Horst Hrubesch celebrates scoring with Pierre Littbarski.
Then again, current realities rarely lives up to the spook tale. At the time, almost everybody was disgusted. The Austrian TV commentator Robert Seeger told spectators to turn their televisions off and said nothing for the last part of the game. The German commentator Eberhard Stanjek told:” What’s happening here is disgraceful and has nothing to do with football. You can say what you want, but not every objective justifies every means .”
The thousands of Algerian fans in the crowd were appalled, with fund shouting” It’s a fix !” Some waved fund through the fencings or burned it, an suffering image of Espana 82; others, in full why-I-oughta mode, took a running jump in a failed attempt to get over the fencings and on to the field. Neutral Spanish supporters were similarly unimpressed. One German fan in the stadium burned his country’s flag.
As the match reached its conclusion, ITV’s Hugh Johns conveyed his abhorrence.” A few seconds on Bob Valentine’s watch between us and going-home period. And what a relief that’s going to be. Breitner for Briegel for Stielike, names that run off my tongue at the moment and leave a nasty, nasty taste. Stielike … quality players who should all be in the book of referee Bob Valentine for bringing video games into disrepute. This is one of the most disgraceful international matches I’ve ever seen .”
The outrage was even greater after video games. The Algerian FA protested straight away, describing him as a” sinister plot “. West Germany were savaged by their own press, with one headline wailing “SHAME ON YOU!”. One Spanish newspaper called it” the Anschluss “. A Dutch newspaper described it as” football porn”, unwittingly obliterating the received wisdom that the Dutch were world leaders in bongo.
The former German international Willi Schulz said all 22 players were “gangsters”. There was certainly an omerta after video games, with nobody accepting culpability or even recognise what had happened, apart from the Austrian manager Schmidt.” It was ,” he said,” a shameful prove “. His opposite number Derwall summoned the righteous outrage of which only the guilty are capable.” This was a grave and serious insult ,” he said.” We will answer any charges .”
In the eyes of those involved, the end justified the meanness.” We wanted to progress , not play football “, Derwall said afterwards, while the substitute Lothar Matthaus added:” We have gone through. That’s all that counts .” Austria were similarly unrepentant.” We made the next round .,” says Krankl.” And I don’t give a damn about the Germans .” The commentator Seeger says some of the Austrian players tried to get him sacked.
When a group of West German fans went to the team hotel to forcibly enunciate their interpretation of video games, the players bombarded them with water bombs from the balcony.
That was nothing on the reaction of Hans Tschak, the head of the Austrian delegation, a man who constructed Alf Garnett seem enlightened.” Naturally today’s game was played tactically ,” he told.” 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, be able to get a sniff of World Cup air after 300 years and thinks he’s entitled to open his gob .”
Others realised the world has six other continents. The problem was not just with the cynicism shown by Germany and Austria; it was compounded by its unapologetic nature and the identity of the victims. Algeria had the charm of underdogs, played lovely football, and emerged from a developing football continent. West Germany and Austria had not only killed Bambi; they had sent a video of the murdering around the world and cackled maniacally at the end of that video.
Algeria’s appeal was rejected after a three-and-a-half hour session, in which the Fifa organising committee is considered that a result” could not be altered by any outside body” because, er, it merely couldn’t. Thereafter Fifa ensured final group games would be played simultaneously, a lesson they should have heeded after Argentina’s controversial 6-0 win over Peru in 1978. When objective difference was replaced by head-to-head scores, the chance to theoretically fix games reappeared with inevitable conspiratorial consequences.
You wonder what might happen now, in this era of faux outrage and social-media bullying. Fifa would probably bow to public pressure. Back then, Algeria made their objection and, when it was rejected, got to get with “peoples lives”.” We weren’t angry, “were in” cool ,” says Chaabane Merzekane, the sensational right-back, in this excellent piece by Paul Doyle.” To insure two big powers devaluing themselves in order to eliminate us was a tribute to Algeria. They progressed with infamy, we went out with our heads held high .”
” Our performances forced Fifa to induce that change, and that was even better than a victory ,” added Lakhdar Belloumi.” It meant that Algeria left an indelible mark on football history .”
Algeria, Austria and West Germany- like all the other countries- went to that World Cup hoping to do something that would be talked for ever. As with Lupe Velez’s death, their wish arrived true.
