Monday, September 30, 2013

The European Champions Cup was the most important club tournament to clubs, fans, and specialists. Back in the fall of 1977, the first round went without surprises – the favourites won, the outsiders lost, and the few pairs between more or less equal teams ended with wins of those in better form. Benfica and Torpedo Moscow were unable to score even a goal and penalty shoot-out decided the winner – Benfica. Wacker (Innsbruck) eliminated Basel thanks to away 3-1 win. In the second leg the visitors won again, but it was not enough – 1-0 for Basel. Surprisingly well playing Levski-Spartak (Sofia) eliminated Slask (Wroclaw) after 3-0 and 2-2 tie in Wroclaw. Albania did not participate and Liverpool got a bye as a reigning Cup holder.

The 1/8 finals also went as predicted – the only surprise was the elimination of Celtic. They won 2-1 in Glasgow, but lost 0-3 the second leg in Innsburck. Wacker qualified. Levski-Spartak lost minimally to Ajax – both matches ended 2-1 for the Dutch. Borussia (Moenchengladbach) destroyed Crvena zvezda (Belgrade) – 3-0 away and 5-1 at home.

The ¼ finals were serious – no more outsiders, apart of Wacker (Innsbruck). The good luck abandoned the Austrians at last – they played still well and won their home match with the impressive 3-1. But they were facing Borussia... the second leg ended 2-0 for the Germans, just enough to qualify. Similarly tough was FC Brugge vs Atletico (Madrid). The Belgians won 2-0 at home, lost 2-3 in Madrid, and finished with a goal more. Ajax and Juventus were unable to edge each other – two 1-1 ties, leading to penalty shoot-out, which Juventus won. The hopes of Ajax's revival ended. Liverpool were confident winners in the both legs with Benfica – 2-1 in Lisbon, and 4-1 at Anfield.

The draw for the ½ finals was unlucky for Liverpool. Bob Paisely was upset, for he feared Borussia and preferred anybody else. FC Brugge was perhaps the most desired opponent, but Juventus got the Belgians. Borussia was the worst opponent – they met Liverpool the previous year at the final. Earlier in the 1970s both teams met again – Borussia lost to Liverpool so far, but they were strong, ambitious, and German... dangerous team with difficult style, and surely itching to avenge themselves. Paisely feared them. And rightly so:

Liverpool preserved the tie almost to the end at the first leg in Dusseldorf. Then Bonhof scored from a free kick and Borussia won 2-1. Not much of a lead, but a lead. But in Liverpool the hosts clearly dominated and won by comfortable 3-0. Perhaps Paisely worried for nothing, perhaps his worries helped the preparation and the motivation of Liverpool. Liverpool qualified quite easily, compared to the drama of the other ½ final.

Juventus won by the eternal Italian one goal difference in Torino – 1-0. FC Brugge won 1-0 the second leg and extra time was added. In the overtime the Belgians scored a second goal and clinched final victory. Paisely's dream of meeting Brugge materialized... the weakest of the ½ finalists... may be.

For Liverpool the deja vu continued – after the 'replay' with Borussia, a 'replay' with the Belgian side followed – both teams met at the 1976 UEFA Cup final. With considerable difficulty, Liverpool won. The 'replay' was not going to be a breezy walk in the park – the players of both teams were pretty much the same. Also the coaches... Happel alone was enough to give sleepless night to every opposition. And to his employers too, for because of the final he was missing the preparatory camp of the Dutch national team. He was their new coach, the World Cup finals were knocking on the door, and the Austrian was absent, having club final to play... On the surface, Liverpool looked worse than two years ago – Keegan and Toshack were no longer in the team. FC Brugge had no such losses, but all is relative – Liverpool still had classier squad, Keegan successfully replaced by Dalglish. Souness was also in the team by now. And the final was to be played in London. 92 000 fans attended on May 10th, overwhelmingly Liverpool fans.

Both teams fielded their best, apparently, no injured and out of form key players. FC Brugge – or Club Brugge KV, as the proper name is – had one new guy: Laszlo Ku. A curious addition – the former Hungarian national team player was somewhat forgotten by 1978. About five years earlier he was kicked out of the national team for some disciplinary reasons. Did he run away, as many of his compatriots did, or was he legally transferred to Brugge? The year is significant: although it was not publicized, Hungary allowed some players to go to Western clubs in 1978. Was Ku one of the first? May be, because if he was a defector, he would have been under UEFA suspension. Yet, it is unknown when he left Hungary – unlikely in 1978, for there was no transfer window in the spring. Anyhow, Ku had a rare chance for a Hungarian footballer – only Puskas played at European Champions Cup so far.

