Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Different in Belgium: after all the ‘Red Devils’ missed the World Cup by a split hair. Never lost a match; not receiving a single goal in their net. Unlike other countries, Belgium was not really in crisis, but in transition. A small country, Belgium never had the luxury of large pool of players, but always had enough at hand to play spirited football. Similarly to many other countries, Belgian football was dominated by two clubs – RSC Anderlecht (Brussels) and Standard (Liege) – where the best players always ended. Anderlecht were among the best European clubs for years, although so far did not win any European trophy. Belgian football traditionally depended on foreign talent to supplement small domestic pool, allowing more foreigners than most importers, predominantly Dutch and Scandinavians. The system worked well enough, but change of generations was a natural problem. And the early 1970s were exactly that: one generation was stepping down, but new one was not yet ripe. Hence, transitional period, when failure to reach World Cup finals was disappointing, but not the end of the world. Anderlecht won the title once again – status quo recovered after the surprise champions FC Brugge the year before. Or so it looked like for the moment.

Anderlecht, smiling champions under the clouds:
Top, left to right: Braems – coach, Heylens, van Binst, Barth, Coeck, Broos, van Himst, de Bolle, Ruiter.
Bottom: Ladynszki, Dockx, Verheyen, van der Elst, Deraeve, Volders, de Nul, Rensenbrink, Edjerstedt. The squad had plenty of Belgian national players, however, most were yet to really establish their names. The real star – Paul van Himst – one of the greatest players of the 1960s, was getting old and thus the prime example of the transitional state of Belgian football – he was of the departing generation and the younger one was not settled yet. They would eventually, and van Binst, Coeck, Broos, Dockx, van der Elst will soon be familiar names around Europe. Not in 1974, though. This team had plenty of foreign players too – both goalkeepers were Dutch, Jan Ruiter and Leendert Barth. The left winger was also Dutch – one Rob Rensenbrink, already well established player in Belgium, but during the World Cup 1974 he was to become world famous star. Another World Cup guy tended to Anderlecht’s attack – Inge Edjerstadt, national player of Sweden , who participated in both 1970 and 1974 World Cups. A new right winger was acquired in 1973 from Feyenoord (Holland) – Attila Ladynszky, a Hungarian defector and technically a stateless person because of that. Unlike Zoltan Varga and Antal Nagy, he never played for the national team of Hungary, and was practically unknown. Thus, he was saved from venomous articles in the Eastern European press, but was not forgotten – he was not able to travel to Eastern European countries, a handicap for Anderlecht, if they had to meet Communist clubs in the European tournaments. Ladynszky defected in 1971 and for unknown player he made very good career in the West – starting in Rot-Weiss (Essen, West Germany), moving to Feyenoord (Rotterdam), than to Anderlecht, and ending in Spain, where he played for Real Betis (Seville) from 1975 to 1978 and is remembered fondly by the fans. Anderlecht had already a strong squad in 1973-74, with a core of players who only got better in the next years. Eventually, they improved the national team and restored its better position at the end of the 1970s. But transitional years are shaky time at best: the Belgian Cup was won by Waregem, smaller and never great club, which is not existing anymore, suffering the fate of small Belgian clubs – mergers. Unknown yet was the other part of transitional years – FC Brugge was improving, but still not a strong force; Standard was declining, which was to last.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Portugal faired no better: Sporting (Lisbon) made a double. It was more an example of the sharp decline of Benfica than anything. The most memorable feature of Sporting was the Argentine striker Hector Yazalde – he scored 46 goals and got the Golden Boot. And because of that was included in the Argentine squad for the World Cup. Well, Portugal failed to qualify, but at least had a representative at the finals. Only one.
Double winners, thanks to Argentine feet.Hector Yazalde, the great scorer, descending the stairs… may be prophetically: neither Sporting, nor Argentina impressed in 1974. Portuguese football was in a crisis, which was to last until the 1980s. Doomed to failure after failure, of which Sporting is perhaps the best example – the ‘people’s’ club lost its second-best position in Portugal during the 70s. And never recovered it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Austria nobody counted among potential World Cup finalists, the best years of Austrian football already in the dusty historic books. As if to prove their own sinking, the Austrians had a new and highly unusual champion: VOEST Linz. Today the club is not around – there is a club called Blau-Weiss Linz, which is somewhat claiming its origins in the defunct VOEST.
The champions were not any good and just for the record, here they are:
Nothing can be said about them, really. Austria (Vienna) got the Cup.
