Poland the Cup

The Cup final opposed Widzew (Lodz) to GKS Katowice. Drama was big, quality – doubtful. Scoreless final, going into penalty shoot-out, in which Widzew prevailed 3-1. May be not a great final, but important in perspective.

GKS Katowice was unfortunate, but perhaps this final fueled so far modest club for good years ahead. A team on ascend, still in early stage.

Widzew (Lodz) won a trophy this year, keeping up its prominence, which started roughly in 1980. From left: Włodzimierz Smolarek, Henryk Bolesta, Roman Wójcicki, Kazimierz Przybyś, Marek Podsiadło, Mirosław Myśliński, Tadeusz Światek, Jerzy Leszczyk, Dariusz Dziekanowski, Marek Dziuba, Krzysztof Kamiński. Already experienced squad and seemingly managing to avoid decline by inclusion of new good players – Boniek was gone, but Smolarek became the leader; Mlynarczik went to play in Portugal, but good replacement was recruited immediately – Henryk Bolesta. Half of the squad were regulars in the national team. Dariusz Dziekanowski was very promising youngster. Seemingly, Widzew had wise policy, but how long the club would be able to keep up with departures was also a valid question. The pressures were great – Boniek was goen, Mlynarczik was gone, it was clear that Smolarek, Wojcicki, Dzuiba would be gone soon and then what? So, enjoy the moment – and what a moment it was! Widzew won the Cup for the first time! That was then… enjoy the moment now: so far, this is the only Cup Widzew won. Singular significance, thus, memorable.

Poland I Division

First Division. Four teams competed for the title – which was good. None was exceptional – which is bad. And they were head and shoulders above the rest of the league – which was not good too.

Wisla (Krakow) was the outsider of the championship – last with 21 points. Why they went down so terribly is perhaps unimportant, but certainly was unexpected. Yes, Wisla lost its edge, went into decline, but relegation was not in the cards. Until it happened. And why? There were Polish champions and national team players in the squad. The most promising young player of the country was here – Iwan. What exactly was wrong?

Radomiak (Radom) – 15th with 25 points. Debutantes and especially accidental debutantes are not expected to last in new and strange environment – Radomiak belongs to this category and no surprise they went back to Second Division immediately. However, they lost only on goal-difference and unlike Wisla tried hard to survive.

Slask (Wroclaw) escaped relegation thanks to better goal-difference, taking 14th place. Quite telling – modest and unassuming Radomiak was the company of successful in the recent past Wisla and Slask.

Lechia (Gdansk), the surprise Cup winners in 1983, were truly invigorated by the success – they not only won promotion to First Division, but managed to stay in it. True, the team seemingly was running on enthusiasm – they were 12th with 26 points. If they finished with 25 points… they would be relegated, having worse goal-difference than Radomiak. So, it was well done for the moment, but the team was running out of steam.

Motor (Lublin) – 9th with 27 points. Modest club, which had no pretensions for more than keeping place in the top division. This they did, but with constant fretting – avoiding relegation was their whole concern. Amazingly, the league’s top scorer Iwanicki played for them. Kalinowski faded long time ago, yet, he was the only player in the team with some fame – having been reserve goalkeeper of the great Polish squad at the 1974 World Cup. His reserve, Karwat, also became fairly well known player, but much later – presently, he was too young for anything.

Gornik (Walbrzych) – it all depends on standpoint: from a general point of view, nothing special about this squad. But from a local and historic point of view – one of the best seasons of the club, usually playing second division football. 8th with 29 points. They were the team with most ties this season – 13.

Ruch (Chorzow) was 7th with 29 points and ahead of Walbrzych only on better goal-difference. Nothing to be proud with – from a leading club, they dropped to rubbing shoulders with modest teams, more familiar with Second Division.

Zaglebie (Sosnowiec) – 5th with 31 points. Well done for typically modest club. Then again… Zaglebie, remaining pretty much the same as ever playing stronger than Ruch. Occasional club’s decline is one thing; modest and not improving clubs performing better than traditional powerhouses is something else.