Ku was not Puskas, but Brugge was difficult opponent. Once again, Liverpool had to really fight a very difficult foe. Happel, knowing well that Liverpool had superior players, did not look for fancy game, but for disciplined collective play. To the growing frustration of Liverpool, there was no way to break the Belgians. The game was not beautiful.

It was just close marking, no open space, determined struggle for every ball. Physical game , lots of running, looking for mistakes, strong defense. Liverpool finally managed to score:

Dalglish used an opportunity in the 64th minute. Nobody was able to score another goal to the end of the match and Liverpool won their second consecutive European Champions Cup.

Triumphal and may be a bit lucky Liverpool making their round with the coveted Cup.

Final, Wembley Stadium, London, 10 May 1978, att 92000

Liverpool (0) 1 Club Brugge KV (0) 0

64' 1-0 L: Dalglish

Liverpool (trainer Paisley)

Clemence; Neal, Thompson, Hansen, Hughes; McDermott, Kennedy, Souness;

Case (Heighway), Fairclough, Dalglish

Club Brugge KV (trainer Happel)

Jensen; Bastijns, Krieger, Leekens, Maes (Volders); Cools, Decubber,

Vandereycken, Kü (Sanders); Simeon, Sörensen

Referee: Corver (Netherlands)

For a 'lesser club', well done indeed. Clube Brugge KV continued their strong performance, becoming really one of the two top Belgian clubs in the 1970s. Talented squad, although the players are not very famous. Happel knew what he was doing – himself constantly rising, he made an excellent team. Belgians rules about the number of imports also helped – foreigners helped, for small Belgium never had huge number of strong players. Sadly, Brugge was unable to win anything. On the other hand, it was normal – good as they were, they were not a super-squad and the club had no financial way to build one. To a point, Brugge even overperformed – but with Happel at the helm, it was to be expected. Still, a bit sad they were not able to really upset the status quo.

So much is written about Liverpool, there is no way of escaping redundancy. Better say little.

May be Liverpool reached its peak in 1978 – not in playing sense, or the futile arguing about best ever squad, but in terms of international recognition: with this second cup, Liverpool was firmly recognized as a super-club. To a point, it escaped great attention because of the quite climbing to the top. Never flashy, never erupting with a bang, Liverpool was steadily rising since the mid-1960s. A title here, a cup there, always among the best English teams, getting step by step higher. Sound transfer policy, consistency, and wise managerial decisions. Other great clubs struggled or entirely faded after their players got old (Bayern), or sold their key star (Ajax), but Liverpool never experienced decline. Keegan, arguably the best European player, was sold – but the team did not suffer. Measured, small additions and replacements – Keegan gone, Dalglish in; Toshack gone – Souness in. Every new player seemingly increased the power of the team – really, a great club is one able to go smoothly through the process of changing players, aging, transfers, adaptation of newcomers. In 1978 Liverpool proved just that and therefore got much deserved recognition. As every great club, it had fantastic squad – minus already gone Toshack, 13 players played for various British national teams. A team full of stars. No other English club managed to establish itself as constant European powerhouse and in 1978 Liverpool was really at par with legendary clubs as Real Madrid, Inter Milano, Milan, Bayern, Ajax. And because of the exceptional longevity, it is impossible to decide was it this vintage the best squad ever.

The question about best squad is perhaps entirely pointless – in 1978 what counted was the trophy.

And Kenny Dalglish went to bed with the Cup. Sometimes there are things better than sex.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Liverpool declined to play the Intercontinental Cup and thus nominally the European Super Cup was the the top of the club football pyramid. Top lacking reputation... It was still a challenge without regular date, played near the end of the year, squeezed between domestic championship matches. Liverpool and Anderlecht were the contestants. The first leg was in Brussels. It was December... how important was the 'super final'? It attracted little interest internationally and not only because it was a World Cup year. The participants were interested, but... in England, December is a crucial month: tied schedule of regular and postponed games, cup matches... perhaps the most important month of the year, focusing English clubs entirely on domestic games. For Anderlecht, as almost everywhere else in Europe, December is a break – international and domestic football stops, vacation time for tired teams. Not the best time to compete seriously. Yet, a Cup as a Cup and on December 4 Liverpool and Anderlecht met.

A ticket of the match is perhaps the most valuable memory of the game, for little pictorial material survived. Most action happened in the first half – Vercauteren opened the result in the17th minute. Ten minutes later Case equalized, but the tie remained for ten more minute, until Vander Elst scored a second goal for the hosts. Anderlecht was the more active and determined team and they managed to score a third goal three minutes before the final whistle, thanks to Rensenbrink. 3-1 was a good lead, yet, playing against an Englsih team it was not a guarantee.

