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RLY / ISSUE FO
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THE FOO

See the beautiful game.


Beautifully.
The hallowed turf stretches out before you; a vibrant stage on
which your eyes are xed. You are suffering hard, nerves tingling
from head to toe. Minutes are slipping away. Suddenly theres
a seemingly imperceptible change in pace, in direction. Like
spectators at the Colosseum sensing victory, the stadium lifts as
one onto their feet. Your heart skips a beat. In slow motion, the
play unfolds, the net unfolds, history unfolds. You barely dare to
believe what you have witnessed as your body sparks with elation
and you give your whole being to the Wembley roar.
Club Wembley guarantees you year-round access to all Englands
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Editors Note
Jonathan Wilson, Editor
Id barely sat down in the media centre
before the Cup of Nations nal when a
Nigerian journalist grabbed my arm and
dragged me over to look at something
on my laptop. Shed taken footage of the
Patrice Evra-Luis Surez non-handshake,
had slowed it down and magnied it, and
was insisting you could see the Frenchman
fractionally withdraw his hand as the
Uruguayan approached. She played it over
and over again, the same pictures of hand
approaching hand and no contact being
made. Is that really what weve become?
In the previous week Fabio Capello had
resigned over the John Terry affair and
Harry Redknapp had been acquitted of
charges of tax evasion, prompting a series of
speculative pieces about who he might pick
should he be the new England manager.
Within days, Rangers and Portsmouth had
gone into administration.
All the while I looked on in bewilderment
from Equatorial Guinea and then Gabon,
following Zambias sentimental journey
to the Cup of Nations crown and feeling
extremely grateful I wasnt having to deal
with the tawdry minutiae of football back
home. Instead, I watched an awful lot of
men cry, because they felt they had let
their country down, because they saw their
country being torn apart and, ultimately,
from the catharsis of having won a nal in
the city in which their country suffered its
worst football tragedy.
Stories like Zambias happen only
infrequently, of course, but it was still hard to
wonder, reading the abuse that owed back

and forth on every Surez blog, whether we


in Britain hadnt lost sight of what actually
matters about sport: the sense of emotion
and drama and human striving to achieve
something extraordinary.
And then you look at the Guardian blogs
and you see my Cup of Nations pieces
drawing 20 or 30 comments while anything
on Capello or Surez gets several hundred.
Its not hard to see the economic argument
for focussing on the mainstream and the
sensationalist or why so many other papers
barely seemed to acknowledge the Cup of
Nations was happening.
That, of course, is why The Blizzard exists,
to cater for minority tastes neglected by
more traditional media. Last March, when
we launched, we didnt know whether
enough others shared our interest in the
in-depth and the esoteric to make the
magazine economically viable. Thanks to
the hard work of huge numbers of people,
were still here.
As we celebrate our rst anniversary, were
much more optimistic, but we need to keep
pushing. I know I say this in every issue, but
please do keep talking about us, do keep
telling people what were about. We have
no advertising budget: word of mouth is all
weve got. Thanks.
March 2012

Contents

Contents
The Blizzard, Issue Four

Introduction
04.

53.

Editors Note

How the understated radicalism of


Arthur Rowe dened Tottenhams style

Barcelona
09.

Graham Hunter, The Inverted


Sheepdog

66.

The inside story of how Xavi emerged as


the central hub of the worlds greatest
team
24.

David Winner, Corrida of


Uncertainty

71.

Theory
75.

Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson tells Philippe Auclair
about his early start, the importance of
continuity and his need to be alone

88.

Ian Hawkey, Capital Failings


Football clubs in democratic capitals
tend to underperform and London is no
exception

Sam Kelly, The New


Enganche
Javier Pastore talks about his move to
Paris Saint-Germain and living up to the
playmaking ideal

London
49.

Patrick Dessault, DeschampsSuaudeau


Didier Deschamps and Jean-Claude
Suaudeau debate the modern vogue
for attacking football

Interview
40.

Bob Yule, The Bald Eagle and


the Modern Way
How Jim Smith brought the 3-5-2 to
Queens Park Rangers

Scott Oliver, The Other


Rival, Another Way
When the nastiest rivalry in Spain was
between Barcelona and Athletic

Nick Szczepanik, South of the


River
For a spell in the eighties, Charlton
Athletic, Crystal Palace, Millwall and
Wimbledon challenged the elite

How the cruelty of tiki-taka resembles


bull-ghting
28.

Martin Cloake, A Very English


Visionary

Africa
93.

Pablo Manriquez and


Backpagepix, Unlikely
Hosts, Unlikelier Winners
Images from the 2012 African
Cup of Nations.

Contents

100. Jonathan

Wilson, Victory Song

151. Robert

Langham, Continental

Drift

How Zambias emotional triumph


restored the zest to the Cup of Nations

Kazakhstan has slipped behind


Uzbekistan since it abandoned Asia

122. Gary

Al-Smith, The Barefoot


Pioneers
CK Gyam explains how a bootless tour
to Britain helped shape the game in
Ghana

126. David

Football Manager
156. The Ballad of Bobby Manager:

My Autobiography
When somebody takes their game
of Football Manager just a little too
seriously...

Lynch, Ultra Violence

After the horrors of Port Said, the exact


role of ultras in the downfall of Hosny
Mubarak remains unclear

Greatest Games
169. Dan Edwards, Racing 1 Celtic 0

In Appreciation Of
134. Sheridan

Intercontinental Cup nal play off,


Estadio Centenario, Montevideo, 4
November 1967

Bird, Ronaldo in

Moscow
A slalom though the Luzhniki mud
conrmed the genius of O Fenomeno

Eight Bells
184. Scott Murray, Shirt Tales

137.

Juliet Jacques, Toussaint on


Zidane
What the World Cup nal headbutt
meant to the Belgian writer

Information

Polemics

120. T-shirts

143. Pete

Grathoff, Pel v Beckham

Which of the icons had the greater


impact on football in the USA?
147.

The history behind a selection of iconic


kits

194. Contributors
196. Subcriptions
197.

About The Blizzard

Brian Phillips, The Other Cup


How do you solve a problem like the
Europa League?

010
Barcelona

...small men use their skill, courage and


creativity to dominate a much greater
physical force...

The Inverted Sheepdog

The Inverted Sheepdog


The inside story of how Xavi emerged as the central hub
of the worlds greatest team
By Graham Hunter

Im standing just outside the Barcelona


dressing-room door at Wembley,
about an hour after Manchester
United have been defeated 3-1 in the
2011 Champions League nal. The
dancing, singing and beer-drinking in
the Catalan dressing-room have only
just died down. Ive been charged with
interviewing two of the winning players,
with the trophy, for the nal Champions
League Weekly television programme
of the season and there is a desperate
need for a player to emerge from the
esta. Getting them agree to the damn
request is another thing again.
Eric Abidal has stopped, surprising the life
out of me by giving me a big bear hug,
but said hed prefer not to speak because
hes too tired and emotional. He has
played despite the operation to remove a
liver tumour that was supposed to keep
him out until August. Whats more, he
has been given the captains armband
and told to hoist the cup by his captain,
Carles Puyol.
Thiago, once my sixth-oor neighbour
in our Pedralbes apartment block, also
pauses for a quick chat, beer in hand,
but hes en route to the mandatory Uefa
drugs test.
Baras reliable, friendly and hardworking press staff have been inside

the dressing-room trying to entice one


of the victors out while the songs get
louder and more raucous. Time drags
on, deadlines are being stretched like
Uniteds back four and its not looking
good. Other players are whisked away
by high-ranking backstage officials for
television rights holders who have paid
handsomely for access.
Gerard Piqu, tired and hefting a big
cardboard box full of I dont know what
(it wasnt the goal net which he cut
down to keep as a souvenir, because
I asked that one) does a nice piece to
camera enjoying being with the cup
for a moment. We have been allocated
a neighbouring dressing-room and its a
weird moment: the trophy, a Champions
League winner I rst met when he was
still a kid in the cantera and an empty,
clean, atmosphere-free changing-room.
But his chat is good and his pleasure
at winning radiates like a cloud of
happiness. However, while he is lmed,
all the other players skip past, leaving just
one Xavi Hernndez.
Five minutes Xavi, not a second more,
is my pitch as the two ranks of television
reporters about 50 feet away growl and
will him to say, No, so that they can get
their last hit of a glorious night. He also
knows that everyone else is on the team
bus. Not only is a big party at the Natural

11

The Inverted Sheepdog

History Museum in South Kensington


waiting for him, but the last one on the
coach, especially if the rest have been
held up, will know all about it.

It wouldnt be the rst time he had


followed in Pep Guardiolas footsteps.

OK. I know youre good to your word,


lets do it. Joy.

That chat was one of the best moments


of a long career in sports journalism
and it could scarcely have been more
different from the rst time I tried to
get an interview with Xavi. It was 2002
and Id just moved to Barcelona. The
press office had okayed an interview,
but needed clearance from the player.
In those days, the set-up was different.
Sometimes you could see the request
from the Bara staff taking place and,
unbeknown to Xavi, I witnessed him
listen to the press officer, Chemi Teres;
I saw him mull it over for less time than
it takes him to nd a cute pass before
saying, Nah, never heard of him, dont
fancy it.

We sprint down the corridor, relieve


the Uefa official of the trophy hes
removing in the quite legitimate belief
that the second interview has as much
chance of coming as a Christmas
card from Jos Mourinho this year,
knock off a quick piece and prepare
to rush the great man to the sanctuary
of the bus. For no better reason than
residual excitement, I mention to him,
as we trot out of the dressing-room,
I thought Messis movement across
your run was outstanding and it opened
up Pedros space for your assist pass.
(Xavis forward run had him poised like
a quarterback on the move; Pedro had
Nemanja Vidi tight on him, but as Messi
went towards Xavis run, Patrice Evra
followed him, Pedro backed off into the
vacated space, Xavi found the pass and
his teammate nished, bottom corner).
Which is enough to make him stop dead
and say, Man, I love the way you enjoy
your football, and then walk me through
how Baras rst goal happened.
It was magical, just a fractional glimpse
of what we all miss out on reporters,
fans, officials, sponsors when the
winning players stop to dissect and enjoy
what it is they have just done.
As for Xavi, it was typical that he was
compelled to stop and talk about
football. Hes as good at analysing it as
he is playing it, which is why so many
believe hell become Bara coach.

12

Poor old Chemi had to come back to


me with the reply, Sorry, somethings
come up and the players too busy.
Lets try again another time. No harm
done. Chemi is paid for that work, Xavi
probably managed not to lose too much
sleep over his side-step and I viewed it
as an incentive to win his trust as soon as
was feasible.
Wembley 2011 was different. Xavi and
Bara were exhilarating. That rst goal
against Manchester United typied Xavi,
Messi and Bara under Guardiola. When
Iniesta slipped the ball to Xavi, he was
between the lines (in a pocket of space
between the oppositions mideld and
defence in this case); nobody had picked
him up.
During the dribble, he switched body
position in case he had to pass in either

Graham Hunter

direction, but there was a given point


when Messi was static and Pedro was
sandwiched between Evra and Vidi. No
goal chance was obvious. But the very
second Pedro decided to take a couple
of steps backwards, Messi spotted it,
darted three or four metres towards
Xavi, dragging Evra with him and
opening a channel for the pass. Vidi,
thinking Evra was still behind him, didnt
notice Pedro stealing a few yards on
him and getting ready to give Edwin van
der Sar the eyes and bury the ball past
him. It was poetry.
Football is full of little ironies and quirks
of fate. Consider this: when Xavi was
establishing himself in the Barcelona rst
team, the chance to join Manchester
United came up. He thought long and
hard about it, but decided to dig in and
ght for his chance at the club he had
always supported.
Xavi is now the venerated, brilliant,
visionary, all-time great Spanish
midelder but, between 1998 and
2002, he was an under-rated, misused
and unfairly judged young player. His
rst problem was Pep Guardiola. Xavi
followed up his Bara debut against
Southampton on the summer tour of
1998 with his competitive debut, under
Louis van Gaal, in the Spanish Supercup
that August. His chance came because
Guardiola and Albert Celades were both
injured. Xavi had been on holiday, lying
on the beach, only to get an urgent call
to take a ight back to Barcelona that
afternoon. Destiny calling.
The Supercup rst leg was a horrible
defeat at Mallorca, but Xavi scored
and received rave notices. Guardiola
was one of the quickest to praise his

awareness and maturity but vowed to


make it hard for Xavi to take his place.
He would deliver on that promise.
Van Gaals team, meanwhile, stumbled
on without a single victory, competitive
or friendly, from April 19 the previous
season until they defeated Rafa
Bentezs Extremadura on September
13. Things werent going well for Spains
champions. In mid-September, Xavi
made his Champions League debut,
at Old Trafford in a frenetic 3-3 draw
against a United side that would go on
to win the treble that season. His rst La
Liga start came in an imperious 3-1 win
at Valencia the following month.
By that time, he seemed established
as not only acanterano(youth team
product) of major promise but a rstteam regular. That season, he played
every Champions League group
game and made 27 appearances in all
competitions making him the tenth
most-used footballer in Van Gaals
squad. However, Guardiolas return
to full tness from another calf injury,
just before the halfway stage of la Liga,
resulted in fewer appearances for Xavi.
Its no disaster for an 18 year old
to be kept out of the side by Phillip
Cocu, Luis Enrique, Rivaldo, Ronald
de Boer, Pep Guardiola and Geovanni,
particularly when you score a goal that
is vital in the successful defence of the
championship. Xavis strike at Valladolid
brought victory in a poor display and
sparked a run of one defeat in the next
16 matches until the title was retained.
His memory now is that, of course,
when I scored in Valladolid, I was really
saving Van Gaals bacon. He had so
many detractors at the time, people

13

The Inverted Sheepdog

wanting him kicked out of the club. That


goal was the catalyst for us then going
on to win the league.
Xavi had some important business of
his own in the April of that rst season
as a Bara regular. He, Iker Casillas
and Carlos Marchena became World
Youth Champions in Nigeria, winning a
tournament that featured several players
who would play a part in his story at
Barcelona: Ronaldinho, Seydou Keita,
Gabriel Milito, Rafa Mrquez, Ashley Cole
and Julio Csar.
The following year, Xavi, with Marchena,
Joan Capdevila and Carles Puyol,
steered a wonderful Spain squad to
the nal of the football tournament at
the Sydney Olympics; he scored in the
nal, a 2-2 draw against Cameroon
and tucked away his penalty in the
shoot-out, only to lose to opponents
inspired by Samuel Etoo. So, in those
two breakthrough years, Xavi won
the Spanish title, the Fifa Youth World
Cup and picked up an Olympic silver
medal; a Catalan, schooled in the Bara
cantera, evidently gifted and a high
achiever. Life should have been sweeter
than Turkish Delight dipped in Nutella.
Yet the Camp Nou not only didnt
take him to its heart immediately, he
remembers hearing its disapproval if he
came on as a substitute for Guardiola,
reading fans letters to papers, hearing
them on radio phone-ins, objecting to
the young pretender trying to oust King
Pep from territory that was rightfully
his. The clubs managing director, Javier
Prez Farguell, had briefed at least one
agent that Bara were open-minded
to the idea of selling Xavi largely
because he didnt have great marketing

14

cachet. Iniesta they liked. Iniesta was


untouchable. But Xavi, well
People initially drew constant
comparisons between me and Guardiola
I struggled to shake that off, Xavi
admitted when he celebrated his tenth
anniversary in the rst team in 2008.
To be valued and respected for the
way I play was a real battle, especially
when Van Gaal used us in the same
position and compared the two of us at
press conferences. It was hard having
to compete against my idol. I worried
about robbing him of his place, about
whether we would get on or not. I
idealised everything about Pep how
he talked, his leadership on the pitch.
So, psychologically, it wasnt a great
beginning, despite the fact that in terms
of my own football, I felt great. But either
youre man enough to meet the challenge
or you have no place in this club.
Xavi hadnt known that Martin Ferguson
caught his debut, in his role as head
of European scouting for Manchester
United. Ferguson recommended that his
club keep a very close eye on this Catalan
mideld metronome. So when United
were alerted to the fact that Bara were
not only in the doldrums, but that Xavi
was at a stage at which he had to decide
whether to cut the strings and establish
himself elsewhere or ght for a life at the
Camp Nou, there was real interest.
When I raised the episode with Xavi just
before Wembley in 2011, he explained,
There was a long time when I genuinely
thought about accepting Uniteds offer.
I needed a change of scenery and things
were not going well for me at Barcelona.
I dont know, perhaps the club thought
about selling me, too.

Graham Hunter

I have always felt a real attachment to


English football and Manchester United
would be my club in England. For a long
chunk of my career, when it looked like
I was the successor to Pep in mideld, I
was made to feel like an outsider a bad
guy for taking over from the legendary
captain. We are not good at handling
change here. The new guy is sometimes
looked at like the bad guy. I hated all that
debate about me and Guardiola and Van
Gaal wasnt particularly tactful to put an
18-year-old kid through it.
The truth is that his father and both his
brothers, Alex and scar, at various times
shared their feelings that Xavi might
have to go somewhere else just to be
appreciated. What eventually made
the difference is that Im as stubborn as
a mule, he recalled. I thought about
going to United, but I dug my heels in.
I said to myself, I need to prove myself
here. The lucky break for me came when
Pep left.
As a player, I needed him to go, but then
I loved it when he came back to take
over as manager. Weve always got on
well, despite the fact that we had been
set up as rivals. Pep gave me advice and
tried to help the situation. Now I know
exactly what he expects of me, because
hes so good at explaining things.
Its all worked out in his head and he
communicates his ideas brilliantly.

repatriation was a long andthorny


process. Marc Crosas encountered similar
obstacles.But there was also Mikel Arteta
a real La Masia product. Basque-born,
talented, formed at Barcelona, but with
quite a queue ahead of him. I left Bara
because Xavi had just been promoted
to the rst team and Pep was still there
playing, too, so I didnt really see a
way forward for me, said Arteta. Luis
Fernndez called me to try life at PSG
on loan and I went. He had played in my
position, I learned massively from him and
it seemed like a good decision.
Xavis decision to stay has seen him
become the most gifted, consistent and
visionary player Spain has ever produced.
The stats help make that argument:
six league titles and three Champions
Leagues with Bara, a world champion
with Spains Under-19s and with the
senior team in 2010. Hes also the clubs
all-time appearance holder and has more
than 100 caps. It is his package of vision,
style, steel, technique and will to win,
though, that makes him stand alone in
Spanish history.

Xavis love affair with the ball began on


the concrete-covered Plaza del Progreso
in Terrassa, about an hour outside the
city of Barcelona. Its where he still lives.

Im a cul this is my club. Im in the


third Champions League nal of this
Barcelona generation and I wouldnt
swap anything that I missed for what Ive
had here.

Smallest of the gang, Xavi nonetheless


ran the show, never letting the ball run
away from him on to Galileo Street
which runs alongside that town square
where a thousand games were won and
lost during a golden childhood.

Others took different decisions. Cesc


Fbregas left for Arsenal and his

He was so good that Antoni Carmona,


Barcelonas scout in the Valleys, not

15

The Inverted Sheepdog

only spotted him when he was six, but


pestered Barcelona remorselessly until
they signed him ve years later. It took
that long because Xavi was particularly
small, although according to his coach,
Joan Vil, he already had that amazing
ability never to give the ball away.
By the age of 11 he was in, initially driven
to and from training (a two-hour roundtrip) by his father, then taking the local
train from Terrassa to the Camp Nou. His
rst pay packet, still aged only 11, was
4000 pesetas (around 20) he took his
mother down to the Rambla in Terrassa
and bought her a toaster. Today, that
same Plaza sports a sign which shows a
red line through a soccer ball and reads:
Ftbol Prohibido.
Theyve made it very nice, very modern,
but theyve screwed it up for the kids
who are like I was no chance of
playing football there now, Xavi told
Canal+ when they lmed a documentary.
It all constitutes another little reminder
that time never passes more quickly than
during a golden age.
He turned 32 in January 2012; he had
what Baras medics had called a chronic
Achilles tendon problem the previous
season and still played nearly 60 times
for club and country. He thinks there are
four or ve more good seasons left in
him. This is the time to savour him.
The journey from Terrassa town square
to Wembley 2011 was lled with learning,
intelligence, great passes and good
laughs. In our house, when I was a boy,
we lived and breathed Bara, he recalls.
Signing for the youth team meant he got
into the matches free, but of course it

16

also meant he wasnt assigned a particular


seat. He and the other trainees would turn
up 10 minutes before kick-off and nd
somewhere. Id be delighted with myself
that Id found an empty seat and then just
before kick-off, some guy would turn up
and say, Thats my seat, kid, so Id have
to go and nd somewhere else. For the
really big matches I often ended up sitting
on the stairs.
Xavis home life gave him valuable
back-up. The worst time for a young
footballer is between the ages of 15 and
18. Thats when all your mates are going
to clubs and dating girls and youre stuck
at home. My dad played professionally in
the second division and a little bit in the
Primera and that helped me. He was on
top of me all the time Get home by
10! Youve got a game tomorrow! Diet,
timetable, attitude he taught me about
professionalism very early. You need to
make sacrices to succeed, but Ive also
had a lot of luck.
Which is not to ignore his misfortune.
Louis van Gaal was his rst important
senior coach. The Dutchman had the
courage to promote the saturnine,
intense youngster. The dog days of Van
Gaals reign, though, were so awed that
Barcelona would enter a fallow period
of ve years without a trophy and with
a badly-structured salary system and
debilitating debts.
While Van Gaal possesses immense
abilities in many areas of football training,
he is also brash, stubborn and difficult
to be around if he takes against you. He
lived off what is called in Spain his libreta
that little notebook you could see
him scribbling into during matches. Xavi
reported that, He used to mark us with

Graham Hunter

stars and show us the book with what it


said about us in it.
The two had a turbulent relationship,
including a spell in which Xavi, having
established himself as a rst-team regular,
was made to do hard time back in the
Bara B team. He remembers that period
as some of the worst weeks of my
career. But the absolute worst thing Van
Gaal did to this talented, creative passer
was to insist that he was, solely, a pivote.
Xavi was made to play the defensive role
in front of the back four and, while his
ability to pick up possession and restart
the creative ow for Bara was of a high
level, it was obvious that he had to play
further forward in the 4-3-3 formation.
Coach after coach missed this until
Joan Laporta was elected president in
2003 and the classic Dutch, or Ajax,
philosophy, was reinstated.Until Frank
Rijkaard arrived I was a pivote for six or
seven years, Xavi said. They asked me
to try to get up and down and provide
assists, but its difficult from that position.
Ten or fteen metres further up the pitch,
where I play now, makes it much easier
for me. I am never afraid of receiving the
ball in any situation, I have to get it and
pass it 100 times a match. Its a need.
In retrospect, his move towards the
danger-zone looks obvious. Xavis
predecessor was Guardiola taller and
much happier hitting longer-distance
passes, but not as nippy across short
distances. Since Xavi has been unleashed
higher up the pitch, the pivote position
has been the exclusive territory of tall,
strong, tackling players like Edmilson,
Rafa Mrquez, Yaya Tour, Thiago Motta
and Sergio Busquets. Spot the difference
between them and the 5 7 Xavi? Then

why couldnt Van Gaal, Lorenzo Serra


Ferrer, Charly Rexach or Raddy Anti
before Rijkaard took over?
Stranger still is that Xavi was so inculcated
in his pivote designation that he even
told Frank Rijkaard that he didnt really
see himself moving further forward in the
team. Ive learned a lot from every coach,
but perhaps what will stay with me forever
is him convincing me to change position,
because he told me he envisaged me
giving the nal goal-pass much more
often, Xavi said.
Xavi is the light and shade of the last 10
years. He is the same outstanding product
of the Barcelona cantera which is now
being lauded as footballs great, cure-all
production line. A product of the La Masia
system? Well theres nothing shinier,
prettier, more fashionable or sexy. But lets
not forget that systems aws and failures.
Xavi was mistreated, almost sold, played
in the wrong position and left brutally
frustrated by a lack of standards, vision
and direction at the club. I recall Rijkaards
master-stroke in bringing the Ajaxtrained Edgar Davids to Bara in January
2004. He made his debut in a accid 1-1
home draw against Athletic, and shone
despite being patently out of shape. The
link-up play with Ronaldinho deed the
Dutchmans reductive Pitbull nickname.
Davids and Ronaldinho were on the
same level of understanding. I could see
Xavi looking to one side each week and
realising, So thats what it takes for us to
be a winning, hard-nosed team again. And
thats exactly how I could be playing.
Rijkaards team would have slipped to
eighth that night if theyd been defeated;
they were already 16 points behind the

17

The Inverted Sheepdog

Liga leaders Rafa Bentezs Valencia.


They were a shambles. But after losing
to a David Villa-inspired Zaragoza in the
Copa del Rey, Xavi, Davids and Bara lost
only once in their next 20 matches, 1-0 to
Henrik Larssons Celtic. That was enough
to nish second and, if Rijkaards team had
won, rather than losing, two of their last
three games theyd have been champions.

The exorcised ghost was Figo, who had


caused enormous haemorrhaging of
self-respect and condence at the Camp
Nou by defecting to Madrid four years
previously. A vindictive shin-high foul on
Puyol saw the Portuguese sent off and,
when Xavi played a delightful one-two
with Ronaldinho, it allowed him to volley a
lob over his buddy, Iker Casillas, for victory.

Another of the strokes of luck which


Xavi mentions is that Rijkaard fervently
wanted his former Ajax teammate,
Davids, to stay on a permanent deal,
but was rebuffed because Inter offered
better terms. Rijkaard held a grudge and
when Davids then wanted to return, it
was he who was turned down. Davidss
departure allowed Xavi, albeit from
the other side of mideld, to take up
the attacking, creative link play with
Ronaldinho and then Etoo.

Bara went on to nish second and


Madrids golden Galctico idea began to
corrode irrevocably. Following that Xaviinspired defeat, Madrid lost to Deportivo,
Mallorca, Murcia and Sociedad. The
result, but more importantly the absolute
self-belief displayed that night, marked
a shift in power, an augmentation of
condence which would be constantly
repeated over the next seven years.
That win, that late goal having been one
down, changed the winning mentality
with which Madridhad dominated Bara
for a few seasons, Xavi said.

Tucked away in that 20-match run when


only Alan Thompsons goal at Parkhead
brought Bara defeat was a win at
Madrid, in the April, which undoubtedly
helped Xavi metamorphose into what he
has become. Ghosts were exorcised at
the Bernabu, a marker was laid down
and Xavi grew in condence putting
one over a close, but competitive, amigo.
Los Galcticos David Beckham,
Zindine Zidane, Lus Figo, Ral and
Roberto Carlos (Ronaldo was injured)
were joint top, seven points clear of
Bara. A Real victory would have turned
blowtorch heat on their co-leaders
Valencia and would have cut Rijkaards
surging team adrift. Santi Solari put
Los Blancos ahead, a very young and
oppy-haired Victor Valds played
unbelievably and eventually Patrick
Kluivert equalised.

18

Before losing 2-0 to Barcelona in April


2010, Iker Casillas admitted, People
ask me every year who Id take out of
their side to give us a better chance of
winning and every year I tell them: Xavi.
Apart from being my friend, hes just
fantastic his control and use of the ball
makes him their best player.

The relationship between Casillas and


Xavi has been a dening point of Spains
growing football maturity and recent
domination of international tournaments.
Clearly, Spains excellence is a product of
many factors, but that Casillas, a die-hard
Madridista who would be behind the goal
with the Ultras on the Curva Sur if he
wasnt a professional footballer, could be

Graham Hunter

truly close friends with Xavi, a dedicated


Bara man and symbol of their modern
superiority, has helped mend relations
and encouraged Catalans, particularly, to
feel differently about the national side.

he gets his teeth into training, a match


or, indeed, any other personal objective.
Casillas, however, has a remorseless
work ethic, a need to set an example,
and he hates losing.

Xavi is rst-generation Catalan, proud of


his country but not a radical (his father,
Joaqun, is Andalucian. He happily wore
a Spain ag while cavorting through the
post-Euro 2008 celebrations in Madrid
knowing hed be criticised for it in
Catalonia and not giving a stuff.

However, the Catalan explained to


me that the Castilians image can be
deceptive: Dont be fooled into thinking
that Iker is super-serious, hes a joker
and a prankster, but Ive been privileged
to have been his friend and teammate
since we were 16. Ikers a complete
Madridista and I defend Baras colours
to the death, but it does give off a good
image to people that we are friends and
teammates. Ordinary, humble, workingclass people get behind the national team
when they see our bond; we are just
guys who dont know about business or
politics, only how to play football well.

The two youngsters rst met in the


build-up to the Under-17 World Cup in
Egypt, in which Spain would nish third.
During the three-day trial, Xavi played
well; Casillas was only 14, but also just
a year away from his rst call-up to the
Real Madrid rst team, when he travelled
as reserve goalkeeper for a Champions
League match against Rosenborg in
Norway. Two extreme talents, two polar
opposites in terms of their football
sentiments there could easily have
been friction. Instead, they shared a
common enjoyment of pranks, card
games (which Casillas always wins) and a
hunger for excellence, even perfection.
Xavis view is this: In the youth ranks
for Spain you talk more, your goals are
identical, but youve done nothing, so I
think that fear of not achieving and the
drive to succeed makes you share more
and thus brings you closer.
Their personalities are complementary,
not identical. Casillas isnt quite as
happy-go-lucky as Xavi, but slightly more
intense, slightly more driven. Ive often
heard Xavi admitting that he can be a
little lazy about his work initially, but can
also be unstoppably determined when

Xavi often says, If we [Bara] had more


of Madrids basic philosophy wed have
won the Champions League far more
often. I dont knowwhat exactly that club
has, or that badge has, but theyhave
always shown an ability to win even
when they dont play well. Or hell say,
Real Madrid players always have loads
ofjeta[cockiness]. In Casillas he found
the former attitude, but an absence of
the latter. He liked it and learned from it.
The pair of them can also be stubborn
when they want to be. I was invited to
attend the Fifa refereeing supervisors
brieng of the Spain team in their
2010 World Cup training camp in
Potchefstroom, South Africa. Horacio
Elizondo, the Argentinian who sent
Zindine Zidane off in the nal of
Germany 2006, lectured and quizzed
Vicente del Bosques players for an hour
while Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Piqu

19

The Inverted Sheepdog

pinged peoples ears, threw rolled up


balls of paper at teammates and held
true to the norm that the bad lads sit at
the back of the classroom.
At the end, he asked for feedback.
Casillas, Spains captain, ceded to Xavi, a
vice captain, who gave it to the official,
hot and strong. Weve sat here and
listened to you for an hour telling us
about how the rules are going to be
interpreted, which is ne but you go back
and you tell Sepp Blatter this, he said.
Tell him that because Fifa arent watering
the pitches anything like sufficiently and
because they arent cutting the playing
surface short enough, they are handing
a huge advantage to defensive football.1
If he wants good football and he wants
exciting games, tell him that; tell him to
sort the pitches out. Elizondo took an
involuntary half-step backwardsas Xavi
smouldered. It was a valid message, too.
Casillas and Xavi as shop stewards
the seeds were sown in Nigeria in
1999 when Spain became world youth
champions. Despite a severe fever
which cost him four kilos and saw him
sleeping in a tracksuit in 39-degree heat
because he was shivering with cold (Xavi
hasnt had the best of luck in Africa: he
suffered conjunctivitis in Egypt at the
Fifa Under-17 World Cup and a horrible
animal-hair allergy in Rustenburg in the
Confederations Cup in 2009) the Bara
midelder had been stellar during Spains
tournament victory. Oscar Tabrez and
Michel Platini visited the Spanish camp
towards the end of the competition and,
according to the Spaniards, gave them

the explicit understanding that Xavi had


won the vote for the Golden Ball (for best
player) and that his teammate, Gabri, was
second. However, at the Fifa gala, not
only did Seydou Keita win the Golden
Ball, neither Xavi nor Gabri made the
podium and Pius Ikedia of Nigeria (who
were hammered in the quarter-nals)
won silver. TheSpain team walked out of
the gala and ate in a pizzeria.
Xavis participation with Spain underlay
his success at Bara topping up one
of the few under-nourished parts of
his game: self-belief. He was always
determined, brilliantly talented, athletic,
articulate, visionary but by no means
arrogant. Finishing third, rst and second
in his rst three major international
tournaments not only helped him
develop and ride out the toughyears
at Bara, it showed him what he was
capable of. Winning the [Under-19]
World Cup in 1999 was the catalyst for
an entire generation of young Spaniards
who saw that we could win the biggest
prizes; it was a massively important
achievement for all of us, he said.
Guardiola knew innately what it took
to win big prizes. Xavi had the abilities
from the outset and initially performed
precociously, but suffered from not being
coached by a genius, as Guardiola was
by Cruyff. He needed to assimilate hardnosed condence before he could not
only emulate Guardiolas achievements,
but surpassing them.
Celebrating his 100th cap for Spain, Xavi
explained, As soon as I started playing

1
Spain were one of the last sides to kick off and there was already a furore about how
few goals and how little entertainment the world was watching

20

Graham Hunter

for the youth international sides I could


see and feel the difference. You are
regarded differently within your own
club, opposition coaches take more
notice of you and its more demanding
to play against opponents. Its prestigious
and it spurs you on just ask anyone
whos not an international but should be.
You feel the difference.
Playing for Spain has moulded Xavi and
its only just and proper that hes given
back so much happiness and pride to the
country. Development at international
level has radically enhanced what hes
been able to do for his club.
Xavi had been outstanding during the
title win in 2005 Baras rst trophy for
ve years but the severity of the knee
damage he suffered in training early in
December that year, when he ruptured
cruciate ligaments, would restrict him to
a place on the bench for the Champions
League nal against Arsenal in Paris.
By the time the 2006 World Cup came
around, he was still not at peak tness.
There were those who were beginning
to think that Xavi was a continuation of
an old problem for club and country:
talented but fragile. Instead, he was the
solution; it was just that circumstances
were conspiring to delay it. By the time
Euro 2008 came along he was ready to
dominate, irrespective of the decline of
his clubs domestic form.
One interview I did with him at the time
spoke volumes about his pride in putting
the old never mind the quality, feel the
width maxim to the sword. It was the rst
time that the wee men were beginning to
dominate under Luis Aragons. As soon
as I arrived at the tournament, one of

the Spanish football federation staff told


me, Now that Guti and particularly Ral
are not here, the atmosphere is a million
times better something big could
happen this summer.
Iniesta, David Silva, Cesc, Santi Cazorla,
Xavi and even David Villa were the relatively
diminutive talents who were lifting Spain
to quite new levels of performance and
reliability. Not one of them is above 5 9,
some considerably shorter.
In Spains group were Russia, coached
by Guus Hiddink. Andrey Arshavin
had been banned for the rst two
matches because of a red card during
qualication, but returned in the decisive
group match against Sweden. The little
Russian destroyed the Swedes, helping
to make the rst goal, hitting the post,
scoring the second and claiming the
man-of-the-match prize. In the quarternal he surpassed that performance,
again with an assist and a goal, as
Holland were pulled apart. Before the
Spain v Russia rematch in the semi-nal,
I sat down to lm an interview with Xavi.
He was buzzing.
Another little guy who can rule the
world! he reminded me, half joking,
half thrilled. Do you know, Id never
even heard of Arshavin before this
tournament and hes absolutely superb?
Hes just one more example of how
football is for the smart guys, not the
big guys who can run all day. Then
Xavi ruined poor old Arshavins day (not
for the last time) with a goal and a star
performance as Spain romped through
the semi-nal 3-0. Xavis determining
performances during the key matches of
Barcelona and Spain have been historic.
In the Euro 2008 nal, in Vienna, he

21

The Inverted Sheepdog

was by far the best player and gave a


gorgeous assist for Fernando Torres to
defeat Germany.
For the rst Clsico of the 2008-09
season, it was Xavis corner Puyol headed
down for Etoo to score. In the second
Clsico, Bara went to the Bernabu and
won 6-2: Xavi walked away with four
assists. Ive played Madrid many times
and never felt so superior to them in any
game, he said later.
In the 2009 Copa del Rey nal, he ran
the mideld and scored the fourth goal
against Athletic. Against Manchester
United later that same month, he was
Uefas man of the match in the Rome
Champions League nal, sending that
delicious, curling cross over for Messi to
head the ball past Edwin van der Sar for
the second goal.
In the Spanish Supercup rst leg in Bilbao,
he made one for Pedro and scored one in
a 2-1 win. Four months later, it was Xavis
chip into the box from which Piqu set
Pedro up to score in the Club World Cup
nal with two minutes left, giving Bara
their sixth trophy in a year. The Bernabu
Clsico that season was also a Xavi
masterwork 2-0 and both assists were
his, one for Messi, one for Pedro.
At the World Cup, he was twice Spains
man of the match and produced a couple
of assists, the most crucial of which was
his corner for Puyols match-winning
header in the semi-nal. He not only
made the most passes in that tournament,
669, but also the most accurate passes,
599, for an 89% success rate.
So good was his tournament that Michel
Platini, Uefa president, asked the Spanish

22

federation president Miguel ngel Villar


to request Xavis Spain No 8 shirt from
the Soccer City nal as a memento. I
couldnt say no! Xavi said. Im delighted
that he gifted it to me, Platini replied the
day before Wembley 2011. His football
intelligence, his comportment on and off
the pitch make him the ideal footballer. I
love watching him play.
Perhaps his big-game mentality was a
shade more hidden in 2010-11, but he
still produced a goal in the 5-0 Clsico
win, an assist in the Super Cup victory,
two more in the Copa del Rey seminal and that wonderful pass for Pedros
opener against United at Wembley in the
Champions League nal.
After that remarkable 5-0 Clsico victory
at the Camp Nou on a rainy, freezing
November night in 2010, the CasillasHernndez alliance was still strong
enough for their mothers to dissect the
remarkable result live on Ona FM radio.
Maria Merc Hernndez and Carmen
Casillas competed to establish that the
other womans son was lovelier, more
dignied or more humble than her own.
Which is an indication of how sour things
eventually became that season when,
six months later, Casillas and Xavi were
openly disrespecting one another on the
pitch during the epic but poisonous fourmatch Clsico series.
They stopped chatting and texting and
Casillass version of a peace gesture
was to tell the papers, I shouldnt have
gestured to him the way I did, but when
we see each other Ill just call him a silly
bugger and thatll be it all forgotten.
Casillas is an impressive, straighttalking man a sulker he is not. Its no

Graham Hunter

coincidence that his promotion to Spain


captain has coincided with a time when,
irrespective of tournament victories, the
squad is both harmonious and perpetually
hungry to win the next match.
However, Xavis stance in the midst of
the mayhem struck me much more
forcibly. As Real Madrid and Barcelona
exchanged insults and made claim and
counter-claim, culminating in each club
presenting written complaints to Uefa,
he spoke out, rmly. He called Madrids
claims against Barcelona lamentable
but he spoke clearly about these
complaints to Uefa, and said it was
pathetic that all these things were going
on in the world of football. It seemed
clear that he included the Barcelona
board in his criticism. Their moaning to
the governing body had not impressed
him either. Whats more, he had the
nerve to say so.
During my working time in Spain, Xavi
has been a generous, fascinating subject
for a number of interviews; someone
whose work on the pitch and attitude,
or intelligence, off it makes writing and
broadcasting about football an absolute
joy. He is up there in the pantheon of
all-time great European midelders and
probably, pound for pound, the greatest
Spanish footballer.
However, he doesnt even consider
himself to be the most talented Spaniard
at the Camp Nou. Hell often say that
Iniesta is the most complete Spanish
footballer Ive played with, which is why
Xavi was disappointed, but not bitterly so,
to miss out on the Ballon DOr in January
2011, when he and Baras other two
musketeers were shortlisted, with Messi
winning the title.

Firstly, he thinks Messi is the greatest


footballer in history. Secondly, not only
does he stress that Iniesta possesses
gifts he doesnt have, but Andrsito
scored the World Cup-winning goal in
the time-frame of that award. Probably
most importantly, the occupation of
the podium by three La Masia products
thrilled him.
What makes me happiest is that players
like Leo, Andrsito and I prove that talent
remains more important than physical
power in modern football.
Im a team player. Individually, Im
nothing. I play with the best and that
makes me a better player. I depend on
my teammates. If they dont nd space,
I dont nd them with the ball and I
become a lesser footballer. I dont think
Leo is in a position to comment on
this out of respect for those who have
gone before, but I believe hes the best
footballer ever. Leo was brought up here.
Hes Argentinian, but its like hes from
here. Bara is a football school, but its
also a school of life, where you get taught
the values that I think are correct and Leo
is an alumnus of that process. Here, the
players are educated how to behave, to
demonstrate respect and Im very proud
to belong to this school.
Xavi has earned a couple of nicknames.
The late Andrs Montes, an eccentric
radio and television commentator, called
him Humphrey Bogart. Some viewers
thought it was because Bogart and Xavi
shared saturnine looks but, really, it was for
Bogarts misquoted Play it again, Sam line
from Casablanca. Montes reckoned that,
for Spain and Bara, it was always Xavi who
would play it again, and again and again
as that ball ew from boot to boot.

23

The Inverted Sheepdog

Most of the players call him Maki, which


is short for maquina, the Spanish for
machine. Its a prosaic, industrial nickname
for such an inventive player, but there is a
warmth and positivity attached to it. Xavi is
always working, always smiling, and always
having a playful verbal dig at someone.
Perpetual motion. His passes come off
an incessant production line. Hes always
prompting and prodding teammates into
movement and into situations where they
can damage the opposition.
Xavis movement is a kind of reverse
sheepdog trick instead of penning a
ock in to an enclosed space, his darting,
nipping and barking is about spreading
them around the eld, into unexplored,
unpredictable spaces. Why no-one came
up with Shep before I cant explain. During
a match, most of the other guys shout
Maquina or Maki when they want me to
pass them the ball, apart from Messi and
Alves who just shout Xavi, he said.
If I dont get the ball for two minutes,
Im like, Hey! Guys! Look for me! Im
free! There would be no point playing
otherwise. Id be happier staying at home.
I must have at least 100 touches of the
ball every match. If I had to go back to the
dressing-room with only 50 Id be ready to
kill someone.

24

So, there you have Xavi fun to watch,


fun to be around. Sublime player, top
man. A footballer who epitomises what
has gone right at Barcelona over the last
couple of decades.
Ive been a Bara fan since I can
remember being alive, he reected.
Whats happening right now, how we
are playing, its just a permanent esta
for anyone who supports this club.
Over the years Ive bought my mum
watches, jewellery all sorts. But she
loves football, so probably the best
thing Ive ever bought her is her Bara
membership and season ticket so that
she can watch all this happening. I am
a romantic about football and I agree
with Johan Cruyffs argument that we
are only ghting a battle for the soul of
beautiful football. I have a lot of respect
for Jos Mourinho, but the coaches
wholl go down in the history books
are Guardiola, Sacchi, Cruyff and Alex
Ferguson. These are the guys who have
gone that bit further and reinvented the
game. Theyre the winners.
This is an edited extract from Graham
Hunters new book, Barca: the Making
of the Greatest Team in the World,
published by BackPage Press.

LIONEL MESSI:

GENUINELY SIGNED BY
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ICONS FIRST DID A SIGNING WITH LEO IN 2006 WHEN HE WAS


ONLY 18 AND HAD JUST BROKEN INTO THE BARCELONA SIDE.
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Corrida of Uncertainty

Corrida of Uncertainty
How the cruelty of tiki-taka resembles bull-ghting
By David Winner

It is late September and in Barcelonas


monumental stadium the Catalan
crowd is chanting its ols and enjoying
what it expects from heroes. Applause
greets every moment of artistry, and
its getting noisy because the whole
sumptuous repertoire of technique is
on display. Languid phases of poise and
stillness give way to darting swoops
and thrusts. Most breathtaking of all
are the intricately-worked patterns of
passing. These are hypnotic, ingeniously
inventive, sweeping. Some sequences
seem to last for minutes. One side is
giving an exhibition of intelligence and
uidity; the other can muster only a
kind of sullen physical threat. The quick
passing serves to establish mastery
and wear down the resistance of the
dangerous opponent. Poise and grace
is trumping clumsy power. Yet as the
beauty unfolds, as the crowd roars
approval, Im beginning to get a little
uneasy. The blood is owing. Soon will
be the time for death.
Oh, Im sorry. Did you think I was
describing a football match? This is a
bullght. One of the last great ones in the
city, as it happens, featuring the mesmeric
Jos Toms, a sort of torero equivalent
of Xavi or Messi. The contest takes place
in the high-sided Monumental bullring
about ve kilometres from FC Barcelonas
ground. In terms of aesthetics, though,
the distance between tauromaquia and

26

tiki-taka is even less. Similarities between


the spectacle on the sand of the Plaza de
Toros and that now on offer at the greenly
cavernous Camp Nou are uncanny.
In both cases, small men use their skill,
courage and creativity to dominate a
much greater physical force, and reduce
it to the point where they can destroy
it. In bullghting, relatively tiny toreros
overcome 500 kilos of hurtling horn
and muscle. In football matches, the
even smaller practitioners of tiki-taka are
obliged to face the studs, elbows and
scything boots of such footballing beasts
as Nemanja Vidi, Pep and Nigel de
Jong. At Bara, one of Andrs Iniestas
trademark manoeuvres the spin which
leaves his lunging tackler bewildered and
chasing shadows is clearly based on
the classic bullghting pass known as
the chicuelina. The frighteningly quick
and precise coups de grce performed
by Lionel Messi, usually over the horns of
much bigger defenders and goalkeepers,
remind us of the so-called sword of
truth, the matadors thrust to the heart of
the bull which ends the faena.
Even the pattern of artistic development
in both arenas has been similar. In
bullghting over the last century the
tendency, from the golden age of
Juan Belmonte, Joselito and Manolete,
through Domingo Ortega to Jos Toms
today, has been for matadors to get ever

David Winner

closer to the charging bull and make


their sequences of passing increasingly
complex and daring. (Just how daring is
often forgotten: Joselito and Manolete
were both killed by bulls, and Jos Toms
nearly died in 2010 when horribly gored
in Mexico). Likewise, tiki-taka represents
the latest stage of a remorseless speeding
up and intensifying of patterns of football
passing, calling for ever greater levels of
daring and invention. Performing some
of Baras high-speed passing deep in the
opposition half, in areas where boots are
ying and defenders desperate, requires
similar levels of nerve and precision to
that required by the torero.
Needless to say, in Barcelona itself the
suggestion that there might be parallels
between bullghting and what the
blaugrana do would be considered
heretical. Although many residents of city
are immigrants from Andalucia and love
bullghting, others now take a contrary
view. Partly this is a consequence of
growing modern unease about the
less palatable aspects of the corrida.
PACMA (the Party Against Bullghting,
Cruelty and Mistreatment of Animals)
last year gathered 180,000 signatures on
an anti-corrida petition and managed
to persuade the regions parliament to
ban bullghting in Catalonia altogether,
a prohibition which came into force
in January. Much more signicant
in this process, however, were the
political forces which saw abolition of
bullghting as a way to advance the
cause of Catalan independence.
In Catalonia, bulls are considered
symbols of Spain and of hated Madrid.
Thats why, in the whole region only
one Toro de Osborne now survives
and even that has been attacked by

separatists. The Osbornes are the huge


silhouette bull sculptures which once
advertised sherry but now represent
Spanishness. If you havent seen one
in the esh, you may recall the one in
the lm Jamn, Jamn, directed by the
Catalan Bigas Luna, in which it functions
as a delirious metaphor for manliness
and national identity. Two men, played
by Jordi Molla (an actor from Barcelona)
and Javier Bardem (an Atltico Madrid
fan), compete for the love of Penlope
Cruz. Bardem is machismo incarnate
and dreams of becoming a torero, ghts
bulls naked under moonlight and makes
magnicent love to Cruz under the giant
Osborne. Molla, by contrast, is a pathetic
mummys boy who fails to have sex with
Cruz under the same Osborne and vents
his frustration by castrating the statue,
smashing its great metal cojones with
his sts. You dont have balls, Cruz says,
crushingly. Later, Bardem beats Molla
to death with a phallic ham. Football
doesnt really gure in the lm, but
Spanish football traditionally embodied
much the same, anciently visigothic
notions of machismo.
At Barcelona, Gary Lineker was once
known as el matador because he hung
around the penalty area waiting to
make his kill. But this was an exception.
More typically it is the players and fans
of Real Madrid who like to indulge in
bullring imagery. In 2008, the club
captain Ral celebrated winning the
Spanish championship by performing,
to thunderous ovation, a series of
stately vronicas the fundamental
bullghting pass in the Bernabu
using a traditional cape emblazoned
with the Real Madrid crest. (Sergio
Ramos did much the same thing in
Valencia last season.)

27

Corrida of Uncertainty

There are several levels of irony


here. Ral is perhaps the last great
representative of La Furia Espaola in
which the ideal player was a sort of toro
bravo, a ghting bull: strong, fearless,
bathed in sweat, gamely charging after
the opposition. According to Jimmy
Burns, author both of a history of Bara
and a forthcoming history of Spanish
football, the essence of La Furia was
football con cojones, exemplied by
heroes like Telmo Zarra, the granitethighed centre-forward of the 1950s
who was admired by Franco. (In the
glossary to Death in the Afternoon,
Ernest Hemingway dened cojones this
way: testicles; a valorous bullghter
is said to be plentifully equipped with
these. In a cowardly bullghter they are
said to be absent.) The doctrines of La
Furia led to successive Spain teams being
outwitted and beaten at World Cups.
The adoption of tiki-taka, not only by
Bara but the national team as well, thus
signies not merely a shift in tactics but
a bewildering change of identities from
bull to matador, from sacricial victim to
ritual killer.
Modern advocates of bullghting insist
it is an essential part of Spanish tradition
and culture. Newspapers in Spain still
carry reports of ghts on the arts pages,
not the sports ones. By contrast, antibullght campaigners decry it as no
more than a form of torture, a wholly
sadistic practice.
Intellectuals have long argued about
its precise nature. Hemingway insisted
bullghting was art the only art in
which the artist risked death every time
he performed. He also stressed that it
was not a sport in the Anglo-Saxon
sense of the word, that is, it is not an

28

equal contest, or an attempt at an equal


contest. Rather, it was a tragedy in
which there was danger for the man but
certain death for the bull. Orson Welles,
a torero in his youth, observed that the
bullght was a tragedy based on the
innocent perfect virginity of the noble
creature that is killed.
More recently the Scottish writer AL
Kennedy has concluded that while
elements of sport, dance and theatre
are present, the omnipresence of death
set the corrida in its own, unique
classication: part entertainment, part
outrage, part sacrament. As blood
sacrice, its roots go back to both pagan
bull worship and the Inquisitions autoda-fe. When Kennedy witnessed her rst
bullght, an inept provincial affair, she
thought it much nearer butchery and
farce than art. Later, watching better
toreros, she underwent a change of heart
and noticed that the climactic dance of
death between matador and bull carried
a powerful erotic charge: Matadors
often liken the faena to making love... the
matador appears to clear a way through
the air with his muleta [cape] for exactly
the path the bull desires to follow. Rather
than tricking the bull [he] gives it the
impression that he knows what it wants
before it does, that he is there to help.
This is the body knowledge of the lover,
played out as theatre and execution.
In football too, beauty, cruelty and what
Ruud Gullit called sexy football are
inextricably linked. The greatest players
the ones considered beautiful are the
ones who dominate and psychologically
annihilate their opponents. This is what
Barcelona do. It is no gentle process.
Baras sacricial victims may vent rage
or submit meekly. Either way, theyll end

David Winner

up being metaphorically dragged out by


a team of horses. Of course, the death in
bullghting is agonisingly real, whereas
in football it is symbolic. Then again, the
suffering inicted on teams by being
slowly, stylishly, remorselessly slaughtered
by tiki-taka cannot be underestimated.
Even the biggest, dumbest, slowest
footballers are sentient creatures who feel
pain. Indeed human victims are in some
ways more vulnerable. No bull could ever
feel the embarrassment and sense of
professional humiliation visited, say, on
Jos Mourinho when his Real Madrid side
were disembowelled 5-0 by tiki-taka in
November 2010. The uncomprehending,
bewildered look on the face of the usually
bullish Sir Alex Ferguson was pitiable
to behold when his Manchester United
were stylishly put to the sword in the
Champions League nal at Wembley.

