World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – France 1938

Italy wear black strip

“A sporting system is the by-product of society and its political system, and it is just boyhood dreaming to suppose you can ever take politics out of sport” – Peter Hain

The question of whether sport and politics should be allowed to mix is one that is largely redundant. The lines between the two are blurred so frequently that at times they can be considered a single entity.

Down the years, sport and politics have collided in such a fashion that it has stirred great controversy.

The England cricket team was roundly cirticised for touring apartheid South Africa in 1982 and the British football team received similar treatment, albeit years later, for giving fascist salutes to Adolf Hitler in 1938.

In that same year, with the international climate primed for the outbreak of the Second World War, Italian football disgraced itself with a similar outpouring of fascist sentiment.

The Italians, the eventual winners of the tournament, were drawn to play France in the quarter final after battling past Norway in extra time.

With both teams playing in blue, Italy had to use a change strip after losing a coin toss, however rather then donning their traditional white kits they decided to opt for black on the behest of dictator Benito Mussolini.

Blackshirts, or camicie nere in Italian, were synonymous with fascist military groups in Italy in the run-up to the war and become symbolic of right-wing activism.

The decision riled the French, who had already staged a 10,000 strong protest at the Stade Velodrome ahead of the Italian’s opening game.

A much stronger side than France, and helped by inept goalkeeping Italy won the sporting battle but will be seen to have lost politically in the eyes of history.

It was the last time that the Italians would wear the strip but was the very beginning of a marriage between sport and political controversy.


World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – Germany 2006

Zidane’s headbutt

“I’d prefer your whore of a sister.” Marco Materazzi

Zinedine Zidane and Marco Materrazzi are jogging out of Italy’s penalty when the Italian puts his arms around the Frenchman and tugs on his shirt.

“If you want my shirt that badly I’ll give it to you at the end of the match,” Zidane says and starts to run past him.

As he is still within earshot Materazzi retorts: “I’d prefer your whore of a sister.”

Zidane slows down, turns on his heels, and just as Materazzi cathches up with him he recived a headbutt square to the chest.

That is the sequence of events, with the words provided by Materazzi, which bought the curtain down on a glittering carer.

Before the game had kicked off, Zidane, fresh out of retirement to lead the French, had been named player of the 2006 World Cup.

It was Zidane’s second appearance in a World Cup final and his superb dinked penalty earned him a place among a select group of players who had scored in two separate finals.

France went on to lose the game on penalties, David Trezeguet missing the final spot-kick, which may have been Zidane’s if he had managed to stay on the pitch.

The headbutt incident transcended football and was even lampooned on US animated comedy Family Guy.

Some time after the game, Italy manager Marcelo Lippi said: “Too much importance has been put on this incident. It’s almost as if there is more talk about that head butt than Italy’s World Cup victory.”

The incident was the last act committed by Zidane in his career. The Frenchman announced his intention to retire from both his club side Real Madrid and France before the match.

And many commentators, outside France, have claimed that the incident has left an permanent stain on an other wise glittering care.

But Zidane himself – despite his critics – remains unrepentant.

When asked by ESPN if we hould apolgize for the incident in March, Zidane said: “Never, never. It would be to dishonour me. I’d rather die. There are evil people, and I don’t even want to hear those guys speak.”

World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – Japan/South Korea 2002

Bitter Italy

Italy are one of the greatest nations in World Cup history, winning the tournament four times. But if 2002 taught us anything they are terrible losers.

The Italians did not have the best of tournaments and limped to the round of 16. They were convincing in their opener against Ecuador but went down 2-1 to Croatia in their second match. A late Alessandro Del Piero goal from the bench secured a 1-1 draw and a date with co-hosts South Korea.

On the other hand the Koreans were playing the football of their lives in front of their home fans. The Asians topped their group beating both Portugal and Poland and grabbing a deserved draw against fellow surprise package the United States.

There were bad omens for the Italians going into the game. They had famously lost to North Korea in 1966, a goal by Pak Doo-Ik knocking them out in the group stages. However, the star-studded Italians, with a side featuring Paolo Maldini, Del Piero and Francesco Totti, led the game for around 70 minutes with a first half goal from Christian Vieri.

