Monday, February 28, 2011

The Intercontinental Cup was not played at all in 1975. It was logical fiasco – the European interest was declining for years and after the mediocre performance of the South Americans in the 1974 World Cup, there was no attraction left. It was expensive show, promising no financial returns on one hand, and high risk of heavy injuries of players, on the other. Runner-ups represented Europe in the last few years, the champions refusing to participate. If anything, the absence of the yearly challenge further diminished the European interest in South American football as far as seeing it was concerned. But in the same time more and more South American players were coming to play in Europe. Since European season is generally spread into two years, transfers made in 1974 will be mentioned here: high profile Brazilians were coming. Atletico Madrid bought Luis Pereira and Leivinha from the 1974 World Cup Brazilian selection. This transfer was both normal and not: Spain was the obvious destination of big stars, but Atletico already had 2 foreign players and under Spanish rules was prohibited to play more in a single match. Yet, Luis Pereira, Leivinha, and Argentines Heredia and Ayala played for a lot for Atletico. But the more interesting transfer was French: Olympique Marseille acquired Jairzinho and Paulo Cesar Lima – Caju. It was a transfer of real mega-stars, pointing at the market changes: European clubs were paying much more and South American countries had no way to prevent their stars from following the cash. Back in the 1960s it was different: Pele, for instance, was declared ‘national treasure’ by the Brazilian government and thus nobody outside the country was able to buy him. No more restrictions now, except temporary ones, when world cup was near. That was one side of the transfer – the other was the destination. French clubs, having rather small budgets, generally did not buy major stars, so this transfer signified a new direction. Yet, the buyer was Marseille – this club from time to time had ambitious ideas of becoming really superclub, meaning extravagant spending, and usually without results. The coming of Jairzinho and Paulo Cesar Lima turned out to be disaster – the players were aging, underperformed, and were not particularly happy in France. Marseille failed to win the championship and also failed to become one of the European superclubs.
Top, left to right: Tresor, Victor Zvunka, Vanucci, Bracci, Charrier, Bulgues.
Bottom: Emon, Jairzinho, Albaladejo, Bereta, Paulo Cesar Lima.
By the names, should have been mighty team, with particularly lethal attack. It was not… and in the summer of 1975 the Brazilians returned home. Marseilles’ accounting department was relieved and nobody missed the legends.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

lias Figueroa was voted Footballer of the Year of South America for a second time. These were the best years of the Chilean, no doubt. May be he was more deserving in 1975 than in 1974 too – after all, his season was crowned with the goal winning the Brazilian title. Yet, Europe failed to notice him again.
With the Brazilian championship cup, the best South American statistically: he was the only player by 1975 voted best on the continent twice.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Brazilian mess perhaps can be shown better with few words about ‘amazing team’: America (Rio de Janeiro).
America was founded in 1904 and is a ‘second-tier’ club in the Rio’s football universe. Not really big; not small either. Sometimes winning, most often – not. In 1974 they won the prestigious Taca Guanabara and caught international attention, for they were not supposed to win anything: the club was in big financial crisis, players were not paid for months, and they went on strike. Twice. So far, nothing unusual – Brazilian football as a whole was like that (and is today as well). But America played well between and after strikes, winning their first – and only – Taca Guanabara (this is old and prestigious tournament in Rio, still played and cherished). Money did not come because of that, only glory. And interest: how was possible for untrained and deeply troubled team to win? The goalkeeper explained it psychologically and let it be.
Occasional win… most likely. America was surely to sink without money. Well, they finished 8th overall in the 1975 Brazilian championship in the 42-team composite table. May be really they had some kind of unusual psychology, motivating them to play good without training and without money. Or may be they were really Diabo (Devils, the club’s nickname). The real story of Brazilian football is really amazing: how was and is possible to run championships and to play great football in perpetual financial and organizational mess is unexplainable. America should have folded in 1974-75, not winning. Miracles and magic, what else…

