Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ah, the World Cup! Everything else is nothing and the 10th edition of the tournament was special in many ways. New trophy. New formula. New stadiums. New football. New money. New, new, new. To a point, the fun started in 1973 with a number of high-profile friendlies: Brazil and Argentina both toured Europe, which was a rare glance at the South Americans. But there were other interesting matches too, involving England and USSR. At the time, these friendlies were clearly part of the preparation for the finals: nobody expected USSR and England to miss the finals. So much so, that the Soviets paid much more attention to their friendlies against England, Brazil, and West Germany than to the real qualifying match against Chile (the first one in Moscow, for there was no second.) The failure of the Soviets and the English provided other teams with great sparring partners… No matter what, there was impressive string of matches between top national teams: USSR – England, USSR – West Germany, Italy – England, etc. The arrival of the South Americans added new thrills: Argentina, missing World Cup 1970, was not seen by the Europeans since 1966. Brazil – since 1970 World Cup finals. Naturally, it was interesting to see mythic South Americans, but the real purpose for both sides was to get familiar with the opposition. As World Champions and hosts, Brazil and West Germany were free from qualifications – which was a curse as well as a blessing: lacking official games, neither country knew how good and competitive her nationa team was. The Argentines needed European encounter too after been absent from this continent since 1966. Thus, Brazil came to play against Scotlnad, West Germany, and USSR. The Argentines – against England, West Germany, and France. Argentina was praised, Brazil – not so much. As a whole, the South Americans got very good results – winning tough games, particularly against West Germany. Considering the unfamiliar winter-frozen stadiums, there were some interesting conclusions to be made… some did, some did not. Some lessons learned became evident at the World Cup finals. Wrong conclusions became evident in the summer of 1974 too. To watch those friendlies, however, was baffling: Brazil was not fun, but able of winning nevertheless. The West Germans struggled. The Soviets struggled – and it became quite clear why they did not earn a place among the finalists: the team was not able to score, regularly losing 0-1 to strong opponents. Scotland was surprisingly tough and spirited. Italy marched on with… well, Italian minimalistic confidence. England was obviously in need of new team. Argentina got very good reports – so good, it led many observers to wrong conclusions.
Argentina scoring a second goal in Munich. In February! Ayala (9) just passed to C. Ghisso and his shot ended in the net. Fogts, Schwarzenbeck amd Maier look… hopeless. And where is Beckenbauer? Gaucho victory - 3-2. Omar Sivori coached.
However, the match against France really elevated the Argentines… in their own eyes? (Relatively) new French formation under Stefan Kovacs performed (relatively) well against the gauchos and because of that… the Argentines were praised more than they really deserved. One very young and entirely unknown colt called Mario Kempes played – and survived the tackles of Adams. Kempes hardly impressed anybody. Adams was to be one of the new French squad, one for the future… a few years later nobody remembered Adams. Kempes, on the other hand… but not yet. It was Ruben Ayala, Bargas, Sa so far. Argentina suddenly leaped among the favorites for winning the World Cup.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The winner of the Golden Shoe was Argentine as well – Hector Yazalde scored 46 goals for Sporting (Lisbon) in the 1973-74 season.

Since there was no disgrace yet in this competition, Yazalde’s achievement is surrounded with accumulated trivia: 46 goals was record in 1974, but even today it is one of highest ever nimber of goals scored in a single season by a player. Yazalde was the first non-European player to win the award. And the only one until 1990, when the Mexican striker Hugo Sanches scored most goals in Europe. True, Eusebio was twice Golden Shoe winner, but although not born in Europe, he was Portuguese player and citizen, and never considered an import (technically true, for Angola was still Portuguese colony and Portuguese citizenship came authomatically.) The European success of Yazalde was noticed at home as well – he was included in the Argentine World Cup 1974 selection.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

If Super Cup appeared stillborn and incapable of living, the Intercontinental Cup looked like old veteran nearing his last second after years of excessive, self-abusive, violent life. Once again the holders of the European Champions Cup refused to play – this time it was Bayern – and were replaced by the losing finalist: Atletico Madrid. The contest was not played in 1974, but in the spring of 1975 – and there was big distance between the first and the second leg as well: the first match was in March; the second – in April. At least in Europe the interest was nil. It was assumed that two archaic and ugly teams will kick each other to death. At the end, the challenge mattered most to Atletico Madrid. They lost the away match – Independient won measly 1-0 at home. In Madrid the battle lasted almost until the end, when Ruben Ayala scored the second goal for Atletico in the 85th minute. At least there was a bit of irony: an Argentine sunk the Argentines. Atletico collected the Cup.
The Mouse killed the cat, but unlike those moments here, there was nothing spectacular in Ayala’s winning goal: it resulted from dreadful attempts for clearing the ball by clumsy Indepenediente defense.
1st. leg:
Venue: Avellaneda. Field: Independiente ("La Doble Visera").
March 12, 1975

Independiente (Argentina) 1-0 Atlético Madrid (Spain)
Goal: 34' Agustín "Mencho" Balbuena.

