Monday, August 30, 2010

Argentina on the other hand had no broken legs. Rather, no such were seen through Argentine lenses: the country was plummeting into her own political and economic nightmare, but football was… healthy? May be not, but the gauchos always consider their football great, so by default 1974 was great too – going to win the World Cup. True, every club was in fantastic debt, players were going abroad by alarming numbers, and River Plate and Boca Juniors were miserable, but – hey! Independiente ruled the world! Not Argentina, though… Newell’s Old Boys won Metropolitano.
The Argentine structure was becoming inadequate, at least linguistically: Metropolitano, technically the Buenos Aires championship, was won by the club from Rosario.

The Nacional was won by San Lorenzo.
Well, Buenos Aires lost her own championship, but won the national one.
Top, left to right: Glaria, Pris, Anhielo, Olguin, Telch.
Bottom: Cocco, Scotta, Chazarreta, Beltran, Ortiz, Villar (cut off, unfortunately).
Now, both winners are traditionally strong, but hardly among the biggest and most successful. They provided some national players, yet, the fun was mostly for their fans – neither club made big international impression at the time. More likely it was the general mess of the Argentine football, the weakness of River and Boca, the decline of Estudiantes, and the preoccupation with international competitions of Independentiente, propelling Newell’s Old Boys and San Lorenzo to their titles. Fans will disagree, of course.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Uruguay - politics messed with football too. With left wing terrorism, dire economic situation, and increasing involvement of the army, the country was hardly normal anymore. The military ruled effectively, although not formally, and their policy was simple – tacitly support Penarol, but no more. In a way football was left alone, except Penarol – the ‘people’s club’ won its 32nd title, but little can be said about this otherwise great achievement. More or less, it was the same team of the year before (so look back at the old posting for 1973, if interested). The only big news was Walter Olivera – the star defender broke his leg and was out.
Olivera with his crutches.
His injury was more of a national team problem, than Penarol’s and the media hype around his broken leg was weaved around the coming World Cup. He missed it, of course, and in a way perhaps Olivera on crutches is the best metaphor for the Uruguayan football of this year.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chile had brand new champion – CD Huachipato (Talcahuano).
The club was founded in 1947 and normally played in First Division, but had never been a strong force. They won their only title in 1974, but… the country was in turmoil and hardly very interested in football. The club’s nickname is ‘Steelers’ – which sounds rather menacing in the context. They had a player named Francisco Pinochet – and the country was ruled by General Augusto Pinochet. To win the title Huachipato had to win their last match against Aviacion, newly promoted and too military sounding club. Huachipato won… strange co-incidents…
Top row, left to right: Luis Mendy, Hugo Riveros, Francisco Pinochet, Eddio Inostroza, Flavio Silva, Guillermo Azocar.
Bottom: Luis Caseres, Daniel Diaz, Carlos Alberto Sintas, Mario Salinas, Luis Godoy.
Top right corner, from left: Moises Silva; Miguel Neira and Pablo Astudillo. Everything is relative, though: for Huachipato fans 1974 is the year ‘never to be forgotten’. A title is a title… especially if it is only one. Politics vs football…

Monday, August 23, 2010

South America produced some new champions and some old ones, but in a situation very different from the European scene. The four South American World Cup finalists were politically… strange? Chile had military coup d’etat in 1973 and fresh dictatorship. Brazil had old military dictatorship… Argentina was going fast towards its own military dictatorship, and Uruguay? Well, it was de facto military dictatorship, with pro forma civilian President. Since football is never far from politics in South America, there were some interesting developments – coaches were fired or hired in part because of their politics. Some army men were strongly interested in football, some were not… Some thought football important safety valve; others – a dangerous channel for expressing political anger. In any case football was affected – and there were new champions. In Uruguay the junta quietly supported Penarol – the most popular and also the ‘people’s’ club in the country. Apart from this – no real interest in football. Thus, many oppositional politicians barred from political life went into football to continued it under cover. The current Uruguayan President was the President of Racing (Montevideo) in 1974. Shaky political situation in Argentina seemingly affected the big clubs – neither River Plate, nor Boca Juniors played major role in Argentine football in the early 70s. Smaller clubs ruled instead. In Chile – the clubs from the capital lost ground, particularly the most popular Colo-Colo. In 1974 the champions were provincial – Huachipato, not exactly famous club. Later clubs from mining towns got increasingly stronger. In Brazil – well, new champions in 1974, but the government involvement was tricky and shady – the most visible influence was the national team. A player was included in the national team for the World Cup 1970 because the President ‘suggested’ so – in 1973-74 the ‘suggestion’ was regarding Pele, who stated that he was no more to play for the national team. The government stated otherwise: that there is always a place for Pele in the team. If the King wants – he will be included. No matter when. No matter what form he had. No matter anything. The national coach had no problem with that at all – he said the same. Was he just bowing to power? Was he honestly inviting Pele? The truth is hidden… only tangential hints: Joao Saldanha, well known left-wing politically, was replaced by Mario Zagallo just before the World Cup 1970. Zagallo included the President’s favourite player, but did not field him at all. Zagallo included only the players he wanted in 1974 and Pele was not among them. Unlike 1970, this year Brazil lost and Zagallo was removed. How much politics and how much football?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Going down – FC Paris. The strange and administrative nightmare concocted in 1971 to give Paris a big club finally distilled into two separate clubs – Paris Saint Germain was to be a French power… FC Paris sunk.
