“The most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game." Those were the words of BBC commentator David Coleman upon introducing the highlights of the 1962 World Cup meeting between Chile and Italy. Although football has been described by Pele as “the beautiful game”, there are times when it can be anything but beautiful and it can descend into farce or madness. Below are a few examples of World Cup moments when things turned ugly:
1962 – The Battle of Santiago
England Striker Jimmy Greaves thought he had it bad during the 1962 World Cup when a stray dog on the pitch he grabbed hold of, during his side’s Quarter Final loss to Brazil, unleashed a soupy stream of piss all over his jersey. But at least the Tottenham marksman was nowhere near the notorious Battle of Santiago.
In a stunning example of how to win friends in foreign lands, the Italian media had questioned why Chile were hosting the finals and had this to say about Santiago, "the phones don't work, taxis are as rare as faithful husbands, a cable to Europe costs an arm and a leg and a letter takes five days to turn up. Its population is prone to malnutrition, illiteracy, alcoholism and poverty". One journalist went as far as to describe Chile’s capital as a backwater that was teeming with prostitutes. Understandably the locals were incensed and several Italian journalists had to flee the country under the threat of violence. Santiago sounds like my kind of town.
Under this climate, Italy took on the hosts in the second match for each side in the tournament. The Chileans tore into the Italian’s straight from the kickoff and when they weren't kicking or poking at the Azzurri players, they were spitting in their faces. The Italians reacted in kind and the game quickly descended into a scene from Apocalypse Now. The first sending off occurred after four minutes as the Italian, Giorgio Ferrini was sent off for retaliating. He refused to leave the pitch however and the match was held up for ten minutes. That was only the starting point, as the players decided to forget about the ball and just concentrate on kicking or punching each other. Chile’s Leonel Sanchez was the chief villain as he threw a vicious left hook at Humberto Maschio, breaking his nose, and then throwing another punch at Mario David. David reacted and was unfairly sent off by the English referee Ken Aston, who had no control over the wild proceedings.
Against nine men, the Chileans prevailed 2-0 and would go as far as the Semi Finals before eventually losing in another bad tempered affair to Brazil.
1982 - Disgrace of Gijón
Have you ever wondered why the final group matches, of the four teams in a particular group, at a World Cup are played simultaneously? Well, we can blame the Austrians and the Germans for that one. I’m not terribly happy about it to be honest, as I had to order some weird channel called the Outdoor Life Network during the last World Cup in order to see the match I wanted, as the main network was showing the other fixture.
In the 1982 World Cup, West Germany opened their group stage against Algeria and to say that they underestimated the African side is putting it lightly. The German’s didn't bother watching any videos of Algeria and assumed they would win in a rout. One player even said, “We will dedicate our seventh goal to our wives, and the eighth to our dogs”. Charming attitude, eh?
In one of the World Cup’s greatest upsets, the Algerian’s defeated the reigning European Champions 2-1. However, with West Germany winning their next match over Chile 4-1 and Algeria losing to Austria 2-0, it all came down to the final match for each side to see who would progress into the second round.
With Algeria winning their final match against Chile 3-2, West Germany had to beat Austria the next day to assure themselves of a place in the next round.
With everything at stake, West Germany came out of the blocks on all cylinders and took a 1-0 lead after ten minutes. For the remainder of the half some football was played, but not a heck of a lot happened. At half time though, despite the continued denials of the players involved, a non-aggression pact was agreed between the two countries to let the result stay as it was. The two sides then played out the latter part of the second half at a snail’s pace. They knocked the ball around a bit and treated the rest of the match like a practice session. The last fifteen minutes were particularly pathetic, and had Algerian’s seeing red. The thousands of Algerian supporters in the crowd screamed “Fix” and actually burned money in the stands.
German commentators were also not impressed with one saying, "What's happening here is disgraceful and has nothing to do with football. You can say what you want, but not every end justifies every means."
Not caring a lick about what anyone thought of their dubious deal, Austria and West Germany played out the rest of their charade, the match finished 1-0 and both advanced to the second round.
Despite seeing their side progress, many West German fans were not happy and some confronted the team later at their hotel. The players responded by chucking water balloons at their supporters. Needless to say, most neutrals and perhaps even some Germans were pleased to see this side eventually lose to Italy in the World Cup Final.
1986 - The Hand of God
Following on the heels of the Falklands War, and with a contentious World Cup match twenty years earlier still on some minds, the 1986 World Cup Quarter Final between England and Argentina had what the hacks refer to as a “narrative”. The match, played out in the blazing midday sun in the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, featured the best and worst of Diego Maradona.