A frozen moment of the game suggests Belgian dominance – 4 players in white vs two rather outplayed Liverpool players. It was not exactly that, but Anderlecht were the better motivated team. The second leg was played on December 18th. The hosts were more active, naturally, and scored early – Hughes in the 13th minute. The fragile lead was preserved until the last minutes of the game – Vander Elst equalized in the 71st minute, and mirroring the earlier match, the hosts scored a winning goal in the 87th minute. The super-substitute Fairclough netted the ball – typical of him, but Liverpool lost the final: 3-4 aggregate for the Belgians. Anderlecht won the Super Cup.

As for Liverpool – excuses were easy to find and keep for posterity. They temporary were out of form and also had difficult domestic schedule. They lost Toshack, who left the team earlier. True to a point, but still the real question is were Liverpool really motivated? If not, they were not the first club to neglect the Super Cup – Bayern in 1975 left vivid impression precisely of just going through the motions, but not really interested. Of course, nobody from Bayern ever said they were not seriously playing – nobody from Liverpool said such thing either. And hardly anybody commented on the final – the lack of interest was universal. At the end, the Super Cup may be mattered only for Anderlecht.

The Hungarian poster of Anderlecht has one name misspelled – Johnny Dusbaba's – so here is another list of names:

Anderlecht continued the careful shaping and reshaping of their great squad: Ruiter was gone by now and new goalkeeper – De Bree – replaced him. Ressel was becoming a substitute, but a new Dutch recruit enforced the defense – Dusbaba, formerly of Ajax. It was still Dutch-dominated squad, complimented by the flock of Belgian national team regulars, and the Dane Nielsen. All familiar with each other, comfortable, and in great form.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

As almost ever when the world cup finals are played, the best players of the year were selected from the finalists. Such selections always look a bit suspicious, for they ignore those who did not play at the world cup no matter how good or steady they were. 1978 was no exception of course – Dirceu (Brazil) was voted third in South America. Since the world cup was also the largest and most dynamic market, Dirceu started the year with one club and finished it with another – in the yearly list, he represented America (Mexico City), where he moved after the World Cup, after a few years with Vasco da Gama (Rio de Janeiro). Second was voted Ubaldo Fillol (River Plate) – deservingly so, for he was rock solid at the world cup. And number one was Mario Kempes (Valencia, Spain).
Kempes was the most talked of player in 1978, his pictures everywhere, the hero of the world cup. But was he really the best? Yes, he led Argentina to victory, scoring the most important goals. Strikers traditionally get most attention, even become over-exposed. It has been 'Kempes, Kempes, Kempes'... after June. Unlike Fillol and even Dirceu, Kempes really shined in the second half of the world cup finals. On club level, he had a strong year, but hardly was the top player in Spain. In Europe, he was not overwhelming – there were at least ten players ranked higher than him. In South America – hard to tell, for those who did not played at the world cup were ignored. It is impossible to really compare after all – to s point, winning the world title is the highest achievement. Kempes was instrumental when really mattered, he was in great from, showed very strong character and determination. Not a player to be ignored surely. One of the best players in the world of the time. He got the most votes at the end and this cannot be disputed. So, a new top South American player, after seven years of same names (Figueroa, five years in a row, followed by Zico, voted best twice).

Monday, September 23, 2013

Wonderful... and sad too. A win under the radar and not continued – once again the Europeans refused to play for the Intercontinental Cup. Liverpool declined and practically the long ailing competition finally died. With that, Boca was almost entirely forgotten...
The ball with which the triumphal final was played is preserved, but it also look sad... the flat ball, a symbol of dead intercontinental competition and vaguely remembered South American winners.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Copa Liberatdores, the crème of South American club football, also fell under the radar – nothing compared to the World Cup. Outside South America the tournament was practically ignored. In a way, the 1978 vintage became a tournaments for those unable to get anything better. Boca Juniors, the 1977 cup holders, were privileged to skip the first round. The round was in the usual format, quite different from what Europeans were used to: 5 4-team round-robin groups. The members of each group were from only two countries – transportation and money were the reason; less spending was crucial. Argentine and Ecuadorian clubs played in Group 1. No contest, really – River Plate and Independiente easily qualified, with equal points. Goal-difference did not matter, so play-off had to be played – River Plate won 4-1 and finished first.