Back, left to right: Gallina, Kula, Djorkaeff, Rostagni, Zorzetto, Horlaville.
Bottom: Floch, Guignedoux, Felix, Spiegler, Cohuet.
Not long ago Djorkaeff and Rostagni were national players and now they were going to play in the Second Division… such misfortune. The rest of the squad is not so bad either – and Zorzetto, Cohuet, Floch, some others will return to the top of French football pyramid. Alas, not the club – FC Paris departed to oblivion. The club does exist today – but it is small and lowly.
Actually, the photo is from before the sinking season, but interesting one: see Mordechai Spiegler. The Israeli national player moved to Paris SG in the summer of 1973. In the summer of 1974 he joined Cosmos (New York), where he played until 1977 – long enough to be teammate with Pele. Not bad for a guy born in Sochi (USSR).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Going up in Europe? Eintracht (Braunschweig). They were relegated just a year ago, but returned quickly in the last year there were no Second Division and regional champions competed for two spots in the Bundesliga.

Celebrating left to right: Weber, Franke (standing), Deppe, Erler, Grzyb, and Habermann. Looks like very plain celebration? No balloons, no naked girls, no outrage? Well, those were the early 70s… professional players were supposed to have fun only on the pitch. And they smile a little, shout a little, have some Coca-Cola, and go home. At least that was what the public and the media expected from them. Was it true or not – who cares? The boys went up – now, that mattered. At least in Braunschweig. Unlucky Franke… celebrating return to first division when his former teammates in the West German national team were celebrating World Cup title.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Italians were sick, but West Germany had clean bill of health. The Bundesliga was getting better by the year, although it was not yet considered the best in Europe, and the place to be, to play, and to make money. This will come in the second half of the 70s, for now it was just financially stable and very well organized championship. Satisfied with the state of their football, West German Federation took the next careful, sound, and orderly step – in the summer of 1974 professional second division was organized for the first time. It was divided into 2 groups – South and North – of 18 teams each. The only trouble was the summer of 1973, when predatory Spanish clubs were finally allowed to hunt foreign markets. Netzer went to Real (Madrid) without much fuss, but Barcelona wanted Gerd Muller. It was strange appetite, to say the least – Barca already acquired Sotil and completed satisfactory the long soap-opera with Cruiff. Why they needed third foreign player since it was impossible to field everybody under the Spanish rules? And why Muller of all people? The possible mixture of Cruiff and Muller was more than suspect: Muller was mostly a consumer, but Cruiff was not strictly provider. Both were centre-forwards, but of very different kinds – Muller was rather static, occupying the penalty area and waiting the ball to come. Cruiff needed space – empty space – in which to arrive suddenly from behind or from the flanks. He provided great passes, but to make him just Muller’s supplier was more than unlikely – it was lethal, given Cruiff’s stubborn and outspoken character. Anyway, Barca pursued Muller in a way quickly becoming another soap opera. Muller got troubled and publicly complained that he is psychologically exhausted and deeply troubled by the whole thing. Then the German Federation stepped in and introduced a ban on sales of German players to foreign clubs until the end of the World Cup 1974. The ban attracted little interest at the time – it was common practice of many countries back then, familiar to everyone. Many countries even went a step further in protecting talent by declaring stars a ‘national treasure’, therefore, entirely outside the market (Pele in Brasil; Antoniadis in Greece – to give you examples from different sides of football). But the German ban need a word: although expressed in general terms, it was imposed only on national players. Minor players were free to go abroad. In reality it was ban preventing only Spanish clubs (no other foreign market at the time was interested or able to afford German stars) from muddling German heads with no-playing matters. It was time, in German opinion, to concentrate on football and get ready for winning the World Cup. The ban worked – at least for Muller, who apparently recovered from his psychological trauma and started scoring goals.
Bayern won the championship – again. And again – after close fight with Borussia (Moenchengladbach), who finished only 2 points behind. Bayern still played attacking and high scoring brand of football – they scored 95 goals this season. Outscoring the opposition was evidently the idea, not defense, judging by the fact of the goals received – 52. Now, to have Maier between the posts and Hansen – Beckenbauer – Schwarzenbeck – Breitner in front of him and to allow almost 2 goals per match? Other clubs had better defensive records, but it was not a bad season for the formidable defensive line – it was just the concept of attacking and outscoring. Muller ended once again top scorer of the season with 30 goals, but this year had to share the first place with Jupp Heynckes from the rivals Borussia. ‘Der Kaiser’ Franz was voted player of the season – for third time so far, but it was his first since 1968.