This season was the end of big league in Austria: constantly shrinking attendance and constantly increasing costs were the sorry reality. Many a club were on the verge of bankruptcy and traditional structure was no longer supportable. The premise for reform was sound finances – the new league was to be reduced to 10 clubs. Thus, 7 had to go down – nothing pleasant about that, but the Austrian scheme made it even more unpleasant. Vienna was allowed to keep 2 clubs in the new league, and the provinces – one each province. However, two provinces were difficult – old clubs like Sturm and GAK (both from Graz) came from Styria. The decision who to keep place in the upper level was based on the total number of point over the last 5 years – Sturm survived with 149 point, 2 more than their city rival. Upper Austria also was a problem: since relatively smaller VOEST were champions, their city rival and much bigger club LASK (Linz) had to be relegated – at the end they were allowed to contest a playoff against the winners of three region divisions: Mitte (Kapfenberger SV), Ost (ASV Stockerau), and West (FC Dornbirn). LASK won and at the end practically no club was promoted – the new league had only old members. The geographic ‘fairness’ had a weird twist: Donawitzer SV Alpine, 6th at the end of 1973-74, was relegated as a second club from its province. But the lowly SC Eisenstadt (13th) and Austria Klagenfurt (14th) preserved places in the new league – no other clubs from their provinces played at top level. The ‘wisdom’ of this structure amply showed itself the next year – Austria (Klagenfurt) finished 9th and escaped relegation by one point. SC Eisenstadt were 10th and relegated.
Austria was the first country to display the doom coming to smaller championships: frantic efforts for reform and survival, never successful… reduced league was a desperate attempt and did not work – to this very day Austrian football suffer constant financial troubles. 1970s changed profoundly the structure of the smaller leagues in Europe – from that time their only goal is bare survival.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

After the Eastern European losers – to the Western European ones. Humble Denmark. KB won its 14th title.
Kjobenhavns Boldklub (Copenhagen) was one of the oldest clubs in Europe, founded in 1876. This was generally lost in Europe, due to the lowly status of Danish football, but the boys in white and blue were formidable power at home. Which was not to help much later – in 1991 KB merged with B 1903 to form FC Copenhagen. As usual, money was at the bottom of reasons. Not to worry in 1974, though – it was a happy year.
Bottom, left to right: Leif Skjolden, Benny Myssing, Anders Soerensen, Ole Quist, Michael Roessel, Soeren Andreassen.
Top: Noels Krogdahl, Ole Hoejgaard, Peter Lindby, Niels Soerensen, Bjarne Petersen.Well, strong enough to concur home championship, but, as the names, suggest, hardly to take Europe by storm. Ole Quist played for the national team, if that counted for something in the 1970s.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The mother of them all in Eastern Europe, USSR, did not have to worry about the World Cup too, after refusing to play Chile for political reasons. The Soviets had the opportunity to concentrate on their own domestic problems – and introduced fresh change, or rather abandoned the ill-fated experiment of breaking ties with post-match penalty kicks. The clubs triumphed: they did not play for winning when the rules forced to win, and they were free to collect points from their beloved 0-0 ties. Therefore, the crisis continued – the old philosophy of ‘try to win at home and try to end in tie when visiting’ ruled supreme and with vengeance reached new lows. Only three clubs ended with less than 10 ties (out of 30 championship games). The champions sported modest 12 ties this season. Scoring was a fiction: the champions were the most enterprising with their 49 goals, scoring great 1.63 goals per match average. But the most telling was the team with least goals – Dynamo (Tbillisi) with 29, less than a goal per match! The Georgians traditionally were the most open and attacking club in USSR – in 1974 they played the same cautious single-point oriented football as everybody else. The Soviet league was especially boring no matter what urges came from the Football Federation or from critical journalists.
Dynamo (Kiev) won a double – their 6th championship and their 4th Cup. It was return to the normal and familiar, no wild clubs muddling the waters. There was nothing to hint at future international triumphs: Dynamo were not fun and barely caught the title by one point difference from the second placed Spartak (Moscow). Vasily Lobanovsky came to coach them from lowly Dnepr (Dnepropetrovsk), where he was more criticized than praised for lackluster and mean kind of football. In view of the low scoring, it is interesting to point out that Dynamo already got Onsishchenko and Semenov from Zarya (Voroshilovgrad) and now recruited Shepel from Chernomoretz (Odessa), who scored 38 goals in the Second Division the year before. The attackers clearly suggested some kind of desire to increase goalscoring, yet Semenov and Shepel were wasted in Dynamo, played rarely, and soon dismissed. Blokhin, already the best Soviet player, was the top scorer of the championship with 20 goals – almost half of the total Dynamo’s production. Somewhat curiously Zarya (Voroshilovgrad) reached the Cup final – as if to prove that they were not cheating in 1972, when they won their dubious title. However, they barely escaped relegation in the championship, finishing 14th in the 16-team league. Final is final, so they put on a fight and lost 1-2. The whole picture was grim: Dynamo did not look great, but rather shrewd team painfully extracting victories more by will than skill.
