Italy II Division

The season of Serie B was significant largely for the first ever appearance of giant club in it – the expelled from Seria A AC Milan. They were the obvious favourites. Three more clubs competed for the remaining two promotional spots. At the opposite end of the table 4 teams were going down as usual, but 6 teams were entangled in a battle for survival in the league. This race did not involve three outsiders – only the forth relegation spot was in question.

Monza was hopelessly last with 25 points. Atalanta finished 19th with 30 points.

Taranto took the 18th place, paying the price for its involvement in the Totonero scandal – the ended with 30 points, but that because of starting with minus 5 points. The deduction actually relegated them – if they had their real total, they were safe.

L. R. Vicenza took the 17th place with 33 points. A real plunge – only a year ago they were high in Seria A, even played in the UEFA Cup. Now third division was waiting for them.

Verona – as Hellas Verona was known until recently – was lucky 16th. Lucky not because they earned 1 point more than L. R. Vicenza, but because of Taranto’s penalty: under normal circumstances Taranto would have been higher in the table and Verona going down. Lucky or not, they preserved their place in second division – perhaps a crucial point for the club. Very soon they started their amazing climb to the very top of Italian football. If they were relegated this year – who knows? They may have stayed obscure.

Most of the league was packed closely, but nothing spectacular happened and no club seemed particularly improving. Sampdoria, still modest, topped the general bunch with 43 points at 5th place. Four clubs were above the average and competed for the top three promotional spots.

Lazio, which lost the least matches this season – 5, and scored the most goals in the championship – 50, lost the race and finished 4th with 46 points. Evidently, they paid the price for caution – no matter what, to go up one needs wins and Lazio excelled in ties – 20. That left them 2 points short of promotion – it was no longer the strong team of the first half of the 1970s, but Lazio could blame only itself.

Cesena was 3rd and promoted with 48 points. They lost second place on goal-difference, but it did not matter at all – they were going up. As for staying up… the future could only tell.

Also with 48 points Genoa finished 2nd. Returning to top flight was important for them. Sampdoria was getting stronger, but Genoa was still the number one club of the city. With their promotion Serie B lost its only derby.

Milan – champion. Familiar, but champions of Serie B was hardly the title clubs and fans cared for. They only breathed easier – the punishment did not last longer. But there was still a lot to worry about – Milan was not overwhelming champion. They bested the immediate rivals only by 2 points. They had neither the best attack, nor the best defense in the league. True, Antonelli finished as the top scorer of Serie B, but who was he? In fact, the squad was quite questionable and weak: Franco Baresi and Fulvio Collovati were the big stars, but next to them the only strong names were those of middle-of-the-road veterans – Aldo Maldera and Aldo Bet. Add Walter Novelino and that was that – hardly a team Milan was associated with. Milan had a lot to that in every line, to look for strong players, to build a new squad. But that for the future – presently, the work was done: Milna needed to return to Serie A and this team was just good enough to do it.

Italy III Division

1980-81 was a benchmark season in Italy – at last foreign players were permitted, no doubt, a big victory for the big clubs, wanting the market open for years. It was not a clear-cut decision: the ban was introduced largely to promote domestic talent – and by the end of the 1970s there were positive results. In the same time Italian football plunged into deep crisis for the most of the 1970s. Particularly painful was international performance – both the clubs and the national team lost their age and clearly became second rate. Perhaps the unsettled clash of arguments lead to compromise – the clubs were permitted to have one foreign player. The international reaction was a copy of 1973, when Spain opened its market for foreigners: fear. The Italians, never thinking of money, will lure all the best players in the world, leaving other countries dry. However, it was 1973 again – Spain bought some huge names, but most foreigners were not all that famous and the same happened in Italy. Of course, the clubs immediately went into buying, but let us see the first foreign crop, club by club: Avellino – Juary (Brazil), Bologna – Eneas (Brazil), Fiorentina – Bertoni (Argentina), Inter – Prohaska (Austria), Juventus – Brady (Eire), Napoli – Krol (Holland), Perugia – Fortunato (Argentina), Pistoiese – Silvio (Brazil), Roma – Falcao (Brazil), Torino – Van de Korput (Holland), Udinese – Neumann (West Germany). Not every club bothered to jump on the occasion and hardly the top players of the world arrived – the real stars were few: Krol, Brady, Prohaska, Falcao, Bertoni and may be Van de Korput. A closer look tells that the Italians avoid really expensive players – even Krol came form a spell with Vancouver Whitecaps (Canada), hardly costing an arm and a leg. Milan did not get anybody, for they were for the first time in the Second Division and only top flight was permitted to import – a shaky rule, ready to go to dust.

The other important thing in this championship was the aftermath of the Totonero scandal – Milan was expelled from first division, a bunch of players were suspended, and 5 clubs – 3 in first division and 2 in second division – started the season with 5 points deducted as a punishment. Five points back than was heavy penalty, but surprisingly it the only club really paying the price at the end of the season was second division Taranto, which without the penalty would have been outside relegation zone. Three teams overcame the burden and maintained their place in their league. Perugia, however, would have been relegated even without deducted points. The rest of the year was football and many old habits remained intact – scoring was low as ever: Lazio scored 50 goals, the most in both top divisions combined. The love of the tie remained – only three teams in Serie A ended with less than 10 ties and none in Serie B. Catanzaro tied the most matches in Serie A – 17, that is, more than 50% of their total games. But they were outdone by second division clubs: Lazio and Foggia finished with 20 ties, Sampdoria and Palermo with 21, and Verona managed most in both leagues – 22 matches. One thing was certain – Italy was not giving up the defensive kind of football.