Anti-bullght campaigners see the


corrida as a sick and degrading
spectacle, damaging to children, an
affront to civilised values, a spectacle
with no more artistic merit than public
garrotting. The more I learn about
bullghting, the more I wonder about
this. Is there, say, a moral difference
between bullghting and the abattoir?
If we eat meat, is it fair to object to
the bullght? Then again, perhaps the
abolitionists are right. Maybe there is
something depraved in taking pleasure
from a form of culture in which the art
lies in the ability to cause pain. In that
case the conclusion is inescapable.
Tiki-taka involves, in the name of
entertainment, the iniction of suffering
by small men on innocent larger
creatures. Tiki-taka is therefore cruel;
cruelty has no place in a civilised
society: tiki-taka should be banned.

29

The Other Rival, Another Way

The Other Rival, Another Way


When the nastiest rivalry in Spain was between
Barcelona and Athletic
By Scott Oliver

There are some rivalries those


ferocious cross-town antagonisms of
Istanbul and Cairo, say, Athens and
Rome, Belgrade and Tehran, or the
multifarious, volatile Latin American
clsicos and superclsicos that are
hewn for the ages, it would seem: a
self-perpetuating, endlessly renovated
symbiotic loathing in which each new
supporter is compelled, as a kind of
initiatory sine qua non, to adopt a
bone-deep, acid-sweat hatred of the
Other Lot. Now, while a modicum of
intellectual modesty and smidgeon of
philosophical rigour ought to preclude
us from asserting with absolute
certainty that these tte--ttes are,
despite appearances, xed and eternal
(yes, even the Auld Firm), the fact
that they rumble forward at glacial
speed nourished by an animosity
so viscous and seemingly implacable
that fans on both sides of the divide
never escape the gravitational pull of
their compulsory mutual abhorrence
indeed creates the sense of a de facto
permanence from which the supporters
henceforth appear to derive their rigid
identity. I might not always be sure of
what Im for, exactly (because beneath
the Holy Shirt we seem ever to mutate),
but I know damn well what Im against
Then there are others, lacking the
fetid cheek-by-jowl antipathy of the

30

metropolitan derbies, going by way of


personalities rather than institutions and
thus less durable, but that nevertheless
attain, for a period, an intensity every
bit as vehement and consumptive as
those seemingly primordial antagonisms
before ebbing away. In West Germany
in the late 1960s and early 1970s, for
instance, Borussia Mnchengladbach
and Bayern Munich were fervid
adversaries despite possessing between
them most of the national team,
while the same period in England saw
bloodshed every time the Chelsea of
Chopper Harris locked horns with Don
Revies notoriously nefarious Leeds
team. Indeed, the 1970 FA Cup nal
replay, watched by an incredible 28
million people, the second highest gure
ever in the UK for a sports broadcast
(eclipsed by the 1966 World Cup nal
alone), was arguably the most savage
football match seen in Britain. When
reviewed by David Elleray in 1995
through the lens of contemporary
refereeing standards, he concluded
that Leeds would have incurred
seven bookings and three dismissals
(Johnny Giles, Billy Bremner and Jack
Charlton), while Chelsea deserved 13
yellows, including three each for Harris,
Dave Webb and Charlie Cooke. As it
was, so lenient was Eric Jennings, in
his swansong as a referee, that only
Chelseas Ian Hutchinson saw yellow.

Scott Oliver

A similarly foul and erce yet ultimately


temporary rivalry emerged during
the early 1980s in Spain that
heterogeneous nation of somewhat
precarious unity and internecine
squabbles (always, until recently,
offered as the fundamental cause of
their failings in tournament football,
of course) in which the extraordinarily
tenacious cultural and historical roots of
Barcelonas face-offs with Real Madrid
have engendered the mightiest oak of
a feud (one whose acrimony seems to
have been ratcheted up still further by
Jos Mourinhos pantomime villain shtick
and the fact that there are no other
serious top-dog candidates, the twin
titans nancial power creating a positive
feedback loop continually reinforcing
their hegemonic duopoly). However,
despite the Bara-Real antipathy, for a
short time an enmity every bit as spiteful
settled between two of the countrys
most potent institutional symbols
of nationalism, both beacons of the
autonomous regional identities emerging
groggily from under the jackboots of
Falangist Spain after Francos death in
1975. In the blaugrana corner, there
was the Catalanism embodied by FC
Barcelona (self-avowedly ms que un
club, which tended to express itself and
any hankerings for independence through
comparatively moderate and mature
assertions of its economic power and
cultural advancement, the extrovert city
of Barcelona long having prided itself on
being the habitual sluice through which
vanguard artistic, philosophical and
scientic currents arrived from elsewhere
in Europe. In the rojiblanco corner stood
the standard bearers of Basque identity,
Athletic of Bilbao, the only club aside
from Bara and Real never to have been
relegated from the Spanish top ight, a

club whose reserves, Bilbao Athletic, often


pull 10,000 spectators from a city that Phil
Ball says smells of football a throbbing
industrial Glasgow to Barcelonas wellheeled, sophisticated Edinburgh.
Given that early-eighties Spain was still
at the dawn of its tentative transition
to democracy, one could be forgiven
for assuming that Francos assault
on indigenous Catalan and Basque
culture might have united these two
clubs against the imperial Real Madrid,
occasional propaganda tool of the
ultra-centralist Generalsimo (who of
course invited the Luftwaffes Condor
Legion to bombard the symbolic cradle
of Basque culture, Gernika, on 26 April
1937). However, for a short time their
rivalry fructied as much by specic
personalities involved as by geography or
history really did surpass in fervour el
clsicos historically sedimented enmity.
And at the heart of it all were two men
more than familiar to students of the
sports annals of infamy

Although the club has distinctly British


roots a fact borne out by its name
(Athletic not Atltico although Franco
did insist on the Spanish orthography,
as indeed Bara were obliged to call
themselves CF Barcelona, rather than FC)
it has nevertheless elded an all-Basque
team since 1912, which remains the case
to this day (the current central defender
Fernando Amorebieta plays for Venezuela,
the country of his birth, but was raised in
the Basque Country, where he has lived
since he was two years old, while both of
his parents are Basques, too, who simply
happened to be working in Venezuela in
the mid-eighties). So, this year marks

31

The Other Rival, Another Way

a centenary without any Spaniards, let


alone proper foreigners in the Athletic
ranks, unlike their neighbours from San
Sebastin, Real Sociedad, who relaxed
this rule in 1989 with the arrival of John
Aldridge and then in 2001, signed a rst
non-Basque Spaniard when Boris joined
from Real Oviedo. The whole question
of the codication of Basqueness is
a complex one; however, if it is not,
strictly speaking, wholly a question of
birth, parentage, or upbringing, then
neither is it entirely an ethnic or racial
matter, since the criteria have long
stretched to include maketos (nonBasque speaking immigrants), while in
2011 Jons Ramalho became the rst
black player to represent the club. At
any rate, as Sid Lowe has pointed out,
the policy has never been written down
to do so might even be illegal and
over the years it has undergone changes
in interpretation, shifting with society,
policy-makers and presidents.
Whatever the precise criteria of
Basqueness, and there is bound to be
some vagueness for a stateless nation,
there is a conspicuous sense of cultural
uniqueness across the Basque homeland
(Euskal Herria) which straddles the
French border. While a good deal of
their historical self-esteem is drawn
from the fact that they were never
subject to feudalism and have always
been a people of individual smallholders
based on the inalienable basseri as the
basic social unit, the present feeling
of vasquismo is of course in large part
anchored by the language, euskara,
which, famously, is unrelated to all
modern European tongues and thus
continues to confound philologists and
historians of linguistics.
Howsoever dynamic and difficult to

32

dene it may be, Basques clearly feel a


sense of separateness. When that has
been challenged, the extreme end of
the spectrum has turned to terrorism:
ETA, the paramilitary Basque nationalist
group, is officially held responsible for
829 assassinations since the early 1960s,
including, in 1973, the car-bomb that
killed the Spanish Prime Minister Admiral
Luis Carrero Blanco. That event that gave
rise to a somewhat grisly ditty among
football-going Basque nationalists that
contained the refrain, He ew, he ew,
a reference to his vehicle being so
heavily dynamited that it actually came to
rest on the roof of a nearby building.
There is also a more moderate face to
Basque pride: a distinctly passionate and
proud footballing culture, one whose
members ock, come rain or shine (and
it is very often shrouded in a billowing
Atlantic rain up there), to the pulsating,
steep-sided San Mams stadium, the
countrys rst purpose-built footballing
amphitheatre, widely and affectionately
known as La Catedral . And the near40,000 bilbanos who congregate there
come in particular to see those Basque
players forged in the fabled cantera
(quarry), a mine so rich that it has
provided more Spain internationals than
any other club save Real Madrid, and
has brought eight league titles, a selfsufficiency and history of achievement
that is the source of no little local
satisfaction. Indeed, as the chant has
it: Con cantera y acin, no hace
falta importacin (With cantera and
support, we need not import).
Among the strongest teams ever seen
at San Mams literally, for they were
an overtly rugged, muscular side was
the one assembled by Javier Clemente,

Scott Oliver

an ex-player whose career had been


curtailed by serious injury and who
took up office in the summer of 1981
after an apprenticeship served rst at
the local sides Getxo and Biskonia,
then Athletics reserves. The truculent,
chain-smoking, often foul-mouthed
Clemente who would go on to coach
the Spain national team from 1992 to
1998, arguably the height of Spains
dark-horse fetlock-pulling was not
exactly a coach renowned for his teams
sparkling football; indeed, he is widely
credited with having coined the term
tiki-taka; not in admiration, it should
be said, but pejoratively, a typically
brusque and dismissive depiction of
what he considered pointless or aimless
passing for its own sake. As Sid Lowe
has illustrated, in Spain the feisty Basque
will forever be associated with the
phrase patapn y parriba bishbosh, up it goes, a kind of Spanish Ave
it! and with defensive, devious and
downright dirty football. Clementes
teams were usually resilient, functional
and robustly physical, playing a highintensity, unashamedly English game
based around the bloque: two defensive
midelders screening two centrebacks and, behind them, a sweeper
(famously, he once picked Miguel ngel
Nadal and Fernando Hierro for Spain in
combination in central mideld).
In a sense, this style suited the city, a
largely drab and charmless industrial
sprawl (until the titanium cubist sheen
of Frank Gehrys Guggenheim sprouted
up, at least) centred on mining, iron and
the shipbuilding that had rst attracted
Athletics English founders at the end
of the nineteenth century. Clementes
ascent to the dugout in 1981 coincided
with the high watermark of Basque

football, a period of four straight league


titles Real Sociedad had won the
Primera that May, and would do so again
at the end of Clementes rst season in
Bilbao and the team he built in the
1980s was as unyielding as the steel in
the shipyards cleaved into the banks
of the Nervin. From the cantera he
took the future goalkeeping legend
Andoni Zubizarreta, the full-back Santi
Urkiaga, the midelders Ismael Urtubi
and Miguel de Andrs and the winger
Estanislao Argote, adding them to the
veterans Andoni Goikoetxea, Manu
Sarabia and the skipper Dani. Above
all, this team played to their strengths
the San Mams public taking a sort
of perverse pride in Clementes antifootball and were perfectly happy to
ruffle more illustrious plumage in order
to win. Having come ninth in 1980-81, a
respectable fourth-place nish was duly
achieved in Clementes debut season,
with Barcelona coming second to Real
Sociedad, having blown a ve-point lead
with six to play.
As the Mundial rattled round that
summer, Barcelona were still celebrating
having expunged from memory their
collapse in La Liga by winning the
European Cup-Winners Cup, goals
from Allen Simonsen and Quini securing
a 2-1 victory over Standard Lige at
Camp Nou. After the tournament, they
welcomed the worlds greatest player,
Diego Maradona, from Boca Juniors.
However, after scoring with a direct
free-kick on debut against Valencia and
netting six goals in his rst 13 games,
El Pelusa (Fluff) would have a debut
European season to forget, contracting
hepatitis and being sidelined for almost
three months contributing to a patchy
season for Bara in which they lost

33

The Other Rival, Another Way

home and away to Athletic (1-0 and 3-2,


respectively) and slipped back to fourth
in the league. They could nevertheless
content themselves with a dominant
but ultimately narrow 2-1 Copa del Rey
victory over Real Madrid in Zaragoza,
thanks to a 90th-minute header from
Marcos Alonso. Their coach by then
was Maradonas compatriot, Csar Luis
Menotti, who had arrived in March that
year following the sacking of former
Bayern coach, Udo Lattek, largely
because of the slump in form brought
about by Maradonas long illness.
While Maradona recovered and
after recovering, partied and Bara
underperformed, the main prize went
to Clementes sophomore Athletic, who
edged Real Madrid by a single point (and
beat Bara by six) after the merengues
lost 1-0 in Valencia on the nal evening
while the Basques won 5-1 in Las Palmas
to bag a rst crown since 1956. They
retained the title in Clementes third
season by beating their local rivals Real
Sociedad 2-1 at San Mams in the nal
game (a reverse of their 2-1 defeat at
the Anoeta two years earlier when La
Real themselves successfully defended
their title). By then supremely condent
and driven, refusing to be cowed by
either of the metropolitan behemoths,
in 1983-84 Athletic had pipped Real on
the head-to-head rule and Bara by
a single point, despite the blaugranas
somewhat pyrrhic league double over
the Basques (partially avenging the
previous seasons results). And it was
during the course of that season that the
incremental morbo between Barcelona
and Bilbao simmering at least since a
tackle by Goikoetxea on Bernd Schuster
in December 1981, in Clementes rst
game against the Catalans as coach, had

34

left the Blonde Angel with a ruptured


anterior cruciate ligament, his nine
months on the sidelines forcing him
to sit out the World Cup nally, and
spectacularly, ignited.

The intensication can perhaps in part


be explained by the countrys fraught
and pestilential political atmosphere:
in 1983 alone, ETA had carried out 43
assassinations. Meanwhile, in an effort to
tackle militant vasquismo, Spains new
ruling socialist party, Felipe Gonzlezs
PSOE, had established clandestine AntiTerrorist Liberation Groups essentially
a euphemism for death squads that
were themselves responsible for at least
27 political killings in the four years of
their operation prior to being disbanded
in the wake of an expos led by the El
Mundo newspaper. Two years earlier, and
just a week after 23-F LieutenantColonel Antonio Tejeros preposterously
ill-conceived coup dtat of February
1981 in which he stormed the Spanish
parliament on the day it was appointing
the new Prime Minister, Leopoldo
Calvo-Sotelo, holding it hostage for a
day Enrique Castro, Quini, Baras
Asturian striker, then in the midst of three
consecutive Pichichi seasons, had been
abducted from his home hours after a
6-0 victory over Hrcules. He was held
for 25 days. Although the kidnapping
was ostensibly for economic rather than
ideological reasons (Quini declined to
press charges but Bara proceeded;
the two kidnappers were sentenced to
10 years imprisonment and ordered to
pay 10 million pesetas to the Asturian,
who gave it to charity), it assuredly
contributed to the uncertain air gripping
the country. Certainly, it underlined to

Scott Oliver

footballers that they were more than


fair game, leading Schuster who, with
Baras request to have all their games
postponed having been rejected by
the Spanish Federation, refused to play
while his close friend was held captive
to hire permanent bodyguards of his
own (little did he realise that it was on
the eld against Athletic that minders
would be most needed). Against this
noxious political backdrop, not only
was the Spanish national ag likely
to crystallize ill-will among the more
politically militant Basques, so too was
the Catalan senyera, which increasingly
became a red-and-yellow rag to
Bilbaos bullish football supporters,
strongly associated as it was with the
football club.
As if the atmosphere wasnt spicy
enough during this era, the 1983-84
seasons rst league encounter between
the two teams was preceded by deeply
rancorous verbal sparring between the
two coaches, an exchange going far
beyond common-or-garden trash talk
and fouling the air to such an extent that
the bad blood would ultimately spill over
on to the pitch. Menotti, a tall, reedthin, chain-smoking gure known in his
homeland as El Flaco (the Skinny One)
had of course won the World Cup with
Argentina in 1978 and as such was no
stranger to operating within a climate of
sporadic terrorist activity. For this was the
period in which the rise of increasingly
audacious ultra-leftist (and/or Peronist)
armed guerrillas was unfailingly met
with brutal and pitiless state-sponsored
repression, an era known in Argentina
as the guerra sucia (Dirty War) that
became formally consolidated into what
was euphemistically called The Process
(El Proceso de reorganizacin nacional)

under the military junta of General Jorge


Videla (March 1976March 1981).
Indeed, it was this climate of political
lawlessness and reprisals that led one
of Menottis illustrious successors,
Johan Cruyff, to absent himself from
the tournament, a decision at the time
ascribed to a political boycott but which
the Dutchman later admitted was born of
the simple fear of being abducted, having
himself been held at gunpoint in Barcelona
the previous year. (The fear was not
unfounded, either: the Peronist guerrilla
group, the Montoneros, are reputed to
have made over $100m from the extortive
kidnapping of prominent public gures,
with that of the Born brothers, heirs to
a food processing conglomerate, in
September 1974, alone bringing in $61.5m).
Employing language that one would
rarely nd in English or Anglophone
football culture, the strident and
loquacious Menotti dismissed Clementes
style as authoritarian and his team
defensive and destructive, while the
Basque retorted by describing the
long-haired Argentinian as a hippy and
a womaniser. Supercially, at least,
this seemed to be the archetypal clash
of open-minded, urbane gauchiste
and narrow-minded, defensive
(both psychologically and tactically)
conservative, a characteristic much in
evidence throughout Clementes career.
When, for instance, having somewhat
contentiously selected Zubizarreta for
the 1998 World Cup over Real Madrids
younger and sprightlier Santi Caizares,
the prickly Basque defended his selection
by saying, You dont invite people to
dinner who you feel uncomfortable with.
Its as simple as that. Zubis my friend.
End of story. As for Menotti, quite how
left-wing he could have been to have

35

The Other Rival, Another Way

spent the nal seven of his nine years


in charge working uncomplainingly
under successive military dictatorships is
anyones guess (indeed, this is precisely
the question broached by Roberto
Gasparini and Jos Luis Ponsicos
admittedly hostile book, El Director
Tcnico del Proceso, which, among other
things, points out that, in 1982, with the
Falklands-Malvinas Conict in full swing,
Menotti was photographed sharing a bear
hug with General Leopoldo Galtieri at a
pre-World Cup camp in Mar del Plata; that
said, its unreasonable to expect anybody
to be a martyr.)
Perhaps in anything other than a
football sense, in which they were
clearly antithetical, the simplicity of the
dichotomy between the two would
appear a little reductive by the criteria
of conscious ideological positions,
certainly, if less so by unconscious
personality types, where there indeed
seemed a clear disparity: Clemente
was unashamed to admit to being a
card-carrying Basque nationalist even
while coach of La Seleccin and had
been known to speak of his people as
a raza especial (a special race: which
had sufficiently fascistic connotations, it
seems, for Menotti to tar him with that
brush), while in 1994 Menotti would vie
for the Justicialist Partys candidature for
the governorship of Santa Fe Province,
this being the ideologically difficult-topin-down party of the protean Juan
Domingo Pern, which began life in the
1940s as authoritarian-populist and proLabour and by the 1990s, under Carlos
Menem, had become a standard, centreright neoliberal party.
Whatever their unconscious political
disposition or overt ideological

36

persuasion, the fact that Clemente and


Menotti were the best of enemies was
unarguable, and this antipathy would
still be nakedly apparent four years later
when, prior to a clash between their new
clubs, Espanyol and Atltico Madrid (with
Goikoetxea in El Flacos Atlti squad), the
two would once again engage in bitter
public quarrel, apparently prompted
by the Argentinians none too oblique
criticism of his counterparts somewhat
negative tactic of clipping two metres
from each wing before a Uefa Cup tie
against Internazionale. I shrink space
through play, others shrink the eld,
he said, using the Argentinian Spanish
verb achicar, associated as it was with
his concept of the offside trap: el
achique). This brought a predictably
stinging response from the Basque,
who called Menotti a bluffer who
gets by on jibes and metaphors and
a footballing parasite or scrounger
whom everyone in football knew had
only won a World Cup because the
president [Videla] had bought it for him,
a reference to the decisive and highly
contentious second-phase eliminator
in 1978, when Argentina inexplicably
kicking off two-and-a-half hours
after their rivals Brazil (in the parallel
qualication group, both nal matches
had kicked off simultaneously) knew
they had to beat Peru 4-0 to make
the nal. They duly won by six clear
goals. Rumours were rife that the junta,
desperate for the vicarious legitimation
of sporting success, immediately sent
35,000 tons of grain across the Andes
and unfroze $50m in Peruvian credit,
although they were never proven and
the game is certainly not the obvious
x many have claimed. Not to be
outdone, Menotti alluded to attitudes
and postures of fascist character in

Scott Oliver

Clemente, going on to suggest that


these were issues that ought to be
resolved by psychiatric means before
nally invoking Freuds hypothesis that
certain unconscious complexes, upon
being brought to light, provoke a violent
reaction in the subject: And I dont
understand Clementes reaction, unless
he admires or is envious of me, he
added provocatively, and knowingly.
If the personality of the two coaches
could be said to nd extension in the
players and style of their sides and
indeed, in Argentina, Menottis name is
of course a byword for cavalier attacking
play, menottismo, understood as an
attitude more than anything concrete,
being one of the fundamental stylistic
poles of the nations football and the
antithesis of bilardismo, the cynical winat-all-costs approach of his nemesis,
Carlos Bilardo then the air in El Flacos
team came from those two mavericks:
Maradona and the German wunderkind,
Schuster. The symbol of Athletics
athleticism and force, meanwhile, was
their uncompromising centre-back,
Goikoetxea. It was the clash between
Goiko an old-fashioned leero
(chopper) who was talented enough to
win 39 caps for Spain and these two
geniuses that ultimately brought the rivalry
to the boil and gave it its acridity and
unpleasantness, the Argentinian enganche
on the receiving end of one of the most
infamous tackles in football history.

The seasons rst encounter between


Athletic and Bara took place on 24
September 1983 at the Camp Nou during
the fourth round of matches, ending
the week-long Catalan festival, Festes

de la Merc. Despite the champions


Athletic coming into the match with a
100% record, Bara were three goals to
the good as the hour-mark approached,
at which point Schuster went in
uncharacteristically hard on Goikoetxea,
fouling him clearly and perhaps hurting
him, too. There was a good deal of
previous and many including the
culs who promptly began chanting the
Germans name in rapturous solidarity
saw this tackle as a deliberate and
long-fermented act of revenge. When
his anterior cruciate had been snapped in
December 1981 Goikoetxea charging
from the defensive line like a rugby anker
to intercept the advancing Schusters
run and, when wrong-footed, crudely
icking out a boot at knee height the
tall, blonde 21-year-old pivote was
arguably approaching the peak of his
powers, having come second and third
in the previous two seasons Ballons
DOr; he never regained such heights. (It
is to the consternation of many that he
played the last of his 21 games for West
Germany in 1984, aged just 24, after
reported disagreements with the coach
Jupp Derwall and senior players such as
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Stieleke.)
Maradona writes in his autobiography, Yo
soy el Diego, that just moments before
the fateful tackle, with Goiko evidently
ustered by the multitudes bellowing
Schusters name, muttering, Im going
to kill that guy, and starting to charge
about fretfully, he had told the Basque
enforcer to calm down: Take it easy,
Goiko, chill out, youre losing 3-0 and will
just get booked for nothing. Evidently,
this had precisely the opposite effect
on Goikoetxea who, goaded and listing
like a bull summoning a few last drops
of braveza before its spent collapse, was
at once consumed by rage; pursuing

37

The Other Rival, Another Way

the Argentinian away from goal and


into no-mans land, he threw himself
off the ground and into a tackle that
caught Maradona halfway up the calf of
his standing foot, snapping the lateral
malleolus in his left ankle like wood while
also rupturing the ligaments, an assault for
which he wasnt even shown the red card
although he was subsequently handed
the small matter of an 18-game ban (later
reduced to six) and would have to eld
anonymous threatening phone calls from
irate Bara supporters. (On the day that
his domestic ban was rubber-stamped, he
played a home European Cup tie against
Lech Pozna; with Athletic trailing 2-0
from the rst leg in Poland, Goiko headed
the rst goal in a 4-0 win, celebrating with
what he called tears of fury streaming
down his face.)
Given that the rojiblancos were almost
certain to nish the game emptyhanded, as intimated by Maradona at
the time, could this tackle have been the
quintessential and highly cowardly
act of taking one for the team,
deliberately removing the Argentinian
sorcerer from the ranks of one of their
chief rivals for four months? Perhaps
that is too conspiratorial, for while
Maradona wrote that Goiko knew
what he was doing, the Basque himself
denied that there was anything premeditated about it. Nevertheless, it was
this heinous tackle that earned him his
infamous Butcher of Bilbao epithet,
and the degree of genuine remorse he
felt for scything down the worlds best
player can probably be deduced from
the somewhat gruesome fact that he
had the boot with which he snapped
the Argentines ankle mounted, encased
in glass, and proudly displayed on his
living-room mantelpiece. For his part,

38

Clemente poured petrol on the re in the


games aftermath by casting aspersions
as to the authenticity of Maradonas
injury, insinuating that they ought to wait
a week before judging how genuine it
was. Idealistically, Menotti said he hoped
the sacrice would lead to an end to the
violence. The rabidly madridista sports
daily, Marca, ran the laconic headline
Prohibido ser artista (No Artists Allowed)
and looking at the tackle now, it seems
positively medieval, criminal almost.
It certainly proved a decisive event in
Maradonas life, for he has admitted that
it was during the recuperation period
that he rst dabbled with cocaine.
A little over a month later, the two teams
squared up anew without Goikoetxea
and Maradona, of course in the
nal of the Supercopa, which pits the
previous seasons La Liga and Copa del
Rey winners against each other over
two legs. In those days, it was not the
warmly anticipated curtain-raiser it has
recently become but an unloved match
shoehorned into the schedule. Be that
as it may, the rst match in Bilbao was
watched by a near-capacity 38,000, Bara
running out comfortable 3-1 winners.
Consequently, for the return leg, played
a whole ve weeks later and won 1-0 by
the bilbano visitors courtesy of a secondminute goal from the striker Endika, only
18,000 huddled into the cavernous Camp
Nou, the poor turnout more a symptom
of the competitions lack of prestige at the
time and the unlikelihood of an Athletic
win than a reection of any waning in the
ill feeling between the clubs. The fourth
meeting that season, in the return Primera
xture at the end of January, was another
bruising encounter, Barcelona winning
2-1 at San Mams to move within four
points of the Basques at the top of the

Scott Oliver

table. However, despite Bara powering


down the home-straight with eight wins
and a draw (against Valencia at home), the
absence of their Argentinian talisman for
such a long stretch of the season (not to
mention two months without Schuster,
injured just three weeks after Maradona)
saw their title aspirations come up short
by a single point. With Real Madrid held
at home by Sevilla in the 27th jornada,
the week after losing the Madrid derby,
Athletic beat Real Murcia 1-0 to go top
and, despite failing to win any game by
more than a single goal, remained there
over the nal eight games to land their
eighth title.
The blaugrana, though, had one last
chance for revenge when the two teams
met for the fth time that season in the
nal of the Copa del Rey on a damp
May evening at the Santiago Bernabu
Bara defending their trophy, Bilbao
gunning for a double, both clubs having
sneaked through the two-legged seminals on penalties (past Las Palmas and
Real Madrid, respectively). An indication
of the tense atmosphere and festering
animosity came in a pre-match media
spat between Maradona and Clemente.
Maradona forgave Goiko after the game
in which he was hacked down, but could
never forgive the coach, even making
to put it mildly an incredibly
unorthodox statement for a Bara player,
practically an act of apostasy, proclaiming
that he wished Real Madrid rather
than Bilbao had won the title. The ever
mettlesome Athletic boss retorted bluntly
that Maradona was an out-and-out
fool. The tone for a predictably tetchy
encounter was cemented when sections
of the Basque support outnumbering
the culs by around 54,000 to 20,000
started to whistle and shout Qu se

jodan! (Fuck them!) during a minutes


silence being observed for Barcelona
fans who had died in a coach accident
en route to the capital. The storm was
brewing. And so it was that, in front of
King Juan Carlos I, this short-lived feud
between arguably the countrys two least
monarchist clubs (witness all those with
Real in their names: Madrid, Mallorca,
Valladolid, Zaragoza, Betis, Gijn,
Sociedad, Espanyol) ended in one of the
most disgraceful on-eld brawls ever seen
in top-level club football, the whole game
having been studded by cynical fouls,
each one contributing to the malevolent
atmosphere. Schuster even responded to
the barracking by lobbing missiles back
into the crowd.
The game itself was largely forgettable,
containing few clear-cut chances.
An early goal from Endika smartly
chest-trapping and ring home a rsttime left-footed nish after Argote had
returned his own poorly-cleared corner
to the penalty box paved the way for
Clementes preferred strategy of sitting
back, defending deep and playing on
the counter-attack, all the while denying
space to Baras twin playmakers, whom
they harassed to the point of distraction
with niggly fouls and stray limbs. Bilbao
duly protected their lead with relative
comfort to nish 1-0 victors, securing
only the second doblete in the clubs
history. As the bilbanos bench emptied
in jubilation at the nal whistle, Maradona
ipped, later claiming that the trigger
was a V-sign from the Athletic defender
Jos Chato Nez (with whom he
had gone forehead-to-forehead in the
second half after a penalty-box dribble
had been abruptly terminated by a
wonderfully clean tackle that caused
him to tumble and led to intimations

39

The Other Rival, Another Way

from the Basque that he had dived).


At any rate, upon passing the unused
Bilbao substitute Miguel ngel Sola, who
was kneeling in celebration, Maradona
suddenly kneed him hard in the face,
knocking him out, sparking a urry of
studs-up high-kicking, players rushing
into the melee from all angles and
bounding at each other like demented
springboks. Maradona launched several
more karate-kicks and received a blow
to the thigh from who else? Goiko.
Sola was soon stretchered from the
eld by the Red Cross, while Maradona,
briey isolated, was rescued from what
might have been a severe pummelling
by the intervention of the legendary
Bara defender Migueli, who, living up
to his nickname Tarzan, threw himself
into the breach with a colossal leap
and kick to the small of a rojiblanco
back as all manner of people ooded
the pitch: substitutes, riot police, TV
crews, photographers, backroom staff,
paramedics and fans. Although the
initial mayhem soon subsided some
players running the gauntlet and leaving
the eld, others clustering in the centre
circle the overall conagration
hadnt entirely abated when Bilbaos
skipper Dani received the cup from the
bewildered and horried king. Many
present that day have said that it was a
minor miracle that nobody was seriously
injured in the brawl; it was perhaps
equally perplexing that no-one was
punished there and then, the referee
Franco Martnez claiming not to have
seen the start of the fracas. Even so, the
Spanish federation later meted out heavy
sanctions, including three-month bans
each to Maradona, Migueli and Paco Clos

40

from Barca, and the same to Sarabia, De


Andrs and Goikoetxea from Athletic.
This ignominious episode was both the
nadir and culmination of a eeting yet
intense rivalry, a disgrace that, mercifully,
produced little in the way of violence
between the fans nor any long-lasting
animosity between the two clubs. Having
guaranteed his place in Athletic legend,
Clemente guided the rojiblancos to third
and fourth in the following seasons,
while his second spell in charge of
Athletic would end in dismissal in 1991,
shortly after Cruyffs Dream Team had
consigned Los Leones to their heaviest
ever home defeat, 6-1 (a partial and
belated revenge for the fact that Baras
largest loss was a 12-1 drubbing in San
Mams at the hands of Fred Pentlands
Athletic in 1932, the biggest win in the
entire history of La Liga).
With his mother having passed away,
El Flaco returned to South America,
coaching Pearol of Uruguay, while
Maradona, after playing just 36 La Liga
games (scoring 22 goals), would never
again wear the blaugrana shirt the
thought of him missing three months
for a third straight season evidently too
much for President Nez and only
ventured back to Spain to play for Sevilla
(ironically, under the other nemesis
of Menotti, Carlos Bilardo) after seven
eventful seasons in Naples. Thus it was
that, with the departure of the rivalrys
principal protagonists, the brief wave of
morbo dissipated just as suddenly as it
had arisen, both sides getting back to
the bread-and-butter loathing of those
villainous centrists of Madrid.

41
Interview

I dont think the media are actually


that interested in what happens in a
game of football.

Alex Ferguson Interview

Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson discusses his early start, the
importance of continuity and his need to be alone
By Philippe Auclair

How do you interview Alex Ferguson?


That was the question Id been asking
myself over and over since, more than a
year after Id submitted a hopeful request
to the Manchester United press office,
Id been informed that I should present
myself at the Carrington training ground
on a given Friday barely after dawn, it
seemed. Sir Alex is an early bird, one of
those napoleons for whom a six-hour
stretch in bed is a lie-in. Hed more or
less given up on one-to-ones by then.
His weekly press briengs, uttered in a
Scottish drawl that was barely audible
from the back of the press room, could
send occasional visitors into a funk. If
to sit down with him was a privilege, of
course, to prepare for the occasion was
an ordeal. Memo to self: ask questions
that havent been put to him a thousand
times before. Make sure you remember
Aberdeens Cup-Winners Cup-winning
starting XI. Pick a cab driver who wont
take you to Citys training ground instead.
When it starts, dont sit there, gasping like
yesterdays catch on the shmongers
slab. Dont mess it up, for goodness sake.

mine, probably. Then He walked in, all


smiles, fresh from his mornings work-out
in the club gym, bursting with energy and,
yes, geniality. Perhaps his eye had caught
the bottle of Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru
Id brought along as a peace offering on
the advice of my France Football colleague
Marc Beaug, a United fan whod made it
his Christmas custom to send a bottle of
the best to the great man. Or perhaps it
was the penchant he didnt hide towards
the Gallic half of the Auld Alliance, the land
of Burgundy wine but also of Eric Cantona.
Or perhaps Alex Ferguson just loves talking
about football. In any case, the man who
spoke to me for close to an hour, not
checking the face of his watch once,
couldnt have been more amenable, more
charming and more willing to provide copy
to his questioner.

Not one player of Fergusons squad


had yet parked his car in front of the
entrance to the Carrington complex when
Manchester Uniteds then-press officer
Diana Law took me to the room where the
interview would take place. The coffee Id
been given tasted like an infusion of ashes;

Possibly, the fact that Ive been here for


[so long] has helped. When I rst came,
the club was not as big as it is now, so,
therefore, Ive integrated many things
over the years. I seem to be able to cope
because of everything thats brought me to
this point to the point it becomes normal.

42

Your autobiography was entitled


Managing My Life but didnt quite
explain how you did it how you
managed to live with the pressure of
being the manager of the most famous
club in the world... How do you do it?

Philippe Auclair

Do you have to behave like people


in a submarine who close ballast
after ballast... [he laughs] ...and
compartmentalise their lives, making
sure you can switch off from one area to
move to the next?
What I do the reason why I have
survived is that Im able to get to that
state of... vacuum, where I can dismiss
everything. You understand? What
people say to me becomes peripheral,
because I believe I, and everyone else,
need thinking time, that escapism
which enables you to think. If you dont
have that time to think, the whole day
will catch up with you, so... take today.
I was here at ve to seven, I spent 45
minutes in the gymnasium, then I started
my meetings with my staff with a clear
mind, football-wise. Normally, Id be with
my staff right now, but we have a free
day today the players have a day off.
So Ill go through all my non-football
meetings this morning, then concentrate
on the football. I have always done that
evacuate things, then concentrate on
the football. Then comes the football
issues. They can be quite diverse: youth
football, reserve football, to the rst
team, and theres always some issues to
take care of, in every department. I have
hands-on control over all that. Now,
what Ive found over the years, there is
the delegation part, which is vital to me
now, because [of my] age, I cant go
careering around doing all things, you
know. I have a very, very good staff who
get on with their jobs, and all I need to
do is be an overseer of that, to make
sure it is working properly. But, going
back to that release, the mental side is
so important, because, by thinking, by
getting time to think, youre able to be
alone... sometimes, as a manager, you

are alone, and Im quite happy being


alone, by myself, so I have time to think.
There are some times Im in my office
in the afternoon, Ive done all my work,
Im looking out the window and Im
thinking, and its great to think. And
no-one goes through that door for an
hour, because they think Im busy! You
know what I mean? [laughs] Its a strange
situation sometimes...
Can you ever live in the present? Can
you actually take the time to savour
what is happening in front of you on the
pitch?
Erm... [long pause]... I think its more
difficult. The media make it more
difficult. I dont think the media are
actually that interested in what happens
in a game of football. I think theyre more
interested in whats happened after the
match, what the coachs opinion is of
this defeat, or this victory, the prole of
the stars, rather than the semantics of
the football match itself. I nd it a wee
bit disappointing, because, when you get
down and talk about the actual game,
sometimes, its far more interesting... the
visiting manager will pop in my office
and have a drink, and we can talk about
the game what happened in the match
in a rational, controlled way, which is
fantastic. You dont get that a lot, which
is a disappointment, because it is far
better to discuss what happened during
the game than [what happened] after it.
When you were playing with Rangers,
did you already know you wanted to
be a manager? At what point did you
discover your vocation?
The minute I became a full-time
professional footballer, I was going

43

Alex Ferguson Interview

to become a manager. Id served my


apprenticeship as a toolmaker in a
typewriter factory. When I completed
my apprenticeship, at the age of 21, I
worked one year as a tradesman, and
the opportunity to go for football fulltime came then. At 22 years of age, I
made up my mind that I was going to
go completely for it. That meant that,
the year after I became a professional
footballer, I went for a B-Licence at
coaching, and, at 24, I got my full badge.
So, every year thereafter, until I became a
manager, I went to coaching seminars
every summer.
Were you already playing like a future
manager, picking up tips about tactics
and so on when you were playing?
Yes, I was doing a bit of that! When I
got older, some former players recalled
that I was always up at the blackboard,
discussing tactics, you know. And they
thought it was very boring of course...
what a bloody nuisance and so on
[laughs]... I did this because I took a deep
interest in it, because I knew this was my
career now, I wanted to stay in it. I saw
things and thought to myself, I would
have done this, I wouldnt have done that,
and, I hope I get a chance. In the same
situation, would I be making the same
mistakes, would I go a certain way in
terms of training, preparation...? Take an
example. People talk about diet. I became
a manager at 32, in a small team, East
Stirling. There were eight players when I
rst went and no goalkeeper. So I took
on free transfers, players out of contract
to build up a squad of 13-14 players. After
a few weeks, we were doing very well,
and we were playing a local derby against
Falkirk, of which Id been player-coach
before that... so I went to the board and

44

said, I want to take the team for lunch


this Saturday. And they said [horried
voice], Oh no, we cant afford that. I said,
Ill pay for it. It came to 24; that was in
1974. I went up to the hotel on the Friday
morning and told them what I wanted a
lemon sole, toast and honey. And they
looked at me as if Id holes in my head.
What? No potatoes, no soup? I said,
Nothing. Lemon sole, grilled, no butter,
maybe a little bit of oil, honey, toast, tea
and water. The players arrived, sat down...
what the fucks this? [laughs] I said,
Just eat it. Youve probably had a fried
breakfast this morning anyway, so eat it. I
did that as a player. Thats all it took. Years
later, the players would have porridge oats
the day before the run, then pasta came
into it, carbohydrates, protein, all these
things, but I was thinking about these
things way back in 1974. My ideas about
preparation of the players were already in
place. I did the same at Aberdeen. They
used to have llet steak before the game.
A llet steak takes two hours to digest I
put a stop to that. They didnt like it, they
missed their steak who doesnt like
a steak? But this is the kind of thought
process I had to have. In a sense, Ive been
a manager since I was 24 years old.
Did you already have your ideas in
place regarding the way you wanted
your future teams to play? Have these
ideas changed over the years?
I always believed in possession of the
ball, with every team Ive had. Passing
the ball, possession. Thats what we
worked on when I was at East Stirling.
All the time. They were limited players,
to be honest, but they tried really hard.
They were only part-time players; Id
only have them three nights a week. We
played Tranmere in a pre-season friendly.

Philippe Auclair

Ron Yeats was the manager. They beat


us 2-0. Steve Coppell was their centreforward at the time just before he
went to Manchester United. And Ron
told me after the game, Ill give you a
tip: you play far too much football. And
I said, Im quite happy if thats a crime.
Playing too much football! But Ive
always believed in possession of the ball.
I say to my players: human nature tells
you that when you have something in
your possession, the other person wants
it. So the patience runs out, they lose
control. One of those 10 players is going
to try and get that ball, so therefore,
youre playing against nine players. That
was my theory, as a young manager... Ive
changed a bit since then, of course.
Are these changes related to the
need to accommodate exceptional
talents like a Cantona, a Giggs, a
Ronaldo or a Rooney?
No. Although Ive always strongly
believed in possession, because of my
development as a coach, and because
Ive come to a club which can embrace
players of that type which has always
had them: think of Bobby Charlton,
think of George Best then you learn
that youve got to let people express
themselves. That is development [for a
coach]. That was the same at Aberdeen,
where I had very, very talented players
like Peter Weir and Gordon Strachan.
A player like Giggs is a godsend for a
manager. He got into the rst team when
he was 16 years of age, and [for 22 years]
hes played for that same team! It takes
a lot to do that; it takes an exceptional
player to do that. And yes, from time to
time, his form has uctuated, but, when
you put it in perspective... its sensational.
Weve always had to encourage that

part of expression. Theres no way Eric


Cantona would have been a great player
if we hadnt allowed him to express
himself, to be Eric Cantona. I think we
were a perfect club for him, a club where
he was able to stick his chest out and
say, Im the man here, Im the king here.
Because he had this aura, this presence,
this belief in himself...
And you like that in a player...
Well, yes! If youve got that great
belief do it! It was the same with
Ronaldo. Dont discourage him at any
time to beat men, because hes the
player youre looking for. When we
were building the 99 team, I wanted
Dwight Yorke, because he was the only
player in England that I could see who
could beat his man in the last third
as a centre-forward. He could turn a
man and beat him. Theres always a
balance of thoughts and a balance of
instruction through all teams. To some
players, you say: keep your game simple,
because theyre better when theyre
uncomplicated. And there are players
who can take the game to a different
level, a level which I cant see myself,
because I do not have their vision,
and they see things that I, as a coach,
dont see. Ronaldo, Scholes, Cantona,
Giggs... They have that exceptional
vision of the game. Giggs has this gift
of pure balance... you know, he never
earns penalty kicks! Do you know
why? Because he never goes down. He
stumbles, and carries on; because when
he gets hit, his balance is so good that he
stumbles through. Unbelievable!
The key is also to create teams who
trusted each other, are committed to
each other. The best teams are always

45

Alex Ferguson Interview

the ones which have a good bond with


each other, and can understand when
a player is having a bad time, and will
support each other.
Was that the key thing at Aberdeen, a
team with which you may have had your
greatest achievements, since nobody
ever thought you could challenge the
Old Firm and win in Europe?
Well, I would say that most people who
know me would say that, yes, that was
my greatest achievement. But, of course,
the prole of this club, the expectations
have elevated me away from Aberdeen,
which is unfortunate, maybe, because it
was a fantastic period, it was a fantastic
group of players. I was very fortunate to
be able to build them up together. As you
know, when a small club like Aberdeen
becomes successful, the players usually
y away, vanish overnight. But I managed
to keep them for four to ve years, you
know? It wasnt until 1984 that [Gordon]
Strachan, [Mark] McGhee and Doug
Rougvie left... I should have done better
with them. At the end of the day, it was
a tight ship. The club was always in the
black. I remember the chairman saying,
This clubs never been in the red, and
will never be, as long as Im alive. When
Mark and Doug wanted more than the
other ones, we would have needed to
take that big step, into the big time,
when you start to pay players unrealistic
terms for Aberdeen, not for other
clubs. Thats why they left. Maybe I
should have done it; we may just have
kept them, we may have got to the
nal of European Cup the next year...
because we got to the quarter-nals
against [IFK] Gothenburg, and we threw
it away, lost on an away-goal scored at
the last minute... And Gothenburg went

46

to Barcelona and were very unlucky;


Barcelona played the nal against
[Steaua] Bucharest. And I think we were
good enough to be in the nal. The great
magicians trick was to keep that team
together as long as we did.
Success can only be built on
continuity...
Yes, yes, absolutely. Its a great danger to
close your eyes to the future. Ive always
tried to make sure that the rebuilding
process is an evolution. So weve bought
young players over the last year. Some
of them have done well, some have not
asserted themselves yet.
These players now come from all
over the world, whereas the nucleus of
your earlier teams was British. Is this a
reection of a drop in the level of young
English and Scottish players, or is it simply
the effect of footballs globalisation?
You cant have a team composed of
players who were all born within half
an hour of Old Trafford. I think its
impossible to build a team successful in
Europe with our local boys. Yes, Neville,
Butt, Scholes and Giggs all came through
together, but thats exceptional, that
happens maybe once in a lifetime. So we
had to stretch the net to young European
players... weve done that simply because
we want to make sure Manchester
United still produces young players,
brings young players through.
One of your problems is that youre
expected to win everything, every year.
Very few people take a long-term view
and say youre nished if you have a
season when you dont have that level of
success. Does that hurt?

Philippe Auclair

I dont read the papers. If I need to know


anything, Di [the press officer] tells me
everything, if theres anything silly... well,
of course, that happens almost every
day!... anything out of the ordinary which
I need to know, and need to react to.
It took you time to establish yourself
here, but the board stuck by you...
Absolutely.
Do you think that, in the football of
today, a young Alex Ferguson would be
able to have the career that youve had?
Its become more difficult. The
expectation level is huge now, for
everyone... its... unrealistic. Its very
difficult to think you can win trophies
every year. Someone said to me that all
the greatest teams ever have a timespan
of seven years. And then they cant do it
again. But we keep contesting the title
every year. I think thats phenomenal.
I think theres a lot of credit there. Of
course, in a bad season, Im nished, Im
done, Im an old man, Ive had my heart
problems, all this, you know. So... the
next year Ill be a genius! So you have to
balance things, nd a space in between.
Alex Ferguson has to assess himself
properly, which I always do,
be realistic.

47

50
St Pauli

The Hutterites are


convinced hell is directly
underneath the Reeperbahn.

50
London

...the thriving atmosphere at Tottenham,


the atmosphere of good football for the
sake of good football.

Capital Failings

Capital Failings
Football clubs in democratic capitals tend to
underperform and London is no exception
By Ian Hawkey

For a man who supposedly devotes so


many of his hours to conspiring against
English football, Michel Platini certainly
has a way of icing his contempt with
praise. The Uefa president has been in
charge of the major decisions governing
European football for ve years; that
means decisions like where to hold the
nal of the Champions League, the most
signicant club match, with the broadest
global resonance, of each year. Twice
under Platinis mandate Uefa have
deemed Wembley, site of the 2011 and of
next years nal, the best venue.

Perhaps Platini simply intuits how many


of his fellow executives like visiting
the British capital (sporting bodies
do sometimes act on such mundane
issues). Or perhaps Platini is not so
anti-English as it fashionable to suggest.
Or, just perhaps, it is all a cunning,
devilish scheme, based on careful study
of precedents and the overwhelming
weight of history to make sure that
London, headquarters of the English
FA, has the smallest possible chance of
celebrating a local triumph in the games
most glamorous club competition.

Hosting two nals in three years is


well over the odds for fair distribution,
however ne a venue the modern
Wembley with its turng problems
apparently resolved now seems for

showpiece events. It had landed the right


to roll out a red carpet for Barcelona last
May because it had been 19 years since
the previous Wembley European Cup
nal another Barcelona win, 1-0 against
Sampdoria and before that you had to
go back more than 30 years for the last
of the four previous editions: 1978, 1971,
1968 and 1963. London then got the
2013 nal, said Platini that notorious
Anglophobe because Uefa felt it was
our role to help the FA celebrate in a
special way the 150th anniversary of the
English Football Association.

What the Uefa president can be fairly


sure of is that, if history is any guide,
come May he will not be handing the
trophy over to a Londoner, or at least
anybody who lives and works in the
English capital. While Wembley has
had its moments of generosity towards
English clubs in European Cup nals, to
Liverpool in 1978 and Manchester United
in 1968, the home of football, frankly,
comes from an utter embarrassment of
a hometown in terms of its European
pedigree. Consider this: London has a
population of 7.8m. How many European
Cups have its clubs won? None. Thats
a city which is seven times bigger than
Belgrade, which does have a European
Cup to its name. Or consider Eindhoven:
213,000 people, and one European
Cup. Or Bucharest: population 1.9m,

51

Capital Failings

one European Cup. And thats before


we start on England and the punchway-above-their-weight demographics
of Nottingham and Birmingham in the
European Cups hall of fame.

