Wednesday, April 28, 2010

As for going down, the season did not provide anything really big, so West Germans are chosen to represent disgrace here. Tough choice – both relegates have ‘merits’. Have them both then…

Eintracht Braunscweig ended 17th, which was very bad for their goalkeeper.
Bernd Franke was a national player, a backup for Sep Maier. It is hard to tell who was really #2 in West Germany – the competition was stiff with Nigbur and Kleff playing strong. Franke, however, already managed to push away another national player – Horst Wolter, from the World Cup 1970 selection. He actually made him redundant and Wolter moved to Hertha. Which was good luck for Wolter – Franke continued to play reliably, but the rest of Eintracht was not much and down they went. And Franke was not called to the national team for a while and missed his chance to become champion of the world. But it would have been extravagant to include a third division player in the national team… West Germany did not have Second Division yet and Franke sunk to the semi-professional regional championships…

Rot Weiss Oberhausen finished last. They did not have any player worth a note, yet the club deserves a line – this was their very last top division season. So far, they were not able to earn promotion and judging by the current football situation it is unlikely a club from a small town to climb to the universe of the rich and famous. And with this sour note 1973 has to end.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Going up from 3rd to 2nd Division in Bulgaria:

Botev (Novi Pazar). Absolute beginners.

Chavdar (Byala Slatina). Both teams moved up to the Northern Second Division, a dreamland of a kind, although for only one season. One year later they were relegated.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

And more climbing up the scale – the Soviet Second Division winners. Both Chernomoretz (Odessa) and Nistru (Kishinev) played previously among the best, but without making any waves. Now they returned, finishing first and second in the Second Division, thus continuing the Southern dominance. The Moldovian club – Nistru – was not anything special and were somewhat of a surprise: even the club acknowledged that, for normally they dwelled in the bottom half of the Second Division. Chernomoretz stirred another problem – which would be the second important Ukrainian club? Voroshilovgrad (the champions of 1972), Donetzk (the first provincial Cup-winners), Lvov (the first and only Second Division Cup-winners), or Odessa? Dnepropetrovsk nobody counted, except for confirming the Ukrainian dominance: 6 First division teams! Unlike the Moldovians, the Odessites were not to be a punching bag for others – unknown yet at the end of 1973. Just moving up and happy about it:
Chernomoretz (Odessa), champions of Second Division:
Top, left to right: Yu. Zabolotny – team’s director, Yu. Romanov – director of the ‘Vodnik’ Voluntary Sport Organization, A. Nefedov, V. Zubkov, A. Degtyarev, V. Leshtuk, A. Aleskerov – coach, V. Tomashevsky, V. Feydman, S. Shmerlin – assistant coach, S. Krulikovsky, V. Korostynsky – doctor, V. Sokolov – masseur, V. Gayantzky – administrator.
Bottom: V. Borovsky, L. Baranovsky, G. Sapozhnikov, A. Shepel, V. Kuzmin, N. Ivanenko, V. Butenko, V. Moskvichev, V. Nechaev – captain.
A. Shepel was the emerging star – he was the top scorer of the 2nd Division with 38 goals. However, he never materialized the promise.
Nistru (Kishinev) finished 2nd and returned to top football, where they played briefly before under different name.
Top, left to right: V. Korolkov – coach, V. Kirichenko – assistant coach, V. Folomeev – assistant coach, G. Tegletzov, V. Pavlov, I. Nadein, V. Karev, V. Gaspersky, R. Atamalyan, A. Rybak, V. Volostnykh, V. Zadnepranov – administrator, E. Losenko – doctor, V. Dryzhenko, P. Burd – team’s director.
Bottom: V. Zhuravlyov, V. Katkov, I. Tabachuk, V. Kutzev, N. Mikhailov, P. Chebanu, A. Afanasenko – boots’ caretaker, A. Teslev, N. Karas.
Not a single memorable player… unless one is a fan.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Going up. Queens Park Rangers surely. They finished second in the Second Division and moved upstairs. Unlike many a former second division club, they were not just to fight for survival.

QPR promoted. Look who is here: Gerry Francis, Stan Bowles, Phil Parkes – all to be soon invited to the national team of England. Don Givens already was a national player of Republic of Ireland. Terry Venables – you know the coach, right? Well, meet the second division dude here. A second division squad… many a top club would like to have such line up. A line up, which was not even able to win Second Division – Burnley bested QPR.

