Saturday, December 31, 2011

DDR on the other hand stuck – by 1976 the pattern was settled and quite peculiar: no outstanding favorite, but a group of 5 clubs competing year after year. Four were constant – Dynamo (Dresden), Carl Zeiss (Jena), 1. FC Magdeburg, and Lokomotive (Leipzig). The fifth club varied, but Dynamo (East Berlin) was increasingly consistent, although not yet a contender. Among the constant four, Dynamo (Dresden) and somewhat better than the rest and Lokomotive (Leipzig) the weakest. Yet, there was no great club in East Germany, and this combined with small league hided the supremacy of the top five: it was invisible by surveying the table alone – points did not show a divide. It was becoming clear only when looking at all final tables since 1970.
There was one more peculiarity: DDR was the only East European country where Army and Police clubs did not rule domestic football – Dynamo (Berlin) was not even seen as potential champion yet, and Forwarts (the Army club) was champion in 1969 for the last time. Since then the club sharply declined and was not even in Berlin any longer, but in Frankfurt Oder since 1971. Hardly a real relation, yet a curious similarity nevertheless: the decline of Forwarts mirrored the decline of CSKA (Moscow) – both Army clubs seized playing major role since 1970 and never restored leading positions (the fall of the Communist system is the marker – CSKA recovered since 1990; Forwarts disappeared altogether). As for Police-sponsored football – Dynamo (Berlin) was building strength, but so far hasn’t win a single championship.
Perhaps those were the best years of East German football, if results are the whole indicator: World Cup finals in 1974; Magdeburg Cup Winners Cup winner in 1974; DDR becoming Olympic champion in 1976 – these achievements were never to be repeated, but so far it looked like East German football was on the rise. And Dynamo (Dresden) finished first in the spring of 1976 – their third title. Sitting, left to right: Watzlich, Hafner, Kotte, Urbanek, Boden, Sachse, Heider, Helm, Richter.
Standing: Dorner, Schmuck, Kreische, Ganzera, Schade, Weber, Lichtenberger, Muller, Riedel.
The squad was representative for both the success of the ‘top 5 clubs’ and the coming troubles for East German football: best players were concentrated in those clubs, making them dominant. 13 players of this squad played for the national team – a very serious number, and also unmatched by any other club at the time. But the best players of the country happened to be practically one generation… most of them were slightly over 25 years of age by 1976 and had many years to play yet, but they also reached the limit of their abilities – yes, they harvested the fruits of their labour, but the 1976 Olympics was also their swan song. No significant new talent was elbowing its way and stagnation was in the air – the best East German generation was strong enough to become legendary at home, yet not a single player became international star. For Dynamo (Dresden) this season was perhaps their best ever as well: they won 19 out of total 26 matches, losing only 2. They scored astonishing 70 goals, having the best defense as well, allowing only 23 balls to end in their net. Dresden finished 6 points ahead of the second placed Dynamo (Berlin).
Lokomotive (Leipzig) won the Cup, beating Forwarts (Frankfurt Oder) 3-0.
If anything, Lokomotive were establishing themselves as ‘cup’ club – they always fell short of really contesting championship, but they flourished at the cup tournaments. It was decent squad, yet, of lesser pedigree than Dresden: it was sturdy team, lead by the national team players Wolfram Lowe, Henning Frenzel, Joachim Fritsche, and Manfred Geisler. Kuhn, Altmann, Friese, Roth, Sekora, Grobner completed the team – a bunch of promising youngsters and well respected older guys, but in the big picture – second-best players, just a bit under the stars of East German football. Which explains why they were good at cup tournaments, but not league-champions material.
At the bottom of the Oberliga were Chemie (Leipzig), stronger club once upon a time, and Energie (Cottbus) dead last. Hansa (Rostock) and 1. FC Union (Berlin) were promoted, after winning the 5-club promotional tournament between the winners of the 5-leagued Second Division. From present day standpoint, curious names: since the German Unification Hansa (Rostock) and Energie (Cottbus) are arguably the most successful former East German clubs, given their steady performance in the First and Second Bundesliga. Both clubs were small fry in DDR… as well as Union (Berlin). ‘True” Berliners never wormed up to the Communist clubs of Army and Police, and Forwarts had to be even relocated elsewhere. But ‘true’ Berliners had no chance of supporting the ‘true’ Berliner club – Hertha was out of reach in West Berlin. In spite, ‘true’ Berliners supported Union… aware of that, the rulers of the country kept Union down. The club had no official support and no big sponsors – without means, Union normally played in second division. Promotion to the Oberliga was a heroic achievement, although the club clearly had no chance of even establishing itself among the best. If anything, at least East Berlin restored itself among the big European capitals: in football terms, that means a city with more than one club playing in First division. May be so, but East Berlin was not playing central role in East German football so far.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tiny signs of recovery in Romania, but also in Austria. Once again, it was restoration of the power of traditional favorites, in the Austrian case the clubs from Vienna – Austria and Rapid. It is always questionable whether returned dominance of traditional big clubs is a sign of improvement, or a sign of stagnation, but long suffering Austrian football at least appeared stabilized: the small reorganized league was seemingly more competitive. 10 clubs, playing four times against each other provided plenty of games and generally better quality. Financial troubles were not really solved and the problem with overall quality remained: the Second League just did not seem to be a provider of stable clubs – it consisted of largely little known clubs, hardly attractive to potential sponsors. Old club, yet quite faded by now – First Vienna FC won the Second Division and the single promotion to First Division. Austria Klagenfurt was relegated – the exchange was hardly an improvement, but at least the other 9 clubs in the Bundesliga appeared stable… and somewhat eternal, considering what was coming from below. Between themselves, the ‘eternal’ possessed whatever pool of talent Austria had, a small pool indeed, but there were exciting young players around, bringing some hopes for the future. In the effort to attract public the Austrians turned even into the new fad, gaining popularity in Europe – indoor football:

Rapid (Vienna) – Austria (Klagenfurt) in January? Only indoors… it was not yet futsal, but its precursor. Stadl scores attractive goal for Klagenfurt… if only they were able to score on real pitch, they were not to be relegated, but they were not that good on grass.

On grass it was different story… struggle in the fog. Rapid (Vienna) once again on the receiving end – this time in the ‘small’ derby with Admira-Wacker (Vienna), but the unhappy goalie Antrich eventually brightened up – Rapid won at the end.
Which was good enough for third place at the final table. Swarovski-Wacker (Innsbruck) finished second and Austria (Vienna) were champions with 7 points lead, impressive 21 wins, and 77 goals scored against only 29 received – the best numbers in the league. It was the first title for Austria since 1970 and their 11th altogether.

