World Cup under military boots FIFA 1978: World Cup under military boots

Argentina, the land of South American football, has been waiting since Uruguay got the World Cup venue in 1930. Even after many decades, FIFA and the countries of the world did not award the World Cup to Argentina . That wait could end at the 1966 FIFA Congress in London. After England and Mexico withdrew, Argentina was announced as the host of the 1978 World Cup. The Vishwa Mela came for the first time to a country that has boycotted the World Cup three times because they were not given a venue. However, that country was in a turbulent political situation full of heavy political uncertainty and the brutal actions of the military regime. The South American country witnessed one of the worst human atrocities in history when the military leader and right-wing dictator, General Jorge Rafael Videla, overthrew the socialist government and instituted a military regime. Thousands were killed and disappeared every day.

Gallery view of the Argentina-Holland final

Jorge Videla seized power in Argentina through a military coup in preparation for the World Cup. Then the World Cup was only two years away. The military regime was criticized for suppressing all those who took to the streets in protestors and human rights activists. The criticism was that 1978 would be similar to the 1934 and 1938 World Cups which were overthrown by Hitler and Mussolini. The regime was further angered by the shooting death of an army general, Omar Carlos Aquatis, who was assigned to organize, by the pro-democracy activists. In a situation of total riots, there were plans to change the location of the World Cup itself. General Videla had finally moved towards standardization and started preparing for the World Cup. Therefore, Argentina hosted the 1978 World Cup in mixed circumstances.

Victory of General Videla

Sports historian Will Hersey described the 1978 World Cup as ‘the worst World Cup in history’. From the first round of the tournament, it was widely claimed that General Videla’s troops intervened to tilt the playing field in their favour. The first opponent in the group round, the Hungarian coach, Laos Barotti, was the first to come out with harsh criticism. There was much discussion of his criticism that ‘Argentina has turned everything in their favor including the sky and the air’. All of Argentina’s group stage games were scheduled for the night and there were strong allegations of match-fixing. It was suspected that the game was an advantage for the hosts knowing the results of the other games in the group. Later, all the final group matches of the World Cup were organized at the same time.

Army Chiefs with the World Cup Trophy

Army Chiefs with the World Cup Trophy

Argentina went into the second period with two wins in the group stage. Even there, the charge of subversion did not stop. After a goalless draw with Brazil, Argentina could have qualified for the finals only if they defeated Peru by a wide margin in the last game. The result was exactly what they wanted. Argentina went into the final with a 6-0 win. In return for this loss, Argentina allegedly canceled Peru’s debts and paid large sums of money to Peruvian players. In the final, Mario Kempes defeated the Netherlands 3-1 and became world champions for the first time. However, the country hosted the World Cup in a conflict-oriented environment. Women who lost their children and husbands took to the streets holding their pictures against the general order. But the truth is that the administration of General Videla managed to preserve the crown’s victory fueled by right-wing extremism.

Poor West Germany

The World Cup in Argentina was one that West Germany, who had reached the glory of the crown victory, would like to forget. After Gerd Müller and Kaiser Beckenbauer retired, the team led by Berti Vogs and Carl Heinz Ruminsch qualified for the second round with two draws in the group stage. What remained there was a greater shame than that. Austria, who drew with Italy and the Netherlands, will face Austria in the final match. In the match played at the Chateau Carrera Stadium in Cordoba, Germany were miserably eliminated 3-2. The battle that became Cordoba’s miracle in football history has also become the story of an old political rivalry. After 47 years Austria won against Germany.

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