vasovic and Swart are not… That’s myth, but what about truth?
Ajax started the campaign in the 1/8 finals, where they were paired with CSKA ‘Septemvriisko zname’ (Sofia). Forget Ajax for awhile: the Bulgarian champions were involved in a weird scandal worth mentioning. Back in the fall of 1972 CSKA played 1/16 finals with Panathinaikos (Athens). The Greeks already had their fresh South American imports (see earlier posting on foreign players) Veron, Demelo, Irala, and Gramajo. They also were still coached by Ferenc Puskas. They also made known their ambition to be among the strongest clubs in Europe. All of that triggered intriguing Bulgarian response – the Communist press expressed strangely mixed view. Normally, a Greek club should not have been a problem for a Bulgarian team, but this one reached European final in 1971, was reinforced by South Americans, and was coached by a ‘traitor’. There was contempt and ridicule for the ‘mercenaries’ and the ‘unfair’ machinations of ‘capitalists and imperialists’ (meaning, hiring expensive foreign stars – fun in itself, for the Bulgarian journalists had no idea who were Demelo, Irala, and Gramajo, and automatically assumed they were some mighty players). In the same breath there was some ‘indignation’ because capitalists and imperialists naturally exploit workers – football players in this case, duped by the mirage of money and becoming mere pawns for the wrong side in the mighty world-wide class struggle. Pawns are not really to pitied, therefore, more ridicule was order – what possibly pampered clowns can do to clean and dedicated Communist football players? Jokers, led by a turncoat… Puskas was rarely mentioned by name. But the vitriol was done with caution: it was emphasized that the Greeks are rich club and will everything possible to win. CSKA was to be well prepared and really fight to win.
In reality, both teams were rather middle of the road and whatever football they were capable to play was immediately killed by the high pitch of ambitions, cautions, and ideological fever. The first match in Sofia was careful and dull. CSKA won 2-1, but there was still enough optimism left. And also fear and suspicion – the Bulgarians are instructed to eat only in the Bulgarian embassy when in Athens. The capitalists will poison them… which was not below the Greeks: just a year before they won very suspiciously the ½ finals with Crvena Zvezda (Belgrade). The second leg was dirty affair – the Greeks played brutally, it was not really football, and clinched a 2-1 victory. So far, their Latin stars appeared worthy… they scored all PAO’s goals: Veron in Sofia and again the first goal in Athens. Demelo scored the second. But a tie… and with no goals in extra time – penalty shoot-out. In their natural modesty, the Bulgarian journalists forgot to mention that the referee in Athens was Soviet one… dirty capitalist tricks, but may be ‘we’ can get some help from Big Brother? From aside, such suspicion seems justified, but never mind. The Soviet referee failed the Little Brothers… one Lipatov. He miscalculated the penalties already shot and at 3-2 for CSKA stopped the Bulgarian midfielder Stoil Trankov and declared the match over. So far, Panathinaikos kicked 4 penaties and CSKA – three. Nothing was over yet, but Lipatov’s math was weak… Now, normally a referee’s mistake, blatant or not, triggers a circus of protests, pushing and shoving, dramatic gesticulation, and words unsuitable for young audience… but Puskas was an old fox: as soon as Lipatov blew his whistle, the ‘traitor’ urged his players to leave in a hurry. Which they did – even to the surprise of the Bulgarians. But the surprise was too much – Lipatov was informed by one of his sideliners about the mistake. It was too late to reverse the decision, especially with no Panathinaikos’ representative on the pitch. The Bulgarians were baffled… what were they to do now? Because of Lipatov’s mistake, they were winners… Puskas was not baffled at all – Panathinaikos already filled a formal complaint to UEFA. The match was annulled and had to be replayed.