As the team goes, it was strong enough by Austrian standards: Josef and Robert Sara, Felix Gasselich, and Hans Pirkner provided class, but three other players were more important – very likely the Uruguayan imports Julio Cesar Morales (striker) and Alberto Martinez (midfielder) really made the difference. Both came to Austria in 1973, from famous clubs – Morales from Nacional and Martinez from Penarol, and both stayed with Austria for years, thus supplying quality and stability. Morales was the most famous foreign player in Austria by far: he played for Uruguay at the 1970 World Cup and won the Intercontinental Cup with Nacional in 1971. Along with them was rapidly developing a new star – Herbert Prohaska (sitting first from right above), playing since 1972, yet only 21 years old in 1976. On his way of becoming major European star, Prohaska is a key player of the brief revival of Austrian football, which started pretty much in 1976, and the central figure of the strong Austria Vienna team of the second half of the 1970s.
Arch-rivals Rapid suffered longer than Austria – they won their last title long time ago – in 1968, and after that only one measly Cup in 1972. This season they were still not good for anything better than 3rd place in the league, but won the Cup – their 9th.

As a squad, they were less impressive than Austria – Kienast and Persidis provided contemporary quality; 30-years old August Starek supplied experience, after years playing for Bayern (Munich). The German touch was reinforced by the imports: Emil Krause and Herbert Gronen. West Germans, but… nobody ever heard of them, so it was German influence just on principle. Yet, Rapid had a real star on the making, just like Austria (Vienna) – Hans Krankl. Krankl in action. He was already detected in Europe – prolific goalscorer already. He was 23 years old and real international fame was still in the future, but he was already a star in Austria.
As a whole, Austrian clubs were not that great, but Prohaska and Krankl promised better years ahead. It was not an empty promise – Austrian football gradually got strength, a revival already started. Small steps so far, but steps nevertheless.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Across Danube River Steaua (Bucharest) triumphed with a double. It was coming back with a vengeance – Steaua did not win championship since 1968! It was there 8th title and a Cup for good measure. It was confident season for the Army club – they finished 7 points ahead of second placed Dinamo (Bucharest); won 21 out of 34 championship games, scored impressive 79 goals – the most in the league by far. On a larger scale, it looked like the domination of Bucharest clubs was restored – big Steaua and Dinamo on top, and on the bottom – two clubs from Cluj: Universitatea last and CFR just a place above. The novelty? Univerisatea was among the top clubs 2-3 season previously. CFR are Romanian champions just now: freshly winning the 2009-10 season. Who would imagine that in 1975, when the ‘railways’ boys were relegated? Back then another conclusion was more convincing: the end of provincial football challenging the big clubs from the capital. May be even the end of dark years of Romanian football?

No Army crewcuts for the Army team – and hairy boys winning everything! Front row, left to right: Marcel Raducanu, Florea (?), Constantin Dumitriu IV, Ion Ion, Tudorel Stoica.
Middle row: Radu Troi, Teodor Anghelini, Ion Dumitru, Anghel Iordanescu, Viorel Smarandache, Gabriel Zahiu, Constantin Zamfir.
Top: Emerich Jenei – coach, Viorel Nastase, Stefan Sames, Dumitru Moraru, Vasile Iordache, Mario Agiu, Iosif Vigu, Greiniceanu (?) – assistant coach.
To a point, quite a balanced squad, full of national players – Raducanu, Iordanescu, Anghelini, Moraru, Dumitru… However, this was not a squad revered as much as the one coached by Stefan Kovacz few years ago. The top stars of Romanian football at that period – Dobrin, Oblemenco, Georgescu – played elsewhere. As a whole, this team did not leave long lasting impression – it was more likely an attempt for building something new, but the material was still fragile. From the distance of time, something important has to be pointed out, though: it was the first spell with Steaua for Emerich Jenei, who was yet to become famous coach, but his first year at the helm of Steaua brought big results, at least in Romania. In a way, it was continuation of the Hungarian tradition of the club: ethnic Hungarian, Stefan Kovacs (or Stefan Covaci, or Istvan Kovacs), made the last strong Steaua. Another ethnic Hungarian (today Jenei is often listed as a ‘real’ Hungarian and under ‘proper’ name – Imre Jenei) started new era for Steaua. Kovacs and Jenei are considered among the 4 best ever Romanian coaches, along with Mircea Lucescu , who had nothing to do with the Army club. The fourth is Anghel Iordanescu – so far sporting medieval mustache and winning trophies on the pitch, not from the bench.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What was coming up confirmed the crisis… Akademik (Svishtov) and Marek (Dupnitza – back then Stanke Dimitrov) were promoted. Akademik never played in the First Division before. Marek did play quite regularly, but they had the reputation of the most brutal team. It was actually a comfort to see them going down, hopefully, never to return… nobody (their fans, known for stoning visiting teams, excepted) was welcoming back Marek. Neither club looked like improvement – rather, they were one more sign of crisis.

Akademik (Svishtov), winners of the Northern Second Division. A ‘students’ club, belonging to the University of Economics in the small city on the shore of Danube River – small town, small university… given the predicament of the ‘big’ Akademik (Sofia), the picture was troublesome: since Akademik (Sofia) had difficulties recruiting and keeping good players, what possibly can do a club with smaller resources? But it was good – on principle – to see them going up!
Bottom, left to right: Il. Popov, V. Bozhilov, Al. Benchev, St. Zakhariev, V. Mikhov, P. Petkov.
Middle: Tz. Kamenov, O. Karchev, Iv. Genov, Iv. Aleksandrov, A. Borisov, Yu. Stoimenov.
Standing: Zh. Panev – coach, N. Kolev, V. Petkov, Iv. Nonchev, N. Dzharov, Pl. Valkov, P. Stankov, Iv. Zarkov, N. Kerkelov – assistant coach.
Even for debutants it was amazingly anonymous squad: a few players were barely recognizable for playing briefly in smaller First Division clubs; the rest were nobodies. Nobody was coveted by other clubs, whether big or small. And nobody remembers these guys today with only two exception – Petar Stankov, because he briefly played for the national team, and Valentin Mikhov. Mikhov, however, is well known not as a player – he became a major functionary after the fall of Communism, still heading his own creation – ‘The Professional Football League’.

Marek (Stanke Dimitrov) won the Southern Second Division, returning after years if exile to top flight. Nobody really wanted them – the memories of broken legs and stones flying from the stands were strong – but here they were coming again… Sitting, from left: A. Tomov, R. Karakolev, St. Shaldupov, St. Stoyanov, S. Pargov, L. Kolev, Al. Kyuchukov, Y. Ikonomov – masseur(?)
Middle: Ya. Dinkov – coach, L. Brankov, Iv. Karabelyov, G. Bogdanov, D. Dimitrov, Sl. Lazov, V. Zaprov, G. Belchinsky, D. Kukov – assistant coach.
Third row: N. Krastev, L. Sevdin, Iv. Palev, Em. Kyuchukov, K. Petkov, D. Doryanov, S. Raynov, An. Dinev.
Another anonymous team… a few aging survivors from the last time Marek played First Division football, just enough to keep memories of brutal villains alive – Shaldupov, Pargov, Belchinsky, Sevdin; one old horse, taking it easy after years in Slavia – Nikolay Krastev, that was all…
Neither club was seen as improvement of First Division and both were expected to be relegated the next year. Marek nobody wanted anyway, but they were to shatter predictions soon – suffice to say that 6 players of the above squad became national players, and they were not the only ones either. Unthinkable in the summer of 1976, when it looked like Bulgarian football was going to the devil.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

At the end of the table and relegated were Cherno more (Varna) and Spartak (Pleven). Both satellites – Cherno more of CSKA, and Spartak of Levski-Spartak. How much of their performance was due to weakness and how much to helping the ‘mother clubs’ and thus sacrificing themselves? Hard to tell… Spartak were rarely strong and Second Division was quite familiar to them. The team was aging too and they were late with rebuilding. Cherno more were declining for some time and also late in rebuilding aging team, but it was not a club bouncing up and down – they were constant feature of First Division.