So league by league. Third division – Serie C1 – was divided as ever into two groups. Two teams promoted from each. In Girone A goal-difference decided 1st and 2nd , but it hardly mattered. It was essentially 4-team race, but at the end Fano and Triesitna lost.

Cremonese came first. Third row from left: xxxx  Vincenzi (coach)  Ascagni  xxxx  Bandini  Serena  Montorfano  Marini  Reali  Pesini (assistant coach).

Middle row: Nicolini  Bresolin  Larini  xxxx  Finardi  Galvani  Paolinelli

Front row: Rossi (Mass)  Garzilli  Baldini  Marlazzi  Mugianesi  Gilardi  Abate  Montani  Zavatti (Mag).

Reggiana was second, no doubt happy to get promotion.

Girone B had only three clubs competing for 2 promotional spots – Campobasso lost the race by a point. Before them, like in Girone A, the winners finished with equal points.

Cavese was the league winner on better goal-difference.

Sambenedettese was second and happy for it.

Spain The Cup

What remained from the Spanish season was the cup final – Barcelona and Sporting Gijon were to compete for Copa Del Rey. The finalists met in Madrid on June 18. Of course, there was a lot at stake – Sporting Gijon was good at that time and desperately wanted to win. Barcelona, coming from disappointing season, was ambitious to win at least this trophy – not that Barca ever shied away from winning, but wounded pride made them more eager. In reality, Barcelona was the stronger team and eventually prevailed 3-1 – perhaps they crushed tough Gijon at the very end of the first half, when Quini, the former great star of Gijon, scored in 44th minute, but for Barcelona. Ironic may be, but he was playing for Barca. Everything was settled early in the second half – Gijon equalized in the 5th minute, thanks to Maceda, but Barcelona quiackly responded with 2 more goals – Quini scored his second goal in the 58th minute, and in the 66th Esteban made it unreachable 3-1.

One may feel sorry for Sporting Gijon – they were good, they were brave, they did their best, but there was difference in class – unfortunately, the fate of smaller clubs is hardly ever to win anything, except accidentally.

Barcelona, lead by excellent Schuster – the best player at the final – won their 19th Spanish Cup. Not bad, but most importantly – they saved the season. Measly championship, but at least Copa Del Rey was theirs – not empty handed, like Real Madird. And winning in Madrid! True, not at the stadium of the arch-enemy, but at Atletico’s Vicente Calderon, yet still in Madird, right in the face of Real. Swet, yet, the problem was the future.

Spain I Division

Dramatic as it was the Segunda Division, it was nothing compared to the Primera Division’s season. Technically, 6 teams competed for the title, but effectively they were three, dropping to two in the last few rounds and the champion became known only in the last round, bringing surprise, joy, and bitter disappointment all at once. Marvelous battle at the top, not so at the bottom. The outsiders became known early and accepted their fate, which made life easier for those having hard time, like Las Palmas , 15th, and Real Zaragoza, 14th. They had comfortable advantage and eventually Las Palmas finished 5 points ahead of the relegation zone.

Real Murcia finished 16th with 23 points, the best of the outsiders.

UD Salamanca took the 17th place, distinguishing itself with the leakier defense this season.

AD Almeria was last with 19 points, 2 points behind Salamanca, and the most lost matches in the league – 21. These three clubs were relegated and nothing surprising about that – they all were all prime candidates for the last places.

Up the table – nothing really knew or unusual, most teams finishing as expected.

Even Las Palmas, measly 16th this year, was not exactly a sign of decay – they were never in danger and, if having weak season, they still belonged to the bulk of middle-of-the-road clubs occupying most positions in the league.

The real battle raged at the very top and had a bit of a bitter twang.

Real Betis finished 6th with 40 points. Standing from left: Esnaola, Bizcocho, Biosca, Ortega, Peruena, Gordillo.

First row: Morán, López, Diarte, Cardeñosa, Benítez.

An up and down club, which had a strong year this time, but finished perhaps disappointed – one point behind Barcelona and 2 points short of a place giving a spot in the UEFA Cup. Unlucky, yes, but really they were the weakest team among the best.

Barcelona finished 5th, a terrible season for them, for they were never really in the race for the title – staying close, that was all. Yes, Barcelona ended just 4 points behind the champions and shared the best scoring record in the league with Real Madrid, but the plain fact was Barca was out. There was important change in the squad – Hans Krankl, pictured here, was still a nominal member of the team, but Barcelona bought the new European sensation Bernd Schuster, who immediately was a starter, The great Austrian scorer was already on his way out – he was loaned to lowly First Vienna the previous season and clearly his days with Barcelona were over. Getting Schuster was the right move, but it was hardly enough – the team had too many problems: aging stars, like Asensi, Rexach, Migueli, not enough class in the next generation, and going for years goalkeeping problem, still unsolved – Artola was pushing 30, but he was never a very good keeper – and still the first choice. However, good or bad, Barcelona is a kind of club looking only for results – 5th place was a disaster.