Monday, April 19, 2010

But nothing remains empty in football – new players always replace the old. A giant stepped retired, new unknowns disgrace the holly grass… Jean-Marie Pfaff debuted in 1973. Nothing fancy and nothing memorable – Beveren, a rather run of the mill Belgian club, sported new goalie. Small clubs, being small, may take greater risks and field suspect youngster in the futile hope of major turn of luck. Alas, nothing doing… neither Beveren, nor Pfaff attracted attention.

Pfaff debuted for the Belgian national team in 1976, but in general he was under the radar in the 1970s – he was recognized as one of the best goalkeepers in the world during the 1980s. Little we knew in 1973… well, little we know about the future anyway. For Jean-Marie it turned out to be great future. He was going up.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Going down, going down… Bobby Charlton retired in 1973. His last match was in the summer Anglo-Italian club tournament. Perhaps nobody remembers it today, but it was played for a number of years from late 1960s to pretty much the end of the 1970s. There was no particular trophy and not even real cup structure: the whole concoction was cooked up with more financial than football aims – to provide semi-competitive excitement to the paying public during the depleted summer season. It was clear that no club would be really fit yet, so the tournament also served for training and team-building purposes. Some new players, some candidate players, some guys coming back from injuries… let see them what they can do. Various clubs played the tournament, always a mixed bag – big clubs normally avoided it; smaller clubs did not mind participating. And this year Manchester United played against Verona. It served as a benefit to Bobby… rather low key tribute, but in that years it was not fashionable yet to stage maniacal mega-events. Low key, but much more humane in my mind.
Bobby just scored his last goal in the net of Verona.
Addio Bobby – Verona fans paid their own tribute to Charlton with standing ovation. I cannot envision something like this happening today: cheering the ‘enemy’.
Sad moment… one of the all-time greatest players stepped down. It turned out, Bobby retired only from Manchester United – and went to play a little longer in the lower levels of English football:
A new Preston North End player. Somehow this didn’t count in 1973: to the mind of the world football fans Charlton regretfully retired.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

If Eusebio’s ‘good bye’, however in graceful style, was expected, another ‘good bye’ was neither graceful, nor expected. Ajax was to rule the football world for ever and ever, right? Without departed Cruijff and coach Stefan Kovacs Ajax won the European Supercup – the brand new creation, which was to replace the declining Intercontinental Cup. At least this was the idea in 1973. Two-legged challenge between the European Champions Cup winner and the Cup Winners Cup winner. Ajax destroyed Milan and collected the trophy. Best in the world again!
1st Leg, San Siro Stadium, Milan, 9 Jan 1974, att 15000
Milan (0) 1 Ajax (0) 0
77' 1-0 M: Chiarugi
Milan Vecchi, Sabadini, Maldera, Schnellinger, Anquiletti, Turone, Borini (Bergamaschi), Benetti, Biaziolo, Rivera, Chiarugi
Ajax Stuy, Suurbier, Krol, Blankenburg, Hulshoff, G. Mühren, Rep, Neeskens, Mulder, Haan, Keizer
2nd Leg, Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam, 16 Jan 1974, att 25000
Ajax (2) 6 Milan (0) 0
26' 1-0 A: Mulder 35' 2-0 A: Keizer 71' 3-0 A: Neeskens 81' 4-0 A: Rep 84' 5-0 A: Mühren (pen) 87' 6-0 A: Haan
Ajax Stuy, Suurbier, Krol, Blankenburg, Hulshoff, G.Mühren, Rep, Neeskens, Mulder, Haan, Keizer
Milan Vecchi, Sabadini, Maldera, Schnellinger, Anquiletti, Turone, Dolci, Benetti, Biaziolo (Tresoldi), Rivera, Chiarugi

Gianni Rivera ‘teasing’ Dutch defense. Teasing did not work… in the twilight of both clubs Ajax was much better.

Piet Keizer and Barry Hulshoff still supreme and some desperate Italians.

Ajax, dressed in something suspiciously looking like bathrobes, posing with the Supercup. It was a Pyrrhic victory… the matches were played in early January 1874, attendance was low, and Milan played half-heartedly at best. Even then there was strong suspicion that Milan did not care much for this cup and played pro forma only. As for Ajax… they were already destroyed, but the narration of that will go to 1974’s story. Winning the Supercup was not even a swan song… it was a desperate attempt to preserve dignity. To win something…anything. The Supercup never achieved really important status in Europe.