The biggest sufferers were arguably the West Germans. The country fell out of love with their international team for a while. In the book Tor !, Uli Hesse says the coach Derwall” unknowingly taught the country that there are things more important than winning “.
It is surely remembered more as a German crime, almost as if Austria had a gun to their head. On one viewing of the game- and we’d plainly like to watch the entire match a few more hours to be sure- there is a powerful debate that Austria are the principal perpetrators: they showed significantly less attacking intent and also had a greater safety net than the Germans, who were only one goal from shame for the last 80 minutes.
Austria ignored the chance of immortality, too; imagine if, having lulled West Germany into a false sense of security, they scored a late equaliser. The Gijon grift would have been 100 times more famous than the Miracle of Cordoba.
Similar if slightly less prolonged examples of such cynicism, with neither team trying to rating, have been evident in many big games since. Ireland and Holland did it at Italia 90, a risky tactic in the circumstances, while Manchester United won a championship in this manner in 2011, when they played 174 pass in their own half in the last 10 minutes( plus trauma time) of a match at Blackburn.
In 1995 Mark Bosnich did unto Jurgen Klinsmann as Schumacher did unto Battiston; the fact he did not receive anywhere near as much criticism as Schumacher was only partially because Eric Cantona was being slaughtered for the perceived crime of kung-fu kicking a gobby cockney on the same night.
It seems that, when it comes to cartoon villainy, it’s not just what you do but the style you do it. And nobody did it better than the 1982 West Germans.
With thanks to Cris Freddi, whose World Cup history is definitive, and Paul Doyle .
Rob Smyth and Scott Murray are writers of And Gazza Misses The Final , a collect of minute-by-minute reports of classic World Cup games. West Germany v Austria might be in the second volume .
What the Guardian said: Algerians protest after phoney war
By Stephen Bierley, 25 June 1982
According to West Germany’s director, Jupp Derwall, games between his country and Austria are traditionally contested with all the ferocity of an England v Scotland match. Yesterday’s final Group Two match in Gijon was about as passionate as a testimonial, but neither side was complaining. At the end of a suspiciously tamed encounter both progressed to the second phase, thereby squeezing Algeria into third spot and out of the Cup.
The Algerian FA president, Hadg Sekkal, described the teams’ performance as” a sinister plot” and immediately registered a protest to Fifa. Even the Austrian manager, Georg Schmidt, seemed disconcerted and admitted to” a shameful reveal .” But Derwall was having none of it, calling the Algerians’ talk of an arrangement a” tomb, serious insult “.
Hermann Neuberger, a Fifa vice-president, said he did not expect any action to be taken against either squad.” There are no Fifa rules which say teams cannot play as they please. Fifa cannot sanction a squad if they did not fight properly ,” told Neuberger, who is also president of the West German Soccer Federation.
So the rumours of West Germany’s death were, after all, greatly overstated. Their opening Group Two defeat by Algeria has registered 10 on the Richter scale of Cup shocks. The world has run daft.
In the El Molinon Stadium sanity returned or at least what passes for sanity in these lumbering opening stages of the competition. The Germans needed to win; Austria to avoid a heavy defeat. Nods and winkings were duly exchanged as the two teams strolled out.
Any semblance of tensions lasted precisely 11 minutes. At that point Friedl Koncilia was beaten for the first time in 191 minutes. Littbarski, flirting with offside, took full advantage of a linesman’s stiff arm and Horst Hrubesch bent to head home. In fact, he missed, but the ball struck his knee and went in anyway. Objective of contest.
After that it was ” when you are Wolfgang” -” no, after you, Bruno .” This was European cooperation taken to ridiculous restrictions. Walter Schacher occasionally get the impression that Austria were in any way interested in crossing the half-way line but for the majority of the second half students of World Cup football had little to mull on, unless it was that the Germans were setting an all-comers’ record for back-passes.
The Algerians were not pleased. There is a growing feeling among the so-called Third World countries that Europe, Fifa and indeed referees are out to stitch them up. They may be right. Certainly there was no doubting the intentions of Austria and the West Germans. The result was the thing and to hell with entertainment.
A crowd of 40,000 responded accordingly whistles of mockery ringing around the stadium. Off came Rumenigge, off arrived Hrubesch. On and on went the match until mercifully Bob Valentine, the Scottish referee, blew for time.