With 42 points, Valencia took the 4th place. This was their best team in a decade, and at its prime too, but, let’s face it, it was a bit short of a true winner. It depended on Mario Kempes, who, unfortunately, was starting to go down – perhaps his peak was at 1978-79. The addition of the Uruguayan great star Fernando Morena was a bit of a disappointment, if not outright mistake. Valencia was strong, but not a title contender. Yet, they finished with better record than Atletico Madrid and took 4th place only because in Spain, when teams finished with equal points, the direct matches between the rivals were the decisive factor.

If there was a table of the most disappointed, Atletico Madrid should have taken the first place – but they had only to blame themselves. Atletico was on top of the table 26 rounds. They lost the first place just 4 rounds before the end of the championship and in the remaining rounds went out of the race, dropping to 3rd position, at the end keeping it only because they played well against Valencia, their direct rival at this point. No stamina… perhaps the training plan was wrong, because just at the end other teams were at their best and Atletico was losing steam. Compared to others – not a bad team, seemingly re-built at last. The best Brazilian midfielder at the 1978 World Cup – Dirceu – joined the team, after playing in Mexico, and the controversial striker Ruben Cano was also here. But instead of a title, they were lucky to get bronze.

Atletico’s exit from the race for the title only intensified the battle – at the end and to the very last minute of the championship, it was between Real Madrid and Real Sociedad. Both teams were a bit out of the picture for the most of the season – one can find them as low as 10th – Real Sociedad – and 9th – Real Madird – at some stages of the championship, but they really stepped on the pedal at the end, when mattered most. Real Sociedad took the first place in the 31st round and never lost it – curiously, Real Madrid was not first ever this season. Their big chance came in the very last round – Real had to win and Sociedad had to lose – Madrid promptly won their match, meantime Sociedad was luckily losing. But it was no good to bet on somebody else’s misfortune – Sociedad equalized and both rivals finished with 45 points each. Which benefited the opposition. Real Madrid finished 2nd.

What a disappointment – most points, most wins, the best attack, the best goal-difference… and second. Compared to Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, and Valencia, Real had stronger and better rounded squad: good goalkeeper with massive experience – Garcia Remon, excellent leader of defense – Camacho, one of the best central defenders in Europe, a great motor, roving back and forth, and organizing everything – Stielike, already moving to the position of libero, and, arguably, the best attack in Spain – Santillana, Juanito, and Cunningham. May be stronger than the opposition, but still it was not a dream team… and paid the heavy price for not playing its best for a good chunk of the season. Unlucky, yes – but…

But in the last minute Real Madrid lost the title and Spain had brand new champion, a new name added to the list – Real Sociedad. They needed just a point before the last round, but face a very difficult match: visiting Sporting Gijon. Gijon was tough cookie anyway and those were strong years for club – they finished 7th in the championship and reached the Cup final. Near the end of the last match Gijon was leading 2-1. And on top of everything, the weather was difficult – it was raining. 10 minutes before the end of the match Real Madrid was getting ready to be once again champion… and then Zamora equalized. Real Sociedad kept the tie to the final whistle and after it their joy had no limits.

Modest Real Sociedad from San Sebastian was the surprise and unlikely champion of Spain. Who would expect it? Surely Real Sociedad was noticed a few years earlier as having new exciting team, climbing up, but champions? Until the 31st round their best position in the table was 2nd place, which had twice – they were 2nd after the 20th round and then once again in the 30th. But moved up after the 31st round and maintained their top position to the very end. One may argue they were lucky, because Atletico Madrid lost steam at that time, but the argument would be lame: Real Sociedad was obviously in good form and at the end of the season they were at their best. One may argue that they were not the best this year, because Real Madrid ended with better record. May be so, but Real Sociedad delivered when mattered most – their decisive game early in March, when they hosted Real Madrid and beat them 3-1. This secured a small, yet, very important lead – the first match in the fall Real Madrid won, but only 1-0. Thus, in the last round Real Sociedad needed only a tie, which they extracted from difficult Sporting Gijon. Simple calculations, not so simple to apply, but there was something else in favour of the new champions: when nobody was looking they assembled a very good squad, lead by three young bright stars – Arkonada, Zamora, and Lopez Ufarte. Why the big clubs did not snatch them is a mystery, yet, a costly one, because in 1980-81 Real Sociead emerged with star players for the future – unlike the aging stars Barcelona and Real Madrid had. This was a big opportunity not just for the club, but for Spanish football as a whole, for now, when the boys were champions, there was no way the club would sell them – on the contrary, Real Sociedad had every reason to add more strong players to its squad, thus enlarging the group of strong Spanish clubs and making the coming championships more interesting and challenging. Lucky victory perhaps, but very welcoming one.

And one more look at the squad winning the title for the first time in the history of Real Sociedad. A wonderful ending of dramatic championship – not every year a country has a new champion, especially Spain.


Spain II Division

Exciting season of the 20-team strong Segunda Division: 7 clubs competed for the three top spots, giving promotion to first division. At the other end of the table was similarly hot race for survival: 8 teams tried hard to escape relegation. No luck for half of them.