Dead last – Spartak (Pleven). This is formation from the spring of 1975, but it was practically unchanged in 1975-76. Top, left to right: M. Varbanov – coach, V. Minkov, St. Dimitrov, P. Todorov, D. Dimov, I. Bratanov, V. Marinov – assistant coach.
Bottom: Kr. Lazarov, B. Yakimov, Pl. Nikolov, T. Barzov - captain, Sl. Stoilov, Al. Chenkov.

Cherno more finished next to last and faced the music… This is the squad for 1976-77 season, as it was in the summer of 1976 – there were changes during the new season. A whole bunch of old players were retired, but most of the above were part of the relegated squad anyway. Bottom, left to right: Andreev, Christov, Svetozarov, Vladimirov, Boychev, Yordanov, D. Georgiev – captain.
Top: Kerekovsky, Rafiev, Dimov, Denev, Simeonov, Y. Bogomilov, Marev, Diamandiev, Parushev.
How to tell how these two teams were worse than many others: Spartak had a group of young, but already established players like Barzov, Nikolov (both soon to move to Levski-Spartak), Bratanov (one of the most promising fullbacks at the time) and Lazarov (fiery right winger). With the exception of unlucky Bratanov, whose career ended prematurely because of heavy injury, the rest were soon to play for the national team. Cherno more had even more talent: Marev, young, but already one of the best sweepers in the country and national team player; Yancho Bogomilov, a very promising stopper (eventually joining CSKA a few years later), and bunch of erratic, but lethal when in the right mood strikers – Damyan Georgiev, Plamen Christov, Yordanov, and Rafi Rafiev. Svetozarov and Diamandiev were considered quite promising as well… may be ‘quite’ was the secret: promising at time of poor talent. Bulgarian football was in decline and although the relegated teams did not look worse than those, who survived, they were not better either. At the end, only three players of the two teams combined really established themselves – Marev, Barzov, and Nikolov.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Levski lost the championship, finishing second, but there was still a possibility for at least partial revenge: they met CSKA once again at the Cup final. There was never love between the arch-enemies and matches were more often than not ugly, but the Cup final deteriorated into viscous battle. It was rainy day and the slippery pitch was dangerous anyway, so hard tackles quickly fired short fused spirits. Traditionally CSKA was the first to start brutalities, but Levski did not shy away from retaliation – this season there were plenty of ‘iron legs’ and ‘short tempers’ around: Rangelov, Denev, Vassilev, Kolev, Yankov (CSKA); Grancharov, Milanov, Tishanski (Levski). With the exception of Plamen Yankov and Kiril Milanov, all were on the pitch… which resulted in 6 yellow cards (Goranov, Denev, Sredkov, and Rangelov of CSKA, and Grancharov and Pavlov of Levski).

The referee trying to keep Grancharov (Levski) from fighting with Kolev (CSKA), who just severely fouled Levski’s player. Even a player practically never involved in brutality – Pavel Panov (Levski, with the ball in his hand) – lost his cool. As for Tzonyo Vassilev (CSKA, number 4) – he was never away from a fight… things were so bad, the coaches of both teams stepped in to beg their players to cool down – and Sergy Yotzov (CSKA) and Ivan Vutzov (Levski) had been known as ‘iron legs’ in their playing days, so the battle was really extraordinary to impress such coaches. Ugly match, which ended 2-2 in the regular time – all goals scored in the first half, when Levski quickly built 2-0 lead and CSKA managed to equalize. The drama continued in extra time – Levski scored in the 93th minute, but a minute later CSKA equalized again. Exactly in the 100th minute Levsky scored again – the header was attributed to the ‘blue’ captain Kiril Ivkov, a mistake, for the goalscorer was Georgy Tzvetkov. Ivkov later corrected the mistake – a rarely seen jest. This goal to be the end of CSKA – Levski attacked furiously to the final whistle.
Disappointing season, a Cup, and kit, which became cultic: this is not the full squad, but the selection winning the Cup final (although they played in Adidas by that time): top, from left: Donchev – assistant coach, Gaydarsky, Yordanov, Iliev, Vutzov – coach, Staykov, Ivkov, Grancharov, Aladzov.
First row: Tishanski, Voynov, Stoyanov, Tzvetkov, Panov, Pavlov, Spassov.
Only Stefan Staykov did not play at the final. Inconsistency was the main quality of Levski-Spartak: strong in fall of 1975, having perhaps their best run in the European Club tournaments; then disgusting spring, blowing away a ‘sure title’; then getting motivated again for the Cup final.
Akademik (Sofia) finished third – one of their best seasons ever and generally the crown achievement of gradually progressing team since 1971.
Bottom, from left: B. Angelov, D. Gologanov, Ml. Vassilev, L. Lozanov, B. Simov, S. Yankov, D. Aleksiev, St. Parvanov, P. Aleksandrov.
Top: D. Roev – coach, G. Roev, T. Paunov, Yu. Ivanov, Yu. Nikolov, Yo. Nikolov, Il. Chalev, Kr. Goranov, D. Efremov, G. Tikhanov, E. Manolov – assistant coach.
Climbing to third position – for a club with limited resources, no influence, no supporters, and big clubs constantly stealing players from ‘the students’, Akademik were truly heroic. Danko Roev was a miracle coach, managing to find new players under such circumstances, maintaining the pleasant technical style of the team. I personally prefer an earlier version of Akademik, but the 1975-76 vintage finished at the highest possible place for a small club. And perhaps it was the only enjoyable performance in otherwise bleak year.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