Lech (Poznan). A different category all together – Lech, in good form, lost the race for the title, ending 4th with 38 points. Well, that was 7 points than the 5th, Zaglebie, had. This was good period for the club, so nothing surprising. Yet, how good is good? Some strong players, true, but nobody of outstanding ability. Perhaps a sturdy squad, but no more than that.

Widzew (Lodz) was 3rd with 39 points. Keeping strong somewhat against the odds, but with a question mark – how long they will be among the best? There stars were going abroad one after another.

Legia (Warszawa) – 2nd with 41 points. This was coming back of sorts – Legia was able to stay among the top Polish clubs all the time, but not always was a real factor. Now they were a title contender again , losing the title by the single point. Even so, it was not a very promising squad.

Legia was bested by true comeback – Gornik (Zabrze). Tough, even dramatic, victory – after 16 wins, 10 ties, and 4 losses, Gornik had 42 points. They would have been champions even if ending with 41 points, having superior goal-difference than Legia: 38-16 to 36-19. Should have been memorable victory – their first since 1972, making the total to 11 Polish titles. Yet, it looks like just a joyous moment, than something of historic importance – perhaps because of the squad, which, no matter what, is not of the class of the one of the late 1960s. It took more than one title to notice the players and in fairness this victory could be described only briefly: it was very young team, not matured yet, and because of that all credit should go to the coach. The coach was one of the key players of the already mentioned squad of the golden years: Hubert Kostka. The former national team goalkeeper was perhaps more ambitious than anything else, for he does not count among the greatest Polish trainers, but he succeeded. Then again… it may have been just a case of getting advantage of general weaknesses and shortcomings this year. Having a young squad was important asset for the future, though.

Poland II Division

Poland. The season can be described with two words: low scoring. Permanent characteristic of Polish football, which may be strange to people familiar with Lubanski, Gadocha, Lato, Szarmach, Deyna, Boniek, and Smolarek. Not single team in the top Polish leagues managed 2 goals per game average. Gwardia (Warszawa) – 2nd in the Group 1 of Second Division scored most goals – 56. Odra (Wodzislaw) – 4th in the same group was second best with 46 goals. Only 3 other teams managed 40 or more goals – Lech (Poznan, 4th in First Division), Zawisza (Bydgoszcz, 4th in Group 1, Second Division), and Igloopol (Debica, 2nd in Group 2, Second Division). The champions of the country scored only 38 goals in 30 games – which was the second best record in First Division. May be defensive tactics dominated Polish football? Unlikely, for, with few exceptions, the teams allowed pretty much as many goal as they scored and only 6 teams finished the season with positive goal-difference in the First Division. Simply, there were no scorers. Add to it that all good and near-good players were eager to get foreign contracts as soon as they can. Polish football was rather poor show and many a club was already in trouble. Old and once respected clubs were down – Polonia (Warszawa) and Cracovia (Krakow) ended at the bottom of Second Division’s Group 2 and were relegated down to Third Division. Polonia (Bytom) was 10th in the same group. Hutnik (Krakow) was 3rd. In Group 1 Szombierki (Bytom), country cahmapions just a few years ago, was trying to return to top flight, but unsuccessfully – they were 3rd. Gwardia (Warszawa) managed only 2nd place in the same group. True, the group winners were both former first division members, but one of them was Stal (Mielec) – the powerful and successful club in the 1970s, which gave to the world Lato, Szarmach, and more. Down in First Division was another recent champion – Slask (Wroclaw). So was Ruch (Chorzow). And last and relegated was perhaps the most stable club in Polish history – Wisla (Krakow). Amaingly, the national team was still going strong – but it was a squad depending mostly on foreign-based stars. With the clock ticking, the future was quite gloomy – Boniek and company were aging and they had no replacements. The topscorer of the championship Leszek Iwanicki (Motor Lublin) had 14 goals.

Unmemorable season…

Zaglebie (Lubin) won Group 1 of Second Division and, thus, promotion. Of course, they did their best against equally tough – or similarly shaky – opposition and prevailed over Gwardia (Warszawa) and Szombierki (Bytom), but 40 points after 30 games was not suggestive of strong, up and coming, team.