AgD Ceuta finished last with 29 points – perhaps the only team looking like true outsider.

Barakaldo CF was 19th with 31 points. An old club – founded in 1917 – which played professionally from the beginning of league-organized football in 1929, but never played in the first division. By 1980 even second division was becoming a problem.

Palencia CF – 18th with 32 points. Unlike Barakaldo, Palencia was young club, founded in 1960. So far, playing in the second division was their highest achievement, but they lasted only two seasons. Unfortunately, dark times were coming and the club dissolved in 1986, because of severe economic debts.

Granada CF ended 17th with 33 points – there were times, when Granada played with the best, but those days were gone.

Of course, the bottom of the table was not taking the breath away – the rivalry at the top was. No matter how strong the teams were – so hot pursuit rarely happens: 7 candidates for three spots. Five of them finished with equal points, 45. Two lost a bit of steam, finishing with 42. Goal-difference was not decisive factor – looked like the direct results between the rivals decided their final positions.

CE Sabadell CF finsihed 7th.

CD Malaga – 6th. Second row from left: Burgueña, Javi Nevado, Bonacic, Martin, Merino, Brescia, Serrano, Rojas, Astorga(?), Kiko Rodruiguez, Fernando, ?, Benitez, Ben Barek.

First row: Heredia, Juan Carlos, Canillas, ?, Manolo Castro, Recio, Nacho, Filgueira (?), ?, Aracena, ?, Muñoz Pérez, Santi.

Both teams suffered from weak defenses – scoring was hardly the forte of second division teams, but Malaga and Sabadell had obviously weaker defenses than their rivals: Malaga finished with +2 and Sabadell with +1.

Above them finished those with 45 points.

Rayo Vallecano was perhaps the unluckiest team this year: they, along with 8th placed Deportivo Alaves , had the second-best goal-difference this championship, +14. They had the best defensive record in the league, allowing only 23 goals. However, they had the weaker attack among the top teams, able to score just 37 goals – less then a goal-per-match. Yet, if goal-difference was the decisive factor, Rayo Vallecano would have been 2nd in the final table – and promoted.

Elche CF was 4th – and rightly so. Along with Cadiz, they were the best scorers in the league, but had leaky defense, and would have been 4th even if goal-difference decided the final standing.

Racing Santander edged Rayo Vallecano and Elche, taking 3rd position and promotion. They had the worst goal-difference among the top 5 teams, but played successfully when it mattered most and clinched promotional spot. Lucky boys, but the club was one of the ‘between clubs’ already, meandering between first and second division.

Cadiz CF finished 2nd. Perhaps they were the best team in the league – they scored the most goals, 55, and had the best goal-difference, +18. They won the most matches this season – 19. But they also lost games too often – 12 matches, the most losses among the top 7. All or nothing was seemingly the approach and it paid off at the end. For the old Cadiz – founded in 1910 – this period was the best in their history so far: they reached 1st division in 1976, but played just one season there – 1977-78. Now were going up for a second try – and good luck to them!

CD Castellon were the champions of Segunda Division. It may have been a matter of luck – after all, to be first among equals is arbitrary thing – but even if goal-difference was the decisive factor Castellon would have been promoted – only they would have been 3rd, not first. Defensive approach was seemingly their formula to success: the team was difficult to beat – they lost only 8 matches, the record of the championship, shared with Rayo Vallecano. The winners really had getting a point in mind: they won 15 matches and tied 15. Hardly an exciting team, but the best years of the club were in already distant time – between 1941 and 1947. After that, Castellon rarely played first division football – the last time was the 1973-74 season – and, like Cadiz, their next year aim would be mere survival. But they were promoted and most importantly added a trophy to their otherwise minimal record book. Champions of Second Division, but champions! What can be sweeter?

Spain III Division

Spain had a reason to celebrate – this was the 50th season of La Liga. There was also a reason to worry – the next World Cup was coming and Spain was hosting it. On one hand – preparation was increasingly criticized. On the other – Spain had to win at last, but the changes in Spanish football were not very optimistic. On top of everything Italy opened its market for foreign players and it was no longer sure that Spanish clubs could get the top players. At the end the country finished the season with surprise winner, which was positive change only to a point. But let start from the lower echelons of Spanish football – Segunda Division B. This was the third level, established not long ago – this season was the 4th of the 40-team strong league, divided into Group A and Group B geographically. The first and second teams in each group were promoted to Segunda Division and the bottom three teams of each group were relegated to 4th level – Tercera Division. Away from the spotlights various clubs played in Segunda B: some faded old clubs, like Real Jaen, Racing de Ferrol, Gimnastic Tarragona. Some second teams of big clubs – Barcelona Atletico, Las Palmas Atletico, Bilbao Athletic. Some clubs, which eventually became better known in the future, but so far played in the lower leagues – Tenerife, Logrones, Lleida, Badajoz, Compostela. The rest was small fry, merely exotic to the foreign eye. The losers this season were all of this kind – Pontevedra, UP Langreo, and Gimnastica Arandina were relegated from Group A, and Merida Industrial, CD Diter Zafra, and CD Eldense – from Group B. As for the winners, they were of the kind eventually becoming better known in the future: two teams dominated Group A and two teams – Group B. It was not really a big race for promotion.