Not knowing when they were beaten, the Koreans grabbed an equaliser with just two minutes remaining and, with the momentum swinging their way, Perugia’s Ahn Jung-Hwan settled the tie with a golden goal with just three minutes on the clock.

In fairness, South Korea were lucky, they were awarded a controversial penalty after just four minutes, which they missed, Totti was harshly dismissed in extra-time and at least two good goals were ruled out.

The Italians, not used to being upset, cried foul play, with conspiracy theories touted from Milan to Napoli.

Even worse was the treatment of Korean hero Ahn. The day after the game Perugia owner Luciano Gaucci cancelled his contract and was quoted as saying, “I have no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian football.”

Guacci later did a u-tun but Ahn held firm. “I will no longer discuss my transfer to Perugia, which attacked my character instead of congratulating me for a goal in the World Cup,” he said.

Four years later, after many of Italy’s top players were embroiled in the calciopoli scandal, Italy went on to win the tournament.

And none of Italy’s overseas players were threatened with the sack.

World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – Spain 1982

Tardelli’s Joy

In modern football, celebrations are almost as corporate as the game itself.

A number of players, lacking spontaneity, repeat choreographed moves which seem to have been trademarked.

From Jurgen Klinsmann’s self parodying dive, to Nicolas Anelka’s flapping bird wings, via Fabrizio Ravanelli’s shirt over the head, goal celebrations are copied time and time again on football pitches all over the world.

There were many great moments during the 1982 World Cup in Spain but it was a celebration which stole the show.

The Brazil side, featuring Socrates, Zico and Falcao are widely considered to be the one of the greatest teams never to take home the crown, while the West Germans, eventual runners up, are one of the most underrated teams in the world game.

But the pinnacle of the tournament was Marco Tardelli. The Italian midfielder, now assistant manager of the Republic of Ireland, scored two goals in the tournament, the first in the group stages against Argentina but it is the aftermath of the second for which he is remembered.

For neutrals, the fact that Italy won the cup is largely unimportant, even the build up to the goal and Tardelli’s slip as he strikes the ball into the back of the net is irrelevant.

The lasting moment is the celebration The sheer joy and relief of Tardelli’s face as he realises he has scored the goal that has won his country the World Cup.

Not knowing what to do with himself the midfielder runs towards the camera pumping his fists and shaking his head, his wide eyes filling with tears.

It is a celebration which can not be repeated – a moment of sheer joy for a goal that meant everything.

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.

World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – US 1994

A tale of two penalties

Sometimes in football, as in life, the end is the beginning, a career finishes where it started and an ambitious club comes full circle and returns to its humble roots.

I bet he pissed himself at the time but little did Italy star Il Divino Codino (the Divine Ponytail) Roberto Baggio know that when soul diva Diana Ross missed her opening ceremony penalty that he was part of a grand cosmic comedy. And the joke was on him.

When the US was awarded the tournament, a grand opening spectacle was taken for granted. It didn’t disappoint – but, on this occassion, for the wrong reasons.

Central to the ceremony was an all-singing, all-prancing Diana Ross. Ross runs up the pitch at Chicago’s Soldier Field waving to the sun basked crowd, followed by twisting dancers and musicians.

It’s only when the camera pans away to a stretching goalkeeper, preparing himself for a Supreme effort on goal, that we realise that the whole act is playing out towards a spot-kick.

And fair play to the Americans because if it worked it would’ve been great. Ross was supposed to smash the kick hard into the net, the goal splitting in half mechanically as if caused by a thunderous effort.

Ross toe pokes the shot tamely wide and the goal bursts open anyway.

Kismet ensured that penalties would also play a part in the final almost a complete full moon cycle later. In one of the least entertaining World Cup finals ever, Brazil and Italy played out a 120 minute bore-fest.

And to be fair to Baggio he wasn’t the only play to miss. Brazil’s Marcio Santos fluffed his lines as did Italy’s Franco Baresi and Daniele Massaro. But Baggio was last and it was his kick that handed the cup to the South Americans.

His penalty, which soared over the bar, was a fitting end to a World Cup which began very much in the same vein. Suddenly Ross wasn’t so funny.