Stal (Mielec) mirrored Zaglebie in Group 2 – also 40 points, also coming barely ahead of two pursuers, Igloopol (Debica) and Huthik (Krakow), and also promising little. This may or may not be a photo of Stal 1984-85 and precision is not even important – it was not a team attracting interest.

Perhaps the only team showing progress and a promise for the future was Igloopol – they came out of the blue and wanted to do better. How soon… nobody could tell.


Denmark. The mystery of time – today is unbelievable to see who was leading Danish club in 1985. It was equally unbelievable a few years before 1985 too. It was not just the strong performance of Lyngby – there was a quite new club, shaped entirely for professional football, which climbed to the top and stayed there for more than a decade. One can argue that the wonderful national team was pulling up the whole Danish football. One can also argue that moving to professional football in the late 1970s finally produced fruits. Then one can also argue that the profound changes of the international football scene, the whole approach to the game, reshaped old perceptions – previously weak countries were getting stronger, the old powers were not so supreme, for the new philosophy of the sport inevitably made all rather the same. Still, the changes did not reshape traditional status quo – Denmark had great national team, but the clubs were not so. Better than before may be, but not very strong yet. The changes taking place were domestic – change of local status quo. And they were pushed forward by reforms: the top Danish league was to be reduced for the next season to 14 teams – thus, 4 teams faced relegation, with 2 newcomers. It was clear that professionalism was tough pill to swallow for many a club and the only way to make more competitive championship was to weed out those not able to adapt.

KB (Copenhagen) and Randers Freja came on top in the Second Division and rightfully earned promotion. The convulsions of the old clubs, facing new times: KB is one of the oldest clubs in Europe, founded in 1876. They were Danish champions in 1980. Then they plunged down to Second Division.

Three teams in the First Division were too weak – B93, last with 16 points; Koge Boldklub – 15th with 17 points; and Hvidovre IF – 14th with 23 points. Old and well known BK Frem tried desperately to avoid relegation and failed – 13th with 27 points.

Perhaps more teams were going to be sifted out of professional league, but for the moment they managed. Old power was unsettled by the new demands.

Vejle finished 7th with 32 points. This was a season of concern – fighting to survive in the league instead of competing for the title: they finished mere 5 points ahead of relegated Hvidovre, but 11 points behind the champions.

The clubs well adjusted to professional requirements were at the top of league: OB Odense – 4th with 35 points, AGF Aarhus – 3rd with 36 points, and Lyngby BK – 2nd with 37 points. Yet, they paled behind the new champions.

Brondby IF dominated the championship, winning it with 6 points cushion. 16 wins, 11 ties, 3 losses, 50-27, and 43 points. It was rather abnormal victory – rarely in the past a champion was so clearly above the rest. Brondby, relatively new club, looked like designed for professional football. And they exploded this season, winning their 1st title. Unlike many new champions around the world, Brondby did not look like one time wonder – there was certainty they will be leaders for the years to come. But still Danish football was not all that strong to keep people’s minds on it – the banner behind the winners is quite instructive: ‘Brondby till Mexico’. The national team and the coming World Cup was most important.

The Cup final continued the success story of Lyngby, the club which came under the lights before Brondby. They met Esbjerg fB at the final and prevailed 3-2.

Second Cup in a row, making the numbers to 1 title and 2 Cups in 3 consecutive years. They were the second best in this year championship.


Wales. Hidden championship, of course. One may be surprised to see 17 teams playing First Division football there, names almost unpronounceable, unless you know Welsh.

Barry Town dominated the championship, winning it with 5-point margin. Fine, but since Welsh football remained outside European sight, it had to be only local pride. For Barry Town, though, the season was memorable – they represented Wales in the Cup Winners Cup and their short appearance touched the hearts of the club’s supporters.