Celta (Vigo) won Group A with 58 points. They lost only 3 games during the season. Standing from left: Capo, Andrés, Jorge Santomé, Mori, Cambeiro, Ademir.

Crouching: Gómez, Suárez, Miguel Ángel, Emilio, Del Cura.

Third division clubs are never expected to have stars in their squads, but Celta had one: Ademir, a Brazilian striker, with impressive career so far – Ademir came to Europe very young to play in Portugal for Olhanense in 1972. In 1974 he crossed the Atlantic ocean to play in NASL for Toronto Metros and returned to Europe the next year, joining FC Porto. Three years later Celta got him from the up and coming Portuguese club. Ademir played 5 years for Celta – from 1978 to 1983.

Deportivo La Coruna finished 2nd with 56 points and without trouble – Bilbao Athletic, the B team of Athletic Bilbao, was very distant 3rd with 46 points. Standing from left: Albino, Jorge, Ballesta, José Luis, Pardo I, Piña.

First row: Alfredo, Traba, Muñoz, Silvi, Castro.

Good for them, but Deportivo was still a decade away from becoming known.

Group B was absolutely the same as Group A – two teams dominated the league, comfortably finishing with promotions.

RCD Mallorca won the league with 54 points. Good for the ego, for otherwise it did not matter at all. Standing from left: Ferrer, Iriarte, Braulio, Riado, Ferrer Piña, Gallardo.

First row: Collantes, Sauquillo, Nadal, Orellana, Bonet.

Mallorca had not one, but three foreigners this season – two Yugoslavians – Peles, a midfielder, and Miodrag Kustudic, a striker. The third foreigner was also a striker – an Argentine, who arrived from Newell’s Old Boys – Rolando Barrera. Kustudic was the most famous with his 3 caps for Yugoslavia, but this was his last season in Spain, where he arrived in 1978 to play for Hercules (Alicante).

Cordoba finished second, losing the title by a point, but leaving 3rd placed Barcelona Atletico (the B team of Barcelona) 8 points behind. Up and down club, quite unstable, which was trying to elevate itself once again. So far, so good, but instability is almost written on their photo: three different kinds of jerseys!

West Germany The Cup

The Cup final opposed 1. FC Kaiserslautern to Eintracht (Frankfurt). Kaiserslautern just confirmed they had a strong season and aiming at last to win the Cup – it was their 4th final since 1960. Meantime Eintracht were true cup masters – they won the West German Cup twice in the 1970s – in 1974 and 1975 – and added the UEFA Cup in 1980. Unlike Kaiserslautern, Eintracht had so-so season going, but a cup final was another matter. In front of 71 000-strong crowd the finalists started their most important game of the season in Stuttgart on May 2, 1981. Both teams fielded their best squads. Eintracht proved quickly to be stronger – at the end of the first half they were leading 2-0, thanks to the goals scored by Neuberger in the 38th minute and Borchers two minutes later. These goals were too match for Kaiserslautern – in the 64th minute Cha made it 3-0 and their was no any doubt about the winner. Only in the last minute Kaiserslautern managed to score a goal – Geye was the scorer – but it was too little too late.

Eintracht (Frankfurt) before the game started, from left: Bernd Hölzenbein, Jürgen Pahl, Bruno Pezzey, Karl Heinz Körbel, Ronald Borchers, Michael Sziedat, Bum Kun Cha, Werner Lorant, Bernd Nickel, Norbert Nachtweih, Willi Neuberger. Neither team made changes during the final.

Same boys posing with the Cup after the final whistle – their 3rd. Eintracht’s reserve kit – white and black – was their lucky charm: they won every cup they played with this colours.

Surely a strong season for Kaiserslautern, but they came short of winning anything. Ronnie Hellstrom, Hans-Gunther Neues, Wolfgang Wolf, Michael Dusek, Hans-Peter Briegel, Werner Melzer, Friedhelm Funkel, Hannes Bongartz, Reiner Geye, and Erhard Hofeditz lost. Tradition was not broken: Kaiserslautern lost the Cup final in 1961, 1972, 1976, and now in 1981. Tradition of losing, unfortunately.

Unlike Kaiserslautern, Eintracht really excelled in cup formats and their 3rd victory gave the impression that the team was going up again. But the moment was probably lost sometime around 1975 – the club was mostly trying to keep competitive, but not so promising, squad. Of course, the Austrian great defender Bruno Pezzey gave hope. Of course the East German defectors Jurgen Pahl and Norbert Nachtweih were expected to flourish. Of course Eintracht had solid players like Bernd Nickel, Werner Lorant, Willi Neuberger, and Ronald Borchers. But something was already missing – something little, but important, making the difference between a good team and a great one. Perhaps one name tells the difference: Karl-Heinz Korbel. Sturdy, dependable, solid, ever-present, but not a star – yet, he and not the aging captain Bernd Holzenbein, was the face of the club by now. But there was one particularly bright part of the winning team: the South Korean striker Bum-Kun Cha won the Cup, scoring a goal in the final. The second Asian player winning a trophy in West Germany. For the moment, his presence looked like a novelty, but just for the moment. Eintracht (Frankfurt) proved again they were masters of cup-formats.