Valentin Lipatov helping the injured Spartak (Moscow) defenceman Evgeny Lovchev in the Soviet League. He often criticized his fellow Soviet referees for lack of knowledge and unprofessionalism. He is still a big shot in Russian refereeing. The Bulgarian press cried murder: the vile capitalists did it again! Manipulation! Shame! The traitor serves his masters well! And UEFA naturally in cahoots with the imperialists! Lipatov was not mentioned at all – it was a capitalist plot. The referee run out of luck, though: on his way to Moscow he had to change plains in Sofia, where he was immediately arrested and delivered to… CSKA’s stadium, where his mistake was replayed in slow motion on video. This operation was funnier than anything else: since CSKA was the club of the Army, it was the Bulgarian Minister of Defense Dobry Dzhurov behind the whole thing: he obtained permission from the Soviets to detain Lipatov. But for what? The referee was no longer able to change anything. Besides, he was kept captive in CSKA’s stadium – technically, ‘arrested’ and ‘influenced’ by the club… UEFA certainly had to say something interesting, if it got the news, but it did not get it. Lipatov was freed, and punished by both UEFA and the Soviet Federation. Weird stuff… the rumor has it that Lipatov was bribed by Panathinaikos, but this is a rumor slowly shaped years after the ill-fated match. Besides, there is an addition to same rumor: that Lipatov was drunk – rather laughable bribe, not to mention that after 120 minutes of running one usually sobers up.

‘The Dog’ Denev (right) attacks Panathinaikos.
CSKA won the third match 2-0 to the delight of the ideological journalists and went ahead. In 1973 it was ‘capitalist conspiracy’ unmasked and justice restored. Today it is Greco-Soviet conspiracy, plotted against valorous Bulgarian players. The reality is one of most blatant refereeing mistakes, evoking the suspect passivity of the Soviet linesman in 1966 World Cup final. Bribes and political scheming have their place, but competence cannot be avoided because of rumors: during the years, the Soviet referees were involved in steady line of questionable decisions. They were simply not competent enough and tarnished the sport. As for CSKA and Communist ideology… their next opponent was Ajax and ‘class struggle’ went to the drains.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The final was played in Thessaloniki in front of 45 000, mostly Greeks. It was and remains one of the most scandalous football finals. So much so, recently there are attempts to bring the ancient match to court and let the judge decide who shall have the Cup. Part of the argument is hardly relevant: the legend that Leeds was deprived of four key players – Billy Bremner, Allan Clarke, Eddie Gray, and Johnny Giles. Don Revie did not complain at the time – after all, injured and suspended players are normal ingredient of football life. The legend convenient omits the fact that Milan also had missing players. Besides, to say that the absentees were so important simply means that Terry Yorath, Joe Jordan, Frank Gray, and Steve McQuinn were not worth a dime. Leeds had unusual for the time long and capable squad – the complainers self-servingly forgot that after the end of the match. Yet, the legend of injustice is built on fact: the Greek referee suspiciously favoured the Italians. Leeds outplayed Milan, but the referee’s decisions were more than questionable, they corrupted the final, and outraged both English players and fans.Milan scored in the 5th minute: Chiaruggi from a free kick. It was disputable free kick.
Harvey unable to stop the ball. It may have been suspicious free kick, but where is Leeds’ wall?
It was enough for Milan – they spend the rest of the match in defense, either clearing the ball or, when unable to reach the ball, kicking and provoking the English players. Pure Rocco’s view of football – he once instructed his players that it does not matter what one kicks: ball, opponents, it was all the same. Leeds attacked and attacked, and clearly Milan was not in control of the game, unlike already mentioned ¼ final with Spartak (Moscow) – the Italians were desperate. However, Leeds was unable to score – in part because of Milan’s goalkeeper Vecchi (usually a reserve!), in part because of frustratingly missed opportunities, and mostly because of the referee. The Greek referee Christos Michas became the central figure of the sick final: he was suspiciously blind to many things. Perhaps one can forgive the free kick he gave and Chiaruggi scored from, if it was his only ‘mistake’. But the man was consistently blind to Italian folly: Mick Jones was brought down in the penalty area by Anquilletti right in front of Michas – no whistle. Well, penalties were rarely given in those days… Zignoli handled the ball after a cross from Lorimer – no whistle. Immediately Zignoli fouled Jones in the penalty area – Michas saw nothing wrong in that… Near the end of the match Norman Hunter retaliated after a vicious foul committed by Gianni Rivera and both teams started fighting. Michas decided to send off Hunter and Sogliano. Rivera was obviously ‘clean’… not even yellow card. However, it is instructive to point at Rivera – so desperate the game developed for Milan, that even Rivera – normally, a gentleman player – was kicking English shins. The Greek fans were outraged, they booed their refereeing compatriot, and greeted Milan’s post-match celebration with chants ‘Shame, shame, shame!’ Norman Hunter sent off. Leeds were famous for their ‘temper’ and readiness to fight, but this time they were not the culprits. They were constantly provoked by ruthless Italians and ‘blind’ referee.
There was clear sense that Leeds were robbed. May be Michas was bribed, not blind – Italian clubs were known for bribing scandals, however, uncovered too late to change anything. The result was acknowledged by UEFA, however suspect. Nereo Rocco was smiling, but he was not that important. The real trouble was Don Revie – he promised a Treble early in March: championship, FA Cup, and Cup Winners Cup. In May Leeds ended with nothing… robbery or not, Leeds were not living up to expectations and this should be remembered: wait until 1975. Final, in Salonica, 16 May 1973, att 45000 Milan (1) 1 Leeds United (0) 05' 1-0 M: Chiarugi
Milan : Vecchi; Sabadini, Zignoli, Anquilletti, Turone; Rosato (Dolci), Rivera, Benetti; Sogliano, Bigon, Chiarugi