More and more familiar champion faces…
Top, left to right: Beckenbauer, Kapellmann, Torstensson, Schwarzenbeck, Durnberger, Roth, Muller, Breitner, Hoeness, and half-cut coach Udo Lattek, who was by no means half a coach.
Bottom: Zobel, Hadewicz, Jensen, Robl, Maier, Hansen.
Essentially the same team of the year before and earlier, only slightly refined by the inclusion of Kapellmann and Torstensson. The number of foreigners was unusually high – three Danes – Johnny Hansen, Viggo Jensen, and Torben Hansen; a Swede – Conny Torstensson; and an Yugoslav – Dusan Jovanovic – but with the exception of Johnny Hansen and Torstensson, the rest almost never played. Season over, domestic and European trophies collected, 7 players went to try to win the World Cup and one went to try to prevent his teammates from winning the World Cup. Torstensson joined the Swedish national team; Beckenbauer, Kapellmann, Schwarzenbeck, Muller, Breitner, Hoeness, and Maier donned the white jerseys of West Germany. Everything was going great in Bavaria.
On the surface, West Germany appeared to be establishing duopoly – since 1969 Bayern and Borussia fought for and alternatively won the national championship. But they were not alone and other clubs also were improving rapidly. True, Schalke 04 were cut-off in mid-flight by the bribing scandal in 1971, but there were other candidates for possible greatness. By 1974 Hamburger SV showed signs of recovery; Fortuna (Dusseldorf) was quietly getting stronger - and finished third this season; and finally - Eintracht (Frankfurt). Eintracht played consistently strong football since the end of the 60s and built fine squad. It looked like they were to become a third great German team, thus making the championship even more interesting and, in general, to contribute to the constant improvement of German football with new crops of talented players.

Eintracht (Frankfurt) won the Cup.
Left to right: Thomas Rohrbach, Bernd Nickel, Bernd Holzenbein, Peter Reichel, Jurgen Kalb, Roland Weidle, Klaus Beverungen, Charly Korbel, Gerd Trinklein, Dr. Peter Kunter, Jurgen Grabowski – captain.
Unlike Bayern and Borussia, Eintracht depended mostly in German players at that time – they had only one foreigner, the Austrian midfielder Thomas Parits. The core of team was German and good mixture of experience, younger talent, and ambition. Grabowski and Holzenbein were in the World Cup German squad – and on the road to become world famous. Rohrbach, Nickel, Korbel, and Trinklein were knocking at the door of the national team and were considered very promising players for the future (none of them established himself in the national team, although all played for it eventually). Reichel, Kalb – players, providing solidity. And the class – Doctor Peter Kunter. Always ‘Doctor’, for those were still old-fashioned years and to be Dr. was something – certainly more than to be football player, even of world star caliber. Dr. Kunter was experienced and well respected goalkeeper. Very good team really and finally mature, and ready to win. And win they did! Yes, German football was in great health and the future was bright… just wait a year, two the most.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

If we are talking tricks and ‘never mind how we won, for only a win counts’, Italy is the perfect place. The classic place. Scandals – sure! 1973-74? A kind of a scandal too. Lazio (Rome) won its first ever title.
Nobody liked that, apart Lazio fans. Now, Rome is disliked in Italy, but Lazio were something else – they were and are considered Fascist. As for that – consider the Communists: the most outspoken player of this conviction, Paolo Sollier (Perugia) publicly said during the season that the only thing he wanted when seeing Lazio fans is to have a rifle and kill all of them. Little wonder the ‘curva’ greetd him chanting ‘Murderer’. Never mind… Lazio were – are – bad… and bad they were. Rough team. Perhaps the first team to fight among themselves during official match – today that’s the fashion, but it was not in the 70s. Lazio did it (Chinaglia attacked D’Amico at San Siro), however, and more – the team was so divided between ‘northerners’ and ‘southerners’, that two separate changing rooms were used. Each group to its own. Except for rugged defender Wilson, who belonged to the Northerners dressing room, but was also good friends with Chinaglia. The coach found that the best way to prepare the team was to leave them to play between themselves – they did it viciously for hours, until it was so dark nobody could see the ball. Their politics were no fun either, however exaggerated – Giorgio Chinaglia openly supported right wing parties and he was not alone. Curiously, order was the attractions for him. Sounds familiar? Sounds like today? ‘Security’ better than rights? It was very bad to say that in the 70s… Curiously again Chinaglia grew up in Wales, and along with Guiseppe Wilson, born in England, was not exactly native Italian. Both were rejected by grand British clubs as hopeless – in Cinagla’s case, the expert judgement came from Swansea City: he was dismissed as hopeless. And there was more to build a myth – weapons, leather coats, and fascination with parachute jumping. The latter happened to be preferred pastime of the Fascists of old. Elitist too. Add the guns… almost everybody in the team had one, and they shoot for fun. Lazio’s goalkeeper recalled that it was a casual thing someone of the squad to burst into your room in the morning and to shoot his pistol between your legs as a joke. To wake you up. The myth was eternally established when the midfielder Re Cecconi was killed after a prank in 1977 – he and a teammate went to a jewelry store and Re Cecconi pretended he has a pistol, shouting it is a robbery and asking for the stuff. The owner was not amused, got out his own weapon and shoot Re Cecconi dead. It added to the Fascist myth – Re Cecconi was blond, the Arian type… why even ask what were his political views (he had none). He belonged to the Northerners locker room, the ‘mellow’ one, and – irony of ironies – was one of the few players not to keep a pistols on himself all the time. Never mind Cinagla’s moving to USA in 1974: he never was a political problem in New York (the first real star Cosmos got), but he is a fascist in Italy to this very day… and he was not. Anyway, given the violence and the anarchy, and the bad rap, it is a miracle Lazio won the Italian championship. One of the biggest miracles in football really – these guys were unable to share a changing room! There was no chemistry between them, they hated each other… the very antipode of successful squad. And they won!