Those deantly provincial triumphs


Forests and Aston Villas belong rmly
in the era before the formation of the
Premier League and of the Champions
League, with its ballooned entry lists
for clubs from the larger European
economies. By the late 1990s, London
had boarded the Champions League
juggernaut enthusiastically. As soon
as the competition expanded to invite
runners-up from the Premier League into
its ranks, and Arsenal rightly saw regular
participation as a given, they eyed bigger
crowds for their big European nights
and made Wembley their temporary
home for European evenings. It became
a curse. They lost more often than they
won at the home of football and suffered
successive eliminations in the group
stage of the competition.

But they had gauged the obvious


metropolitan bias of the modern
Champions League. Wembley was chosen
by Arsenal partly because Uefa regulations
on the size of advertising hoardings
necessitated a reduction in capacity at
Highbury. Similar commercial pressures
would push other provincial clubs, like Lille
in France, to a bigger arena in the capital
Pariss Stade de France for some of their
adventures in the rebranded European
Cup. This was a Champions League that
seemed to be steering advantage the
way ofplaces with the bulkiest, densest
catchment areas, the roomiest stadiums.

Uefas new project, with its 32 teams in


the starting blocks, would usher in an

52

era in which western Europe dominated


and bigger cities provided most of
the successful teams. In the last nal
still called the European Champions
Cup, at Wembley in 1992, the city of
Genoa, through Sampdoria, had been
represented. Two decades later, that
seems quaint, as it did when Villarreal,
with its population of 51,000, came
within a saved penalty ofthe 2006 nal
and Monaco, a tiny but wealthy taxhaven, nished runners-up in 2004.
These were one-offs. Champions League
nals have been the domains of men
from Manchester and Milan, Barcelona
and Munich.

But theres one curious feature of the


European Cup, in its older guise and its
new one. For all that the tournament
rewards huge capital expenditure, it
eludes clubs from most major capitals.
Neither of the Rome clubs, Roma and
Lazio both of whom have collected
Italian league titles in the Champions
League epoch have ever won a
European Cup. Nor has it ever been
seized by a team from Berlin or Paris. In
fact, as Simon Kuper has pointed out,
other than Ajax, no side from a nontotalitarian capital (if we include in that
denition clubs such as Real Madrid and
Benca whose position was secured
under a dictatorship) has ever won the
Champions League.

London remains the most freakish


absentee. No club has featured in more
Champions League semi-nals than
Chelsea over the past seven years;
none has reached the knockout stages
more consistently this century than
Arsenal, who made the last 16 for the
12thsuccessive time in 2011-12. Which
is partly why so many Francophones

Ian Hawkey

have made their homes in Hampstead,


purring, as they sign for Arsenal, about
the lure of playing in the Champions
League, or why south-west London
became and remains a Lusophone
enclave, full of Portuguese and Brazilians
telling reporters they had joined Chelsea
because they wanted midweek nights
under lights standing to attention to a
variation on Zadok the Priest.

Yes, London can give an ambitious


footballer that and regularly: last year,
lining up in the last 16, with a Wembley
nal shimmering in the middle distance,
were no fewer than three London
clubs. And at the beginning of the 2012
knockout stage, Englands Champions
League contingent consisted only of
London clubs. London can and does
give an ambitious footballer the right
to expect many Champions League
matches, but it has never given him a
gold medal and struggles even for silver
ones. In the last dozen years, a London
club has featured among the Champions
League nalists only twice, which is
the same number of times as Valencia
(population 800,000).

Explanations? You often hear the case


made that London is simply overcrowded
in football terms, not lean enough for
sustained domination because it has so
many top-ight clubs. George Graham,
the former Arsenal and Tottenham
Hotspur manager and as a player
he was at three different London
clubs used to argue that the heavy
concentration of London teams too
many intense derbies he said, made it
harder for clubs in the English capital to
win the domestic championship. There
may be something in that, but it is a step
further to blame shortcomings in the

European Cup on so many emotionally


sapping weekends at Craven Cottage,
Loftus Road or Upton Park.

More convincing is the argument that a


strong sense of provincialism is a powerful
sporting mechanism. Manchester Uniteds
manager Sir Alex Ferguson, schooled
as an elite manager at Aberdeen, used
frequently to make psychological gain of
the Manchester factor (although he did so
far more frequently before City became a
signicant rival), caricaturing London as a
clannish neighbourhood in which the seat
of power, the Football Association, the
refereeing headquarters, and Arsenal were
all broadly united against his club.
Thats a tool used across European
football. Barcelonas recent success
coincided with a much more explicit
catalanista attitude from the young
president, Joan Laporta, who took
control of the club in 2003 (and who
helpfully inherited a particularly ne set
of Catalonia-born players). When, during
Barcelonas tense run-in to their 20102011 Liga and European Cup double,
Baras head coach Pep Guardiola talked
publicly and provocatively of his club
as victims were from just a small,
unimportant corner called Catalonia,he
said of a perceived slight by the Spanish
league authorities he was nourishing
the time-honoured theme that denes
Real Madrid as the team of the capital and
the Spanish state, and Bara as downtrodden but deant. Bayern Munichs
pre-eminence in modern German football
frequently taps into a wider spirit of
Bavarian muscle-exing, aimed at the
seats of federal and nancial power to the
north and west.

In Portugal, Porto, and particularly


their president Pinto da Costa, stir up

53

Capital Failings

the notion that a Lisbon establishment


is forever conspiring against the team
from the countrys second city. He then
gleefully points out that Lisbon is a city
with no European Cups since Bencas
distant triumphs of the mid-1960s, while
Porto havewon two European Cups in
relatively recent times.The second-city
syndrome is alive in French football, too.
The most important enmity there is still
that between snooty Paris and streetwise
Marseille. Olympique Marseille fans taunt
those of Paris Saint-Germain with the
fact that only OM have ever brought the
European Cup back to France.

For all that, the next few seasons


suddenly look a very promising time
for clubs in various capitals. Evidently,
footballs vanguard investors count the
peculiar deciency of European Cups in
the seat-of-power cities of the continent
as not a curse but as something
correctable, achallenge. In 2011 the
most notable club takeovers by foreign
investorstook placein Rome, Madrid and
Paris. First, Roma came under the control
of the US-based Di Benedetto group
and promptly set about the most radical
recruitment drive of any Serie A club in
the summer transfer window; in Madrid,
bijou Getafe made a deal that handed
a majority stake-holding to the Royal
Emirates Group, of Dubai.

But the most dramatic statement of


intent in Champions League terms came
from Paris, where PSG granted a 71 per
cent shareholding to a Qatari sovereign
fund, who immediately smashed the
French transfer record with the 42m
signing of Javier Pastore from Palermo
and spent the same amount again on
various established internationals. Five
months later, they sacked the head

54

coach, Antoine Kombouar, who had


just guided them to the top of Ligue 1, to
replace him with Carlo Ancelotti, football
managements modern Champions
League specialist.

The Qatari group had been interested


in PSG for a number of years. They
detected in the club a sleeping giant,
they saw in Ligue 1 a set of easier-tosurmount obstacles in the way of regular
Champions League participation than
exist in the more competitive Serie A,
Premier League or Spanish Liga. They
saw an attractive city, too, a chic place
to be based and an enticing potential
home for the sorts of footballers they
wanted to attract, types who might say
no to Hampstead or Chelsea Harbour,
preferring the 16tharrondissement.

PSGs new investors made the urbane


former Brazil player and Milan and
Internazionale coach Leonardo
their director of football, in charge
of recruitment. This was his mission
statement: We have a dream,Leonardo
announced. Paris is the only major
capital without a team at the top
level of European football. We have a
responsibility to give it something other
than the Eiffel Tower as a symbol.

Braggarty London, of course, would


be far too boastful to admit anything
like that of itself. But just imagine for a
daydream moment if Michel Platini were
to launch the 2012-13 Champions League
paraphrasing Leonardo. Imagine Platini
said, London is the biggest major capital
without a team who has won the European
Cup. It has a responsibility to give its
football something other than Wembley
as a symbol. He would sound very antiEnglish, naturally. But hed be right.

A Very English Visionary

A Very English Visionary


How the understated radicalism of Arthur Rowe dened
Tottenhams style
By Martin Cloake

His last public appearance came sitting


in an armchair at home, an appropriately
humble setting for one of the least
demonstrative of the great men of
football. It was the nal scene of a
programme made to mark the centenary
of Tottenham Hotspur and Arthur Rowe,
the manager who led the side to its rst
League title in 1951, was asked what
the club meant to him. Rowe looked
up, set his jaw, opened his mouth, then
set his jaw again. He was obviously
struggling to contain his emotions. He
tried once more to speak, but the words
caught, his jaw quivered and he shifted
in his seat, his hand gripping his chin
as he attempted to regain control. He
succeeded and, his eyes coming up to
look once more at his questioner, said
simply, I like them. They are a great club
and to be associated with them the
words threatened to catch once more
but he just managed to whisper them
was nice.
It is an almost unbearably poignant
moment, beautifully edited by a
production team who knew the value of
silence and space, and one that provides
a vivid snapshot of the mixture of English
reserve and quiet passion that dened
Arthur Rowe. His story is one of great
innovation and ambition, of joy and of
crushing sadness. It is a story that is fading
both because of the passage of time

and because of the light it subsequently


enabled to shine. And it is a story that
deserves to be told again so that it can
regain its rightful place in history.
When the great managers of football
are listed these days, Rowe rarely gets
a mention. He comes from an age that
predates televisions grip on football, from
an age in which personality had not yet
elbowed its way to the fore. True, the
game was a mass obsession and Rowe
was revered in his time. But he seems to
have slipped from the collective memory.
If the absence of mass media and the cult
of the sporting personality is to blame,
though, it makes little sense that Stanley
Matthews and Nat Lofthouse are names
familiar even to the most cursory student
of football. Maybe its because players
have greater status in the collective
consciousness than managers. But if
that is so, how can the status of Herbert
Chapman and Stan Cullis be explained?
Rowe was never a man to court the
limelight or make extravagant claims
for what he did. Like the greatest of the
greats, he saw what he did as simply the
best way to do the job. And he got on
with it as if it was the most natural thing in
the world. Which to him it was.
Not only was Rowe a great manager
in the English game, he was a great
manager for the English game. Arguably,

55

A Very English Visionary

without Rowe, it would have remained


constrained and oblivious inside its selfsatised cocoon of assumed superiority
for far longer than it did. And maybe
Rowe is not afforded the status he
deserves because the sport does not
fully understand what it is he did. Without
Rowe, one of the greatest names in
English football would not have achieved
one of the greatest feats of any club
side in the 20th century. Bill Nicholsons
double-winning Spurs based a style of
play still rated by many who saw it as the
greatest ever on an approach set down
by Rowe. That side went on to become
the rst English club to take on and beat
the best continental sides and in so doing
completed the English games journey
from self-imposed isolation to the heart
of the new transnational era. It was Rowe
who used a new way of thinking to put a
new style of football into practice. Like all
genuine visionaries, he recognised that
mixing the best of what he had with the
best of what he found was the key not
simply to interpreting the world, but to
changing it. Arthur Rowe was footballs
quiet revolutionary.

Rowe was born in Tottenham in 1906,


within kicking distance of White Hart
Lane. When he was 15, he came to the
attention of the club and, two years later,
he signed as an amateur after playing
for nursery clubs at Cheshunt later to
be the training ground which produced a
succession of great sides and Northeet
United. The Northeet connection enables
us to trace a style of play that was to
change the football world.
In the early 1920s, Tottenham Hotspurs
enlightened Scottish coach Peter

56

McWilliam came to an arrangement with


the Kent club to farm out talented young
players to give them experience playing
football in the way McWilliam thought
it should be played. Think space and
shape, angle and incision, exibility and
interchangeability, keeping the ball on the
ground and making it do the work.
In 1934, a 19-year-old wing-half called Vic
Buckingham signed for Spurs and played
his rst season at the Northeet nursery.
He went on to make 230 appearances for
the club, most of them under the tutelage
of McWilliam. When he stopped playing
in 1949, he went into management,
encouraged by Rowe, whom he viewed
as something of a mentor. In 1953-54
Buckingham almost became the rst
manager to win the modern double,
taking the West Bromwich Albion side of
Ray Barlow and Ronnie Allen to within
four league points of the feat. In 1959
he took his ideas to Ajax of Amsterdam.
There he laid the foundations of a system
that would come to be known as Total
Football and discovered a prodigiously
gifted young player whom he nurtured
and encouraged Johan Cruyff.
Rowe had played alongside Buckingham
and the two men had similar ideas about
the game. As a player, Rowe was a
cultured centre-half who eschewed the
stop-and-hoof approach common at the
time in favour of playing the ball out of
trouble. He won his rst England cap in
1933, in a season in which Spurs nished
third in the league. He was a crucial
player, something underlined when the
team collapsed after injury sidelined
him the following season. He was never
the same again, a succession of injuries
culminating in a cartilage strain that
forced him to retire in 1939.

Martin Cloake

But Rowe was not nished with the game.


A thinking player, he wanted to apply
those thoughts as a coach. He travelled
to Hungary on a lecture tour in 1939 and
made such an impression that Lszl
Feleki, a writer for the well-regarded
Nemzeti Sport magazine, wrote to the
English FA chairman Stanley Rous in July
1939 thanking him for recommending
Rowe. The Hungarians wanted to employ
Rowe as football professor of the rst
Hungarian course for football trainers
and to prepare the Amateur International
team for the 1940 Olympics in Helsinki.
Feleki seems to have been acting as an
intermediary for the Hungarian FA. The
idea, he said in the letter, was to lay
down new foundations for Hungarian
football with English help. The attery
was intended to get Rous onside, as
Feleki went on to say that he was sure
Rowe will ask for your opinion about
the whole matter and I think it would be
the best solution if you sent him to us.
Closing the letter, Feleki said, If we had
to choose another man we have to be
very careful because in this matter not
only the football knowledge counts but
this trainer must be as intelligent and as
ne a gentleman as Rowe. This should
not be seen as a foreign association
prostrating itself before the all-knowing
English, though. Lets not forget that
the Hungarian school of football had
been developing its ideas for some time.
Clearly, there was a meeting of minds.
In the 1930s, a school of thinking based
in the coffee houses of central Europe
had begun to challenge the aesthetic
limitations of the British W-M approach.
This was a defensively solid formation
which employed stoppers to do just that,
stop the opposition from playing, while

placing an emphasis on getting the ball


forward quickly and directly to powerful
forwards. Passing, especially the short
and patient style, was viewed as not very
British and therefore somewhat suspect.
But from the coffee-house school
of thinking a more subtle approach
developed. As forwards dropped deeper
to pick up the ball and a uid front four
rather than a solid line of ve emerged,
linking the play became more important.
For a man schooled in the Peter
McWilliam philosophy of space, shape
and making the ball do the work,
plunging into a footballing culture that
had been developing similar ideas must
have been an invigorating experience.
For the Hungarians, an Englishman who
had proved himself in the cradle of the
game but who was also willing and able
to take on the new aesthetic must have
created quite an impression. Two of
those he met on his lecture tour were
themselves to go on to have a signicant
impact on the game Gusztv Sebes
and Ferenc Pusks.
Rowe never got to take up the role the
Hungarian FA was so keen to offer. The
outbreak of war forced him to return
home and he ended up coaching the
army football team. In 1945 he got the
managers job at Chelmsford City and led
them to the Southern League title. He
had quickly established a reputation as
an innovative and effective coach able to
get his ideas across simply to his players.
In 1949 Spurs approached him to replace
Joe Hulme and, on 4 May, Rowe became
the manager of the club he had once
played for.
His rst signing was a right-back called
Alf Ramsey. Ramsey was to be a key

57

A Very English Visionary

component of the new approach Rowe


wasted no time in introducing. In his
book Football, My Life, the club captain
Ron Burgess described those early days.
Soon after we reported for training, he
wrote, [Rowe] introduced us to his new
playing scheme. At rst the whole project
was discussed in the dressing-room
and as we listened to Arthurs rather
revolutionary ideas, I saw expressions
of doubt on the faces of some of the
lads. It seems the players were soon
convinced for, after a fortnight of
practice, Burgess told Rowe that he
could not wait to try the new approach
out in a league game. I realised, wrote
Burgess, that our new tactics might
sweep the country.
Burgesss explanation of the new
approach is illuminating. For while he
described the tactics as revolutionary,
he also said there was nothing exactly
original about them. He wrote, Our
style was merely the adaption of the
modern Continental style. It was based
on the short pass of 15 to 20 yards, the
ball never being held longer than was
absolutely necessary by any player. It
was a style Rowe had in mind when
he signed Ramsey, an attack-minded
full-back, but he had to educate him
in the new approach too. He asked his
new signing to eschew the long forward
pass and instead make a shorter, more
accurate pass to a withdrawn outsideright (Sonny Walters). That would give
Walters space as the opposing left-back
would think twice before pushing up on
him. And if Ramsey followed up on the
inside, another option would be available.
Rowe wanted his team to play from the
back, and to prioritise possession. A
good player runs to the ball, he would
say. A bad player runs after it.

58

The style was to become known as


push-and-run, but Burgess explained
that there was more to it than that. The
wingers had to play further back than
in the normal long-kicking tactics, and
were thus brought more into the game,
for their inter-changing with insideforwards was another essential of this
scheme. He wrote that he could no
longer consider myself an attacking
half-back, because he and the other
half-back had to be in position to take
the short ball from the full-backs ready
for pushing it on to the inside or wing
man. Burgesss colleague at half-back
was Bill Nicholson.
It was Rowe who coined the phrase
keep it simple, keep it accurate, keep it
quick that was later to be so associated
with Nicholson. And that push-andrun description was used to distinguish
the Spurs Way from the kick-and-run
approach so prevalent in English football
at the time. As Burgess said, An attack
could start from Ted Ditchburn, in goal,
and be carried from man to man through
the defence, the half-backs, and on
to the forwards, without any recourse
to hefty kicking. Rowe, however, was
never very fond of the term push-andrun. Years later he said, You often saw
something like our style happening
in a match a side suddenly stringing
together short, quick passes and players
moving intelligently to give and take
them. Its as if the game suddenly got
an electric shock. The thing about the
Tottenham side I had was that we tried to
make it happen all the time.
It was that trying to make it happen
that helped bring the players onside.
Eddie Baily, who played inside-forward
in Rowes team and went on to be Bill

Martin Cloake

Nicholsons assistant manager, said,


The urge to play this more exacting but
much more exciting game took us along
with the obvious enthusiasm of the
man. And Baily also gave more insight
into how Rowes side approached the
game when interviewed by Phil Soar
for an official history of Spurs in 1982.
We changed things, he said. We gave
the ball to the man who was marked.
But other players slipped into support
positions to give the man with the ball
more options. That in turn depended
on how the ball had been given and
we had to guarantee that our man
received it. This was football played in
the head as well as on the grass, but in
a system clearly communicated rather
than obscured by any fascination with
its cleverness.
Spurs went 22 matches unbeaten in
that 1949-50 season. They topped the
Second Division table for the entire
campaign. They nished as champions,
nine points clear of their nearest rivals.
They scored more goals and conceded
fewer than any of their rivals. And they
attracted an average home gate of
54,405 as 1.5 million people ocked to
White Hart Lane.
During that season, Spurs had been
drawn against Sunderland in the fourth
round of the FA Cup. The Wearsiders
were third in the First Division at the time
and many thought this would be where
Spurs stumbled. But Tottenham ran
their opponents ragged, ending up 5-1
winners. After the game, the Tottenham
Weekly Heralds reporter and Rowe
himself agreed that theyd both seen
Spurs play better. Years later, Nicholsons
players used to complain he rarely gave
them credit despite their achievements.

If they ever wondered where he got the


habit from, this may have been the root.
When Spurs went out to Everton in the
next round, though, a question that has
become depressingly familiar in the
English game began to be asked by a
press which harboured a suspicion of
this sophisticated challenge to familiar
ways. Did Spurs try to play too attractive
a style of football when other methods
were required?
The return to the top ight gave Spurs
the chance to answer the question. In
1950-51, they would come up against
the powerhouses of the English game
and their fancy continental ideas about
passing and moving would be put to
a real test. But Rowe was condent in
his players and his methods. He told a
shareholders meeting in August that his
team would not change their style not
for anybody or a lot of money. He went
on, Since the old offside law changed [in
1925] and since the Arsenal introduced
their system of play, very successfully it
must be admitted, football, to my mind,
has been of a negative type. There is
nothing wrong with the Arsenal style,
but to work it successfully you have to
have a certain number of typed players. If
you havent got these types, your system
wont be successfully exploited. Many
clubs have tried to copy the Arsenal
style without having the men to do it
properly. The result has been stalemate.
Our method is better to obtain an
appreciation of the fact that the team is
more important than the individual. I feel
that the individual gets more benet, too.
In many seasons, the campaign turns
on a single game a game in which
much more than a result is decided, in

59

A Very English Visionary

which the manner of the victory signals


the emergence of a new force and the
dismantling of the old order. The visit of
the league leaders Newcastle United to
White Hart Lane on 18 November 1950
was one of those days. Spurs won 7-0
and Newcastle left the pitch stunned as
they picked their way through the debris
of a British style that had been utterly
destroyed. The Telegraph reported that
Tottenhams style is all worked out in
triangles and squares and when the
mechanism of it clicks at speed, as it
did on Saturday, with every pass played
to the last rened inch on a drenched
surface, there is simply no defence
against it.
The Tottenham Weekly Heralds
correspondent Concord led his report
of Spurs astonishing 7-0 win under
the headline Spurs put new life in British
soccer. He wrote, Spurs have proved
beyond all doubt the vast superiority
of their new-style soccer Successful
application of this style will, I predict,
create a revolution in British soccer. Just
as clubs found it necessary to discover
an answer to the third-back game, so
they will have to remould their ideas to
counter Spurs system.
Burgess was injured that day. He hated
being a spectator but, he said, on this
occasion I was glad I was sitting in the
stand. It was, he went on, the nest
exhibition of football I had ever seen
I sat enthralled, for I realised for the
rst time why we had won so many
matches with our push-and-run style
of play. I was as excited as our most
partisan supporter as I watched the

close harmony of all departments of the


team, the speed and the perfection of
movement, with the ball always on the
move, and even the great Newcastle
team were running around almost
aimlessly in their efforts to prevent that
spate of goals. The Herald cartoonist
Wilding put it more succinctly Spurs
were enough to make the band jazz it
and the Tyne Bridge bow with shame.
Concord was in no doubt as to the
signicance of Rowes system. It should
give British football the boost it needs to
put us back on top of the soccer world,
he said. Credit for this immensely
encouraging development goes to Spurs
manager Arthur Rowe In his short
period with the club he has produced
results whose effect will be felt wherever
rst-class football is played. He has
recognised and applied a fundamental
truth, that soccer is a team game and
that teamwork alone can bring success.
By December, Spurs were top of the
league for the rst time in 17 years. In the
March they won ve and drew two of
seven games. On 28 April 1951 they had
to beat Sheffield Wednesday at home
to secure the title just as they would
10 years later to capture the rst part of
the fabled Double. They won 1-0 thanks
to a goal from the Duke, the Channel
Islander Len Duquemin. In securing the
title they became only the third side to
win the Second and First Division titles in
consecutive seasons1.
Thousands of fans streamed on to the
pitch after the nal home game against
Liverpool to celebrate. They had one cry:

Liverpool were the rst in 1905 and 1906 and Everton the second in 1931 and 1932.

60

Martin Cloake

We want Arthur, we want Arthur! The


Football League President Arthur Drewry
presented Burgess with the trophy
and in a short speech said, I not only
congratulate them [Spurs] on having won
it, but also in the manner in which they
did so.
There are echoes there of the quote
about style and glory made famous by
Danny Blanchower. At the end of that
historic season, Rowe said, Its a great
truth that if you try things once and you
like them, you try them again. That is what
we are hoping to do in the future. It was
this striving to achieve the same heights
that was to lead to Rowes departure from
Spurs, and to exact a terrible price.
For two seasons Spurs had swept all
before them. In doing so they had shaken
the English game to its foundations.
They were a progressive side which
was important in an era when
despite the best efforts of the domestic
football establishment the game was
becoming internationalised. Old habits
die hard, though, and as Jonathan Wilson
observes in Inverting the Pyramid, Spurs
were regarded with suspicion, despite
their success. It may be stretching it
too far to suggest that that suspicion
has contributed, in some quarters, to a
lingering suspicion of Spurs that goes
beyond ash Londoner stereotypes.
But look down the years at Bobby
Robsons doubts about Glenn Hoddle
or Alan Hansens frequent intonation
of the mantra that Spurs will always let
you down and you get the feeling that
theres something not quite right about
the Lilywhites.
The following season Spurs again
thrilled, but nished second in the league

to Manchester United. The FA Cup


continued to evade them. The team was
getting older and Rowe was perhaps
guilty of staying loyal for too long to
the men who had taken the team to its
greatest heights. Between 1953 and 1956
Spurs nished 16th, 16th and 18th. Matt
Busbys rst great Manchester United
side had become the dominant force.
Rowe took it badly. In January 1954 he
suffered a nervous breakdown, brought
on by the worry and the ceaseless work
he was putting in to try and turn things
around. He returned to work in July, but
defeat to York City in the fth round of
the FA Cup in February 1955 proved the
nal indignity. He suffered his second
breakdown and was admitted to hospital
in April. In the July he resigned, knowing
he was unable to do any more for the
club he loved so much. He would never
return to White Hart Lane.
But like all great managers, Rowe had
established the foundations that would
bring future glory for his club. With Rowe
handing the reins of management to his
long-serving assistant manager Jimmy
Adamson, his former half-back Bill
Nicholson moved into the role of club
coach. Nicholson was heavily inuenced
by Rowes ideas about how the game
should be played. In his book Glory
Glory, My Life with Spurs, Nicholson
described Rowe as a passionate talker
and thinker.
Nicholson said, I learned a lot from
Arthur. But the Yorkshireman also
benetted from something else
Rowe had put in place. Just as the
understanding Rowes captain Ronnie
Burgess had of how the managers
style of play could work was vital to
that rst great modern Spurs side,

61

A Very English Visionary

so the understanding Nicholsons


captain had of his style was key to the
second. Nicholsons captain was Danny
Blanchower. And it had been Rowe who
convinced Blanchower to join Spurs.
In 1954 Blanchower was the most
sought after half-back in the country,
known as a thoughtful, skilful player.
Blanchowers interest in nding new
ways to play and improve the game, and
his willingness to say what he thought
publically, meant he was viewed as a
potential problem by many of those
who ran football. Rowe saw him as a
potential asset and its no surprise that
two such forward thinkers were drawn
towards each other. In The Double and
Before, Blanchower said of Rowe, He
was much respected within the game.
His push-and-run philosophy and the
manner in which he had guided the
great Tottenham team of the late forties
and early fties to such soccer delights
had been a great source of inspiration
to many of the young hopeful players
that I knew. Blanchower liked Rowes
honest and direct approach when
Aston Villa, then the Irishmans club,
gave Rowe permission to speak to him.
He said that I struck him as the kind of
player he was looking for, remembered
Blanchower. He wanted people who
would ght for themselves and what they
believed in, because if they didnt want to
ght for themselves, they wouldnt want
to ght for him. And, in what may well
have been the clinching phrase, Rowe
told Blanchower,He knew I would like
the thriving atmosphere at Tottenham,
the atmosphere of good football for the
sake of good football.
Rowe eventually got his man. In doing so
he made his most successful and inspiring

62

signing, and connected the glory he


had achieved to the glories the club was
to achieve in the future. Blanchower
had been unhappy for some time with
what he saw as a lack of ambition and a
refusal to embrace new methods at Aston
Villa, the club he had played for since
his transfer from Barnsley in 1951. With
both North London clubs pursuing him,
Blanchower chose Spurs because Rowe
convinced him that their style of play
was more in keeping with the future than
that of Arsenals. Rowe knew his great
title-winning side was breaking up and
Blanchower was an important part of his
effort to build a second great team. After
Blanchowers debut against Manchester
City at Maine Road in December 1953,
Rowe said it was the rst time for weeks
that I was able to sit back with condence
and enjoy the match.
But the feeling of condence did not
last long. In February 1955 came that
Cup defeat in the snow at York. It must
have been a bitter blow for Arthur Rowe
because shortly afterwards he folded
up, the victim of too much care and
anxiety for the troubles of his team,
Blanchower said. The news of his
break-up greatly surprised me. He
was a ne, understanding man, and
I wondered what inner conict had
sapped his strength.
Rowe was gone, but he had rmly
embedded the Spurs Way, a way that
was a part of the club before he arrived
but which he took to new levels.
Blanchower was a more forthcoming
and lyrical user of language than Rowe
the Double-winning sides winger
Cliff Jones recalls he could certainly
talk, could Danny and this irritated
some observers. But Blanchowers

Martin Cloake

incessant quest for glory was born not


of posturing but of an obsession with
taking his craft to new heights. In that
he was no different to Rowe. And, like
Rowe, Blanchower looked far beyond
domestic shores to gain inspiration.
At the 1958 World Cup in Sweden he
continued to study opposition tactics
closely as Northern Ireland enjoyed
what remains their best nals campaign,
bringing back innovations such as using
the last man in the wall to line it up after
seeing the way the France team of Just
Fontaine bent the ball around defensive
walls to score. On the plane back from
Sweden he told Joe Mercer and Stan
Cullis, Tottenham are going to win the
Double within the next few years.
He was right, of course. Bill Nicholsons
Super Spurs won the rst modern
Double in 1961, and then, in 1963, went
on to become the rst British side to
lift a European trophy and they did
so playing a brand of football widely
acknowledged as an updated version
of Rowes push-and-run. By that time
Rowe was back in management, but
only after undergoing the horrors of
electric shock treatment at a sanatorium
in Kent. His son Graham was 16 years
old at the time. I never noticed any
difference in my Dad, since he was
essentially a quiet man and if he voiced
any problems it was to my mother, not
me, he said. He kept a lot within and
to me, his problems were disguised. I do
know that one of the pressures came
from one or two board members at
Spurs who were not understanding of
his loyalty to his great team.
It was at around that time that Graham
decided to emigrate to Canada. Being
a minor, he needed written permission

from his parents. Mother, my brother


and I visited him in the sanatorium, he
remembers. Dad was sitting on a bench
in the grounds. Mother and I explained my
wanting to go to Canada, and Dad signed
the paper. He was not himself, he was
withdrawn and Ive wondered ever since
whether he knew what he was signing,
although it never came up again.
Graham cannot remember exactly
when that sanatorium stay ended, but
he does recall that his father became a
spokesman for a boot company that had
designed a low-cut boot that carried
the Arthur Rowe name. He travelled
extensively promoting the boot, said
Graham, but he did not particularly
enjoy it, since he was a homebody and
enjoyed being at home with Mum.
As Nicholsons side were thrilling the
country at the start of their historic
campaign, Rowe was at Crystal Palace,
helping the club win promotion in his
rst season with them. He joined at the
urging of Arthur Wait, the chairman
who oversaw Palaces rise from the
Fourth to the First Division during the
1960s. Graham Rowe remembers the
clubs style of play at the time was so
appreciated that it was drawing bigger
crowds than many teams from higher
divisions. The Palace gave Dad a
testimonial game in appreciation of his
tenure, says Graham. Tottenham never
did, and I think that was wrong.
But ill health forced Rowe out of the
managers seat again in 1963. He
returned briey to Selhurst Park in 1966,
and also had stints at West Brom, Leyton
Orient and Millwall. He could visit any
ground in the country and be a guest of
the club when scouting, said Graham.

63

A Very English Visionary

But he preferred to pay his way in to


the terraces where he could make his
observations and leave early to go home
without embarrassing anyone.

of the modern game. His push-and-run


team was moulded in his own image,
keeping things simple and always playing
with total commitment and with dignity.

He was never again, though, to touch the


heights he had once scaled. In the early
1970s he was curator of the PFA-backed
Football Hall of Fame in Londons Oxford
Street, and it was there that the Daily
Express football writer Norman Giller
struck up an enduring friendship with him.

Not in an arrogant way, he would draw


comparisons between the Hungarian
team that destroyed England in 1953 and
his 1950-51 Spurs side. His eyes would
twinkle as he would say, Imagine if we
could have had Pusks in our attack
. He had coached Ferenc as a boy!
Above all, Arthur was an honest, dignied
person who was always a man of his
word; the sort of bloke anybody would
have been proud to have as a friend.

Giller describes Rowe as softly spoken


yet, when necessary, assertive and says
we had many a long conversation about
his career in the game in general and
his management of Spurs in particular.
Giller recalls that an old journalist
colleague, Steve Richard, was PR for the
museum, and we used to take Arthur
for long lunches when we would bask
in his memories. He was not in any way
a boastful man, but he made no secret
of the fact that his time in Hungary had
helped set new standards of football.
Of all the people I have met in the game,
few have been able to match Arthur
for explaining the game in an easy to
understand way that made it all seem
so simple. Arthur hated tacticians who
talked what he called mumbo-jumbo.
Dont complicate the game, he used to
say. I used to play what were literally wall
passes against a wall when I was a kid.
The game is just as simple as that, and
the ball is still round.
Arthur was a thorough gentleman, a
quietly-spoken person who would never
try to hog a conversation or the limelight.
I sensed that he never had total belief in
himself, and I dont think he could have
handled the millionaire prima donnas

64

Another Fleet Street stalwart, Brian


Scovell, also remembers Rowes
courtesy and willingness to help and
says, his chosen style of play was a clear
change from most of the rather stolid,
predictable norm of British football up
to this point... and I know from chats
with Bill Nicholson and Alf Ramsey that
a great number of players in his teams
had picked up habits of letting the ball
do the running which shaped their own
careers, and then of the sides they came
to manage.
Rowe died on 5 November 1993, aged
87. In his obituary for The Independent,
Reg Drury wrote that Rowe had one of
the sharpest soccer brains the English
game has ever known and recalled two
conversations that underline Rowes
down-to-earth approach. The manager
described his job as just a case of doing
the obvious. Footballs a simple game,
its the players who make it difficult, and
said all you need to remember is that 50
per cent of the people in the game are
bluffers. So a decent managers halfway
there when he starts out.

Martin Cloake

Arthurs son Graham, who watched that


demolition of Newcastle as a schoolboy
while sitting on the bench next to the
tunnel that led from the pitch to the
dressing-room, said, My father was a
modest man who did not like or seek
the limelight. Football was his passion,
and it was this passion that excluded
other activities and hobbies from his
life. He ddled around in the garden,
but he was not an avid reader except
for newspapers. We had three delivered
daily. He played no golf except in his
younger days, no tennis His passion
consumed his thoughts and time. Later
in life he read more, he had the time.
He liked James Michener and John
Steinbeck, and after I had spent a year
and a half traveling the South Pacic
and Southeast Asia, I introduced him to
James Norman Hall, co-author of Mutiny
on the Bounty, and Eugene Burdick. He
loved those books and he told me that
he read them time and again.

nished grammar school in 1954. He


said to me, Son, whatever you choose
to do, even if you choose to be a street
cleaner, I expect you to have the cleanest
street in town. He was a perfectionist.
I chose university, but soon got bored.
So Dad suggested sports journalism. A
friend of his, Reg Hayter, was leaving
Reuters, where he had been a cricket
correspondent, to start his own sports
agency. So I became Regs rst employee
as an office boy, learning the ropes on
Fleet Street.

Graham speaks about his dad with real


affection, and two tales he tells of his
formative years stand out. Dad was
a quiet, sensitive man and rarely got
angry, he remembers. One time he did
was in Chelmsford in the late 1940s. I
was playing football in the street against
his instructions and a wayward kick
smashed a street lamp. I was playing with
the son of one of the players on Dads
Chelmsford team who lived a few doors
along from us. The players name was
Charlie Hurst and the lad I was playing
with was Geoff. Two decades later,
some more accurate nishing from Geoff
at Wembley secured Englands only
World Cup.

And yet. The name of Arthur Rowe


has not carried through the ages in
the way many others have, but he is a
pivotal gure who inuenced football
at arguably its most vital point. In the
1950s the genuine visionaries were
battling against the game itself to
make sure English clubs did not get
left behind. Chelsea and Manchester
United were banned from competing
in Europe despite seeing the benets
of doing so. The British establishments
distress in dealing with the reality
that it no longer ruled the waves
was as nothing compared to the
football establishments refusal to
acknowledge that it had to engage
with the foreign game if it was to
survive, let alone prosper. What Rowe
did was show that a combination of

Graham also remembers his dad asking


him what he wanted to do when he

Dad was a revolutionary in football. He


designed players socks with vertical
stripes at the top instead of plain or
with hoops, so that players could better
distinguish their teammates while
running with the ball. He was happy to
let his team do the talking for him on
the pitch, and they were very eloquent.
Anybody who saw that push-and-run
side will, I know, never forget it.

65

A Very English Visionary

domestic and international methods


could get results. He broke the hold
the traditional English way had on the
domestic game. In establishing the Spurs
Way, he laid the foundations of one of
the modern games great clubs. Long
before Blanchowers famous and often
misunderstood observation that the
game was about glory, Rowe realised
that it was not just the winning that was
important but also the style of the win.

66

What many forget about both men,


though, is that they saw the winning as
every bit as important as the style. Their
point was that you could not separate
the two and stay true to football.
Rowes achievements were made in a
very English, understated way. He was a
quiet revolutionary. And perhaps this too
is why his name has faded. It should
not be allowed to.

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67

South of the River

South of the River


For a spell in the eighties, Charlton Athletic, Crystal
Palace, Millwall and Wimbledon challenged the elite
By Nick Szczepanik

South London, to fans who came to the


game with the advent of the Premier
League in 1992, probably seems rather
similar in football terms to, say, East
Anglia not exactly a hotbed, but with
one or two clubs who occasionally
spend a season or two among the elite
before sinking back to their natural level.
You can see why. Crystal Palace seem
to have a new board, manager and kit
every season and have been as likely to
le for administration as challenge for
promotion. Charlton Athletics tenure
in the top ight is beginning to fade
from memory although Chris Powells
rebuilt team is promising an upturn in
fortunes. Millwall look relatively stable
without threatening to bring their, er,
unique following to a Premier League
stadium near you. And AFC Wimbledon
are widely admired but may soon hit
the ceiling of what a fan-owned club
can achieve after winning promotion to
League Two last season.
It was not always thus. In 1989, Palaces
promotion to the old rst divisionunder
Steve Coppell meant that all four of the
capitals league clubs based south of the
Thameswere looking forward to spending
the 1989-90 season in the top ight
together. This state of glory lasted a single
campaign Charlton and Millwall were
relegated at the end of the season but

68

for all four clubs, achieving their exalted


status was a considerable achievement.
Millwall had been promoted to the top
echelon for the rst time in their 103year history a year earlier under the
Glaswegian John Docherty, enabling
them to welcome, if that is the word,
the aristocrats of English football to
the bear-pit that was the old Den. With
Teddy Sheringham and Tony Cascarino a
potent spearhead, they had even topped
the rst division table after beating
QPR 3-2 on 1 October 1988, eventually
nishing a very respectable tenth, even if
it was their lowest position of the season.
Wimbledonwere relatively old hands,
having gone up in 1986, but their elevation
had taken far less time. They had been in
theFootball League for only eight seasons
when they reached the top, and Plough
Lanewasstill more or less a non-league
ground. Charlton had come up alongside
Millwall, which was a staggering feat
bearing in mind that they were effectively
homeless, groundsharing with newlypromoted Palace, who were on one of the
upswings of their yo-yo existence.
If it all seems hard to imagine, remember
that this was not todays glitzy Premier
League of full, all-seated stadiums and
player wages funded by television deals
and wealthy benefactors. Facilities were

Nick Szczepanik

extremely basic, with more fans standing


than sitting, and corporate facilities
unknown.Even in densely-populated
south London, Palace in that 1988-89
season attracted an average gate of only
17,105. Millwall drew 12,454, Charltons
10,978 was the highest of their four
seasons at Selhurst and Wimbledon,
despite the highest league placing of the
four, had the lowest crowds, an average
of 7,651.

signed from Gillingham, recalls a man


with the eccentricity of a Brian Clough:
Sometimes hed call you up at home,
tell you to come into his office and youd
think hed want to discuss something,
but then hed just want to have a drink
with you. Sometimes hed say, Tell me
your best team, and when you did hed
say, So youd drop him, would you? and
tell the other bloke, He said he wouldnt
play you.

On such gates, managers often had to


hunt for bargain signings or raid the nonleague ranks where now top-ight clubs
would simply look abroad. But in a year
in which Arsenal, the champions, did not
have a single foreign player and Sergei
Baltacha of IpswichTowncounted as an
exotic import, it could be done.

He was a real wind-up merchant, he


loved playing games. But John was very
sure of himself and what he wanted, and
he got a kick out of being disliked, in a
strange, dark way. But I liked him, he was
very good for me. I think he found it very
hard to leave Millwall when the time came
because he loved being around the club.

It was a golden era for South


Londonclubs, the Palace assistant
manager Lenny Lawrence, then the
manager of Charlton, said. I think it was
the management. Steve Coppell did a great
job at Palace, Johnny Doc at Millwall, Dave
Bassett at Wimbledon and then Bobby
Gould and eventually Joe Kinnear.

Alan Pardew, now the manager of


Newcastle United but then a mideld
player with Palace, remembers 1989-90
as probably my best year in football.
The season began unpromisingly with
a 9-0 defeat by Liverpool, but ended
with an FA Cup nal appearance against
Manchester United, Pardews winning
goal against Liverpoolin the seminal extracting maximum revenge
for that earlier thrashing. But he also
recalls the less glamorous side of those
days.Although there were great venues
like Highbury and Aneld, Plough
Lane and the Den had very different
atmospheres, even for the players
aggressive, with the fans close to the
pitch and the teams in your face. The
sort of things that went on in the tunnel
couldnt happen now with all the TV
cameras around.Plough Lanewas a
unique environment. It was amazing that
Wimbledonplayed at that level with the
facilities they had. Their success was

When you are a club of the size that


Charlton or Millwall were then, everything
has got to come right, on and off the
pitch. Palace were more of a top-ight
club than any of the rest of us, and even
then Steve Coppell had to get them up
through the playoffs. But it came right for
us too, and even though we were playing
at Selhurst and it was difficult, we spent
more years in the top ight in the late
eighties than Newcastle, Sunderlandand
Middlesbroughput together.
Docherty is the least well-remembered
of the managers. Cascarino, whom he

69

South of the River

more sustained than ours and you have to


admire that. Charlton were sharing Selhurst
with us, although apart from a couple of
Portakabins you wouldnt have noticed
they were there. I know from managing
them later that it was a time that they dont
look back on with much pleasure.
Lawrie Sanchez, who had scored
Wimbledons winning goal in the FA
Cup nal a year earlier, believes that his
teams basic facilities worked in their
favour. We used to train on Wimbledon
Common, share breakfast in the
transport caf with lorry drivers, and
anyone could walk across our pitches
with the dog.But if going to places like
Highbury was a culture shock for us
after that, then coming to us was more
of a culture shock for the other teams.
The changing rooms and surroundings
werent the best, and the ground was
very intimate and intimidating.
We used to kick off, roll the ball back to
Dave Beasant and he would launch it to
the edge of the opponents penalty area
and thats what they could expect for the
next 90 minutes. It was ironic that Plough
Lanehad a superb playing surface,
which the ball hardly ever touched. But
eventually we had to leave. An all-seater
stadium with a minimum capacity was a
requirement for the Premier League.
As anyone who has to negotiate
south London traffic will tell you, the
number of derbies was not so much
of a convenience as the neutral might
expect. It took us less time to get to
Watfordthan round the South Circular to
Millwall, Sanchez recalled.
And the derbies were intense, Pardew
said. With so many foreign players
nowadays, a little bit has gone out of

70

many derbies. You knew so many of the


other players then, and because you
were probably local, your friends and
family would emphasise how important
the games were. My cousin was a
massive Millwall fan, and he couldnt wait
for derbies so that he could laugh at me.
Were supposed to be professional but
these things have an impact.
But many of those behind that success
feel that the depressed and relatively
disorganised state of football at the
time helped the south Londonsides to
compete. We actually nicked boys from
the Arsenal and Tottenham areas, Terry
Burton, the former Wimbledon assistant
manager, said. We had a centre in the
Tottenham area, and it was fair game.
Our selling point was that we would give
youngsters the chance to play.
As the nancial stakes were raised,
though, rival clubs north of the river and
beyond got their acts together, and the
clubs face stiffer competition for local
talent than before. When Harry Redknapp
became manager of West Ham United,
one of his most important early signings
was Jimmy Hampson, a West Ham fan
who had been scouting for Charlton. As
a result, Rio Ferdinand, from the Friary
Estate in Peckham, less than a mile from
Millwalls old ground in Cold Blow Lane,
ended up at Upton Park rather than the
Den or the Valley.
Ill always remember watching Charlton
beat our Under-12s 5-1, Redknapp said.
I asked, How can Charlton be beating us
5-1? Someone said it was a fella called
Jimmy Hampson. I went and talked to
him and asked if he would be interested
in coming to us. He pulled up his sleeve
and there was a Hammers tattoo. Alan

Nick Szczepanik

Curbishley, who was a former West Ham


player, had known him and taken him
to Charlton. So I brought Jimmy in, it all
turned round and we got Rio and Frank
Lampard and Joe Cole.
Even when players start their careers
south of the river, they dont necessarily
stay there. Millwall were based on a
lot of local talent, Teddy Sheringham
and Alan McCleary, Palace likewise,
Cascarino said. Theyre not keeping
those players nowadays. Big clubs can
grab the talent south of the river, theyre
losing them at 17 and in some cases even
earlier. And then they dont even get in
the rst teams at those bigger clubs.
The case of Jermain Defoe springs
to mind. The Tottenham Hotspur and
England striker began his career with
Charlton, who accused West Ham of
poaching the then-England under-16
forward in 1999 and were eventually
awarded compensation totalling 1.65m;
they would have preferred to keep a
player who eventually changed hands
for much more.The defection of John
Bostock from Palace to Tottenham
Hotspur provoked Simon Jordan, the
Palace chairman, to look to end his
involvement in football. A tribunal ordered
Tottenham to pay an initial 700,000,
rising to a maximum of 1.25 million, for
a player he valued at 5 million. It is a
killer when you produce raw talent and
someone can come and poach them
at 16, 17, Burtonsaid. And that was not
addressed by the authorities. Clubs were
not properly compensated.
But in the 1980s, it was possible to hang
onto local kids and add in some canny
bargain buys, even from non-league.
The Wimbledon-born Pardew worked

his way up to Palace via Whyteleafe,


Epsom & Ewell and Dulwich Hamlet;
Vinnie Jones went from Wealdstone to
Wimbledon and Hollywood; Ian Wright
from Greenwich Borough to Palace
and England; and Cascarino from
Crockenhill to Millwall via Gillingham
although it could just as easily have
been Charlton.Cascarino was going
to go to Charlton but Keith Peacock at
Gillinghamoffered them a set of shirts
and that was it, Lawrencesaid. Thats
true, that is. Ian Wright was the classic
example of course. And Vinny Jones.
The non-league player I got was Paul
Williams from WoodfordTownfor
15,000 in about 1987 and he played a
lot of games for us. In fact in the second
year his goals were largely responsible
for keeping us up. Eventually he was sold
to Sheffield Wednesday for 800,000 in
that summer of 1990.
But in the end, the nancial muscle of
the powerhouses north of the river and
beyond won out, while their poorer
southern relations fell away. Things
didnt go quite as planned in our second
season, Cascarino said. There were
some ambitious signings made to get us
promoted but that eased off once we were
there. As Stoke have shown today, you
have to keep investing. We bought Paul
Goddard, who was a club record signing
at 800,000, but he didnt really settle and
there was no other money to spend.
On modest gates, no club could afford
a major investment to fail. The only
alternative was to persevere with a
mixture of local kids and signings from
non-league. Difficult enough in those
days, it would be virtually impossible
now, Lawrencebelieves. A lot of

71

South of the River

things combined at the same time, but


what was very difficult was to sustain
it. Charlton couldnt, although we
lasted four years. Eventually we had
to sell players, and that, in the end,
cost us. Millwall went down as well.
Wimbledonsustained it longest.
To do it now? I dont know. Every
rule change, everything thats done
in football, makes the big clubs richer
and the small clubs poorer. Go back 30
years: if you were the away club you
got a percentage of the gate money.
We would come away from a game
against Manchester United with a share,
which was worth a lot when we were
getting 6-7,000 through the gate at
SelhurstParkand they were getting
30-40,000. They stopped that 20-odd
years ago [in 1983], and it made a big
difference. The Premier League, with all
the TV and prize money everything
has been designed to maintain the status
quo. So for those clubs who drop out of
the top ight or who have never been in
it, it is much more difficult than it used
to be.
Those four were always confronted
by bigger clubs north of the river with
greater resources, but now the difference
between the resources is greater than it
has ever been. It is disappointing what
has happened.Perhaps one club needs
to come to the fore to attract all the
talent and the support? Theres too
much tradition and rivalry, I think. But
for a brief time in the mid-1980s when I
was at Charlton I thought that the game
plan was to amalgamate with Palace.
That was something that I thought was
mooted at the highest level, although it
never came to anything.

72

Lawrence, of course, is now at Palace,


providing the experience for Dougie
Freedman, the manager.Theres
no reason why Charlton and Palace
cant get back to the Premier League,
Lawrence said. Palace have been a
yo-yo club and they are still big enough
to challenge for promotion. But their
problem has always been staying there,
as has everyone elses. We have had real
joy from the youth system and still have
all sorts of good young players. I would
think that how well many of them do
will have a large bearing on what Palace
do over the next year or two.
There werent the massive amounts
of TV money pre-Premier League and
going down wasnt such a nancial
disaster, Sanchez said. It is a skewed
eld now with teams coming down
having parachute payments. But Palace
and Charlton have both been there
recently and Millwall have potential
in a decent stadium. AFC are furthest
away, but having said that, their fans are
probably the most dedicated of the lot.
Pardew is marginally less pessimistic.
You look at Wigan, and theres
no reason why it couldnt happen.
Wiganare not about a fantastic
following, they are about an
entrepreneur and clever management.
All four of those clubs although AFC
Wimbledon are farther down the levels
at present are potentially as big as
Wigan.The bottom line is that we are
looking for a bit of a resurgence, which
would be something a lot of us explayers would love to see happen. I had
a go at Charlton but fell short. But all
the clubs have the ambition, and lets
hope one day they all get back to the
highest level.