Independiente: José Alberto Pérez -Miguel Ángel López, Ricardo Elbio Pavoni -
Eduardo Comisso, Rubén Galván, Francisco Pedro Manuel Sa -
Agustín Alberto Balbuena,
Aldo Fernando Rodríguez (57' Alejandro Estanislao Semenewicz),
Percy Rojas, Ricardo Enrique Bochini,
Ricardo Daniel Bertoni (83' Luis Alberto Giribert).
Atlético Madrid: Reina; Melo, "Cacho" Heredia, Benegas, Capón;
Eusebio, Alberto (46' Heraldo Becerra), Adelardo, Irureta;
Gárate, Rubén Ayala.

Referee: Charles Corver (Netherlands).

2nd. leg:
Venue: Madrid. Field: Vicente Calderón.
April 10, 1975

Atlético Madrid (Spain) 2-0 Independiente (Argentina)
Goals: 23' Irureta, 85' Rubén "Ratón" Ayala.

Atlético Madrid: Pacheco - Melo, "Cacho" Heredia, Eusebio, Capón, Adelardo,
Irureta, Alberto (Salcedo), Aguilar, Gárate, Rubén Ayala.
Coach: Luis Aragonés.

Independiente: José Alberto Pérez - Miguel Ángel López, Ricardo Elbio Pavoni -
Eduardo Comisso, Rubén Galván, Osvaldo Miguel Carrica -
Agustín Alberto Balbuena, Hugo José Saggiorato,
Percy Rojas (69' Aldo Fernando Rodríguez),
Ricardo Enrique Bochini, Ricardo Daniel Bertoni.
Coach: Roberto Ferreiro.

Referee: Carlos Robles (Chile).
Champions of the world. It was only the second international trophy of Atletico. They waited 13 years for this one… which so far is also their last. I wonder who even remembers the ‘matressmakers’ ever won international tournaments.
Top, left to right: Luis Aragonés – coach, alineó a Pacheco; Melo, Heredia, Eusebio, Capón; Bottom: Irureta, Adelardo, Alberto, Ayala; Gárate, Aguilar.
Well.. the club, the fans, and the Mouse – Ruben Ayala (on the right) remembered 30 years later. When Atlettico celebrated 100 years of existence.
Once upon a time Adelardo lifted the Intercontinental Cup. And got kissed.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Super Cup was still in its confusing infancy – a bit more legitimate in the second year of existence, but not fully recognized. Not entirely serious competition because of that. More dependant on the participants’ agreement than on routine UEFA schedule. In fact, no Super Cup was contested for 1974 at all – instead, in January the Super Cup for 1973 was contested between Ajax and Milan. The first leg was won by the Italians, but Ajax triumphed at the end after destroying Milan in Amsterdam. Football in January is hardly serious – the attendance was low, especially in Italy, and it looked like Milan did not take the challenge as official final, but more like unimportant friendlies. The final attracted little interest and commentaries – almost everybody considered (rightly) that both clubs were in decline. This was the last big trophy of great Ajax, and the only one won under the helm of their new coach, but there was little cheer – the great club was thought already dead. As for Milan – even their fans shrugged off the loss. Indiferently. The second Super Cup produced less interest than the first one… and looked like dead tournament already.

Ajax appeared to play total football only on photos. Paper tigers by now, both clubs competed for… who was only half-dead. The Italian catenaccio was destroyed by already destroyed inventors of total football.
Super Cup 19731st Leg, San Siro Stadium, Milan, 9 Jan 1974, att 15000

Milan (0) 1 Ajax (0) 077' 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) 026' 1-0 A: Mulder35' 2-0 A: Keizer71' 3-0 A: Neeskens81' 4-0 A: Rep84' 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

Monday, September 20, 2010

The final was to be played in Brussels – so far, so good. It turned out to be unusual final and important one because of that. There was no winner after overtime, and the rules stated a replay. It was the first and the last replay in the European tournaments – rules were changed after the experience.

The original final produced no winner – it was scoreless regular time, showing rude, unpleasant brand of football. Atletico fought by every criminal mean and Bayern generally fought back – the Germans were not brutal by nature, but they never shied away from toughness, so they fought equally, thanks to their generally physical kind of football and excellent condition. But no one prevailed and in the war scoring opportunities were few, if any. Luis finally scored for Atletico in overtime – in 114th minute. As the clock was ticking away, dissatisfaction grew – it looked like the Spaniard will get the Cup after disappointing game. Clearly, they did not deserve to win, but Bayern struggled and Atletico constantly destroyed every effort for something creative. Then Schwarzenbeck went ahead and kicked the ball in a way similar to the CSKA’s Mikhailov kick against Ajax – almost out of desperation, but very strong kick from a great distance. And one minute before the final whistle it was 1-1, the equalizer scored by the most unlikely German player – Schwarzenbeck almost never went into attack, covering for Beckenbauer and the full backs. He was not supposed to venture in the opposite half of the field, but desperate time called for desperate measures – and they paid well. 1-1 at the final whistle, Bayern survived in the nick of time.