The team everybody, including the very members of it, loved to hate.
Bottom, left to right: Vincenzo D’Amico, Massimo Silva, Giuliano Fortunato, Pierpaolo Manservisi, Ferruccio Mazzola, Franco Nanni, Lugli, Renzo Garlaschelli, Luciano Re Cecconi, Mario Frustalupi, Sergio Petrelli, Labrocca, Filippo - masseur.
Top: Roberto Lovati – assistant coach, Ghiggi – assistant coach, Giorgio Chinaglia, Luigi Polentes, Giancarlo Oddi, Avelino Moriggi, Tommaso Maestrelli – coach, Gaetano Legnaro, Bruno Chinellato, Felice Pulici, Luigi Martini, Mario Facco, Guiseppe Wilson.
By Italian standards, not a great selection – no adorable mega-stars around. Surely some national players – Chinaglia, Wilson, Re Cecconi, Pulici – but given the reputation of the club, the 1974 World Cup fiasco provided perfect excuse to get rid of them and also to blame them, particularly the arch-villain Chinaglia, for the failure. If there was anything sweet at all, it was Ferruccio Mazzola, the brother of the superstar Sandro Mazzola, who was given a chance to win a title at last. In his last playing season the veteran played a few games, mostly in jest – he was no longer regular starter, but the few minutes on the pitch were good for a gold medal at the end. However, the good will was lost to the general negative view of Lazio. And because of same negativity it is difficult to judge what exactly the champions represented – a new wind in Italian football, or just lucky strike during particularly low time? Surely Lazio played different football – more physical, more pragmatic, more English somehow, with Chinaglia in front. Whatever he was, he knew how to score goals. Deadly headers. The team also had something of the German attitude – may be dull, but strubborn and never giving up the fight, they run to the last minute. Beauty was not in the books; winning was. No matter how… perhaps the most openly brutal Italian team. Yet… brutality, winning by hook or crook – these were traditional ‘qualities’ of Italian football. Tough and rough playing, good physical condition, abandoning artistry to get favourable results, mean treatment of opponents… it seems Lazio added nothing new, except they made it raw, open. No pretenses, just straight bullying. However, they were different, and are considered an approximation of total football, I guess for lack of better name for their style. I am inclined to think Lazio won mostly because everybody else was in bad shape – Milan and Inter were dangerously aging and Juventus was still in transition and rebuilding. And Italian football was outdated, stuck in the 60s – Lazio simply took temporary advantage and sunk in obscurity immediately after 1974. Only Chinaglia returned to the spotlights – he was Lazio President between 1983 and 1986 (and got new ill fame: charged with false accounting and fraudulent bankruptcy. With him as president, Lazio went really down to the drain.)