As for what did matter, it was the Cup final. Bangor City met English Shrewsbury Town. Shrewsbury was lowly, indeed, but Bangor City was nowhere to be seen – not in the English professional leagues; not in the Welsh league. They played somewhere in the vast semi-professional and non-professional English leagues, thus, automatically weaker than lowly, but professional opponent. Shrewsbury had no trouble beating Bangor and collecting the Welsh Cup for a second consecutive year – 3-1 and 2-0.

All things relative, Shrewsbury Town had all reasons to be proud and happy – one more trophy for a club without any chance to win something in England. Yet, it was the end of the road too – they could not represent Wales in Europe.

Bangor City lost the Cup, but no matter – they were Welsh club and winning or losing the Cup, they were going to get a taste of European football in the Cup Winners Cup. So, it was fine reward for losers.


Cyprus. This championship in one sentence: the domination of Omonia (Nicosia) remained. Cypriot football was improving, but without any change of the long established order and the season was not dramatic at all – no hot pursuits neither at the top, nor at the bottom of the table. If anything, a question was rising – was smaller towns wise to keep more than one club? It could be better to amalgamate them into one stronger and more competitive club. The divide between first and second divisions was getting wider – newly promoted teams were practically doomed to immediate relegation and it was a tiny cluster of clubs meandering between the two leagues. The bulk of second-level clubs was clearly incapable of going up. Traditional order remained in the top level, unchanging. This championship was point in case.

Ethnikos (Achna) finished 3rd in Second Dividion. Missed promotion, but they were one of the teams capable of going up – for a brief spell.

APOP (Paphos) was 2nd and promoted – nothing new about it and as good as the season was, the future was pretty much known: they will be back.

Ermis (Aradippou) won the Second Division. Promoted, of course, and, like APOP, expected to return to Second Division after a single year. Happened before…

So, the best second division teams hailed from Aradippou and Paphos… Let see the cursed bottom of the top division.

Evagoras (Paphos) was last. They lost 20 of 26 total championship games and won only one! 7 Points – so out of touch even for the weak Cypriot championship. Down again.

Omonia (Aradippou) – 13th with 20 points. Much better than Evagoras, but not really having a chance: Aris (Limassol), 12th, was hardly in any danger this season and finished with 24 points. So, the rival clubs in Paphos and Aradippou simply exchanged places and most likely the next season will be the same. They were not able even to produce a home derby of a kind, for local clubs only replaced each other in the leagues, not playing in the same championship. It made sense to fuse these clubs into something stronger… then again, people like their own clubs. But with the increasing financial demands of professional football and the limited resources – both money and talent – may be not just Paphos and Aradippou should have thought of amalgamations: Larnaca had 3 clubs in the top league, neither strong enough for more than mid-table. This season the rivals were equal, finishing with 25 points – Alki, 8th, EPA – 7th, and Pezoporikos – 6th. Goal-difference decided final places and perhaps supporters had their small consolation seeing their team ahead of the neighbours, but the ugly fact was that no Larnaca club was even remotely close to leading position. Similar, although stronger by a notch or two, was the presence of Limassol – also 3 teams in the top league, neither capable of running for the title. Aris was down this year – 12th – but the other two run shoulder to shoulder, ending with 28 points each. AEL took 5th place. Apollon clinched 4th place on better goal-difference, but… 5 points behind Anorthosis (Famagusta).

The exiles from Famagusta did well, as usual, but even they could benefit from amalgamation, for there was also Nea Salamina playing a minor role in the top division. That was the reality: hardly ever both Famagusta teams did well in the same season and the stronger perhaps was able to aim for 2nd or 3rd place, but not for the title. Anorthosis did exactly that – entangled in a battle with APOEL for 2nd place, they lost it by single point and had to be satisfied with bronze medals. Alas, no European football for them.

Nicosia was best suited for more than one club, yet, two were rather enough. Presently, they had 3 in First Division and 1 in the Second. Orfeas, if lucky, may climb to the top league for a very short spell one day and Olympiakos, never at par with Omonia and APOEL, was seemingly getting behind – they were 11th this season, seemingly settling permanently for the lower half of the table. APOEL and Omonia were traditionally another matter, but may be the smaller local rivals only diverted resources by now, preventing the leaders from increasing their power. May be only tangentially, but APOEL was not in great shape – they did not challenge Omonia at all. Their biggest concern seemed to be getting the Cyrpiot UEFA Cup spot, which they achieved, but with difficulty. Second at the end, but 7 points behind Omonia.

