Thousands of jubilant Brazilians went singing and sambaing through the streets of Seville, Spain, after their team’s defeat of Scotland, and the world’s supreme sporting event, the World Cup, was off to a rollicking start. Some 1.5 billion television viewers around the world—something like one in three human beings—are tuned in watching every corner kick and cross. The Cup is the ultimate sports event, surpassing even the Olympics. There is more excitement, more anguish in defeat, exultation in victory and more spectators than for any other event. With the addition of eight teams to the tournament, swelling the field to 24 from the traditional 16, it can be argued that this is the biggest sporting event in world history. Canadian fans, able to watch on home TV for the first time instead of on closed-circuit satellite telecasts, are watching 37 of the matches on the CBC English and French networks. In England, the cradle of the game, one cinema manager is offering a series of X-rated films for housewives widowed by 29 days’ and 52 games’ worth of football on the telly.
The prestige of winning the quadrennial extravaganza is enormous, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars to the winning squad members. Competition for the ’82 World Cup began two years ago when 106 teams played elimination matches all over the planet. Only 24 survived to
make it to the championship round in Spain. They are being whittled down to two finalists that square off July 11 in Madrid. It all adds up to a giant fiesta, an international “happening” that has drawn 7,500 journalists and half a million fans, tourists and jet-setters.
Fiesta time for some of the established soccer nations may be a little delayed, though. For no sooner had the Cup kicked off than some of the giants, Brazil apart, began losing. West Germany got off to a less than auspicious start with a humiliating 2-1 loss to 2,000 to 1 long shot Algeria.British bookies immediately changed the odds on Algeria to 200 to 1. A single setback is not fatal in the early rounds of play, but
newspapers the world over had a field day. “The master race has Algerian sand kicked in its face,” ranted one.
There were more early shocks: host Spain, third choice with the bookies, could only tie Honduras 1-1. Before Spain’s wildly partisan fans—home teams have won three of the past four World Cups—the unheralded Central Americans took the lead on a goal by Hector Zelaya. Spain’s second-half equalizer came after a dubious penalty awarded by the referee. One Honduran player labelled it “a courtesy which referees give our Spanish hosts.” He was to prove prophetic. In Spain’s next game, with the score 1-0 in favor of Yugoslavia, Spain’s Miguel Alonso came sweeping through the defence and was clearly brought down a couple of feet outside the penalty area. The Danish referee awarded a penalty, which Spain’s Ufarte promptly missed. But the referee ordered the penalty taken a second time because he judged that the Yugoslav goalie had moved too soon. Forward Juanito smashed in the goal, and Spain went on to win 2-1.
As Spain struggled on, the big story of the ’82 Cup was still the upstart Third Worlders. Traditionally, Cup battles have pitted the Europeans against the South Americans. And probably countries from these two continents will contest the final, but the impressive early showings by rank outsiders makes it apparent that world soccer is undergoing a dramatic change. African, Asian and Central American soccer is
catching up with the rest of the worldvindicating the decision of FIFA, the world football governing body, to increase the number of tournament participants. “Football has never witnessed a revolution like this,” commented London’s The Observer, while Yugoslavia’s influential manager, Miljan Miljanic, added, “We must all adapt to the new age.”
Still, no one could have forecast Cameroon, which had brought along its own witch doctors and a supply of monkey meat, holding soccer-mad Peru to a 0-0 standoff. And the Kuwaitis, the tiniest competing country (popuation one million), a 500 tol outsider, held a supposedly solid Czechoslovakian team to a 1-1 draw—and could easily have won. But there were cynics in the crowd. “They’ve got the biggest bankroll,” said a German. Indeed, the oil-rich Kuwaitis had spent lavishly to train their players, who are promised $200,000 for victory, and hired a Brazilian coach at great expense.