Hard to believe that Dynamo will take Europe by storm in 1975… here are the winners in 1974:
Bottom, left to right: A. Puzach – assistant coach, I. Zhutnik – masseur, V. Semenov, V. Kondratov, A. Damin, V. Muntyan, V. Onishchenko, A. Petrashevky – assistant coach.
Middle: V. Lobanovsky – coach, L. Kozhanov – team doctor, A. Shepel, V. Maslov, L. Buryak, O. Blokhin, V. Matvienko, O. Bazilevich – team’s director.
Top: E. Rudakov, M. Fomenko, S. Reshko, V. Kolotov, V. Veremeev, V. Zuev, V. Troshkin, V. Samokhin, V. Berkovsky – doctor. Already some typical features of Lobanovsky’s Dynamo were present – dependence on small core of players, just 11 strong plus 4-5 eternal reserves coming regularly in the second half; lack of right full back (Damin and Zuev alternated in 1974, none of them ever a solid starter); and lack of centre forward (Semenov and Shepel placed quickly on the bench). This situation changed practically after 1986: the team relied on tough and populous midfield, temporary right backs, fast wingers, and the scoring ability of Blokhin. When the opposition managed to block him, scoring seized… and winning was not in the books. Hence, Lobanovsky’s vision of ‘scientific’ football developed – if you cannot improvise, then learn schemes and follow them like a robot. And run, run, run…Perhaps the only bright thing in 1974 was another Ukrainian club – Chernomoretz (Odessa) finished third. The highest place they ever had and it was even better, for they just came back from the Second Division swamps.
Top, left to right: Aleskerov – coach, Dzyuba, Davidov, Prokopenko, Zubkov, Tomashevsky, Pavlenko, Radionov, Nechaev, Logvinenko, Grigoriev, Feydman, Zabolotny – assistant coach.
Bottom: Degtyarev, Makarov, Butenko, Ustimchik, Sapozhnikov, Kulichenkov, Ivanenko, Doroshchenko, Nefedov, Galitzky – administrator. Of course, it was great success, if one was from Odessa. And keeping in mind that the club lost its best player – Shepel – to Dynamo (Kiev). But it was not a great team… none of the players was more than journeyman. It was more enthusiasm than anything, the typical case of small clubs. It was also weak championship: Dynamo ended a point better than Spartak, which was mediocre squad at best, approaching their own disaster. Chernomoretz, with no great players at all, finished third. One may wonder what was the meaning of ‘worse’ in Soviet football. But good for the small guys! They never repeated such success, making it even sweeter.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Universitatea (Craiova) won the 1973-74 championship – their very first title.
The club is of Communist-state origin, founded in 1948, supposedly a ‘students’ club. The city of Craiova has more clubs, and some played occasionally in the First Division, but Universitatea is the true club of the city. The 1970s were their most successful decade, beginning with this championship.
Top, left to right: Cernaianu – coach, Ivan, Badin, Oprea, Oblemenko, Boc, Manta, Deselnicu, Balan, Otet – assistant coach.
Bottom: Stefanescu, Velea, Taralunga, Niculescu, Balaci, Strambeanu, Berneanu, Marcu.
Although some eventually played for the national team, only two players are of real notice: Balaci and Oblemenko. Balaci was more or less constant national player and well respected, but Oblemenco was something else: he scored 167 goals in 264 matches for Universitatea and was 4 times top goalscorer of Romania – in 1967, 70, 72, and 73. He was and is revered player, yet, he was never included in the national team.
Ion Oblemenko. A legend in Craiova and recognized as the best ever player of Universitatea. Today the club’s stadium is named after him.
If Universitatea were provincial unknowns, without big team, the Cup winners were even lesser breed: Jiul (Petrosani).