Group2 Bolivian and Peruvian participants – just like Group 1, no contest. The Bolivians finished at the bottom. Alianza (Lima) was supreme – 5 wins and one tie. Sporting Cristal trailed 4 points behind – and still 3 points ahead of the better Bolivian club, The Strongest.

Group 3 was the toughest group – Brazilian vs Chileans. It was a group of surprises: Palestino, strong and confident in Chile, utterly failed and finished last with only 3 points. But even bigger disappointment were Sao Paulo – they managed to collect only 5 points, ending at 3rd place. Union Espanola, the second Chilean representative, mastered ties – 4 out of 6 matches. Thanks to that, they clinched 2nd place with a point more than Sao Paulo. Atletico Mineiro had no equals – they did not lose a game, tied two, and won four. They scored a lot – 16 goals in 6 matches. Only Alianza (Lima) scored more goals in the first round.

Group 4 opposed Colombian to Uruguayans. Theoretically, the Uruguayans should have been favourites, but those were the dark years of Uruguayan football, so the group was tough, if not especially strong. Danubio (Montevideo) finished last with 4 points – since they were practically newcomers to the tournaments, perhaps both the club and the fans were not very disappointed: the team fought and was not very far behind the other clubs. Atletico Junior (Barranquilla) finished third, completely tied with Penarol (Montevideo). Both clubs ended with 6 points and equal goal-difference. Curiously, no play-off was staged, as in Group 1, where at least the top teams differed by goal-difference. Here, Penarol finished with 7-7 and Atletico Junior 1-1. The matches between both teams had no significance – they ended exactly the same: Penarol won 1-0 at home; Atletico Junior mirrored the result in Barranquilla. So, the final standing was decided by more scored goals. Atletico Junior's record is a curious one, though: evidently, strong defense and very weak attack. A single goal scored in 6 games... Yet, a play-off was more appropriate here and not in Group 1 – if it mattered, for only the group winners qualified. Deportivo Cali topped the group, quite easily.

Group 5 – theoretically, the weakest group: Paraguayans vs Venezuelans. But... a surprise! Cerro Porteno (Asuncion) easily won the first place, but their neighbours Libertad were not good at all – they finished last. The representatives of the traditionally weakest South American country fought for the second place. Portuguesa (Acarigua) edged Estudiantes (Merida) – a single point better. Those were the strongest years of Portuguesa, but still... a year back they had Jairzinho, but he was no longer playing in 1978. Well done, but not enough – Cerro Porteno played much better, finishing first without losing a match: 3 wins and 3 ties.

The semi-finals – two round-robin groups of three teams each. Lady Luck played a little joke – very uneven groups. Group 1 was incredibly tough: Boca Juniors, River Plate, and Atletico Mineiro, Group 2 was easy... even weak. Deportivo Cali, Cerro Porteno, and Alianza. May be so, but the results show different: River Plate and Atletico Mineiro either underperformed, or Boca Juniors were way stronger. Both clubs together earned 5 points – still 2 points less than Boca Juniors. Exactly the same happened in Group 2 – the combined record of Cerro Porteno and Alianza was 2 points short than Deportivo Cali's. To a point, the failure of River Plate and Atletico Mineiro to really compete, was surprising. Even more surprising was the failure of Alianza – they were overwhelming in the first round, displaying high-scoring football (19 goals in 6 matches), not losing a single match, winning 5 out of 6. The semi-final group was no tougher than their first round group. Hard to tell... perhaps it was the hangover after the world cup: Alianza and River Plate had large number of players participating in the world championship. Boca Juniors practically had no national team player – may be it was fresher team; may be it was a team fueled by ambition to prove they were not worse than the Menotti's champions, may be the old South American tradition was at play – facing too many challenges, a club concentrates on one, abandoning the rest. Boca Juniors was competitive in the weak pre-World Cup Metropolitano championship, but had no noticeable presence in Campeonato Nacional. They fileded unrecognizable squads of reserve players in unimportant matches:

A 'strange' Boca formation in one the Copa Libertadores matches – many South American clubs employed such tactic, keeping their stars for the most important days. Such as playing against River Plate:

where Mastrangelo shined. Boca – 2, River – 0. Fillol, one of the best goalkeepers at the World Cup, down – Mastrangelo, ignored not only by Menotti, scores and wins. Boca Juniors was hungrier, no matter why. So were the strange Colombians of Deportivo Cali. So far.

The two-legged final was played at the end of November. Just in case, a reminder: at the end of South American spring, if Colombia gets a spring.