North of Greece things were going in the opposite direction – Bulgarian football was shaky: stuck in stupor at best; going steadily downhill at worst. The only promising teams – Slavia and Akademik, both from Sofia – stood no chance: political interest vested in CSKA and Levski-Spartak did not permit anybody else to become real contender. The whole body of Bulgarian football suffered because of that – the main result was lack of talent. At the end the big clubs suffered as well, for there was nobody to replace their aging stars. Which did not stop the big clubs from grabbing whoever seemed able of kicking the ball… lowly Akademik was constantly plundered, as well as the provincial clubs. Slavia was rather stifled – no players were stolen from the oldest Bulgarian club, but referees made sure that champions will not wear white. And it was the same old, same old CSKA and Levski duel… Perhaps the most significant feature of this season was that CSKA and Levski-Spartak appeared in ‘modern’ kit: CSKA dressed in Adidas, and Levski – in West German-made kit, believed to be Puma, but not looking like Puma. It changed the look of the team: no longer entirely blue, but blue and white shirts. Eventually, this kit became iconic and was repeated in later years. As kits go, East European countries were slow to catch up with fashion, mainly for political reasons. Since CSKA and Levski belonged to arch-political institutions – the Army and the Police – it was unbecoming for them to use ‘capitalist’ gear (did not apply to training sweats and boots, though). Thus, the most powerful Bulgarian clubs were not the first dressed in Western kit – Slavia claims to be the first club purchasing Adidas, although I think lowly Minyor (Pernik) used Adidas before Slavia. Finally the big boys followed the fashion – already behind most Soviet clubs, but ahead of East Germany. As for real football…
CSKA continued to stumble in its attempts rebuild the aging squad – in the ‘normal’ way of the club, ruthless plundering of other clubs was the method. 6 new players arrived: the top scorer of the 1974-75 season Ivan Pritargov (Trakia Plovdiv), Milen Goranov, the key striker of Akademik (Sofia), the very promising left winger Tzvetan Yonchev (Botev Vratza), the occasional national player Dimitar Dimitrov (Beroe Stara Zagora), Angel Rangelov, who had great 1974-75 season (Sliven), and entirely unknown youngster Plamen Markov (Rakovski Sevleivo). All of them came from traditional hunting fields of CSKA, but only two players passed the usual cover – that they were ‘called for regular army service’: Yonchev and Markov. Two clubs belonged to the army ‘family’ – or satellites – Trakia and Sliven, so they had no say whatsoever in the matter. One transfer was particularly interesting: Rangelov came from CSKA’s youth system, but, as almost every homegrown youth of CSKA, was not invited at all to the first team. He had strong season with Sliven, though, and now the ‘mother club’ suddenly became interested – it was a new practice, of which Sliven was to suffer in the next few years. Trakia – curiously, for this was new as well – was actually compensated: CSKA gave them three players for Pritargov! Sounds great… except those three were dead meat. Yet, there was no improvement… with the new boys CSKA continued to play shaky, unconvincing football.
Levski-Spartak acquired three new guys: the attacking midfielder Yordan Yordanov (Minyor Pernik), the tough central defender Ivan Tishanski (Akademik Sofia), and another toughie, the right full back Nikolay Grancharov (Cherno more Varna). Curiously, the new boys came because of the already mentioned stupid policy of CSKA: Tishanski and Grancharov were products of CSKA’s youth system, but just like Rangelov, the Army was not interested in them (Tishanski did polish the reserves bench for two seasons, but Grancharov was never included in the first team). Unlike CSKA’s recruits, the newcomers settled quickly in Levski and with Krassimir Borisov finally fitting in the team, Levski was in much better shape than CSKA in the first half of the 1975-76 season. The moment of truth came at the derby with the arch-enemy: Levski annihilated CSKA 4-1. CSKA was pale shadow of itself; Levski was in great form; the winter break find them leading by 5 points. Title was in the bag!
It was different picture in the spring – a repetition of 1973-74, when great fall was followed by mediocre spring and Levski won the title thanks to the points collected in the fall. It was exactly the same in 1976… the lead gradually dwindled to only 2 points before the spring derby with CSKA. Meantime CSKA made desperate last change midseason: their coach Manol Manolov was sacked and replaced by another former CSKA player Sergy Yotzov, who built strong squad in the satellite Sliven. Yotzov tried to reshape the team somewhat – moved Denev ahead as a striker, and moved Milen Goranov back to midfield, but it was largely cosmetic change. The team did not really improve, but it was still strong enough the small fry in the league. Derbies have life of their own, regardless the form of the opponents – given the condition of both teams, it should have been lackluster draw… the match wasn’t much, but it was not a draw: CSKA won 3-1, tied points with Levski and suddenly was leading on better goal difference. Observers still point out missed penalty as the crucial moment of the season: Levski got a penalty when the result was 1-0 for CSKA. The army goalie Stoyan Yordanov saved the penalty, crashing Levski’s spirit. I don’t think so: Levski was not outplayed per se, but was in bad enough form to be likely looser. It was mental… somehow the team did not seem ready to clinch even a tie. Curiously, ‘red’ folklore still remembers this otherwise unimpressive match – as a prime example of ‘systematic atrocities against CSKA’. The ‘wrongness’ is… the missed penalty. It was protested by the players even after their goalie saved it, so the referee showed two yellow cards (another crime committed against noble CSKA). Well, it was particularly disputable penalty: Levski’s striker flipped the ball above reach of CSKA’s goalie and Rangelov cleared the ball from crossing the goal line with his hand. A ‘natural right’ was seemingly violated: one simply does not call penalties against CSKA, period!
Levski never shook up its sluggishness – at the final table they were 2 points behind CSKA. Fanship apart, the season was meager – CSKA was hardly convincing winner; Levski lost form with meteoric speed; Lokomotiv Plovdiv, very strong in the last 4-5 years, gave signs of aging and loosing steam; Slavia, already without Isakidis, was unstable and not exactly up the football they played the previous year; Sliven was weakened; the rest of the other clubs were in decline. The relegated teams were interesting in this light: satellites of CSKA and Levski were never relegated together before, as far as I remember. Cherno more (Varna, belonging to the Navy) was strong team just a few years ago and constant first division club. The weakness of the ‘mother’ clubs relegated the satellites, I suspect – neither Cherno more, nor Spartak (Plaven, belonging to the Police) had worse squads than the other smaller clubs in the league. Donating points to Levski or CSKA, plus other schemes helping the struggling ‘grands’ perhaps cost them heavily.

One more title for CSKA, but one of the least convincing in their history – a transitional team at best. Back row, from left: Filipov, Rangelov, Denev, Vassilev, Yotzov-coach, Marashliev, Zafirov, Penev, Yordanov.
Sitting: Atanassov, Stankov, Sredkov, M. Goranov, Pritargov, Kolev, D. Dimitrov, Pl. Markov, Yonchev, Yankov.
Still too many players clearly over the hill, but with too big reputations to be replaced easily. The ‘cleaning of the house’ continued a few more years – the young recruits were not significantly better than the veterans yet. As a curiosity, entirely unpredictable in 1976, two future coaches of the Bulgarian national team played together this season: Dimitar Penev, who led Bulgaria to 4th place at the 1994 World Cup and Plamen Markov – the last coach to qualify Bulgaria to major finals: the 2000 European Championship.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It was overall Thessalonikian year – their third big club, Aris, rounded the success with strong performance as well, finishing 6th in the championship. Looked like a major shift in Greek football: much more competitive championship, with strong provincial teams, for there was not only the clubs from Thessaloniki, but others as well, especially the newcomers PAS Ioannina. Looked like Greek football was improving, gaining strength.
But it was hardly so from another perspective: the success of PAOK and Iraklis was bitter pill for Aris. All trophies to the rivals (sweet for both, for the other two consider Aris their arch-enemy) and nothing for the ‘best’ club… measly 6th place. Which, frankly, is pretty much the traditional dwelling of Aris: always among the top six clubs, though, rarely among the medalists.
Aris was founded in 1914, which speculatively explains the name – the First World War started, so it may be some military spirit involved in choosing the name: the ancient Greek god of war Ares. Whether war enthusiasm was the reason or not, the name and the colours of the club – black and yellow – were symbolically thick. Strength, power, crushing victories, rolling over any opponent. It made for perfect clash in Thessaloniki: Ares vs Hercules – Aris vs Iraklis – the god vs the mere demigod. And if Iraklis expressed modern Greek nationalism with their blue and white, Aris evoked deeper roots: the club used the colours of the Byzantine Empire. It was a claim of supremacy from day one. With time the original rivalry faded – PAOK emerged and bypassed Iraklis as the main local rival of Aris, which was entirely the case by the 1970s. So far, Aris was the most successful club at home – they won three titles: 1928, 1932, and 1946, the only championship played during the bitter civil war following the end of the Second World War. This made for bragging… Aris consider themselves ‘one of the big six’ clubs in the country to this very day, although the success ended long time ago. Nominally, they are one of the ‘big’ clubs – by the virtue of titles and by their usual finishing among the first six teams in the league. In reality they were better than most smaller provincial teams, but never a title contender – they finished high, yet rarely among the medalists. By the beginning of the 1970s they were rather second strongest club in Thessaloniki, behind PAOK, which the club and the fans never recognized – they consider their arch-rivals PAOK and Athenian based Panathinaikos, AEK, and Olympiakos (Piraeus). The original Thessalonikian derby counted only for Iraklis by now, but Aris remembered it in 1976, when the old enemy won the Greek Cup, obviously getting strong and dangerous. The season was bitter one for Aris – in the best year ever for Thessalonikian football the rivals won everything and the gods dressed in yellow and black finished only 6th. By the end of the decade they changed their logo, and the new one curiously expressed the predicament of the club:
The mighty god of war is rather idly resting, representing no fighting spirit whatsoever. May be even asleep… which was not the idea in 1975-76. The club took measures to challenge the competition: the usual measures – foreign coach and players. On the surface, typical Greek enforcements for the time: fairly unknown foreigners – Bulgarian coach, Dobromir Zhechev; Brazilian striker – Barboza; and Yugoslavian player, Licanin. There was one more addition, quite mysterious and mirroring the Soviet transfer Iraklis made at the same time: Kostas Isakidis came from Bulgarian 1975 Cup winner Slavia (Sofia).