Final, Heysel Stadium, Brussels, 15 May 1974, att 49000

Bayern Munich (0) 1 Atletico Madrid (0) 1 aet

114' 0-1 AM: Luis119' 1-1 BM: Schwarzenbeck

Bayern Munich (trainer Lattek) Maier; Hansen, Breitner, Schwarzenbeck, Beckenbauer; Roth, Zobel, Hoeness; Torstensson (Durnberger), Müller, Kapellmann

Atletico Madrid (trainer Lorenzo) Reina; Melo, Capon, Adelardo, Heredia; Luis, Eusebio, Irureta; Ufarte (Becerra), Garate, Salcedo (Alberto)

Referee: Delcourt (Belgium)

Two days later – the replay. It was no contest – Spaniards were clearly exhausted at the end of the original final and did not recovered for the next match. They barely walked. In a sharp contrast, Bayern were perfectly in shape. There was only one team on the pitch, a match lacking even the ugly drama of the first match. There was no need for Schwarzenbeck to cross the midlle line this evening. Bayern scored regularly every 20 minutes or so, making it 4-0 at the end and collecting their first European Champions Cup.

Final Replay, Heysel Stadium, Brussels, 17 May 1974, att 23000

Bayern Munich (1) 4 Atletico Madrid (0) 0

28' 1-0 BM: Hoeness58' 2-0 BM: Müller71' 3-0 BM: Müller83' 4-0 BM: Hoeness

Bayern Munich Maier; Hansen, Breitner, Schwarzenbeck, Beckenbauer; Roth, Zobel, Hoeness; Torstensson, Müller, Kapellmann

Atletico Madrid Reina; Melo, Capon, Adelardo (Benegas), Heredia; Luis, Eusebio, Alberto (Ufarte); Garate, Salcedo, Becerra

Referee: Delcourt (Belgium)

Bayern lifting the Cup after skinning Atletico Madrid and donning Spanish skins like another trophy. Dutch reign over; German reign begins.

The aftermath is interesting one: Bayern were not darlings – fans enjoyed mostly of the Spanish loss, for clearly Atletico did not deserve to win. But how pathetic the murderers appeared in the replay! It became crystal clear how far football changed – Atletico were old-fashined in training methods and thus unable to play two high-tensed matches in two days. German training was the new way – perfect fitness. Desire and motivation were not enough anymore… they were good for surviving a singular match, and may be not even that. That’s one. Second, Bayern changed total football – beauty was abandoned in favour of effectiveness. It was the lesson learned by losing from Ajax, when Bayern played great football. No more of beautiful losers – constant moving and changing positions of total football were preserved, but joy and art were discarded. Just move enough to outnumber and pressure the opponent, attack, but maintain discipline. No need to outplay to opposition – outrunning them was good enough. Bayern was not exciting to watch – it was strong dominance, but rather dull. The Germans effectively killed total football by transforming it into increasingly physical midfield kind of game, a robotic kind. Another major change was more commercial than anything – the replay created unforeseen difficulties: TV paid for broadcasting in advance and it was not their fault they were getting two games for the price of one. However, it was difficult to react – crews had to stay in Brussels, accumulating expenses. The replay was difficult to fit in already scheduled programs in the last minute. The replay was not interesting at all. Clearly, replays did not suit neither football’s governing bodies, nor television. Nor the fans. Since finals are mid-week affairs played in foreign lands, club fans take a day off and go for one day. The next they are expected to be at work… The attendance dropped by more than half for the replay – from 49 000 attending the first match to 23 000 at the replay. Hardly profitable on one hand, and clearly absent support for both clubs on the other. It was as if people lost interest and did not care who will win the Cup. It was clear replays no longer worked for anybody involved. It may not have been decided immediately after this final to change rules, but they were soon – no more replays. Instead, penalty shoot-out was to decide winners after overtime tie. Everybody grumbles ever since, but replays are no solution either and the third form – flipping a coin – dissatisfies too. So, how to break stubborn tie then?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

CSKA went ahead to meet Bayern (Munich) at ¼ finals. The aura of the Bulgarian annihilators of Ajax perhaps blinded observers from seeing what Bayern were about at that time: it was not the same Bayern losing from Ajax in the spring of 1973 by playing total football. Bayern won the first leg 4-0 in Munich, but lost the second leg 1-2 in Sofia. It looked like CSKA were better than they were… true, they played as strongly as they could, inspired by their win over Ajax, but beating Bayern was hardly a result of German weakness. Learning their lesson from the ¼ finals against Ajax in the spring of 1973, Bayern changed their style – no more flair and free-spirited football. It was pragmatic and physical kind of football by now, oriented towards results, not fun. Hence, there was little point winning the second leg in Sofia, after having 4 goals lead. True, Bayern struggled in their progress to the final – they eliminated the Swedish champions Atvidabergs FF after penalties in 1/16 finals (3-1 in Munich; 1-3 in Sweden; 4-3 penalty win for Bayern) and agonized against the East German Dynamo (Dresden) in the 1/8 finals (4-3 in Munich; 3-3 in Dresden). So far, CSKA was the easiest opponent for Bayern and going ahead, they tied the first ½ final leg against Ujpesti Dozsa – 1-1 in Budapest. The second leg was all Bayern – 3-0. Germans to the final… nothing else counts and matters.
The other finalist was Atletico (Madrid). The Spaniards advanced unnoticed until ½ finals – they eliminated Galatasaray at the 1/16 finals with miserly 1-0 and 0-0. Dinamo (Bucharest) was largely eliminated in Romania – Atletico won 2-0 visiting, then maintained 2-2 in Madrid. The ¼ final went the same way – 2-0 away win in Belgrade, and keeping Crvena zvezda at bay in Madrid – 0-0. So far – nothing to brag about.
The ½ finals brought attention to the Spanish team – they faced Celtic (Glasgow). As results go – familiar story: 0-0 tie in Scotland and 2-0 Spanish win at home in Madrid. But Atletico played so mean, brutal, and ugly football, they brought outcries of indignation. The Scots were so outraged by Spanish brutality, no Atletico player is meantioned by name ever since – Madrid’s line-up is forever listed as Tug, Murderer, Strangler, and so on in the annals of Celtic. Atletico did not play football at all – but went to the final.
Photography is mercifull – doesn’t seem ugly, right? Atletico played one of the dirtiest games ever in Glasgow, making the Italians envious. Well, who cares – only winning counts.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