So, it was Omonia again – 6th consecutive title! Forget the class – rather, the lack of it – of the opposition, it was great achievement. Such consistent dominance begs for deeper look – Bulgarian help was clearly the secret of Omonia. With the single brief exception of 1974-75, Omonia had only Bulgarian coaches since 1967. And it will be the same until 1990! After 1980, players were added to the coaching staff – Atanas Dramov coached Omonia this season, aided by Spas Dzhevizov and Ventzislav Arssov on the pitch. Dramov was new arrival, but the players were instrumental in winning the title the previous season. Arssov retired at the end of the season, but Dzhevizov stayed with Omonia until 1987. The Bulgarian presence really shaped Omonia and kept it strong – if anything, the long consistency provided steady approach, sameness, familiar training, perpetuating it generation after generation.

Dominant Omonia, but no double.

AEL (Limassol) and

EPA (Larnaca) reached the final in which early goal by Stelios Pelendritis gave the victory to AEL. Wonderful moment for a club hardly ever winning anything.


Eire. The 1985 season was the last of traditional Irish championships – a reform was coming. The league was bigger than the previous year: two teams were elected to join it – Longford Town and Cork City – thus increasing it to 16 participants. But 4 of them were going to be relegated – the top league was to be of 12 teams and the new second division of 10. The new league was a combination of new and old at first – 4 relegated from First Division teams and 6 elected, the traditional method. But that was going to happen after the end of this season, yet, it affected it, for it was important to avoid finishing below 12th place. Newcomer Longford Town was too weak for top level football and finished last with 10 points. Finn Harps was also below standard – 15th with 19 points. But battle for escaping relegation involved 9 of the remaining 14 teams! At the end Drogheda United was 14th with 24 points and Sligo Rovers 13th with 26 points. That was the group of teams going to the new second division. Shelbourne took 12th place thanks to better goal-difference – they had 26 points too. The other newcomer, Cork City, did well – 9th with 28 points.

Dundalk was surprisingly weak, but managed to avoid relegation zone – 8th with 28 points, ahead of Cork City on better goal-difference. Standing from left: Laryea, Cleary, Lawlor, McConville, Murray, Wright. First row: McLaughlin, Kehoe, Blackmore, McNulty, Wright.

Galway United ended at the top of the endangered teams – 6th with 29 points.

The well to do teams were such only compared to the lowly bunch: there was no intriguing battle for the title. Limerick City was 5th with 37 points – 8 more than Galway, but they were not serious candidates for medals. University College Dublin clinched 4th place with 38 points. Athlone Town was 3rd with 40 points.

Bohemians was satisfied with 2nd place – they were not able to seriously challenge the leaders, but got the Irish UEFA Cup spot, which was fine enough.

And who else, but Shamrock Rovers on top? They dominated the championship and easily won it with 22 wins, 5 ties, 3 losses, 63-21 goal-difference. 49 points – Bohemians had 43. Nobody scored more goals and allowed less, no other team won 20 games. Superior champions in every aspect.

And they made it a double. Galway United reached the Cup final and put a fight, but Shamrock prevailed 1-0.

It was a matter of numbers, but what numbers! Shamrock Rovers won their 22nd title and 22nd Cup. It was their 5th double. Their manager Jim McLoughlin was recognized as most important for continual success: he took the reigns 9 years ago, immediately winning the title – after 20 dry years for the club! To date, he won 3 titles and 3 Cup for Shamrock and this was his second double. And he was the first Irish coach to achieve doubles with 2 different clubs. Records…


Norway. The winners of the two groups of Second Division earned instant promotion: Hamarkameratene and Strommen IF. The 2nd-placed in each group proceeded to promotion/relegation play-off with the 10th-placed team in First Division: Sogndal from Group A, Tromso Il from Group B, and Moss FK from the top league. Tromso won the little tournament with 2 wins and enjoyed a return to top flight.