Bottom,from left: Cornel Carare (secretar), Tr. Ivanescu, Bologan , Mircea Pascu (vicepresident of the football section), Aurel Marila (medic), Stocker, Dodu, Nitu, Stoichita, Ioan Karpinetz (club's president), S. Gram (masseur) Top: Gabi Stan, Kotormani, Rozsnyai, Tonca, Szics, Ion Gabriel, Otto Abraham (football section president), Libardi, Mandrut, Multescu, Al. Nagy, Emeric Farkas
Unlike Universitatea, much older club – founded in 1919 – but ‘Minerii’ (The Miners) were always small. Their singular trophy is the Cup won in 1974. No big names, no nothing.
As much as it is fun to see small clubs winning, there is another side: in strictly football terms Romania was in a crisis. The country did not produce really strong players for a long time – as shown by those, who went to play abroad. It was not that much strong provincial clubs as a case of weak leading clubs. The 1970s were low decade for Romanian football. Good for local heroes only.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Romania was somehow off the radar – regarded as a strong football country, yet, providing no big news. The failure to qualify for the World Cup was somewhat of a surprise, but no attention was paid. Hence, it is difficult to evaluate the real situation. Politically, Romania refused to participate in the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, which was interpreted (both in West and East) as a liberalization of Dracula land. There were other, mostly economic, overtures to the West, seen as more signs of possible changes. In football, such signs were seen or imagined too: the grip of Bucharest, and, more precisely, the evil dual dominance of Army and Police clubs, was not present since 1965. Various provincial clubs won championships. Even more: like Poland, Romania started exporting players to the West. It was very quiet and careful affair, never mentioned in the press – selected old former national players were sold mostly to Turkish clubs, to Cyprus, but few – to France, Belgium, West Germany, and Austria. The practice was halted around 1974, which, for lack of any official reason, may be interpreted as a general return to hard policies. There were two accidents, which support such interpretive view. As far as I know, the following players were sold abroad: Ion Nunweiller from Dynamo (Bucharest) to Fenerbahce (Istanbul). He played 91 games and scored 7 goals for fenerbahce between 1967 and 1970. Former national player. Mircea Sasu, who played 9 games and scored twice for Romania (last match in 1968) also went to Fenrebahce around 1970. Ion Ionescu was transferred in 1968 from Rapid (Bucharest) to Alemania (Aachen, West Germany). Gheorghe Constantin (Steaua Bucharest, 39 caps and 12 goals for Romania) went to Kayserispor (Turkey) in 1969 and played until 1971. Ilie Datcu (Dynamo Bucharest and member of 1964 Olympic squad of Romania) joined Fenerbahce in 1969 and played 220 matches for the Istanbul club, where he retired in 1975. Emerich Jenei (Steaua, 12 matches for Romania and member of 1964 Olympic squad) played for Kayserispor between 1969 and 1971. Another Nunwieler – Lica – changed Dynamo’s kit for Besiktas in 1969 and played in Istanbul one season. Fresh from the 1970 World Cup, Vasile Gergely (Dynamo Bucharest, 36 matches and 2 goals for Romania) went to Hertha (West Berlin) in 1970 and played until 1972. Same year another Dynamo player – Ion Parcalab (38 matches and 5 goals for Romania, played at 1964 Olympics) joined Nimes Olympique (France) and stayed with them until 1973. Another member of the 1970 World Cup Romanian squad – Dan Coe – went to Antwerpen (Belgium) in 1971 and returned back in 1973 to play for his original club FC Galati to the end of his career.
Dan Coe at the World Cup 1970 and a bizarre story: he returned to Romania after playing in Belgium, but defected after the end of his playing career to West Germany. He was found dead in 1981 and the Police never determined the nature of the death – murder or suicide. He was a building caretaker at the time. Ion Barbu (Arges, 7 caps and no goals for Romania) joined Besiktas for one season. Florea Voinea moved from Steaua to Olympique Nimes and played in France 1970-72. Two more members of 1970 World Cup team moved abroad in 1972 – Mihai Mocanu (Petrolul Ploesti, 33 caps for Romania) went to Omonia (Nicosia) for the next two seasons. Nicolae Lupescu (Rapid Bucharest, 21 matches and 2 goals for Romania) did better – went to Admira-Wacker (Austria), where he retired in 1977. And finally in 1973 Constantin Fratila, who did not play for Romanian national team since 1967 (7 caps and 7 goals in total) transferred from Dynamo (Bucharest) to Omonia (Nicosia). He played only one season in Cyprus. And that was the end, as far as I can find out. Only two players are recognizable names: Ion Nunweiler, quite famous in his best years, but also part of respected and talented dynasty of players – 7 brothers in total. The other one is Emerich Jenei, but if he is familiar name, that is because of his coaching career. However, two events, no doubt unpleasant to Communist Romania, happened: Vasile Gergely, an ethnic Hungarian, changed his name and declared himself Hungarian as soon as he was arrived in West Germany. He was also involved in the West German bribing scandal of 1972 and punished. Not good for squeaky clean Communist image.