European Champions Cup started with surprise – the elimination of Juventus by Dynamo Dresden – but the real shock was yet to come. Ajax did not play at the 1/16 finals, benefiting from a bye. In the 1/8 finals they met CSKA Sofia – the Bulgarian champions comfortably qualifying after two wins (3-0 and 1-0) against Swarovski Wacker (Innsbruck). The 1/8 final opponents were familiar to each other – it was a repetition of the fixture a year before. Ajax walked over CSKA in the fall of 1972 and the same was expected to happen again. Both teams featured little changes: Ajax was without Cruiff and coach Kovacs, who moved to Spain and France. True to their policy, the Dutch did not spend money on big replacement: unknown Dutch coach was hired – George Knobel – and two foreign players – the German Arno Steffenhagen and the stateless Hungarian Zoltan Varga. Both were involved in the West German bribing scandal and after penalties and tainted reputations they were cheap. Neither was considered a starter, but Knobel taught and said that Jan Mulder, finally healthy, would be enough replacement of Cruiff. The Bulgarians also maintained the old squad – they got two new players: the central defenseman of just relegated Volov (Shumen) Tzonyo Vassilev and centre forward from Second Division’s Velbazhd (Kyustendil) Stefan Mikhailov. Vassilev replaced Gaganelov, who retired, as left full back – and quickly established himself and was included in the national team. Mikhailov was taught to be mostly a substitute for aging goalscorer Petar Zhekov. Just like Ajax, CSKA made insignificant changes, and was considered weaker for that – if Ajax maintained a squad of world famous stars, the Bulgarians were aging team, already beyond their peak. Solid team, but one year older and no longer capable of changing their style. Some players were obviously on decline, like the right winger Tzvetan Atanassov. It looked like another easy win for Ajax. It was not. The first leg in Amsterdam showed the Dutch painfully struggling to win, missing a penalty, and playing frustrated dirty physical football. CSKA were no better than before, but Ajax were a pale shadow of themselves. Jan Mulder distinguished himself by breaking the arm of CSKA’s goalkeeper Stoyan Yordanov. Total football was gone just three months after beating Juventus at the European Champions Cup final. It was unbelievable: Ajax, even without Cruiff, were expected to rule European football for many years to come. Instead, they barely won 1-0 against pedestrian CSKA at home. The second leg in Sofia was more of the same – tough and rough, but otherwise clueless Ajax.
Dimitar Penev and Piet Keizer lead their teammates and soon the fatal match in Sofia will start.
CSKA effectively neutralized the Dutch, yet had great difficulties in attack – Ajax still played strong defense.
Petar Zhekov, getting old and heavy, was tightly marked by Barry Hulshoff. The Bulgarian goal-scoring genius did not score… but Hulshoff did not score either: not long ago Hulshoff’s attacks were deadly. Now he spent his time… defending. A lot of physicality, but little football – even on a random photo the match looks tough – but ugly struggle.
But eventually the Bulgarians scored after a clumsy looking header by their left winger Marashliev.
Marashliev’s header. Stuy can’t do anything – 1-0 CSKA.
Regular time ended with this result and over time started to break the aggregate tie. The tempo slowed down, clearly telling of Ajax’s deep trouble – they were not supposed to be unfit. They were not supposed to be defending either, but they were defending. In 107th minute CSKA made a change – Tzvetan Atanassov was replaced by new boy Stefan Mikhailov. Nine minutes later the unknown striker got the ball and shoot – it was tremendous kick, more a result of will power than ability. The ball was on target and no goalie in the world would have been able to stop it – it was fantastic kick. Mikhailov’s tremendous kick – CSKA 2 – Ajax 0. Hulshoff signals off-side. The Dutch were so bad, they asked for off-side in practically every Bulgarian attack – hoping to fool the referees. Hulshoff’s call was ignored…
In a few minutes there was no more Ajax. CSKA went ahead and Ajax sunk into insignificance for the next 10 years. It was huge collapse… one still difficult to fully understand: Cruyff was a genius for sure, but he was not alone in Ajax so his absence to be fatal – unlike many a great team, the Dutch had a squad of world-class stars. CSKA was not better team than the one losing from Ajax the year before – if anything, it was slightly over the hill team, not improving one. So it was something wrong going on in Amsterdam – the name is Knobel. The coach tried to change the playing style of Ajax – something his Romanian predecessor wisely never attempted – which alienated the players. They felt restricted to keep more traditional positions, which practically shackled them. Flamboyance, creativity, and improvisation were gone. Knobel believed Jan Mulder would be equal to Cruyff – and this speaks volumes, for Mulder was lightning years away from Cruyff’s style and talent. If anything, Mulder prevented Repp from coming at the front of the attack – in Knobel’s ‘vision’, Repp was to be classic right winger, something he was not at all. Ajax collapsed like a tower of cards… (and going ahead a bit: Knobel did not last as coach – he was fired in 1975, and hired as… Holland’s national team coach. Rewarded for what?)