Top, left to right: Stifas (?), Spyridon, Papafloratos, Barboza, Pallas, Venos, Licanin, Balafas, Koumarias, Tzifopoulos, Papaioannou.
Sitting: Ananiadis, Stavridis, Firos, Ballis, Nalpantis, Kouis, Christidis, Drambis, Lazos, Papazoglou, Vardanis (?), Georgidis (?).
By Greek standards, not a bad squad – few national or at least fairly respected players: Firos, Pallas, Papaioannou, Papazoglou, Christidis. Two foreigners. One mystery: Ananiadis is usually listed as Hungarian, which means he was either ethnic Greek permitted to move ‘home’, or runaway who took Greek name. Unknown player in any case, but Greek football policies were Byzantine… take the new coach Dobromir Zhechev: what credibility had he? Before taking over Aris his coaching career was exactly 6 month long – an assistant coach of Levski-Spartak during the spring half of the 1974-75 season. He was part of the Bulgarian 1974 World Cup squad and was still playing in the fall of 1974. It is possible that Aris were thinking to use him as a player, not as a coach, but since Bulgarian players were not permitted to play abroad that meant Zhechev to become a refugee. Given his age, it was not worthy risk, even if Zhechev was agreeable – convincing UEFA and FIFA to permit him to play in Greece would have been lengthy, months at best. It was tempting to get experienced defender with 4 World Cup finals in his resume, but Zhechev was almost 33 years old and already did not play half a year. As for coaching… he clearly lacked experience.
The arrival of Kostas Isakidis was a scheme kept under cover. He was ethnic Greek born in Bulgaria and one of the new bright players Slavia introduced in 1974. The very young playmaker was arguably the most promising among Slavia’s ‘babies’ and already played for the national team of Bulgaria. Slavia won the Cup in 1975 and seemingly was destined to bigger success… then the season started and Isakidis was no longer in the team. Months passed until rumors were confirmed – he was in Greece. Apparently, not as a defector, but formalities took their tall and he was permitted to play for Aris in the spring of 1976.

Isakidis with Slavia in 1974-75.
The real intriguing part of this transfer is coincidence: Isakidis duplicated the transfer of Hadzipanagis – both were ethnic Greeks; both were very talented and included in the national teams of USSR and Bulgaria, both were young, both were transferred at the same time and to the same city. Yet, the countries of their birth did not transfer players to play professionally abroad. The truth will be probably hidden forever, but it looks like high state politics were at play and the players were just bargaining chips for something else. The players perhaps were entirely unaware of the big game, but they paid high price anyway: since both played for their homeland national teams, they had no chance playing for Greece. It is possible the Soviets instructed Bulgaria to play along; it is possible Bulgarian football officials just used Hadzipanagis’ precedent for their own purposes – onlyl speculations and nothing made clear to this very day. Mere coincidence? Unlikely.
The parallels stopped in Thessaloniki, though: Hadzipanagis became great star of Greek football, but not Isakidis – he kind of faded and disappeared from sight.
As far as Aris was concerned, all of the above helped them not – they won nothing and Zhechev was sacked at the end of the season. On a bigger scale it was different – Greek football was becoming better and more competitive: provincial teams were seemingly challenging the big Athenian clubs. Thessaloniki’s clubs were prime example – their combined performance was incredibly strong and they were not even the only fresh wind: bright newcomers were elbowing ahead as well – PAS Ioannina.
The club from the capital of Epirus region has confusing name – it is spelled ‘Giannina’, ‘Jiannina’, and ‘Ioannina’. Hard to tell which spelling is correct, but let’s settle on ‘Ioannina’ for now. As much as Greek hate to be compared to Turks, this club mirrors Trabzonspor – it was founded in 1966 after a merger of two small local clubs, just like the Turkish club. Then the new club quickly climbed through the leagues and appeared in the First Greek League in 1974 – the same year Trabzonspor won promotion. Solid midtable finish in their first season, shooting straight to the top the next year – PAS Ioannina finished 5th, seemingly on the verge of greater things. The strong performance was attributed mainly to six players, but here one enters the dark world of Greek football scheming… the mighty six players arrived from Argentina. To this very day both official and unofficial Ioannina sources maintain that the Argentines were of Greek descent. Half of them played under Greek names for the club, the rest – not, but none of the original names suggest Greek roots. Sober statisticians at RSSSF consider all of the bunch proper foreigners, some of them ‘Italo-Argentine’, but none clearly of Greek origins permitting ‘oriundi’ status (for that matter Isakidis is considered foreign player as well – because he played for the Bulgarian A-team, unlike Hadzipanagis). Very likely the club forged documents in order to speed up naturalization and thus be able to use the whole company (even the shady Greek rules generally followed the main European rules: only two foreign players on the pitch.) Whatever was cooked up, one thing is certain: the best years of PAS Ioannina were due to Oscar Marcelino Alvarez, Alfredo Glasmann, Edourdo Lisa, Juan Montez, Edouardo Rigani, and Sergio Espinoza. As for Greek roots… you be the judge. Rigani appeared under the name Kontogeorgakis and Glasmann became Glasmanis. None was well known player, but they were strong enough to elevate Ioannina – Alvarez was particularly impressive and caught the eye of Panathinaikos and was transferred in the summer of 1976. No matter – the rest five stayed and suddenly PAS Ioannina was forceful opponent.