The Bald Eagle and the Modern Way

The Bald Eagle and the


Modern Way
How Jim Smith brought the 3-5-2 to Queens Park
Rangers
By Bob Yule

15 August 1987, Upton Park. West Ham


v QPR on the opening Saturday of the
season. West Ham had nished 15th in
the First Division the previous season
and QPR 16th; no-one expected much
more than the usual rough and tumble
of a London derby. And yet a signicant
piece of English football history was
about to be made.
QPR lined up in a 3-5-2 system, with
wing-backs, two man-to-man markers
in central defence and a sweeper. It
was the rst time a major club side in
England had opted for the formation as a
rst-choice strategy and, perhaps more
signicantly, it worked. QPR won 3-0,
and went on to win six and draw one of
their opening seven games. In a world
that had been dominated by 4-4-2 since
the 1960s, this was a radical departure
and it took QPR to the top of the league.
I rst got the idea from watching
European football on the TV, particularly
the Germans, said QPRs manager, Jim
Smith, who was already 18 years into his
eventful management career. I thought
it was a great way to play.
When I asked whether he went over to
Germany to watch matches or consult
with other managers, he laughed. At

Oxford, they couldnt afford to send you


to Carlisle, he said. It was when hed
been manager of Oxford United in the
early eighties, though, that he rst tried
playing with three at the back.
In particular games, he said, when we
were in trouble and needed a goal, wed
go three at the back, and push another
man up into the attack to go 3-4-3. I
can remember some games where it
helped us to get a draw from a defeat,
or a win from a draw. Before he left for
QPR in 1985, Oxford gained successive
promotions from the Third Division
to the First. Smith doesnt believe the
system was particularly signicant in
their success, as they only used it on half
a dozen occasions, but hed become
convinced of its usefulness.
After nishing 13th and 16th in his rst two
seasons at QPR, Smith decided to take
the plunge. At the time, in England, there
was such a lot of hostility about a sweeper
system, he said. I told my coach, Peter
Shreeves, and the players that I wanted to
go to a three, and they didnt like the idea
at all. I had to promise that wed go back
to a four if it didnt work.
Before the opening league game, Smith
was very aware that the new formation

73

The Bald Eagle and the Modern Way

was unlikely to survive a defeat. He got


lucky. In pre-season, Id bought Paul
Parker from Fulham as a wing-back, but
I got a bit worried because West Ham
had Cottee up front, who was very fast,
he said. Parker had a lot of pace and I
decided to use him as my marker instead.
It turned out that he was ideally suited to
the position. That game was the making
of him, really, and he went on to become
an England player.
Behind Parker and the solid Alan
McDonald, Smith used Terry Fenwick
as his sweeper. He was a leader and
organiser, and loved that position. Its
also important in the system that you
have defenders who dont mind going
wide, to help the wing-back if necessary.
Most centre-backs dont like it, but
Fenwick and Parker were comfortable.
Success bred condence, and although
they were knocked off the top by a 4-0
defeat at Aneld, Rangers maintained
their form and nished the season fth.
Bewildered teams struggled to contain
their wing-backs, although as the season
progressed, other managers gradually
developed a counter-strategy. Theyd use
wingers to double up on the wing-back,
Smith explained. If youre on top of your
game, one of the three can go across to
help, and the other full-back just tucks
in. The problem was, we werent a major
club and we didnt have a large squad,
and a difficulty of the system is that you
need players who are familiar with it for
it to work. Thats why, later on at Derby, I
got the reserve team and the youth team
to play 3-5-2 as well.
Imitators quickly followed, although,
somewhat to Smiths exasperation,
mainly among clubs who were

74

struggling. Our goals against was


very good, so many teams saw it as a
way of staying in the First Division, he
said. I always played it as an attacking
system, but theyd often end up with a
ve at the back, which Ive never liked,
because when you get the ball, theres
no-one to pass to. Nevertheless,
Smiths experiment was a breakthrough,
if only because he had demonstrated
that British players did not have to be
conned to 4-4-2 or its close variants.
Two years later, Bobby Robsons
successful use of 3-5-2 in the 1990
World Cup was the nal endorsement.
The system has gone in and out of
fashion since. Smith believed that it
should be used more widely, and felt that
the conservatism and caution of many
English players was an obstacle. Many
of our defenders are very reluctant to
try anything except what theyve already
been taught, he said. They also like
4-4-2 because they have people around
them. Full-backs want their winger to
help them out and centre-backs dont
want a sweeper behind them, they want
him alongside. You need the right players
who can deal with one-v-ones.
Smith admitted that the system is harder
to coach because defenders need to
make more decisions for themselves on
the pitch and are less reliant on a pre-set
structure. Fluidity comes at a price and
particularly in that most exposed position
of all, the sweeper. He sometimes had
to import players from abroad who were
more familiar with the role, such as
Taribo West at Derby. For Smith, uidity
was key to any formation and, perhaps
not surprisingly, he has admiration for
Arsne Wengers Arsenal and Louis Van
Gaals Ajax.

Bob Yule

When Jim Smith made the change from


4-4-2 to 3-5-2, he was not just replacing
one set of lines with another, he was
drawing his full-backs and sweeper
away from any defensive or mideld line.
Effectively, he was challenging the whole
team to stop thinking in terms of lines and
to improvise to a much greater degree.
Those who didnt grasp this drifted into a
straight back ve. The extra emphasis on
improvisation also demanded that players
retain possession and pass accurately
on the ground, rather than hit the ball
hopefully into space.
Although the 3-5-2 formation did not
take a lasting hold on the English game,
there is now far greater exibility, far
fewer teams reliant on a basic 4-4-2.
Four at the back may have remained, but
attacking formations have become more
uid. It is tempting to trace this trend
back to the quiet revolution that Jim
Smith began all those years ago, when
he challenged his players to take the
initiative and absorb new ideas.
I asked Smith if there were any reason
he had been the rst to take the risk, but
he could offer no explanation. You just
study formations and systems, and try
them out, he said. It was in his nature
as a manager to look outward and not
inward, forward and not backward.

It was also always evident that Smith


loved football management, and to love
management you must relish the tricky
decision. Smiths appetite for the bold
stroke, the choice of player or formation
that would give his team an unexpected
advantage, was clear. In his career, he
was always prepared to take risks.
There is usually a gap between the hopes
of the dreamer who loves to see football
at its most vibrant, and the view of the
professional who must make things
happen within the harsher realities of
an imperfect world in which the sack is
always waiting. Smith, though, managed
better than most to reconcile his vision
with the reality. When he cajoled his
players at QPR into sharing his vision,
they would have experienced him not
as an unrealistic theoretician, but as a
man who talked their language and who
could handle their doubts.
Smith was successful, but not lucky in
his career. He turned several moderate
sides into good ones, but was never
given the chance to turn a good side into
a great one. But even if fate denied him
the major opportunities and the major
prizes, perhaps we can at least offer this
genial Yorkshireman the recognition
he deserves as a major innovator in the
English game.

75

76
Theory

Its because they practise their scales


all day long.

Deschamps-Suaudeau

Deschamps-Suaudeau
Didier Deschamps and Jean-Claude Suaudeau debate
the modern vogue for attacking football
By Patrick Dessault

Shortly before Manchester United


and Barcelona played last seasons
Champions League nal, Patrick
Dessault, one of France Footballs
senior reporters, boarded a plane in
Nantes with Jean-Claude Suaudeau,
a player, educator, coach and tutelar
gure whose name is inseparable from
the history of FC Nantes over the past
half-century. Both men were travelling
to Marseilles to meet another alumnus
of the cole nantaise, the Olympique
Marseille manager Didier Deschamps,
48 hours before the current Ligue 1
champions were to play Olympique
Lyonnais in a game that could
prove decisive in the title race. That
Deschamps was willing to sacrice as
much as half a day of his preparations
to entertain a journalist and a retired
manager tells all that needs to be told
about the reverence in which he holds
his former mentor.
For me, Deschamps said when
welcoming his guests in a Cassis
restaurant, this is not work, this is a
rare privilege, as it was for those who
read the transcript of that afternoons
conversation in the magazine over
the next couple of weeks. It ran a full
16 pages, which Dessault and France
Football have graciously allowed The
Blizzard to edit and translate for the
benet of English speakers. This was

not an easy task, as even subjects that


could have been deemed too topical
for publication many months after the
exchange took place carried a resonance
that went way beyond the here and now.
Another difficulty was to remain faithful
to the tone of the conversation, which
is quite unlike any other interview I have
ever come across as it would, since,
strictly speaking, what youre about to
read is not an interview. Dessault wisely
chose to remain in the background and
listen, lling Deschampss and Suaudeaus
glasses with the provenal ros the elder
had chosen from an enviable wine list.
He was my rampart, the ex-manager
said of the stocky young Basque whom
he rst coached when DD was 12 years
old. When he [Suaudeau] noticed me
at the window of the young players
dormitory, Didier remembered, hed stop
and talk. It could go on for a whole hour.
Picture the scene: a coach discussing the
routines hed devised for the next training
session with a teenager who was 30 years
his junior.
Deschamps addressed his former
mentor as vous, while calling him by his
nickname Coco (who stuck to the more
familiar tu throughout), a signicant
nuance that indicated that the pupil,
while deferring to the master, was now
his equal in terms of professional status
and, some would argue, his superior

77

Deschamps-Suaudeau

in terms of achievement. All Suaudeau


has to show for 37 years spent with
the Canaris, from 1960 to 1997, are
four league titles, two as a defensive
midelder (1965, 1966) and two as their
manager (1983, 1995). Deschamps,
by contrast, can boast of a collection
of honours that makes him the most
successful gure (as both player and
manager) in French football history.
European and World champion with Les
Bleus, the rst player to reach 100 caps
for France, the winner of 13 major club
titles most of them as captain with
OM, Juventus and Chelsea, including
two Champions Leagues. As a manager,
he hasnt done too badly either: he took
Monaco to the nal of the Champions
League in 2004, oversaw Juventuss
immediate return to the elite as Serie B
champions after their demotion in the
wake of the calciopoli scandal in 2007,
and led Marseille to a domestic double
in 2010 (not forgetting the 2011 League
Cup). All this, and hes only 43.
However, were you to ask any leading
gure in the French game which of
the two men is the greater manager,
Suaudeau would be an almost
unanimous choice. A genius, many
would say, perhaps the deepest thinker
our country has produced in this eld,
with only Albert Batteux for company.
He did not invent the jeu la nantaise:

his predecessor Jos Arribas was its


progenitor in the 1960s, with Coco
both an executor and a student of it rst
on the eld, then as head of the clubs
academy; but Suaudeau rened a style
of play into a system, which he worked
on as tirelessly and as imaginatively as
Helenio Herrera tuned Inter. At home,
Suaudeaus 1982-83 team, of which the
rest of Europe saw close to nothing1, is
still considered one of the nest club
sides, if not the nest, to have ever won
the French league title. It couldnt quite
match Valeriy Lobanovskyis Dynamo
Kyiv as far as results were concerned,
but it exuded the same kind of beauty,
poetry balancing mechanics, and
added a certain sense of reckless joy
to this glorious equation. The 199495 incarnation of Nantes, though less
technically accomplished2, was only
one game away from emulating Ajax,
Milan and Arsenal and completing a
domestic league season unbeaten.
Suaudeaus tragedy (the word would
not seem too strong to his admirers)
was that FC Nantes simply couldnt hold
on to its best players, who inevitably
left for richer clubs as soon as a trophy
had been won. Those players, almost
to a man, had been trained in the
clubs academy by Suaudeau himself.
Perhaps Cocos true list of honours is
the names of the players (Jos Tour,
Marcel Desailly, Didier Deschamps,

A disastrous 3-0 loss in the away leg of their tie with Rapid Vienna saw Nantes exit the 1983-84

European Cup in the rst round.


2

How could players of lesser skill still play la nantaise? Suaudeaus answer to that question appears

paradoxical, but is typical of his approach: We sped it up, we played at 100 miles per hour, he said.
Patterns of open play that hed imagined while walking his two dogs in the training ground would
be rehearsed like set pieces until the players no longer had to think to execute them. He
composed the music, the players played the score, as Dessault, a Nantais himself, likes to say.

78

Patrick Dessault

Claude Makll whom he was the


rst to deploy in the role that now bears
his name), Maxime Bossis, Christian
Karembeu, and so many others) he
shaped on the concrete pitches of La
Jonellire. He taught them a ravishing
one-touch football that, at its best,
deserved to be ranked with that
played at the Camp Nou today. It is
no coincidence that the rst subject
that Suaudeau wished to broach with
Deschamps was Guardiolas team, as
the values which are now associated
with the Catalan club are precisely
those for which his Nantes became
Frances best-loved club when
Suaudeau was its manager.
Philippe Auclair

Deschamps: Its impossible to play


against Bara in the short term. Theyve
played together for ve, six, seven years:
their game is second nature for them.
When you see the way they move and
how theyve managed to pass on this
message to players who come from all
kinds of backgrounds, thats impressive.
Elsewhere, a coach isnt given that
time. The policy is different. Its every
managers dream, but youve got to be
realistic: yes, its lovely to watch them
play, to dream of emulating them but
youve got to have the players to play
that game. And everything stems from
the academy. Coco, at Nantes, when we
joined the pros, wed already spent four
years together in the reserves.
Suaudeau: Bara are the strongest
because their mideld is the strongest.
Deschamps: The mideld battle...

Suaudeau: A game is won in mideld.


Only the midelders are able to nd the
right way to play. They are the animators.
They are the inspiration. The more
players of that kind youve got, the more
you can hope to win in the long term.
Deschamps: I dont agree. What matters
are the two zones of truth. In todays
football, if youve got a great keeper and
a great striker, youre not that far from
victory. Of course, you shouldnt have
muppets in mideld!
Suaudeau: I disagree.
Deschamps: OK, Coco, I know what
youre thinking: its impossible to ght
against the collective power of the
Catalans, therefore...
Suaudeau: Dead right. Bara are superstrong in one area: anticipation. Thats the
most difficult thing to pass on to players
when theyre very good. At Barcelona,
even the smallest guy gets his hands dirty
and is to be feared when they try to get
the ball back. Thats where Bara made
the difference when they beat Real Madrid
5-0. Dd, thats the ultimate truth that
was my truth too. Id come to the point
when I conceived my attacking game as
based on getting the ball back... and when
the attacker becomes a defender, eh?
Deschamps: Theyre fabulous.
Suaudeau: And they exploit it. Real Madrid
havent got this approach, for example.
Real defend, and thats that. Every coach
knows what hes capable of asking from
his team. And it is in the ght to get the
ball back that a team really expresses its
combativeness. Barcelona are the perfect
expression of that.

79

Deschamps-Suaudeau

Deschamps: The most impressive,


its when the attackers manage to do
the same work as midelders, or even
defenders. Its magnicent! But try to
apply that in France, eh? ... and their
three guys in mideld, the way they cut
the trajectories of the ball...
Suaudeau: They have brought a culture
of sacrice to a level of perfection.
Because it is very, very tiring to close the
net properly. What is Baras weakness?
How do you exploit it?
Deschamps: The most difficult thing,
when you play against Bara, is when
you have the ball. Either youve got it
close to your own goal, which means
you need to have the guy whos able to
make the rst pass which will eliminate
the rst block. But, three times out of
four, they dont allow you to do that. Or
its a counter-attack and its the same
thing in the end... the rst pass [against
Bara] must be successful and take two
or three players out of the equation. You
need a guy whos got great feet and who
sees things quickly, because there is no
time. You must nd the vertical pass that
disrupts the lines.
Suaudeau: Otherwise, they close down
on you like a vice.
Deschamps: ...and if they feel theyve
been taken out, they foul. They do that
very well too. The mideld guys take care
of that.
Suaudeau: When I asked you my
question, I didnt have an answer to the
problem! Me, I play the game in my
head, sitting on the sofa, before its been
played... because weve got a right to have
fun, no?

80

Deschamps: And its always more fun


with other peoples teams!
Suaudeau: Yes, every weekend, Im a
coach... four teams a year. Manchester
United and Liverpool in England, Real
and Bara in Spain. I try to follow them
from the rst day of the season to the
last. I dont pick the players but I re-do
the tactics. And the substitutions.
Deschamps: Do you regret not coaching
anymore?
Suaudeau: Not at all! I stopped without
regrets, 13 or 14 years ago. I didnt feel
like lling in a blank page anymore. Youll
see... I choose my teams for the way they
play. Which teams would you choose?
Deschamps: Bara, Arsenal, Manchester
United or Liverpool... and Real Madrid,
maybe.
Suaudeau: For Real, I havent yet seen
all that I was hoping for. Im probably
not objective, because I dont buy into
Mourinho. His behaviour, his quotes,
pfff... Hes playing a character who is too
unpleasant by far. I dont function like
that. Hey we havent spoken about
Pep Guardiola.
Deschamps: Im asked, Are you Mourinho
or Guardiola? Its impossible to compare
them. The philosophy of one is expressed
through a single club. As to the other,
you can say what you want, but he wins
[in Europe] with Porto and Inter, and he
reaches the semis with Chelsea and Real.
Fergie is the last guy who can do what
he does at the same club for twenty-ve
years. He changes teams he doesnt
swap clubs. He does everything at
Manchester United, from A to Z.

Patrick Dessault

Suaudeau: Youd better be on top form


at his age...
Deschamps: He delegates a lot. He
doesnt direct the training sessions...
Some weeks, he only comes from
Thursday onwards.
Suaudeau: Oh la la...
Deschamps: Hes got a coach who
does the job. At weekends, Fergie picks
the team and prepares for the game.
Sometimes, things that have been
practised during the week are changed
on matchday.
Suaudeau: Really?
Deschamps: Yes.
Suaudeau: Hes the boss...
Deschamps: Pep is a coach, not a
manager like Ferguson is. He doesnt
look after the administration side
of things, or the gardener! Hes a
technician.
Suaudeau: He was a very good player to
start with, a very intelligent one. The guy
who made the rst pass from mideld.
What wed call a sentinel today. Then he
became an educator. Hes got a plan in
his head, and whats wonderful is that he
passes it on to the players so well. If you
ask Guardiola what his idea of football
is, hell answer that it is passing. But hell
add: what kind of passing? And how
do you manage to play those passes?
Thats what gives the idea its avour. Hes
integrated what he learnt from the older
guys: football is conceived as a game
of passes. The crazy thing is that these
passes dont look extraordinary but

they always reach their target. Thats


important. You know why, DD? Because
the Bara players have a mastery of
the space around them, a science of
anticipation and a perception of the
game as a whole, with tremendous
concentration on top.
Deschamps: On top of their technical
excellence?
Suaudeau: Its because they practise
their scales all day long. Ive seen it.
Deschamps: Control, pass, control,
pass, non-stop for half an hour, every
day, and more if necessary. After that,
its easy. No, Im wrong its simple,
not easy! Choose the right moment to
make the pass or not, go back: theyre
in it, completely. And when one of
them moves towards the outside, hes
not alone in doing so: the whole block
moves, the players modulate their
movement according to the movement
of the others. Its intelligent mechanics,
because you dont see two players in the
same zone, everything is compensated,
balanced, which means that the ballcarrier always has a solution. Its almost
exaggerated at times...
Suaudeau: Agreed!
Deschamps: At times, youll see four or
ve one-touch exchanges four yards
apart. Im not sure that this is very useful.
Even if its a way to attract the opponent,
to make him come out, and when he
does, because hes fed up, tchac! ... one
guy sends the ball behind the back of the
defender. Bara make sure that the ball is
always in movement, because its bound
to be a problem for the opponent. When
the ball is static, its simpler: when it is

81

Deschamps-Suaudeau

moving, even within four or ve yards, the


passing angles are not the same anymore.
This doesnt mean they dont keep the ball
in mideld, not everything is done with one
or two touches. But every time they take
the ball, they turn round and they break
you down by taking you out of the game.
Suaudeau: Whats more, most of the
passes and most of the play are directed to
wrong-foot you and, physically, that hurts.
Deschamps: When the mideld has the
ball, youve got the three guys in the
middle, plus the full-backs, and Messi
who drops back. To start with, he plays
in the middle, but the fact that he drops
back has a consequence: the opposing
central defenders do not have a point of
reference any longer.
Suaudeau: The passes make the
difference, but it is also the passes that
can unbalance Bara.
Deschamps: Yes, the vertical pass, like
Shakhtar Donetsk did so well in the
Champions League quarter-nals [in
2010-11]. Thats when you come back
to technical quality, because youve
got very little time to integrate the
information and do the right thing. You
need good feet and teammates who
make themselves available.
Suaudeau: When you watch Bara closely,
how do they pass the ball? Most of the
time, with the inside of the foot. You cant
send the ball thirty-ve yards away that
way. They use the ground, the pitch...
lobbing the ball is prohibited in training. It
was quite funny when I did that at Nantes.
It means that those who havent got the
ball must show themselves, and that you
play in the intervals between the lines.

82

Deschamps: My way of describing this is:


below the belt. Its not allowed to pass
the ball higher than that. We often did
that at Nantes on the days following a
game, we called that the spiel. I loved it
and I still do it. To work on the tip of the
triangle, then learn how to move. Thats
when you see the guys who can swim or
who cant...
Suaudeau: Except that at Bara, they
know each other so well...
Deschamps: They put it in place with
toros: ten players in a circle with two guys
inside who try to intercept the ball, or a
circle of ve and a single guy. Its torture.
Suaudeau: Thats right, thats the basis
of their work: rehearsal. But these are
exercises which are done with maximum
concentration. Not to have a laugh, even
if its fun.
Deschamps: Once again, they base their
work on a philosophy. And when they
need to, they go and get [a player] from
outside of the system. But they get it
wrong too, as they did with the Swede,
Ibrahimovi. Maybe he brought them
something different, but they didnt stick
with him.
Suaudeau: Why didnt it work for him?
Too individualistic? Not at all! Too static!
Hes a statue, absolutely. And given the
mobility of the people around him, that
looked bad. He didnt take part in the
collective movement of the team.
Deschamps: Coco, hes still a
phenomenon! I had him for two weeks
at Juve he had everything, the skill,
movement, the height, the coordination.
Then, yes, when he feels like it...

Patrick Dessault

Suaudeau: He moves for himself, not for


the others.

the problem of the anks to solve, and,


there, theyre a handful.

Deschamps: Thats true. His outlook is


not collective.

Suaudeau: The true bosses are Iniesta


and Xavi.

Suaudeau: Precisely. Im not telling you


he isnt good, only that he wasnt in his
place at Barcelona, thats not the same
thing. In Italy...

Deschamps: Plus Messi.

Deschamps: In Italy, hes not asked to


be collective, hes not asked to be an
attacker who presses the opponent.

Deschamps: Messi is the trigger, he hunts


the ball, hes everywhere.

Suaudeau: Italy is what you were talking


about earlier: a good keeper and a guy
upfront who scores goals.
Deschamps: As long as he scores, who
cares if he only touches the ball twice?
A guy like David Trezeguet was like a
sh in water in Serie A. Like Ibrahimovi.
They are both players who dont need
the others. Whereas at Bara, everyone
needs the others. Except, maybe, the
little guy [Messi]... even then. Look at him
with the Argentinian team. Why is it that
hes not the same player?
Suaudeau: Because there are shortcircuits in the teams movement. And hes
not used to that. With Argentina, when he
goes right, the rest go left, its a mess...
Deschamps: With Bara, when youre
in the axis on the pitch, theres a guy
[who is available] on the side; and when
theres a guy near you, there will also be
another one making a run from deep.
Two solutions, always. Its up to you to
decide when you play against them. The
solution is to lock the inside, because
youre fucked if you dont; but you
havent won if you only do that theres

Suaudeau: Theyre the guardians of


Barcelonas game.

Suaudeau: Hes a hell of a player in ball


recuperation.
Deschamps: Theres a point at which you
can say, Block Messi, but the other two...
how do you do it? Who to put on Messi?
Because, to start with, in the deployment
of the team, hes an axial attacking player;
are you going to ask one or two of your
central defenders to take care of him, or a
midelder? If you do that, you unbalance
your own mideld. Marking Messi
individually is a way to limit [his inuence].
But how do you do it? When Guardiola
had Etoo, he was basing his organisational
choices on how quick the opposing
central defenders were. If they were quick,
he put Messi in the middle and Etoo on a
ank; if they werent, he reversed that.
Suaudeau: I still maintain that Iniesta and
Messi are the pivotal players. When the
play demands it, they put the ball there.
They do not play their own game, they
play their teams game. They never veer
from that basis.
Deschamps: And since Messi is bound to
be near them, there is a second line of
running and the two carry on combining
with each other.

83

Deschamps-Suaudeau

Suaudeau: Its like laying a false track. Its


monstrous.
Deschamps: The player who matters is not
the one who gives the ball, but one who
receives it. Its very, very hard to do that.
Suaudeau: And who dictated the
movement? The player who hasnt got
the ball. If Im the defender against those
guys, Im watching the ball and since it
is the guy who hasnt got it who dictates
the play, Im dead. They dont do it once,
they do it ten thousand times and in the
end, you dont even ask yourself, Whos
the boss? since its so natural. The
defender goes crazy.
Deschamps: And theyre intelligent
enough even if they get caught
out sometimes to tell themselves,
The pass isnt going to come, or, My
teammate is offside, and, in the same
movement, without a hiatus, they change
their mind and change the orientation
of the play. You cannot anticipate with
them. You can anticipate on the guy
whos got the ball, but since hes not the
most important at Barcelona...
Suaudeau: Youre fucked.
Deschamps: Or the lines are very
compact and the pass is very difficult
to execute. In that case, they switch, go
right, go left, and then...
Suaudeau: They play handball!
Deschamps: And its fast. The ball always
goes faster than the players. Its hard to
make players understand that it is those
who havent got the ball who matter.
Since every player wants the ball... but
not at Bara.

84

Suaudeau: Are you talking to me? You,


you understood that. You were always
on the move. To receive the ball. The guy
who gets the ball when hes static doesnt
surprise anyone. Ive told you often
enough: the disease is remaining static.
Deschamps: Its a simple as 1-2-3. Before
the second player receives the ball, the
third is already in movement. Thats how
you create space.
Suaudeau: Rehearsing your scales allows
you to acquire this ability. Nothing comes
out of snapping your ngers. That is the
great truth, before you even say, Ill play
to win. Its to do with education, from
the roots of your sporting education.
Youve got to reach a certain level. Shit
I dont how to say it...
Deschamps: ...without hurting
somebodys feelings...
Suaudeau: Yes, exactly. You cant be a
thicko. Were talking about an intelligent
game. What Im saying could be
misunderstood, but its simplicity itself.
Even if were talking about a higher level
of intelligence. Theres another thing Id
like to talk to you about. Your famous
culture of winning. Dont you think
theres a bit of a problem in there?
Deschamps: Its Serie As daily bread
and youll agree, coach, that this is a form
of football that has won a lot of trophies
and which Ive drawn a lot of inspiration
from. You know that.
Suaudeau: Im different from you in that
respect. I am an educator.
Deschamps: Not me! But I can suggest that
I am more of a competitor than you are.

Patrick Dessault

Suaudeau: Theres this expression to win


at all cost. It never came to my mind. Ever.
Deschamps: For me, pleasure can only
exist in success.
Suaudeau: Tchah! ... This success you
talk about, it doesnt last. Its powerful,
but ephemeral.
Deschamps: I have this pleasure. I
remember horrible games that I was
happy to win, without having taken
pleasure while playing them. Playing
well with no victory in the end, I say,
No, denitely.
Suaudeau: And I say the opposite. Ill nd
plenty of elements [in the defeat] that will
enable me to win tomorrow. You live for
the moment. I live beyond it.
Deschamps: I understand your point of
view, as I know that progress also means
going through failure but, today, highlevel football is about winning. When
I stopped playing, I asked myself the
question, Do I want to become a coach?
And, above all, what kind of coach? Pass
on [what I know] to the young ones?
After all Id been through, I couldnt be
satised with that. Impossible. I wouldnt
have been faithful to myself.
Suaudeau: I never thought you could
become an educator, anyway.
Deschamps: Id like to pass on what I
was taught. I do like the idea of a coach
who is open to the young player, if that
player feels the need [to be taught]. But
he has to come to me of his own will.
I dont feel myself to be a coach who
instigates [this exchange], all the time,
with no reward.

Suaudeau: Thats because youre not


convincing enough. Youre a fantastic
winner, but not a... persuader.
Deschamps: Its mostly because I have
other priorities!
Suaudeau: Ill give you that your job is
harder than mine was when I was at
Nantes, and was given guys whod been
trained by Raynald [Denoueix]. Thats
not the case with you. Hang on to your
convictions. Thats crucial.
Deschamps: If I have the misfortune to
tell player X or Y to do this or that, Im
told that the academy is where you learn
football, not the rst team. But if I ask
them, it has to be because they dont
know themselves, right? Weve spoken
about game intelligence already. There
are several types of intelligence. Today,
for example, its quite fashionable to say
that Marseille play badly. Really badly.
But we score a few goals, dont we? OK,
we do not control everything, and I know
that we have a greater chance to win
our games if we play well. I adapt. My
Monaco played well, no?
Suaudeau: A delight to watch.
Deschamps: French football is [now] all
about intensity.
Suaudeau: Absolutely. We dont see
any change of rhythm. There is a beat,
which can be high tempo, but there is
no breaking away from it. Great teams
control the speed of their game. They
speed up or slow down when they want
to. [In France], we do everything fast
but too fast, at the end of the day.
Deschamps: Too many technical mistakes.

85

Deschamps-Suaudeau

Suaudeau: That also reects training


methods, you must concede that.
Deschamps: It also has to do with the
type of player [French clubs look for].
Patrick Dessault: Has football changed
that much, then?
Suaudeau: Its certainly quicker; duels
are also more important this is where
impact is made today. Training methods
are different. The top guys still focus
on anticipation, and that much hasnt
changed. But the coaches of those top
teams make it even more of a priority.
What Id call game reexes are sharper,
quicker, and thats something you work
on at training. If you really want to know
what Im talking about, look at a toro
its all about anticipation. The guys who
are around the player or two players who
are in the middle do not have both feet in
the same clog!
Deschamps: Meaning theyre always on
tiptoe, not on their heels.
Suaudeau: Yes you have to be like a
boxer. It isnt much, but it all starts from
there.
Deschamps: A toro is play, as in fun
but it has everything as an exercise. Small
spaces, right use of the right part of the
boot and, when there are two of them in
the middle, the trick is to draw them to
you so that the door opens and bang!
Suaudeau: According to you, what has
changed the most?
Deschamps: The environment. Ive
got something like a press-conference
every day, dozens of phone calls,
interview requests. But I manage, with

86

the media. By contrast, its harder with


the entourage of the players. You didnt
have to confront the things and people
that go with football today; the agent,
the brother, the cousin, the uncle... the
executive who says that his coach is
talking bullshit and undermines his job
and his authority. Human management is
more complex than it was in the past. My
job is 60% on the eld, 40% off it.
Suaudeau: Must be tiring!
Deschamps: Everything depends on the
gap between the generations of players.
Some of them have seen me play, but it
wont be long before there arent any of
those left. Your credibility, your charisma
allow you to do a few things, especially
abroad, because, in France... pff... Ive
heard some people say that I wasnt
talking to players, but these players
should go abroad. Theyd understand
what a coach who doesnt talk is. Ive
spoken more to my players over the last
couple of seasons than all my previous
coaches spoke to me!
Suaudeau: Good carry on.
Deschamps: I need this relational side
of things; but it varies according to the
league youre working in. In Italy, at Juve,
they called me Mister. When I was talking
to an Italian international, Camoranesi
for example, and you asked if he wanted
to have a breather after an international
game, he replied that it the decision was
up to me, that hed get along with it. It
doesnt happen that way in France. Here,
go tell a player that hes better than the
guy who will start, but that the balance of
the team, and the complementarity of his
association with others are better when
that guy is playing. Its very French: they all

Patrick Dessault

accept competition as long as theyre


not subjected to it. Making twenty-ve
guys subscribe to a collective project
remains simpler out of France than within
our borders. The notions of pleasure
and passion arent the same anymore.
Its obvious that some of them do not
have a passion for football. What I went
through when I was a young player was
sometimes tough, but I was rewarded.
How I was rewarded! At Nantes, I had one
right, and only one: keeping silent. The
older guys were the bosses, the young
ones had to listen. When the rst team
played the reserves on Wednesday, I
wanted to nick their place and I went in
full tilt...
Suaudeau: And I didnt hesitate to pour
some oil on the re... I loved it.
Deschamps: Yes. Today, there are still
a few of the older guys who are the
guardians of these [values]; and if theyre
not in the majority, theyd rather shut up.
At Marseille, Lucho and Heinze [since
departed to AS Roma] are at the training
ground an hour and a half before training,
and still there an hour and a half after its
nished. There are others who are already
at the wheel of their cars when Im still on
the eld. The same guys, they go abroad,
they change their attitude... otherwise
they get booted out.
Suaudeau: Id like to conclude by using
a sentence that DD knows well, as I kept
repeating it to him twenty years ago: le
plaisir du jeu gnre de lnergie pour
lenjeu 3. It hasnt aged, dont tell me it
has! Will I nally convince you?

Deschamps: No, thats not it...


Suaudeau: I can feel where youve gone...
too much into reality. With this sentence
in mind, you have fun every day, and on
match days, I dont need to tell you! And
youve known that at Monaco. Are you
telling me its changed since then?
Deschamps: Without a doubt.
Suaudeau: It goes too quickly for me,
then.
Deschamps: We leave it at that?
Suaudeau: No. I wanted to tell you one
more thing. Before I stopped [in July
1997], I wanted to do something different:
educate my educators, and create a team
with a denser mideld, players with a
different prole... A little like the AC Milan
of the mid-2000s, which had six or seven
midelders and no real attacker. When
Kak was still there. And this mideld
would explode like reworks. Bara
do it too, with less of an explosion. All
this to tell you: mideld has to change.
Mideld is where the future of football
lies, not elsewhere. This is the zone in
which modern football has changed the
most; the runs are deeper, the capacity to
eliminate has improved, with, always, the
sentinel, the rampart, why not the lock?
Like you. Like Pirlo.
Deschamps: I had a ball in that
position. And Pirlo had two runners
by his side, Gattuso and Ambrosini,
who compensated for his defensive
deciencies.

An untranslatable pun which means : the pleasure of playing produced energy for what is at

stake ie, winning.

87

Deschamps-Suaudeau

Suaudeau: It came from Italy.


Deschamps: Everything tactical comes
from Italy, Coco.
Suaudeau: The future of football is also
speed. It must go even faster.
Deschamps: Thats already the case. Fast
attacks are timed at ve seconds.
Suaudeau: Mideld runs, hyper-fast...
these guys are the princes of technique.
Give me six or seven of them in the
middle, just like that, youll be a terror. Ive
said it. Back to Nantes, now.
Original article by Patrick Dessaut of
France Football, translated by Philippe
Auclair.

88

The New Enganche

The New Enganche


Javier Pastore talks about his move to Paris SaintGermain and living up to the playmaking ideal
By Sam Kelly

There was much talk in December of


English footballs most recognisable
globetrotter David Beckham moving
(perhaps for one last time) to a club in
one of Europes fanciest cities. It would
have been hard to countenance Paris
Saint-Germain being so competitive in
the transfer market a mere year ago,
but the elevation of PSG to the top
table of Europes big-spending clubs
was heralded in the middle of last year
by the signing of a talent who, unlike
Beckham, still has most of his career
ahead of him: Javier Pastore.

his unveiling as the new Kak. It seems


Zamparini wasnt just picking a name at
random but was making a concerted
effort to make him feel welcome,
because Pastore told me that perhaps
surprisingly for an Argentinian the
Brazilian is his favourite player and a
major inuence on his style. Ive always
really liked Kak, he said. I like his
technique, the style of his play, and when
I started playing, I also started to watch
him. Hes inuenced my game a lot.
From a position of admiration, I came to
really enjoy playing in the same way.

Pastores rst goal for PSG came against


Brest, and was in many ways typical
of his elegant, almost old-fashioned,
style of play. Starting an off-the-ball
run before dropping off to work some
space, he received the ball at the end
of a length-of-the-pitch counter attack
just inside the box, neatly sidestepped
a challenge and then, when many
expected a powerful strike to the far
corner, sent the ball oating into the near
side of the goal with a neat chip.

There are differences between the two,


of course. Pastore, whos known in
Argentina as El Flaco (the skinny one),
isnt as physically robust or lung-bursting
in his running style as Kak. They share a
position, but Pastore is really a traditional
Argentinian enganche, the player who
drifts between the lines of mideld and
attack (as well as between the anks and
the centre of the pitch), linking the two
and providing the focus for the rest of the
team to work around the Spanish word
translates as hook. I used to play as a
striker as well, he said, but Ive always felt
more comfortable playing as an enganche.
Its always been more my position.
Pastore grew up in Crdoba, which
competes with Rosario for the unofficial
title of Argentinas second city. Like many
Argentinian men he wears his love for his

The quickness of his feet and his tall


frame (not to mention his looks) drew
comparisons, early on in his career,
with another South American attacking
midelder, never more blatantly than
when the Palermo president Maurizio
Zamparini described his 2009 signing at

90

Sam Kelly

mother on his sleeve or rather, in this


case, on his back. I chose to wear the
number 27 [hes worn it at all his clubs]
because of my mum, he explained.
Its her favourite number. He supports
Talleres, one of the citys big three (the
other two are Belgrano, currently in the
top ight, and Instituto, of the second
division). Talleres were in the Primera
Divisin until 2004, but are now in
Torneo Argentino A, Argentinas regional
third tier. When Pastore made his debut
in 2007, they were in the second division
and hes often said that he likes the idea
of one day returning to play for the club.
Previous reports and interviews have
claimed that at the age of just 15,
before making his debut for Talleres,
Pastore already had his sights set on a
move to Europe and went for trials to
Saint-tienne and Villarreal. He could
have been one more of many eligible
Argentinians (he has an Italian passport)
to move to the old continent without
setting foot on a professional pitch in
his homeland. He, though, claims that
wasnt the case. I went to Europe to play
a few matches [for the youth sides], but
not to go on trial with any clubs there,
he said. My parents had already made
clear that they werent going to let me
go to play so far away at such a young
age. I was really young, so I wouldnt say
that trip helped me adapt to Europe later
[when he moved to Palermo], but I got to
see some beautiful places and it was an
incredible experience.
Whatever the reason for the journey to
Europe, Pastore was given his debut for
Talleres by the manager Ricardo Gareca
in January 2007, when he was 17. Later
that year he moved to Huracn, then
of the Primera Divisin and in 2009, he

would play a controversial title decider


for them against Vlez Sarseld which
left Vlez by then managed by Gareca
as the Torneo Clausura champions;
Huracn had a goal disallowed and a
good penalty shout turned down, while
Vlezs winner came following a foul in
the build-up. Pastore had broken into the
Huracn rst team squad near the end
of 2008, with their manager, the ultraromantic ngel Cappa, claiming during
their time at the club together that hes
the kind of player who makes people
want to go to the stadium. From his
position behind the forward line, where
he combined superbly with his fellow
youngster Matas Defederico (who later
moved to Corinthians and is now back in
Argentina with Independiente), Pastore
was Huracns top scorer in that 2009
Clausura campaign.
Shifting the focus to his new club,
Pastore insists hes now focused on
Ligue Un although I like watching every
league because theyve all got different
characteristics and incredible players,
all of them. Ive always liked watching
football as well as playing. With respect
to my position and style, I think as every
league is different, its necessary to
change some small things [regarding
how I play]. Because of that, one never
really stops learning. Thats the best thing
about football. It sounds suspiciously
like an answer thought up by marketing
men keen not to cause offence, but the
speed with which Pastore adapted to
life in both Italy and France suggests its
probably true.
I just love playing football, I think thats
my main strength, he added. I enjoy
myself on the pitch. I think its vital to
improve day on day. There are always

91

The New Enganche

things to learn [in any aspect of life], and


this sport is no exception. One thing
hes currently learning is that the clubs
with the most spending power tend to
rise to the top at the time of writing
PSG, without a league title since 1994,
were clear at the top of the table
although he denies his move was about
money. Im really happy both in the city
of Paris and with PSG as a club, he said.
This seems like a great club and its an
interesting league. What made my mind
up, really, was the plan the club had for
the season. They explained that to me
and I found the idea really seductive.
Pastore began the season brightly
before a dip in form around Christmas,
indicating, perhaps, the need for PSG to
add depth to their squad so they dont
come to rely on the most glamorous of
their signings to date; the suggestion
is that fatigue lay behind that slip in
his form. Pastore may be so key to his
club at present that hes suffered from
burnout, but the same cant be said of
his national side, where already in a short
career hes had the dubious pleasure
of competing with the likes of Juan
Sebastin Vern, Fernando Gago, ver
Banega, Esteban Cambiasso and Sergio
Agero for a place in whats tended,
during his time with Argentina, to be an
ever-shifting tactical setup.
Alejandro Sabella, the manager
appointed by Argentinian FA last
year after the cluelessness of Diego
Maradonas and Sergio Batistas spells in
charge, should in the medium-to-long
term bring more tactical balance to the
team. Even with a more regular setup,
though, Pastore realises he still has a
lot of work to do if hes to break into
the seleccin on a more regular basis.

92

Pastores role in Sabellas vision remains


unclear, his words on Argentinas
recent record betray what all of their
players nd hard to deny that given
the available talent, the national team
has underperformed. I think weve
lacked some things, and that luck hasnt
always been on our side, but weve got
some highly impressive players who
are among the best in their respective
leagues, he said. Weve simply got to
work and move forward in the search
for better results.
As for how Pastore sees his own place
in that search, hes reserved, and also
refuses to criticise Maradona and
Batista when I ask whether their lack of
experience as managers was a hindrance
during the 2010 World Cup and the 2011
Copa Amrica. I think theres something
to be learned from every manager,
theyve all got some experience related
to football, and we as players can take
something from that, he said. As for
Sabella, everyone talks very highly of
what hes achieved [various honours as
an assistant coach, as well as a Copa
Libertadores title and an Argentinian
league title with Estudiantes de La Plata].
Im going to work hard to earn a place in
his starting line-up.
Then, of course, there is Lionel Messi.
There are doubters, but Messis place
in the national team is assured and
under Maradona and then Batistuta the
question was whether Pastore could
be a partner for him. Using Pastore as
a substitute during the World Cup with
express instructions to get the ball to
Messi more often was perhaps one of
Maradonas better ideas; Argentinas
mideld seems less at after his addition
and theres less need for Messi to drop

Sam Kelly

too deep when Pastore is there to link


with him. Messi himself was among those
who wanted Pastore to join Barcelona
last year. So, what is it like to play and
train with the worlds best forward?
Whenever anyone asks me that
question, I always respond that its
incredible to play with him, Pastore said.
Playing alongside Messi is like playing
with a lot of extra teammates on the
pitch, because when you send the ball
his way [for a one-two] he gives it back
to you just perfectly, and hes everywhere
on the pitch! As far as the other squad
members are concerned, its great just to
be a part of that team. I get on very well
with all of them and theyre great players.
I love being involved with the seleccin.
When hes no longer living out of a
suitcase in a hotel room and is more
settled in Paris, Pastore, most would
agree, has the ability to become perhaps
the outstanding player in the French
league. That would be true for most
leagues and surely for the majority of
national sides he wouldnt face the same
scrap to get on to the team sheet as he
does for Argentina. His enthusiasm for the
game is clear and, while PSG might not
have signed Beckham, the signing that
matters was made last year; in Pastore,
theyve got a player whos likely to be key
to their side for a long time yet.

93

94
Africa

And thats when the thought


occurred that this wasnt a road at
all but an airstrip

Unlikely Hosts, Unlikelier Winners

Unlikely Hosts, Unlikelier


Winners
Images from the 2012 African Cup of Nations.
By Pablo Manriquez and Backpagepix

The opening game of the 2012 African


Cup of Nations was, by some margin,
the most important game ever played in
Equatorial Guinea. It prompted a surge
of enthusiasm and patriotic pride in Bata,
the countrys largest city, something that
remained undiminished despite kick-off
being delayed to accommodate a speech
from the president, Obiang Nguema.
Buoyed by the atmosphere, the hosts,
ranked 151st in the world, beat Libya 1-0
in what was their rst ever game in the
nal stages of the tournament and went
on to reach the last eight.

Cte dIvoire, the tournament


favourites, began under intense
scrutiny on the island of Bioko, but
although they performed solidly and
went through the tournament without
conceding a goal, the Elephants
registered only another near-miss.
Instead it was Zambia, believing it was
their destiny to win the tournament in
Libreville, the city off the coast of which
18 of their players were killed in an air
crash in 1993, who were victorious as
they beat Cte dIvoire in a penalty
shoot-out in the nal.

All photos by Pablo Manriquez except Top p97, Top p98, Top and Bottom p99 by
Backpagepix

95

Unlikely Hosts, Unlikelier Winners

96

Pablo Manriquez and Backpagepix

97

Unlikely Hosts, Unlikelier Winners

98

Pablo Manriquez and Backpagepix

99

Unlikely Hosts, Unlikelier Winners

100

Pablo Manriquez and Backpagepix

101

Victory Song

Victory Song
How Zambias emotional triumph restored the zest to
the Cup of Nations
By Jonathan Wilson

On the Friday before the nal of the Cup


of Nations, Zambias players met on a
nondescript strip of beach in Libreville.
They carried owers and looked a
little awkward as the media, keeping a
reasonably respectful distance, followed.
There was a moment when it seemed
this might fall horribly at, that it might
turn into something tawdry, but then
the players began to sing softly together.
In an instant the mood changed, and
as they laid their owers in the sea to
commemorate the 18 Zambian players
and four coaching staff killed in 1993 in a
plane crash just off the Gabonese coast,
there was a sense of terrible, beautiful
plangency. Two days later, the players
were singing again, but this time they
were in the centre-circle of the Stade de
lAmitie, keeping themselves calm during
a penalty shoot-out against Cte dIvoire.

The border guard icked through my


passport. Wheres the entry stamp? he
asked in French, tossing it back at me.
The entry stamp? Well, next to the visa,
of course. But even as I took the passport
from the counter to nd it for him, I felt
my insides turn cold. I thought back to
arrival at Bata. The official had taken my
ngerprints, had taken a photograph
of me, but had he actually stamped it?

102

There was a doubt, and as I searched


desperately through the pale green
pages, it developed into a certainty. The
decision to travel to the nal by land was
looking increasingly foolish. The best case
scenario, I assumed, was that Id have
to pay what might euphemistically be
termed a ne. Or he might send me back
to Bata. Or, worst of all, there might be a
cell waiting for me in Mongomo.
Everybody apart from Rebecca, a
photographer for AP, and I had taken
the plane from Bata after the semi-nal,
heading either to Malabo for the thirdplace play-off or to the Gabonese capital
Libreville for the nal. But planes were
expensive, unreliable and, well, boring.
There were two possible land routes. We
could head south from Bata to Cogo, take a
pirogue across the estuary and pick up a car
to Libreville on the other side. That would
take around six hours plus negotiating time.
A few others had done it, but wed been
warned that the boatmen operated a cartel
and would charge absurd fees. Besides,
wed seen the coast; we wanted to see the
interior. To do that, though, we needed a
driver with the right papers to travel through
both Equatorial Guinea and Gabon; three
days of hunting failed to turn one up.
We ummed and ahhed between the two
routes. Cogo gave us breathing space:
if it went wrong we could always head

Jonathan Wilson

back to Bata and take a ight. Mongomo


sounded more interesting. My mind was
made up that morning as we changed
money in a Lebanese shop. Lebanese
shops always seem to act as information
exchanges, so we asked there about a
driver. They couldnt recommend one,
but one local man told us he always went
via Mongomo. I cant go by Cogo, he
said. Not any more. Two years ago, my
mother went that way. The sea was rough
and the boatman was drunk. The pirogue
capsized and she drowned.
There was still the problem of a driver, but
we could get to the border easily enough.
Then it was a case of nding a lift on to
Oyem, where we were fairly sure wed
be able to nd a driver or, if not, at the
very least a public bus, slow and difficult
as that would have been with Rebeccas
photographic equipment. We made the
decision over lunch at the French Cultural
Institute: Fuck it, lets just go.
The drive to Mongomo took three
hours and could hardly have gone
more smoothly. Its a beautiful route,
passing through thick tropical forest
that occasionally opens out to provide
breathtaking views of the mountains.
Usually youd need permits to travel outside
of the major cities, permits that would
take weeks to acquire if they could be
processed at all. For the Cup of Nations,
those regulations had been relaxed, the
police ordered to take a much more liberal
line. We were stopped at four checkpoints,
but at each one a ash of our accreditation
badges and a few cheery lines about what
a good right-back Kily was were enough to
get us through.
We arrived in Mongomo, the home town
of the president, Obiang Nguema, just as

night was falling, coming over the brow


of a hill to see, freakish in the darkness,
a large modern hotel to the right of the
road and, on rising ground to the left, a
vast oodlit basilica with a huge dome
and extensive cloisters. Obiang had built
it three years ago to try to persuade
the pope to visit on his tour of west
Africa. He failed and it now stands as yet
another incongruous reminder of where
the wealth in Equatorial Guinea lies. The
centre of town has been modelled on an
Italian piazza, complete with a clocktower that might have looked slightly
less tacky if it hadnt been illuminated by
ever-changing coloured lights. All around
were the typical low shacks, bars and
chicken-stalls of west central Africa.
After a comfortable night in what was
easily the best and emptiest African hotel
Ive ever stayed in, we headed up to the
border early the next morning. And that
was when the problems began.

It had been feared that Equatorial


Guinea would be a disaster as hosts.
They were ranked 151st in the world,
making them signicantly the worst
side in the tournament according to
Fifa. Only three of their squad were
actually born in Equatorial Guinea, the
rest drawn from across the globe and
comprised of those with Equatoguinean
heritage and those happy to accept a
passport of convenience. Their coach,
Henri Michel, had resigned a fortnight
before, citing unacceptable interference
from above. He was replaced by
the Brazilian Gilson Paulo. With
rumours of a camp split between the
Equatoguineans and the rest, his task
seemed impossible.

103

Victory Song

The co-hosts opponents in their


opening game were Libya, a team
brought together by the uprising against
Muammar Gaddaffi. Three of the squad
that had played in qualifying fought
on the front line. Only one made it to
the nals: Walid Al Kahatroushi. The
midelder Ahmed Al Saghir missed out
after being shot in the shoulder; the
goalkeeper Guma Mousa survived the
ghting only to damage knee ligaments
in a training game against a league side
in Tunisia. A number of players, including
Tariq Al Taib, the 34 year old widely held
still to be Libyas best midelder, were left
out for having backed Gaddaffi. Libyas
coach Marcos Paqueta insisted Al Taib
was too old, but most agreed he was
omitted for having described the rebels
as rats and dogs.

that football isnt just about tiki-taka


on carpet, but also about lion-hearted
slogging through the mud.