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sweet days in Buenos Aires; dark ones in Rio de Janeiro: the title went elsewhere. Again. This time to Porto Alegre.
Now, Internacional were neither new – the club was founded on April 4, 1909 – nor unknown – they were traditionally strong at the championships of Rio Grande do Sul, their native state, where Inter enjoyed massive rivalry with Gremio. But in the grand scheme of Rio de Janeiro-Sao Paulo they were somewhat lesser club and not well known abroad, since foreigners generally associated Brazilian football with the legendary clubs from Rio and Sao Paulo. One of the nicknames of Inter is ‘O Clube do Povo’, meaning ‘The Folks’ Club’, but in Brazil such name is more appropriate for Flamengo, so I prefer to use another – and simpler – nickname: ‘Colorado’ or ‘The Red’. Colorado were just one more club cracking the myth of supreme clubs as Flamengo, Santos, Botafogo, Fluminense. They played differently too – somewhat a hybrid of the artistic Brazilian football, associated with Rio and Sao Paulo’s clubs and the physical unattractive game of Palmeiras in the early 1970s. As for stars, the Red had plenty, thus suggesting another change of Brazilian football – an economic one. ‘Provincial’ clubs apparently had more money and better financial management than the ‘giants’. At the end of the season Inter played the final against Cruzeiro and a goal scored by a defenseman brought the national title to Porto Alegre.
Elias Figueroa scores and Inter wins its first Brazilian title.
Top, left to right: Valdir, Manga, Figueroa, Herminio, Chico Fraga, Falcao.
Bottom: Valdomiro, Cacapava, Flavio Minuano, Paulo Cesar Carpegiani, Lula.
Not bad at all… some national players, compensating for the World Cup fiasco – Figueroa (Chile), Valdomiro, Carpegiani; a major Brazilian star, somewhat never really included in the national team – Lula; high scoring striker – Flavio; and a young player who later became one of the most famous players in the world – Falcao. But perhaps special attention should be reserved for Manga, now 38 years old: the goalkeeper was infamous for been part of the ‘worst ever’ Brazilian team, the one of World Cup 1966. Two years later, when an attempt of investigating wide-spread briberies in Brazilian football, Manga was one of the accused. His accuser, the famous coach/journalist Joao Saldanha, became so annoyed by Manga’s refusals, he shoot him with his revolver. Manga run all the way to Uruguay… whether scared or disgraced. Won championships and Libertadores with Nacional, and returned to Brazil to become a champion. His career was checkered, yet he achieved something Pele himself did not. And Manga was by no means finished yet.
This was the 5th national Brazilian championship and so far only once club from Rio was victorious. Four different champions in five years, only Palmeiras winning twice. From the cold statistics, it looked like exciting, highly competitive, and unpredictable championship – as a Brazilian one should be. In reality, it was not quality, but lunacy on the rise. This season 42 clubs competed in the ‘league’. The schedules were Byzantine and so were the backroom machinations. Was any club relegated? It depends… may be at some time there were relegations; at other time – no.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Argentina, surrounded by dictatorships, was getting itchy to join the neighbours, which meant domestic turmoil. Football does not fair well in political and economic instability, but football is also an universe in itself, no matter how other universes try to penetrate it. Independiente were still the kings of South America. Menotti was the new national coach, looking for players from smaller clubs. Argentina was still losing…most recently at Copa America, but somebody must win anyhow and this year it was River Plate. With a double! In a sharp contrast, Independiente finished 13th in the 20-club Metropolitano championship and failed to reach the final tournament of Nacional championship.
River Plate is a great club, but how great is great? One great-great was the coach: the legendary Angel Labruna. Legendary player, that is – as a coach hardly so. But his squad seems good combination of oldish, current, and rising stars – Perfumo, Mas, Alonso, Fillol, Passarella. Some almost-stars too – Ghisso, Reinaldi. Overall: strong squad. Oscar Mas is somewhat of a statistical mystery, though: officially, he played for Real Madrid in the 1973-74 season and is listed a River player for 1974-75. Most likely, he returned from his largely unmemorable European adventure in the fall of 1974, for he appears in the new Real squad for 1974-75 with newcomers Milan Miljanic and Paul Breitner. He faired better at home, finally collecting titles – the double in 1975 was the first titles for River since… 1957! How sweet to be back on top.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A step up on the South American ladder, Uruguay showed familiar picture: Penarol won one more title, but there is little to tell – in general, it was the same squad as the previous years, depending on Walter Olivera and Fernando Morena. The great exodus of Uruguayan players to play abroad made a team with two decent players more or less supreme at home. Or so it looked like.