PAS Ioannina getting ready for 1976-77 season – minus Alvarez, but with new coach, fresh from Aris (Thessaloniki): bottom row, left to right: Maipas, Espinoza, Demiris, Liakos, Papachristou, Kontogeorgakis (Rigani), Mantos, Tsourlidas, Hadziantoniou, Bretanos, Voiatzis.
Top: Dobromir Zhechev (Bulgaria) – coach, Seitaridids, Teodoridis (?), Hadzikapetanis, Montez, Christodoulou, Zisis, Glasmanis (Glasmann), Pantelidis, Kapsimalis, Lisa, Bagias, Grammeniatis, Karamanolakis (?) – assistant coach.
Not a single noticeable Greek player, but enough Argentine power to keep them going. By 1976 the foreign imports already had strong and positive impact on Greek football. The quality was increasing and the 1975-76 season suggested tougher, competitive future, further bettering the local game. However, it was a false alarm… the big Athenian three quickly restored the status quo and the provincial clubs were kept at bay once again. The Greeks still had to wait a few years until climbing up the steep ladder of European football – it was building time so far.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Cup went to Thessaloniki as well – to Iraklis. Which begs the question which trophy was more important for the city in 1976 – the title or the Cup? To a point, PAOK are not entirely Thessalonikian club, they are exiled ‘outsiders’, temporarily sheltered by the city. One day, when Greece ‘recovers’ Constantinople, they will move back to their original home. So says the myth, nurtured by opponents… Iraklis, by contrast, is the oldest club in Thessaloniki. Founded in 1908, although the seeds were planted three years earlier. The original concoction was gymnastic club, named ‘Ottoman Hellenic Club of Thessaloniki – Iraklis’.
The all-sports club still exists and is popular as such. The football branch was established in 1908, developing somewhat independent existence and different logo:
It is named after the mythological hero-demigod Heracles or Hercules. Iraklis in Greek. As symbols go… the club colours are blue and white, patriotic to boot, for they are taken from the Greek national flag. As soon as Thessaloniki was no longer part of the Ottoman Empire, the original name was changed – the Ottoman reference was dropped; nationalism emphasized. Then again… those who hate Iraklis would be quick to point at the shameful past of ‘collaboration’ – it is past of ‘resistance’ to supporters, of course. The name suggest might, power, strength, the all-conquering Hercules performing miracles… but look at the logo: the guy is kind of tired and resting, is he not? The club performed no miracles – until 1976 it won precisely nothing. First success! And in the face not only of Athenians, but in the face of PAOK and even more hated Aris! The old boys were kind of fading already, the fan base dwindled to very modest numbers, if there was glory, it was entirely in long gone past and not at all related to football. A revival then? Just about time! It looked so anyway, for the club had money and appeared to be building a strong team. Iraklis got one of the best ever players in Greek football – and managed to keep him to the end of his career. It was very strange transfer: the new star came from USSR.
Vassilis Hadzipanagis came… and won! It was sudden transformation – with this boy Iraklis was suddenly a factor. By Greek standards, it was a big transfer – so far most foreign players were hardly known names even in their home countries. Hadzipanagis was a different story: considered one of the brightest young players in USSR since 1972, and already playing for the Olympic team, he was ‘famous’ when compared to the usual foreign players in Greece. His transfer was a mystery, however: the Soviets did not export players at all. Curiously, Vassily Hadzipanagis was not a Soviet citizen, although born there – the son of Greek Communists, taking refuge in USSR after the Greek Civil War following the end of the World War II, was born in Tashkent, and technically should have been Soviet by virtue of birthplace. Why he was not is unknown – his lack of proper citizenship was discovered when he was invited to the Soviet Junior national team, when he already was playing first division football with Pakhtakor (Tashkent). Hadzipanagis accepted to get Soviet citizenship then and eventually went as high as the Olympic team. Which was his undoing… how exactly Iraklis got interested in player from relatively obscure and far away Asian-based club is murky, but Hadzipanagis wanted to move to Greece as well. The Soviets tried to stop him – pointing out that playing for USSR is much, much better option than playing for Greece (true at the time), but there was apparently no big effort to keep the player: very likely his case was decided on Communist Party level – may be the Greek Communist Party asked the Soviet one and political good will won the day. ‘Good will’ may be not the right word, though… but never mind. Hadzipanagis went to Greece, joined Iraklis and became Vassilis. His contract was lucrative, yet restrictive – it was long-term and later the club refused offers from other Greek and foreign clubs, so Hadzipanagis spent his whole Greek career with Iraklis. Nowadays he is somewhat unhappy that he missed better opportunities, but there is no hard evidence he asked Iraklis for transfer when he was playing. As for the club, it was clever move with high value: Hadzipanagis provided entertainment and gathered crowds until his last playing day. The Greek Federation tried to outsmart FIFA and use the star in the national team, but FIFA was not fooled at all – ruling the match Hadzipanagis appeared with blue national team shirt illegal. Too bad for the player, for he was not able to play real international level football – but I doubt he was to be Soviet national player, if he stayed in USSR: Lobanovsky ruled back then.
Anyway, Hadzipanagis boosted Iraklis immediately: the team still finished at their usual mid-table position (8th) in the regular season, but won the Cup! First trophy! Now, imagine what is in the cards… just bring a few more good players to the new superstar! And watch out PAOK and Aris, intruders and impostors, the ‘old one’ is coming back with a vengeance – the true club of Thessaloniki.
And complete triumph for Thessaloniki in the bargain! May be…

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Greeks were not to be outdone by some Turks and they had more intricate story in 1976: not a single trophy went to Athens. Thessaloniki ruled Greek football this season and layers of rivalries, hatreds, and meanings played a role. Difficult to entangle too – if Trabzonspor enjoyed unconditional support at home and probably some sympathy among provincials hating Istanbul, the Greek scenario was immensely complicated. PAOK won the championship, leaving AEK (Athens) 5 points behind. The champions had everything: most wins (21 out of 30 games); least losses (only 2); best attack (60 goals); best defense (17 goals received). The season was entirely theirs. Meantime Iraklis won the Cup, so the season entirely belonged to Thessaloniki. Pride, revenge, rivalry, envy… a whole mixed bag, slowly stewing for years: Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece, having old clubs traditionally belonging to the ‘big five Greek clubs’, yet, so far they played second fiddle at best. Too many ‘firsts’ happened for comfort…
PAOK won their first title. By mid-70s it was the most popular club in Thessaloniki and pretty much the strongest one, but… it was the youngest club of the city and not entirely local. To a point, it was ‘exiled club’, founded in 1926 by refugees expelled from Turkey. Hence the name: ‘Panthessalonikian Athletic Club of Constantinopolitans’. It was also a mirror of the similar club established in Athens – AEK – but, given time, the clubs of the exiles were not to be great friends. PAOK had its roots back in Istanbul (always Constantinople for the Greeks), going back to 1875 when Hermes Sports Club was formed – ancient pride, yet not a local one… although militant nationalism sees in such club an opportunity to claim – or mourn – lost belongings, ‘rightfully ours’ ( Constantinople). With time PAOK became popular and gained strength, this time adding a new appeal: the all too familiar provincial hatred of the capital city. PAOK performed well, yet never able to win a trophy – the ‘corrupt’ Athenian clubs got everything, boo them! During the 1960s PAOK supporters became known for their anti-junta feelings, so the myth of resisting the military dictatorship was built – the myth of oppressed club by the state. Ironically, in the later years PAOK fans evolved into hooliganism and violence, so may be the junta has been right to suppress them… but never mind, at least at home PAOK claims 38% of the total fans pool. This guys want trophies, mere whining and myths of oppression are not sufficient. And here it came: the very first title! What a boost! Revenge on Athens, revenge on local rivals, revenge on the Turks even, prove of another sensitive issue – ‘Macedonia is Greek’… long suffering in the shades ended.