West Germany 1st Division

The Bundesliga was still number one in Europe, but there were some changes detected: the threat to German superiority came from different directions. English clubs were seemingly stronger on international stage, Spain was buying better foreign players, and with the opening of the Italian market frugal German clubs had little chance of competing for top level foreign stars. At the same time German football became too physical and thus less attractive, bringing some cynicism to the game – winning, no matter how, was all that mattered. Yet German football was still the best.

Not at the bottom of the Bundesliga, of course. Seven clubs tried to escape relegation, some were ‘the usual suspects’, some were unexpected outsiders. Eventually 4 of them survived: MSV Duisburg finished 12th, Fortuna (Dusseldorf), going down after a number of strong years, ended 13th, 1. FC Nurnberg was lucky to stay in the league – 14th, and the same applies to Arminia (Bielefeld) – 15th.

TSV 1860 (Munchen) was perhaps unlucky to end 16th and relegated, but they finished one point behind Arminia and, more importantly, the club faded during the 1970s and joined the group of so-so clubs too strong for second division and too weak for top flight. Going down was hardly a surprise and apart from leaving the Bundesliga once again without local derby, the only interesting thing about this squad was Rudi Voller – young and not yet noticed talented striker. Of course, today everybody knows his name, but his fame was still in the future – presently, he was going to taste second division football.

The last in the table was not a surprise either, especially because they dropped out of the race for survival early and finished with just 22 points.

Bayer (Uerdingen) already were among the so-so clubs, although of the two ‘aspirins’, belonging to Bayer, they were the stronger club at first and so far had bigger presence than Leverkusen in the Bundesliga. But it was only statistical superiority – the reality was different and clearly Uerdingen was not going to be impressive club, but the opposite. Nothing unusual they finished last.

If two of the relegated teams were expected outsiders, the third one was unpleasant surprise. True, Schalke 04 was going down since their unfortunate involvement in the bribing scandal of the early 1970s, but this was old, successful, popular club – not one to sunk that low, but they did, finishing 17th and like Bayer (Uerdingen), even throwing down the gloves at some time of the championship – Schalke 04 ended with just a point more than Bayer, the worst attack and the worst defense in the league.

It could have been wrong coach – the 1960s Yugoslavian star Jusufi never became a great coach – but if so, it was just the last drop in the bucket. Schalke 04 was far cry from the exciting team they were less than 10 years ago and to this very day they depended on players from that old team – players, who already too old to keep the club afloat. Fischer, Russmann, and Nigbur – the old guard was just too old by now. So were additions like Danner and Beer – their best days were already gone. So were the foreign stars, recruited recently – the former Yugoslav national team player Vilson Dzoni and the Austrian winger Kurt Jara. Both were at their prime years ago, around 1974, and now the calendar said 1980. After Werder (Bremen), another original member of the Bundesliga went down – name itself was not a guarantee for staying among the best and the the number of original members of the league was reduced to 5 clubs.

Across the league – different fates, but regress was observed in Fortuna (Dusseldorf).

Fortuna was one of the strongest German clubs during the 1970s and only two years ago was expected to become one of the main favourites. But progress halted – the team was not getting better, just the opposite. Otto Reghagel coached Fortuna in 1980-81, but the young then coach hardly improved the team: it was based on getting too old stars Seel and Zewe, local heroes, also beyond their prime, Baltes and Daniel, and the Alofs brothers, who were certainly to be among the big stars of the 1980s, but unable to improve Fortuna. The team finished 13th this season.

In the opposite direction was going Borussia (Dortmund), which had miserable 1970s.

Under Udo Lattek, bearded by now, Borussia finished 7th this year, but the future looked very optimistic, for the squad was good – Geyer, Burgsmuller, Abramczik, Freund, and the Islandic import Edvaldsson were more than strong backbone and perhaps with few talented additions Borussia would be able to compete for the title.

For the moment, 4 clubs competed for it: 1. FC Kaiserslautern, VfB Stuttgart, Hamburger SV, and Bayern. During the championship the group broke down to two pairs – Kaiserslautern and Stuttgart fought for the bronze medals and HSV and Bayern – for the gold.

At the end, Kaiserslautern was 4th. It was fair finish: unstable, one year up the next down, Kaiserslautern had a strong season and the players to keep it on top – Geye, Bongartz, Hellstrom, Pirrung, Wendt, and the new bright star Briegel. They also had a talented coach – Feldkamp. But the squad was weaker than the opposition and with the exception of Briegel and may be the Austrin Riedl, the key figures were old news, already going downhill. Small consolation – Kaiserslautern finished with the best defensive record in the league.

Stuttgart bested Kaiserslautern by 2 points. Bright team, steadily climbing up, but not yet at its peak. The veterans were foreign – the Yugoslavian Holcer and the Austrian Hattenberger – but their roles were no longer central: Stuttgart was lead by group of players already recognized for stars and certainly the names of 1980s football: Hansi Muller and the Forster brothers. Add Ohlicher, Allgower, and Roleder. Hidden in the squad and hardly noticed by anyone was a player who never became a star, but made Germany World champion in 2014 – Low.

Hamburger SV and Bayern raced for the title and at the end Bayern prevailed, leaving HSV 4 points behind.