After a non-eventful first half, in the 51st minute Maradona made a surging run towards the England box and attempted to play in Jorge Valdano. It was cut off by Steve Hodge, but the Aston Villa man was only able to clumsily slice the ball up in the air behind him. As Peter Shilton trudged through quicksand off of his line and lazily came out to collect the ball, Maradona leaped in front of him. The Argentinian got a fist to the ball and knocked it over the English keeper and into the net. It was an obvious handball and how a player who was nearly a foot shorter than the keeper challenging him, could possibily head a ball over him was lost on the useless officials.
As the England players screamed their objections at the hapless referee, Maradona encouraged his teammates to join him in celebration to complete the perfect con.
Four minutes later, with England still feeling like they had just had their wallet stolen, Maradona pulled their pants down in front of a million viewers, as he slalomed past five players and scored the greatest individual goal in the history of the World Cup.
Although they pulled a goal back through Gary Lineker with nine minutes to go, England bowed out of the competition. As a result of his trickery and, later moment of genius, Maradona won himself a few friends in Scotland to go along with his growing legendary status in Argentina.
1990 - Rijkaard and Voller
It’s no great secret that Holland and Germany have a little bit of history, and if you weren't dozing off or passing “do you like me: yes, no, or maybe” notes to freckly faced Pamela Lulubridgita during 20th Century History class, then you’ll know that Holland was occupied by the Germans during World War 2.
The football rivalry first kicked into gear though during the 1974 World Cup Final. That summer, the wonderful “Total Football” side of Johan Cruyff was so concerned with humiliating the host West Germans that they forgot to score a second goal, after their early opener, and crashed to a 2-1 defeat.
Since then, matches between the two sides have been a bit prickly, as the two sets of players and their fans have attempted to one up each other in terms of unpleasant behavior. For example, after beating West Germany in their own backyard in the 1988 European Championships, Ronald Koeman pretended to wipe his ass with Olaf Thon’s shirt which enraged German supporters.
The 1990 World Cup is remembered as a tournament that featured diving, time wasting, fouling and a lot of general douchebaggery, but the second round clash between Holland and West Germany may be the pick of a rotten bunch.
Both sides started into each other with some crude tackles straight from the kick off, but one incident was about to overshadow all of it.
Normally a classy player for both AC Milan and Holland, Frank Rijkaard came into this match in a particularly foul mood and in the 21st minute took down Rudi Voller with a horrible tackle. After receiving a fully justified yellow card, an angry Rijkaard walked past Voller and gobbed straight into his luxuriously permed locks. Perhaps thinking it was raining at first, Voller didn’t react right away, but then realizing what had happened he pointed out the hanging spittle to the referee and started yelling at Rijkaard. The German was booked for his troubles and the match continued.
From the resulting free kick, Voller clashed with Dutch keeper Hans van Breukelen and then threw himself to the floor clutching his shin. At this point the red mist had enveloped Rijkaard entirely and he attempted to drag Voller up by his ear. The referee had seen enough and sent both men off.
As Rijkaard walked past Voller on the way to the tunnel he hawked back and fired the gloopiest blob of slimy spit into Voller’s hair that would be the envy of cheeky nine year old boys everywhere. It actually hung in Voller’s perm for a while like some misapplied Soul Glow and then slowly dripped down his back. It was absolutely disgusting and the curly haired striker would have been well within his rights to deck the Dutchman. He held his cool though, and so did his compatriots as they emerged as 2-1 victors on their way to an eventual World Cup title.
2010 – Holland and Spain
Heading into the 2010 World Cup Final in South Africa, fans and pundits alike wondered how Holland would be able to counter Spain’s Tiki-taka short passing and movement game. Their answer to the problem was violence, and a lot of it.
Right from the start Holland made their intentions known as they steamed into one heavy tackle after another, as they tried to break up Spain’s rhythm and also play on their notion that English referee Howard Webb would be lenient.
The former Police Sergeant from Yorkshire did his best to keep the match under control as he handed out yellow cards like candy, a World Cup Final record of 14 in total. But if it wasn't bad enough that Mark van Bommel and company were running around fouling anyone with a hint of a Spanish accent, Nigel de Jong then attempted open heart surgery on Xabi Alonso with a vicious kung-fu kick to the chest.
It was the clearest red card you’re ever likely to see, but bizarrely Webb only issued a yellow card for an outrageous assault that left Alonso sore for days.
It was a disastrous mistake from the normally assured referee and the violent play escalated as a result.
Understandably Spain started to mix it up a bit as well and the match teetered on the brink of an absolute farce. Locked at 0-0 after 90 minutes, those of us watching at home braced ourselves for 30 more minutes and were not surprised when John Heitinga was shown a second yellow card, with a resulting red, after 109 minutes.
With only four minutes remaining until penalties, Andres Iniesta took a through ball from Cesc Fabregas and fired in the winner to give Spain their first world title in what was probably the ugliest final ever.