No longer Romanian Vasile – in West Germany it was Laszlo Gergely, Hungarian. Playing for Hertha (West Berlin) The goalkeeper Ilie Datcu went a step further – becoming something of a legend for Fenerbahce, not only he did not return to his Communist homeland, but took Turkish citizenship in 1978 and changed his name to Ilyas Datca. The change of name was not his fault, for it is a constitutional requirement for citizenship in Turkey, but from Romanian perspective it was a big blemish: a traitor and an enemy, at least as official version.

Ilie Datcu growing mustache and going Turk. So much for ‘liberalization’ and ‘relaxation’ But Steaua (the Army club) and Dynamo (the Police, and naturally the Secret Police) were not hegemonic yet – this was coming back, but a few years later.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hungary continued her long spasmodic decline – missing 1970 World Cup, ending 4th at European Championship 1972, and again failing to qualify for World Cup 1974. Unlike the wave-like ups and downs of Czechoslovakia, Hungary was clearly declining, so temporary similarity to her western neighbour is misleading. The national team was able to produce occasional fit of small success, but for the clubs the road ended pretty much in 1975, so 1974 is more or less the last year of strong club football. Ujpesti Dosza dominated domestic football, winning its 15th title and 5th in a row from 1970 on.
Now, Lilak (the Purples) are the oldest existing club in Hungary. The football section is not as old, but since it belongs to the all-sports club, the oldest it is, despite the grumbling of MTK and Ferencvaros. The rivalry is Budapest-based and like many other countries Budapest ruled local football and in the first half of the 20th century it was largely MTK – Ferencvaros rivalry, Ujpest coming third. Things changed when the Communists took power: old ‘tainted’ clubs had to be diminished or eliminated one way or the other. Ferencvaros was the most tainted, accused with supporting the old Admiral Horthy’s regime and became the black sheep. And similarly to elsewhere in Eastern Europe, the ‘fascist’ club was not only the most popular, but particularly popular with the working class. The Communists, championing the ‘working class’ curiously ostracized working class sport clubs, but never mind for now. The prime result is the building of mythology and resistance: Ferencvaros became the oppressed ‘people’s’ club opposing the ‘state’ clubs. The state copied the prime model – USSR – and quickly established the classic ‘working class’ clubs dear to all: the Army (Honved) and the Police. In the Hungarian class a step further was taken to outdo the prime model – not one, but two Police clubs: MTK was taken by the Secret Police in 1949. Ujpest was taken simply by the Police in 1950. All clubs were properly renamed to purge them from their ‘bourgeois past’ and Ujpest became Budapesti Dosza – named after medieval Transylvanian-born leader of peasant revolt. The 1950s – the great decade of Hungarian football – was dominated by Honved and MTK (under different names). During the failed revolt in 1956 old names were restored with two exceptions: Honved remained (and restored its original name Kispest in 1990) and Budapesti Dosza became Ujpesti Dosza. MTK was no longer Police club, so ‘Lilak’ remained the club of regular and secret Police. Correspongingly, Honved and MTK lost their grip, replaced by Ferencvaros – Ujpesti Dosza dominance in the classic clear opposition of ‘people’ vs ‘the state’. Naturally, Ferencvaros were victimized, cheated, oppressed, etc. For the numerous fans of Ujpesti Dosza remained the discomfort of supporting cops’ club when cheering yet another title. The first half of the 1970s was entirely Lilak – and politics aside, football arguments spoke in their favour. Ferencvaros was aging and Ujpesti Dosza had younger squad. They were also able to replace old players smoothly and reached their peak in 1974.

Top, left to right: Szentmihalyi, Kolar, P. Juhasz, Nosko, Dunai III, Harsanyi, Horvath, Dunai II, Szigethi.
Bottom: Fazekas, Fekete, A. Toth, Bene, Zambo, Kellner, L. Nagy.