Monday, April 12, 2010

From the dirty business of stealing football stars to the clean goalscoring: the Golden Shoe award. Eusebio won it for a second time – he was the very first winner of the award in 1968. Numbers are numbers, can’t argue with them – Eusebio scored 40 goals for Benfica. The most in Europe. However, this is was the last international award for the Mozambique-born star. He was already 31 years old and his goals in the weak Portuguese championship are a bit misleading: Eusebio was fading away, something clearly seen when he played for the national team of Portugal. Yet another great player more and more considered belonging to the past, to the gone 1960s. Eusebio still had quite a few years to play ahead of him, but 1973 was closing time already.

40 goals – still the best in Europe. Not bad for a good bye.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Well, more or less, bellow are the rest of players Spanish clubs bought in 1973. Looks like self-made quiz by now: ‘are you able to recognize anybody?’ Most names did not ring any bell in real time, so it may be entirely meaningless quiz.
Hugo Sotil – the unlucky Peruvian star was more or less the first foreigner to sign for Spanish club in 1973. Barcelona got him from Alianza (Lima).
Oscar Mas left River Plate for all-white Real Madrid kit. Just like Sotil, the Argentine star was to be a reserve. Unlike Sotil, Mas played only one year in Spain.
Ruben Ayala – from San Lorenzo (Buenos Aires) to Atletico (Madrid). The Argentine was rising new star, but hardly world famous.
Ramon Heredia, a teammate of Ayala in San Lorenzo and teammate with him in Atletico (Madrid). And like Ayala – young, hugely promising, and not well known in Europe Argentine.
Salif Keita from Mali moved from Olympique Marseille (France) to Valencia CF. A big star in France and African Footballer of the Year in 1970, the Black Pearl was not very impressive in Spain.
Kurt Jara, up and coming Austrian forward, came to Valencia CF from Swarovski Wacker (Innsbruck). Complimented Keita… by not impressing anybody.
Big money is paid for big goalscorers? Not always… The Argentine goalkeeper Daniel Carnevali moved from Chacarita Juniors (Buenos Aires) to UD Las Palmas and stayed firmly on the Canary Islands the next 5 years.
As for the Uruguayan import Julio Montero-Castillo, one can only wonder… a national player and key defenseman of Nacional (Montevideo), he went to Granada CF. Going… down? At least his salary went up.
Saturnino Arrua. Who was he? Well, a Paraguayan player, whom Real Zaragoza acquired from Cerro Porteno (Asuncion). Outside his native country nobody really heard of him in 1973, but he played well in Zaragoza.
Real Zaragoza went Paraguayan – their second foreigner was Carlos Martinez Diarte, who made his fame playing for Olimpia (Asuncion). Fame in Paraguay, that is.
There were few more… one Juan Casco, also Paraguayan, joined Real Murcia. I am unable to find any photo of him, although he spent most of his career in Spain – he played for Elche CF between 1965 and 1970. An young Argentine came to Elche CF from FC Porto – Juan Carlos Heredia – but his case is dubious: he was FC Barcelona property, loaned to FC Porto. Barca got him in 1972, when he was ineligible to play in Spain. But Heredia eventually got Spanish citizenship and played 3 games for the national team of Spain, so he was not exactly a foreign player, but an oriundo. Behind the huge profiles of Cruiff and Netzer, the first foreign crop in Spain was hardly the cream of the cream. As Netzer put it at the time, ‘I am 28 years old and the end is near. Better make some serious money before it is too late.’ As for Jairzinho, Rivelino, Luigi Riva, and Gerd Muller – more gossip than reality… none ever played in Spain.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