They may have been missing personnel,


but what Libya had shown in qualifying
was a doggedness, a desire to ght for
the new nation. They looked the more
coherent side in the early stages against
Equatorial Guinea, but the hosts had an
exuberance, a gleeful running style that,
though unsophisticated, clearly unsettled
Libyas back four. Eventually it was that
enthusiasm that won out, Javier Balboa
running on to Javier Ekedos through-ball
to shape in a superb sidefoot nish ve
minutes from time.

That was after 58 minutes, and it made


the unthinkable thinkable. Four minutes
later, it happened. Kily, Equatorial Guineas
adventurous right-back, found space
and sent over a perfect cross that eluded
Bouna Coundoul, the Senegal goalkeeper,
leaving Randy to head into an empty net.
Senegal kept ghting, but they lacked
their earlier ow. Moussa Sow headed a
Mamadou Niang cross just wide and then,
nally, just when it seemed theyd given
up hope, Sow equalised in the last minute,
hooking in as Niangs shot was blocked.

It was the second game, though, that


provided the real lump in the throat
moment. Torrential rain had led to a
75-minute delay and left the pitch soaked.
As Zambia chased a winner in the days
opening game, their players were reduced
to icking the ball up and volleying it
into the box. The puritans moaned and
decried it as a farce; everybody else just
sat back and enjoyed the fun, reasoning

The locals were deated. There was a


suggestion of offside. Somebody pointed
out that Zambia and Equatorial Guinea
could play out a draw that would see both
through. And then Ekanga laid the ball
square to Kily, a little over 25 yards out.
Perhaps Senegal, having dragged
themselves forward through the mud for
90 minutes, were exhausted. Perhaps,
having attacked for so long, the thought

104

Senegal should have been out of sight


by half-time. They were denied a penalty
when Laurence Doe tripped Issiar Ndia,
Demba Ba put two ne chances just wide
and Danilo made an excellent save to
thwart Papiss Demba Ciss. It seemed
just a matter of time before the goal that
would prompt an avalanche arrived, but
the longer it went without coming, the
more it came to seem it would never
happen. Senegal, becoming increasingly
desperate, grew ragged. They had a
warning when Ekangas square ball to
Fidjeu, which would have left the forward
with a clear strike on goal, failed to reach
him only because of the surface water.

Jonathan Wilson

of defending seemed beyond them.


Perhaps they were simply waiting for the
right-back from Langreo in the Spanish
fourth ight to belt the ball into the stand
so they could take the goal-kick and
launch another attack.
But Kily didnt belt the ball into the stand.
Kily, given space by Senegal, enjoyed
one of those moments when everything
comes together. He must have been
shattered, having ogged himself up
and down the right ank. He must have
been as deated as everybody else when
Senegal equalised. But here, here he
had a chance to put that right. Not a big
chance it required him to strike the
ball perfectly but a chance. And he
took it, striking the ball slightly to the
outside of his right instep so the ball
ashed with just a trace of left-to-right
swerve beyond the grope of Coundoul
and into the top corner.
After all the doubts, it was a goal
that redeemed the tournament.
Whatever you may think of the Obiang
government, theres no reason to deny
the Equatoguinean people their moment
of joy.

Equatorial Guinea does not have the best


of reputations. It comprises an island,
Bioko, on which stands the capital,
Malabo, and a small square of land
between Cameroon and Gabon. It is the
third smallest country in Africa and, until
the discovery of oil in the mid-nineties,
one of the least desirable. It belonged to
Spain for two centuries, most of which it
spent failing to sell it, even if the export of
cocoa made it one of the less poor parts
of the continent.

Independence was granted with, you


suspect, a large sigh of relief on the part
of Franco in 1968. The rst elections
were won by Macias Nguema, the son of
a well-respected but brutal witch-doctor
known as His Saintly Father. He had
done badly at a Spanish mission school,
but found work as a minor bureaucrat
and mayor of a small town before being
groomed for the presidency by Spaniards
who thought hed be sympathetic to
their interests.
As in so many other former colonies,
democracy was short-lived Francoist
Spain was hardly the best teacher and
Macias soon set about neutralising his
political rivals. Most gruesomely, one had
his legs broken and was starved to death.
Macias became increasingly paranoid,
and regularly purged his cabinet. So
many people attempted to ee that he
banned access to the coast and had the
main road out of the mainland part of the
country mined. One of those who did
get out was the former Arsenal full-back
Lauren, whose mother was pregnant with
him when she ed to Cameroon after her
husband, who was a senior politician, was
arrested. With the help of a relative in the
army, Laurens father escaped from jail
and made it to Cameroon and then Spain.
In total around 100,000 people,
around a third of the population, left.
In the 19th century, when malaria and
yellow fever had stalked the island, the
handful of colonialists who bothered
to visit described Bioko as Deaths
waiting room. It became such again.
Macias decided western medicine was
unAfrican and banned it, allowing
diseases such as leprosy to ourish where
once they had been all but eliminated.
War was waged against education.

105

Victory Song

Schools and newspapers were closed.


Food was scarce and there was rarely
any electricity at night. Macias, as a
Fang, persecuted the Bubis, the other
major ethnic group. He awarded
himself increasingly baroque titles,
and specialised in memorable acts of
cruelty, such as executing 150 dissidents
in the stadium in Malabo on Christmas
Day 1975 while a band played Those
were the Days. He ransomed foreign
prisoners and when, in 1976, a Soviet
jet crashed into Mount Cameroon,
the volcano that dominates Bioko, he
refused to release any bodies until $5m
had been paid in compensation for
damage to the mountain. Its widely
rumoured he was a cannibal. In short,
Macias was the model of the tin-pot
African dictator.
As such, he drew coup attempts real
ones, as well as those he imagined.
Frederick Forsyth writes of one such
attempt in his 1974 novel The Dogs of
War, supposedly a ctional account of an
attack on Zangaro, a made-up African
state clearly based on Equatorial Guinea. In
The Wonga Coup, Adam Roberts suggests
The Dogs of War is actually a detailed and
accurate account of a genuine attempt to
topple Macias a year earlier, which Forsyth
may have partly nanced, although he
insists the 100,000 he paid to various
arms dealers and mercenaries was purely
for information.
Macias ruled for six more years,
becoming increasingly mad. He was
partially blind and partially deaf and was
prone to twitches and jerks. He would
talk to those he had killed, sometimes
demanding places be set for them at
dinner. His rule was dependent on the
support of his nephew, Obiang Nguema,

106

the commander of the national guard


and the military governor of Fernando
Po (as Bioko was then known). By 1979,
Macias had retreated to a fortied villa in
Mongomo, on the mainland. Eventually
he stopped paying the military, and had
officers who asked for their salaries shot.
He was deposed on 3 August 1979 by
Obiang, and ed with suitcases full of
money to a wooden hut, where he took
villagers hostage and prepared for his last
battle in a bamboo bunker. He was nally
captured after erce ghting in the jungle
in which hundreds were killed. The hut
burned down, destroying somewhere
between $60m and $150m, the countrys
entire foreign reserves.
Imprisoned in a cage suspended from
the roof, Macias was tried in the cinema
in Malabo. Convicted of over 500
murders, he was sentenced to death and
executed by ring squad. Obiang had
been at the very least complicit in
the previous regimes atrocities and, if he
seemed moderate by comparison, that
wasnt saying much.
Life pottered on in Equatorial Guinea
until the mid-nineties, when the
discovery of oil produced a sudden,
barely conceivable inux of wealth. Most
of it remains in the hands of a select
few. Obiangs sympathisers point out
that he has built roads and hospitals
and has encouraged investment from,
particularly, China and the USA. Others
note that in June 2005, to take just one
example, Obiangs son Teodorin bought
a Lamborghini and two Bentleys to park
outside his $4m mansion in Cape Town.
On another celebrated occasion, he
invited French journalists to watch him
buy 30 tailored suits in one afternoon
spree in Paris

Jonathan Wilson

With the power lying with one family,


Equatorial Guinea has proved tempting
to those seeking to help themselves to
a slice of the oil revenues. Most notably,
in 2004 the British former-SAS officer
Simon Mann led a coup attempt that
was allegedly partly nanced by Mark
Thatcher. Believing he had the tacit
support of the Spanish, US and South
African governments, he ew with a few
dozen mercenaries to Harare, where he
was intercepted and jailed. Eventually
extradited to Equatorial Guinea, he served
two years in the notorious Black Beach jail
before being released in November 2009.

That Zambia might be something special


rst became apparent at the 1988
Olympics, Kalusha Bwalya scoring a
hat-trick as they thrashed a strong Italy
side 4-0. It was a result that reverberated;
this wasnt a 1-0 freak achieved through
89 minutes of defending and one
lucky breakaway: it was a win based on
complete domination. Kalusha (Bwalya
is such a common surname in Zambia
that hes widely known by his rst name
there were two other Bwalyas in the
side that beat Italy; Kalushas brother
Joel and the unrelated Johnson, who
scored the other goal) was the star of that
side, a technically gifted and powerful
forward. When he was 20, he was spotted
by a Belgian scout and moved from his
hometown club of Mufulira to Cercle
Brugge, and then, after the Olympics,
to PSV Eindhoven. It was a transfer that
saved his life.
A defeat away to Tunisia in their nal
qualier meant Zambia missed out on
the 1990 World Cup, but their football
generally was lifted by the Olympics.

Nkana Red Devils reached the African


Champions Cup nal in 1990 and Power
Rangers won the African Cup-Winners
Cup the following year. The eighties had
seen signicant investment in the sport
both directly from the government and
from the nationalised copper industry,
spurred by the fact that the president,
Kenneth Kaunda, so clearly loved football.
Many politicians attach themselves to
the game, but his passion was genuine,
and he would turn up to watch lower
league xtures for no reason other than
that he enjoyed it. So closely associated
was Kaunda with the national team that it
became known as the KK XI.
He ruled Zambia for 27 years, but by the late
eighties the economy was a mess, partly
because the end of the Cold War made
Kaundas version of socialism unworkable.
Zambia had to withdraw from hosting the
1988 Cup of Nations when funding ran
out and Kaunda was nally voted out of
office in 1991. As the copper mines passed
into private hands, nancing for football
began to dry up. Travel to away games
became increasingly difficult, with the
national federation (FAZ) lacking the funds
to charter planes or even to pay for seats on
passenger aircraft. Frequently they would
turn to the Zambian Air Force (ZAF) and ask
to borrow a jet. Their poverty wasnt just a
result of economic circumstance; in August
1992, shortly before World Cup qualifying
began, the chairman of the FAZ, Jabes
Zulu, and an associate, Wilfrid Monani,
were suspended after funds earned on a
tour of Korea vanished.
Zambia won their rst two games in the
rst-qualifying phase, but then faced a trip
to Madagascar. As so often, they ended up
borrowing a Buffalo from the ZAF. When
they stopped for refuelling in Malawi, there

107

Victory Song

was a dispute over payment. After hours


trapped on the runway, the plane eventually
took off again for the ve-hour trip over
the Indian Ocean. The pilot insisted the
players should wear their life-jackets. The
players joked about it, and Johnson Bwalya
took some light-hearted photographs, but
there was an awareness that this wasnt
really something to laugh about. The boys,
Kalusha told Ian Hawkey in The Feet of the
Chameleon, always used to say, This plane
will kill us some day.
Zambia lost that game, which led to
Samuel Nhdlovu being sacked as coach.
His replacement, Godfrey Chitalu, then
fell ill, but as he recovered so did the
team. But not the FAZs nances. Flying
home on the Buffalo from a Cup of
Nations qualier from Mauritius, the
young forward Kelvin Mutale spoke to
the journalist Beauty Lupiya, telling her
that even if the plane crashed theyd be
safe because it would oat. She told him
not to be so morbid, but noticed how the
plane struggled to gain altitude.
A week later, the players boarded
the plane again for the game against
Senegal. Kalusha and Charles Musonda
of Anderlecht had missed the Mauritius
game and so were to make their own
way to West Africa. The planes captain,
Feston Mhone, wanted to y from Lusaka
to Brazzaville, then on to Libreville and
Abidjan before nally arriving in Dakar,
the sheer number of refuelling stops
suggesting how unsuitable a vehicle it was
for the journey. There was, as so often,
a delay, because as a military craft the
Buffalo was denied permission to cross
Congolese air space.
The decision was taken to y directly
to Libreville. The Buffalo landed and

108

refuelled. According to the Gabonese


Minister of Transport it underwent routine
checks and then took off again. Two
minutes later, it exploded, killing all ve
crew and 25 passengers. Whether the
Buffalo oated or not was irrelevant.
Mutale, then 23, was one of those killed.
Six members of the 88 Olympic squad,
including the goalkeeper Efford Chabala
died. So too did the 19-year-old Moses
Chikwalakwala, Zambias Young Player of
the Year in 1992. And so did the 24-yearold forward Timothy Mwitwa, who left a
pregnant wife, Cleopatra. She went into
labour on the day of the mass funeral.
There were claims the plane had been
shot down by the Gabonese military,
mistaking it for an invasionary force (or, in
another version of the tale, of a political
opponent of the president Omar Bongo).
Diplomatic relations between Gabon and
Zambia were shattered, neither country
wanting to pay for an investigation and
each trying to put the blame on the other.
There were even protests in Libreville that
mortuary facilities were being used for
the Zambians rather than for local people.
Being a military plane, there was no black
box. Eventually, in 2003 the official report
was released. It was inconclusive, but
blamed a defect in the left engine.
Kalusha became the centrepiece of a
new team, which came to be known not
as the KK XI, but as the Chipolopolo, the
Copper-headed Bullets. Remarkably,
under two Danish coaches and then
Ian Portereld, a young side rallied.
Kalusha scored an equaliser in Zimbabwe
that took Zambia to the 1994 Nations
Cup. They fought back in World Cup
qualifying, but were denied an emotional
qualication when they lost to Morocco
in their nal game. Twice Zambia hit

Jonathan Wilson

the post, and they also protested about


the refereeing of Jean-Fidel Diramba
who, by a dreadful quirk, was Gabonese.
Innuendoes against Gabon, the Times
of Zambia wrote, will continue to y for
as long as memories of the crash, the
frustrated searchers, the cynical, almost
triumphant grin of a referee named
Diramba linger on in the Zambian mind.
There was still the Cup of Nations.
Zambia were impressive, seemed to have
momentum. They reached the semi-nal,
and beat Mali 4-0. But the Nigeria of
Sunday Oliseh, Rashidi Yekini and Jay-Jay
Okocha were too strong in the nal and
won 2-1. And for that team, that was that.
Kalusha is now president of the FAZ. It
was as vice-president, after the failure to
qualify for the 2006 World Cup, that he
performed his greatest deed for Zambian
football, putting together a side from the
youth ranks and urging the administration
to stick by them for at least four years. In
African football, a little long-term planning
goes a long way. Zambia were impressive
in Angola in 2010, and had the better of a
quarter-nal against Nigeria before losing
on penalties. That they might be even
better this time round became apparent
in their opening game, as they picked
apart a much-fancied Senegal side on
the break, the centre-forward Emmanuel
Mayuka and the exciting left-sided
midelder Rainford Kalaba scoring within
the opening 21 minutes.
They followed that up with a 2-2 draw in a
torrential rainstorm against Libya, leaving
them needing a win over Equatorial
Guinea in their nal match to top the
group. As Herv Renard, their French
coach, pointed out, his side had never lost
a Cup of Nations game when he wore

a white shirt (in Angola, Zambia had lost


only to Cameroon, and on that occasion
he had switched to blue). Suddenly
Hervs shirt, unbuttoned the requisite
two buttons form the collar, became a
totemic item.

Remarkably, the drama of Kilys goal


was surpassed two days later. In beating
Niger 2-0 in their opening game, Gabon
had suggested they were perhaps good
enough not merely to be plucky hosts but
potential champions. They played with
pace and uidity, the link-up between
the overlapping right-back Edmond
Mouele and the right-sided of three
mobile forwards Stphane Nguma, in
particular, catching the eye. The raw
attributes of forward Pierre-Emerick
Aubameyang, once of AC Milan and now
at Saint-tienne, cleverly deployed on
the left so he could attack the back post,
are well known, but here he showed an
intelligence and control that suggested he
was maturing into his ability.
It was against Morocco in their second
game, though, that Gabon really showed
their mettle. Morocco were much fancied,
part of a clutch of sides, along with Tunisia
and Senegal, ranked as contenders if Cte
dIvoire and Ghana slipped up. They had
been a little unfortunate to lose to Tunisia
in their opening game, undone by their
own proigacy in front of goal and by a
superb winner from Youssef Msakni.
At half-time against Gabon, though,
they led, Houssine Kharja having run on
to a pass from the playmaker Youns
Belhanda, turned Mouele as he tried to
cover for Rmy Ebanega, and nished
neatly. Half-time saw the introduction

109

Victory Song

of Daniel Cousin, 34 years of age and


signicantly heftier than he had been in
his Rangers pomp, and his aerial presence
turned the game. Gabon attacked in great
waves, both with long balls and with
sweeping crosses, blow after blow landing
until Morocco nally succumbed with 13
minutes remaining. Yet another cross was
only half-cleared and Aubameyang, 15
yards out, smashed in an emphatic volley.
Fans poured from the stands onto the
running track around the pitch. In the
VIP area, Sylvia Bongo, the presidents
wife, stood, arms aloft, in celebration.
It took more than two minutes for the
game to restart. Morocco initially went
backwards, presumably looking to hold
the ball and draw some of the heat from
the atmosphere. The Gabonese wave
overwhelmed them, though, and they
surrendered possession. Aubameyang
crossed, Cousin turned sharply and
tucked a shot between Mehdi Benatias
legs and in off the post. From the game
restarting to the ball crossing the line took
36 seconds. The celebrations reached an
unimaginable new pitch of intensity.
But there was more. Morocco, somehow,
rallied. In the nal minute, Belhanda
shot, the ball striking the thigh of Charly
Moussono and cannoning into his hand.
It was borderline whether it could be
deemed deliberate, but the Gambian
referee Bakary Gassama was admirably
decisive. Even if you disagreed with his
judgement as, having reviewed the
replay, I think I do it spoke volumes
for the standard of refereeing at the
tournament that he was prepared in
an atmosphere like that to give a late
penalty against the home team. Kharja
calmly sent Didier Ovono the wrong way
from the spot.

110

Gabon resumed the assault. Morocco


wasted time. Gassama added it on. In
the sixth added minute, Benatia clattered
through the back of Andr Poko on the
left corner of the box. It was a crude,
nonsensical foul, likely only to cause
injury and put his side under pressure.
Poko had to go off, delaying the freekick. Bruno Mbanangoy had almost
two minutes to measure his shot, which
he delivered perfectly, whipping his
shot over the wall and into the top left
corner. On the touchline Gernot Rohr,
the impassive coach of Gabon, allowed
himself a gentle smile, stretching out
a hand and urging his players to calm
down. There was nothing calm about
the writhing yellow shirts in the stand,
though, not in the presidents box, where
Ali Bongo waved manically.
Almost unnoticed the nal whistle blew,
Gabon were in the quarter-nal, Morocco
were out, and what was probably the
nest, most dramatic game in any major
international tournament in the last
decade was over. After the protracted
tedium of Angola, a game that will never
be forgotten by those who were there
came as a great relief. The rest of the
tournament couldnt live up to the heights
of those three days, but at least this was a
tournament that had heights.

A couple of years ago, Rebecca was


detained by police for photographing
a tailors shop in a market in Malabo,
despite having permission. She was
released only when she deleted the
shots. Fortunately, shed managed to
delete more inammatory shots of the
slums in the car on the way to the police
station. Back then, she said, you didnt

Jonathan Wilson

dare make eye contact with police for fear


they would react by taking a phone or
a camera or lashing out with the batons
they all carried. Orders had clearly gone
out to them to calm down.
Malabo remains a very odd place. The
stadium was in Banapa, about 10 minutes
south of the centre of town. The road
linking the two was lined with luxury
apartments, apparently empty, while
behind them stretched slums. They
seemed quite orderly, well-maintained
slums Kilys comment that in
Equatorial Guinea there was poverty but
not starvation sounded about right
but the juxtaposition was uncomfortable.
And besides, given the CIA World
Factbook for 2010 ranks Equatorial
Guinea as the 21st richest country in
the world in terms of GDP per capital
(derived from purchasing power parity),
ahead of Germany, the United Kingdom,
Japan and France, theres no reason why
there should be slums at all.
On a rare quiet day, we headed down the
coast and inland, over the ridge of Pico
Baca, in search of a monkey sanctuary.
We never found it, and not just because I
confused the Spanish words for monkey
and monk. We reached Moka, the village
where the park was supposed to be,
but there was no sign of it, so we kept
driving, following the road until we ended
up going through an orange concrete
gateway into a large space where a
large house was being built. The orange
concrete should have been warning
enough. Obiang loves the colour: both
his palace in Malabo and the 52 villas
he built for the presidents attending the
African Union congress at Sipopo in 2011
are orange. As a solider chased us out,
the realisation dawned that this was yet

another palace under construction. We


were told to head back into the village
and register, but as we returned, we saw
a road off to the left. Checking nobody
was following us we took it, headed
40-50 yards into the forest and came
upon a T-junction. To the right, the
road simply stopped, but the left it was
broad and straight and well-marked. We
followed it, vaguely aware we were going
back towards the palace. Something felt
wrong: it was too straight, too at. We
saw what appeared to be a roundabout
in front of us; as we got closer, it turned
out it was a helipad. And thats when the
thought occurred that this wasnt a road
at all but an airstrip, or at least a road that
could be used as an airstrip, presumably
built for Obiangs private use. We swiftly
turned round and made for the village, a
ramshackle place of wooden huts, mud
roads and one extraordinary church
which had a roof and a spire but no walls.
That contrast of wealth and poverty was
everywhere. It was about 10 minutes from
my hotel to the stadium, a walk that went
from large modern concrete buildings,
through low shacks and stalls selling beer
and chicken, past a patch of waste ground
where two goats tethered to the bumper
of a derelict car grazed dyspeptically, on
to a major six-lane road and then in to a
modern sports complex that included not
just the stadium but also a sports hall and
a swimming pool.
The stadium there was small, with a
capacity of just 15,000, which was
probably about right for the interest
shown by the local populace. Outside of
Bata Equatorial Guinea offered nothing
like the same threat. The captain,
Juvenal, admitted fans were nothing
like as hot in the capital. It didnt seem

111

Victory Song

full for a disappointingly tame game


against Zambia, who comfortably held
the co-hosts at arms length in the rst
half before nding a winner with a low
Christopher Katongo shot in the second.
That condemned Equatorial Guinea to
another game in Malabo, this time against
Cte dIvoire. When theyd rst arrived on
Bioko, Equatorial Guinea had ended up
staying in the same hotel as the Ivorians
in Sipopo. We took photographs with
them, Kily said. They treated us very
well. Which pretty much summed up the
difference: the glamorous Premier League
stars against the amateurs from the lower
leagues in Spain.
Sipopo itself was another of Obiangs
projects. He hosted the African Union
congress there, and had an articial beach
built to compliment the hotel. In the bay,
locals still sh from their canoes, paddling
around under the gaze of a gunboat that
guards the harbour.
Equatorial Guinea moved out of the
hotel, but the relationship of autographhunters to celebrities seemed replicated
on the pitch, an atmosphere not helped
by a crowd that reacted with rapturous
applause to even the simplest clearances.
Drogba had already missed a penalty
when he capitalised on a mistake by the
centre-back Rui, turned inside him and his
central defensive partner Lawrence Doe
and nished powerfully and calmly. As
they had in every previous game, having
gone ahead, Cte dIvoire sat back, but
this time they added two further goals,
Drogba heading in a Yaya Tour delivery
before Tour bent another free-kick in off
the inside of the post.
It was a typical performance from
the Ivorians, who had adopted a self-

112

consciously risk-averse approach


from the start. For six years they have
been burdened by expectation, by the
awareness that it will be a long time, if
ever, before they again have a generation
of players as gifted as the Tours, Didier
Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Dider Zokora,
Emmanuel Ebou and Gervinho.
They should have won in Egypt in
2006, Drogba, who had had a superb
tournament, missing a sitter 10 minutes
from time in the nal and then having his
penalty saved in the shootout as Cte
dIvoire lost to the hosts. Two years later,
in Ghana, they were strong favourites,
bludgeoned their way through the early
rounds, beating Benin 4-1 and Guinea
5-0, before running into an Amr Zakiinspired Egypt in the semi-nal. The
Pharaohs won 4-1, and Kolo Tour seems
never quite to recovered. Two years
later, Cte dIvoire beat the eventual
nalists Ghana 3-1 in the group stage, but
somehow contrived to lose to Algeria in
the quarter-nal, conceding an equaliser
in injury-time and then, unable to lift
themselves, what turned out to be the
winner two minutes into extra-time.
The Leicester centre-back Sol Bamba
admitted that game played on their minds
no matter how hard they tried not to think
of it, and most of the talk in the build up
concerned itself with the need to put past
traumas behind them something that,
of course, kept those traumas always on
the surface. Franois Zahoui, the Cte
dIvoire coach, even admitted his side had
been guilty of complacency in the past. He
seemed determined nobody should ever
say that of his side. They played football
stripped to the essentials, eliminating risk
as far as they could. The focus became on,
as Bamba put it in his incongruous east of

Jonathan Wilson

Scotland accent, keeping the back door


shut, waiting for chances to occur rather
than hunting them out.
They set the tone of unspectacular solidity
against Sudan in their rst game, taking
the lead six minutes before half-time as
Didier Drogba nodded in a left-wing cross
from Salomon Kalou. Yaya Tour had
been playing high up the pitch till then,
almost off Drogba with Jean-Jacques
Gosso and Cheik Tiot holding, but for
much of the second half he patrolled in
front of the back four. It was necessary
as well, for Sudan, having settled, began
to hold possession well, the forward
Mudathir El-Tahir clipping the bar with a
curler and then having a header tipped
over by Boubacar Barry. Cte dIvoire held
out to win 1-0.
They went on to beat Burkina Faso 2-0,
thanks to a Salomon Kalou strike and an
own-goal, while Sudan kept alive their
hopes of qualication with a 2-2 draw
against Angola. There was an unpleasant
arrogance about Angola, a sense of
entitlement that was never really justied
on the pitch. Manucho looked sharp and
scored three goals, but in both their 2-1
win over Burkina Faso and against Sudan,
they scored only through defensive errors.
Sudan, meanwhile, with an entirely
domestic-based squad, were rather more
impressive than many had expected. They
were neat and composed in mideld
and in Mudathir and Muhannad Tahir had
two genuinely threatening strikers. Their
problem seemed almost a lack of selfbelief as much as anything, as though
panic occasionally set in leading them
to soft concessions. When they forgot
themselves and just played, there was a
pleasing uency to their football.

Angola needed a point against Cte


dIvoire in their nal group game to be
sure of reaching the quarter-nal for the
third successive tournament and turned
up as though it were a formality. Cte
dIvoire elded a much-changed side, but
were still far too good for them, Ebou
tapping in after 32 minutes after Miguel
had missed a Wilfried Bony cross before
Dani Massunguni headed a long clearance
over his own goalkeeper allowing Wilfried
to run on and lash into an empty net.
Two Mudather goals gave Sudan a 2-1
victory over Burkina, and that put them
through at Angolas expense. The Angolan
response was to deploy their own riot
police on secondment in Malabo for
the duration of the tournament to
prevent journalists speaking to players in
the post-game mixed zone.
The hosts went out with more dignity,
but barely a whimper. Nobody
seemed too bothered: theyd gone
far further than anybody expected.
Ruslan Obiang Nsue, the head of the
local organising committee, spoke
boldly of the legacy of the tournament,
and insisted there were plans for a
government-subsidised championship.
We are studying the possibility of a
professional league, he said. The clubs
are very small here so the federation
is negotiating with the government a
possible subsidy to try to bring in players
from other countries, so that football is
stronger. When you bring a player from
Cameroon, Angola and pay 3000 a
month, that will make the championship
more attractive. Well, maybe.
Perhaps the training facilities will inspire
a surge of interest, but the pitiful crowds
for games not including the hosts
suggests there is little interest or at

113

Victory Song

least, little interest beyond the glamour


of the European game. If your regular
experience of football is in a bar watching
on television, then why make the effort
to go to a stadium? Ticket prices of
5000 francs (6.25 in a country in which,
according to EG Watch, 70% of the
population lives on under 1.60 a day)
were only a further disincentive. In the
end, fans were admitted to the semi-nals
for free, but that was done so late and was
so badly organised that the improvement
was only slight.

Gabon had beaten Tunisia in a surprisingly


brutal third group game, but their
tournament came to an end in the
quarter-nal against a Mali side coached
by Alain Giresse. The former France
midelder preceded Rohr as coach of
Gabon, beginning their steady rise, and
was roundly booed when his rumpled
face appeared on the big screen. He
reacted, or rather didnt react, with the
magnicently Gallic indifference that
characterised his demeanour throughout
the tournament.
The hosts had the better of an edgy rst
half, Aubameyang hitting the post with a
lob after being set through by Cousin. Ten
minutes into the second, they took the
lead, Aubameyang cutting the ball back
for Eric Mouloungui, whose shot icked
in off Seydou Keitas thigh. Although
Modibo Maga drew a ne low save out of
Didier Ovono, diving low to his right, the
Gabonese surge that followed the goal
threatened to overwhelm Mali. Cousin
miscued in front of goal and hit the post
with a chance he should have buried.
Giresse remained phlegmatic.

114

But slowly, Mali came back. Giresse


looked dispassionately on. A mistake
from Mose Brou Apanga let in Mustapha
Yatabar. Ovono saved Gabon once
again. The goal, though, was coming and
it arrived six minutes from time, Maga
heading down a right-wing cross for the
substitute Cheick Diabat, whose well-hit
shot was past Ovono before he could get
down to it. Extra-time failed to produce a
winner, and so it went to penalties.
As so often, the ignominy of missing
the decisive kick fell on the wrong
person. Aubameyang had been superb
in the tournament, quick and muscular,
scoring three goals and offering an
outlet from the back from a position
to the left of centre. He was the star,
feted to the extent that Sylvia Bongo
wore an Aubameyang 9 shirt. Up till
that moment, he had delivered, but
Soumbela Diakit, the Mali goalkeeper,
read his stuttered run, and saved low to
his left. Aubameyang stood alone and
disconsolate in the centre-circle, barely
able to watch as Bakaye Traor put Mali
ahead. Bruno Ecuele dinked in a panenka,
which left Keita with a penalty to win it.
He looked drained as he stepped up, but
rolled his kick in condently enough as
Ovono went the wrong way.
For Aubameyang it was too much. He
wept, openly and uncontrollably, and in
the end had to be helped off the pitch
by his father, himself a former Gabon
international. Sylvia Bongo applauded
sympathetically, while her husband
sat glumly, arm resting on his splayed
thighs. Often weeping footballers seem
self-indulgent, spoiled brats kicking up
a fuss because theyve been denied yet
another title; Aubameyang, though,
elicited sympathy. Gabon will probably

Jonathan Wilson

never again have such a good chance


of winning a tournament. That was to a
large extent because of Aubameyang, and
yet the fact they went out was, however
unfair it may be, incontrovertibly because
of him. That is why penalties are so cruel.
And who can imagine the pressure when
the presidents wife wears your shirt?
Still, his pain was soon placed into context
by Keita, who broke down in tears during
his post-match interview. Im appealing
to the people to stop, he said. Its not
normal, we dont do that. We need peace,
we are all Malians. The president of the
republic needs to do the most he can to
stop it. We are celebrating our win but at
the same time we feel very sad. There is a
sadness among the players.
That weekend, 20 people were conrmed
to have been killed in clashes between
Tuareg separatists and government troops
near Timbuktu, while there had been
rioting in the capital Bamako in protest at
the armys inability to contain the rebel
action. Around 15,000 Malians are believed
to have ed into neighbouring Niger and
Mauritania, with large numbers of Tuareg
leaving Bamako for fear of reprisals.
The Tuareg have been ghting a separatist
war in the north-east for years, with
major outbreaks of ghting between
1990 and 1995 then from 2007 to 2009.
They are a nomadic people, wandering
across the desert regions of Algeria,
Libya, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, largely
ignoring national borders. Colonel Gadaffi
sponsored that second uprising, intending
to destabilise the government in Bamako.
After it was defeated, many of the rebels
ed to Libya, where they helped shore
up the Gadaffi regime. When Gadaffi fell,
between 2000 and 4000 depending

whose account you believe ed across


the border into the mountains northeastern Mali, laden with arms and cash.
Its they who are behind the National
Movement for the Liberation of Azawad
(the north-eastern part of Mali comprising
Timbuktu, Kidal and Gau). The Malian
government accuses them of links with
Al-Qaeda, although they deny it.
My rst Cup of Nations was in Mali in
2002 and I recall the country with great
fondness, in particular Mopti, a sleepy
town on the Niger that proudly declared
itself the Venice of Africa. George Weah
played his nal ever international there
and, as the Liberia team bus drove across
the causeway to the stadium, which
stood in the middle of a marshy lagoon,
he was welcomed by the local scout
troop waving ags. Now the threat of
kidnapping is so high that Mopti is a nogo area for foreigners. Half the country is
effectively in a state of war.

As soon as Gabon conceded the


equaliser, the thought had occurred that
a Mali v Cte dIvoire semi-nal wasnt
going to be that interesting. Id only
arrived in Libreville that morning, catching
a 3.30am ight from Malabo. Id arranged
a room in a house with other journalists.
In Libreville, residential areas tend not to
have addresses so Id been given a mobile
number to ring and told to ask for Joel.
It had a pleasing feel of the spy movie,
but I cant say I had much condence.
Joel, though, answered his phone at the
second ring, seemed to understand my
hesitant French, and soon turned up to
give me a lift.
Watching Ghana beat Tunisia on the TV

115

Victory Song

in the press centre I idly searched ights


online nothing, but then many of the
local companies dont have websites.
When Ghana took the lead through John
Mensah, I decided Id go. Ghana v Zambia
meant two Anglophone teams and I
hadnt seen Ghana live; it seemed wrong
to cover a nal potentially having watched
one team ve times and the other not at
all. But then Tunisia levelled through Saber
Khelifa. Tunisia v Zambia sounded a lot
less enticing.

further email was sent out. The visas had


been delayed, but would be ready soon.
By the beginning of January I was starting
to get a little anxious; after all, Id already
sorted out various bits of work and paid
for ights, while hotels were asking for
money transfers in advance.

In extra-time the Tunisia goalkeeper


Aymen Mathlouthi dropped the simplest
of crosses and Dd Ayew rolled in.
The trip was back on and, as Tunisia lost
their discipline, Aymen Abdennour being
sent off for an elbow to Ayews chin and
Khalil Chemmam lucky to escape similar
sanction moments later for a kick to
Ayews chest, it never looked like being
off. Ayew, to his credit, responded to the
attempt at intimidation by picking up the
ball, darting through three challenges
into the box, and then laying it off with
a neat backheel. As his hair thins and
his moustache thickens, he is looking
increasingly like his father, Abedi Pel, and
hes playing more and more like him too.

Finally, word came through that Gabon


would be releasing the tournament visas
on January 9, but only to their embassies
in Africa. If you were based elsewhere,
you needed to get a letter from the
local organising committee in Gabon (a
whole new thicket of inefficiency to hack
through), which you could then present
at Libreville airport where the visa would
be arranged. It wasnt, I confess, a plan
that lled me with any great condence,
partly because a journalist friend of
mine was once detained for several
hours in a holding pen for suspected
illegal immigrants at Libreville airport
because he didnt have exactly the right
documentation, and partly because
Im not convinced airline staff would
even have let me on the plane without
a visa. And, anyway, I was going rst to
Malabo, where a letter from Gabon was
meaningless.

So on the Monday morning, 28 hours


after Id arrived, a German journalist and I
started looking for an agency that could
sell me a ticket to Bata. That I even had
a visa to get back into Equatorial Guinea
seemed miraculous. Id made initial
inquiries about three months before
the tournament began and was told
that special tournament visas, allowing
multiple entry to both countries, would
be available from December. A little later,
CAF sent out an email conrming that
the tournament visas would be released
on December 20. On December 19, a

At least Gabon, though, was doing


something. The poor woman at the
Equatoguinean embassy in London
wearily repeated day after day that
nobody had told her anything and
she had no idea what was going on.
Eventually, eight days before I left for
Malabo, we decided it was best for me to
apply for a standard Equatoguinean visa.
Two days before I was due to leave, I was
told my application had been rejected; I
was apparently missing a particular letter
from CAF that had never previously been
mentioned. That day, I reconciled myself

116

Jonathan Wilson

to the fact that I wouldnt be going. The


next day, though, I got hold of that rarest
of things: somebody in the CAF office
with the wherewithal and inclination to
make things happen.
I went to the embassy, rang him on my
mobile and handed it over to the woman
behind the desk. What was said in their
ten-minute conversation I have no idea,
but something changed. The woman
wrote down three phone numbers, smiled
at me and told me to come back in two
hours. When I did, she handed me the
visa. It was the same with Angola two
years ago; in the end I only got the visa
because Manuel, the incredibly helpful
official on the consular desk, opened
up when he was supposed to be shut
for Christmas, rang the local organising
committee in Luanda, and shouted at
somebody there until they sent the official
letter he needed to process my visa (I
dont speak Portuguese, but his tone
suggested hed become as frustrated by
my daily visits as I had). I nally collected
the Equatoguinean visa 16 hours before
I ew, although by then the Malabo
government had issued a letter similar
to the Gabonese one to be presented at
the airport. When Id eventually arrived in
Gabon, getting the tournament visa had
proved simple enough, and that meant
I could, at least in theory, travel freely
between each country for the duration of
the competition.
None of this might seem very relevant:
that getting visas for some African nations
is difficult is hardly a surprise. But my
point is this: why did Equatorial Guinea
and Gabon, and Angola before them, bid
to host a Cup of Nations? Why did they
invest hundreds of millions of pounds in
lobbying and then building the necessary
infrastructure? It was, fairly obviously, to

help promote the country, to give the


impression, as the Angola captain of 2010
Fabrice Akwa said, that the country is not
just about war, oil and poverty, to suggest
that these are somehow normal countries
ready to embrace foreign tourists and
investment. Perhaps they even thought
the tournament itself might draw fans
and tourists. In which case, making it
prohibitively difficult for journalists and
visitors to get into the country probably
isnt the best idea. If it was for security
reasons, if everybody had to apply early so
they could be rigorously checked, it might
be justiable, but it clearly wasnt: in the
end I was waved through with minimal
documentation as, presumably, given
the last-minute nature of the process, was
everybody else. This was incompetence,
pure and simple. When you see such
a costly project stymied by such basic
inefficiency, you fear not just from African
football but for Africa itself.
I found an agency at around 1030 that
could get me on a ight at 1400, going
rst to So Tom and then on to Malabo,
where Id have two hours to make a
connection to Bata. The agency didnt
take credit cards few places in Gabon
or Equatorial Guinea do so I popped
out to nd a cash-point. I found one
just over the road, but it swallowed my
card. I went in to the bank next door and
explained what had happened. The man
isnt here, said the woman at the desk.
Come back this afternoon. I explained
I couldnt as I had a plane to catch.
Come back on Friday, she said. I actually
went back the following Monday and,
remarkably, the card was waiting for me.
Cursing, I went back to the agency. The
German had decided not to travel, but
he had enough cash on him to pay for

117

Victory Song

my ticket, so I dashed back to the hotel,


picked up my bag and went on to the
airport. The ight began to board only
a few minutes late, but when I got to
the desk they stopped me. It turned out
there was a group of Chinese passengers
in So Tom who needed to be brought
back to Libreville, so they planned to y
there, pick them up, come back, and only
then take the remaining eight passengers
to Malabo.
I had no idea how far So Tom was, so I
looked it up and calculated that it could
return as early as 1645, but that it had
to turn up by 1715 if we were to have
any chance of making the connection
(assuming the connection left on time,
which of course isnt common in Africa). It
touched down at 1714.
The Atlantic seemed to stretch on forever,
dully and unchangingly grey, but we
landed at 1850. As we disembarked to take
the bus to the terminal, I saw another plane
with the same livery boarding across the
aireld. I asked if that was the Bata plane
and, when the steward conrmed it was, I
asked if I could just run across. He shook
his head but shouted something into his
radio. Within seconds a minibus turned up
and the ve of us for that ight piled in.
What about the bags? somebody asked,
so we all got off again and grabbed our
things from the hold, before screeching
over the rough tarmac to the other plane.
Astonishingly, I touched down in Bata
exactly on schedule.
There was just one problem: the official at
Bata assumed Id cleared immigration at
Malabo. I hadnt.

118

Ghana had arrived at the Cup of Nations


as second favourites, but aside from the
second group match in which they beat
Mali 2-0, they never really lived up to that.
Injuries to John Mensah and Asmaoah
Gyan, both of whom tried to play through
the pain, clearly hadnt helped and with
Isaac Vorsah carrying a two-game ban into
the tournament and Mensah then being
sent off for a professional foul against
Botswana, their coach Goran Stevanovi
was unable to maintain any consistency
of selection. What was notable before
the semi-nal against Zambia was how
condent their players were. This wasnt
the humble Ghana of two years ago at the
Cup of Nations or even the World Cup;
it would be going too far to call them
arrogant, but there was an expectation
of victory, as though Zambia were a
hurdle that would inevitably fall before the
preordained nal against Cte dIvoire.
Except, as Renard kept saying, destiny
favoured Zambia. From the moment
he had brought his squad together on
December 28 one of the advantages
of having a side with very few Europeanbased players they had talked about
going to Libreville for the nal. They sat
deep against Ghana, frustrated them, got
lucky as Asamoah Gyan missed a penalty
and secured their win as Kalabas forward
surge created space for Mayuka, who
turned and curled in a superb nish from
just outside the box. As Ghanas players
stood dejectedly by the side of the pitch,
as though unable to believe they had lost,
Davies Nkausu, a full-back who struggles
to get a game for SuperSport United in
South Africa, raced past them brandishing
a Zambian ag. Christopher Katongo
and the rest of the side soon followed, to
dance together in the centre-circle.

Jonathan Wilson

In the other semi-nal, Cte dIvoire


completed a quotidian 1-0 win over Mali,
Gervinho nally doing something right in
an otherwise miserable tournament for
him, spinning on halfway, nutmegging
Ousmane Berthe, and running 50 yards
unchallenged before slotting a nish
inside the far post. The decision to go to
Bata was emphatically justied.

handed me the passport with the stamp.

What can I do? I asked in uncertain


French, hoping the guard would offer a
price to begin negotiations. He merely
repeated that I needed an entry stamp.

We got a lift in the back of a pick-up on


to Oyem, and then found a car there to
drive us back the nine hours to Libreville,
a glorious journey through the foothills on
a road lined by banana and bamboo, like
the illustration of a jungle in a childrens
book. Only on the outskirts of Libreville
did we run into a problem, the notuncommon issue of an African policeman
who sees white people and smells bribes.
Finding our papers frustratingly in order,
he tried to ne the driver for not having
a re extinguisher before settling for the
smaller charge of a technical breach of his
taxi licence.

Rebecca, fortunately, speaks the


language uently and, as a seasoned war
photographer is used to dealing with
unhelpful officialdom. She explained Id
come in via Malabo and that immigration
in Bata must have made a mistake, not
realising Id own from Gabon.
The guard sighed. How do I know he
hasnt come in illegally? he asked. We
have foreigners coming in through the
bush.
Really? English foreigners?
Rebecca asked with an incredulity so
magnicent you could see the doubt
take root in his face.
And if he knew a route in through the
bush, why would he be leaving this way?
The guard nodded thoughtfully. The
production of my boarding passes from
Libreville to Malabo and Malabo to Bata
convinced him. Hed have to get the chief,
he said, but there wouldnt be a problem.
My hands were still shaking when he

At the Gabonese checkpoint, the only


problem was the dimness of the guard,
who took around 40 minutes to ll in
a very simple form, and even then only
completed it because his boss came in
to nd out why it was taking so long,
clipped him around the top of the head
and yanked out his earphones with an
apologetic shrug at us.

A couple of days later, a group of four of


us in a taxi were stopped by the police. A
South African photographer had left his
passport in the house which, technically,
is an offence. As he was trying to explain,
the police chief came over. Are you the
man from the adverts? he asked. We
quickly agreed he was, and we were
waved on our way. Only later did we
realise he thought the photographer was
Basile Boli, to whom he bears the vaguest
of resemblances.

The song that had begun in the memorial


ceremony on the beach ended in victory.

119

Victory Song

Nobody really expected Zambia to


win even if most of us, when pressed,
would probably have admitted a slight
preference that they should. This, after
all, was not just a great underdog tale,
but one of the great stories of strength
of character and rebirth after tragedy.
And then there was Renard, intense,
self-ironic, charismatic and very, very
French. That he was sacked after ve
months at Cambridge United in 2004
only makes his present popularity the
more extraordinary. His return to Zambia
last October, after Dario Bonetti had
coached them through the qualiers,
was controversial, but the bond he had
with his players was obvious. Renard is
20 years younger than scar Washington
Tbarez, but the relationship he has with
his players is similar to the el Maestro had
with his Uruguayan team when they won
the Copa Amrica last summer: a stern
but respected father, popular with his
charges but not to be taken advantage
of. If there was any doubt about that, it
vanished when he expelled the midelder
Clifford Mulenga from the squad early in
the tournament for refusing to apologise
after breaching a curfew.
Midway through the rst half of the nal,
Renard was so incensed at the high line
played by his full-back Davies Nkausu
that he thumped him in the chest. We
saw against Mali that if you leave 50m
behind you, Gervinho will kill you, he
explained. I showed them that sequence,
so I was furious he did not respect what
I said. Perhaps it looks strange from the
outside, but they know how I am. Theres
no problem. I think they need someone
like this. If they had a coach who didnt
react like this... they need to be pushed.
Sometimes they are not very focused,
but they can do magical things. Nkausu

120

seemed unustered, patting his coach on


the shoulder as though encouraging him
to calm down.
Throughout the tournament, Zambia were
disciplined and well-organised, sticking
to Renards tactical plans. They had sat
back against Ghana, but in the nal, they
took the initiative. Nathan Sinkala drew
a ne low save out of Boubacar Barry
after a clever corner routine as early as
the second minute, and when Kalaba
had a free-kick deected just wide
midway through the half, Zambia were so
condent they began to indulge in a series
of shimmies and icks. Yaya Tour scuffed
an effort just wide to offer a reminder of
the Ivorian threat, but they seemed always
tentative, as though the conservatism of
their approach had become inhibitive.
That was always the problem for Zahoui.
His no-risk policy was actually supremely
risky because it could be validated only by
success. If Cte dIvoire had at last lifted
the trophy, he would have been the man
whose inspired pragmatism ended a 20year drought; as it was, he was just a coach
who played boring football and lost.
As they had throughout the competition,
Cte dIvoire waited for their opponents
to make a mistake and, with 20 minutes
remaining, it seemed they had as Isaac
Chansa bundled over Gervinho in the
box. Drogba had spurned a sitter in the
2006 nal before missing his penalty in
the shoot-out as Cte dIvoire lost to
the hosts Egypt and, despite being the
Ivorians best player over the past six
years, he was culpable again, ring his
penalty high over the bar.
That gave Zambia renewed heart and
early in extra-time Christopher Katongo,

Jonathan Wilson

reaching a cross from his brother Felix,


saw his sidefoot effort deect onto
the post off the studs of Barry. Neither
side, though, could nd a winner and
so, for the fourth time in the last seven
tournaments, the nal went to penalties.
As in 1992, when Cte dIvoire had
last won, they had gone through the
tournament unbeaten, but there was no
repeat of the 11-10 shoot-out victory
they enjoyed then over Ghana.
The rst 14 penalties were all scored,
Drogba avoiding the ignominy of
missing a second penalty in the game
and Bamba being fortunate that he
was allowed to take his kick again after
Kennedy Mweene had come off his line
in saving his rst effort. But then there
was a hesitation. Kolo Tour started to
go forward, then stopped. Zahoui clearly
asked Gervinho to step up. He refused.
Tour took a long run, and had his shot
saved low to his left by Mweene. And all
the while the Zambian singing went on.
Kalaba had the chance to win it, but
he inched at historys approach, and
skied his kick. Who knows what the
consequences for his career might have
been had he been the man to deny the
fairy-story, but Gervinho, nally coaxed

forward, hit his shot far too high. That


left Stopila Sunzu to complete the most
poignant of successes. He was still
singing as he began his run-up, before
sidefooting the ball rmly into the right
side of the goal.
We talked about this when we rst met
in the camp, said Renard. I said to them,
You know there is something we
play rst against Senegal and the plane
was going to Senegal, and the nal is in
Libreville, where the plane was leaving
from. I cant explain it: it was written.
Football, though, doesnt just hand out
sentimental favours; they must be earned.
What happened in 1993 meant that Efford
Chabala, John Soko, Whiteson Changwe,
Robert Watiyakeni, Eston Mulenga,
Derby Makinka, Moses Chikwalakwala,
Wisdom Mumba Chansa, Kelvin Malaza
Mutale, Timothy Mwitwa, Numba Mwila,
Richard Mwanza, Samuel Chomba,
Moses Masuwa, Kenan Simambe, Godfrey
Kangwa, Winter Mumba and Patrick
Bomber Banda and coaching staff of
Godfrey Ucar Chitalu, Alex Chola, Wilson
Mtonga and Wilson Makala never had
the chance to lift a Cup of Nations. The
present Zambia side, though, raised the
perfect memorial.

121

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123

The Barefoot Pioneers

The Barefoot Pioneers


CK Gyam explains how a bootless tour to Britain
helped shape the game in Ghana
By Gary Al-Smith

There were riots. The nationalist leaders


in the Gold Coast sent a strongly
worded cable to Arthur Creech Jones,
the Secretary of State for the Colonies
in London. They blamed the Governor,
Sir Gerald Creasy, calling him Crazy
Creasy because he had failed to handle
the problems facing the country.
Creech Jones, in turn, blamed the
Nationalist leaders for the disturbances.
Six of the leading nationalists were
arrested and detained the Big Six, as
they became known. Most notable among
them was Dr Kwame Nkrumah, widely
regarded the father of pan-Africanism and
BBC Africas Man of the Millennium.
That was in early February 1948, in the
heat of Ghanas independence struggle.
The British tried several tactics to calm
the mood. Little worked. There were
more riots. There were deaths. And then
someone suggested using football.