But there was trouble in their second game:
France smashed four goals past them, and the Kuwaiti players walked off the field after the fourth, claiming that a whistle in the crowd distracted them. After seven minutes of gesturing, arm-waving and fisticuffs, a Kuwaiti prince,
Sheik Fahd al-Ahmad al-Sabah, in flowing robes and a pink headdress, persuaded his players to carry on. They were rewarded when, as any cynic could have forecast, the Soviet referee changed his mind and refused the French goal. Whereupon the French walked off. The game was finally completed with players from both sides shaking hands. Final score:
France 4, Kuwait 1. Two days later the Kuwaiti team was fined $15,500 and the referee was suspended.
The jolly folk who brightened the whole mood of the World Cup were inevitably the Scots. They came flooding down to Málaga and Seville in cars, trains and double-decker buses—15,000 of them. “It took me three years to save £600 to come here, and I’ve quit me job but I dinna care,” declared 25-year-old Colin Drummond. “Some of the lads are sleeping on the beach, eating stew every night. It dinna matter. Our hearts are with Scotland. Scotland’s magic.” That magic didn’t work on the field. Scotland huffed and puffed before overcoming a
totally inexperienced New Zealand side 5-2. Losing to Brazil 4-1 was no disgrace, but the Scots needed a win against the Soviet Union to survive. The atmosphere at La Rosaleda stadium in Málaga was tense. Actor Sean Connery and singer Rod Stewart showed up to support Scotland. “We’re going to paint the town plaid,” said Stewart, but he was a little behind the times. The job had already been done.
The Scots attacked hard in the first half, and Joe Jordan, benched in the first two games, scored to give Scotland the lead. But the game ended in a 2-2 tie, and the Scots were packing for home. They had the same number of points as the hard-running Soviets but had an inferior goal difference, so the Soviet Union squeezed into round two with Brazil by the narrowest of margins. The Scots celebrated anyway. “We beat the Russians 2-2,” roared some fans in a Málaga bar.
Other teams were not so happy. The defending champion Argentines lost their first match 1-0 against a stodgy, defensive-minded Belgian team. The Argentine players seemed sidetracked by the Falklands fiasco. “We will fight for our country on the soccer field,” said their manager, Cesar Ménotti. The English papers wallowed in their misery. ARGIES SMASHED, crowed a headline in the London Sww.The Argies were down but not out. Five days later they rebounded with a 4-1 win over Hungary. This time the English papers praised the “Magic Maradona Show,” referring to Argentine superstar Diego Maradona, rated the world’s best
player, who scored two of the goals. Argentina then scored a 2-0 win over El Salvador to qualify for the second round. There is little chance that Argentina will meet England unless it is in the final itself or the match for third place.
That is for the best. English football fans are a notoriously rowdy bunch. After England beat France 3-1 in what was billed as the “Second Battle of Agincourt,” English fans busted up several bars and there were a number of street fights, one stabbing and 14 arrests. At one point during the game, baton-wielding riot police hacked their way through a section of the English fans, many of them proudly wearing T-shirts declaring, I’M A ’ORRIBLE ’OOLIGAN. But the World Cup’s biggest fiasco was the ticket sales. Mundiespaña, a specially created consortium of Spanish hotels and travel agencies, was given a virtual monopoly. There were empty seats in
most stadiums, even for the opening ceremonies in Barcelona, a spectacle that rivalled any Olympics.
Out of the hurly-burly of the first 13 days of Cup play, the 12 remaining teams were split into four groups. On the early form shown in the first round, the countries that have the best chance of going forward to qualify for the semifinals would seem to be Brazil, Belgium and Spain or England, who must get past West Germany. Brazil, Argentina and Italy are in the same group, while Northern Ireland, France and Austria form a group, and the Soviet Union, Poland and Belgium another. One nation survives from each group. The Soviet-Poland game, with its
should have bite. And purists say that soccer passions will run deepest when Brazil and Argentina clash. Predictions are a fool's game, but a betting man might well choose Brazil and Spain for the final game. Brazil has won the World Cup three times, more than any other nation, and with the likes of Socrates (a 28-year-old medical doctor named after the philosopher), Zico, Junior and Falcao has the most solid all-round team. But a lot of wise money is on Spain, which cannot be counted out at home and seems to have the referees on its side. As for a winner, can anyone really resist that samba beat? "Avante. Brazil. Avante." ,
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