World Cup Memories

Posted on June 2, 2014

With a population of 1.8 million (a seventh of London) of which only 280,000 are indigenous (the rest are foreign workers) and no history of football, it was only right that Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup in temperatures just below those on the surface of the sun. A cynic however, might say Qatar won the bid on the back of the following allegations of bribery:

  • £30,000 for ‘school fees’ for Liberian-born former Man City striker George Weah – Fifa’s world player of the year in 1995.
  • £48,000 to Zambian FA president Kalusha Bwalya for ‘FA and personal expenditure’.
  • £31,500 to Fadoul Houssein, of the Djibouti FA, for an ‘expensive course of medical treatment for his general secretary’ and an all-expenses luxury trip to Saudi Arabia.
  • £36,000 for a ‘car to travel to football projects’ for ex-Gambian FA boss Seedy Kinteh.
  • £480,000 to the Ivory Coast FA as part of a  Fifa development scheme.
  • £120,000 in cash to 25 delegates flown to Kuala Lumpur to discuss the bid in 2008.
  • £30,000 to Sao Tome FA president Manuel Dende, who asked for £138,000 for ‘football pitches’ to be paid into his personal account.

Reported allegations in the Sunday Times that up to £3million from secret slush funds was used to bribe officials by Mohamed Bin Hammam, a disgraced former vice president of football’s governing body Fifa, are surely just jealousy from bitter sporting nations such as England and Australia, both of whom have impressive infrastructure and a sport loving public who would embrace and enhance the world’s biggest sporting event.

I must say that these allegations do put a bit of a sour taste in the mouth, especially as they came on the day that England’s young and inexperienced team boarded a flight to Miami for warm up games for a competition where, for once, they will arrive as hopeful pretenders rather than over-hyped contenders.

I still can’t help but look back on the World Cup with rose tinted glasses; the days of tickertape in 1978 with David Coleman’s voice crackling from outer space (“Kempes…one nil) 1982 and Robson’s opener versus France, 1986 and the dastardly ‘Hand of God ‘ before Lineker scored and then and again…Or so we thought (How didn’t that go in?)

Then there are memories of 1990 as England came so close and Scotland entertained us with a classic defeat against Costa Rica. Gascoigne, Lineker, Walker, Beardsley and all, what a team? Actually, not quite because taking away the epic semi-final in Turin, England laboured against the Republic of Ireland, got unlucky drawing with Holland and just scraped past the Egypt might of Egypt courtesy of Mark Wright.

On England marched, getting outplayed by Belgium until David Platt hit a sucker punch in the last minute of extra time and then, in a game that shredded the nerves of a nation, a dramatic comeback courtesy of two Lineker penalties as a refreshingly naive Cameroon went into kamikaze defending mode.

The German’s got us in the end, but it was a great roller coaster to be on; it was thrilling but England weren’t as great as legend now has it, they just rode their luck.

I would love to say that those were the good old days before corruption but let’s go back to Argentina 1978, the first tournament I watched, awestruck by how handsome, skilful and healthy the Latin American players looked compared to the matchstick legged, pot bellied footballers I was used to.

In a second round game Argentina needed to beat Peru by 4 clear goals to qualify; this, it is now commonly known, is what happened. The Peruvian military dictator, Francisco Bermudez, illegally sent 13 Peruvian citizens to Argentina as part of Condor Plan, through which Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s cooperated in the repression of political dissidents.

Once inside Argentina, the prisoners were tortured by the brutal military regime and forced to sign false confessions and it is pretty much certain that Argentinian dictator, Jorge Videla,  accepted the political prisoners on one condition… That Peru deliberately lost the World Cup match – and by enough goals to ensure Argentina progressed to the final.

Argentina won 6-0 and went on to win the trophy. I watched that game thinking Argentina were brilliant; I feel violated now but not in such a tragic way as many 1970’s children I guess. The World Cup was crooked, but safer for an eleven year old than getting fixed by Jim.

Dictators Victory: Argentina Hammering Peru 6-0

Fast forward to 1982 and a game between Austria and Germany in what was the biggest stitch up since Anschluss.

The mighty European champions West Germany, had been humbled by Algeria in the opening game and the sequence of results that followed meant that the Algerian’s would qualify to the second group stage unless Germany beat Austria by one or two nil, meaning that they (Germany and Austria) would qualify at Algeria’s expense.

West Germany scored in the first ten minutes and what followed was a eighty disgraceful minutes of sideways passing as the world watched in a saddened state of shock.

It wasn’t just the supporters and commentators outside these nations who were upset.

Commentating for German channel ARD,  Eberhard Stanjek held back the tears as  he lamented:“What is happening here is disgraceful and has nothing to do with football. You can say what you like, but not every end justifies the means.”

An Austrian commentator told viewers to turn off their sets and refused to speak for the last half-hour and former West German international Willi Schulz called the West German players “gangsters”.

The German players were unbowed, water bombing their own protesting fans from the team hotel balcony and even more shocking, were the words of the head of the Austrian FA.

“Naturally today’s game was played tactically. But if 10,000 ‘sons of the desert’ here in the stadium want to trigger a scandal because of this it just goes to show that they have too few schools. Some sheikh comes out of an oasis, is allowed to get a sniff of World Cup air after 300 years and thinks he’s entitled to open his gob.”

Sadly, the World Cup has always suffered with scandal and all the time Sepp Blatter and his mobsters are around, it always will. Take for example, the hotels that got “stay away” tags on them in South Africa, fore simply refusing to give a cut of the takings to Fifa.

As supporters, we just have to try to turn a blind eye and enjoy the spectacle…However, it is hard when you see that the vast money spent in Brazil, has come at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable.

I say “Come on England” with a tinge of apathy these days.

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