Leeds United : Harvey; Reaney, Cherry, Bates, Madeley; Hunter, F.Gray, Yorath (McQueen)Lorimer, Jordan, Jones
Top, left to right: Trevor Cherry, Paul Madeley, Mick Jones, Roy Ellam, Joe Jordan, Jackie Charlton
Middle: Paul Reaney, Chris Galvin, David Harvey, Gary Sprake, Norman Hunter, Allan Clarke.Bottom: Peter Lorimer, Joghnny Giles, Billy Bremner, Mick Bates, Eddie Gray, Terry Yorath

Total football? What total football, when catenacchio wins. Kind of… There will be many years of draught for AC Milan after this cup.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Cup Winners Cup proved to be the antithesis of total football and more – the antithesis of football itself. Leeds United and AC Milan reached the final. The early stages of the tournament went smoothly… stronger clubs advanced and rightly so. The division of quality was so great that there was no need to try some kind of advanced game. AC Milan eliminated whatever opponents minimally – by one goal difference (save for 1/16 finals, where they ‘thrashed’ Red Boys, Differdange, Luxembourg, 4-1 and 3-0). At the end, the real question is about catenacchio: Helenio Herrera is still vilified for inventing and practicing the ultra-defensive style. Must be Nereo Rocco, though – the Milan’s coach was the most accomplished and consistent practitioner of the deadlock.
Nereo Rocco, the archpriest of catenacchio.
In the ¼ finals Milan met Spartak (Moscow) and I still remember the first leg, played in Sochi (Soviet clubs played their spring international games in the South – Northern stadiums were frozen). It was not much fun: the Italians clearly controlled the match. They were economical – just preventing the opposition from developing attacks. Spartak players never saw an opening. There was no free space. There were no free players to pass the ball. And that was all… Milan looked supreme without doing much. The Soviet players were clearly inferior – they had no imagination, no tactics, and no skills to change the game in their favour. Milan scored one goal and won.
Anquiletti (left) simply blocks Spartak’s left winger Redin. Even on static photo Redin looks hopeless.
Milan in defense, their favourite game. Always having more players than the opposition, though. Looks easy…
And why breaking a sweat when 1-0 is enough? The second leg in Milano ended 1-1. Milan went to the ½ finals; Spartak went home. It all depend on perspective: judging by the results, Spartak may have been even happy – not bad against mighty Italians. As for subscribers to Rocco’s philosophy – a win is a win, and nothing else matters. And as long as ‘we’ win, why changing anything? Don’t you see how hopeless and clueless other teams are against ‘us’? Milan crawled to the final.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Liverpool won the UEFA Cup, after plenty of drama. The first leg in Liverpool, May 9, was abandoned after 27 minutes due to waterlogged pitch. The next day replay showed that nobody walks alone on Anfield: Borussia (Moenchengladbach) got three goals for company, thanks to Keegan (scoring twice) and Lloyd. Home turf did not help in the second leg – the Germans won with two goals by Heynckes, but the cup went to Liverpool – 3-2 on aggregate. First European cup for Liverpool. Anybody paying attention? Hard to tell… on one hand, Liverpool edged Borussia full of European champions, led by Netzer, and considered at least equally strong to Bayern (if not stronger, depending on opinion). On the other hand, the UEFA Cup was English domain – since 1968 the old Fairs Cup and the new UEFA Cup were won only by English clubs. Liverpool continued the tradition, but minnows like Newcastle United were also among the builders of the same tradition… no English club managed to transform success in the third European tournament into winning the European Champions Cup. Good for Liverpool and… good bye, Liverpool. No expectations. Lets forget this Keegan boy and concentrate to real stars like Netzer.
Final 1st Leg, Anfield Stadium, Liverpool, 10 May 1973, att 41169
Liverpool (2) 3 Borussia Mönchengladbach (0) 0¹
21' 1-0 L: Keegan32' 2-0 L: Keegan61' 3-0 L: Lloyd¹
original match on 9th May abandoned at 0-0 after 27 mins due to waterlogged pitch
Liverpool : Clemence, Lawler, Lindsay, Smith, Lloyd, Hughes, Keegan, Cormack, Toshack, Heighway (Hall), Callaghan
Borussia Monchengladbach: Kleff, Michallik, Netzer, Bonhof, Vogts, Wimmer, Danner, Kulik, Jensen, Rupp (Simonsen), Heynckes
Final 2nd Leg, Bokelbergstadion, Mönchengladbach, 23 May 1973, att 35000
Borussia Mönchengladbach (2) 2 Liverpool (0) 0
29' 1-0 BM: Heynckes40' 2-0 BM: Heynckes
Börussia Monchengladbach: Kleff, Surau, Netzer, Bonhof, Vogts, Wimmer, Danner, Kulik, Jensen, Rupp, Heynckes
Liverpool: Clemence, Lawler, Lindsay, Smith, Lloyd, Hughes, Keegan, Cormack, Heighway (Boersma), Toshack, Callaghan