Perhaps a glimpse of those unable to return to First Division has it worth:



Stromsgodset Drammen. Standing from left: Kjell Leine, Svein R. Nysæther, Alf Inge Nochevic, Bjørn Odmar Andersen (trener), Halvor Storskogen, Tor Sara, Frank Johnny Johansen, Helge Karlsen, Ole Viggo Walseth, Cato Leine, Arne Marcussen, Olav Gjesteby, Jarle Sterkeby, Asle Skaret, Per Erik Pedersen, Karin Skeide.

Sitting:Ståle Mikkelsen, Jan Høsøien, Ronny Vange, Arne Gustavsen, Geir Bakke, Bjørn Heier, Ole Johnny Lofsberg, Roar Flaglien, Jan Wendelborg, Roar Holter, Svein Tofteng.

First Division had few interesting moments, but plenty of intrigue: two teams were way above the rest, entangled in long battle for the title, but more than half of the small league – 7 out of 12 teams – desperately tried to escape relegation. The battle really was to avoid the dreadful 11th place in the final table – Eik-Tonsberg occupied the last place from start, terribly weak. They finished with just 8 points and terrible goal-difference: -42, when the next worse had -8. Brann ended 11th and thus relegated precisely because had -8 – they finished with 19 points and Moss FK had 19 as well, but better goal-difference: -5. So, Brann and Eik-Tonsberg were directly relegated and Moss followed them to Second Division after losing the promotion/relegation play-offs.

Brann down on their luck. Top row from left: Endre Blindheim (trener), Bjarni Sigurdsson, Arne Sandstø, Trond Nordeide, Trond Devik, Gunnar Amundsen, Lars Moldestad, Tore Strand, Tor Sletten.

Middle row:Trygve Larsen (keepertrener), Olav Hovland, Arne Møller, Alf Dahl, Åke Eikrem, Trygve Johannessen, Tore Hadler-Olsen, Steinar Aase, Lars Hjorth.

Front row: Trond Gaarder, Dan Riisnes, Ove Vatne, Geir Austvik, Trond Totland, Terje Risa, Hans Brandtun, Johnny Rolfsvåg.

Up the table, the lucky boys: Brynne – 9th with 20 points and positive goal-difference: +5! Molde – 8th with 21 points. Viking – 7th with 21 points. Start – 6th with 21 points. Mjondalen – 5th with 22 points. Playing hide and seek with relegation characterized them all, although Mjondalen had too good goal-difference to really worry. Yet, they finished only 3 points ahead of the relegated Brann.

Kongsvinger and Valerengen had no worries of any kind – they both finished with 24 points. Goal-difference divided them and what a difference here! Kongsvinger was -1; Valerengen was +13. Naturally, Valerengen got the bronze medals in this championship. But neither club was up to challenging the leaders – Lillestrom and Rosenborg battled hard for the title to the end. It was a battle of different strategies – Lillestrom was defensive minded, they lost only 2 games and allowed 11 goals. But caution did not serve them well – Rosenborg was attacking minded team, aiming for all or nothing. Sure, they allowed twice as many goal then Lillestrom – 22 – but they scored more in turn and pursuit wins, not ties. At the end, their approach prevailed and they finished 1 point ahead of their rivals: Lillestrom 32 points, but Rosenborg 33.

Proud champions of Norway this season, thanks to 15 wins, 3 ties, 4 losses and 43-22 goal-difference. One is tempted to say this was the beginning of the great period for Rosenborg, making it well-known around Europe club, but 1985 was too early for such beginning.

Lillestrom was not left empty-handed, though: they won the Cup after beating Valerengen 4-1 at the final.

It was even strange – defensive-minded Lillestrom obliterated the third strongest Norwegian team. But the third-strongest was not a factor this year, left far behind – Lillestrom was too strong and it was only fair to win something.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland. Without promotion-relegation, the season really boils down to winning the title, the Cup, and eventual battle for the single spot in the UEFA Cup. Winners could get a bit of taste of big European football, the rest would have some talk in the pubs. Mostly that, for only a few clubs tackled the high positions in the league. Carrick Rangers was last with measly 12 points, outsiders in weak league, but so what? No relegation.