In 1951, the Gold Coast was invited to


assemble its best players to tour the
United Kingdom. It was supposed to be a
political move to assuage the masses, but
it turned out to be an important tool for
the emancipation of Africa and its football.
Until then, there was no organised

124

national football association that


represented the British colony of the
Gold Coast. When it was eventually
formed, the team was captained by
Emmanuel Christian Briandt, better
known by his initials, EC. The vicecaptain was Charles Kumi Gyam CK.
At the time, football ourished in the
southern and coastal regions of the
country, where most of the colonial
administration was based. The colonial
masters taught the locals football,
but never with boots. CK Gyam told
me it was just one way in which the
British decided to delay the black mans
progress. And so the barefoot team went
to Britain. We played four games. The
rst one was a disaster, Gyam cackles
as he remembers. We are sitting in his
airy living room.
The Gold Coast were beaten 10-1, he
tells me calmly. As I gawp in dismay,
he sits up sharply. No, no, dont open
your mouth! he says, laughing. There
was a reason.
The Gold Coast XI had set off to Britain
on a steam boat paid for by the British
government. We got to our rst game
and got on the eld, Gyam said. We
stood there without boots, as usual,
because thats what we knew. They could
not believe we were to play without

Gary Al-Smith

footwear and offered us some. We said


we were ne. Then it started raining.
Exactly who the games were against
remains unclear; there were no records
kept in Ghana and none have been
tracked down in Britain. Gyam believes
that opening game was against the
Artena League, but Briandt suggests
that was the second game, which
brought a 4-3 win after a 10-1 defeat
somewhere in Wales. Before each game,
the foreigners were offered boots, but
they politely refused them. The Gold
Coast XI were the cream of their native
land, and, in Gyams words, We were
proud of our methods, bare feet and all.
The Brits were faster, more purposeful
and more organised. And of course,
well-booted, too. It was slippery and we
could do little. But we learned very fast.
The following three games came to
represent far more than 11 men playing for
themselves. With every touch of the ball
we knew our people at home were waiting
for us to come back with good news,
Gyam said. The Gold Coast XI went on to
win their remaining three matches.
Gyam snapped his ngers at the
recollection. That is why when
Asamoah Gyan misplaced the penalty
in South Africa, he said. I immediately
understood. At that point my mind went
back to our trip to the UK. Gyan had a
continent waiting for him to score and it
was just like the country was waiting for
us with good news.
The barefooted Ghanaians had also
left Britain with a different perspective
of the world. We came from a place
where it was really about skill, Gyam

explained. But in Britain, we learned


purposefulness. Today, we call it tactics
and stratagems. It was our rst game
which became the learning table. While
we were busy dribbling well and passing
nicely, our hosts were mechanical and
precise. They used the W-M on us.
The W-M formation, developed by
Herbert Chapmans Arsenal in the late
1920s, was standard for British sides
at the time. Any time we launched an
attack, Gyam said, and we frequently
did because of our skill and speed, they
would arrange themselves with three
men at the back, two in the middle and
the rest of the ve spread upfront.
The tactic was unbelievably effective in
catching the Gold Coast teams offside.
A few of us had some education so after
playing Artena we asked questions. Our
hosts were more surprised at how well
we spoke than the fact that they were
leaking their tactical secrets.
The Gold Coast tour took in Britain
and Ireland. By the time it was over 25
goals had been scored, barefooted.
Gyam got 11 of them and, together
with his teammates, took his new-found
knowledge and the boots he nally
got after the tour back home to
revolutionise African football. When the
players tried to introduce boots to their
friends back home, though, they met
with a hostile reception. Only Excelsior,
a team made up of Europeans, wore
boots. When Gyam, then at Asante
Kotoko, persuaded the club owner to
buy boots for the team, they had to
smuggle them past fans into the ground.
Gyam was ahead of his time, someone
who constantly pushed the boundaries

125

The Barefoot Pioneers

and sought new challenges, which


it showed in his career he never
lasted long at one club. He was signed
byMysterious Dwarfs in 1948, after
impressing in a match against them
playing for Sailors FC. A year later,
Dwarfs played Kotoko and he was the
outstanding player. Kotoko signed him
on the spot.
Soon he had developed into a national
team regular, where he secured his
legend by inspiring a victory over
Nigeria, who remain Ghanas great rivals.
Then he moved to Kotokos main rival
in the local league, Hearts of Oak, with
whom he crowned his career by winning
the league title in 1958.
In August 1959, the West German
football federation organised a vematch tour of Ghana and Nigeria for
Fortuna Dsseldorf, who had won three
successive West German cups. Fortuna
beat a Gyam-led Hearts side 3-2, but
were so impressed that they signed
him. Gyam became the rst African
footballer to play in Germany, the
greatest legacy of that transfer perhaps
being that the street name for ve-asides in Ghana is still fortuna.
Gyam never settled in Germany,
hating the cold winters, and returned to
Ghana in 1961, but not before hed been
inuenced by the great Hans Hennes
Weisweiler. Hans was a wizard, Gyam
said. If you passed through Hans and
your game did not at least improve a
little, then you had a problem. Gyam
came back with coaching on his
mind, and he was soon appointed as
assistant to Ghanas rst foreign coach,
the Hungarian Jozsef Ember. He later
succeeded him.

126

Our style blended the traditional dancing


kind of football with fast wingers and
full-backs, Gyam said. If the traditional
Brazilian style is samba football, at the
root of Ghanas style is agoro playing
or having fun. At the time we won the
Cup of Nations, we began experimenting
with our tactics and strengthening our
position as the best in Africa by travelling.
It also helped that our head of state was
Kwame Nkrumah, whose lifes ambition
was to create a United States of Africa.
Ghana won the Uhuru Cup tournament
(a competition marking Ugandas
independence), following that with the
West African Gold Cup and the 1963
African Cup of Nations at which Gyam
was the only African coach among the
six sides that took part.This was the
time they started calling us the Brazil of
Africa, he said. But for me the element
of surprise had gone by 1965, when we
had to defend the Nations Cup.
Gyams team was ageing and he feared
it would not be able to cope with the
rigorous tactical systems that he felt
he needed as emancipation around the
continent allowed other teams to close
the gap on Ghana. So he headed to Rio
de Janeiro, where he learned the secrets
of the 4-3-3 that had helped Brazil to
the World Cup in 1962. Ghana scored 12
goals in three games to become the rst
side to retain the trophy.
A year later Ghana experienced the rst
of its military coups. Although solid
foundations meant they performed
creditably at the next two Cups of
Nations and qualied for the 1972
Olympic Games, Gyam was long gone,
his passion leading him to Somalia, to
coach an Africa XI, and then to Kenya,

Gary Al-Smith

where he won a league title. I went


round teaching what I knew because
that was the reason the leaders of
my time invested so much in me, he
explained. They did not send me all
over the world to learn for myself.
They sent me all over the world to gain
knowledge all over the world to teach
Africans all over the world.
Eventually, he returned to Ghana and, in
1982 in Libya, took the national team to
its fourth African Cup of Nations success.
Gyam was the rst coach to win the title
three times, and arguably the greatest
coach Africa has ever had. And it all began
barefoot on the English mud in 1951.

127

Ultra Violence

Ultra Violence
After the horrors of Port Said, the exact role of ultras in
the downfall of Hosny Mubarak remains unclear
By David Lynch

A taxi drove past fast, swerving


erratically, along the main road by the
west bank of the River Nile. Insane
driving is not unique in Cairo, but what I
saw hanging out the backseat window of
this particular taxi was certainly unusual.
On the right-hand side, one young man
stretched out as far his waist, and held
aloft the massive red and white ag of
Egypts most successful club Ahly. The
boastful tagline Club of the Century was
displayed proudly under the clubs crest.
On the other side another young
daredevil, was almost sitting outside the
open window of the speeding vehicle. He
held high above his head the white and
red ag of Ahlys big city foes Zamalek.
Fans normally sharply divided, sharing this
early morning taxi.
Sadly what had inspired this moment of
solidarity were events the night before,
events which have seared themselves into
a national Egyptian consciousness already
reeling from a year of revolutionary
turmoil. The deaths of more than 70 fans
in the Port Said Stadium on Wednesday
1 February ranks as the worst tragedy in
Egyptian football history, and takes its
grim place among the most horric nights
in global football.
The exact facts of what occurred in Port
Said are disputed and a government

128

investigation has been launched. But


some core details are clear.
The Cairo giants Al-Ahly brought a large
travelling support to an away game
against Al-Masry in Port Said. Some home
fans were apparently allowed to enter
the stadium carrying weapons. As the nal
whistle blew on a shock defeat for Ahly,
hundreds of Masry fans spilled onto the
pitch and attacked opposition players and
supporters. Security forces did little or
nothing to prevent this.
Outnumbered, the Ahly fans attempted
to ee, but gates were shut. Fans
reportedly died from stabbings and from
being crushed. Violence is not unknown
at Egyptian soccer games, but not on
this scale.
Some Egyptians regard Port Said as
the horric consequences of lawless
football hooliganism.
But in Cairo, that was most certainly not
how many people view it.
The Ahly Ultras blame the police and
even charge them with co-ordinating
the assault. In the days after the tragedy
they took to the streets and clashed
with police near the Ministry of Interior
in downtown Cairo. The accusation
of police coordination was supported

David Lynch

by the Muslim Brotherhood and


others in the days after the event. The
Brotherhood accused elements in the
police force as still loyal to the former
dictator Hosni Mubarak.
The truth is difficult to ascertain there
were arrests and resignations in the days
after but almost the more important
question is why so many Egyptians
blame forces against the revolution for
what happened in Port Said.
The answer to that is found in the heady
revolutionary days of 2011.

A heavy cloud of tear gas hung over a


Tahrir Square in revolt. Buckling under the
pressure of thousands of protestors, the
epicentre of the Egyptian revolution was
unleashing a roar of resistance into the
Cairo night. Two days previously, an attack
by the security forces on Tahrir had begun
a period of violence that left more than
40 people dead and hundreds injured.
It was late November and what became
known, to some, as the second Egyptian
revolution was at its most intense.
The revolutionary youth who had
made Tahrir their home chanted angry
slogans against the Egyptian military
rulers, the Supreme Council of the
Armed Forces (SCAF). Following the
collapse of the Hosni Mubarak regime
in early 2011, the military had stepped in
to lead what they called the transition
to civilian rule. From the beginning,
many of the revolutionaries were wary
of the militarys true intentions and,
as the months dragged on and no
transition materialised, those suspicions
turned to anger.

But that was not the half of it.


The revolutionary youth who had
participated in most of the ghting
(and dying) that brought an end to
decades of Mubarak rule looked on with
increasing disbelief at the actions of
SCAF thousands of civilians brought
before military tribunals, the extension
of the Emergency Law damned by
Amnesty International as the greatest
erosion of human rights since the
resignation of Hosny Mubarak, the
jailing of opposition activists and the
failure to prosecute members of the
former ruling National Democratic Party
(NDP). The trial of Mubarak and his sons
was slow and disregarded as a sham
by some. In early October there was
also the horric massacre of protesting
Coptic Christians (and Muslim allies) on
the east bank of the Nile.
For those crowded around me in Tahrir
Square, two things had now become
clear the revolution that began in
early 2011 was unnished and the
military, far from being a friend of
the movement, was now a counterrevolutionary force.
As the tight knots of protestors swayed,
the political debates raged in rapid
Arabic around me, the songs of the
January 2011 revolution were being
sung, the blasts of tear gas canisters
and the incoherent rumblings of
rioting could be heard from the nearby
Muhammad Mahmoud Street. People
crushed against one another as hastily
created human corridors emerged to
allow those injured on the front line to
be rushed to eld hospitals.
Against this backdrop of chaos and the
sonic onslaught of revolution, one of my

129

Ultra Violence

companions and I conducted a halting


conversation about local football.
A fan of one of Cairos big two
clubs, he was hopeful that a couple of
disappointing early season results for
Zamalek did not necessarily mean their
cross city nemesis Ahly would run
away with the league. Despite the lack of
space, I struggled to raise my arm above
my waist. I pointed in the direction of the
street battles raging a few hundred metres
away in Muhammad Mahmoud Street.
You know that many Ahly Ultras are
supposed to have been very involved
in the revolution in January? I said,
speaking louder so he could hear me
over the incessant chorus of deance
around us. They have been on the
streets during this week as well. Theyre
probably ghting up there now.
He swung his head around to face me.

standing managers and officials were


slammed as cronies of the former regime
and forced out, some professional
footballers became revolutionaries and
others sat the revolution out.
Egyptians have said to me that in 2011
one national obsession, football, had
been replaced by a new one, politics and
the revolution.
Yes, the revolution meant that people
did not just focus on football, said Esso,
a Cairene working in advertising and a
lifelong Ahly fan.
But this was also because the league
was stopped for some time because of
the trouble on the streets.
Before the revolution the most
important thing for Egyptians was
football, and it will return to being the
most important thing again.

It was clear that in the extraordinary


year of the Arab Spring the sharp rivalry
between both sets of fans extended
beyond the pitch and terraces and into
the debate over who had contributed
most to the revolutionary vanguard.

There was some truth to this. In the heady


days after the January revolution, even
the failure of the Egyptian national team
to qualify for the African Cup of Nations
was not as crushing to the national self
esteem as it would normally have been.
Indeed a minority of fans of the Pharaohs
actually speculated online that this failure
would help the revolutionary struggle,
that Egyptians would not be distracted
from the democratic push by the
excitement of a major tournament.

Politics and sport often mix, but in the


revolutionary Egypt of 2011 the delicate
demarcation between the two worlds
dissolved completely. Ultra fan groups
released political statements, ministers
commented on the actions of the
politicised football supporters, long-

For other football fans, the national


side seemed to constitute a lingering
image of the old regime. The national
coach Hassan Shehata was blacklisted by
revolutionaries as a supporter of Mubarak
his eventual departure mirroring for
some the ousting of the old political guard.

Not only them, he snapped back.


The Zamalek Ultras the Ultra White
Knights have been in Tahrir as well.
Its not only Ahly fans here ghting for
the revolution.

130

David Lynch

But an intense and interchanging


interest in both football and politics has
a pre-history in Egypt. The countrys
most famous author and the rst
Arab winner of the Nobel Prize for
Literature, Naguib Mahfouz, understood
this synergy. In the second volume
of his monumental Cairo Trilogy,
the young literary nationalist Kamal
(based somewhat on Mahfouz himself)
conducts one of his habitual political
debates with his wealthy, conservative
friend Hasan Salim.
Set almost a century ago, this was also
a time of revolution fused with deance
against British rule. The Great War was
not long over and the hopes for full
Egyptian independence thrilled the
minds of many young people. Kamal, a
fan of Mukhtalat FC (the forerunner of
the modern Zamalek club) and a loyal
supporter of the nationalist leader Sad
Zaghlul, attempts to ease the heated
politicised nature of the proceedings by
talking about football. He fails.
The soccer season starts soon.
Last season belonged to the Ahly team.
They were unrivalled.
The Mukhtalat team was defeated, but
its got some outstanding players.
Kamal sprang to the defence of
Mukhtalat much as he defended
Sad Zaghlul to block the attacks of
Hasan Salim... The exchange between
Kamal and Hasan heated up. The former
attributed Mukhtalats defeat to bad
luck, the latter thought it showed the
superiority of Ahlys new players. The
controversy continued since neither of
them would give in.

Kamal wondered why he always found


himself on the other side from Hasan
Salim, whether they were discussing
the Wafd Party and the Liberals or the
Mukhtalat team and Ahly.
Decades later, following the Egyptian
military takeover in the 1952 revolution
and under the increasingly authoritarian
rule of Gamal Nasser, Anwar Sadat and
nally Hosny Mubarak, football became
a complex locus of resistance to and
more often, compromise with power.
The dialectical dance between politics
and football continued, even in this
restrictive world of repression. When
political discussions and avenues for
activism were shut down, debates
about football in the coffee shops, taxis
and kitchens of Cairo often acted as a
subversive surrogate.
In this post-Mubarak era, it is not only the
political legacy of the former regime that
is debated by locals; it is also its alleged
club allegiances.
I have spoken to Cairene taxi drivers
who swear that the former regime was
staunchly pro-Ahly and did everything in
its power to keep the club as the most
successful in Egypt. After not much more
probing, the driver will reveal himself
to be a Zamalek fan. Another driver will
insist to me that Mubarak and his family
was Zamalek to the core. Indeed, to a
biological degree.
If he is shot dead, he will bleed white
and red. He will bleed Zamalek colours,
the driver said laughing as he wove his
car at high pace through the manic
Cairo traffic, his red-and-white Ahly air
freshener swinging wildly from the rearview mirror.

131

Ultra Violence

Ahly and Zamalek are sporting


phenomena in this country, garnering
support from across Egypt. Fans of both
clubs hail from the entire Middle East and
Africa. The Cairo derby is arguably the
biggest club game in Arab football and in
the capital, even if you dont like football,
you are either Ahly or Zamalek.
A Belgian friend and Ahly fan was in Cairo
for a month; he had extended family in
Egypt whom he was visiting. They were
devout Coptic Christians and devout Ahly
fans. When he met them they were more
than a little shocked when he discussed
his own atheistic and secular views of the
world. I went to an Ahly game with him,
the rst he ever attended. After the nal
whistle I asked him if he would come to
a Zamalek game with me. He smiled and
made it clear that it wasnt an option. I
got the impression that the Egyptian side
of his family could just about tolerate his
atheistic world view, but if he had gone
to a Zamalek game, a full-blown crisis
would ensue.
The struggle on the pitch is matched by
a rivalry between the two sets of fans,
particularly the Ultra groups. Yet in this
extraordinary period for Egypt, the Ultra
groups have established a ceasere
of sorts. Ahly and Zamalek fans have
protested and fought alongside one
another against the authorities during
the revolutionary year. The role the Ultras
have played on the streets has been
much analysed in the Egyptian media. For
some they are a legitimate section of the
revolutionary upsurge, for others they are
violent groups of thugs. Whatever ones
views, in hindsight it is no surprise that the
organised fan groups played a signicant
part in the street battles that took place
during and after the January revolution.

132

Under the former regime, almost every


potential point of organised resistance
was either crushed or incorporated.
The trade union movement, the
religious leadership and the media were
all compromised in the eyes of the
revolutionary youth who took to the
streets in early 2011. But the Ultras
who were highly organised, conducted
regular meetings and consultation with
members, decided on tactical plans, had
a history of antagonism with the police
and were often battle hardened were
largely independent.
Relations between the Ultra fans
and Egyptian security forces have
deteriorated rapidly since the January
revolution. There have been violent
incidents inside the grounds and clubs
have been forced to play matches behind
closed doors. The last league season
was racked by delays because of the
general uncertainty in the country and
the current season has already been
threatened by suspension.
Although participants in the revolution in
January, the role the Ultras have played in
street protests and battles has increased
in recent months. Politically active Ultra
fans were also involved in the storming of
the Israeli Embassy in Cairo in September.
Emboldened by a new sense of liberation
they were on the streets again during the
violent disturbances in late November.
A cartoon in a local newspaper, reprinted
in the Egyptian Gazette, showed a young
man dressed in a football shirt, shorts and
boots. In his bag he carried rocks and
Molotov cocktails.
Where are you going today son? a
worried mother asks.

David Lynch

Im going to play on Muhammad


Mahmoud Street, he replies smiling.
The cartoon spoke to contrasting
perceptions of the Ultras involvement.
To some, they are just an active part
of the revolutionary youth movement,
ghting against continued military rule
and police brutality. To others, they
have become a symbol of worrying
lawlessness in Tahrir Square and across
Egypt. SCAF and its supporters attempt
to exploit the later image believing
the silent majority of Egyptians are
concerned about a potential slide into
anarchy. The Ultras and their actions are
viewed as a part of this slide.
But its not just on the streets that the
Ultras have made their case: during the
year they became increasingly demanding
and politicised. Whether its holding
banners aloft at games calling on their
players to accept wage caps to help
struggling club nances, clashing with
police over the banning of reworks in
stadiums or publishing a list of officials
involved in football whom theyve deemed
cronies of the old regime and called on
to resign, the power of organised fans
is now an established part of the post
revolutionary political landscape.
The official Ultra Facebook pages often
post statements that focus on political
issues as much as anything that happens
on the pitch. In one statement the
Zamalek Ultra White Knights called for
resignations at the top of the Egyptian
Football Association (EFA): These people
are remnants of the former regime.
They will not determine our destiny.
We suffered a lot from injustice and
repression in the past, but we stood up
to that with pride. We fought with all

our might to maintain our principles and


freedom. We thought justice and freedom
would come after our revolution. We will
continue in our defence of freedom even
with our blood. Our war with the EFA will
continue until we win and see the corrupt
people in prison.
In the confusing world of shifting political
allegiances, newly formed parties and
constantly evolving alliances that marks
post revolutionary Egypt, for a time the
Ultras were a solidied rock, a rock that
was often thrown at the authorities.
But it is important not to overstate the
role organised fan groups have played in
the Egyptian revolution. When the history
is written of this extraordinary period,
the Ultras will not be seen as the crucial
agency of radical change. Rather it will
be broader factors and movements
the wave of industrial disputes that have
rocked Egypt since 2005, the inspiration
taken from the Tunisian revolt in late
2010, ination, unemployment, the
growing hopelessness felt by those living
under tyranny that will be seen as the
sources of the revolution.
One of the unique aspects of this
revolution has been the apparent
leaderless quality of it. There is no
clear Che Guevara-type personality
behind whom people have rallied, nor
an organisation like the Jacobins or
Bolsheviks who have emerged as the
undisputed party of revolution. Although
interesting, this poses headaches to
news feature writers in particular,
looking for a face to hook the narrative
of the revolution upon. The Ultras have
attracted interest because of their clear
organisation. But in reality the young
men who staffed their ranks are part

133

Ultra Violence

of the broader revolutionary youth


movement that represented the vanguard
of the uprising. They have the same
concerns as most other young people
in the country unemployment, the
rising cost of living, the lack of freedom,
corruption in authority and so on.
Over a year since it began, the one
thing that unites most observers
here is the feeling that the Egyptian
revolution remains unnished. The great
democratic conversation begun in Tahrir
Square in January 2011 continues despite
setbacks. For now, politics and revolution
dominate the conversation in Cairo. It
will be some time before football regains
its position as the undisputed dominant
topic in the thousands of coffee shops
across this city.

134

135
In Appreciation Of

Toussaint presents the headbutt


and its aftermath as a moment of
perfect chaos.

Ronaldo in Moscow

Ronaldo in Moscow
A slalom though the Luzhniki mud conrmed the
genius of O Fenomeno
By Sheridan Bird

Can we call him the Phenomenon


now? barked the Italian commentator
Bruno Pizzul in his demented 1950s
headmaster-style voice. Ronaldo had
just scored the goal of the season
despite the most unwelcoming
conditions Moscow could muster.
The weather was so unforgiving that the
1997-98 Uefa Cup semi-nal second
leg between Spartak Moscow and
Internazionale nearly didnt happen.
Hours before the game, the pitch was
covered in 30cm of snow. It took half
the local police force to shovel it off for
the game to go ahead. By kick-off the
saturated playing surface, bordered by a
wall of grubby grey snow, was a twotone mess of tired looking grass and
mud with a curious tinge of yellow. If
that werent enough, a thin covering of
ice complicated matters further. Despite
being 2-1 up from the rst leg, Inter,
considered by many a team of divas,
were not happy. It was very cold and the
pitch was impractical for football, sniffed
the trundling but dependable Argentinian
Javier Zanetti.
Some pundits felt Ronaldo shouldnt
even be risked on such a perilous
surface, but the Brazilian started next to
Ivan Zamorano in Gigi Simonis 1-3-4-2
formation. Ronaldo is a phenomenon
even here he can entertain us, said the

136

Inter icon and journalist Sandro Mazzola


with a glint in his eye. Wearing a thick
headband to keep his ears warm, Ronie
looked more village idiot than world star.
The frozen Italians struggled
lackadaisically through the rst half.
The bustling, agricultural left-back
Taribo West couldnt handle the mobile
Andriy Tikhonov and Zanetti looked
uncharacteristically ill at ease on the
wintery pudding of a pitch. Tikhonov
gave the home side the lead after
12 minutes. The unappable libero
Giuseppe Bergomi and the goalkeeper
and Dean Martin doppelganger Gianluca
Pagliuca seemed the only Inter players
who realised there was a game to played
as the Russians got the scent of an away
goals passage to the Paris nal.
But, on the stroke of half-time, Ronaldo,
who had jettisoned his comical
headwear, took control. Spartak dealt
poorly with a Francesco Moriero cross
from the right and, after an outbreak of
pinball, the ball fell to the Inter No 10,
just outside the six-yard box. In the blink
of an eye the former Barcelona man
drove it into the net with a swish of his
right boot. One chance, one goal.
The defenders Miroslav Romanschenko
and Dmitri Khlestov and the libero
Dmitri Ananko had marshalled Inters

Sheridan Bird

South American front two well until then


but, buoyed by their goal, Inter were a
different beast in the second half.
Inters effervescent and classy mideld
general Diego Simeone exerted more
of an inuence after the break, while
Ronaldo and Zamorano began to nd
space. Drained of energy and belief,
Spartak were powerless to stop Ronaldo
killing the tie with a spark of genius after
76 minutes.
Between the centre-circle and penalty
area, right of centre, Ronaldo called to
Gigi Sartor, preparing to take a throw
in. The right-back launched a long
looping throw to the Brazilian, who
controlled instantly and turned his
marker before arcing his run towards
the box. Nowhere near full speed, he
already moved with the agility and zip
of a Formula One car surrounded by
pick-up trucks with punctures. Alert to
the danger, Khlestov started a manic
cross-eld sprint from the right. By his
speed and pumping arms the defender
looked determined to smash Ronaldo
out of the stadium and worry about
the ball later. But he came off worse,
bouncing off the deceptively strong
forward. Ronaldo laid the ball square to
Zamorano and continued his run. The
clever Chileans return was crisp and
rm to avoid interception, but Ronaldo,
on the edge of the area, took it into
his stride easily. Faced with two more
defenders in the box, the No 10 danced
between them and through the mud at
devastating speed. The keeper Aleksandr
Filimonov raced out to confront the
striker but fell for a typical Ronaldo feint
and committed early. The supersonic
assassin took the ball wide of him and
sidefooted into the unguarded net.

The masterpiece, which won the game


2-1, was a nine-second demonstration
of what put Ronaldo light years ahead
of the rest: speed, strength, balance and
skill. Even the Spartak fans applauded.
The jubilant Inter players chased after
and jumped on their teammate, the
home players looked shell-shocked. The
only man not to show any emotion in the
stadium was the Scottish referee Hugh
Dallas (also the only man in Moscow
wearing short sleeves that night).
There was mud and ice, but he had the
gifts to rise above it. When he set off,
no one could catch him, said Zanetti.
Giacinto Facchetti, beloved captain of
la Grande Inter, said, He is decisive, just
like Pel and Maradona before him.
The Inter president Massimo Moratti
was suitably giddy, adding, There arent
adjectives left to describe Ronaldo.
Gazzetta dello Sports Enrica Speroni
wrote that early on the Brazilian looked
like a very cold little boy, then he danced
across that mangy setting as if it were
a beautiful English meadow. In Spain,
El Mundo Deportivo, perhaps yet to get
over the players acrimonious departure
from Barcelona after only one season,
said, Once again we have seen that for
Ronaldo impossibilities do not exist.
In the dressing-room Ronaldo gave his
shirt to his coach as a souvenir. It was a
lovely gesture. I felt such joy when he gave
it to me. I have still got that shirt, covered
in mud. I have never felt the need to wash
it, said Simoni. The man himself says,
Inter fans still talk to me about that goal. I
felt like I was skating on ice, the opponents
were slipping and sliding all over the place.
After personally delivering Inter to their
fourth Uefa Cup nal, Ronaldo didnt

137

Ronaldo in Moscow

stop. In the Paris showpiece against


Lazio the quicksilver Brazilian tortured
the biancocelestis princely centre-back
Alessandro Nesta with his movement
and quick feet. The nerazzurri won
3-0, Ronie scoring the nal goal with
another trademark pearl zooming
onto a throughball, producing a urry of
stepovers, rounding the prone keeper
and sliding into the empty goal. It was his
sixth goal in the 1997-98 Uefa Cup, and
his 34th of the season in all competitions.
That 1997-98 Uefa Cup campaign was
the last we saw of the pure Ronaldo.
Nikes R9 brand soon sprang into
action, forgetting it had a human at its
core. The striker changed his Inter shirt

138

number from 10 to 9 and became the


greatest commodity in world sport, selling
everything from tyres to sunglasses.
Rushed back from one serious injury after
another, he lost two years of his career to
chronic knee problems until making his
comeback in the 2002 World Cup, scoring
eight goals on the way to Brazils victory.
He was still the best of his generation
and greatest goalscorer the World Cup
has ever seen, but never again the turbocharged extraterrestrial of Barcelona and
that maiden season at the San Siro.
For that reason, the diamond in the
Moscow mud remains the purest
expression of Ronaldo Luis Nazario de
Limas phenomenal talent.

Toussaint on Zidane

Toussaint on Zidane
What the World Cup nal headbutt meant to the
Belgian writer
By Juliet Jacques

Zidane watched the Berlin sky, not


thinking of anything, a white sky
ecked with grey clouds lined with
blue, one of those windy skies,
immense and changing, of the Flemish
painters. Zidane watched the Berlin
sky over the Olympic Stadium on the
evening of 9 July 2006, and felt the
sensation, with poignant intensity, of
being there, simply there, in Berlins
Olympic Stadium, at this precise
moment in time, on the evening of the
World Cup Final.

So begins Zidanes Melancholy, a lyrical


ve-page reection on Zindine Zidanes
dramatic exit from the 2006 World Cup
nal by the Belgian writer Jean-Philippe
Toussaint that explores the emotions
and choices that come with football1
Albert Camuss Absurdist philosophy
examined the individual attempt to
nd purpose in a disordered world and
Jean-Paul Sartre famously said that,
In football, everything is complicated
by the presence of an opponent in
this deeply subjective piece, Toussaint
freely speculates about the reasons
for Zidanes infamous headbutt on the
Italian defender Marco Materazzi, casting
the French captain as an outsider who
suddenly realises his deep disillusion with
the world around him.

Zidanes Melancholy is neither an essay


nor ction, nor the faction of David
Peaces The Damned Utd (which took
considerable creative liberties with Brian
Cloughs quixotic spell at Leeds). It reads
as a microcosm of Toussaints oeuvre,
referencing it and encapsulating some of
its key themes, particularly the alienation
felt in everyday situations. Toussaint has
said that his writing aims to contain the
innitely small and the innitely large:
focusing on one of its greatest players in
its biggest game, he presents football as
a series of moments generated often
seamlessly, when little appears to be
happening, like the tiny ashpoints in
his novels and given meaning by the
narratives of its games and tournaments,
as well as the histories (facticity, as
Sartre put it) of its players. The result
is a treatise which, although brief, is
crammed with thought-provoking
ruminations about football, infused with
philosophical concepts and interspersed
with literary references.
The rst idea introduced by Toussaint
is the reading of the penalty with which
Zidane opened the scoring in the nal as
a quotation. Describing it as an indolent
panenka shot that hit the crossbar,
passed over the line, and re-exited the
goal that irted with Geoff Hursts
fabled shot at Wembley in 1966, it
becomes the work of a postmodern artist

139

Toussaint on Zidane

recreating one important moment (and,


by chance, another) in a new context,
recognising that among the things that
make football thrilling are moments of
originality from a visionary player and
their recreation.
Football has a lexicon of tricks, many
synonymous with those who rst exhibited
them: the Cruyff turn, Pels dummy
against Uruguay in 1970, Maradonas
Hand of God, even the low-rent Blanco
Bounce from Mexicos 1998 World Cup
campaign. Their reproduction raises the
issue of locating the boundaries between
conscious reference, coincidental parallels
Lampards shot against Germany in the
2010 World Cup crossing the line and not
being awarded and pastiche Keisuke
Honda copying Cristiano Ronaldos
free-kick preparation at the same
tournament. (Not to mention that little is
as embarrassing as a muffed replication:
witness Robert Pirs and Thierry Henrys
disastrous penalty-pass for Arsenal
against Manchester City in 2005 as they
attempted to recreate a similar move
properly executed by Johan Cruyff and
Jesper Olsen for Ajax.) However brilliant
was Zidanes panenka, his true act was yet
to come, a result of his inability decisively
to end his career and his conicting
weariness with his profession.
Zidane draws his melancholy from
the symbolic death of retirement,
heightened as it must come at the end
of the World Cup nal. The tournaments
knockout rounds had been a triumph
for Zidane, who had come out of
international retirement to rescue a
poor qualifying campaign and had then
inspired Frances second-round win
over a highly-fancied Spain. His peerless
display in the quarter-nal win over Brazil

140

and his winning goal against Portugal


in the semi-nal suggested that he
would retire at the height of his powers,
and after his Panenka, it appeared that
Zidane might repeat his two-goal nal
performance of 1998. But when the
Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon saved
his extra-time header, Zidane realised
that he no longer had the means, or
the strength, the energy, the will, to pull
off a nal act of pure form. In fact,
form resists him: unable to accept his
irreparable impotence, Zidane resolves
to ruin his proper exit, [leaving]
prospects open, unknown, alive with a
gesture that will instead score minds.
Fortunate enough to have been at the
Olympiastadion, Toussaint presents
the headbutt and its aftermath as a
moment of perfect chaos. Happening
away from the ball, it was missed by
the referee, who only showed Zidane
his black card of melancholy after
being surrounded by Italian players.
More importantly, it was unseen by the
spectators, and if one limits oneself
to the live observation of events in the
stadium, and to the legitimate faith we
can have in our senses [the headbutt]
simply never happened.

The headbutt remains an enigma,


as Zidanes explanations were never
satisfactory. Its creative possibilities
spring from this, and the complexities
surrounding the act itself, which lie
beyond the moral categories of
good and evil. Footballs main ethical
dilemma remains unchanged since the
onset of professionalism: how far is it
acceptable to bend or break the rules
in order to win? Within this dichotomy,

Juliet Jacques

sportsmanship is good, gamesmanship


bad, but sports partisanship has meant
that over time, the nal result has often
become more important than the
manner of its achievement.
But, as Camus said, Maybe the ends
will justify the means but what will
justify the ends? The 2006 World Cup
demonstrated that the means and ends
did not just affect each team striving to
win: with all sides guilty of antagonising
opponents or deceiving officials, the
tournament itself became deeply
unedifying, epitomised by the ugly
spectacle of the systematically dishonest
Portugals clash with the brutal Dutch.
At its conclusion there came together
teams traditionally at opposite ends
of this moral spectrum: France, who
gave the world the Olympian ideal of
international sporting competition, and
Italy, noted more than any other nation
in football history for using any means in
the pursuit of victory.
According to footballs laws, Zidanes
headbutt had to be punished with
expulsion. However, it differed from the
World Cups other illegal acts in that it
did not aim for an advantage: rather,
it reacted against the sports value
system. The only honest gesture of a
tournament characterised by cheating,
it forced Fifa to punish not just Zidane
(effectively beyond retribution) but
also Materazzi, who had taunted him.
Zidanes team lost he later said that it
would have been difficult for France to
win after his act but he had struck a
crucial blow against gamesmanship.
Besides questioning the games moral
code, Toussaint invites readers to
investigate their relationships with its

players, and why certain individuals


become their favourites. Often, reasons
for such identication stretch far beyond
the pitch: besides his brilliance, Zidanes
signicance was closely tied to his
Franco-Algerian background. In 1998, as
the Front Nationale leader Jean-Marie Le
Pen tried to make capital by stirring racial
tension, Zidane led the Black, Blanc,
Beur team to World Cup glory, making
him a hero across France and to its dual
nationality and ethnic populations in
particular. After the 2005 race riots, his
World Cup heroics further raised his
stock among Frances Arab community,
many of whom identied with Zidanes
violent response to extreme provocation.
Zidane claimed no interest in politics:
it was his World Cup teammate Lilian
Thuram who assumed the role of antiFascist spokesman.2 Nor did he have
much to say about footballs aesthetics
(unlike, for example, Johan Cruyff).
Despite this, Zidane captured artists,
more than any other footballer of his
generation. Toussaints piece followed
Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parranos
lm, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait,
which tracked him through a Real
Madrid game, with limited (and largely
unrevealing) commentary on what went
through his mind while playing. This
quietude on key issues allowed Toussaint
to open by asserting that Zidane was
not thinking of anything, before lling
this void with his own reections, tying
himself and Zidane together as outsiders
in the existential tradition. He was not
alone in doing so.3
Footballers exist within teams, but
ultimately they remain alone (as Gordon
and Parranos lm and Toussaints writing
used Zidane to show), constantly making

141

Toussaint on Zidane

choices in split seconds, to be judged by


audiences often of millions. While few of
us will ever face the same pressures as
the France captain, we all develop moral
codes according to our situations and
feelings, act upon them as sincerely as
possible and then face consequences: as
Toussaint writes, Zidanes melancholy is
my melancholy. I know it, Ive nourished
it and I feel it. Placing himself within
Zidane, rather than merely observing
him, Toussaint closes the gap between
spectator and sportsman, developing a
whole new perspective on football
and ruthlessly exposes the limits of our
search for meaning within it.

Thangam Ravindranathan and Timothy Bewess translation from the French has appeared in

two publications, whose contrasting natures show the difficulty of categorising it: rst in New
Formations issue 62 (2007), a journal covering culture, theory and politics; and secondly in Best
European Fiction 2010, issued by the Illinois-based Dalkey Archive Press, who publish writing in the
tradition of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, and who have translated six of Toussaints novels. I
have used the Best European Fiction 2010 text, pp34-38.
2

For more on Zidane, Thuram, French football and race, see Laurent Dubois, Soccer Empire: The

World Cup and the Future of France (University of California Press: Los Angeles, 2010).
3

Roger Cohen was the rst to compare Zidane to Meursault, the anti-hero of Camuss Ltranger,

in an article for the International Herald Tribune, 12 July 2006.

142

144
Polemics
The Second-Tier Distribution of
Teams as Apportioned by Mathematical Coefficients Cup

Pel v Beckham

Pel v Beckham
Which of the icons had the greater impact on football
in the USA?
By Pete Grathoff

David Beckhams decision to spurn


Paris Saint-Germains offer to pay him a
reported $1 million a month for a year
and a half prompted much scratching
of heads. His choice, apparently, was
based on the fact his family is happy in
Los Angeles, but staying in the US will
also give Beckham the opportunity to
realise the unfullled promise made
in 2007 by Tim Leiweke, president of
Anschutz Entertainment Group, which
owns the Galaxy.
David Beckham will have a greater
impact on soccer in America than any
athlete has ever had on a sport globally,
Leiweke said before Beckham arrived.
David is truly the only individual that
can build the bridge between soccer in
America and the rest of the world.
It hasnt happened, largely because that
bridge had already been built in the 1970s
by an even bigger football icon: Pel.

Ron Newman has done just about


everything when it comes to football
in the United States. Following a career
in England that included stops at
Portsmouth and Gillingham, Newman
came to the US in 1967, played and
managed in the North American Soccer
League (NASL), coached the indoor team

in San Diego to 10 championships and


was at the helm of Sporting Kansas City
(then called the Wiz) when thry began
to play in Major League Soccer.
On one occasion, he even served as a
goal post.
In the early days of the NASL, soccer
wasnt part of the American landscape.
Recognising the need to introduce
the game to children, Newman started
football leagues in each city he lived in.
At that time, football equipment was
difficult to nd in the US and so Newman
was forced to improvise during one
of his sons games in the early 1970s.
Someone crashed into the goal,
Newman recalled. It wasnt as wellmade as they are now, and it broke. So
to keep the game going, I went out and
stood there with the crossbar on my
head and stood where the goalpost was.
Because baseball and American football
dominated the sports scene at the time,
very few US children grew up playing
soccer. There were only about 100,000
youth football participants in the United
States in the mid-seventies, while the
professional league barely registered on
the general consciousness. In 1974, the
NASL was oundering, with 11 of the 15
franchises drawing fewer than 10,000
spectators per game. The league was

145

Pel v Beckham

mostly ignored by the media and its


games were rarely televised. Even the
1974 World Cup nal broadcast in the
United States was a BBC feed.
In addition to his leagues, Newman
would visit schools to spread the gospel
of football. He recalled one particular
trip in Georgia. The principal greeted
me warmly and said she was so excited
about the visit, telling me the kids couldnt
wait to see the things that I could do, he
said.I was feeling good about the trip
when she added, Ive always admired
you people. I just dont know how you
manage to stand up on those skates!
It was against that backdrop that Pel
arrived in the United States in 1975.
Signing a three-year, $4.7 million deal (an
enormous amount at the time), with the
New York Cosmos, Pel brought instant
attention to the league and the sport.
Football moved front and centre as Pels
rst game was broadcast live on national
television. While the average attendance
for the NASL in 1974 was 7,825 per game,
huge crowds turned out to see Pel,
including a then-record 35,620 for the
Cosmoss game in Washington.
Burgeoning crowds forced the Cosmos
to move their games from the dilapidated
Downing Stadium to baseballs Yankee
Stadium and eventually to the 78,000-seat
Giants Stadium. Meanwhile, the team was
fted in nightclubs around New York and
Pel even visited the White House. Before
long, football fever swept the country.

Andy Northern grew up in Memphis,


Tennessee, and remembers the hoopla for
a sport that few knew much about. The

146

rst time I saw Pel play was his rst game


against Dallas in 1975, said Northern.I
was surprised the local TV station
showed the game. Next I was watching
his farewell game broadcast on ABC in
1977.[By then] I was more interested
because I had been playing for a couple
of seasons.This was also around the
time the NASL announced the expansion
team for Memphis.More people in this
area became aware of Pel because of
the expansion and, as a way to educate
the masses, the local newspapers and TV
stations always used him as the face of
soccer. I cant count the number of times
they showed the footage of Pel scoring
with a bicycle kick.
Pel played his last match in 1977,
helping the Cosmos win the NASL
championship. By the next year, the
NASL had ballooned to 24 teams with
franchises starting in the countrys
mid-section, places like Memphis and
Tulsa, Oklahoma. One of the new teams,
Philadelphia, was partly owned by Rick
Wakeman and Paul Simon.
Investors were keen to buy into the
NASL and they lured other big-name
footballers, such as Giorgio Chinaglia,
Franz Beckenbauer, Bobby Moore,
Eusbio, Gordon Banks, Johan Cryuff
and Carlos Alberto Torres. But while
the Cosmos had the nancial backing
of Warner Brothers, the other owners
struggled to meet the cost of bringing
other high-prole players to America.
Attendances fell, and the league never
found a television network for its games,
a huge factor in its demise.
Still, by the time the NASL folded in 1984,
football had taken root. Youth leagues
were commonplace in the United States

Pete Grathoff

and, by 1990, the number of children


playing the sport had soared to 2 million.
That year, the United States played in the
World Cup for the rst time in 40 years.

than Pels wife, said Newman. In the


late seventies, TV was non-existent but
Pel drew in the inquisitive sports media.
Beckham drew in the paparazzi.

The United States hosted the World Cup


four years later thanks in large part
to Pels decision to endorse the US
bid over that of his native Brazil. A new
outdoor league, Major League Soccer,
started in 1996 and a year later European
football began to be televised regularly
on Fox Sports World. It changed its
name to Fox Soccer Channel in 2005;
within 12 months it was showing football
exclusively. Gol TV, another football-only
network, launched in 2003.

Youll still nd the Beckhams in fashion


magazines in the US, but theres scant
coverage of the Galaxy or Major League
Soccer in many daily newspapers. Most
news organisations dont travel with
teams and television ratings on the
major sport network in the US, ESPN,
remain at, averaging about 200,000
households per MLS game, worse than
the professional womens basketball
league. Yet much like Pel, Beckham
is a draw, his Galaxy playing to aboveaverage crowds.

By 2004, national youth football


registration was at 3.1 million, and it
was inconceivable that anyone in the
United States would not at least know
something about the sport, whether or
not they were a football fan. Certainly
no one by then would have confused
football with ice hockey.

While Beckham completed his ve-year


contract with the Galaxy this year, its
clear that he never had a chance to full
Lewiekes boast, although there was
an initial urry of attention. Early on,
the tabloids gushed about the parties
Beckham and his wife Victoria attended
with Hollywood stars such as Tom Cruise
and Will Smith, while Victoria had her own
TV special.
Where the only player Americans knew
was Pel [in the 1970s], Beckham was of
course better known because of his image
and sponsoring of so many non-soccer
items, plus his wife was also better known

By 2011, though, even fans outside of Los


Angeles did not come out as they had
in the rst year. Beckham hasnt broken
the hold of American football, baseball
or basketball. Worse yet, he hasnt been
able to turn some American soccer
fans into fans of American soccer. The
availability of the English Premier League,
La Liga, the Bundesliga and Serie A has
crowded out MLS.
I do remember the[MLS] commissioner
telling me that it could be better if the
foreign leagues did not have their games
on TV as fans might compare it to the
US game, said Newman. I have heard
people say they have no time to watch
the MLS as the EPL and Champions
League take all their attention.
But Beckham hasnt been a bust. While
he hasnt helped football pierce the
consciousness of the American sports
fan, Beckham has helped expand
Major League Soccers inuence in the
unlikeliest of places: Europe.

147

Pel v Beckham

While the NASL drew its fair share of


big-name players from Europe, most
signed on during their summer breaks
from the European leagues, grabbed the
Cosmoss big bucks or saw a chance
to extend their playing careers by a
few years. None took American soccer
seriously. Even Beckenbauer talked of
the unprecedented freedom he had of
being in a country that didnt recognise a
worldwide star such as himself.
But after Beckham, big names such as
Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane have
followed. When David Beckham came
and trained at Spurs recently, Keane told
reporters shortly before his departure to
Los Angeles, he couldnt speak highly
enough about the Galaxy, their fans and
the league in general, so I cant wait to get
over and get started.
And its not just seasoned veterans
coming to the States. This past season,
the 23-year-old Simon Dawkins was
on loan at San Jose from Tottenham,
the 22-year-old Richard Eckersley was
on loan at Toronto from Burnley, while
John Rooney, the 20-year-old brother of
Wayne Rooney, played with New York.

148

Going the other way across the Atlantic


was Beckhams teammate in Los Angeles,
Landon Donovan, who had a successful
stint on loan with Everton in 2010 and
returned in 2012. We have a lot of
connections with the MLS, said the
Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew.
A lot of English players are now coming
to this division. Its really, really good for
English players. Obviously, we have two
high-prole players in David Beckham and
Thierry Henry. The league is denitely of
signicance now. Weve started a scouting
process here to make sure that were
covering this division. That marks it as one
of the most important divisions if we are
starting to target it as a scouting league for
the English Premier League.
So England is paying more attention to
football in America these days thanks to
Beckhams time with the Galaxy.
As for Americans? Well, Leweike appears to
have overstated Beckhams importance to
the game in the United States particularly
after Pels inuence in the 1970s.
That, Newman said, was not a clever
statement.

The Other Cup

The Other Cup


How do you solve a problem like the Europa League?
By Brian Phillips

As an aesthetic proposition, the Europa


League has three major problems, which
can be concisely enumerated as follows.
1. Lack of semantic clarity leading to
fatal confusion over why it even exists
All football competitions have names.
Frequently those names are relied upon
to convey information. Quite often the
information so conveyed sheds light
upon the competitions distinguishing
characteristic its reason for being, so
to speak. The Charity Shield, for instance,
was devised to benet charity. The CupWinners Cup set cup-winning teams
against one another for the right to hoist
footballs most nakedly tautological
piece of silverware. The Champions
League is a league of champions (and,
occasionally, Liverpool). Glance at the
names of any of these events, and you
can generally puzzle out what their
organisers had in mind for them.
Now glance at the name Europa
League. What information does it
convey? Its a league for the abstract
concept of Europe? For women who
ride off on divine white bulls? Uefa
cant call the competition what it is,
since The Second-Tier Distribution of
Teams as Apportioned by Mathematical
Coefficients Cup lacks a certain
Heineken Factor. So, in 2008, the
Executive Committee looked at all their

properties, realised that their top-line


competition was played for a trophy
called the European Cup, and light
bulbs going off like mad decided to
name their second-line competition
something that confusingly occupied the
same logical space as European Cup
even though it actually had nothing to do
with it. Brilliant!
2. A history so rich and varied it is
impossible to care about
Lonely rivers ow to the sea, to the
sea, and lonely Uefa-sanctioned cup
competitions ow to the Europa League.
Into its yielding vastness have expired,
over the years, the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup,
the Uefa Intertoto Cup, the Uefa Cup, the
Uefa Cup-Winners Cup, and, if my notes
are right, the Future Farmers of America
Tri-County Hog Ribbon of Northern
Arkansas, Bantamweight Division. Mark
my words: one day soon Uefa will
start inventing new cup competitions
expressly for the pleasure of one day
merging them into the Europa League.
Somewhere in Nyon, the Uefa CupWinners-Cup Winners Cup is taking
sinister shape on an interns Macbook.
Sorry, did you want a legacy with your
major continental club tournament? With
the Europa League you have so much
legacy its hard to distinguish from having
none at all.

149

The Other Cup

3. A format that seems to have been


devised by the European Central Bank
during one of its periodic failed attempts
to unwind over a glass of Chablis
Quick, answer two questions, without
looking up the answers. First: Who plays
in the Europa League? Second: What path
does the winner take to the nal?
On question one, if you said, The Cup
winner (or losing nalist) and three other
teams from associations ranked 7-9
in the Uefa coefficients and the Cup
winner (or losing nalist) and two other
teams from all other associations except
Liechtenstein, Andorra, and San Marino,
which send only the Cup winner (or losing
nalist), plus 15 losing teams from the
third qualifying round of the Champions
League, 10 losing teams from the fourth
qualifying round of the Champions
League, and eight third-placed teams
from the group stage of the Champions
League, who enter at the rst knockout
round, youre wrong, because you
forgot the three slots afforded the top
associations in the Fair Play rankings in the
rst qualifying round, idiot!
On question two, if you muttered
something indistinct about a series of
qualifying rounds leading to a playoff
round leading a double-round-robin
group stage leading to a series of twolegged knockout rounds with new teams
entering the tournament according to a
staggered schedule at each stage through
the Round of 32 and a one-legged nal
played at a neutral site well, whatever,
sure. I would also have accepted no one
really knows and a clean punch in the jaw.