Deportivo Cali Col Boca Juniors Arg 0-0 0-4 0-4

1st leg. Estadio Pascual Guerrero, Cali, 23-11-1978

Deportivo Cali - Boca Juniors 0-0

Deportivo Cali: Zape, Ospina, F. Castro (Correa), Caicedo, M. Escobar, Arce Valverde,Otero (Jaramillo), Landucci, Torres, Scotta, A.J. Benítez.

Boca Juniors: C. Rodríguez, Pernía, Sá, Mouzo, Bordón, J.J. Benítez, Suñé, Zanabria, Mastrángelo, Salinas, Perotti.

Referee: Ortiz (Paraguay)

Attendance: 50,000

2nd leg. Estadio La Bombonera, Buenos Aires, 28-11-1978

Boca Juniors - Deportivo Cali 4-0

15' Perotti 1-0

60' Mastrangelo 2-0

71' Salinas 3-0

85' Perotti 4-0

Boca Juniors: Gatti, Pernía, Sá, Mouzo, Bordón, J.J. Benítez (Veglio), Suñé, Zanabria, Mastrángelo, Salinas, Perotti.

Deportivo Cali: Zape, Ospina (F. Castro), M. Escobar, Caicedo, Correa, Arce Valverde, Landucci, Otero (Umaña), Torres, Scotta, A.J. Benítez.

Referee: Pérez (Peru)

Attendance: 80,000

Boca managed a 0-0 tie in Cali and then completely destroyed Deportivo in Buenos Aires.

Slightly misleading picture – looks like Deportivo pressures Boca. But Gatti dominates... there was no Deportivo, especially in the second match.

There was mostly Boca... everywhere dark shirts, whites are hard to find.

One team to the end and beyond – triumphal Gatti, Sa, Mastrangelo, Veglio, and Bordon.

Mastrangelo, surrounded by fans, carries the cup. Rightly so – he did not fail to score at the final.

And who deserved to be carried on shoulders better than the great coach Juan Carlos Lorenzo?

May be another coach... Deportivo Cali lost the final, but it was great achievement anyway. It was carefully built team, developed in a few years and at its prime.

Deportivo Cali in 1977, when they earned a spot in Copa Libertadores. Take away the incidental goalkeeper Calero – he was the reserve of the Colombian legend Pedro Antonio Zape – and the squad is the same as the one meeting Boca at the 1978 final:

Almost the crème of Colombian football, but strongly influenced by Southern gauchos – to a point, Argentines played against Argentines at the final. Scotta, Landucci, and 'El Tigre' Benitez on the pitch, but that was not all – one Carlos Bilardo coached Deportivo. Young, still unknown coach, making his first marks. It was not bad at all reaching the Libertadores final. Sadly, only a ticket remains...

Boca got the cup.

This is the squad winning the Intercontinental Cup, but essentially the same guys won their second in a row Copa Libertadores. Curiously, a picture of the winners is difficult to find... may be because the national team of Argentina was the top priority of the year. May be because Boca was further lost by the duplication – winners in 1977, may be no need to really pay attention to them in 1978. Not fair, yet, a great underappreciated revenge for players left out of the national team – Gatti, Sa, Pernia, Bordon, Mastrangelo, Mouzo...

May be Sune too – but the captain still had a big cup to lift up high!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Moments from the Argentine championship. Perhaps not at par with the drama of the world championship, but dynamic anyway.
Independiente – Talleres (Cordoba). Bochini's magic (number 10).

Chacarita Juniors – Quilmes. Cerveceros score.

River Plate – Quilmes. Andreuchi flying and scoring. Was it off-side?

The thrill of the local derby: Independiente – Quilmes. Rare sight – Independiente in disarray.

Another victim with big name: Quilmes 2 – Estudiantes (La Plata) 1.

The grand battle to the end between mighty Boca Juniors and modest Quilmes. Doesn't look like David and Goliath – rather equal.

A rare sight in Avellaneda: Independiente trying to stop Quilmes.

One more scalp: Quilmes scores and wins 1-0 against Banfield. Horacio Milozzi's gestures say it all.

One more victim of Beer power:Racing Club this time. At this moment Quilmes are not only kings of Avellaneda, but climb to third place with 31 points. Racing has 32 and Boca Juniors is leading with 34. May be the moment Quilmes realized they can win the championship.

The goal of the championship – Quilmes scores their third and winning goal in the net of Rosario Central. Last match – first professional title!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Campeonato Nacional followed, perhaps affected too by the World Cup, and dwarfed under the shining victory of the national team. 32 teams, divided in 4 preliminary groups. Every group played standard 2-legged league, the top two clubs qualified for the ¼ finals. Some strange clubs participated, clubs without a chance of ever appearing in the first division of Metropolitano – Deportivo Roca (Rio Negro), Altos Hornos Zapla (Jujuy), Patronato (Entre Rios), and others. Clubs, coming from the regional tournaments.
Altos Hornos Zapla

Deportivo Roca.