Almost everybody played for the national team, always a sign of strong team. But there was more: in 1974 the Ujpesti Dosza came very close to playing total football unlike Ferencvaros. The arch-rivals had to change almost the whole team at that time and their very young squad lacked experience – I saw both clubs live at that time and Ujpesti Dosza were fun; Ferencvaros were not. Lilak seemed to have the right chemistry, the right skill and intelligence, and the right policy – for example, Bene was nearing retirement, but Fekete was expected not only to replace him, but to become the next ‘big player’. Both played together, the transition was to go smoothly. Well, Fekete did not become big star… but for the moment everything was great, temporary obscuring the deepening crisis of Hungarian football. Ferencvaros got the cup. Unlike Ujpesti Dozsa, ‘Fradi’ were not made yet – it was young squad, not fully formed, and far from reaching its potential. Transitional team.

Top, left to right: Gyozo Martos, Istvan Juhasz, Istvan Geczi, Miklos Pancsics, Peter Vepi, Istvan Megyesi, Ferenc Csanadi – coach.
Bottom: Istvan Szoke, Laszlo Branikovits, Jozsef Mucha, Zoltan Ebedli, Zoltan Engelbrecht. Both winning clubs performed well in the European club tournaments. More layers eclipsing reality.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Czechoslovakian Cup was also won by Slovan – the final was played between the winners of the Czech and the Slovak Cups. The Czech Cup was won by Slavia (Prague). This is the oldest Czechoslovakian club, found in 1892. The football section was established in 1896. Slavia, along with their arch-rivals Sparta (Prague), were the leading club before the Communists took power. Every country has a football team, which claims martyrdom built on real and imagined persecutions. Slavia is the Czech version – the ‘bourgeois past’ of the club made them a prime target. The club was renamed three times – to Sokol Slavia in 1948, Dynamo Slavia in 1953, and finally Dynamo in 1954. The original name was restored in 1965, when the liberalization leading to the ‘Prague spring’ started. Yet, during the whole period of Communist rule Slavia won only once – the Czech Cup in 1974. A strong evidence of victimization, so 1974 stays as shining example of defying the state.
Politics are one thing, purely football arguments – quite another. Unlike Slovan, Slavia had only one real star – Frantisek Vesely, plus two local heroes – Zdenek Klimes and Frantisek Zlamal. It was not a squad able to win championship and even reaching the the final for the national cup was more or less just good luck. Slavia was better suited for providing puzzling amusement: at the time 1893 was featured as founding year; now it is 1892. The other thing will come at the end of the 1970s, when Czechoslovakia started exporting players – the strange ‘package’ including very, very old Frantisek Vesely attached to coveted Antonin Panenka. The Czechs made a point that they are for sale together, not separately… but this was in the unforeseen future in 1974.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Other losers now: European this time. Czechoslovakia so far is practically unmentioned, but it is timely now, for the country is to play stronger role soon. So far, the Czechoslovakians had been in something like a decline. They did not play strongly at the 1970 World Cup and after that – nothing. Missing 1974 World Cup as well. Yet, traditional European power… relegated to middle ranks by now. Or may be not – for if one looks carefully, the Czechoslovaks were always up and down, and now they were at their down. There was an interesting change in Czechoslovakian football, though – the failed ‘Prague Spring’, terribly suppressed in 1968, affected football too. During the liberalization the Communist-sponsored and not exactly liked by the Czechs Dukla (Prague) lost its dominance. This was mostly political – since the Communist Party lost its grip, their club lost its privileged position as well, but unlike the Party, the club did not recover quickly and benefited little from the Soviet-led invasion in 1968. Instead provincial clubs came to dominate Czechoslovakian football. And not only that – Slovak, not Czech, teams ruled the early 70s. By 1974 the Czechoslovakian First Division featured more Slovak than Czech teams (Slovan and Inter from Bratislava, ZVL Zilina, Spartak Trnava, VSS and Lokomotiva from Kosice, AC Nitra, and Tatran Presov. No Czech club won a title between 1967 and 1976. Correspondingly, more Slovaks than Czechs played for the national team, which was not big deal until 1976 – at that year finally became interesting to think about the Slovak revival. Why the Slovaks? Less oppressed? More indifferent? Less sophisticated than the Czechs, and therefore excelling in ‘profane’ activities? Or better coaches? Or better talent? Or refusing to play for Prague for both nationalistic and anti-communist reasons? Certainly there was a sign of resistance: Spartak (Trnava) bravely played in the European Champions Cup in 1969 as if in protest against the invasion. They played when the Eastern European invaders refused to participate in the club tournaments in ‘protest’ against the Western protest of the invasion. Strange days for football…Slovan won the title in 1974, ending the dominance of Spartak (Trnava) – champions in 1968, 69, 71, 72, and 73. Now, Slovan was traditional power in Czechoslovakian football and performed well during the above years, but managed only one title – in 1970 – which was a sign of the rise of provincial football, represented by the smaller town of Trnava. For the moment it looked like the centre was restoring its normal leading position. However, the notion was suspect – Bratislava was still provincial from Prague’s perspective and from the general Bohemian-Moravian point of view: the ‘peasant’ Slovaks were still winning. No matter – strong Slovakian years in football!