The usual could be presented by Cliftonville (Belfast) – here with Celtic (Glasgow) on the left, before a preseason friendly. They finished 5th with 28 points. Effectively, only three teams competed and they were the usual suspects. Glentoran (Belfast) took 3rd position with 34 points.

FC Coleraine – 2nd with 36 points. They got what they aimed for – the UEFA Cup place.

As for the champions, is there any need to name them? Who else, but Linfield. After 17 wins, 5 ties, and 4 losses, they were 3 points ahead of Coleraine. Scored 70 goals, allowed 22 0 no other team came even close to their achievements in both attack and defense.

Linfield was well suited for a double, but in the Cup final they met the bitter rivals Glentoran and there was no winner: 1-1. In the replay Glentoran shattered Linfield’s dream by prevailing 1-0.

Glentoran collected one more Cup, happy to punch Linfield. The Cup Winners Cup was theirs anyway, but a trophy was sweeter. Well done and all, but also so familiar – Linfield and Glentoran winning, as usual.


Albania. Isolated and insular, as it was, the country was a mystery, but still some speculations about its general life can be suggested. During the 1980s things were not going so good. After 1980 a trend was detected – clubs folding during or after a season. Granted, they were low level clubs, but still this was new – in the Communist countries clubs practically belonged to the state: they were attached to industrial firms, a guarantee they were always funded. Clubs folding for economic reasons meant money were getting short in general. This went along with increasing violence, which suggested wider dissatisfaction of the population, making tiny cracks in the iron state control. This season 4 teams folded during the season because of financial difficulties and one right after the end of the season. Granted, all were Third Division clubs, but no such things were happening in the previous decades. Yet, the shaky state of clubs went along with improved football – a new talented generation came in, perhaps the most talented one in the history of Albanian football. Those players were still too young, not in full bloom, but their presence was noticed. However, the country is small, the establishment strong, so no massive change happened or even possible: the top league was pretty much the same as ever, no new club came from the lower levels to challenge the status quo.

Apollonia (Fier) won the Second Division with 38 points, and

Shkendia (Tirana) finished 2nd with 32 points. Both teams were relegated together in 1979-80 and now were returning together to the top league.

First Division had a dominant leader and hopeless outsider, so at least at the very top and bottom things were settled early in the championship. Skenderbeu (Korce) was last with 15 points. Six teams, the champion of the previous season, Labinoti (Elbasan) among them, struggled to avoid the the second relegation spot. Besa (Kavaje) at the end was relegated, finishing with 22 points and thus 13th. Just as a novelty, the only city apart of Tirana, represented by 2 teams in the top league, managed to keep its distinction: there was a strong possibility Lushnje to be not on the top league map at all, but Traktori and Beselidhja survived and shoulder to shoulder too – both teams finished at the top of the endangered group of teams with 24 points each – Traktori 8th and Beselidhja 9th.

Information about Albania football is scarce and not very reliable even now, but if not from this season, at least this photo of Partizani (Tirana) is from the period 1984-86. Not a great moment of Partizani’s history – they were not a title contenders, fighting for 3rd place and finishing 4th at the end with 29 points. Vllaznia (Shkoder) bested them with better goal-difference and took the bronze medals.

Dinamo (Tirana) was securely 2nd with 33 points.

17 Nentori (Tirana) comfortably dominated the championship – they lost just 2 games, tied 9, and won 15, which provided the 39 points. As with Partizani, one cannot be sure the team picture is from this season – at least is from the same time period.

The Cup final opposed teams of same strength – Partizani (4th) and Flamurtari (Vlore) (5th in the championship). Of course, the bets were on Partizani, but it was to be difficult final and it was. Favoured Partizani lost 1-2.

