Turkey the Cup

The Cup final was the last act of the scandalous events. Why not the championship? Political events were the reason: lead by General Kenan Evren, the Army ousted Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel, and abolished the Parliament, the Senate, and the Constitution in 1980. Football was hardly the most important issue at that time, but 1981, when the Cup final was played was another matter – 1981 rounded 100 years from the birth of Kemal Ataturk, and General Evren had deep respect for the founder of modern Turkey. Ataturk also made Ankara the capital of the secular modern state he created – it was convenient occasion for popular celebration, since Ankaragucu reached the Cup final. May be with little ‘help’, may be not. There opponent was Boluspor. Under normal circumstances it would have been an interesting final between underdogs – Boluspor barely escaped relegation and Ankaragucu was in the second division and not a winner even there, thus unlikely Cup finalist without a precedent in Turkey. Ankaragucu prevailed minimally in the first leg 2-1. In the second they kept a scoreless tie to the end and triumphed. A rigged final, but winners are winners.

The joy was boundless after the final whistle – a moment fit for rock concert is captured here: Ankaragucu’s captain risking injury by diving in the sea of supporters.

He survived to receive the Cup.

Makina Kimya Endüstrisi Ankaragücü, as is the full name, was founded not in Ankara, but in the Zeytinburnu district of Istanbul. Back in 1904 the club was named Altin Örs Idman Yurdu and for unclear reasons some players, lead by Şükrü Abbas moved to Ankara and found Turan Sanatkaragücü in 1910. But another group, following Agah Orhan apparently also relocated to Ankara, keeping the original name. In 1938 the two clubs merged into AS-FA Gücü and in 1948 changed the name to Ankaragucu. To complete the confusion, Ankaragucu officially gives 1910 as the founding year. In 1959 they were admitted to the newly organized First Division, but their performance was nothing to brag about and included relegation in 1967-68. Until 1981 they were successful only twice – winning the national championship in 1949 and the Cup in 1972 – now they had a grand total of three trophies.

Of course, it was a moment of great triumph, worth first page at least in the Ankara newspapers, but even with high support the bitter truth was inescapable: ‘armagan’ means ‘gift’ and the winners got one more armagan as well – both General Kemal Evren and the Ankara governor Mustafa Gonul wanted a team from the capital in Division One and it was decreed that Cup winners should play in the top league, so Ankaragucu was suddenly promoted and the league increased for the next year.

Turkey I Division

The championship was nothing special and perhaps the only drama involved relegation – Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, and Besiktas were strangely weak this season, so there was no competing for the title, but for escaping relegation instead. Equal league, as it turned our, every team depending mostly on home games and scoring little. Only half the league managed to score one per game or more goals on average. Five points were the difference between silver medals and relegation at the end of the season. Fretting over survival could be exciting too, but hardly anybody wants such excitement.

Orduspor finished last with 20 points. Three points better was Mersin Idmanyurdu, taking the 15th place. Both teams dropped out of the race early, becoming hopeless outsiders, which was no surprise. The battle for escaping the 14th place was fierce and at the end goal-difference decided the unlucky team: 5 clubs finished with 29 points. So equal was the league this season that a barely escaping relegation team finished with positive goal-difference! As for the losers, they were minus 7 goals – in most countries teams with such negative goal-difference are often solidly sitting in mid-table!

So one can pity Rizespor, going down.

On the other hand, lucky boys: newcomers Boluspor was safely 13th. Demirspor (Adana) – 12th, Altay (Izmir) – 11th, and perhaps luckiest of them all – Fenerbahce, 10th.

This was probably the worst season of Fenerbahce ever – instead of fighting for the title, they just tried to stay in the league. Why they were so bad is hard to tell, largely because the other big Istanbul clubs were also bad. Yet, what a shame – to be happy to escape relegation and that on better goal-difference!

Bursaspor was also seemingly going down – they finished 9th – but their downfall was understandable: they had their few strong years, but were not the kind of club able to stay strong for long. The good years run their course, now it was the other way.