Black and white pride. Champions at last, although the team was not exactly full of stars.
Two intriguing foreigners – the goalkeeper Bladen Fortula came from Yugoslavia. Curiously anonymous player with strange name: most likely a Kosovar, which may have been (or not) the reason of his virtual anonymity. Whatever is known about him is that he came to Greece from Partizan (Belgrade). Most likely deep reserve there. He joined smaller club at first and eventually moved to PAOK and a title. The other foreigner was equally obscure:
Guerino Neto (the Greeks almost always write him in reverse – Neto Guerino) was one of the many South Americans playing in Greece during the 1970s. The striker came from Brazil with no name at all – even the PAOK official website is unable to give information where he played before joining PAOK. Well, he played in Brazil (naturally) for Nacional (Manaus).

Nacional (Manaus) 1973: top, left to right: Procopio, Flavio, Souza, Tiao, Toninho Cerezo, Pompeu.
Bottom: GUERINO NETO, Serginho, China, Angelo, Reis.
No wonder Guerino Neto’s past is difficult to unearth: Manaus may be a big city, having the first opera house in South America, but is midget in football. And if Nacional had somebody to be proud of, it was not Guerino Neto, but Toninho Cerezo (Brazil’82, AS Roma, Sampdoria). However, fame was years away from either player in 1973. Eventually Guerino Neto left the jungles to themselves, Teatro Amazonas to Werner Herzog (to use it in ‘Fitzcarraldo’), and world fame to Toninho Cerezo. He became a Greek hero – one of the little known South Americans who settled well in Greece, played successfully for years, helping the development of Greek football, and beloved by the fans. Unlike Fortula, Guerino Neto was revered as a real star and contributed a lot. He was a central figure of the winning PAOK along with

Giorgos Koudas, a fast left winger and Greek national team player. Perhaps the biggest star PAOK ever had, a real club legend, and the picture shows amply why. The only thing casting doubt was the depth of the winning squad – Fortula, Guerino Neto, and Koudas were hardly enough for consistent success. But who cares when title is won? First ever! Next year – the second!

Koudas celebrating flamboyantly with the fans the title. The cop is happy too… all Thessaloniki happy. May be…

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Trabzonspor won the Turkish championship and took a revenge on Galatasaray, by beating them at the Supercup challenge. It was so strange, that most observers considered the victory of the unknown just a freak. Nobody outside Istanbul ever won a title, if the status quo was to be disturbed, the possible candidates were other Istanbul clubs or someone from Ankara or Izmir. Surely these boys from the Black Sea coast were not to be taken seriously…
Trabzonspor were new club in every respect – founded in 1967 in the ancient city of Trebizond, or Trapezus, or Trapezounta, Trabzon in Turkish. History apart, it was hardly a city coming to mind by the 1960s – even tourists did not flock there yet. The birth of the new club was difficult one: a merger of 4 local clubs, which went into two stages with lawsuit in between, which nullified the first merger and the concocted new club. Not exactly a beginning suggesting glory days ahead. As for the name, it was rather typical for Turkish club: the name of the city with additional ‘spor’ – the corrupted Turkish version of ‘sport’ – at the end. Trabzon Sport Club, in other words (‘club’ is present in the full name – again in the Turkish version: ‘kulubu’ – but hardly ever mentioned). The new club started in the lower levels, as newcomers should, so nothing to brag about at first. But they steadily climbed up and got promoted to First Division in 1974. Normally, a club of such brief and shaky history, goes down quickly – may be a season or two desperately trying to survive, and then the plunge down almost in free fall to debts unknown… Trabzonspor finished 9th in their first season, midtable, but still in the lower half of the league, which was pretty much the normal scenario – now the plummeting was coming… Instead, Trabzonspor finished first in their only second season! Three points ahead of the second best, Fenerbahce; winning 17 out of 30 championship matches and losing only 4. They also had the best defense, allowing only 14 goals. What a surprise! The first provincial champion!

Top: Tuncay, Huseyin, Necati, Bekir, Senol, Cemil
Bottom: Kadir, Turgay, Ali Kemal, Mehmet Cemil, Ali Yavuz
Just by the look of them, one can tell there was quality: remember, the longest the hairs, the better the players in the 1970s! Trabzonspor were more bearded and more long-haired than Galatasaray, so clearly the better team! As for names – one has to look years ahead perhaps… remember the coach leading Turkey to bronze at the 2002 World Cup? Senol Gunes? Here he is – the goalkeeper of the new champions. The two greatest Turkish coaches clashed in 1976 and Senol got the upper hand… which in a way is true for their coaching credentials as well. But the future was unknown in 1976, and Trabzonspor were considered just to be one-time wonder by observers. A freak accident, then everything going back to normal… how wrong observers were… Trabzonspor was there to stay and win. 1976 was just the beginning and especially remarkable beginning: barely 10-years old club was already a champion. If anything, it was a sign of general improvement of Turkish football: new and provincial club was challenging the monopoly of the big old Istanbul clubs. However slowly, something is happening; something positive was happening. It is hardly incidental that the best Turkish coaches came from the best teams of 1976. It may have been unknowable in 1976, but Trabzonspor are still among the best Turkish clubs, ranking among the big 4 clubs, and recently coached by… yes, Senol Gunes.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Changes in football are always baffling – what does it mean to have brand new winners? A sign of improving or a sign of a crisis? Is it a sign of significant reshaping or just occasional lucky event? There were many new winners around Europe in 1976, that much was obvious, and nothing else. It was relatively simple case in championships without few traditional favorites – new champion was nothing new really. But when newcomers pile up? Norway, Sweden – fine; now go South and add some more names, noting that Turkey and Greece were different than Scandinavians: they were dominated by few big clubs.
Turkish football was getting better, yet barely so far to play any role in Europe. Since the national league was established in the late 1950s Turkish football was largely based in three cities – Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir. For years only clubs representing this three cities played in the league, which at one point had 22 clubs, but by 1975 was stabilized at 16. By the end of the 1960s provincial clubs started creeping in and disturbing the monopoly of the three cities. So far the ‘outsiders’ fought for mere survival in the league, but after 1970 some managed to settled and even gained strength – particularly Bursaspor and Boluspor. But that was fighting among the leagues rabble, for at the very top nothing changed at all – it was dominated by the big three Istanbul clubs: Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, and Besiktas. No other club ever won the championship and no matter how many clubs from Ankara and Izmir played top league football, they were just fillers. Because of the monopoly of the three giants changes were hardly noticeable – until 1975-76.
Galatasaray won the Cup and nothing strange in that, except it was difficult win, after two legged final, crowned by penalty shoot-out, when Galatasaray clinched the victory 5:4.