The hatred of Lazio in 1973-74 depreciated interesting things and hid negative events. Chinaglia was the top goal scorer with 24 goals and no one paid attention – perhaps they had to pay attention, because of the nature of his play, so different from traditional Italian patterns. Lazio were by no means high scoring team – they ended with 45 goals total. Their centre forward scored more than half of them! In Italy… where every defense consists of natural born killers. But never mind the Fascist… There was a bribing scandal again this season – Verona was punished with relegation; Sampdoria had 3 points deducted and barely escaped relegation; Foggia had 6 points deducted and relegated; Milan was involved; Napoli was involved… never mind, mind the Fascists, real or imagined. The season was no fun; Italian football was bad… never mind. Bologna won the Cup, but winning is just a polite word… they extracted victory from lowly Palermo in a penalty shoot-out. And if Lazio were nobodies, what great players Bologna had? Mmm… at least they were not Fascists… and Italy was to win the World Cup this year. Not only the Italians thought so.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Netherlands present an enigma. By 1974 the Dutch were the talk of everybody, meaning Ajax and Feyenoord, and recently added national team. But the Dutch championship was considered low grade – and still is. No talking about that. And another thing: Ajax suddenly collapsed, yet Dutch football – meaning the national team – was prime considered favourite for the World Cup finals. True, the gap between the leading clubs and the rest of the Holland’s top division was great, but there were changes. Anyhow, the big news was Ajax – they were envisioned to rule European football for many years, but expired in the fall of 1973. Two changes contributed to the collapse and the beginning of the ‘dark years’, as the period until mid-80s is referred to in the club’s history. Cruiff was sold to Barcelona, but nobody considered it fatal loss in the summer of 1973 – after all Ajax had world-class stars at almost every position. Surely the loss of the genius would be compensated by the talent of the rest. But there was another change, much more dangerous in my opinion: Stefan Kovacs was unloaded, apparently becoming too expensive for the club. Whether Kovacs was great coach or not is a matter of futile debate: the Romanian did not change the playing style of the team and created friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Players liked him – at least the key figures in the squad – and felt free. Kovacs was replaced by Dutch coach – one Georg Knobel. True to their parsimonious attitudes, Ajax did not spent big money for big names, preferring cheap unknowns. So Knobel… whatever reputation he had in Holland (for outside he had none), he lost it this season (which did not stop the Dutch Federation to appoint him the national team coach a bit later). His statement that Jan Mulder, finally healthy, will be perfect replacement of Cruijff was funny to everyone – Mulder surely was no Cruijff. Laughter is laughter, the statement was not taken seriously, but Knobel tried to change the style of Ajax. This the players found conservative and resisted – and the downfall quickly followed. Two more foreigners were added for this year – the German journeyman Arno Steffenhagen and the Hungarian defector Zoltan Varga, both participants in the German bribing scandal and penalized for that, therefore, they were acquired cheaply. Great additions they were not, but hardly for blame – Knobel was the culprit of undoing of the great team.

Ajax finished third in the league, but played badly and the European Champions Cup displayed on the photo will be an empty dream for the next 20 years.
Feyenoord won the title, but for them – later, for they won the UEFA Cup this year too. For now – only one thing: somehow the club changed its name between 1972 and 74 from Feijenoord to Feyenoord. PSV Eindhoven won the Cup, beating lowly NAC Breda 6-0 at the final.
Now, the factory club of Phillips is one the big three in Dutch football, but started getting some European respect at 1974. It was still a long way to repeating the success of Ajax and Feyenoord, but PSV established itself as the pretty much the best club in Holland for many years to come.

Really, a good squad and a good coach, although all were to become well known names yet. Jan van Beveren was the best Dutch goalkeeper at the time and van Kraay, van der Kuylen, Lubse also were no strangers to the national team. The van der Kerkhof twins were to become the most famous of the this squad – in the very same 1974, thanks to the World Cup. The three foreign players provided additional quality – the Dane Bent Schmidt-Hansen not so much, but the two Swedish internationals Nordqvist and Edstrom were something else – the former, although old, was soon to be the player with most appearances for his national team in the world. Edstrom was to be a star for many years and well into the 1980s. A well balanced team really, which played a bit more physical game than Ajax and Feyenoord – a game better suited for the next years, as it turned out. Holland was on the verge of having a forth strong team that year – it really looked like a major transformation from insignificant to great league driven by vanguard football. Twente (Enchede) finished second, only 2 points behind the champions of Feyenoord.

Officially, the club was formed in 1965 – a young club without traditions, but this is a bit misleading, for Twente is a result of mergers and transformations of older amateur clubs. By 1974 the club had solid team, featuring a number of second-string national players and future national players – Pahlplatz, van Ierssel, Jeuring, Zuidema, Notten, Thijssen. Add the well respected in Holland Oranen, Drost, and Achterberg. The national team goalkeeper Piet Schrijvers was also there, but he was sold to Ajax after the season. The young coach Antoine Kohn also looked promising – at his age it was expected from him to follow total football, not some outdated tactical scheme.
Bottom, left to right: Kick van der Vall, Willem de Vries, Kalle Oranen, Rene Notten, Eddy Achterberg.
Middle: Antoine Kohn – coach, Frans Thijssen, Roel Brinks, Harry Bruggink, Johan Zuidema, Epi Drost, Jan Morsing – assistant coach.
Top: Henry Ardesch, Cees van Ierssel, Jan Streuer, Jaap Bos, Jan Jeuring, Theo Pahlplatz, Marc de Clerck.