And the Dutch star was also big part of something new: the opening of Spanish market. The ban on foreigners was lifted and immediately Spanish clubs started importing. The reaction was feverish: here they are, the sneaky Spaniards, buying left and right and robbing everybody else of their best players. Inflating the transfer fees too. In reality, Spanish clubs did not buy much at first – true, Real and Barcelona broke all records and immediately disregarded the regulations of the Spanish Federation, but smaller clubs bought modestly, if at all. At first only one foreigner was allowed to play in a regular Primera Division – quickly changed even before the ban was lifted, so there was some confusion as for how many foreigners were permitted to play. Part of the reasoning, influenced by the big clubs, was insurance: a foreign star may be injured, so let have a replacement. Another part was more devious – let’s put pressure on the Federation to permit more foreigners. Real, Barcelona, and Atletico (Madrid) had two foreigners when only one was allowed to play, and when two were allowed – they reacted with having three. A third part, however, was uncertainty: it was not at all clear that some players would don the jersey of a Spanish club. The saga of Cruiff’s transfer dragged for months – there were early rumors that he will go to Barcelona. Negotiations were difficult, although more or less hidden from nosy journalists – Cruiff asked for too much money and Barcelona disagreed. Meantime the star was saying in interviews that he was not leaving Ajax. Behind the scenes Cruiff managed to alienate everybody in Ajax and his teammates voted Pete Keizer to be team captain. Real Madrid stepped in and made an offer, which Cruiff rejected, stating that if he goes to Spain at all, it will be only to Barcelona. Fine, but negotiations appeared to be at impasse. So the first player Barcelona bought was the Peruvian star Hugo Sotil. Much cheaper than Cruiff too… When finally Cruiff went to Barcelona, Sotil became automatically a reserve. And remained on the bench – next year Neeskens was acquired and Sotil was again superfluous. He became an alcoholic… may be because of despair? Anyway, Madrid was not to be outdone in 1973 – they got Gunter Netzer plus the Argentine scorer Oscar Mas from River Plate. Mas repeated the case of Sotil – extra in 1973, and remaining extra in 1974 when Paul Breitner was bought. Mas played even more rarely than Sotil, but did not turn to drinking.
The halo of Cruiff and Netzer hid the reality of the other transfers: Atletico (Madrid) acquired two very good Argentines – Ayala and Heredia – but neither was a superstar. Valencia was parsimonious – Kurt Jara was hardly well known name in 1973. The Austrian came from Swarovski Wacker – not exactly a club making waves and hardly asking fantastic amount of transfer money. True, Spain got two of the best world players at the time, but the rest of the imports were not that great and did not cost an arm and a leg. Cruiff’s transfer, however, was a record: Real paid 922, 000 British pounds to Ajax…that’s loose change nowadays. Yet, Spanish market boosted transfer fees and eventually more and more expensive stars moved to Spain.
Michels and Cruiff together again. Cruiff presented hippie attitudes on the surface, but very different ones in reality – when Barcelona told him number 14 is out of the question, he simply donned traditional number 9. Good bye famous number; good morning record paycheque.
The second huge transfer – Gunter Netzer joined Real Madrid. Unlike Cruiff, the German was not a conformist. Also unlike Cruiff, Netzer was not very successful in Spain.

Monday, April 5, 2010

European Footballer of the Year in 1973 was once again Johan Cruiff. It is not so sure 1973 was his best year, but surely Cruiff was coming into maturity. And no longer only at club level – the national team of Holland finally capitalized on the talent Dutch clubs possessed. A national team led by Cruiff. There was no sharper contrast between European and South American football than their top players – down South past was celebrated. In Europe – the present. Hardly a contest – Cruiff and total football ruled the world.

Cruiff got twice more points than the second placed Dino Zoff. Beckenbauer – the biggest rival of Cruiff – was 4th. 66 points behind. Note that there was no pre-selection of players back than and the full lists were larger than today. I am not at all sure that both Ronaldos would be ranked so high without pre-selections – the reason is the above example: Cruiff was robbed of points by contemporary standards, for die-hards still voted for Eusebio and Rivera (both fading and more akin to the situation of Pele – increasingly belonging to the gone 1960s). Well, the best is the best – Cruiff already twice the best European player.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

South American Footballer of the Year. Pele was voted number one. Well, the King was still King, it seems. However, there was and is doubt: Pele’s Santos was not winning anything. Pele himself was no longer called to play for the national team. Both the King and his club were increasingly regarded part of the 1960s, not the 70s. Players like Leivinha were talked about, not Pele – and, mind, Leivinha never got aristocratic status.
Looks like the South Americans awarded the prize as a tribute to the great player, not because 1973 was a particularly great season for him. Younger and more actual players – Tostao and Teofilo Cubillas won the previous years and another younger player will be voted number one in the next three seasons. As a whole, 1973 was not very great year for South American football, with many realizing that European football moved way ahead. Awarding the King was in a way a recognition that nothing really great happens at the present.

Pele in attack. Old picture of an aging King… and one more award in the name of the past.