But good and bad were very relative this year – Bursaspor finished with 30 points.

Besiktas was 5th with 31 points. Who was really going down? Besiktas outside the title race… much higher than Fenerbahce, yet, with only 2 points more and losing more matches than Fenerbahce…

Excellent season for Gaziantepspor, then – they were 4th, unusually high placed. Good for the boys, but… they had worse goal-difference than Fenerbahce, finishing with measly 23-22 record. But 2 points better than Besiktas! If only they earned 2 more points… but they did not.

Galatasaray was 3rd with 34 points. No comfort… for club and fans third place is a disaster. They were not in the title race at all. Did not even got European spot, for Turkey had a single UEFA Cup spot. Big deal the arch-enemy was in danger of relegation – no trophy, no Europe, plain nothing.

Now, here is a happy team – Adanaspor (Adana) clinched 2nd place. Not only silver was a fantastic achievement for otherwise insignificant club, but they edged Galatasaray, a matter of big pride, and earned the Turkish spot in the UEFA Cup as well. A season to be remembered and locally nobody cared that the team was hardly better than the rest of the league – they were just stubborn and a bit lucky. 34 points after 30 games is nothing great after all, but such was the season and Adanaspor got the best out of it. The best, for they were not title contender, perhaps even not concerned with the title.

This season belonged solely to Trabzonspor. It may not have been their strongest year, but with all competition in shambles, the boys easily sailed to yet one more title. 16 wins – they were the only team to win more than 50% of the championship matches – 7 ties and 7 losses gave them 5 points lead at the end. Best defense and best striking record in the league too: 41-21. Trabzonspor dominated the championship plain and simple.

Turkey II Division

In another country it would have been a big scandal, remembered and discussed to this very day and widely covered by foreign press as well, but Turkey was still a football pariah – ranked 24th in Europe – to attract outside scrutiny. As for domestic rattles, the circumstances effectively prevented loud outcry. For it was not the typical scandal of bribing, match mixing, and money shoveled under the table – it was a case based on nationalism, orchestrated from the very top of the government and it was not a democratic government, to say the least. In short, it was the 100th year from the birth of founding father Kemal Ataturk, and the capital – which he made – had no strong first division team and arguably the biggest club of the city was in second division. But what could have been more appropriate celebration of Ataturk than a victory of a club hailing from Ankara? A title was out of question, so the Cup… Ankara got the Cup and something else additionally, so was ordered. Perhaps it helped that the big three Istanbul-based clubs happened to be weak at the moment. What helped more was the Army watching closely on one hand, and also the mighty topic: it was exactly convenient for anyone from secular quarters to cry foul when celebration of secular founding father had to stay out of blemish. Everybody pretended – and pretends today – all was normal. But it was not.

Second Division ended with its usual three winners promoted – Diyarbakirspor, Goztepe (Izmir), and Sakaryaspor.

Happy winners Sakaryaspor – going up and rightly so. Good for the other two as well, especially for the fans of Goztepe, who, by now, were not satisfied, since their beloved club lost its leading position a long time ago and climbing back to the top division was the only hope. Anyhow, nobody objected the rightfully promoted clubs, but one other well known name was missing: Ankaragucu (Ankara).

A reason was found to promote Ankaragucu as well – it was really a presidential gift, generously given to the Cup winners. The top league was extended to 17 teams for the next year to make room for the newcomers by fiat. Everybody happy? Better be.


Republic of Ireland, ranked 23rd in Europe, had remarkable season. Not that the Irish domestic football suddenly improved, but because of the new champion. Apart from that – nothing special. Closed league without relegation and promotion and lurking financial troubles.

The Cup final opposed Dundalk and Sligo Rovers. Dundalk won 2-0. Dundalk collected its 7th Cup. Of course, they were strong in the championship too, but… 2nd at the end, seemingly not bad, but…

But Dundalk was outraced by 6 points, meaning that they were not even close to the title. The winners dominated the championship in remarkable fashion – first, they were not among the usual candidates for the title, so a surprise champions. Second, they were unbeaten in 27 consecutive matches , setting a new League record. Third, they never won before. The winners were Athlone Town.