This is really the squad for 1974-75, but the only difference from 1973-74 is the absence of Schrijvers, replaced by the Belgian de Clerck, player of no significance and a reserve goalie. Good squad? Yes… but the fate of small club is cursed. Twente were good for a year or two, then they had to sell – Schrijvers was followed by Notten in 1975 – and quickly faded away. Twente was just the first of almost-there, almost great, Dutch clubs – later there were AZ’67, JC Roda… for a while. Alas, nothing big established permanently in Holland – only Ajax, Feyenoord, and PSV Eindhoven remained strong. Small league… The success of Twente was tainted many years later – when in the early 1990s few of the former players suffered from cancer and heart failures, the former national player Rene Notten one of them. He died in 1995. It turned out that the club used doubtful methods to boost performance – blood transfusion. No doping and nothing illegal at the time… but later? Hard to judge: the Finnish long distance runner Lasse Viren pioneered the method and won Olympic gold medals. Keith Richards of the Rollingstones had many and is still alive and kicking. Twente players got sick and died… was it really a team on the verge of greatness, or was it a team pushed beyond human limit? After all, from this squad only Frans Thijssen really had success – with Ipswich Town at the beginning of the 1980s.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Yugoslavia, the most interesting East European country in football matters, was peculiarly divided as ever – the big Belgrade rivalry between Crvena zvezda and Partizan on one hand, and the big Serbian – Croatian rivalry on the other. Croatian football itself supplied local rivalry between Dynamo (Zagreb) and Hajduk (Split) and along these intricate lines four clubs normally competed for trophies, with occasional other club sneaking in temporary. In the early 70s Dynamo (Zagreb) was in decline, but Hajduk was in great shape and really the major force of the whole decade. Among the top four, Hajduk was the oldest club and coming from the smallest city too. They also had a system similar to the practice of Ajax (Amsterdam): great youth organization, constantly producing strong players, which the club carefully sold abroad. It was never wholesale, but with care to preserve solid team – during the decade only one player went abroad on his own, disregarding club’s policy, and, in a way, proved the soundness of the policy – Slavisa Zungul ruined his career by going to the USA, where he played indoor football and disappeared from sight. Anyway, Hajduk won double in 1974 – their 7th champioship and 4th Cup.

Top, left to right: Dragan Holcer – captian, Rizah Meskovic, Ivan Buljan, Luka Peruzovic, Vedran Rozic, Drazen Muzinic.
Bottom: Ivica Matkovic, Jure Jerkovic, Branko Oblak, Micun Jovanic, Ivica Surjak.Now, this squad was something – 7 national players, 6 of whom played at the World Cup 1974. Holcer was sold abroad, for he was no longer needed for national duty at 29 years of age. The rest were very young and all of them – Buljan, Peruzovic, Muzinic, Jerkovic, Oblak, and Surjak – were among the big European stars of the 70s and early 80s, eventually playing for clubs like Bayern, Hamburger SV, Anderlecht. The reserves should be mentioned as well, for some of them soon became national players as well – Vilson Dzoni, Mario Boljat, Ivan Katalinic, Slavisa Zungul, Goran Jurisic. With the exception of Oblak the team was homegrown. The coach deserves mentioning: nobody yet knew Tomislav Ivic, but soon everybody recognized him as one of the best European coaches of the late 70s and the 80s. Hajduk (Split) were by far the best East European club in 1974, but Yugoslavian football was traditionally good, so nothing surprising really. What a team, though!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Poland, still off the radar of European interest, never had two-club monopoly and unlike most East-European states, the clubs from the capital city played little role in domestic football. In the 1960s Gornik from the mining town of Zabrze came close to domination, but by 1974 the squad aged, players retired one after the other and for the moment the club was in transition. Other clubs took leading positions, but only temporary ones. The champions changed every year and Ruch (Chorzow) shined this one with a double.
Ruch won its second Cup and impressive 11th championship. However, it was the first title since 1968.
Bottom, left to right: Lorenczyk, Wyrobek, Drzewiecki, Gomoluch, Bula, Rudnow.
Top: Maruszka, Ostafinski, Bajger, Bon, Kurowski, Vican – coach, Czaja, Marx, Beniger, Maszczyk, Kopicera.