Stefan Mikhailov instantly became CSKA legend – he will be forever remembered as the destroyer of mighty Ajax. Alas, that was all for him – he lingered three years in CSKA, mostly as a substitute. Played twice for the Bulgarian national team. Coming from obscurity, he quickly returned to it – released from CSKA in 1975, he went back to his original club in the Second Division and nobody heard of him again. He finished his career in 1980, playing for Velbazhd (Kyustendil). A one-minute hero, but lucky one, for he scored the goal ending the reign of perhaps the most revered team in football history.
CSKA’s squad destroying Ajax.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The UEFA Cup was increasingly becoming more interesting tournament than Cup Winners Cup. Classier teams competed here, and understandably so – national cup competitions had illogical logic: often small clubs were able to reach at least domestic final and thus to play on European turf. Interesting, but not attractive… On the other hand big clubs unable to win neither title, nor cup at home, but finishing high enough in their leagues had the chance to compete for the UEFA Cup, thus concentrating quality in the third ranking European tournament at the expense of the second rank. It was also the most numerous international club competition with 64 participants – double the size of the other tournaments. East German success continued with 1.FC Lokomotive (Leipzig) reaching the ½ finals, but that was the only surprise. The other three ½ finalists represented the top European countries: West Germany, England, and Holland. At the end, it was London’s Tottenham Hotspur and Rotterdam’s Feyenoord to compete for the trophy – more interesting pair than Cup Winners Cup finalists, with expectations slightly favouring Tottenham: the latest years of this cup were entirely English, it was almost a tournament reserved for English teams. However…
Final 1st Leg, White Hart Lane, London, 21 May 1974, att 46281
Tottenham Hotspur (1) 2 Feyenoord (1) 2
39' 1-0 TH: England43' 1-1 F: Van Hanegem64' 2-1 TH: Van Daele og85' 2-2 F: De Jong
Tottenham Hotspur: Jennings; Evans, Naylor, Pratt, England; Beal, McGrath, Perryman, Peters;Chivers, Coates
Feyenoord: Treytel; Rijsbergen, Van Daele, Israël, Vos; De Jong, Jansen, Van Hanegem,Ressel; Schoenmaker, Kristensen
Final 2nd Leg, Feyenoord Stadion, Rotterdam, 29 May 1974, att 59000
Feyenoord (1) 2 Tottenham Hotspur (0) 0
43' 1-0 F: Rijsbergen84' 2-0 F: Ressel
Feyenoord: Treytel; Rijsbergen, Van Daele, Israël, Vos; Ramljak, Jansen, De Jong,Ressel; Schoenmaker, Kristensen (Boskamp (Wery)
Tottenham Hotspur: Jennings; Evans, Naylor, Pratt (Holder), England; Beal, McGrath, Perryman,Peters; Chivers, Coates.
If anything, the UEFA Cup final cemented the reputation of the Dutch football – after 4 years of winning the Champions Cup, now it was fifth year of success. A second European trophy for Feyenoord, telling that their Champions Cup of 1970 was not just sheer luck. Also telling that Dutch football was not only Ajax, and not just a temporary peak. Feyenoord featured experienced squad full of present and former national players – 10 played against Tottenham. The squad was completed by experienced former Yugoslavian national player Ramljak and promising Danish striker Kristensen. The team also represented variety – they played different kind of football than Ajax. Not total football, but still mobile and exciting to watch. Worthy winners.Not precisely the UEFA Cup winning squad, yet close – Feyenoord had more than 11 strong players at hand. Top, left to right: Ger Reitsma, Wim Rijsbergen, Harry Vos, Rinus Israel, Dick Schneider, Wim van Hanegem.
Bottom: Peter Ressel, Wim Jansen, Theo de Jong, Joop van Daele, Jorgen Kristensen (Denmark).
Well, soon after winning the UEFA Cup four of the above will be known to everybody caring about football. Peter Ressel will never become world-class star, but will collect trophies with Anderlecht (Brussels) nevertheless. Almost everybody present would be a staple for the rest of the 70s. Except one… the coach. In 1970 Feyenoord were coached by the Austrian Ernst Happel. In 1973 he went to coach Sevilla in Spain – the route of successful coaches. Wiel Coerver replaced him in Feyenoord and coached the team to the UEFA Cup.
Hard to say why, but Coerver was generally ignored and forgotten… True, most of the famous Feyenoord squad was a result of Happel’s work, but Coerver was not simply riding on somebody else’s achievement. He was dubbed ‘the Albert Einstein of football’, a brainy nickname, given because he developed ‘the Coerver coaching method’ – something still massively practiced and generally seen as the foundation of the continual success of Dutch football. Yet, Coerver did not achieve the fame of Happel, Kovacs, and even less that of Michels. Feyenoord is the only big club he ever coached – and after leaving it in 1975, he went to coach… Indonesia. Game over. Hard to say today was Coerver really great coach – his name is forgotten; his method – remains. Unsung hero? Unlucky one? I would think so.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