Local flavour, small clubs finding themselves among the mighty. They did not go far, as expected, but other clubs were equal to or even worse then the unknowns. Quilmes finished 6th in Group D. Argentinos Juniors with Maradona were 7th in Group C, winning 5 points less than said Deportivo Roca. Boca Juniors ended 4th in Group B, a place behind another unknown club – Atletico Tucuman, which almost made a sensation. None of the small clubs managed to go ahead, but Atletico Tucuman came very close – they missed the qualifying spot only on goal-difference. Thus, familiar names went ahead - Talleres (Cordoba) and Racing Club (Avellaneda) from Group A; Union (Santa Fe) and Huracan (Buenos Aires), from Group B; Independiente (Avellaneda) and Velez Sarsfield from Group C; River Plate and Colon (Santa Fe) from Group D.

Continuing in standard cup-format direct elimination, it was all or nothing. Independiente, River Plate, Talleres, and Union reached the ½, where Independiente eliminated Talleres, beating them twice with the same result – 2-1. River Plate eliminated Union thanks to better performance in Santa Fe – they won 2-1 there, but managed only 1-1 tie at home. Low scoring – only one team scored three goals in all ¼ and ½ matches – Talleres, at their home match with Huracan: 3-0. In only one match 4 goals were scored – Colon-Independiente: 2-2. Tough, competitive, games, or weak squads, concerned largely with defense?

The final was played in early January 1979. The first leg, hosted by River Plate ended 0-0. Three days later in Avellaneda, Independiente won comfortably 2-0. One more victory for the best Argentine club in the 1970s. Yet, it was different year and very different squad. Here are teams of the very last championship match:

Independiente: Baley; Pagnanini, Villaverde, Trossero, O. Pérez;

Larrosa, Fren, Bochini; Alzamendi (Fontana), Outes, Barberón.

Coach: José Pastoriza.

River Plate: Fillol; Saporiti, Pavoni, Passarella, H. López;

J.J. López, Merlo, Alonso; Pedro González (Galletti), Luque, Ortiz.

Coach: Angel Labruna.

Goals: 19' Bochini; 54' Bochini.

Referee: Romero

Tickets: 43.422.

Not a very large audience, two goals by Bochini, and... very few world champions. Actually, River Plate had the world champions...

Standing from left: Passarella, Saporiti, Merlo, Pavoni, Héctor López, Fillol.

Crouching: Pedro González, Marchetti, Luque, Alonso , Ortiz.

The photo differs from the squad losing the title – Luque and Ortiz did not play. The team still looked stronger than Independiente's, but... they lost. World champions or not – second. Which counts as disaster in the River's camp. Passarella, Fillol, Alonso, and the rest drowned in Avellaneda. May be it was easier to beat Holland... may be the coach was the reason... the legendary Angel Labruna was getting old and may be old-fashioned, behind the times. May be... but the contrast is big one: like Quilmes, Indenpendiente had very young coach, at the beginning of his career – Jose Pastoriza. A legend on his own right as a player, but much, much younger than Labruna. New ideas, perhaps?

Pastoriza was much younger in 1978 than on this picture, but already coached Independiente since 1976. He had great relations with the players and although his role was difficult – to build a new team after the inevitable retirement or moving elsewhere of the great stars of the first half of the 1970s – he managed to keep the club competitive. Winning the title was a nice reward.

Standing, from left: Pagnanini, Baley, Osvaldo Pérez, Fren, Villaverde, Trossero.

First row: Alzamendi, Larrosa, Outes, Bochini, Barberón.

The new Independiente perhaps was still unfinished and unpolished, but one thing was very clear – it was a team made around Bochini, already the star. The squad pales when contrasted to River Plate: only three players in the Menotti's national team – Baley, Pagnanini, and Larrosa. Of them, only Larrosa played a bit at the world cup finals – he came as a substitute against Holland. That is, he played 35 minutes total... at least, it was the most important match. Bochini was not in the national team – and to eternal grieve of Independiente fans, he played rarely for Argentina no matter who was the coach. Nor Trossero – but he was sill young promise, not established star. The team was more or less completed – the skeleton was in place and relatively young. Perhaps it was not as great as the squad from the first half of the 1970s, but it was strong enough. Baley kept clean sheet at the final, when the great world champion Fillol received two crucial goals. Scored by entirely ignored by Menotti striker. Their 12th title. Second in a row Nacional title. The great tradition continued with or without world champions.