A well blended squad really – old stars like Gomoluch, Bula, Beniger; players from the Olympic 1972 champion team – Czaja, Ostafinski; current national players – Marx, Wyrobek, Maszczyk; a player yet to be invited to the national team – Kopicera. Their Czechoslovak (today – Slovak) coach Michal Vican was something too – not only a good coach, but peculiar as well: he was a big enemy of drinking alcohol and… Coca-Cola. Perhaps ban on Coke is the key to success.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

1973-74 season deserves one last bittersweet note: CSKA introduced new goalkeeper in the spring half of the season – Simeon Simeonov. Arguably the best ever Bulgarian goalkeeper spent his whole career in Slavia (Sofia), but he suffered psychological collapse during the World Cup 1970 – something rather common for goalies – and did not play a single match until 1974. Bad injuries also contributed to his long absence, but the player was neglected, if not abandoned, by everybody, including his club. He was relegated to third goalie in Slavia and was not listed even among reserves. But by the beginning of 1974 CSKA had acute problem: their usual goalkeepers were injured and they claimed they had no keeper at all left when still playing the European Champions Cup. The whole story was murky: for years CSKA used alternatively Stoyan Yordanov and Yordan Filipov, both national players of similar age. Often there was a third keeper who almost never played. Yordanov was injured and Filipov … nowadays it is said that Filipov was injured for a long time, but who knows for sure – I remember that he was banned twice ‘for life’ by his club for some disciplinary infringements. It was never made official and both times he was quietly forgiven. Nobody mentions that today, just like nobody mentions the shameful neglect of Simeonov by Slavia. Anyhow, claiming ‘patriotic duties’ CSKA asked for little bending of transfer rules and acquired Simeonov on loan to the end of the season. It was not fair really – nobody else ever got such permission for irregular transfer and CSKA did have at least one healthy goalkeeper – one Drazho Stoyanov, their reserve goalie at the time, who mostly appeared on team photos and never played. Now he was conveniently omitted from existence… and permission was granted. Simeonov was loyal Slavia player and never wanted to play anywhere else, but took the chance and joined CSKA. The unusual permission was unusual to the end – there were no ‘loans’ in officially amateur football, but it was announced as a loan. Apparently, Simeonov had no desire to play permanently for CSKA and the rules did not permit transfers at that time, so loan it was… ‘Mony’ Simeonov had splendid spring, topped by excellent performance during the spring derby between CSKA and Levsky-Spartak (1-1 tie). In 81st minute Pavel Panov, Levsky’s star, made beautiful header after a dangerous cross and the goal was certain. But Simeonov jumped and made a fantastic save – a moment of rare beauty, which was acknowledged by both players. Panov run to Simeonov, still on the ground, helped him to get up, and both players shook hands with mutual respect and admiration. The whole stadium applauded, probably the only time the mutually hostile fans of Levsky and CSKA acted in unison – it was a magic moment of football followed by great and rare gesture of sportsmanship, perhaps the last in Bulgarian football. It was even stranger, because the derby was often a bitter and ugly clash of brutality, simulations, and complaints, and this match was brutal one as well. But at that moment football won, not the war – two great masters performed splendidly and delighted themselves and the stands. Simeonov played so well he was included in the national squad for the World Cup (his third!) He returned to Slavia after the season ended… and never played again, relegated to 4th goalie this time… It was sad, to say the least… true, Mony had health problems and many injuries, but I don’t think he was incapable of playing – the spring of 1974 showed otherwise. Football is often insane: Mony nailed to the bench again, but Filipov, banished ‘for life’, suddenly back as if nothing happened. It was not the players – it was the politics of running the game providing plenty of insanity. Simeonov was practically forgotten and discarded by everybody – I doubt even Slavia fans know when he officially retired… for he was non-person since 1970. But the delight of seeing – and remembering – this 81st minute is more than winning a derby!
Simeon Simeonov, Bulgarian player of the year in 1968 and entirely forgotten by 1974.
Pavel Panov, Bulgarian player of the year in 1977.
The heroes of both football beauty and sportsmanship. The present is one thing; the past – another. Fans always claim victimization whenever a single point is lost. This match is judged in a funny way after the fact. Levsky supporters usually remember it and consider it fair, adding that Mony, not real CSKA player, saved CSKA. CSKA fans normally don’t remember the match – for the same reason: Mony was not theirs. Talk fairness and gratitude in football… no such. Talk daggers instead.