Hamburger lost and it was not a matter of class – it was just not their year. Kevin Keegan was no longer with the club, but the squad was excellent – Magath, Kaltz, Hrubesch, Buljan were the world class leaders of the team, followed by plethora of younger talent – Stein, von Heesen, Jakobs, Hieronymus, Hartwig, Milewski, Groh, Wehmeyer. Three veterans of the beginning of the rise in 1975 were still here, just in case – Reimann, Hidien, and Memering. And after Happel another great coach was at the helm – Branko Zebec. Second place was disappointing, but only for the moment – the team was great and going to stay as leading German club. And not only German leader.

Bayern – champion, nothing new. But this title was significant because the new Bayern was firmly established – after a full remake, Bayern had new great team thanks to Pal Cernai. An Yugoslav made the first great Bayern and Hungarian – the second. But it was not at all similar to the first: the old one was made from scratch; the second one was actually built on the ashes of the first one. Paul Breitner was the heart of the team, with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge the second leader. Breitner was part of the first successful Bayern, Rummenigge played with the giants when they neared the end. Both were practically from the old days and along with them were few others – Durnberger, Horsmann, and Kraus . Second-rate players, once upon a time just reserves with little chance for playing (Kraus), or inconsistant (Horsmann). Durnberger was the unsung hero of the old guard – not a great player, but sturdy and dependable, who not only ready to plug any holes, no matter the position, but was important part of the winning team. The rest of the new team was a mixed bag of no longer young talented players, who made their names elsewhere – Del’Haye and Janzon, late discoveries – Dieter Muller, and young talent, still too young to be consistent – Dremmler, Augenthaler, Mathy, Pgluger. This was entirely German squad, unlike the first great Bayern, which always had at least one foreigner among the regulars – now the only import was a deep reserve from Finland – Rautainen. The team was strong, but without much flair – it depended on strength and determination, and on physical superiority. Creativity was left entirely to Breitner and Rummenigge was expected to score the goals. Which he did, promptly finishing as top league scorer for a second consecutive year. If there was a weak spot, it was between the goalposts: of course, it was very difficult to find acceptable goalkeeper after Sepp Maier, but so far Bayern was unable to get a strong one. Junghans and Manfred Muller shared the goalkeeping duties for now, but neither was good enough and Bayern not only was looking in need of strong goalkeeper, but they were looking for one. As a whole, not as great as the first Bayern was, but who could blame champions?

Casually looking champions – winners looking so confident were surely at the top of the world and going to stay there. Were they really? So far – 7 titles.


West Germany Second Division South

The Southern group was not so clear. Without relegated from top flight team, the race was wide open and without familiar favourites. Perhaps Kickers (Offenbach) was considered a favourite on the strength of their not along ago good years in the Bundesliga. But those years were gone and although Kickers was among the best teams, they were not the strongest. A rather surprising name won the league and quite easily at that: Darmstadt 98.

Second division teams hardly ever have well known players and Darmstadt had none, but they were well above the rest of the league, finishing 5 points ahead of the next pursuer. They did not have neither the best attack, nor the best defense in the league, but were unbeatable at home and the best away record in the 2 Liga Sud. 24 wins, 7 ties, and 7 losses – winning made them best: the next clubs in the table won just 19 matches. May be not a very promising team, may be just lucky to play in a weak league, but Darmstadt made the best of the circumstances and unquestionable deserved the first place. Good for them – Darmstadt was going to Bundesliga for a second time.

Five clubs competed for the second place – at the end 5 points divided them. With 45 points SV 07 Waldhof finished 6th. The other losers were SSV Ulm 46 – 5th, Hessen (Kassel) – 4th, Stuttgarter Kickers – 3rd. Kickers (Offenbach) finished 2nd with 50 points – 2 more than Stuttgarter Kickers.

Obviously, Kickers (Offenbach) wanted to return to the Bundesliga, but were unable to finish first – perhaps not surprising, for they hardly had the team for that. Still they had a chance for promotion – they were going to the play-off for just that.

As a matter of curiousity, one club had their first and last season in the second division:

EfB Eppingen debuted this season, but going down right away was not misfortune due to the transformation of the second division – the newcomers finished last and faced relegation even in the old format. Yet, they were the only club left of a single participation in the second division this season.

Clarity ends right here. 2 Liga Sud got 9 spots in the new single division. It was clear in the North – all depended on the final place in the table. In the South it was mysteriously different… Stuttgarter Kickers – 3rd, Hessen Kassel – 4th, SV Waldhof – 8th, SC Freiburg – 8th, and SpVgg Bayreuth -10th moved to the new single division, according to their final positions. But…

SSV Ulm 46 – 5th,

Eintracht (Trier) – 8th, and

FC Homburg – 11th, did not get spots in the new division. Perhaps they did not meet financial requirements, but who knows. Instead of them

Wormatia (Worms) – 12th, and

SpVgg Furth – 14th, appeared in the new single second division. For some reason final table did not play a role in determination of those who stayed in the second division. Of course, most mysterious was the disappearance of SSV Ulm 46, who were among the candidates for promotion in 1980-81. So much for the changes.