Flamurtari was one of the most stable clubs in Albania, a constant member of First Division, but so far without any success. So it was more than grand local achievement – not only Flamurtari won its first trophy, but also became the third provincial club to win the Cup (Vllaznia and Labinoti did it before them). If championships are added, Flamurtari were the 4th provincial club winning anything in the whole history of Albanian football. The total dominance of Tirana was no longer so absolute after 1977 – Vllaznia and Labinoti won the championships in 1977-78, 1982-83, and 1983-84; Vllaznia won the Cup in 1978-79 and 1980-81, now Flamurtari. The provincial challenge was not going to disappear even if a total change of guard was unlikely.

Yet, this challenge was facing strong opposition, supported heavily by the political system: the case of Labinoti brings speculative questioning and doubts. Labinoti barely escaped relegation right after they won the championship. Practically, they popped up from nowhere the previous season and immediately sunk back to obscurity. Historically, Labinoti was insignificant club, dwelling in the lower half of the league. Their sudden climb to success, followed by immediate slump to the usual performance appears suspect: surprise winners usually maintain a momentum for a few years. They were not able to repeat their success, of course, but at least stay near the top for awhile. Take Zarya (Voroshilovgrad), the USSR champions of 1972, for example – came out of the blue, did not have a team able to keep them on top again, but their way down took almost a ten years. Immediately after 1972 they were mainly competitive enough to stay among the top 5, slowly getting down. Flamurtari came out of the blue and immediately went down. So… it could have been the typical case of small club – the big sharks immediately swallowing its good players, leaving an empty carcass. In a Communist country, such approach was typical, much more drastic than among professional clubs in the West. But it could have been a case of opportunistic games under the table when no one was watching. That was what Zarya did in 1972, fixing games with lowly teams – nobody expected that, the eyes were fixed on the big clubs, and lowly Zarya got away with murder. At the end, it came to a question of rather different import: suspicion came too late in the season, there was no longer way to overcome Zarya and to investigate and punish would mean big wound on shiny pride of the system, which claimed it was the best, the most fare and honest in the world. So, Zarya was kept champions and the truth was disclosed to the public only after 1990. Something similar may have been the case of Labinoti’s victory – the big clubs a bit shaky, and may be because of that more involved with scheming between themselves, nobody paying attention to historically insignificant provincials, who saw the opportunity, bought a game here, a game there, from clubs of the same ilk, and when they were finally seen as a danger, it was too late. After the season may be Party functionaries warned the local schemers not to do such antics again, or there will be harsh punishment, some people were shuffled around, may be even demoted, good players taken away, and everything went back to normal. All done behind closed doors, nothing ever made public, no official penalties directly related to football. May be some rumors, but no hard evidence. Then years go by and even if some late investigation is done, there is not a single club in the world to confess they became champions by illegal means some 10 or 15 years ago. Football Federations are also very reluctant to distribute penalties for so distant deeds and change old final tables – if not for any other reasons, at least because the old season cannot be replayed. No more than a single team can be punished retroactively, but in bribery scandals the number of involved is never a single one. What can be done retroactively is very limited – a trophy can be taken away and no more. But the guilty club counts it, keeps it in the club history, adding a complain to it and in the minds of supporters it becomes only victimization. Labinoti’s case is suspect, but no more than that – it could have been a honest win, it could have been illegal scheming, it could have been a quick robbery of the best players, which the small club was unable to replace and thus to keep position in the next season, it could have been Tirana clubs entangled in their own scheming against each other, which helped unintentionally Labinoti. It could have been even a different scheme – Labinoti, the rogue champion, to be prevented from winning again. A surprise winner usually is not very strong team, but once bringing attention to itself, everybody play harder against it the next year. Add referees instructed to bring them down and the slump is guaranteed. There are traditional problems with surprise winners: they have short and tied teams, driven more by enthusiasm than ability; have limited tactical approach, which is quickly learned by others and relatively easy to oppose; they have little money, so are unable to add talent to their original squad. Take away a player or two from the regular team and the whole thing collapses. Nothing new about it, happened so many times. Yet, so sudden rise and drop is suspect. Compared to Labinoti, Flamurtari is completely different story – they stayed strong after winning the Cup.