Hardly a great squad, winning during very troubled times – but title is a title and nobody questions winners. The club’s historians modestly call the 70s the period of ‘transition’ – it may have been just so.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Up into the Andes the fresh South American champions produced familiar name – Alianza (Lima) won the national championship, and Alianza was and is one of the steadiest strong clubs in Peru. Not really hegemonic, but constantly among the top clubs of the league.
The club is old too – founded in 1901. ‘Los intimos’, as one of their nicknames goes, won their first championship in 1918. In 1975 they won their 15th Peruvian title. Although Peruvian stars were going to play abroad for years, Alianza managed to keep good players in its squad – at least until they decided to make better pay elsewhere. The result of that: Alianza never went beyond the semi-finals at Copa Libertadores, so far having to be satisfied with success at home.
Top, left to right: Jose Gonzales Ganoza, Moises Palacios, Julio Ramirez, Jose Velasquez, Salvador Salguero, Jaime Duarte.
Bottom: Carlos Gomez Laynez, Augusto Palacios, Juan Rivero, Juan Jose Avalos, Miguel Calderon.
Jose Velasquez is the best known player outside Peru and perhaps the biggest star of the team, but I should mention another man: Augusto Palacios. He appears in Simon Kuper’s book ‘Soccer Against The Enemy’ as somewhat odd figure (if not an outright impostor) – Kuper chatted with him in 1992, when Palacios was coaching the national team of South Africa. In the absurd life of South Africa, Palacios of course was a bizarre case – a black man, married to white woman, and coaching in the country before the end of the apartheid. But Kuper questions Palacios’ claim of playing for the national team of Peru. Was the Peruvian boasting or not is hardly that important: as a player, he was never famous outside Peru. As a coach, he was a real globetrotter – he managed to work from Hong Kong to (West) Germany, with stops in Finland and Venezuela, before coasting at South Africa. Simon Kuper may find Palacios amusing nutcase, but the oddity was a champion in 1975.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The other losing finalists – at Copa America – were obscure. Colombia was more or less a wild jungle in the football universe. The country had her moments of fame – between 1949 and 1953, when it was known as ‘El Dorado’: back then the professional league was established, there was plenty of money, and foreign stars, such as Di Stefano thrilled the Colombian crowds. ‘El Dorado’ was also a rogue league, not recognized by FIFA, which made it even easier to lure foreign stars and not only South American ones: European players went to the jungle as well. However, El Dorado made only one club known to the world at large: Millonarios (Bogota). Then the money ended and Colombia sunk into darkness again: no famous clubs, no famous players, no international success. The country ranked in the middle of South American countries, either sixth or seventh, depending on the momentary state of Paraguay. In a continent of only 10 states, hardly an impressive place. Millonarios still counted in Colombia, but another Bogota club won the championship in 1975 – Independiente Santa Fe.
Unlike the Chilean champions, the Colombians were quite young – founded on February 28, 1941. However, ‘Los Cardenales’, and not Millonarios, won the first professional championship of Colombia in 1948. The ‘El Dorado’ was perhaps their best period and other titles followed – they won their 6th in 1975, but… it was also their last. So far.
Like many a South American club, Los Cardenales posed with wild and dangerous pet-mascot, but apart from the creature… not a single player rings a bell. Today the club officially is renamed into ‘Santa Fe Corporacion Deportes’, but still is Independiente Santa Fe for the loyal fans.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Libertadores runners up had their most memorable year – they won their 4th Chilean title.
As the name suggests, Union Espanola was founded by Spanish immigrants and long ago – on May 18, 1897. Success was not their forte, though – in Santiago they faced tough opposition and hardly are well known club outside Chile. Their best period was exactly in the mid-1970s and one is inclined to think that military dictatorship was best environment for a club with ‘colonial’ ties, but this is speculative thought. 1975 was the best year of the club’s existence – a title and, so far, singular international success. As for the squad – local heroes surely, but anonymous players outside Chile.
The only player with some international fame was Sergio Ahumada.
Ahumada is not listed among the venerated players of Union Espanola and it looks like he was recruited largely for the Copa Libertadores campaign: he did not last in the club and generally played for Colo Colo.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Unlike Copa America, Copa Libertadores was familiar story: three-legged final after which Independiente added one more cup. This year they met Union Espanola from Santiago. For the Chileans reaching the final was the highest international achievement in their history. Still is.
Final (Jun 18 & 25)
Unión Española - Independiente 1-0
87' Ahumada 1-0