Liverpool did not play total football, but who is attacking and who is defending here? Tommy Smith, the right back of Liverpool, seems to be attacking and the great playmaker and goalscorer Netzer appears to be defending… and not very successfully too.

Keegan scores. Netzer is desperate. The future is red hot.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Liverpool won the title, their first since 1966. Surprise? Or just normal? Only ten years ago Liverpool played in the Second Division. Since than – two titles and steady performance in the upper layers of English football. Bill Shankly was regarded as one of the top managers. Yet, it was not often mentioned club: unlike other English clubs, Liverpool did not win European tournaments. At home, it was Manchester United capturing the minds in the 1960s and Leeds United after 1968. The biggest English stars played elsewhere. Liverpool were solid and… nothing more. So, it was a surprise title in a way – the bets were on Leeds. And it was not a surprise: Liverpool was among the favourites and considering the English tradition of new champions every year – why not Liverpool? In 1973 nobody imagined how much Liverpool will change English football. Nobody imagined them collecting title after title at home and abroad. Nobody imagined them becoming one of the most successful clubs in the world and a flagship of both British and European football. For me Liverpool was practically new club at the time – and the first picture of them was funny: it was wrong. It was originally published by Football Pictorial and quickly reprinted in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria. The fact nobody corrected the wrong names speaks volumes: Liverpool was not well known. The players were not easily recognizable… according to this photo, Keegan was blond lad on the left of the middle row…

The wrong champions.
And the right champions:

Back row, left to right: John McLaughlin, Phil Boersma, Phil Thompson, Trevor Storton, Alec Lindsay, Peter Cormack, Kevin Keegan.
Centre: Jack Witham, Peter Thompson, Larry Lloyd, Frank Lane, Ray Clemence, John Toshack, Steve Heighway.
Front row: Ian Callaghan, Emlyn Hughes, Bill Shankly – manager, Tommy Smith, Brian Hall, Chris Lawler.
By the standards of 1973 – not exactly star-studded squad. Not the ‘archetypal’ Liverpool either… Apart from Emlyn Hughes and John Toshack – no stars. Good workers aplenty: Smith, Cormack, Lloyd, Lawler. New discovery – Keegan (Shankly was still skeptical about his abilities). Things changed with the title: Clemence, Phil Tompson, Lindsay, were invited to the national team. None of them established himself solidly in the national squad… it was not only strong competition: those players somehow did not convince England’s managers. The dislike of Clemence baffled me at the time: surely it was difficult to replace a giant like Banks, but to me Clemence was far more reliable keeper than Shilton and bunch of others. Yet, he was uncertain first choice (the reason ‘the bunch of others’ were invited). The point here is not to argue Clemence’s greatness: the point is that in 1973 Liverpool was not seen as fascinating team. One year wonder? How wrong everybody was.