Top, left to right: Gokmen Yozdenak, Sevki Senlen, Mehmet Ozgul, Enver Urekli, Olcay Baserir, Yasin Ozdenak.
Bottom: Bulent Under, Fatih Terim, Mehmet Oguz, Olcay Basarir (?), Metin Kurt.
A powerhouse by Turkish standards, full of national team players, and having two players worth mentioning: Yasin, who joined Pele and Co in Cosmos (New York) and was known under the name of Erol Yasin, and Fatih Terim, who hardly needs introduction. Everybody knows the coach… hardly anybody knew the player outside Turkey.
Strong as they were, Galatasaray won the Cup with great difficulty – therefore, they met one of their rivals at the final, right? Fenerbahce or Besiktas. It was not so: the stubborn opponent was one Trabzonspor. The unknown club lost the Cup – but nothing else.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

1976 was a year of changes around Europe – surprising winners, suggesting reshaping and challenging the status quo. Either this, or suggesting decline… Sweden, the best Scandinavian country, introduced change as well. The Cup went to Stockholm.
AIK triumphed and just as well, for the old club did not win anything since 1950.
Top, left to right: Lars-Oscar Nilsson - coach, Sven Dahlqvist, Jan-Olof Wallgren, Per-Arne Wahlstedt, Bo-Lennart Jepson, Stefan Lundin, Göran Göransson, Christer Andersson, Yngve Leback, Schramm - administrator.
Bpttom: Manni Thofte, Tommy Lundh, Rolf Zetterlund, Leif Karlsson, Claes Marklund, Göran Falck - masseur.
Typical Swedish team – hardly a single recognizable name.
New champions, even less known than the Cup winners, came along too – Halmstads BK.
Founded in 1914, the club from the relatively small town of Halmstad had no trophy to display so far. First title is always big news, even in a country where champions changed frequently.
Just like the Cup winners, the new champions had no stars and little attention was paid to them outside home. They did not look like a team on the road to greatness – skeptics probably detected weakening of Swedish football instead of improving. Numbers suggested so: the championship was littered with ties. Goals were scarce. The dominant club of the 70s – Malmo FF – was defensively minded this year: they lost only 3 matches, receiving 21 goals in 24 championship games. Malmo FF finished second. The Cup winners – AIK – were kings of ties: 13 matches, precisely every second championship game of theirs was tied. The heroes of few years ago – Atvidabergs FF – finished second to last and departed First Division football. Halmstads BK look different in this environment: they obviously an attacking team. They scored the most goals in the league – 56. They also finished with most wins – 17 – the only club with more than 50% of the championship games won! The next best total was 12 wins, so the difference was huge. Nevertheless, there was little to be optimistic about. It was just good to have a small club beating everybody else.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More mighty names? A quick jump to Northern Ireland – Crusaders raided the championship.
And crusaders they were somewhat – the club from Dublin won their second title. If they were to play against Aris, surely they were to take the head of the Greek God… alas, there was no way such clash of ancients to happen in the European tournaments.

If anything, it was brave enough to play football in Northern Ireland of the 1970s. And even braver to have ‘provocative’ name – ‘Crusaders’ sounds dangerously Catholic… This is just about everything for the champions. At the bottom of European football nothing great was happening, so let’s go up the scale.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Luxembourg keeps scandalous events for banking and investment schemes – the football is sparkling clean… and miserable. Unless one supports the giants of the local game.

They are Jeunesse d’Esch, of course. A double this year – 15th championship title and 7th Cup. Not bad? Many a club can envy such a record.

Thanks to the overall supremacy of Jeunesse, the Cup finalists were to appear in the European Cup Winners Cup – a brief appearance on the ‘big field’, but appearance nevertheless. The happy boys display ferocious name – Aris, the ancient Greek god of war. The name was good enough for a close fight at the Cup final – they lost only 1-2 – but outside Luxembourg the club scared nobody…

The name helped little in the long run – the club is not existing since 2001.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

If Tom Lund was the highest point of ‘lowly’ football, the rest of the achievements down there hardly ever get international attention. Local records, yes… some curious trivia too… yet even scandals hardly cross national borders. In Malta Sliema Wanderers won their 21st title – massive number by mid-70s, but… Maltese number.
The Cup was won by Floriana.
Floriana was leading confidently 2-0 against Valletta at the final until 86th minute. Then the match was abandoned and the Cup awarded to Floriana. A scandal? Not big enough to ruffle the winners or to interest anybody neither then, nor now.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A notch up and to the West: Norway, slightly stronger football nation than Finland, had her champions as well. The Cup went to Brann (Bergen).
Founded in 1908, Brann was modest club, normally playing in the First Division. So far, they have been champions twice (1961-62 and 1963) and won the Cup three times. The 1960s and the 1970s were really up and down years – strong seasons were followed by mediocrity. The only thing Brann was to really boast about was attendance: they established a record of season average - 15 486 – in 1963. It was not bested before 2003!
Cup winners going berserk in the mud. One has to really appreciate those Bergen fans braving the weather.
The Championship ended with Lillestrom FC first. ‘The Canaries’ ended the 4-year monopoly of Viking (Stavanger).
There is not much to tell about Lillestrom – they were founded in 1917, relatively ‘young’ club by Norwegian standards in the small town of the same name. It was a merger of two earlier clubs, but the new one was hardly a powerhouse. So far, Lillestrom had won a single title, in 1959, and that was all. However, the 1970s were perhaps their best years, eventually crowned with the second title in 1976.
Looks like this was the team of champions – nothing much. Except for Tom Lund.
Arguably the best ever Norwegian player, Lund, born 1950, is forgotten now. In all fairness, he was not widely known during his playing days either, but this was unjust and cruel joke: Tom Lund should have been a big international star. I saw him playing and he was fantastic. So why he remained unknown? The answer is simple – he played only for Lillestrom during his career from 1967 until 1982. A total of 336 matches, scoring 196 goals. He was perhaps the prime reason for the strong decade of the normally ‘also run’ club. His talent was not missed by big foreign clubs, though, and here comes the enigma (at least from today’s point of view): Ajax wanted him to replace departing Cruyff in 1973. Lund refused. He turned down offers from Real Madrid and Bayern Munich as well. Since Lund never explained his reasons, it is still speculated that his fear of flying was the reason. It was big fear indeed – Lund traveled by car or by train for matches abroad, joining his teammates of either Lillestron or the Norwegian national team at the final destination. But the simple fact is he remained loyal to his club and never became international star because of his loyalty. Old times… there were still players preferring simple life to fame and money.
Lund played regularly for Norway – a total of 47 games between 1972 and 1982, scoring 12 goals. And here is in action captaining Norway against Sweden in 1977.
But his biggest contribution was for his club – he elevated Lillestrom to steady force in Norwegian football.
Tom Lund captaining Lillestrom and endearing fans, including myself. Truly lost hero, but one has to admire his loyalty nevertheless. Impossible to imagine a player like him today.