Unión Española: Vallejos, Machuca, Berly, Soto, Arias, Palacios, Las Heras(Inostroza), Trujillo, Spedaletti, Ahumada, Hoffmann (Miranda).
Independiente: Pérez, Commisso, Sá, Semenewicz, Pavoni, Galván, Bochini, Rojas, Balbuena, Ruiz Moreno, Bertoni (Giribet).

Referee: Martínez Bazán (Uruguay)
Attendance: 43,200

2nd leg. Cordero, Avellaneda, 25- 6-1975

Independiente - Unión Española 3-1
1' Rojas 1-0
56' Las Heras 1-1
58' Pavoni 2-1
83' Bertoni 3-1

Independiente: Pérez, Commisso, Sá, Semenewicz, Pavoni, Galván, Bochini, Balbuena, Ruiz Moreno, Rojas, Bertoni.
Unión Española: Vallejos, Machuca, Berly, Soto, Arias, Palacios, Las Heras(Maldonado), Inostroza, Spedaletti, Ahumada, Véliz (Trujillo).

Referee: Barreto (Uruguay)
Attendance: 60,000

Play-off. Defensores del Chaco, Asunción, 29- 6-1975

Independiente - Unión Española 2-0
29' Ruiz Moreno 1-0
65' Bertoni 2-0

Independiente: Pérez, Commisso, Sá, López, Pavoni, Semenewicz, Galván, Bochini, Balbuena, Ruiz Moreno, Bertoni (Saggioratto).
Unión Española: Vallejos, Machuca, Maldonado, Gaete, Arias, Palacios, Inostroza(Las Heras), Véliz, Spedaletti, Trujillo, Ahumada.

