Saturday, January 22, 2011


After the heights of 1974 World Cup 1975 appeared exceptionally anticlimactic and bleak. Like having hangover – nothing satisfied. Perhaps for that the important changes were missed - not that they were good, but they shaped the future of football even more than 1974. South America sunk under the European radar and except for scouts bringing players to European clubs nobody else paid any attention – after the 1974 fiasco South America was considered left behind, may be for good. The Intercontinental Cup was not played at all in 1975 and seemed dead. The South American championship took place after long absence, yet hardly anybody in Europe noticed. Back in Europe qualifications for the European championship were taking place and it was almost a repeat of 1973 – Czechoslovakia was getting stronger, but just like Poland before, the Czechoslovaks were underestimated. They eliminated England, but this was lesser surprise than two years before – first, Czechoslovakia was traditionally respected team, and second, after the first shock, the next are not big news. Yet, 1975 fiasco was more important for the future of England than 1973 – it showed that major rethinking of English football did not happened and the new squad settled the pattern this country follows so far to the present day: great club football and dull national team. Trevor Brooking is perhaps the archetype of dullness – the line of English stars from him to Beckham is just the opposite of Bobby Charlton – respectively, Bobby was World Champion, unlike the next vintages. Italy struggled too, trying painfully to change players and attitudes – the country was at its lowest point in 1975, but unlike England eventually managed to reshape and produce new types of players and concepts, and to return to top football and winning.
However, the most important change was elsewhere: West Germany was the model and more – Bundesliga was establishing itself as the best league in the world. The German system was financially sound at time when almost everywhere – England again is the worst example – clubs were sliding rapidly into massive debts and desperate schemes for escaping bankruptcies. The West German league was also the most entertaining, playing attacking and high scoring football, attractive to fans. So the Germans were the kings.
Helmut Schon spins the ball – and the world – on his finger.
Paul Breitner going to Madrid as conquering Napoleon. The images of confident supremacy represent reality, yet hiding something much more important: the corruption of total football. In 1974 prophets speculated on the great possibilities of total football, seen still to be at infant stage. It was to be faster, more imaginative, high scoring and exciting game. The future was imagined in artistic terms – a game played by Cruyffs and Beckenbauers. Instead, the development turned into different direction – mechanistic physical football, saturating the pitch with running like horses players, tackling mercilessly each other in never ending battle for… the centre of the pitch. Instead of Ajax, the new football followed Bayern and Dynamo Kiev – both clubs winning European cups in 1975, ominously pointing at dull direction. Dynamo’s mechanical ‘scientific’ football and Bayern’s physical ‘rolling over’ brand twisted the bright game of Ajax, taking some elements from the archetype, but entirely rejecting artistry in the name of winning. And the rest of the world followed Bayern and Dynamo, not the Flying Dutch. This was the most important change 1975 produced.
Apart from that, 1975 was the end of Leeds United – instead of becoming a dynasty, Leeds lost one more European final and it was steady downhill from there on. At the same time Liverpool was on the verge of becoming a dynasty – if for underachieving Leeds 1975 was the end, for the Merseysiders it was only a beginning: they really changed the English club football (although I was and am not happy with the change into continental two- or three- superclubs running the show).