This is a classic champion squad: a mix of experienced veterans, national players in their prime, and talented new blood. It was finely tuned team, where replacement came at the right time, fitted well, and patched weaker positions. Point in case – the national team right full back Jan Pivarnik, who joined Slovan in the summer of 1973, after captaining VSS Kosice. Masny, Svehlik, Vencel, Gogh, Pivarnik, Hrivnak, Moder, Zlocha, Jokl, and the Capkovic brothers – former and current national players. Not all of them were well known outside Czechoslovakia, but half of them will be – in1976, when they were the core of the new European champions. The only unlucky man here is the goalkeeper and Slovan’s captain Alexander Vencel. The curse of coinciding… he was of the same age as the great Ivo Viktor, and because of that was permanent reserve in the national team. Eventually, younger players were preferred instead of him, just because they had many years to play ahead of them. The curse reached his son as well – the younger Vencel, also named Alexander, who played mostly in France suffered the same fate in the 1990s. Anyway, Slovan won its 6th title in 1974.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Peru also failed. The likeable team of 1970, which so impressed fans and specialists, was eliminated by Chile.

Chumpitaz, Baylon, Mifflin, Cubillas, Sotil provided class, but the team was erratic and inconsistent. Didi, the Brazilian legend, quit coaching Peru after 1970 World Cup and was replaced by Lajos Baroti. The Hungarian had big reputation, but Peru had no spark under his guidance and he was replaced by Roberto Scarone, not exactly a famous name. Chile eliminated Peru. Sotil and Cubillas went to play in Europe. For the others remained only domestic consolation.
Universitario (Lima) won the Peruvian championship in 1974.

The squad consisted of: Julio Aparicio, Carlos Carbonell, Fernando Cuellar, Héctor Chumpitaz, Rubén Díaz, Juan Carlos Oblitas, Juan José Oré, César Peralta, Marco Portilla, Oswaldo Ramírez, Percy Rojas, Luis Rubiños, Eleazar Soria, Rubén Techera, Juan Toyco, Ricardo Valderrama, Enrique Wolf. Not bad, with the likes of Chumpitaz, one of the best ever Peruvian players, Rojas, Oblitas, and Ramirez. The coach was Juan Eduardo Hohberg, certainly of bigger profile than the national coach Scarone. Hohberg was born in Argentina, but played for Uruguay at the 1954 World Cup finals. In 1970 World Cup coached Uruguay to 4th place. In 1974 Uruguay was to play at the World Cup again, but Hohberg and Chumpitaz had to settle for Peruvian title.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A notch up the football scale – Central and North America. Since ranking is ranking no matter what, the pathetic region was usually considered third in the world order, thanks to Mexico. The only country outside Europe and South America with passable domestic football, already professional for years and importing foreign players, as well as regular World Cup finalist. NASL was not yet buying old European stars, so the whole region was practically Mexico… which failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup, a huge surprise. Regardless the failure Mexico deserves a few lines, because of two records.
Until 1998 Antonio Carbajal was the only player in the world who played in 5 World Cup finals – 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, and 1966. The legendary goalkeeper born in 1929 retired in 1966, after playing for Club Espana and Leon in the Mexican league. Lothar Matthaus equaled Carbajal’s record in 1998, but it is unlikely another player to achieve that, let alone better it.
Antonuo Carbajaal between Chava Reyes and Guillermo Sepulveda – ‘El Tigre’. Mexican stars all, but only Carbajal is familiar to the world.
Carbajal was already in the history books, but history books are known for additions. In 1972 one Velibor Milutinovic arrived in Mexico City to join UNAM. His arrival attracted little attention, although deserving more – the Yugoslavian player was one of the very few European players to go to Central and South America. In Mexico itself it was rarity and remained a rarity – the next European vintage came in mid-1990s!