Found in 1892, Athlone Town had modest existence even by Irish standards, not always playing top league football: they were not League members from 1928 to 1969. So far, they won the FAI Cup in 1924 and rarely mentioned League Cup in 1980 – this second trophy perhaps suggested climbing up, but Irish football was not exactly the kind nourishing carefully built teams: the best players always went to England and rapidly at that. So far, the most memorable historic moment was in 1975, when Athlone Town played its only European tournament and faced Milan (Italy) for the UEFA Cup – the home leg became the most attended ever match of Athlone (12 000) and the boys bravely tied the Italians 0-0. They were eliminated, of course, but that was their finest moment to date.

First-time champions instantly become legends, especially after so triumphal and record-braking season. But there were no famous names and the team, objectively, was not considered strong. Their manager was considered the true reason for the splendid season – Turlough O’Connor took the reins in August 1979 certainly without big expectations, for he was the 15th manager since 1969. Nobody lasted long, nobody improved the modest team. However, experienced O’Connor strengthened the boys and results followed – first the League Cup, then the wonderful 1980-81 season, when they left everybody else in the dust. May be nothing on world’s scale, but fantastic year at home – first title!

Denmark the Cup

The Cup final opposed Vejle BK and BK Frem. Neither club had a strong championship, but both were among the traditionally winning clubs – or at least familiar to outsiders. Vejle was successful in the 1970s – 3 titles and 3 Cups; Frem lost its edge quite a long time ago – they still had more titles than Vejle, but the last time they were champions in 1944. The Cup they won twice, the last time in 1978. It was a good chance to bring a trophy to Copenhagen, which football was quietly fading away – Frem was not even playing in the top division – and Frem did their best, but in front of 17 500 fans they lost 1-2. It would have been nice the second division underdog to win, but no luck.

Vejle BK compensated for the weak season by winning the Cup – their 6th. The winners were also one of the teams with strong players, but at the moment they were mostly known at home and to scouts. Sivebaek and Rasmussen, for instance. By Danish standards, a good squad, capable of winning. Ironically, it was also the squad winning the last Cup for Vejle so far.


Denmark – ranked 22nd in Europe, or the strongest of the weakest. Brøndby IF, B 1909, and Kolding IF won promotions from Second Division. Four outsiders and four teams competing for the title in the First Division.

Viborg FF was last with 15 points.

Herfolge BK with 18 points was 15th. The last two had no chance, obviously weaker than the rest of the league.

With 23 points Kastrup Boldclub was unlucky – they ended in the relegation zone because of worse goal-difference. Those three teams were relegated.

B 1903 escaped relegation thanks to better goal-difference, but they were also outsiders this year and happy just to survive. Lucky 13th.

Not much happening up to 5th place – Vejle was 9th, but Danish football had no big favourites and ups and downs were too common to be really surprised. Hvidovre, Lyngby, Naestved, and AGF fought for the title this year. Perhaps only Naestved was a bit of a surprise. 2 points decided final places.

AGF ended 4th with 38 points, but worse goal-difference denied them medals. Still, well done.

Naestved IF finished with bronze medals, yet, may be a bit disappointed – Denmark had only a single UEFA Cup spot, so Naestved was unable to play in Europe.

Lyngby BK clinched 2nd place – and UEFA Cup participation – with 39 points. Perhaps, with mixed feelings – they prevailed over Naestved and AGF, but they also lost the title by a single point.

Hvidovre IF were the new champions with 40 points from 15 wins, 10 ties, and 5 losses. They had by far the best defensive record in the league, allowing only 25 goals in 30 matches – the next best defense was AGF’s with 33 goals in their net. Attack was not the strongest point of the winners – they scored only 42 goals: 9 clubs outscored them, the record belonging to KB – 62 goals. It was cautious approach – play not to lose, get a point here, a point there, win when possible, but without risking much – earning them the title. Nothing spectacular, rather hard work and may be a bit of luck, but champions they were and that was the only important thing. It was their 3rd title and first since 1973.