The winners were directly promoted, what remained was the play-off for the last promotional spot. Kickers (Offenbach) and Eintracht (Braunschweig) met twice for that. Eintracht won 2-0 at home and lost the second match in Offenbach – but only 0-1. Thus Kickers remained in second division and Eintracht (Braunschweig) moved up, returning to top flight and hoping to stay there.


West Germany Second Division North

West Germany remained the number one championship in Europe, but a change was coming, concerning the second level: 1980-81 was the last season with 2 Second League groups. A convention of DFB met on June 7, 1980 to discuss the issue and decision for single division was voted 84 to 77. Narrow win, but decision was good: 42 cubs played in the second professional level currently – 20 in the Northern Division and 22 in the Southern one. Most of them were not competitive enough and professional football was too much for them. Since the second professional level was introduced in 1974, its contribution was hardly great. Instead of strong teams pushing their way into the Bundesliga a group of clubs not so strong to keep their place among the best, but far stronger than most of the second level members formed. It became quite clear that there was a group of stronger teams existed in second level, but not strong enough to change anything in the Bundesliga. In the same time various small clubs came from and quickly returned to the regional championships without leaving a trace. Second level did not produce many talented players too. Reduction was sensible – a new 20-team single division would be strong and competitive enough without the financial strains for many small clubs. Not everybody believed that, but those wanting a change won. That meant a number of changes: 22 teams were to be relegated at the end of the season. Thus, many clubs were motivated to fight for a place in the new league – especially those with some fame from bigger cities. No teams were to be promoted from the regional leagues – this seemed unfair, but necessary. Three teams were still going up to the Bundesliga – replaced by the three relegated at the end of the season. So far, so good… the problem was how to make twenty-team league. With 3 newcomers from the top league, 17 places remained – uneven number, which automatically made unclear which 10th placed team of which division will stay in the single league. One look at the next year table immediately shows discrepancies – at the end, it is unclear why some teams were in and others out, but about this later. The season started and naturally the biggest issue was promotion. As before, the champions of each division were promoted directly and the second placed teams played a promotional play-off for the third spot. As luck had it, all relegated in 1979-80 season were from the North, making this division stronger. A rather big group of former Bundesliga members: Hertha (West Berlin), Eintracht (Braunschweig), Hannover 96, Rot Weiss (Essen), Tennis Borussia (West Berlin), topped by Werder (Bremen), relegated for the first time from the big league. These clubs were expected to compete for the promotional spots and actually most of them did – to a point: actually, three teams competed for the top two places, leaving everybody else far behind. Werder, Eintracht (Braunschweig), and Hertha – the first two just relegated, and Hetha – relegated one year earlier, in 1979. Apart from the battle between these three clubs, the season was marked by very high scoring – especially when compared to the scores in South. Hertha scored 123 goals! Eintracht (Braunschweig) – 102 goals. Rot Weiss (Essen) – 99 and Werder – 97 goals. OSV Hannover, the last in the table, was also the lowest scoring team this year with 41 goals. As it happened, the lowest scoring team was in highest scoring division.

Four points separated the top teams at the end.

Hertha lost the battle, finishing 3rd with 64 points. By now, Hertha lost all good players of her strong years not long ago, but still was better team than most in the league – having 2 Yugoslavian imports and one very exotic player: the first player from Thailand to play in Germany and very likely the first Thai to play professionally in Europe. Witthaya Hloagune – or Laohakul – joined Hertha in 1979. 1980-81 was the last season for the Asian midfielder in West Berlin – after the season he was transferred to Saarbrucken. Anyhow, Hertha lost the chance for promotion by a single point – Eintracht (Braunschweig) finished with 65 points.

Just relegated from the top league, Eintracht was eager to return to top flight immediately. It was familiar situation for Eintracht and for their loyal goalkeeper Franke, who lost his place in the 1974 national team because his club was not in the top division. Franke was one of the best West German goalkeepers in the 1970s, but playing for a weak club. The same misfortune happened to the Yugoslavian national team winger Popivoda and to the Swedish national team player Borg. As a whole, Eintracht was stronger than Hertha, but no as good as Werder – second place still kept them hoping for promotion. If they won the play-off against the 2nd placed in the Southern division.

Werder won 2. Liga Nord with 68 points. 30 wins, 8 ties, and only 4 lost matches. The best defense and the 4th best scorers in the league. Werder was relegated in 1879-80 season, but unlike Eintracht and other similar clubs, who were never strong enough to stay among the best for long, Werder most likley just had misfortunate season. No wonder they were ambitious leave the second division right away and promptly won the championship. Well known coach – Klotzer – and plethora of star players: Burdenski, Reinders, Fichtel, and once again coming back from Belgium Kostedde. For the record, so far, this is the only season Werder played in the second division.

The lower placed were important only in terms of the next year single league membership. Liga Nord got 8 places in the new single division – hard to say why, although one place was really questionable. Since Liga Nord was stronger this season, may be they should have been allowed 9th team . Anyhow, they were not and the teams from 3rd to 10th place became members of the new single second division: Hertha, Hannover 96, Alemania, VfL Osnabruck, Union (Solingen), Rot Weiss (Essen), Fortuna (Koln), and Wattenscheid 09. If anyhting, there was order and nothing confusing.

Perhaps Viktoria (Koln) was unlucky – they finished 11th, a point behind Wattenscheid 09.