And double lucky Milan – there was no doubt the Italians were to collect one more cup. They did it the previous year after a scandalous final against Leeds United. They convinced nobody in 1973, the judgment was against them, their win was heavily tainted. Now Milan had a chance to redeem themselves – Magdeburg was no Leeds. It was not going to be a final, but a walk-over… predictions in football are more often wrong than right. In the drizzle of Rotterdam Milan and Magdeburg came on the pitch in front of small crowd . Only 4000 fans bothered to attend… apart from politics – East Germans were not allowed to travel to the West – the numbers tell how much everybody everywhere was convinced who will win. The final was not to be even a match worth watching… after all, who wants to see a game already knowing the result?
The match started and… there were no Italians. Magdeburg outrun and outplayed Milan. It was the shabby Trabant-driving nobodies running the show, as if the clubs switched shirts before the game. The Italians were helpless and hopeless… yes, it was one-team show, but the nobodies were Gianni Rivera, Schnellinger, and the rest of the spaghetti eaters. Lanzi scored in his own net in the 43rd minute. In 74th minute Seguin scored a second goal, a thoroughly German one this time. And the final whistle was only a formality – the Cup Winners Cup had brand new possessor, which turned out to be the youngest squad to win the trophy.

Final, Feyenoord Stadion, Rotterdam, 8 May 1974, att 4000

1.FC Magdeburg (1) 2 AC Milan (0) 0
43' 1-0 Mag: Lanzi og
74' 2-0 Mag: Seguin

1.FC Magdeburg: Schulze; Enge, Zapf, Tyll, Abraham; Seguin, Pommerenke, Gaube; Raugust,Sparwasser, Hoffmann
AC Milan: Pizzabella; Sabadini, Anquilletta, Lanzi, Schnellinger; Benetti, Maldera, Rivera; Tresoldi, Bigon, Bergamaschi (Turini)
Magdeburg made Milan invisible. Yes, it was one-team show… only it was the show of the ‘wrong’ club.
The lap of honour, presenting the Cup to the empty stadium. Mirroir de Football, owned by the French Communist Party, generously inflated the attendance to 5000. The official count is 4000. Unattended Communist triumph.
Empty stadium does not stop Magdeburg players Tyll, Sparwasser, and Zapf from smiling. And justifiably so – they were the better team by far.
The surprise win of 1.FC Magdeburg was shrugged off – it made some East German players a bit less mysterious at the World Cup finals, but no more than that. Even with the second ranking European trophy the East Germans were not considered up and coming. And this time predictions were…right. 1974 was the singular year of East German success, both on club and national team level. Never to be repeated. In a way, this makes a win sweeter.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Beroe faced Athletic Bilbao in the 1/8 finals and eliminated them too. It was a surprise, but the Bulgarian team clearly outplayed the Basques. Those were the best years of Beroe and may be their best team ever. Just a year ago they qualified for the UEFA Cup and had successful run there, eliminating Austria Vienna and Honved Budapest, before losing to OFK Beograd. They reached the final for the Bulgarian Cup and lost it, but since they lost to CSKA, the champions of the year, they qualified for the Cup Winners Cup and so far were doing great. It was neat and balanced squad, featuring a bunch of well respected players, few of whom eventually played for the national team.
Petko Petkov tries a bicycle kick and almost scores here. The all-time best player of Beroe scored a total of 144 goals for the club. He was twice top Bulgarian goalscorer – in 1974 and 1976. At his wedding day he played official match and scored 5 goals. The first Bulgarian allowed to play professionally abroad.
Unquestionably, the best one was their centre forward Petko Petkov – a goal scoring machine, who never moved to a big Bulgarian club, but by the end of the decade became the first Bulgarian player allowed to play abroad (in Austria Vienna). Beroe was coached by Christo Mladenov, who was appointed national team coach for the World Cup 1974. After eliminating Bilbao, the future look bright – the East German 1.FC Magdeburg was the next opponent, considered much weaker club than Bilbao. Or so was the opinion in Bulgaria… it was exactly the opposite in DDR, and rightly so. After winning 2-0 at home and preserving 1-1 tie in Stara Zagora, the East Germans went to the ½ finals. Since the Cup Winners Cup already was considered the weakest European tournament, nobody paid much attention to the likes of Beroe and Magdeburg: Glentoran (Northern Ireland), PAOK (Greece), and FC Zurich (Switzerland) also reached ¼ finals. The ‘real truth’ was to be seen in the semi-finals… where freak chance paired Milan and Borussia Monchengladbach. Magdeburg had lesser opponent – Sporting Lisbon. Milan won their home match 2-0, lost 0-1 in Monchengladbach and went to the final. The East Germans sweated 1-1 tie in Portugal and barely won the second leg 2-1. Not exactly dominant, not great, rather lucky finalists… at least that was how it looked like. Lucky… Ultra-defensive Milan eliminates Borussia and after that the final should have been just a formality.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Nobodies win nothing. The common sense wisdom is supported by plenty of evidence. Celebrating evidence, then… with what? Nobodies are notoriously hard to find: at least pictorial evidence of them, just because they are… nobodies. Meet CS Fola from Luxembourg:
Founded in 1906, CS Fola is the oldest football club in Luxembourg. At first they were mildly successful, winning 5 national titles (1918, 1920, 1922, 1924, 1930) and three Cups (1923, 1924, and 1955). After 1955 – nothing, and although they normally play in the First Division, even at their home town – Esch-sur-Alzette – they are dwarfed by much better rivals – Jeunesse. It is a sheer miracle CS Fola exists today, but they do – and stubbornly rejected merger with Jeunesse during the 1990s. The minions of minions… the smaller club in a tiny town of diminutive country. On European scene they appeared only once – after losing the Luxembourg Cup final, CS Fola secured a place in the Cup Winners Cup. Their participation was short and, so far, unrepeated.
Top, left to right: two administrators, Ronkoni, Smolarski, Wagner, Tonner, Heger, Ferrero (France), Hopp – masseur, Schaak – the coach in 1972-73, already gone by the fall of 1973.
Bottom: Hummer, Fiorese, Jubert, Reiter, Melde, Stephan, Wairich.
Well, I am not certain of the spelling of the names… and I am not certain what exactly they were: a club like that in the darkest zone – amateurs? Semi-professionals? These are not players who go to big clubs and fame, yet, there is a foreigner among them – the French player Ferrero. So, they appear to be a mixed squad – just like the big clubs… local and imported stars. The ‘stars’ were well aware of their strength: drawing the Bulgarian Beroe in the first round of the Cup Winners Cup, they proposed to play both legs in Stara Zagora, Beroe’s home town, to save money. Naturally, they lost – collecting 11 goals in their net, but they scored once and this goal is their meager European achievement. That huge was the division in European football back then: Beroe were insignificant club in the European pyramid, even in Bulgaria, yet, they were parsecs above the universe occupied by CS Fola. Nobodies making no news and quickly sifted out in the preliminary round of any European competition. At least a glimpse of them remains, for the most of their kind leave no picture of themselves.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Copa Libertadores produced the usual drama far away from the big European exposure. Once again – 8th time so far – three games determined the winner, which was familiar. Independiente (Avallaneda) lifted the Cup for 5th time. Since 1971 there was only Independiente, but unlike previous years this time the other finalist was a heavy – Sao Paulo (Brazil). The Brazilians won the opening game 2-1. Saggioratto scored first for the Argnetines, but in the second half Rocha (48 m) and Mirandinha two minutes later gave a little advantage to Sao Paulo. Back on home turf Independiente won 2-0 with goals by Bochini and Balbuena. The rules, not taking in account aggregate goal difference, called for a third match, played on the neutral Estadio Nacional in Santiago, Chile. The Soviets refused to play on this stadium, but the South Americans did and Independiente scraped a minimal 1-0 win with goal by their defender Pavoni.
Five times Copa Libertadores winners! Only Real Madrid had more continental cups in 1974.