Romania the Cup

It was not the end of story for Universitatea – they also reached the Cup final, which was to be a repeat of the previous year’s final: Universitatea (Craiova) against Politehnica (Timisoara). ‘Students’ clubs both. Politehnica won the cup in 1980, so… Univeristatea wanted revenge, Politehnica – a second trophy. But Politehnica run out of a steam and had weak – or rather normal for them – season: they finished 12th in the league. The final was not a contest at all – Universitatea annihilated the cup holders 6-0.

After such loss what is there to say? Politehnica was not a great squad. Handling European and domestic competitions was apparently too much for them. Still, they were brave to the end – reaching the Cup final for two consecutive years was heroic achievement.

As for Universitatea – a double. Their first! Three titles and three Cups, all won after 1973. This season Universitatea firmly established itself as the leading club at the time and the only worthy rival of the capital’s powers Steaua and Dinamo.


Romania I Division

Romania may have been down on the international scale, but the domestic championship was still lively and fairly competitive, most teams quite equal. 8 points separated the 16th from the 4th at the end – and the 4th was Steaua (Bucharest)! Two outsiders and 3 teams competing for the title. Not bad… depending at which end of the table one was. FCM Galati finished last with 18 points, FC Baia Mare – 17th with 26 points, and Politehnica (Iasi) – 16th with 30 points. Those were the relegated. Politehnica may have run out of luck, but more or less all three were usual candidates for relegation. Three teams sunk low and were happy to survive – all with 32 points and much better past than present: Progresul (Bucharest) – 15th, Universitatea (Cluj) – 14th, and ASA (Tirgu Mures) – 14th.

In the middle of the table were clubs normally expected to be just there:

Jiul (Petrosani) finished 10th.

FCM Brasov – 8th.

Unlikely teams played very well – Corvinul (Hunedoara) was 6th, ahead of Olt (Scornicesti) only on better goal-difference.

The outlandish project, what Olt (Scornicesti) was, was doing very well in the still new for them top league: 7th. Standing from left: M. Lică, P. Petre, Al. Nicolae, Ghe . Soarece, M. Leac, Ghe. Iamandi, L. Martinescu, A. Mincu.

First row: Constantin Prepeliţă, I. Ciocioană. V. Piţurcă, M. Nedea, I. Anghel, Constantin Mincu, S. Iovanescu, Constantin Ardeleanu – coach.

The birthplace of the Romanian dictator enlarged itself to a city – or something like that – and to a strong club. Such is the ‘spontaneous love of the people’, but Olt, no matter how much ‘help’ they got, were not in a position of competing with the powerful clubs from Bucharest. Not for long anyway. Steaua had a weak season, finishing 4th, but outside the championship race: such season’s were perilous to Olt, for they were merely provincial, when compared to Steaua (the Army) and Dinamo (the Police) and if there were good players in Olt, they would quickly move to Bucharest – there was pictured above: Victor Piturca. Soon the world was going to here of him, but not as Olt’s player.

The race for the title was between Dinamo (Bucharest), Arges (Pitesti), and Universitatea (Craiova). Familiar picture – Dinamo, like Steaua, even when not at its best was still a favourite. The other two were actually the best Romanian clubs of the 1970s and so far running well.

With 42 points Arges finished 3rd – actually, a very good performance, given the diminishing powers of the team.

Dinamo took the silver medals, always a disappointment for them, but wish and fact are different: Dinamo had no really strong team for about 10 years.

It may have been a race between equals, but Universitatea was arguably the best Romanian club at the time and won the title with 21 wins, 4 ties, 9 losses, 72-33 goal-difference, and 46 points – outrunning Dinamo by 3 points.

Standing from left: Ion Oblemenco (coach), Irimescu, Ştefănescu, Beldeanu, Boldici, Lung, Ciupitu, Cămătaru, Tilihoi, C.Oţet (assistant coach).