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Speaking of Secret Political Police… let’s move to Bulgaria. Unlike the countries so far, Bulgaria was – and is – a classic duality: two clubs rule domestic football. In the Communist days of the 1970s – another classic confrontation: the Army vs the Police, with a local twist. Communist Party favoured the Army club; the Police became a power only for other political reasons – the most popular Bulgarian club Levsky had irritating fans, suspected of anti-Communism. So merge them with the antipode of freedom – the cops. Never stayed well with Levsky’s fans, but what were we able to do apart from the meek omission of the second part of the club’s new name… Politics aside, 1973-74 was good year for Levsky-Spartak – a title! And more, at least in the fall of 1973 – the club played the closest to total football kind of game it ever played. After the disaster of 1972-73 nobody expected anything and – worse – the fans stopped coming to the stadium. The club made an attempt to get some attendance by introducing free access to school students. Soon they were sorry for not charging – the team played so good, the crowds returned and free access did not last for long. The transformation was unsuspected in view of the summer transfers: Levsky-Spartak unloaded some dead meat, but got only two players – the midfielder Stefan Pavlov, not at all a new name, but he was politically disliked by the Police chiefs of the club and made to move out. Pavlov played the previous year for Slavia (Sofia) and was asked to come back. The other new boy was the burly centre-forward of Akademik (Sofia) Kiril Milanov. A typical striker of the British type, Milanov was good in the air and gave no quarter to anybody too. Good headers, goal scoring ability, menacing presence in the penalty area, Milanov was the player Levsky-Spartak was badly missing in the last 2-3 years, for traditionally the club depended on excellent centre forwards and after the death of Asparukhov there was none. But there was more – everybody was healthy at last, most importantly the fast fragile right winger Vesselinov. Between the posts previously shaky Stefan Staykov not only got confidence, but displayed fantastic form , his best ever. The team played standard 4-3-3 formation, with big effort to cover the whole field and to play in the manner of total football, with defensemen attacking and players from the vanguard lines going back to cover. The team had key reserves ready to get in and provide a change if needed, particularly the old left winger Vasil Mitkov, who was practically 12th player of the team – coming almost every match and scoring important goals. The fall everything was great – 14 wins and 1 tie, 7 points ahead of CSKA. The sweetest victory was against arch-enemy CSKA – 1-0. The goal was scored by the left back of CSKA - their new boy Tzonyo Vasilev panicked; the goalie went too far ahead asking for a back pass, but they misunderstood each other and the ball went aside from the goalie and towards the net. Vesselinov, who caused Vasilev’s panic, run after the ball, but without touching it – he only guarded it, until it crossed the goal line. It was sweet – if one is a Levsky fan indeed… Levsky lost a single point in a suspect to me match: Spartak (Pleven) had a very bad season and feared relegation, but they belonged to the Police too and were affiliated in a way with Levsky-Spartak. To my mind, Levsky gave them a point to survive (they did) – and this was the biggest difference between Levsky and CSKA: the Army boys never gave anything to their satellites. If a satellite was in bad situation, CSKA just beat them to a pulp to improve their goal difference. They never showed mercy and were better for that – they never suffered against lowly opponents. Levsky, on the other hand, often underestimated lower clubs, played sluggishly, and often lost vital points. CSKA were just better overall fighters without any sentiments. Which showed in the spring half of the season – Levsky played terrible football, apparently sure of the title and relaxing or collapsing. Vesselinov was injured again, this time for good, but it was the sluggish uninspired game the Blues played. They struggled every match, the first team obviously out of form and the juniors introduced with the hope of change were even worse. The advantage from the fall dwindled, but was big enough to assure the championship. A title is a title, but the national team was affected badly to a point – champions are natural choice for national teams, and there were plenty of Levsky players in the Bulgarian World Cup squad. Suffice to say they contributed exactly nothing at the finals in West Germany. But I cherish Levsky played in the fall of 1973 to this very day. And a curious note: Kiril Milanov played with number 14 this season – the first Bulgarian player to use unorthodox number. At the time everybody thought that Milanov copied Cruiff. Recently he said that he used number 14 by chance – he felt that he was not equal to the great Asparukhov and out of respect and shame refused to wear number 9 shirt, taking randomly one of the reserve shirts. It turned out to be number 14 and he used it the whole season. But only this season – either forced, or by own choice, Milanov returned to number 9 the next and to the end of his career.
Top, left to right: Zh. Traykov – assistant coach, St. Staykov, K. Milanov, M. Gaydarsky, T. Dzhefersky, D. Zhechev, D. Doychinov – coach, K. Ivkov, P. Panov, I. Tronkov, G. Tzvetkov, B. Mikhaylov, Al. Kostov – assistant coach.Bottom: Tzv. Vesselinov, St. Pavlov, Iv. Stoyanov, G. Dobrev, G. Kamensky, Ch. Trifonov, G. Todorov, St. Aladzhov, V. Voynov, V. Mitkov.
Levsky-Spartak posing with the trophy – their 12th title. The strength of the team was its constancy: Staykov last; Gaydarsky – Zhechev – Ivkov – Aladzov in defnce; Stoyanov – Pavlov – Panov in midfield; and Vesselinov – Milanov – Voynov in attack. The left winger Mitkov normally came in the second half, providing variety, for Voynov moved to his usual right wing position when Mitkov stepped in. The reserves were experienced and strong players – Biser Mikhaylov (goalkeeper), Todorov (defense), Tzvetkov (centre forward). At least that was the case in the fall. The rest of the squad was rarely used and mostly in the spring. With the exception of Todorov everybody else of the above played at one or another time for the national team.
The Cup final was played unusually late – in August, just before the beginning of the new season – because of the World Cup. Thus, the selections were those for 1974-75 season, CSKA particularly introducing new players. CSKA and Levsky-Spartak met and CSKA won 2-1 in extra time. The regular time produced 1-1 tie. It was small consolation for CSKA – the ‘silver’ generation was over the hill and the so far cosmetic changes of the squad did not hide the problems of an aging team.