And here is new boy Bora smiling with new UNAM teammates: from left - Héctor Sanabria, Miguel Mejía Barón, Ramón Alberto Ramírez, Arturo Vázquez Ayala, Antonio De la Torre, Velibor "Bora" Milutinovic, José Luis "Pareja" López, and Genaro Bermúdez. Second from right is the coach – Angel Zubieta. ‘Los Pumas’ with European flavor.
Bora came from FC Winterthur, Switzerland, after rather adventurous career. Born in 1944, he started in his native Yugoslavia, of course. First with the small FK Bor, then in the better OFK Beograd, than – Partizan (Belgrade), where he played along his two brothers Milos and Milorad. Milos Milutinovic was a big star in Europe in the late 1950s and early 60s, but younger Bora was just a journeyman. However, good enough to play for AS Monaco, OGC Nice, and FC Rouen, before moving from France to Swutzerland, and from there – to Mexico, where he played to the end of his career in 1976.
UNAM with pet puma naturally and always smiling Bora (with the ball) around 1974.
Bora married a Mexican and became Mexican citizen, and stayed in his new country to coach. And coached he did – he led Mexico to the World Cup 1986. Much more followed – he is the only coach appearing in 5 World Cups, leading Mexico in 1986, Costa Rica in 1990, USA in 1994, Nigeria in 1998, and China in 2002. Presently, he is coaching the national team of Iraq – since the beginning of 2009. True, not a single really powerful national team, yet records are records. Once again, it is unlikely this record to be broken (unless Bora breaks it) and it is a record belonging to Mexico as well, since the coach is Mexican citizen.
In 1995 my Argentine-born friend Diego spotted Milutinovic in an airplane, remembered me, and asked for an autograph. Good natured as ever, Bora obliged:
‘To Vesselin from Bora’ in Serbian.
Nothing of the above existed in 1974 and nobody was able to foresee it. It all happened much later. But started in the early 1970s, when Mexico failed to qualify for the World Cup.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Another rare glimpse – at the outcasts. As much as FIFA emphasized that football was and must be apolitical, politics always played significant role. South Africa and Israel were banned from international football and FIFA had no say in that, for both were expelled by their own continental federations – the first for apartheid, the second for anti-Arabism (to make it short). It was relatively easy call: Muslim and Black African states refused to play against Israel and South Africa and the acute crisis was resolved ‘mathematically’ – two coutries were less important than the whole. FIFA swallowed the decisions – otherwise there were not going to be African and Asian pariticipation and membership in the world football at all. And with that both countries sunk bellow the horizon – little news, if any, came from them. Outcast football lived, however. The scale was small and messy, but the sport existed. Israel had regular regular championship and national cup despite the wars with neighbours. Structurally, the Israeli development was so regimental, it was to make East Europe envious: clubs started as ideologically motivated and politically charged movements and it is easy even today to outline origins and persisting ties just by the names. There were and are 4 general names: Maccabi, Hapoel, Beitar, and Elitzur (Communist coutries provided larger variety of names than Israel). Maccabi started as Zionist sport movement, eventually linked to what passes for Liberal party in Israel. Hapoel was originally Socialist alternative, linked to the Labour Party. Beitar represents the right wing and Elitzur – the ultra-conservative religious variety. If you never heard of Elitzur, the reason is exactly because of what they represent: there are no Elitzur football clubs participating in the regular Israeli football, because it is played mostly on Sundays – on the prohibited Sabath. So Istaeli football is played by clubs from different cities, but with uniform names and depending who was governing the country one or another kind of clubs flourished or sunk. By mid-70s the rule of the Labour Party was somewhat replaced by the rivals and Hapoel fans were already looking nostalgically to the ‘golden years’ in the past – the 1950s. Hapoel (Haifa) won the Cup in 1974, which was rare success of the provincial club by that time. If anything approximating international fame was related to the club, it was Zlatko Cajkovski: the builder of great Bayern, of Beckenbauer and Muller, ended his own playing career in Haifa. ‘Cik’ played for Hapoel from 1958 to 1960 and moved to coaching.
There is nothing I can tell about the Sharks… not even their names, but here they are in their full glory:

Playing in red and white stripes, seemingly using permanent numbers US style (unless not having enough shorts and using whatever available).
As for stars, perhaps Eli Levental was one. Speaking of local stardom, of course, for hardly anybody heard of him outside Israel. Such is the fate of outcasts.