First row: Donose, Cârţu, Geolgău, Crişan, Balaci, Ungureanu, Negrilă, Purima, Ţicleanu.

One more title – nothing surprising: Universitatea was ruling Romanian football since the early 1970s. Here are the players practically defining Romanian football at the first half of the 1980s: Camataru, Lung, Stefanescu, Balaci, Negrila, Ungureanu, Ticleanu – with them Romania became familiar name again, but it was too early yet. Perhaps the best indication for good future was the champion’s coach – just a few years ago Ion Oblemenco was the star of the team bringing the initial success. Now he was young and not very experienced coach, but equally talented – a local man, who transformed quickly from a player to a coach.


Romania II Division

Romania – the big unheard of news was starting to export players again. The first foreign transfer since the early 70s was Nicolae Doru.

It was the East European pattern to the dot: without fuss an aging player, not meaning much inside or outside the country went to a smaller market. Doru was 28 years striker, who never played for the national team – he appeared 5 times for the Romanian Olympic team and had 1 appearance for the B national selection. He was a key player of Arges (Pitesti) and a local star, but nothing more than that. He was sold to Panathinaikos (Athens) and that was that. Foreign transfers were so much downplayed at home, that today some hail him as a big legend: the first Romanian to play abroad. It is untrue, of course, but today the word ‘legend’ is inflated to the point of ridiculous. Anyhow, Doru was the first of the second wave of Romanian players going to the West. Romania did the transfer in the summer of 1980, ahead of Bulgaria by half an year, yet, after the 1980-81 season only 2 East European countries were left stubbornly not exporting players and they will stay so ‘pure’ to the collapse of the Communism – DDR and Albania.

One other reason the transfer of Doru went unnoticed was that Romania hit rock bottom: the UEFA 5-years ranking placed it 21st – the last country having the right to bring 2 teams to the UEFA Cup and in great danger to become 1-team country, because Denmark was very close. The 1970s were disastrous decade – nothing good happened after playing at the 1970 World Cup finals. Romania was unable to qualify for neither World Cup nor European finals, the clubs were quickly eliminated in the European tournaments, a really lost decade and the beginning of the 80s was not looking very promising. The Second Division, although not a great indication of the state of the game, was still a bit indicative – Rapid (Bucharest) sunk there. To play with clubs like

Progresul (Corabia), which made the bulk of the three second division groups. Standing from left: Mitroi, Stefan, Bănulescu, Velica, Popescu, Cîrciumaru, I. Bîrţan, Tudorache, Grecu.

Squatting : Maereanu, Mialţu, V. Bîrţan, Dincă , Ciolca, Băbălău,  S. Vlad.

FCM Braila was another typical example of second division clubs: not looking up, rather concerned with not going down to the third level.

Of course, there were clubs having played in the top league and mainly they were the prime candidates for promotion.

Petrolul (Ploesti),

CFR (Cluj), few others – those were the expected winners and normally such clubs won promotions at the end – this season they were CS Targoviste, FC Constanta, and the best known of them all

UTA (Arad). All three returning to top flight to give one more try.


Austria the Cup

Four superior clubs, but… it did not show in the Cup tournament: lowly Grazer AK and Austria (Salzburg) reached the final. Austria won the first leg of the final 1-0. In the second leg Grazer AK came back and tied the result: the regular time gave them 1-0 win. In the overtime they eventually scored a second goal and prevailed.

What is there to say? Austria tried hard, but was unable to win. It was a team struggling just to keep a place in the top league, so at the end losing the cup final could be just fair.

GAK (Graz) triumphed and their joy was great.

Drinking the bubbly from the cup is what winners do. This should be a legendary team: GAK was found in 1902 and so far won absolutely nothing. If there was any buzz, it was more likely addressing their local rivals Sturm. First trophy at last, even besting Sturm, for the enemy was unable to win the title after all. Yet, GAK had no particularly memorable squad and there should be any important note about their victory it should go to the football in the city: Graz was becoming a worthy rival of Vienna, at least for the moment, with its both clubs running strung.