Who were leaving Argentina – Ardiles, Villa, and Tarantini were already playing in England. Others were following the road to Europe. Considering the exodus, Independiente were on the right track – it was clear that youngsters were to shape Argentinian club football. Young players and young coaches.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

When speaking of divisions, promotions, relegation, it means the Metropolitano Championship – one of the two Argentine championships. Traditionally structured and played, it is not really a Buenos Aires championship. True, most clubs are located in the great city, but there are from other places as well. Yet, it was not a championship of the whole country... it is even hard to decide the importance of the championship: bigger than the Nacional? Smaller? Equal? How was it seen by the clubs, especially the big ones? Looking at sober statistics, both championship seem equal and separate. Hard to tell... easier, when the bottom is concerned: the Metropolitano league structure made survival very important. The First Division was to be reduced from 21 to 20 clubs in the next season, so 2 clubs were to be relegated in 1978. There was no obvious outsider – five clubs frantically tried to survive: 2 points divided the 17th and the 21st team at the end. Banfield finished 20th, thanks to better goal-difference, but down they went... Platense had a point more. Last were Estudiantes (Buenos Aires), like Banfield, finishing with 29 points after 40 grueling matches. Estudiantes deserves a word, for they are curiously related to... the champions. Related by history.

Estudiantes are old, very old really, and once upon a time – strong. Few even remembered those years in 1978 – the end of Estudiantes came also long time ago: during the time when professional football was introduced, splitting the clubs in two camps with separate federations and championships. Estudiantes, like many other ancient clubs wanted to stay amateur – and in the long run, this decision was the end of them. From mighty club, they became insignificant small club. 1977 was their greatest season since the 1920s – they won the Second Division. In 1978 they played for the very first time top level football since the introduction of professionalism. Thus, 1978 became their even greater year, historically speaking: they debuted in First Division... finished last and went back to Second. So far, 1978 is the only year Estudiantes played the top division. The old decision to stay amateur sealed their fate: the club was reduced to minor role, entirely insignificant.

Down went Banfield and Estudiantes... others were quite down too: Velez Sarsfield finished 16th; Huracan, champions not long ago, were 15th, Estudiantes (La Plata), one of the best known clubs outside Argentina, thanks to their strong and mean team of the late 1960s, were now 14th. Near the top of the table were familiar names: Independiente (8th), Newell's Old Boys (7th), River Plate (6th), but none was really a contender. Perhaps the preparation of the national team affected the performance of those clubs having players used by Menotti, but the plane fact is only three clubs fought for the title. Among those left far behind San Lorenzo was most interesting – not because of their performance (they finished 4th, five points behind the third finisher), but because of the remains of old, old days of the game.

San Lorenzo did not use jerseys, but shirts – with buttons from top to bottom. At least in English, 'shirts' is still the concurrent word for football uniforms. Once upon a time clubs commonly used shirts. Shirts were still fairly often used in the 1960s, although the usage was rapidly diminishing since the 1940s and it was clear there was no going back. Perhaps San Lorenzo was the last club in the world playing with shirts as late as 1978. It was not their only uniform, but it is charming and strange anachronism. Amusing and endearing. Worth noting as well.

The battle for the title went between three clubs, a fierce pursuit to the end. Colon (Santa Fe) finished third, five points ahead of San Lorenzo, and a point behind Boca Juniors. For the club of Santa Fe it was great year – they rarely finish that high, let alone competing for the title. Boca Juniors ended second, losing the race also by a point. Boca finished with least losses in the league – seven – but this was not comfort for a club which recognizes only titles. They lost... and they lost dramatically to unusual foe: Quilmes. The unlikely winners clinched the title in the very last round, when they won away match on the inhospitable stadium of Rosario Central and preserved their tiny lead. 3-2 was the great result, two goals scored from penalty kicks.

Naturally, the photos show largely the desperation of Rosario Central – which automatically means that Quilmes were great. They were – first title ever! Drama to the end, which is good for fans even when football is not all that great. For Quilmes's fans it was the best time ever.

