World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – Chile 1962

Battle of Santiago

“Appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game.” David Coleman

Football can be a incredibly violent game. Especially when a nation’s pride is at stake.

The Battle of Santiago, Chile v Italy, the most infamous and controversial game of the 1962 World Cup, began with the stray, malicious and inflammatory words of two journalists and ended with two red cards, a flurry of punches and the intervention of the police.

The tense situation between the two nations emerged from the ruins of the Chilean earthquake of 1960, one of the worst human tragedies on record. Italian officials, among others had inferred that the tournament should be taken from the South American nation.

While relations were still reeling from the aftershock Italian hacks Antonio Ghirelli and Corrado Pizzinelli caused a stir with a series of articles about Santiago, labeling the city a dump and questioning the sexual integrity of its women.

Days before the game Ghirello and Pizzinelli had to flee the country fearing for their lives after an Argentine journalist was badly beaten after being mistaken for an Italian.

On game day itself the atmosphere was evident in the body language of the players, with the game spilling over into complete carnage after just eight minutes when Italian Giorgio Ferrini saw red for a fracas with Honorina Landa.

A second Italian player, Mario David was sent off less than half an hour later after landing a kick to the head of Chilean Leonel Sanchez.

There were accusations of bias, with English referee Ken Aston failing to send of Sanchez for a punch and for failing to spot the same player breaking the nose of Italian forward Humberto Maschio.

The game ended 2-0 to the hosts, with police having to intervene to keep the peace on several occasions, and is widely considered to be the most violent clash in World Cup history.

When the game was shown on TV, commentator David Coleman warned viewers that it was the most “appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game”.

It certainly ranks alongside 1952’s Battle of Berne between Hungary and Brazil, when Ferenc Puskás, allegedly struck Brazil player Pinheiro with a bottle opening up a three inch gash on his forehead.