1st leg. Pacaembú, São Paulo, 12-10-1974

São Paulo - Independiente 2-1
28' Saggioratto 0-1
48' Rocha 1-1
50' Mirandinha 2-1

São Paulo: Valdir Peres, Nelson, Paranhos, Arlindo, Gilberto, Ademir
(Chicão), Zé Carlos (Mauro), Rocha, Terto, Mirandinha, Piau.
Independiente: Gay, Commisso, Sá, López, Pavoni, Galván, Raimondo,
Saggioratto, Balbuena, Bochini, Bertoni.

Referee: Pérez (Peru)
Attendance: 50,000

2nd leg. Cordero, Avellaneda, 16-10-1974

Independiente - São Paulo 2-0
34' Bochini 1-0
48' Balbuena 2-0

Independiente: Gay, Commisso, Sá, López, Pavoni, Galván, Raimondo,
Saggioratto, Balbuena, Bochini, Bertoni (Semenewicz).
São Paulo: Valdir Peres, Nelson, Paranhos, Arlindo, Gilberto, Chicão,
Rocha, Mauro, Terto, Mirandinha, Piau.

Referee: Barreto (Uruguay)
Attendance: 55,000

Play-off. Estadio Nacional, Santiago, 19-10-1974

Independiente - São Paulo 1-0
37' Pavoni 1-0
Independiente: Gay, Commisso, Sá, López, Pavoni, Galván, Raimondo,
Semenewicz, Balbuena (Carrica), Bochini, Bertoni (Giribet).
São Paulo: Valdir Peres, Forlán, Paranhos, Arlindo, Gilberto (Nelson),
Chicao, Zé Carlos (Silva), Rocha, Mauro, Mirandinha, Piau.