Like Estudinates (Buenos Aires), Quilmes are very old – founded in 1887! Like Estudiantes they were strong in the first decades of 20th century and fell victims of professionalization – they also chose to stay amateur at first, and immediately sunk... in Avellaneda they came to be third club, way bellow Independiente and Racing. Since Avellaneda is attached to Buenos Aires and somewhat thought as part of the Greater Buenos Aires, Quilmes ranked much, much lower. They had loyal fans, of course, but... the club played largely second division football. Like many Argentine clubs, Quilmes was founded by Brittish immigrants, originally as Quilmes Rovers Club. In 1900 the name was changed to Quilmes Athletic Club. One more name change occurred in 1950, when Peron ruled Argentina and wanted every club to sound properly Spanish – it was tiny change: Quilmes Atletico Clib. No more changes of the name, but the club is known for something else as well: the biggest Argentine brewery is named Quilmes (actually, Cerveza Quilmes is the company name) and located nearby. Neighbours, sharing a name, brewery and club are closely connected for many years – the beer makers are main sponsors of the club. Hence, the nickname – 'El Servecero' , 'the Brewers'. Alas, little brewing on the football field... Quilmes won the Argentine title in 1912, in the 'good old days' of classic amateur football. After that – a long, painful, dry spell. Lower leagues... winning Second Division twice, but rather accidentally – in 1949 and 1961. A third promotion was won in 1975, when they won the Second Division again... not much to brag about. The neighbours – Racing and Estudiantes – conquerred the world, when Quilmes was happy to win second division. Perhaps even their fans did not believe the club will survive for long among the top clubs... in 1977 they finished 18th. It was giant leap ahead in 1978, a big surprise for friend and foe.

Surprise champions: standing from left:Tocalli, Recavarren, Fanesi, Palacios, Milozzi, Gáspari, Zárate, Bourgeois, Gaño.

Crouching: Merlo, Filardo, Bianchini, Andreuchi, Salinas, Milano, Gómez.

Since triumphal occasions in Quilmes's history are scarce, one more photo of the winners;

The regular team, dressed in the away kit: standing from left: Fanesi, Palacios, Milozzi, Gáspari, Zárate, Medina.

Crouching: Milano, Bianchini, Andreuchi, Gómez, Salinas.

Did they used shirts, like San Lorenzo? Hard to tell... may be, but the kit is unimportant.

The squad is plain – no great stars there, no national team players – former, current, even future ones. Hardly recognizbale names, local heroes... the best perhaps were

Horacio Milozzi, a goal-scoring defender, and the striker

Luis Andreuchi – also spelled as Andreucci – who ended as the championship top scorer with 21 goals. He shared the honour with the very young

Diego Maradona, also with 21 goals. It is good piece of novelty: the young genius, already the most talked of Argentine player, already a star, and the unknown modest striker, together. Neither played at the World Cup finals, neither played for famous club – Quilmes meant nothing abroad, Argentinos Juniors also meant nothing – even journalists confused the name of the club with the Argentine Juniors national team, thinking that Maradona perhaps played only for such national selection, may be not having a proper club yet. Thanks to his talent and goals, Argentinos Juniors finished 5th, beginning their steady climb to the top of Argentine football. Anyway, considering that Argentina won the world title, the list of top scorers is 'strange':

Only Norberto Alonso from the stars – and he was arguably the best Argentine player at that time. Roque Avallay played for the national team, but was not a member of the world champion squad. The rest are unknown names... topped by typical 'also run' player and still only promissing talented teenager.

Back to Quilmes, it consisted of lesser players – potential Maradonas are clearly absent. Good run, ambition, rising appetite – yes. But perhaps the key figure was the coach:

Jose Yudica – a relatively small-famed player, he retired quite young and turned to coaching. 32-years old in 1978, he already had spells with two clubs before taking Quilmes in 1977 and saving the struggling club from relegation. Then he made them champions the next year, a great turn around. For Yudica, it was just the beginning of very successful career. For Quilmes – it was their second title after 66 dry years and their very first on professional level. And their last success...

The title was mostly important for the club and the fans. Little was made of it on bigger scale – the World Cup captivated all domestic and international interest. Quilmes had no chance of competing with the success of the national team. Very likely they were just lucky to win somewhat weak league, with opponents without their national team players and not really interested. Certainly Quilmes had no team able to stay on top, but at least their coach deserves notice: he was one of the young coaches emerging in Argentina and changing her football, led by the example of Cesar Menotti. Fresh blood, new ideas. Argentina conquered the world with unlikely players led by revolutionary coach – Yudica did the same with Quilmes the same year. His team was particularly strong at home games, but was good enough to clinch the title away, in Rosario. The team delivered when really mattered – they won the last 4 crucial matches.

The title may have been a lucky one, but not for the fans and the club. This was their greatest year. Champions!

Historic victory indeed! With a little more to it: as champions of Metropolitano, Quilmes were to play in the Copa Libertadores.