150

The result of these three problems


is that whether or not the Europa
League features exciting football, the
competition inevitably feels like an
abstract, bureaucratic slog, the peak
expression of the world of empty
acronyms and pop anthems that Uefa
increasingly seems to inhabit. Its telling
that when the Executive Committee
unveiled its plans to transform the old
Uefa Cup into the Europa League in
2008, the press campaign was largely
focused on branding and marketing
rather than the competition itself. They
werent telling us what the Europa
League meant. Rather, in a classic Uefa
double-twist, they were advertising how
they were going to trick us into thinking
it meant anything at all.
Well, the new logo is nice. But is it
lunacy to suggest that, when organising
a football competition, clarity and
simplicity are virtues? After all, knowing
whats at stake is part of what makes a
contest interesting. Some version of the
old prizeght idea you, me and 50
underlies every exciting tournament.
Theyre playing to settle whos the best
team in the county, whos the best team
in England, whos the best team in the
world. In the Europa League, by contrast,
it feels like theyre playing to settle whos
the best team in a loose federation
of arbitrary diplomatic arrangements
possibly including Sampdoria. Its mildly
exciting if your team is in it, pretty
exciting if your team reaches the late
rounds, and maybe genuinely thrilling if
your team wins. Otherwise, its vapour.
It doesnt have to be. To my mind, the
key to revitalising the Europa League
is to stop seeing it as a junior version
of the Champions League that is, as

Brian Phillips

a deadly serious event whose format


must at all costs reect the grandeur
of its legacy. All the qualifying-round
and group-stage brownouts in the
Champions League can be justied by
the fact that choosing the Champion of
All Europe is a heavy business and one
that must be done just so. In the Europa
League, those same elements just
feel like an excuse to cram in as many
matches as possible. But since it couldnt
possibly matter less how the champion
of the Europa League is selected, why
not throw out all the boring parts and
try to make the competition as fun and
enthralling as possible?
In my Europa League idyll, the
tournament would treat its second-class
status as a licence to do whatever the
hell it wanted. It would emphasise the
unpredictable, the dramatic and the
eccentric. It would take as its model
something like the NCAA basketball
tournament in the US, a completely
mad and utterly thrilling 64-team
championship that features crucially
single-elimination games. Singleelimination games have never been
popular in European football, but for all
the disadvantages they offer in terms of
absolute fairness (ie, they make it easier
for less deserving teams to advance),
they have the advantage of being just
absolutely crazy fun. Compared to
two-legged ties, upsets happen far more
frequently and smaller teams ride streaks
of good fortune to late rounds they have
no business reaching. Every game feels
like a nal, because, in a sense, it is. The
bedrock problem of the Europa League
is that the stakes of the tournament itself
arent terribly high. So why not ratchet up
the stakes of every individual game?

So: single-elimination matches from


the rst day to the nal. No group stage,
period. Neutral stadiums, preferably in fun
cities that fans would like to visit. Cluster
multiple games at each site for each
round, so that if you travel to see Everton
play Valencia, you can stick around to
see PSV play Braga. I dont really care
how many teams qualify, but the more
the better, both because it increases the
randomness quotient and because it
extends the length of the tournament.
(194 teams played in the Europa League
last year. Why not 256?) Champions
League losers can still parachute in,
because my Europa League loves sudden
shakeups. (And parachutes in general.
Parachutes are cool!) Otherwise, no bye
rounds, because stacking the deck in
favor of the big teams is the single largest
contributor to football-tournament
boredom in the rst place. Arsenal play
on day one, gasp horror. Apart from a
basic rule to let in as many good teams
as possible, I dont really care how the
teams are selected, either. My Europa
League is going to make up for its lack of
conceptual purity with speed, agitation
and unfettered awesomeness.
There are a thousand reasons why this
is a bad idea. But none of those reasons
matter because absolutely everyone
would want to watch it. Its midNovember and Liverpool are ghting for
their lives in a one-shot knockout match
against Brndby, who have staggeringly
managed to upset Newcastle and Ajax in
their last two games. The Brndby captain
Clarence Goodson scores a 20-yard
screamer early in the second half. 1-0
to the Danes! King Kenny choking down
re on the touchline! Youre not going to
tune into this? Really?

151

The Other Cup

Oh, right I forgot to mention money.


The single-elimination format would
mean fewer games overall, and thus
fewer chances for Uefa to wring stray
pence out of their TV rights deals, and
thus less money for the participating
clubs, right? Well, maybe. But if you
build a tournament everyone wants
to watch for its own sake, rather than
simply gliding on the fact that people
like watching football in general, the
revenue will tend to follow. The 2009-10
Europa League campaign earned 196
million on, by my count, 477 matches.
(477! It took 272 games to whittle the
thing down to a round of 32.) The 2010
NCAA basketball tournament also a
second-tier national competition, playing
to a vastly smaller market, but with a
reputation for mayhem and delight
featured 64 games. The TV rights sold for
430 million. Less can be more.

152

Continental Drift

Continental Drift
Kazakhstan has slipped behind Uzbekistan since it
abandoned Asia
By Robert Langham

Imagine if Scotland, aghast at the


difficulty of a World Cup qualifying
group that has pitted them against
Wales, Belgium, Croatia and Serbia, were
to decide they should apply to take part
in the Confederation of North, Central
American and Caribbean Association
Football (Concacaf) continental zone for
the 2018 event. Preposterous? Perhaps
but such geographical anomalies are
far from unusual.
Political considerations have seen Israel
established as a Uefa member for three
decades now. Having suffered expulsion
from the Asian Football Confederation
(AFC) in 1974, they initially competed
with countries from Oceania before
stumbling across their current home.
Geographically, Israel lies in Asia and its
neighbours, apart from Egypt, are AFC
members, but memories of a boycottravaged and unsatisfactory 1964 Asian
Cup that saw Israel, as hosts, do no more
than defeat the combined might of South
Korea, India and Hong Kong to claim the
title are now distant.
But the risk of strife isnt the only reason
for such switching. Australias early
years as a fully-edged member of the
AFC have seen them qualify with ease
for the South African jamboree, lose in
the nal of the 2011 Asian Cup to Japan
and bid successfully to host the next

event in 2015. The Socceroos had tired


of turkey shoots, the most infamous
of which saw them defeat American
Samoa 31-0 in 2002, and opted for
travel to Riyadh and Seoul in search of
healthier competition. Elsewhere, more
informal arrangements have begun to
appear guests in the Concacaf Gold
Cup have included Brazil, Colombia
and even South Korea, while Mexico are
now perennials at the Copa Amrica,
the house tournament of South
Americas governing body, Conmebol.
One of the oddest such cases in
recent years is perhaps one of the least
publicised. General unfamiliarity with the
geography of the former Soviet Union
led few to bat an eyelid when Kazakhstan
applied to join Uefa in 2002. At the
time, a statement from the national
football federation, the KSF, stated that
our experts are deeply convinced that
our soccer today needs to be part of
Uefa, which in our opinion has the most
developed and progressive system of
soccer in the world. The country that
the Daily Telegraph described as a Silk
Road backwater clearly relished the
opportunity to compete with its more
westerly cousins. The application came
too late for the Kazakhs to take part in
the preliminaries for Euro 2004, but a
berth in the qualifying tournament for
Germany 2006 was duly reserved.

153

Continental Drift

Kairat Alma-Ata (now Almaty) had won


the Soviet First League twice and ties
with Russia and other former Soviet
states remained strong. Having failed
to qualify for the 1998 and 2002 World
Cups as an Asian member, a move
to Europe made some sense: the
KSF President Rakhat Aliyev felt that
participation in Uefa would toughen
Kazakhstans footballing environment,
leading to an increase in standards and
attracting bigger crowds for marquee
home xtures Russia, Italy, Germany
and England would make for more
appealing opposition than Bhutan or the
Maldives and the travelling distances
required would, generally, be shorter.
But the reasoning behind the change in
governing body perhaps stretches beyond
football. Kazakhstan, like many countries
in transition, suffered greatly after the
fragmentation of the USSR in 1991. The
inaugural president, Nursultan Nazarbayev,
has clung to power in a constitutional
system that is a democracy only in name.
Natural resources have proved to be the
edgling nations saving grace. This vast
land the ninth largest in the world by
area possesses an estimated 3.2% of the
worlds known oil reserves and exports
of the commodity rose to contribute
24% of GDP once the turmoil of market
liberalisation had slowed. In a geopolitical
arena that has seen oil rise in price as it has
become increasingly scarce and in which
wars are fought in order to secure it, the
relative stability of the Astana regime has
been a boon.
Nazarbayev has conducted a
multifaceted foreign policy that has
attempted to maintain good relations
with Russia, China and the US and
relations with Washington and its

154

corporations in particular have been


breezy. Skyscrapers have sprung up in
the new capital Astana (Almaty having
been unceremoniously jettisoned)
and the rise in GDP has been striking:
already at 9.8% in 2002, growth over
the past decade has rivalled that in
other resource-rich economies such as
China and Angola. Kazakhstan clearly
sees itself as part of the West being
part of UEFA has been a vital part of
that process.
Squeezed like an elongated egg yolk
under the vast white of Kazakhstan
lies its south-westerly neighbour
Uzbekistan. The Uzbeks have also been
ruled by one man since fragmentation,
Islam Karimov. Uzbekistan has a greater
population than Kazakhstan 27.6
million as opposed to 16.6 million
and the ethnic make-up is more
uniform: 80% of the population are
of Uzbek descent while only 63% of
Kazakhstans population is Kazakh.
Oil is also less of a factor and has
importance only on a regional scale;
cotton is king in Tashkent.
The economic paths have also diverged.
While Nazarbayev has sought to
free up markets, to encourage direct
foreign investment and to welcome
multinational corporations, Karimov has
imposed rigid economic controls, with
privatisation only really set in motion
in 2007. The US has been less than
impressed although the countrys
anti-Islamicist stance procured some
favour from Washington initially, in
recent times relations have deteriorated
badly and the Karimovs re-election in
2000 was described by Washington
diplomats as neither free nor fair and
offering no true choice.

Robert Langham

There are similarities of course. While


economic growth in Kazakhstan has
been more vertiginous, it had also
been healthy to the south-west. Both
countries suffered in the 2008 nancial
crisis the Kazakh government
plunged $19 billion into the economy
to aid ailing banks and companies while
GDP in Uzbekistan also shrunk. As the
independent news website Uzmetronom
reported the arrests of a selection of the
countrys wealthiest people and a slew
of human rights abuses , the situation is
little better in Kazakhstan, which ranks
122nd in the Global Corruption Index
produced by Transparency International.
Its true that democracy is an alien
concept to both, but the differences
remain stark.

Iraq in qualifying for the Korea-Japan


World Cup, a 9-1 win for the Lions
of Mesopotamia over Nepal cost the
Kazakhs progress on goal difference.

Uzbekistans decision to remain in


the AFC seems symptomatic of its
inward-looking political environment
as Kazakhstan looks to the West: in that
regard, football, and how each country
has fared on the pitch, perhaps offer a
metaphor for wider issues.

But then came the Kazakh departure


from the AFC and a rapid divergence.
Uzbekistans performances continued to
provide encouragement. They suffered
a controversial exit from the 2006 World
Cup after a refereeing mistake led to
their nal-round qualifying clash with
Bahrain being replayed. The Gulf nation
won on away goals and so denied the
Uzbeks a play-off against Trinidad and
Tobago. Boasting a genuine internationalclass striker in Maksim Shatskikh, they
again reached the nal round in 2010
and chalked up successive quarter-nal
appearances in the Asian Cup. Then, in
2011, they made it to the semi-nals.
Although Australia proved to be too
strong, Vadim Abramovs men have
reason for optimism: passage through a
difficult initial group including both Japan
and North Korea appears to have been
virtually achieved.

Kazakhstan competed in two World


Cup qualifying tournaments as an Asian
country, in 1998 and 2002. Results
were generally good a 2-1 victory in
Baghdad and a 3-1 win at home against
Iraq, one of the continents footballing
superpowers, were striking; even if the
latter was marred by the subsequent
allegations of atrocities committed
towards the losing players by Saddam
Hussains son, Uday. With Pakistan also
well-beaten, the Kazakhs nished last in
a difficult nal-round group containing
both South Korea and Japan, but they
had quickly established themselves as
a team that could compete with the
continents best. Again paired with

Uzbekistans progress was similar: having


won the football competition at the Asian
Games in 1994, the Uzbeks nished level
on points with Kazakhstan in that same
group, although a 4-0 win in the central
Asian derby in October 1997 was perhaps
a sign of things to come. In the qualifying
tournament for 2002, they again came up
short in the second round, nishing third in
their section behind China and the United
Arab Emirates. Despite the big victory in
the run up to France 98, the countries
appeared to be of similar standing as they
each entered their second decade.

The Kazakhs, meanwhile, have


struggled since the move. They knew

155

Continental Drift

the opposition would be tougher, but


few foresaw a dismal rst qualifying
campaign that saw them pick up only
one point, from a 0-0 draw against
Georgia. A 6-0 home defeat to Turkey
was especially galling and the only solace
came from a spirited 2-1 home defeat
against Ukraine in which Ruslan Rotans
ninetieth minute winner denied the
Kazakhs a draw.
Although they beat Serbia 2-1,
Kazakhstan nished sixth in their eightteam qualifying group for Euro 2008
and it might have been worse had
Armenia and Azerbaijan ever got round
to playing each other. The subsequent
World Cup qualifying series brought just
two wins over Andorra, with two 5-1
defeats at the hands of Belarus showing
just how far behind other former Soviet
republics they had fallen.
While its true that overseas coaches
Arno Pijpers and Bernd Storck oversaw
some stiffening of resolve and that the
German-based Sergei Karimov, the striker
Sergei Ostapenko and the ethnic German
midelder Heinrich Schmidtgal gave the
side a more cosmopolitan feel, it still takes
a leap of imagination to see Kazakhstan
in a World Cup nals anytime soon:
their only win in recent months was in a
friendly against Oman, an AFC country.
Nor has the move to Uefa been
vindicated at club level. Kazakh clubs
have registered barely a murmur in
the Champions League or Europa
League. Aktobe have reached the third
qualifying round on two occasions
but fallen to Israeli opposition both
times, while the worst outcome came
in 2007 when Astana-64 lost 10-2 on
aggregate to Rosenborg. The Uzbek

156

moneybags Bunyodkor, by contrast,


have won four successive national
titles and reached the semi-nals of
the AFC Champions League in 2008
an impressive achievement whatever
the circumstances surrounding their
employment of Rivaldo, Zico and Luiz
Felipe Scolari. Its a measure of the
change in fortunes that Kairat the best
Kazakh team in Soviet times are now
managed by John Gregory.
Kazakhstans initial application to join
Uefa looks desperately contrived. Its true
that the country straddles the Ural river
its most westerly regions thus officially
being part of Europe and it would
be feasible to take a boat across the
Caspian Sea for an away game in Baku.
The large ethnic Russian population also
continues to loom over the national
consciousness. But the majority of the
population and the two dominant cities,
Astana and Almaty, are east of the Urals
and thus in Asia and the incongruity of
Uefa membership is impossible to ignore.
Flying time from London to Almaty is
close to seven hours and, if Englands
visit in 2009 was something of a mission,
what of the Faroese or Icelandic club
sides who might nd themselves drawn
against the current champions, Shakhter
Karagandy? It was St Patricks Athletic
who had to make the trip for this
seasons Europa League.
With both Japan and South Korea
progressing beyond the group stages
of the 2010 World Cup, Asian footballs
stake in the global game could not be
higher. The latters defeat of Greece in
their opening xture in Port Elizabeth at
the 2010 World Cup came as no surprise
and Australias arrival has raised the
general standard considerably. While

Robert Langham

Asian football is not yet close to being on


a par with Europe, the popularity of the
game on the continent, allied with the
advantages of wealth and infrastructure it
has over Africa, is likely to lead to further
improvement over the next few years.
To be jostling with the best east of the
Urals is a good place to be. Kazakhstan
may enjoy the symbolism of being part
of Uefa, but in football terms their switch
seems a mistake.

157

158
Football Manager

It was sundown before one of the


stewards found him running up
and down a blind alley behind the
stadium.

The Ballad of Bobby Manager: My Autobiography

The Ballad of Bobby Manager:


My Autobiography
When somebody takes their game of Football Manager
just a little too seriously...
By Iain Macintosh

What follows is a ctionalised account


of one mans game of Football Manager
2011. None of what happens is true,
or even nearly true. It happened on a
laptop and it has no basis or relevance
in real life.
There is no sight in this world more
beautiful than Aneld at dawn. As the sun
rises and the sky turns from grey to pink,
the creeping ngers of light reach down
from between the clouds and fondle that
historic stadium like a horny sixth former.
They rub off the red seats, they make the
bulbs in the oodlights tingle and that
beautiful green pitch seems to rise up,
every stalk stretching and clamouring for
a bit of action. As for me, I just sat quietly
on the bench, took it all in and smiled.
Id been there all night, quietly drawing
my plans together. Poor Roy Hodgson
had given this job everything he had, but
after three seasons he had left emptyhanded. Now, having taken West Ham
from the brink of relegation to the cusp of
continental success, albeit in the Europa
League, it was my turn to try and rouse
this sleeping giant.
A series of loud unintelligible squeaks
brought me out of my daydream with a
start.

What the hell! I blustered. I whipped my


head around and saw Jamie Carragher,
my new assistant manager, beaming back
at me from the mouth of the tunnel.
Oh! I gasped. Its you, Jamie. Im
afraid youve caught me in a bit of a
daydream.
Jamie smiled and emitted a short burst
of white noise.
Ha! Yes, I suppose so, I replied, chuckling.
He shrieked and whistled at me,
shrugging his shoulders emphatically.
Well, I said. Thats easy for you to say.
Its me who has to put up with the hand
of history upon his shoulder. Its me who
has to drag this team back into the big
time. Still, it could be worse. At least Roy
was able to secure Champions League
qualication last year.
A shadow passed across Jamies face at
the mention of his former manager.
Im sorry, Jamie. I said gently. Its still
too soon, isnt it? Speaking of which, has
Fernando recovered yet?
Fernando Torres hadnt enjoyed the

159

The Ballad of Bobby Manager: My Autobiography

best of times under my predecessor.


In fact, when I was at West Ham,
Roy had once tried to strike a swap
deal with me in exchange for Carlton
Cole. When news of Roys sacking
hit the papers, Fernando went on a
celebratory drinking binge that lasted
three weeks and ended when he fell
asleep aboard a shing ship and woke
up in Newfoundland. The hangover was
really quite extraordinary.
Bobby, he had whispered quietly from
his sofa, when I popped round to see
how he was doing. You save me?
Thats right, Fernando, I smiled softly.
Im here to save you.
He grimaced as another wave of nausea
swept over him and he glugged urgently
at a bottle of Irn-Bru.
Always the ball in the air, he mumbled.
Always so high, I break my neck
looking for it. Why, Bobby? Why did he
not let us pass?
Its ok, son, I said, mopping his brow
with a cloth and passing him another bag
of ready salted crisps. Thats all going to
change now. This season, we play it on
the deck, we use you as a lone striker,
but we put Stevie behind you, so he can
grab the game by the scruff of the neck.
Im going to buy actual wide men to help
supply you, Im going to nd someone
who can pass to feed you and Im going
to seal Christian Poulsen into a barrel and
push him into the Mersey.
Fernandos eyes bulged and he tried to
lift himself from the sofa.
Konchesky! he wailed urgently.
Konchesky!

160

Its ok, I said, pushing him back down


onto the cushions. Its ok. Hes already
gone. I had Jamie drive him and his mum
out into the Lake District. He let them out
in a small clearing and then drove off as
quickly as he could. I dont think well see
them again.
He smiled and began to relax.
I love you, Bobby, he said softly.
I know you do, Fernando, I said, using
the tips of my ngers to lower his eyelids.
Now get some rest, eh?
I got busy in the transfer market as soon
as possible. With the generous transfer
kitty that Tom Hicks and George Gillett
had promised me, we went on a spending
spree. First came the pint-size German
speedster Marko Marin from Borussia
Mnchengladbach for 25m. Then, for
the other ank, Eljero Elia for 17.5m. The
Dutchman had a troubled start to life at
Aneld. I invited him for a tour of the
stadium, but lost him within ve minutes.
We searched everywhere, but it was
sundown before one of the stewards
found him running up and down a blind
alley behind the stadium. Strange lad.
Sami Khedira joined from Real Madrid to
help oil the wheels of mideld. He was
10m and then we spent another 20m on
a kid from Ajax by the name of Luis Surez.
He was a lovely lad, happy to help out
anywhere across the front line, a real
people person. There was a brief ashpoint
early on when he sent a birthday card to
Glen Johnson addressing him as my
favourite negro, but we took him aside
and had a quiet word. We gently warned
him that negro, while not being offensive
in a certain context in his homeland, could
be construed as offensive in England if, say,
he used it in the middle of a ferocious war

Iain Macintosh

of words with a black opponent. I know, I


know, it seems like political correctness
gone mad, but you cant be too careful.
Imagine if we didnt pick up on something
like that immediately and it was taken the
wrong way!
With all the signing-on fees and the
increased burden on the wage bill, that
was the limit of my spending, but I felt
that Id done more than enough to liven
up the squad and give us a chance of
silverware. It was certainly a lively
dressing-room when I walked in for the
rst pre-season friendly against Celtic.

in the corner doing air drums. Whatever


else you could say about him, he could
certainly feel it coming in the air tonight. I
waited patiently for the song to end.
Gaffer! beamed Gerrard as the song
faded out. Welcome to the dressingroom! Lads! This is Bobby Manager, hes
the new gaffer!
All right, gaffer! shouted the dressingroom as one.
All right, gaffer! bellowed a group of
American tourists behind me.

For a moment, I just stood in the


doorway and watched them chattering
among themselves. So much talent, so
much ability. I couldnt help but smile at
the memory of kicking water bottles at
Carlton Coles skull in an effort to
demonstrate the advantages of the
long-ball game. I wouldnt have to do
that here. One thing I would have to do,
however, was turn that bloody music off.

All ri hang on, who are you? I asked,


turning around.

Daniel, I said, tapping my tattooed


Danish defender on the shoulder. What
the hell is this on the stereo?

Bobby, smiled Tom, striding forward and


putting his arm around me. I get you, I
understand you, this is your territory and
Im stepping all over it. He lowered his
voice to a whisper that only I could hear.
But if you dismiss me in front of people
like that again, Bobby, Ill sack you in a
heartbeat and replace you with Avram
Grant, you hear me?

Its Phil Collins, he said with a look of


weary resignation. Its Stevies choice.
Come on, lets get rid of it. Weve got
work to do.
Daniels face turned white and he threw
out an arm to block my progress.

Say howdy to our new friends, Bobby!


grinned Tom Hicks. These guys are
touring the stadium, I said that they could
come in and see how a real team talk
goes down!
Get them out of here, Tom, Im working!

I hear you.

No! he hissed. You cannot! He is quick


to anger. You must let the song nish!

These people are paying 10,000 a head


for the full tour and thats money we
need right now, capice?

I looked over to the other side of the


dressing-room. My captain was sat quietly

I thought we were ne for money, Tom,


I whispered back at him. I thought youd

161

The Ballad of Bobby Manager: My Autobiography

sorted it all out with the bank?


Tom smiled again, a little too hard, I
thought.
Of course, were ne, Bobby. Who said
we werent ne? Its all going to be ne.
Its all going to be ne.
He let go of me and turned back to the
tour group.
So there you go, guys. Thats the
dressing-room, now hows about we
take a trip to the trophy room to look at
those four European Cups, huh?
Five European Cups, Tom. I said quietly.
Theres only four in there, Bobby.
Well, there were ve there last night
when I was looking at them.
How many do you think Avram would
see if he was looking at them, Bobby?
Fine, I said, sadly. Enjoy the game, Tom.
You too, Bobby, he said with a wink.
I did enjoy the game, as it happened.
Fernando scored, Surez scored and
Stevie drove one home from 30 yards. It
was great fun, but I enjoyed the rst
league game of the season even more.
Weeep! said Jamie Carragher beside
me on the bench as the full time whistle
went. And he was right. It was more than
we could have hoped for.
Everton at home and we crushed them,
restricting them to just a single shot and
piling in four goals of our own, the last of

162

which Stevie drove home from 30 yards.


We were on our way. Unfortunately, we
werent on our way quite as quickly as
Manchester City. After three seasons of just
missing out on the title, they had paid
75m for Cristiano Ronaldo and it was
working out rather nicely for them. They
won their rst eight league games without
conceding a single goal and it wasnt until
December that they lost their rst match.
Meanwhile, under the stewardship of Mike
Phelan, Manchester United were struggling
to keep up and Arsenal, who had
confusingly replaced Arsne Wenger with
Hugo Snchez, were in the bottom three
in October. It was a very odd season.
Even odder was the behaviour of Tom. I
hardly ever saw George. On the few
occasions I passed him in the corridors,
he just put his head down and skittered
past me. Tom, on the other hand, was a
constant presence.
Bobby! he shouted as he burst into my
office one evening. I just wanted to pop
in and see if you wanted some pizza?
You want some pizza, Bobby?
No, Im ne, thanks Tom, I said. Just
working on some stats here. Did you
know that Arsenal are scoring just a
single goal for every 15 chances they
make?
I couldnt give a rats ass, Bobby.
Oh.
Thats a nice watch you got there
though, what is that? Is that a Rolex?! He
reached out for my arm and tugged it
towards him.
Erm, yes, it is. Its a 1979 Paul Newman

Iain Macintosh

Rolex Oyster. This is actually a prototype


and theres only a handful of them in the
world. Kieron Dyer gave it to me when
he left West Ham. He was using it as a
paperweight.
Aw, gee, Bobby, its broken.
Is it?
Yeah, you see the hands and the way
theyre moving around?
I stared at the watch intently. I wasnt
very good with these sorts of things.
What am I looking for? I asked.
You see the way the hands glide around
smoothly, Bobby, without any discernible
tick? That means its broken. Your central
chrono-piston must have burst a
lament.
Really? I exclaimed. God, thats terrible.
Is it difficult to x?
Lucky for you, I know a guy. With a
ash of his ngers, he unclicked the
strap and whipped it off my wrist. Ill
take it to him rst thing tomorrow,
Bobby. Dont worry about the fee, Ill
take care of it for you.

Stevie or Fernando as well.


Insulated against injury or suspension, we
roared through our Champions League
group, beat Marseille in the rst knockout round and put 10 points between us
and Chelsea in third.
To all intents and purposes, however, our
league challenge ended in early March
when we went to the Etihad Stadium and
were beaten 1-0 after a 40-yard Ronaldo
free-kick almost severed our goalkeeper
Igor Akinfeevs hands at the wrist. We
werent really in the right mood for the
game, having been put off our stride by
a late visit from, yes, youve guessed it,
Tom Hicks.
Bobby! he shouted as he strode in with
a huge pile of documents in his arms.
Im sorry to barge in like this, but I just
need to update the insurance on the
players.
Does it have to be done now? We kick
off in 10 minutes.
Youre right, youre right. Maybe it could
wait for a better time. Say? Do you have
Avram Grants number on your cell, I
could really use that.

I never saw it again.

I sighed.

Compensation arrived in the form of, well,


our form. We couldnt close the gap on
City, but we could certainly leave some
breathing space between ourselves and
the rest of the chasing pack. Marin and
Elia tore people apart in a way that
Stewart Downing and Junior Stanislas
rarely did. Surez was a Godsend, not
simply because he could cover for both
wingers, but because he could slot in for

Come on then, but can we get this done


as soon as possible?
Sure, Bobby! You heard him, boys! I
need a signature from each of you on the
bottom of page 22, lets get these passed
around. Where are the pens? George?
GEORGE? What are you doing hiding out
in the corridor, George, goddammit, I
need you in here.

163

The Ballad of Bobby Manager: My Autobiography

George slipped into the dressing-room


with a pot of biros. He looked ashenfaced and rarely lifted his eyes off the
oor as he handed out the pens.
Are you ok, George? I asked as the
players passed the documents around the
dressing-room.
Hes ne, Bobby. Hes just a little ill, arent
you, George?
George looked at me sadly, his eyes wide
and damp like a naughty puppy.
Yes, he mumbled. I am just a little ill.
Daniel Agger raised his arm.

Look lads, if the gaffer says its ok and


the owners says its ok, I say its ok. Lets
sign the forms, sos I can get out there
and grab the game by the scruff of the
neck, eh?
All right, Stevie! chorused the squad,
and they signed the forms.
Great! beamed Tom with more
enthusiasm than I expected for a man
who was just updating insurance policies.
He ran around the dressing-room
snatching forms from hands and then
dashed out of the door. George followed
silently behind.
George? I asked quietly. Are you sure
youre ok?

Boss, what is this?


He turned and looked at me for a while.
Ill eld this one, Bobby, said Tom.
Danny, its an insurance document. We
er discovered that your existing policies
didnt take into account a lot of things
that could happen to you, a lot of things
that could go wrong. Dont worry about
reading it, its all for your benet.
Why does it say economic rights in
big letters on the rst page? asked Glen
Johnson.
Dont worry about, thats just some
nonsense legalese. Just sign the papers
and you can get on with the game. Good
luck with that, by the way. Go Reds, huh?
Hey, Bobby, I need you to sign one too,
just in case you get hit by a bus.
I shrugged and signed quickly without
even looking at it.
Some of the players looked unsure, but as
always, Stevie took control.

164

Yeah, Im ok, Bobby.


Ok. Well, enjoy the game.
Im not gonna watch it, Bobby. He
said Ive got my book. Ill just sit in the
boardroom and read.
Oh. Fair enough. What are you reading?
Harry Potter, sniffled George. Hes so
noble. He always knows to do the right
thing. I wish I could be more like him.
I didnt really know what to do with that.
With the title looking more and more out
of our reach, we focused our attention
on Europe. To our great delight, City
were knocked out by Barcelona in the
quarter-nals, while we slid past PSV on
away goals. We drew Bayern Munich in
the semi-nals, while the Catalans landed

Iain Macintosh

Olympiakos and what seemed like a


straight-forward path to the nal, a nal
that would be held in their own stadium.
But it didnt quite turn out like that.
In Germany, Stevie drove one home from
30 yards and, thanks largely to Akinfeev,
we managed to cling on to our lead until
full-time. But there was drama at Aneld
the following week when our defensive
linchpin, Lucas, went missing on the
night of the big game.

Is he the soft-faced Spanish one who


looks like a nine year old girl?
No, Tom, thats Fernando Torres.
Well, gee Bobby, which ones Lucas?
Hes the little one who does all the
tackles.
Tom looked blank.
Why do you think Id know where Lucas
is, Bobby?

I rapped on Toms office door urgently.


Bobby! he laughed when I walked in.
I was just thinking about you. Listen,
where do you want to take the lads in the
summer? Whatever happens from here on
in, I think they deserve a reward, dont you?
Well, yes, thats very good of you, Tom.
You like the Middle East, Bobby? I love
it; you been out there since they rebuilt
it? Gee, its awesome. Clean beaches,
beautiful hotels, those Emirates sure are
beautiful.
That sounds great.
You wouldnt mind spending a bit of
time out there, huh? Well, I dont blame
you. Leave it with me, Ill get it xed up.
Tom, thats really good of you, but Ive
got a problem. Have you seen Lucas?
Tom leaned back in his chair and stroked
his chins thoughtfully.
Lucas? Which one is he again? Is he the
one with all the tattoos?
No, thats Danny Agger.

Well, some of the lads say that they saw


you leading him off the training pitch this
morning and pointing him towards a
large black limousine.
I dont recall that, Bobby.
They say you were talking about Arsenal
and how they needed a destroyer in the
middle.
Ah, I see, Bobby. I see whats happened.
No, no, what weve got here is a serious
case of crossed wires. I remember now,
Lucas is the guy who likes to read up on
current affairs, right?
He is?
Yeah, we were talking about the possible
build-up of the nuclear arsenal in Iran
and how we should send a US destroyer
to the middle of Gulf, just to send them a
warning. Easy mistake to make, huh?
Oh. Well, do you know where the
limousine went?
Sure I do, I thought hed been working
hard all season, so I had the driver give
him a lift home. A reward. An incentive.

165

The Ballad of Bobby Manager: My Autobiography

Gee, I hope you dont mind, Bobby?


No, not at all. Ok. Well, Ill have to try
and locate him elsewhere.
I never did nd him.
Still, it didnt matter in the end, though it
looked like it might for a while. Lucass
replacement Jay Spearing struggled to
contain the Germans and, two goals
down at the break, we had it all to do in
the second half. I got the players back
into the dressing-room as quickly as I
could and slammed the door.
Wheres the passion, lads? I shouted.
Jamie weighed in as well, warbling
non-words loudly and punching his st
into his hand.
Jamies right, I said. And I couldnt have
put it better myself. Youre thinking about
yourselves, but youre not thinking about
the club, the legacy, the soul of this
football team.
Meeep! Jamie squawked disconsolately.
Exactly, Jamie, exactly, I shouted,
patting him on the back. What would
Shanks make of this?
Jamie opened his mouth, threw back his
head and one of the windows in the
shower exploded.
Yes, Jamie! Hed be mortied! Now get
out there and pull this back. Theyre
holding a nal in Barcelona in May and as
God is my witness, I want Liverpool to be
one of the teams out there contesting it.
Stevie roared and punched the air and
the rest of the lads joined in, whopping

166

and hollering. I felt more alive then


than I did in three years at Upton Park
and I tell you the truth, I felt sorry for
Bayern Munich. Stevie drove one home
from 30 yards just two minutes after
the restart, Marin poked a free-kick
inside the near-post three minutes later
and with just moments left on the
clock, Fernando slipped through the
defence, rounded the goalkeeper and
sent us to the nal. But it got even
better than that.
Whats that Jamie? I asked my assistant
as we bounced up on down on the
touchline in celebration.
He shouted into my ear, a noise like a fax
machine falling down a well.
Barcelona are out?! They lost to
Olympiakos?!
Jamie laughed wickedly and planted a
kiss on my cheek. Wed never considered
that there might be an upset. The only
thing that stood in our way now was
Olympiakos. We were the runaway
favourites.
The title race was over in April. After
decades in the wilderness, Manchester
City nally sat at the top of the pile,
having won 30 games and only lost two.
We would eventually trail in 11 points
behind them, but another eight ahead of
Chelsea. Manchester United recovered to
nish fourth, while Arsenal plodded
home in eighth having sacked Snchez
and replaced him with Steve Bould.
Our thoughts turned to the Camp Nou
and our date with destiny. Its funny how
local rivalries are ignored when an
English team comes to challenge the

Iain Macintosh

continental powers. I was humbled to


receive a text message from retired
Manchester United boss Sir Alex
Ferguson on the morning of the game.
Even u cant fuck this up! ROFL! it read. I
cant tell you how good it felt to have a
legend of the game ll me with that
self-belief, to take the time out of his day
to tell me that I couldnt fail. No wonder
he always coaxed such spellbinding
performances out of his players. Who
wouldnt want to win for that man? And
to add the ROFL (Rooting Openly For
Liverpool) just goes to show that rivalry is
nothing compared to mutual respect.
But I wonder if even Fergie would have
been able to cope with the discovery that,
once again, we were a man down before
the game had even begun. I diligently
counted a party of 38 players and officials
onto the plane, but only 37 got off at
Barcelona. Glen Johnson had vanished.
Tom? I shouted across the terminal.
Tom? Wheres Glen?
Which ones Glen? he shouted back as
he barged holiday-makers out of the way
to get to me.
The right-back, Tom. With the braided
hair.
Why would I know where Glen is,
Bobby?
The lads say that you took him to the
back of the plane and handed him a
freshly-packed parachute when we were
ying over Monaco.
Ah, that Glen! Gee, Bobby, why would I
give him a parachute? I mean, its not like
Im going to encourage him to sneak him

through the access hatch into the cargo


hold, release the rear door emergency
catch and shove him out when were over
a rich French football club with an urgent
need for a new full-back, is it?
Well, thats true, I suppose, I conceded.
So what happened?
That was a cushion. An elaborately
designed erm designer cushion. With
straps and buckles. Its a Pierre erm
Cheesemonkey. Hes very good, my wife
loves his shoes. I wanted to reward Glen
for his work this season, but I wanted to
take him to the back of the plane so that
the other players didnt get jealous. After
all, I cant afford Pierre Cheesemonkeys
for everyone, huh? Huh?!
Fair enough, I said. But what are we
going to do for a right-back? I think well
have to play Martin Kelly, but I dont even
know
Bobby, Bobby, Bobby! said Tom kindly.
These are your problems. I got my own
problems!
Youre right, I said. Jamie! Where are
you Jamie? Weve got a problem.
I heard a frantic squeaking from passport
control, so I grabbed my bag and broke
into a run.
Of course, youre probably laughing
when you read this, wondering why I
ever worried about young Martin. It was
he who rose like Italian interest rates at
the back post for that corner, meeting
Khediras oated cross and powering it
into the back of the net. It was he who
kept the right ank closed to all visitors
for 90 breathless minutes. For all our

167

The Ballad of Bobby Manager: My Autobiography

concerns, for all our fears, we didnt miss


Glen at all in the end. Olympiakos were
plucky, they fought to the end, but when
Stevie who else? drove one home
from 30 yards with just 10 minutes left, I
knew that nothing could stop us.

players, any of them. I started to turn on


the spot, faster and faster, growing ever
more frantic, grinding the turf underneath
me to mud. Where was everyone?

Weve done it! I cried and leapt up from


the bench.
Meep meep! yelled Jamie as he jumped
onto my shoulders. After what seemed
like forever, the full-time whistle blew
and the stadium erupted. I shook off
Jamie and strode to the centre of the
Camp Nou, master of my own magical
night in Barcelona, my arms raised to the
sky, soaking up the adulation, drinking in
the moment.

I ran, heart pounding, palms sweating, off


the pitch and down the tunnel, leaving the
noise and the glory and the love behind
me. I skidded around the corner of the
corridor and made for the dressing-room,
barging the door open and sliding across
the tiles. It was empty. The oor was
clean, with thin streaks of water and
detergent still drying under the lights. The
kit was gone, the players were gone, the
bags were gone. It was as if the dressingroom had never been used.

Weve won it six times! Weve won it six


ti-iiii-imes! sang the fans.

Bobby? asked a small voice from inside


the showers.

From a struggling turf salesman in a red


Ford Mondeo to a Champions Leaguewinning manager in just four years. This
was my dream, this was my impossible
dream.

George? I said. Whats going on? Where


is everyone?

In Barcelona we won it six times!

Theyve gone, he sniffled. Theyve all


gone.

I looked around for Stevie, but he was


being led into the tunnel by some men in
grey suits. One of them was measuring
him with a long tape, another was
marking something down on a clipboard.
I looked for Jamie on the bench, but
where he had stood there was only a six
foot high brown paper parcel that
seemed to squirm uncomfortably of its
own accord.

Theres only one Bobby Manager!

George poked his head around the


corner. His eyes were red.

What are you talking about? Where have


they gone? Were supposed to be
collecting the trophy!

One Bobby Manager!

Thats gone as well. Tom sold it. He


shuffled out from the showers, clutching
his Harry Potter book close to his chest.
Sometimes I wish I were a wizard, he
whimpered. Then I could have shouted,
Expelliarmus at him when he ran away
and at least we would have the cup.

I craned my neck around, looking for my

What the hell are you talking about,

168

Iain Macintosh

George! I bellowed. What the hell is


going on?!
He lied! screamed George, throwing
his book to the oor with a resounding
slap. He lied to you, he lied to the
players, he lied to the bank and he lied
to me! He never had any money, he
borrowed everything in the name of the
club at crippling interest rates and now
its all gone wrong! Hes been selling
the economic rights of the players for
the last month to anyone who will take
them, signing them over with contracts
that kicked in either immediately or the
moment this game ended. All the stars,
all the legends, every decent or halfway
decent footballer has been sold, Bobby!
Theres no-one left who can even kick a
ball in a straight line!

Non.
Well, that at least makes sense! I laughed.
Yes, I laughed. In spite of it all, I laughed,
long and hard, my voice ringing off the walls
of the empty dressing-room. George?
Yes, Bobby?
I quit! This is your problem and Im
leaving you to it. Im going to go out there
and tell the press exactly whats happened
and then Im going on holiday. You can
deal with it from here. God knows, with
this victory and my record at West Ham,
it wont be long before someone comes
along with a decent job offer.
Thats just it, Bobby, cried George. You
cant quit! Tom sold you as well. Youre
the new manager of Qatar!

There was a tentative knock at the door.

Non.

So thats where you nd me today. Sat


in an air-conditioned room in an airconditioned hotel in Doha, poring over
the career details of Sebastian Soria and
Khalfan Ibrahim. Its not what I wanted, its
not what I needed, but thanks to George
and Tom, its what I am contractually
obliged to do for another three years and
112 days. Still, its not all bad. I can nally
pick my own music in the dressing-room,
no-one sells any of my players behind
my back, no-one has tried to Tazer my
testicles and my boss isnt pursuing an
unhealthy relationship with a golden
Labrador. And you know what? Somehow,
some day, Ill be back.

No one at all?

THE END

Yes? I snapped.
The door opened and the unused
substitute David Ngog stepped into the
room, looking around in confusion.
ErGaffer? Ou-estereverybody?
David? I said. Youre still here?
Er oui.
No-one tried to take you away?

169

170
Greatest Games
Hughes buried his boot into Cejass
midriff as he lay on the oor.

Racing 1 Celtic 0

Racing 1 Celtic 0
Intercontinental Cup nal play off, Estadio Centenario,
Montevideo, 4 November 1967
By Dan Edwards

Chabay

Basile

Raffo

Johnstone

Rodrguez
Wallace

Cejas

Craig

Murdoch

McNeill

Fallon

Maschio Cardenas

Hughes
Perfumo

Auld

Clark

Rulli

Martin

Cardoso

It may not have been the greatest game


of football in history and it is light years
from being among the most attractive,
but for controversy and polemic, few
xtures can compare with the impact
of Racing Clubs 1967 Intercontinental
Cup clash with Jock Steins Celtic.
Scottish fans still rail against what they
perceive as the injustice of that play-off
defeat in the Uruguayan capital after
the rst two legs nished tied, but the
real story of what happened in the game

Lennox

Gemmell

later dubbed The Battle of Montevideo


is far from black and white.
In any sport, to be champions of
the world should be the pinnacle of
achievement. It is a sign that a team or
individual is the very best on the planet
and has beaten all comers in order to
earn the most prestigious of titles.
While in football this tag has often been
undervalued by clubs from Europe

171

Racing 1 Celtic 0

especially in the last 20 years, when


the inuence of limitless money and
overwhelming commercial exposure
has made the Champions League more
important than the European Cup ever
was it remains the biggest honour
imaginable for teams on the other side
of the Atlantic Ocean. The venerable
Intercontinental Cup competition was
the only opportunity that the best clubs
from Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay
had to prove they were equal to their
European cousins, which made for
some ferocious encounters.
A historical grudge played and
continues to play a vital role in the
fomenting of this continental rivalry.
It began in the 1930s, when an Italy
side driven by a will to win at all costs
started repatriating the sons and
grandsons of those impoverished
immigrants who ed to the new world
seeking a new life and an escape from
the rigid landlord-peasant dynamic
of southern Italy. The 1934 and 1938
World Cup-winning sides boasted
talents such as Raimundo Orsi, born
in Argentina but a goalscorer for the
azzurri in the 1934 nal, as well as
Luis Monti, whose record of playing in
two World Cup nals for two different
teams is unique in football history. From
these auspicious beginnings developed
the outward ow of talent from South
America, which is now a billion-dollar
business for agents, clubs and players.
Omar Sivori, Alfredo Di Stfano, Alcides
Ghiggia: just a handful of the legendary
stars who made their names away from
their home nations, building resentment.
All this and more made victory over
European rivals a powerful incentive for
the continents best teams, an obsession

172

reected in the results of the earliest


Intercontinental clashes.
The Montevideo side Pearol contested
the rst two tournaments on behalf of
South America, rst holding the mighty
Real Madrid to a tie in the Estadio
Centenario before being destroyed
5-1 in the Bernabu; a double from
Ferenc Pusks and goals from Di
Stfano and Francisco Gento ring
them to success. There was revenge
for the Uruguayans the following year,
though, as Eusbios Benca were
beaten in a tie-break after a win each.
The match in Montevideo resulted in
a 5-0 demolition thanks to two goals
from one of footballs unforgettable
personalities, Alberto Spencer. An
Ecuadorian born of a Jamaican-British
father, the forward earned the nickname
Cabeza magica (magic head) for his
ability to steer the heavy leather ball into
the back of the net and he would later
be named among the 20 best South
American footballers of all time by the
International Federation of Football
History and Statistics.
1962 and 1963 belonged to Santos,
as Pel, Pepe and Coutinho blew past
Benca and AC Milan to become the
rst team to win consecutive titles,
a feat only matched by So Paulo,
Internazionale and AC Milan in the
history of the competition. Argentinian
teams, meanwhile, struggled in those
pioneering days of transatlantic travel
and international play. Independiente
went down two years in a row to
Helenio Herreras Inter meaning that,
while Pearol and Santos celebrated
their status as world champions,
Argentina still lacked a standard-bearer
of their own.

Dan Edwards

It was in this context that Racing


Club entered the 1967 edition of the
Intercontinental Cup. The club based
in the industrial suburb of Avellaneda,
a stones throw from Buenos Aires
and the home of the monstrous port
complex of Dock Sud, had been one of
the strongest sides of the amateur era,
but with the advent of professionalism
in 1931 they had struggled to replicate
their prodigious early success. Then Jos
Pezzuti took his place on the bench.
Pezzuti was a prolic goalscorer as a
player, netting 182 times in 349 games
and winning three domestic titles with
Racing and Boca Juniors. He retired at La
Bombonera in 1963 and two years later,
at 38 years old, he found himself back
in Avellaneda with La Academia. Racing
had not won the league since he left, but
just a year after taking over the novice
coach was leading a lap of honour,
having taken La Academia to the 1966
Primera Division title. That team was put
together to save us from relegation, the
striker Humberto Maschio recalled. The
situation was not good, but Jos put his
faith in the kids, who later showed they
had lots of character. Add to that the
arrival of some great players, like me, and
we ended up creating a brilliant team.
A fresh thinker and an accomplished
technician despite his lack of experience,
Pezzuti quickly set about creating what
became known as El Equipo de Jos.
He modied the W-M formation that
most teams still played, edging towards a
total-footballing model.
Contemporary observers agree that
the team set out in Avellaneda during
the mid-sixties, in an age in which
catenaccio and safety-rst play were

beginning to prevail over the gung-ho


tactics of the sports early days, was like
a preview of the wonderful Ajax side led
by Johan Cruyff which so enchanted
the world in the early seventies. These
comparisons can become embellished
and exaggerated over time, of course, and
the dening characteristics of Pizzuttis
team were its solidity and tenacious
defence. What is certainly true, though,
is that there were no xed positions
in Pezzuttis team; every player was
expected to defend and attack, to run
and to tackle, to contribute to a owing
style of play. In an age in which a players
position was still very much dened by
the number on his back, the team can be
said to be, if not revolutionary, at least part
of footballs evolution into the uid game
seen in the 1970s.
Of course, to put such a style of play
into practice you need footballers with
the talent and intelligence to make the
coachs diagrams and scribbles come
to life, and the 1967 Racing team had
them in droves. There was Roberto
Perfumo, the defender from just down
the road in Sarand who came through
the youth ranks into the rst team, and
who is now considered one of the nest
centre-backs in the history of Argentine
football. There was Alo Basile, who
in later years would be known for his
gravelly voice as coach of the national
team and who returned in December
2011 for a fourth spell as coach of the
club that made him an idol as a player. El
Coco came to the club as a youngster
from Bella Vista of Bahia Blanca and
excelled alongside Perfumo, forming a
partnership in the middle of defence that
would yield just 36 goals in a 60-game
stretch that covered winning the league
in 1966 and the Copa Libertadores and

173

Racing 1 Celtic 0

the Intercontinental Cup campaigns in


1967. Up front, and soon to make himself
an eternal idol for Racing fans, was Juan
Carlos Chango Cardenas.
Born in the impoverished northern
province of Santiago del Estero, Chango
moved to the capital as a teenager
and by the age of 19, after just one
season in the second ight with Nuevo
Chicago, was in the Racing team. He
was to play in La Academia for nine
years in total, scoring 81 goals in 287
appearances; but one strike in particular,
in that Intercontinental triumph, would
go down in history. Still recognised as
one of the greatest gures in Racing
history, Cardenas revels in the memories
of 1967 and what it meant to the club
and its fans. It makes me so proud that
what we achieved is still remembered,
he reected years later. And with that
goal that was such a beauty! The most
important thing about that moment is
that it was the one that made us the rst
Argentinian world champions and that is
what most lls us with pride.
Racing walked the 1966 Primera
campaign, losing just one game to nish
ve points clear of River Plate. In the
Copa Libertadores the following season
they suffered just two defeats in the 16game marathon needed to reach a nal
against the Montevideo titans Nacional.
An incredible 290,000 spectators are
estimated to have been present at the
three clashes it took to settle the tie.
Both legs ended 0-0, so a tie-break was
arranged in Chiles Estadio Monumental.
A massive movement of Argentinian and
Uruguayan fans across the breadth of
the continent lled the 100,000 capacity
stadium to bursting point, and that

174

crowd watched Racing clinch their rst


international title with a 2-1 victory. The
midelder Joo Cardoso opened the
scoring, before Norberto Raffo made it
2-0 to La Academia just before half-time.
Milton Viera pulled one back for the
Uruguayans late in the second half, but
Racing held on to lift the trophy, setting
up their meeting with Celtic.
Just like their Argentinian opponents, the
Celtic team of the day has since gone
down in legend. Under the tutelage
of Jock Stein, the Bhoys had won two
consecutive Scottish League titles by
1967, a run that had extended to an
incredible nine when their eternal rivals
Rangers nally broke it in 1975. Players
like Jimmy Johnstone, Bobby Lennox,
Tommy Gemmell and the lion-hearted
defender Billy McNeill are considered
some of the greatest players ever to
come out of Scotland, but what made
that team even more remarkable was
the fact that, like Racing, they had been
pulled together from a tight radius
around the teams home.
Few managers have received as much
acclaim as Stein. The journalist Hugh
McIlvaney called him the greatest
manager in the history of the game,
while Bill Shankly summed up the
thoughts of all Celtic fans after that
1967 European Cup win by telling his
countryman, Youre immortal now.
His most celebrated attribute, though,
was his ability to motivate a team to
show no fear and to give 100% whether
on the pitch or, as Bobby Murdoch
remembers, even in a training session.
Quite often, he said, I would go
home from training at Barroweld with
bumps and bruises. Training under Big
Jock was competitive.