Independiente kept more or less stable core squad during their so far 3-years long South American foray. Sao Paulo also had interesting squad, but the player I’ll note here is the goalie Valdir Peres – Sao Paulo’s keeper for many, many years was hardly known outside Brazil. He became known in 1982… and not for anything good, so just keep him in mind. The question here is about the Argentines: by 1974 they were the only club in the world really trailing the international success of the famous Real Madrid team of the 50s and early 60s. Like Real, they were consistent for over 10 years. With Sa, Galvan, Balbuena, Semenewicz, Bochini, Commisso, Bertoni, and the Uruguayan captain Pavoni they were studded with stars. Unlike Real, the Argentines were less successful domestically. Yet, nobody considers them a great team – not in actual time; not today. Why? The numbers suggest otherwise. 5 Libertadores Cups… and they were not finished yet… and not a great club? Hard to tell… they were underappreciated for sure – Europeans knew little about them, and what they knew was tainted by the foul Intercontinental challenges. Independiente exported little to Europe – although Yazalde was Independiente player before conquering Europe. Apart from lack on information, South American tournaments were considered strange - unlike Europe not only real champions participated in Libertadores, thus degrading the contest from European standpoint. Internationally successful clubs were rarely dominant at home, unlike Europe – Sao Paulo, for instance, so far won nothing in Brazil. Independiente was not Argentine champion as well: not in 1973, not in 1974. Besides, South America was peculiar – mostly for objective reasons. Travel was difficult and prohibitively expensive. International club football never made profit, just the opposite – there was the gruesome example of Independiente’s home rivals Racing Club: they never recovered financially from the win of Libertadores in 1967. Until the mid-1990s! Was it worthy to put a club in financial peril just to win a cup? Winning spelled out bankruptcy and many a club recoiled from the prospect – and refused to participate. In turn, the tournament was slightly tainted – winners are winners, but did play against the best of opposition? May be not… at least to the European eye. A remedy was sought in dividing efforts – many a club concentrated on Libertadores and played with their second team in the domestic championship. Thus, international success went hand in hand with domestic mediocrity – so much unlike Europe. Finally, so far just a few South Americans moved to Europe, with the result that as a whole few of them were really considered world stars for lack of exposure. One said ‘Brazilians’ or ‘Argentines’, meaning mostly players seen at the World Cups. Pele, Garincha, Tostao… who never played in the same club. Behind the plural ‘Argentines’ hardly any name came to mind… so, who the hell were those Balbuenas and Semenewiczes? Certainly not Di Stefano and Puskas! Independiente were forgotten in real time: ignorance, doubts, ill fame, everything contributed to diminish them. But the question remains – even counting only what they achieved by 1974, how many clubs in the world have 5 continental cups today? Today – not in 1974! Today! Some nobodies…

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Brazil – the crème of the crème of football. Well… it depends. South America was already messy and grim, but Brazil added sheer lunacy: 40 clubs participated in the 1974 championship. The swelling of the top division had nothing to do with the game itself – it was mostly a result of never ending barrage of complaints, protests, threats, backroom deals. Which was not to end in 1974 either, so this is not the biggest league Brazil ever run. The whole scheme was complicated: two groups of 20 clubs each played at first and perhaps this was the most normal stage of the championship. After that the top ten of each group went ahead, but there were additions: the best ‘non-top 10’ also qualified, plus two teams with best ‘average revenue’ from the bowels of the league. Thus, Fluminense, ending 16th in their group still qualified for the next stage. The new crop was divided in 4 groups of 6 teams each. The winners went to the next phase, playing round robin tournament and the top two were to contest the title in a final. All this fun produced Cruzeiro and Vasco da Gama as finalists. According to regulations, the final had to be played in Belo Horizonte (Cruzeiro finished first in the best 4 stage), but – no. Vasco hastily complained of security problems at Cruzeiro’s stadium and the match was transferred to Rio de Janeiro. Once at home, Vasco clinched 2-1 win and their first title.
Finally, Rio de Janeiro, the ‘holly centre’ of Brazilian football won a championship, but given the divisions – very likely nobody apart from Vasco da Gama fans enjoyed the title.
The champions of 1974.
The only question is did they deserve the title? The squad is somewhat ‘unknown’ – Alcir, Ademir, and Roberto Dinamite are the ‘heavy’ names here, but they pale when compared to the losers Cruzeiro, featuring Nelinho, Perfumo (Argentina), Vanderlei, Piazza, Dirceu Lopes, Roberto Batata, and Palhinha. Even the name of Vasco’s coach, Mario Travaglini, doesn’t ring any bell. The champions provided practically no one to the national team, and unlike Cruzeiro, had no players in the Brazilian World Cup 1974 team. But Vasco da Gama were consistent during the season, constantly ending at the top (not just barely qualifying). Well, if the final was played in Belo Horizonte, as the rules stipulated, most likely Cruzeiro would have been triumphant… but it was played in Rio, and Vasco scored one more goal, and ‘the rest is history’. Apparently, unconvincing history, if the absence of Vasco players in the national team is considered, but… it may have been a case of weakness of other clubs, who provided players to the national team and thus were unable to play at their best. Whatever the arguments pro and contra, one thing is certain – this Vasco da Gama vintage is remarkably… unimpressive. It raised no comments, no analyses, no lengthy articles outside Brazil. At least it was some kind of rehabilitation of Rio de Janeiro, seemingly plummeting into oblivion at the domestic scene so far.