Referee: Pérez (Peru)
Attendance: 55,000
Fifth Copa Libertadores - and fourth consecutive – for Independiente. Pretty much the same players as before as well. Best in South America, yet never really favourites of the national coaches of Argentina. Menotti ignored Sa, Semenewicz, Balbuena, and Commisso; used for awhile Bochini and may be Lopez; kind of used Bertoni and eventually depended on Galvan. One of the greatest teams in the world was never backbone of the Argentine national team. Was it just blindness of Menotti and his predecessors? Or was it something else? Look at this squad from 1973:
Not the same as the familiar one winning cup after cup. Looks like Independiente used reserve players at home and fielded the real stars only in the international competitions.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Brazil, Peru, and Colombia won the three round-robin qualification groups, joining the privileged Uruguayans at the semi-finals. At the end Peru and Colombia emerged victorious and proceeded to play two-legged final. In the South American tradition, two matches were not enough… Colombia won 1-0 in Bogota; Peru prevailed 2-0 in Lima; and third match had to played in neutral Caracas, which Peru won 1-0, becoming South American champion for a second time – their first title was long time ago, in 1939. Sweet, but… was it Peru too strong or was it a lucky victory, due more to Brazilian and Argentine experiments with new players?
Happy champions – Peru.
In retrospect, Peru differed significantly from the other teams: it was still the great generation of 1970 World Cup, led by Chumpitaz. It also was the only team using foreign based players – Cubillas (FC Porto), Sotil (Barcelona), and Julio Menendez (Boca Juniors). That is, the best players Peru had were included, unlike the other countries, where critics pointed out that stars – almost all playing in Europe - were ignored in the name of questionable experiments. Were the critics right? Hard to tell – Argentina and Brazil had used inferior squads in South American championship in the past. Money were always short too, and to fly players from Europe was prohibitively expensive, especially when the current form of the stars was unknown. European clubs were more than reluctant to release players for national duty – most often they flatly refused. Another factor was political – Carlos Caszely moved to Spain partly because of opposition to General Pinochet’s regime. Did he refuse to play for Chile in 1975 or was he deliberately excluded is a mystery – Chile invited foreign based player: Carlos Reinoso played in Mexico for America. As a whole 1975 Copa America remains suspect: the three leading countries failed to reach the final; the winner was a second tier at best; and the other finalist – Colombia – was not even second rank. On the other hand, the continent managed to restore its biggest tournament after so many years of absence.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Since football is essentially Eurocentric, Africans were entirely ignored and after the 1974 disaster at the World Cup the South Americans practically disappeared from view. A lot was entirely missed: the changes of national team coaches in Argentina and Brazil, which launched conceptual transformation in both countries; the South American championship; the emergence of new stars. It is not that South America was not in the news, but those were dark political news of terror and military dictatorships. Whether one approves of or oppose right-wing rule, one thing is certain – political turmoil is hardly beneficial to football and precisely because of that is strange that recovery of Brazilian and Argentine football started then. Even stranger if one adds chronic economic and structural deficiencies in the football sphere of both countries (and South America at large). Perhaps the best is to start from the top: the South American championship, the oldest in the world, was staged after a long pause – it was played for the last time in 1967. The tournament was also renamed into Copa America. There was very little coverage in Europe and I know practically nothing about the competition. The scarcity of information was due to the South American fiasco at the World Cup in 1974, with one additional component: the new coaches introduced new players, who were absolutely unknown in Europe. If Brazil replaced Zagallo with fairly known name – Osvaldo Brandao – the Argentines appointed an unknown – Cesar Luis Menotti. The geographically structured tournament placed Argentina and Brazil in one round robin group, which automatically meant that one of the traditional heavyweights would be out before the semi-finals.
There were noticeable changes in both Argentina and Brazil: Osvaldo Brandao kept few players from 1974 and introduced many new ones. Rivelino, Jairzinho, and Paulo Cesar Lima were not invited at all, but others who were younger or played well at the World Cup were not in the squad either – Francisco Marinho Chagas and Paulo Cesar Carpeggiani for instance. Menotti used small squad with practically no survivors from the dreadful 1974 squad. River Plate and Boca Juniors were not represented at all – Menotti clearly wanted a major change and invited mostly young talent. The eccentric goalkeeper Hugo Gatti was included in the national team after quite a long absence, but the rest of the squad were still anonymous guys, including Mario Kempes, who impressed nobody at the World Cup. Let’s mention some of the suspect boys Menotti introduced: Osvaldo Ardiles, Leopoldo Luque, and Jorge Valdano. The world learned their names in 1978, except for Valdano, who had to wait until 1986. What a humble beginning… Argentina was eliminated. Humble? Looked like dead meat in 1975 – a bunch of born losers.
This is selection from 1976 and looks like Menotti stepped a bit back from his 1975 complete change of players: established stars Houseman, Carrascosa, and Bochini were in again. Kempes, Luque, and Valdano – out. Brand new crop introduced as well, but look who is in the centre: the veteran Carascosa. Some reform…