Dan Edwards

Every single player in that team was born


within 30 miles of Parkhead and their
camaraderie and unity was legendary
even in that age in which footballers still
mingled with fans. Even so, this team
was not supposed to win the European
Cup in 1967. They were playing Inter, the
iconic catenaccio side of the Argentinaborn Helenio Herrera, made up of stars
like Sandro Mazzola, Armando Picchi
and Giacinto Facchetti. Inter had won
two European Cups in the previous
three years and as they lined up against
Steins plucky underdogs in Lisbon defeat
seemed unthinkable.
Even more so when, after just seven
minutes, Mazzola slotted home a penalty
to give the Italians the lead. This was
playing exactly into Herreras hands; one
up, the team could then shut down into
defensive mode and squeeze the life out
of their opponents. It was a game plan
that had worked countless times before,
but Stein was not going to play by the
script. Total attack overwhelmed total
defence. Celtic recorded an incredible
39 shots in the match, and after nearly
an hour of constant pressure the Scots
nally broke through, Tommy Gemmell
ring in from just outside the box. With
seven minutes left the winning goal
nally arrived, Gemmell laying the ball off
to Bobby Murdoch, whose long shot was
deected in by Stevie Chalmers. It was
the rst time a northern European club
had won the title.

Over 100,000 people ocked to


Hampden Park for the rst leg of the
Intercontinental nal against Racing, and
they were rewarded with a 1-0 victory
for the Lisbon Lions. Billy McNeill was the

hero, a towering header with 69 minutes


gone giving the Scots a narrow victory.
The second leg, however, in the cauldron
of Avellanedas El Cilindro stadium,
saw the advantage swing back in the
Argentinians favour.
Celtic looked on the verge of becoming
world champions when, after 21 minutes
and in spite of a hugely partisan home
support, Tommy Gemmell converted a
penalty. Norberto Raffo pulled one back,
but Racing needed a win to force the
game to a play-off (these were the days
before the away-goals rule). Just as it
seemed Racing would provide yet another
disappointment in the Intercontinental
Cup, Chango Cardenas broke free on the
left and dragged a shot across the body of
the goalkeeper John Fallon and into the
bottom corner.
Celtic were furious, alleging that everything
had been orchestrated to ensure a home
success. Whether it was rough treatment
from fans, problems with hotel allocation
or even, as Jimmy Johnstone claimed
years later, local girls being sent to their
accommodation to put their minds off the
game, the stories have become legend.
The rst-choice keeper Ronnie Simpson
was taken out of the game in the warmup after being hit by a missile, which he
later claimed came not from a fan, almost
impossible given the fencing around the
goals, but from a photographer. Given
the problems theyd had, Celtics spirits
cant have been raised by the prospect of
a second South American match in three
days, a play-off across the Ro de la Plata
in Montevideo to decide who would be
crowned the champions of the world.
If wed have just played that game, and
after that said, You know what, here

175

Dan Edwards

forget it, you keep [the Cup], wed have


been quite happy, Johnstone said years
later when asked about the mood of the
team after that bruising encounter. The
remark was surely in jest, but it betrays a
certain reluctance on the part of Celtic
to keep ghting against a team and
public who seemed determined to win
at all costs. The lack of a world title in
Argentina, combined with a history of
anger at the arrogance and ignorance
of Europeans towards South American
football, had inated expectations and
emotions to a dangerous level by the
time the second leg was played. Add
to that the animosity stimulated by
Englands 1966 World Cup quarter-nal
victory over Argentina, played in an ugly
atmosphere which culminated in the
expulsion and demonising of the captain,
Boca idol and brilliant midelder Antonio
Rattin (the distinction between England
and Scotland meaning little) and the
result was an atmosphere in which losing
was not an option, either for Racing or
for Argentina.
In truth, however, the Scots could not
claim that they were forced to play a
second away tie. The Racing fans had
rather less distance to travel to the
tie-break, and indeed they travelled in
their thousands; 25,000 to be precise,
who ocked across the estuary which
separates the two nations in bus, boat,
car or whatever transport was at hand.
The rest of the Centenario, though,
was rmly behind Celtic. The memories
of that years Libertadores, in which
Racing had taken down the local heroes
Nacional, were still very fresh in the
minds of the Uruguayan public, meaning
that it was Jock Steins team, from
thousands of miles away on the other
side of the world, that had the support of

the neutral on that balmy spring evening


of 4 November 1967.
Racing, though, could count on support
from one unusual source John Lennon.
It has entered club folklore that, asked
if he took much interest in football, he
answered initially no, before thinking for a
second and continuing,Wait, whos that
team playing against Celtic? Racing? Yeh, I
like Racing! Viva Racing, Im a Racing fan!
A similar story is told by Cardenas, of a
chance encounter following the game. In
England, a rocker came up to me to say
that John Lennon had been rooting for
us, he said. He told me that my goal was
one of those that he celebrated the most.
It made me very happy to know that, it
was an honour.
Lennon was not in the Centenario
for that game, while Ronnie Simpson
could not make it on to the pitch
having still not recovered from the blow
hed suffered in El Cilindro three days
previously. The bad blood left by two
brutal clashes, though, was still very
much present, and contributed to one of
the ugliest games of football ever played.
The question of who was to blame for
this showpiece xture turning into, as
the Reuters reporter of the day put it,
a bar-room brawl with soccer skills
abandoned for swinging sts, ying
boots and blatant body checking will
probably never be resolved; but in Britain
at least, it has become a rare case of the
losers writing the history. Celtics version
of events, espoused by Jock Stein,
Johnstone, the rest of the side as well as
the media of the day, has largely been
adopted as accurate on the European
side of the Atlantic. The old stereotypes
ooded out of the newspapers: Racing

177

Racing 1 Celtic 0

were the most professionally dirty team


I have ever seen, sinisterly cold and
calculating in their fouling prancing,
arrogant caballeros, according to
one commentator, convinced that the
Argentinians anti-football had broken
the spirit of the plucky Scots. In this
atmosphere, the story goes, who could
blame them for ghting re with re?
In fact, an objective viewing of the match
suggests that Celtic went out onto the
Centenario pitch a demoralised unit, with
the sole intention of kicking, punching
and otherwise assaulting Racing out of
the game. Far from the plucky underdogs
driven to uncharacteristically violent
behaviour, in Montevideo the Bhoys were
if anything the instigators of the shocking
violence that was so roundly condemned
after the match. The Avellaneda side
were no shrinking violets either, of
course, and to a degree what had
happened to Simpson set the tone for 90
minutes of frankly outrageous attacks.
Both sides tried to court the neutral
Uruguayan support, each carrying the
nations ag onto the pitch before kickoff. What followed, however, did little
to endear either squad to the watching
public. It took just four seconds for the
rst foul to be committed, Maschio
impeded moments after receiving the
ball from kick-off. The rst half-hour,
however, developed in a relatively
fair-minded, clean manner. Racing
attempted to impose their passing game
on the Scots, and had the rst chance
when Cardenass right-footed strike
from outside the area forced Fallon
into a straightforward stop. Two things
stood out from those early exchanges,
one being the unquestioned advantage
Racing held in terms of technical

178

prociency. Contrasting strongly with


the hustle of the Celtic team, the
Argentinians were always happy to
put a foot on the ball and gauge their
options, even in the light of sometimes
ferocious tackling from their opponents.
The virtuoso Jimmy Johnstone, a wizard
with the ball at his feet, stands out as a
notable exception, but generally Celtic
were made to look technically limited.
The second tendency, however, was
rather less commendable, perhaps even
reprehensible for British football fans
schooled with the emphasis of going
in hard but fair. Tackles ew in from
each team, but when a La Academia
player left his opponent stricken on the
oor and Alo Basile was a master at
this they would immediately sprint to
the other end of the eld, leaving the
referee scampering after them to give a
warning. This seemed to have the effect
of taking the wind out of the sails of the
Paraguayan official Rodolfo Osorio, while
simultaneously irritating the European
team unused to such a reaction.
Lets not pretend, however, that those
in green-and-white hoops were angels.
The Bhoys gave as good as they got
throughout the match, and in many
instances a fair bit more. Basile himself was
the victim of a crushing waist-high tackle
12 minutes in from John Hughes, who left
his man prostrate with a ying challenge
that took out both El Coco and Martins. It
was the rst really nasty foul of the match
and you could feel the temperature rising
from that moment onwards.
These niggles would continue
throughout the game, but there
was plenty of decent play as well.
A wonderful move that swarmed

Dan Edwards

between Maschio, Cardenas, Raffo


and Jota Jota Rodrguez from close
to Racings own penalty area almost
allowed Cardenas in, but the striker
uncharacteristically uffed his lines
and could not get the shot away on his
left foot. The Scots, outplayed in the
opening exchanges and pinned back
in their own half, relied on playing the
ball off the nearest marker to gain a
throw-in and a little breathing space.
From the stands the thousands of
Argentinians present made their voices
heard throughout, drowning out the
106 plucky fans from Glasgow who
had own with the team to Argentina
and stayed throughout their South
American odyssey.
Celtics rst real attack came after 15
minutes, when Bobby Lennox could
have been given a penalty after a clumsy
challenge for a header. Osorio, though,
had already called the play back for
offside. Maschio then tried his luck from
distance, only to strike one of several
Celtic bodies massed on the edge of
their own area.
The rst indication that things were
getting out of control came midway
through the rst half, as Nelson Chabay
caught Johnstone with a erce kick to
the midriff. It could have been malicious,
it could have been an innocent attempt
to clear the ball gone terribly wrong; to
argue the point now is redundant. The
result was that both teams started to
take their eye off the game and focus on
doing damage to their opponent, despite
Osorios attempts to calm matters by
calling the captains Perfumo and McNeill
into the middle and asking them to
restrain their players. Racing continued
to dominate possession and territory, and

a decent run through the middle from


Cardenas set up Cardoso who blasted a
half-volley high and wide.
For Celtic, the beginning of the end
came after 35 minutes. Johnstone was
pole-axed by a late challenge from the
uncompromising central midfelder Juan
Carlos Rulli: a bad tackle, but not one
that could not justify the reaction of
the Scottish team. The defender John
Clark took offence at another case of
Argentinian hit and run, and went to
pursue the perpetrator, putting up his
sts and striking a pose worthy of turnof-the-century bare-knuckle boxers. In
the confusion of players from both sides
who had gathered round Osorio, not to
mention a group of riot police who had
rushed onto the pitch to quell the tension,
the Paraguayan made his rst glaring error
of the match, a case of mistaken identity;
he sent off Bobby Lennox.
The midelder was 40 yards away from
the incident when Clark squared up
to Rulli and then Basile, and recalled
that his coach was less than happy to
see him leave. Actually I went off the
eld, and then Big Jock put me back
on saying, We really need you back on
the eld. The referee put me off again,
Big Jock made me go back on and then
the guy [a policeman] came over with a
sword, and I just left the eld, he said.
Celtic certainly felt hard done by, and
no-one more so than Lennox, but if
Osorio had failed to act following Clarks
naked aggression the game could have
descended into a farce. He just got the
wrong man.
Basile was also sent off for his part in
the fracas, while other Racing men were
given rough treatment by the Uruguayan

179

Racing 1 Celtic 0

police as they remonstrated with Osorio


in the centre of the pitch. After several
minutes a semblance of order was
restored as Basile trudged down the
tunnel. Looking back, its hard to say that
the Argentinians, who lost their talisman
in defence, the player who controlled
the game from the centre, benetted
particularly from the decision, as it has
gone down in British football lore. What
is true, though, is that Racing quickly
regained their composure and became
even more dominant, a couple of
corners late in the rst half hinting at the
superiority theyd enjoy in the second.
The second half began in almost identical
fashion to the rst; this time the foul
took just three seconds a Rodrguez
body-check on Johnstone. A rapid break
down the right by Oscar Martin almost
released Cardenas in the box, before a
stinging strike from Rodrguez ashed
just wide. Three minutes into the half, the
momentum tipped further against Celtic
as Johnstone was dismissed.
Again, its hard to argue with the referees
decision. Johnstone had been one of
the few players who had not succumbed
to the temptation of foul play, but after
becoming entangled with Martin on the
left wing his reaction was unjustiable.
Although the past 45 years have served
to paint him as the victim, at least on one
side of the Atlantic, there seems little
doubt; the winger turned and swung a
erce elbow into the face of his rival.
Perhaps Martin overreacted, but an
elbow is an elbow. That was the ipper,
from that point there was no coming
back, he recognised in an interview
with Celtic TV just before his death in
2006. The Argentinian commentator,
meanwhile, had no doubt that the

180

decision was the correct one. The


camera shows [his offence] with absolute
nality, he said, as Celtic players once
more crowded round the referee. Even
he wasnt impervious to the confusion
that swept Montevideo, though, believing
Willie Wallace, rather than Lennox, had
been sent off. As the Racing goalkeeper
Agustn Cejas was then felled by a coin
thrown from the stand behind his net,
it seemed possible that the game might
have to be abandoned.
It did, though, eventually resume, and
when it did, Celtic enjoyed their best
period of the game, most of their best
play being worked through Bertie Auld
on the right wing. But 11 minutes into
the half, they suffered a blow that would
prove devastating; it came in the most
exquisite fashion.
Rulli and Cardoso got Racing moving
in the Celtic half, before a ick from
Rodrguez failed to nd a blue-and-white
shirt and Gemmell cleaned up for the
Scots. His pass, however, was controlled
poorly by Craig in front of him and Martin
moved forward with the interception
before laying the ball off to Cardenas.
The striker, the hero of the second leg
in Avellaneda, had 35 yards of pitch in
front of him and Humberto Maschio
screaming to his left. Chango, as he
explained later, only ever had one thing
on his mind.
In football, the goal is sublime, he
explained. For me, in football a goal
is the greatest thing that can happen.
So scoring a goal of that magnitude
in a nal, in which we were seeking
our rst ever international title, is
simply sublime. It may have been that
wish to write his name in legend that

Dan Edwards

prompted Chango to go solo, or maybe


it was condence that he could take it
himself and break open a game quickly
drowning in a sea of petty fouls, stops
and starts. Whatever his motivation, the
execution is beyond doubt.
The rst touch, free for once of the close
attentions of his opponents, helped to
calm a bobbling ball. The second touch
took it down onto the eld. The third, a
delicate jab with the right boot in order
to ease himself onto his favoured left.
And the fourth, as he closed within
shooting range of John Fallons goal
but still at an uncomfortable distance, a
perfectly-hit shot that gave the stand-in
keeper no chance . Swerving, curling and
hit with precision and power, the ball
ew past Fallon at full stretch to whistle
into the top left-hand corner of the goal,
as the Argentinian half of the Estadio
Centenario exploded with joy.
Cardenas ran to jump into the arms
of Pizzutti, later joined by more of his
teammates while the commentator
released a deafening cry of
Gooooolllllll! to the Argentinian nation
and those in the stadium celebrated
wildly. It was a goal tting of such a
prestigious occasion, even if the minutes
of play that had led up to the strike
werent. The Celtic players, meanwhile,
looked dejected, knowing that with a
numerical disadvantage there was little
chance of nding a way back.
Murdoch, in fact, soon had a glorious
chance to equalise, but having been
set through one-on-one with Cejas, he
blazed over. Racing could then have
sealed their victory, when Raffo broke
and squared for Cardenas. Chango,
though, with a chance far easier than

the one he sent so gloriously into the


net, fell over his own feet to miss out on
a second. The nal nail was hammered
into Celtics coffin as John Hughes
became the third Celtic man to be sent
off, for a barely explicable moment of
madness. What came into my head
was, If I hit this guy no one will see
me, he said; but unfortunately for him,
his assault on Cejas was all too clear to
Osorio and everyone watching.
Frustrated by the time the goalkeeper
was taking to release the ball, Hughes
turned and punched Cejas in the
stomach, also stamping on his foot to
send him to the ground. To compound
the offence, Hughes buried his boot into
Cejass midriff as he lay on the oor.
Celtics reduction to eight men was both
predictable and justied. They had lost
control, while Racing were content to
play out the nal minutes.
Rulli was the next to be sent from the
eld, although Gemmell was extremely
lucky not to follow him. The Argentinian
went in hard and the boxer Gemmell,
as the commentator described him,
reacted with a punch. It was a bizarre
decision, maybe a moment of pity from
the official, seeing the Scots ragged,
desperate and on their way to missing
out on the world title.
Racing almost added a second as a freekick ashed past the post of Fallon. There
was still one more moment of shame,
though, this time following a tussle
between Rodrguez and Auld. A late
body-check and another quick exit from
the Argentinian took the winger to the
end of his tether and he attacked the No
10. Auld became the fourth Celtic player
to be sent off, but declined to leave the

181

Racing 1 Celtic 0

eld, later citing language differences


between himself and the Paraguayan
official: Celtic remained with eight men
in the most farcical of ways.
The last few seconds were played out
in a half-hearted fashion, with Maschio
meandering to the touchline with no
interference from a green-and-white
shirt; as Osorio blew his whistle for the
nal time, Pizzutti and his staff raced
onto the pitch to celebrate.
Were Celtic really cheated out of the
Intercontinental Cup, as so many have
claimed in the intervening years? Its
difficult to uphold the accusation. Of
course, the match was peppered with
fouls and disruptions; Celtic were guilty
of 31 infractions to Racings 20. Those
gures often dont tell the full story, but
the more serious foul play came from
the men in green-and-white, not blueand-white. From Johnstones elbow to
Gemmells punch, Hughess outrageous
attack on the goalkeeper to a disgraceful
challenge from Murdoch that left
Cardenas in agony on the oor with a
blatant kick to the midriff, it is impossible
to say that the Scots did not play a part in
their own downfall.
The explanation for their indiscipline
is rather straightforward it was a
reaction to seeing their game plan fall
to pieces. Stein attempted to hurry
and pressure the Argentinian players
straight from the rst whistle, with body
checks, late challenges and plenty of
hard hits designed to disrupt the passing
game and movement of their more
technically procient rivals who, it
must be said, were also guilty of cynicism
and a number of questionable tackles.
Cardenass goal, however, signalled

182

the failure of this tactic and from that


point forwards the match became for
Celtic more about leaving their mark on
the soon-to-be world champions than
any serious attempt to play their way
back into the game. Frustration at their
inability to overcome a team who were
better on the day, rather than conspiracy
theories concerning mistreatment
and biased officiating, were ultimately
responsible for the downfall of the
Lisbon Lions (although they, of course,
would argue the real provocation had
come three days earlier in Avellaneda.)
The Argentinian press, certainly, cared
for little other than eulogising their world
champions. Joss team had already
left their stamp on the Argentinian
championship, and they had taken over
America, said the report in El Grco.
There was one more step until total
glory. With great play, spirit, heart and
commitment, this group of men has
taken the name of Racing to the highest
level. It was the perfect way to put a full
stop on a run of success unprecedented
until now. Racing represented with pride
all of Argentinian football.
The goalkeeper Cejas, it went on,
was pure safety between the sticks;
Basile was the caudillo, a total leader,
impassable either in the air on the
ground; Cardenas was the man whose
golazo changed history. And the
maximum expression of quality and
winning spirit in defence, Perfumo,
who described in emotional terms his
meeting after the game with fellow titan
McNeill. On reaching the tunnel I saw
him coming slowly towards me, the
blonde chap who had scored against
us in Glasgow, he said. I looked him in
the eyes and instinctively put myself on

Dan Edwards

guard perhaps because of all that had


happened during the game. He held out
his hand and I had to grip it tight. He
intimated that he wanted to swap shirts
with me and it was then that I couldnt
stop the tears coming to my eyes, for
him, not for me.
All the ugly things we and they did during
the game seemed to be forgotten. I pulled
off my jersey a chance to wipe the
tears. When the exchange was made, I
hugged him and said in Spanish, This is
how football should be played. McNeill
smiled and said in perfect Spanish,
Buena suerte, buena suerte. A brief
glimpse of humanity in a tie that would be
remembered for all the wrong reasons.
For Basile, it was a victory that reached
across the nations football horizons; even
cheered by fans of their bitterest rivals.
An immense joy that for me as a player
was the greatest I ever experienced,
and something that you value even
more when you get older because all of
Argentina was touched, Coco explained.
Fans of all teams were happy, even those
of Independiente celebrated.
For Celtic, meanwhile, the game was
marked as one of their, and footballs,
darkest hours. Every player was ned
250 for their part in the disgrace,
something which the players regard
as unjust to this day. We appreciate
that this game was a great shock to
everyone said their chairman Bob Kelly.
From a team which has established such
a wonderful reputation for discipline that
they should fall so badly from grace on
this occasion We feel for our reputation
and for the reputation of British
football the players must suffer for their
conduct. The stories coming back from

South America, meanwhile, suggested


that every member of the Racing team
received a new car and up to 2,000 for
their parts in the teams glorious twoyear run of success.
The real vitriol was reserved for the
Argentinians, written off in Britain as
savage cheats, a reputation seemingly
conrmed the next year in Manchester
Uniteds bruising defeat to Estudiantes,
a team which unlike Racing was
already infamous for their love of
footballs darker arts. The clashes
contributed to the animosity which still
infects the relationship between British
and Argentinian teams.
Following this most controversial of
nals, the fates of the two participants
diverged. Celtic continue to battle with
arch-rivals Rangers for supremacy
in Scottish football, the two teams
taking all but four of the national titles
contested since the Bhoys missed out
on the Intercontinental Cup. Despite
appearances in the nals of the 1970
European Cup and 2003 Uefa Cup,
however, continental success has eluded
Celtic since 1967.
For Racing, meanwhile, the
Intercontinental Cup triumph marked a
high point that has been followed by a
protracted slide. The three decades that
followed were marked by failure on the
pitch and desperate mismanagement
in the boardroom, culminating in a
historic rst relegation in 1983. Under
the tutelage of Basile, Racing regained
their Primera place two years later, but
it was not until 2001, 35 years after their
previous national success, that they
nally ended their domestic drought with
victory in the Apertura.

183

Racing 1 Celtic 0

The controversy hasnt lifted in the


half-century since that nal. Was it
really a case of Jock Steins naive boys
from the backstreets of Glasgow being
bullied out of world glory by their cynical
opponents? Or perhaps it was rather
that a team unprepared for the rigours
of international, transcontinental football
were shown up by an opponent who
knew how to play the game, and its laws,
to the very limit?
The truth is that no amount of evidence
or analysis will change the views of
those Celtic and Racing fans privy to an
incredible trio of matches played across
two continents, three countries and 7000
miles. But those skewed perspectives
of the British media in the 1960s and
a fear of the swarthy, mysterious and
uncompromising South American Other
should not continue to colour our view
of some of the great Argentinian teams
of the era; or indeed that of Celtic, who
played magnicently for 180 minutes
before self-destructing in Montevideo.
The decisive strike, at least, was truly
tting of a world champion.

184

185
Eight Bells
Its because its brown, isnt it?

Shirt Tales

Shirt Tales
The history behind a selection of iconic kits
By Scott Murray

Leeds United (1961)

In the summer of 1961, Don Revie, the


youthful new player-manager of secondtier nonentities Leeds United, began to
make his presence felt. He introduced
a new training regime, which replaced
interminable laps of a muddy eld
with interminable inter-squad athletic
competitions. On a muddy eld. Still,
all good team-building fun, although it
was the top of a slippery slope which, 10
years and innumerable runners-up spots
later, would see the squad spending
pre-match evenings locked in their B&B
playing carpet bowls in uncomfortable
bri-nylon shirts and bad moods.
Revie also raised the minimum basic
wage of the entire rst-team squad, albeit
with the addition of a complicated bonus
mechanism designed by Heath Robinson.
Naturally, this sent the notoriously tight
Jack Charlton into an abacus frenzy.
Unimpressed that he could only earn
his full bonus if Leeds effectively trebled
their average attendance, he handed
in a transfer request. Liverpool and
Manchester United were both interested
in his services and for a while it looked like
Big Jack would join his brother Bobby at
Old Trafford. But the transfer fell through,
causing the hot-faced defender to cross
the Pennines, powered solely by steam
emerging at jet speed from his lugs, and
give Matt Busby a blistering bollocking in

186

his own office. Once hed said his piece


to a bamboozled Busby Bobby and his
teammates wondering how on earth hed
had the nerve Jack returned to Elland
Road, sheepishly signed a new contract
and began a little chippy sulk about
money which would last the next 35 years
or so.
Anyway, we digress. Point being, Revies
new schemes had either gone down
well or caused ructions. Yet arguably the
most tumultuous decision he made to
change Leeds strip of blue and gold to
all white in homage to the all-conquering
Real Madrid side of the time was met
with stunning levels of indifference.
For Revie, master psychologist and
motivator, asking his charges to follow
in the footsteps of Alfredo di Stfano,
Francisco Gento and Ferenc Pusks was
to ing the gauntlet down and pique their
professional pride. The Leeds crowd
perhaps mindful that, in 42 years of trying,
their club had achieved the square root
of nowt and therefore had little in the
way of heritage or tradition to preserve
shrugged their shoulders apathetically
and opted to see how things developed.
Imagine the fuss were someone to try this
on now.
The experiment began brilliantly. Leeds
won their opening game of the 61-62
campaign, 1-0 against Charlton Athletic,
and followed that victory with another

Scott Murray

three days later, 3-1 at Brighton & Hove


Albion. Revies side were top of the
Second Division table. On the following
Saturday, however, they were skelped
5-0 by Bill Shanklys emerging Liverpool
at Aneld, a result which punctured
condence. Soon, Revies sartorial
posturing looked less like chutzpah and
more like suicidal hubris. Leeds lost six
of their next eight games; by the end of
September, they found themselves one
place off the bottom.
Leeds would escape relegation to the
Third Division by the skin of their teeth,
then win promotion to the First two
seasons later, after which the Real Madrid
comparison suddenly didnt look so
fanciful. Anyone who remembers Spanish
football before the days of tiki-taka will
be mindful of the Iberian penchant for
marrying exquisite skill with bar-room
thuggery. So, Leeds United, basically.
Well done, Spain! Well done, Don! Well
done, everyone!
Uniteds shirts stayed basically the
same for the entire Revie era, save a
sock tag here, a smiley badge there.
Those gauche 70s additions get the
worst press, though the strangest
element during the Revie years was
the crest that adorned the shirt
during the second half of the 1960s:
a dangerously out-of-condition owl,
presumably seconds away from a
heart attack, perched unsteadily on
a log. That the superstitious Revie
allowed the fat feathery oaf on his
teams shirts is beyond comprehension,
given he wasscared of birds. What
aretheydoing there? the twitchy
non-twitcher once spluttered to a
family friend, upon spotting a picture
of a bird on their wall. You dont have

birds in your house! You dont have


birds anywhere! The picture remained,
Revies pals perhaps mindful that the
Leeds manager had become obsessed
by a malcontent peacock supposedly
hovering around Elland Road
determined to unleash karmic bother.
Revie also had some sort of problem
with ornamental elephants, but were
getting a bit spooked ourselves now, so
its probably time to move on.

Arsenal (1933)

Revies all-encompassing managerial


style was nothing new; Herbert
Chapman had pioneered the whirling
dervish act at The Arsenal a good three
decades previously. Royal Arsenal had
formed in 1886, and plumped for red
as their colours, for the simple reason
that two of the team happened to have
crimson shirts, which meant theyd only
need another nine to get going. Without
two brass bearings to rub together
the regal monicker was nothing if not
aspirational the club were reduced to
begging for kit. Nottingham Forest kindly
obliged, sending the new boys a full set
of uniforms, along with a ball. Arsenal
repaid Forest 29 years later in what
remains their last match outside the top
tier of English football by whipping
them 7-0 in an April 1915 Second
Division game before negotiating their
way out of the division.
Forest, remember, had even given them
a ball.
Chapman arrived in 1925, whereupon he
famously invented tactics, oodlights,
clocks and the London Underground.

187

Shirt Tales

He also enjoyed ddling around with


the team kit. Numbering was his rst
obsession. On the opening day of the
1928-29 season, Arsenal ran out at
Hillsborough with numbers on their
backs. The players, along with those of
Sheffield Wednesday, were numbered
1-22. Meanwhile at Stamford Bridge,
Chelsea and Swansea Town were
gadding about in similarly numerical
style. The experiment brought Chelsea
more luck than Arsenal they won
4-0, while the Gunners lost 3-2 but
Chapman stuck with the idea. (Albeit with
the reserve team, as the Football League
had decreed that club colours should
not be desecrated with fripperies such as
numbers. The past is another country, for
sure, and its a place where they know a
thing or two about clear, crisp design.)
Chapman, who soon had Arsenal
running around with an art-decoinspired AFC crest on their tit ends,
was constantly on the lookout for new
ideas. In 1933, the Daily Mail cartoonist
Tom Webster had suggested to the
Chelsea boss David Calderhead that
the clubs blue strip would look more
distinctive with white sleeves. Calderhead
dismissed the suggestion out of hand.
Webster recycled his brainwave for the
consumption of Chapman, mentioning
it one day as the two played golf. Within
weeks, Arsenal were running out against
Liverpool sporting their dandy new look.
Whether Chapmans latest wheeze was
considered a good idea at the time is
not recorded, but we can take a guess.
All-red Arsenal, the league leaders, had
beaten Blackburn Rovers 8-0 in the
previous match, but went 1-0 down to
Liverpool at Highbury on that famous
sleeve-altering Saturday of March 4.
Their next three matches, everyone

188

ailing around with their fancy new arms,


resulted in a draw at Leicester, a loss at
home to Wolves and defeat at Newcastle.
Despite their capitulation, they somehow
remained on top the lucky Arsenal
nickname existed for a reason; their
closest challengers Sheffield Wednesday
had been similarly inept, although
Aston Villa were haring up on the rails.
Somewhat relieved, Chapmans whitesleeved heroes quickly got their act
together, and whipped both of their
rivals in consecutive Highbury maulings:
a 5-0 win over Villa and a 4-2 humping
of Wednesday. The rst of a hat-trick of
titles was in the bag. By the end of the
1930s, Arsenal were the most famous
team in the country, their white sleeves
an indisputable part of footballs rst
recognisable brand.
Thirty-odd years later, Arsenal were a
mid-table shower. Counter-intuitively,
the club decided to hark back to the
barren pre-Chapman era in search
of success, and in 1965 got shot of
the white sleeves. Billy Wrights redshirted rabble were nearly relegated,
the manager was sacked, and after two
embarrassing seasons the white sleeves
were re-introduced (along with blue
and white socks, which had also been a
feature between the 1930s and 1960s,
but lets not confuse the issue further).

Brazil (1953)

You dont need to be an expert in


symbolism to spot the harbinger
at the opening ceremony of the IV
Campeonato Mundial de Futebol. Before
the hosts and hot favourites Brazil took

Scott Murray

the eld for the rst game of the 1950


World Cup in Rio, they were greeted
onto the eld by a 21-gun salute.
Trouble was, the nishing touches had
only been put to the Maracan stadium
about 10 minutes before the curtain
went up presumably by Eric Sykes
and Tommy Cooper and so the
reverberations caused by the ceremonial
jazz sent thousands of boluses of wet
concrete raining down onto the crowd
below. Five thousand pigeons were also
released into the sky, presumably in lieu
of doves, although the organisers may
as well have given a very big crow some
stage time. Or perhaps released a pack
of black dogs onto the eld. It wasnt
going to end happily, is the general
thrust of this paragraph.
And so, three weeks later, the sky
followed the concrete by falling in
on Brazils head, the Seleco beaten
in what was effectively the nal by
the eventual winners (and frankly the
better team) Uruguay. While the likes of
Obdulio Varela, Alcides Ghiggia and Juan
Schiaffino cavorted around the Maracan
building site in celebration, Brazils fans
reacted stoically to defeat: they sobbed
hysterically; they treated their poor
goalkeeper as a pariah for the rest of his
life; they occasionally committed suicide.
But one reaction was less understandable:
the defeat was partly blamed on Brazils
white kit with blue trim, a design which
wasnt considered patriotic enough,
bearing little resemblance as it did to the
Brazilian ag.
It was hard to spot Brazils logic. At the
time, only two countries had lifted the
World Cup: Uruguay and Italy, with
two wins apiece. But the sky blue ofLa
Celeste Olimpicaisnt anything like the

cobalt stripes of the Uruguayan ag. And


hold those Pantone charts up to the light
for as long as you like, but youll be a
while trying to match the azzurro of the
azzurri with all that blue on the Italian
tricolore. Still, despite a hit-rate of zero
from four, anything was worth a punt
and Brazil were feeling desperate.

And so a newspaper competition was


held to design a new kit (Brazil playing
in blue until they could sort something
permanent out). The contest was won
by the 19-year-old designer Aldyr Garca
Schlee, who concocted the heady mix
of yellow shirts with green trim, powder
blue shorts and white socks. He lived
near the Uruguayan border and so
sweet for a Brazilian icon supported
Uruguay because he was that kind of
awkward bugger. Schlees kit got its rst
run out in a World Cup qualier against
Chile, Baltazar scoring Brazils rst
goal in it, sealing a 1-0 win. The same
player also notched Brazils rst World
Cup nals goal in the new outt, the
opener in a 5-0 rout of Mexico at the
1954 tournament. West Germany went
on to win that years trophy, sporting a
predominantly white affair that had little
to do with the German ag. So, then,
that running total of World Cup wins by
countries draped in the colours of their
ag: 0/5.
As we all know, Brazil went on to romp
the 1958 World Cup ... wearing blue
away shirts purchased in haste from a
Stockholm outtter, the badges cut off
their home kit (which clashed with the
hosts and fellow nalists Sweden) and
sewn onto their new ones.
To be fair, 12 years later the new outt
would nally come into its own, Brazils

189

Shirt Tales

shimmering yellow the dominant note


of the rst World Cup broadcast in
glorious technicolor. The strip would
stay essentially the same, more or less,
for the next 20 years, a time period
during which Brazil showcased some
of the most delightful football ever
played. At which point the likes of Umbro
and Nike started pricking around with
needless embellishments and so despite
subsequently winning two World Cups,
Brazil impressed absolutely nobody. And
thats including everyone back in Brazil.

Italy (1938)

Vittorio Pozzo was, according to


the historians who dug around,
categorically not a fascist. But that
didnt stop him annexing the sovereign
state of Eejitry in 1938. During that
years World Cup in France, Pozzo
made a right show of himself, acting
the full toolbox by squeezing his side
into the most provocative football kit of
all time.
Before Italys rst-round game against
Norway, a sizable proportion of the
18,000-strong crowd including
many Italians who had left the country
in protest at Mussolinis rule had
demonstrated against Il Duce and
against the sweep of fascism across
mainland Europe in general. Pozzo
reacted by ordering his players to give
the fascist salute during the Italian
national anthem, then throwing similar
shapes himself. Claiming to be apolitical,
Pozzo reasoned that as a patriot, he
would celebrate whichever Italy existed
in the present and if it was currently a
fascist state, so be it. And this a man

190

portrayed as a deep thinker, too.


In the quarter-nal against the hosts,
Pozzo went one better. Having lost a
toss to hosts France, they had to nd
an alternative to their blue shirts. They
usually changed into white, but just to
be awkward, Pozzo sent his men out in a
black strip instead, a one-off look designed
purely to rile. It did that. The Parisian
crowd of nearly 60,000 couldnt fail to
notice the provocative symbolism and
duly went ballistic. Sad to say, they were
soon subdued when, on nine minutes, the
French keeper Laurent Di Lorto went up
to claim a simple long punt forward, only
to punch the ball straight into his own
net before chasing gormlessly after it and
clattering nose-rst into the post. After
which, defeat for France was inevitable.
It was undoubtedly the World Cups
greatest-ever display of slapstick humour.
Yet nearly all of its silent-movie charm
was lost, coming as it did during the
World Cups grimmest and most soulcrushing match of all. Pozzo went on
to become the rst and still the only
manager to win two World Cups, Italy
retaining the trophy theyd won in 1934.
Hats off to him for that, then, but only
with a very begrudging tip of the brim.

Kettering Town (1976)

From political posturing to corporate


shilling. In January 1976, the erstwhile
Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Derek
Dougan, chief executive of Kettering
Town of the Southern League, struck a
4,000 sponsorship deal with the local
automotive repair concern Kettering
Tyres. On the 24th of that month, the
team ran out against Bath City with

Scott Murray

the companys name plastered across


their bosom. Sure enough, the Football
Association came down on the club
like a pyramid of Pirelli and told them to
desist, as the slogan contravened a 1972
ban on sponsors.
The FA were, needless to say, brazenly
ignoring the fact they were trousering
large sums of cash from the sportswear
rm Admiral, whose name now adorned
the pure white shirts of England. The
former boss Alf Ramsey had resisted the
move to plaster the national strip with
fancy badges and was sometimes seen
rubbing the garment against his cheek
while wailing isnt it beautiful? into the
dark night. But his replacement Don Revie
had ushered Admiral in gladly and the
sacred shirt was now covered in logos.
Such hypocrisy from the FA inspired
Dougan to ght the good ght for
Kettering. He claimed the games rulers
were talking out of their sassholes and
that the 1972 ban had not been set down
in black and white. Consequently, he sent
his team out with the slogan Kettering T
on their shirts instead. Risibly, he argued
that the T stood for Town and not Tyres,
though everybody knew full well that
the move was really a stiff two-ngered
salute to The Man. Sadly, little Kettering
didnt have the resources to keep
ghting. When the FA got tough and
threatened the cash-strapped club with a
massive 1,000 ne, Dougan reluctantly
removed the offending words from his
sides strip.
But the climate was changing and
within 18 months the FA had caved into
pressure from clubs desirous of making
a few quid by whoring themselves out.
This could all have been settled 12

months ago, insisted the FA secretary


Ted Croker, had Kettering broached
the subject in the proper way. Dougan
nevertheless claimed a moral victory,
albeit a bittersweet one. I only wish
now that I was the guy negotiating for
Liverpool or Manchester United, he
sighed. Liverpool had no need to call
on the Doog, as in 1979 they became
the rst English league club to run out
with a sponsors name Hitachi on
their shirts and 50,000 in their pockets.
(Derby County had struck an earlier deal
with Saab; the players never ran out for
a competitive match in the shirts but did
get to drive about in the cars.)

Coventry City (1978)

Received wisdoms in soccer are


invariably wrong. Take the word soccer,
for example, which sends crashing bores
into a fundamentalist at spin, as they rant
on about the creeping Americanisation
of the game. Its a ridiculous argument
that holds no water. Soccer is a jollyhockey-sticks contraction of Association
Football, following the etymological
style of rugger, and is said to have been
coined by Charles Wreford-Brown, a
Bristolian educated at Charterhouse
and Oxford who went on to play
football for Corinthians and cricket for
Gloucestershire, before becoming a
big cheese at the FA. Its hard to know
how much more Anglicised the words
originator could have been, save invading
a small African country and haughtily
wandering around it wearing a linen suit.
So come on, people, its time to reclaim
this most English of words. At least until
everyone overuses it and subsequently
gets bored.

191

Shirt Tales

Barely less tedious is the unthinking fans


stock answer to the question, Will you
put down that Kasabian CD and name
the worst kit in the history offootball?
Almost always, the Coventry City away kit
of the late 1970s, produced by Admiral,
is the rst to be mentioned. Exactly how
this state of affairs came to be is unclear.
The kits a masterpiece: distinctive,
memorable, redolent of its era and with a
vertical ash to atter the obese.

Its because its brown, isnt it? But whats


really strange is, Coventry have trotted
out some proper tailored travesties in
their time since Jimmy Hill changed the
club colours to sky blue in 1961. The
Micky Quinn psychedeXXXLic blueand-white razzle of the early nineties.
The understated Peter Kay glamour
of the 1987 cup nal Granada-Bingologos-sewn-on-at-the-last-minute
kit. The blue-and-white version of
Denmarks World Cup 86 Carnival Suit.
The Kettering-inspired T for Talbot strip,
Hill circumventing league and BBC
sponsorship regulations by incorporating
the logo of the shite car manufacturer
into the team get-up. All kind of terrible,
really, but at least the club were trying
to push the envelope and they were
nothing if not memorable.
The watershed for Coventry seems to
have come with an attempt to introduce
a new badge in 2005. A dreadful
effort featuring a strutting, trumpeting
elephant, it was shouted down by the
Coventry faithful, and in many ways
rightly so. But you do wonder. Exactly
how bad would it have been had this
egregious animal been elevated to the
shirt? The old logo could always have
been reinstated a year or so later. A
similar conservative attitude back in the

192

early days of Hill and Coventry would still


be running around in plain white shirts,
and look at the state of Leeds, England
and Real Madrid these days.
Since then, Coventrys kits have been
exquisitely tasteful, and just a little boring. A
terrible state of affairs and one which Eight
Bells is happy stridently to bemoan, despite
clear inconsistencies with the argument
we put forward in the previous section
regarding Brazil. Hey, were only human,
a charming mass of contradictions and
idiosyncrasies made esh.

Manchester United (1980)

For a club synonymous with the evil


machinations of the merchandiser, its
interesting to note in retrospect how
long Manchester United took to get
their branding sorted out. Derby County
embraced the ram in 1946, West Ham
proudly displayed their hammers in 1950
and Liverpool put a liver bird on their
chest in 1955, for example, but United
didnt sew a badge onto their strip until
1972. How important crests are, of
course, is a moot point. Paradoxically,
two plain, bog-standard red shirts are
as synonymous with the club as any
of their later multi-logoed efforts, and
neither had so much as a single brand
signier on them. Is it possible to picture
a 1950s-style low v-necked shirt, red with
white collar, without thinking of the Busby
Babes? And which player rst springs to
mind wearing a plain red T with rounded
white collar? Well, Mr Sugden from Kes,
obviously. But the point stands, and Law,
Best and Charlton arent far behind in the
memory banks anyway. Unmistakably
United and not a badge in sight.

Scott Murray

But innocence will pass you by. In


1980, Adidas took over the contract
to make Uniteds kit from Admiral, and
immediately got the needle and thread
out to faff about with the club crest,
adding a pair of boots complete with
Adidas trefoil above the upper scroll. It
would be nice to think somebody in the
United marketing department spotted
the boots a few years later, leading to a
scene where they wafted the shirt in a
rumbled Adidas wonks face, screaming
what the effing fuck is this supposed
to be? But the boots simply stayed
perched atop Bryan Robsons nips for
the duration of the Adidas contract and
were quietly removed when Umbro
took over production of Uniteds shirts
in the early 1990s. Its hard to imagine
any brand manager at any club, least of
all the biggest in the land, allowing such
liberties to be taken now. Mores the pity.

Juventus (1903)

As weve already seen with Nottingham


Forest wannabes Arsenal, many clubs
owe their colour schemes to another.
Dundee United, to start a random
round-up, are nicknamed the Tangerines,
though their shirts are actually the burnt
orange of the mid-60s North American
Soccer League outt Dallas Tornadoes. In
an identity switcheroo worthy of proper
psychological analysis, United were the
Tornadoes, having played under the
Dallas monicker in the NASL during the
summer on a busmans holiday. United
enjoyed the experience so much they
decided to dump their regular Scottish
League garb of white with black trim in
1969 in favour of the stuff they had been
wearing on vacation.

Blackpool made a similar move back


in 1923, opting to start turning out in
the colours of the Netherlands after a
club director refereed a game between
Holland and Belgium, and fell in love
with the kit. However, despite this
obvious Dutch inuence, youre never
to refer to the shirts as oranje; only
tangerine will suffice.
Moving swiftly on from matters orange,
Celtic nicked their colour scheme off Hibs.
Dinamo Moscow wear white and blue,
so the romantic notion goes, in a nod
to air and water, elements essential to
life. However the truth is much less
windswept and panoramic: the club had
been set up by Harry Charnock, who
ran a nearby mill, and he had kitted out
the side in the same garb as his heroes
from back home, Blackburn Rovers.
Rovers also inuenced an early version
of the Tottenham Hotspur kit, before the
faddy north Londoners opted to fashion
themselves on Preston North End instead.
Barcelona are often said to have taken
their blue and red shirts from Basel,
their founder Hans Kamper being both
Swiss and a former player of the club.
However it transpires that Barcas early
English star, Arthur Witty, chose the
get-up, a nod to his old school, the
Merchant Taylors in Crosby.
Southampton and Sunderland are falling
over each other to claim to be the
inspiration for Athletic Bilbaos change
from blue-and-white stripes to a redand-white effort, although more likely
is the fact that red-and-white-striped
material was cheaper, such cloth being
produced in high quantities to cover
mattresses. (Atltico Madrid made

193

Shirt Tales

the same swap, and are known as Los


Colchoneros, the mattress-makers.)
Having nicked Forests red scheme,
Arsenal at least had the good grace to
pass it on, inuencing Ajax, Sparta Prague,
and Sporting Braga, the latter going so far
as to use the nickname Os Arsenalistas.
And we end with Juventus, who dumped
their salmon pink tops in favour of
black-and-white striped ones, after
their English star John Savage sorted
them out some gratis kit from Notts
County in 1903. By way of thanks, Juve
asked County to play in an exhibition
match to open their new Juventus
Arena stadium last September. County
ummed and aahed, complaining that
they had big xtures against Walsall and
Exeter coming up. But they eventually
reluctantly agreed, and popped over to
poop Juves party, holding the Italian
giants to a 1-1 draw. They got four points
from the Walsall and Exeter games,
before you ask.

194

Contributors

Contributors
The Blizzard, Issue Four
Gary Al-Smith is a freelance African
football specialist for ESPN Soccernet,
kicker, ITV and SuperSport among others.
Twitter: @garyalsmith
Philippe Auclair is the author of The
Enchanted Kingdom of Tony Blair (in
French) and Cantona: the Rebel Who
Would Be King, which was named NSC
Football Book of the Year. He writes for
France Football, Offside and Champions
and provides analysis and commentary
for RMC Sport. He also pursues a parallel
career in music under the name Louis
Philippe. Twitter: @PhilippeAuclair
Sheridan Bird has written for World
Soccer, FourFourTwo, Champions,
Sporting iD, and the Manchester United
and England programmes. He created the
Michael Ballack Diaries for Football365.
He has made Fabio Cannavaro and Didier
Drogba laugh in interviews but couldnt
raise a smile from Carlo Ancelotti.
Martin Cloake is a journalist who lives
and works in London. With Adam Powley,
he has co-written a number of acclaimed
books on Tottenham, including The Boys
from White Hart Lane and 61: The Spurs
Double which won the Illustrated Book
of the Year 2011 award at the National
Sporting Club awards. The pair also
publish ebooks under the Spurs Shots
banner. Twitter: @MartinCloake
Patrick Dessault worked at LEquipe for
17 years before joining France Football in
1997 as Chief Football Writer in charge
of covering the French national team.

196

Patrick is a lover of the jeu la nantaise


and an admirer of Zinedine Zidane, of
whom he remains a close condant.
David Lynch is an award-winning
journalist and author currently based
in Cairo. His second book is A Divided
Paradise: An Irishman in the Holy Land
(New Island). www.davidlynchwriter.com
Pete Grathoff writes about football for
the Kansas City Star and The Full 90
blog, and his work has appeared in other
publications across the United States.
Dan Edwards has been based in
Argentina since 2009 and is the South
American Editor for Goal.com. he is a
contributor of Hand of Pod, a podcast on
Argentinian football.
Twitter: @DanEdwardsGoal
Ian Hawkey is the author of Feet of
the Chameleon, The Story of African
Football, a winner of the National
Sporting Clubs Football Book of the Year.
Graham Hunter moved to Barcelona in
2001. He is a journalist of international
reputation and covers Spanish football
for Sky Sports, the BBC and newspapers
and magazines across the world.
Twitter: @bumpergraham
Juliet Jacques writes for the Guardian,
TimeOut and the New Statesman
on anything from French football to
transgender politics via European
literature, electronic music and avantgarde art. She was longlisted for the

Contributors

Orwell Prize in 2011.


Twitter: @julietjacques
Iain Macintosh is the author of Football
Fables and the Everything You Ever
Wanted To Know series of sports
guidebooks. He writes for the New Paper
in Singapore, the Irish Examiner, si.com
and anyone else wholl pay him.
Twitter: @iainmacintosh
Sam Kelly is based in Buenos Aires.
He writes about Argentine football for
When Saturday Comes and the website
of the Hong Kong Jockey Club among
others, and is ESPNSoccernets man in
South America. He is the presenter and
producer of Hand Of Pod, the internets
only English-language podcast on
Argentinian football.
Twitter: @HEGS_com
Rob Langham is co-founder of
the Football League blog The Two
Unfortunates. He lives in Oxford but
retains his boyhood support of Reading
FC. Twitter: @twounfortunates
Pablo Manriquez is a Chilean-Missourian
blogger who is senior photographer for
Qorvis. Twitter: @mnrqz
Backpagepix is a South African
photographic and media syndication
agency founded in 2001
Scott Murray writes for the Guardian. He is
author of on-this-day football miscellany
Day of the Match, and the preposterous
but amusing Phantom of the Open:
Maurice Flitcroft, The Worlds Worst Golfer.
Scott Oliver has recently completed his
doctorate on Peronist Argentina and is

busy adapting the thesis for a book. He


is sports editor of Nottinghams LeftLion
magazine and writes about both football
(for The FCF) and his rst love, cricket
(for Spin and The Cricketer), archiving his
work at false9 and reversesweeper blogs,
respectively. Twitter: @reverse_sweeper
David Winner is the author of Brilliant
Orange: the Neurotic Genius of Dutch
Football, Those Feet: A Sensual History
of English Football and Around the
World in 90 Minutes. His latest book, Al
Dente: Madness, Beauty and the Food
of Rome, will be published in March by
Simon & Schuster.
Nick Szczepanik is a freelance football
writer contributing mainly to the
Independent and Independent on
Sunday after 15 years with the Times.
Twitter: @NickSzczepanik
Brian Phillips is a staff writer for
Grantland and the editor of the football
blog The Run of Play. His writing has
appeared in Slate, Deadspin, Poetry,
and The Hudson Review, among other
publications. Twitter: @runofplay
Jonathan Wilson is the author of
Inverting the Pyramid, a winner of the
National Sporting Clubs Football Book
of the Year, Behind the Curtain and The
Anatomy of England. His biography of
Brian Clough, Nobody Ever Says Thank
You, was published in November. He
writes for the Guardian, World Soccer,
Sports Illustrated and the Irish Examiner.
Twitter: @jonawils
Bob Yule has written for BBC Radio. He
has studied extensively at the school of
hard knocks that is Newcastle United.

197

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