European Championship Qualifications Groups 1,2,3,4

The qualifications for the 1988 European Championship final ended in 1987. But everything started much earlier – at the 1985 URFA Congress in Lisbon. Two important things happened there: first of all was the future of this championship, entirely based on money. The 1984 finals ended with solid earnings for UEFA and that killed any doubts and objections to the championship. It was to be continued permanently. The second important moment was the emergence of application for collective hosting – it came from Scandinavia: Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark made the proposal, which at the time was rejected immediately, for it meant half of the finalists to be the hosts. Later, however, it came to live, so the idea came early, but was not forgotten. Choosing the host was usual shuffle of intrigues in which West Germany won over England, Greece, and Holland. It was not only the usual
certainty that the Germans would provide perfectly organized tournament and the quality of everything will be great, but also canny West German promise to the East European block that West Berlin will not be a venue of the finals – this political move secured Communist votes. Right away the Germans went a step further, proposing 16-team tournament, organized on the Olympic principle from the ¼ finals to the final, but that was rejected and the formula was to be the one established in 1980 – 8 teams playing in 2 round-robin groups. Also rejected was the second German proposal – in case of teams ending with same points in the group-phase a play-off to be staged. This was really a return to the past which UEFA did not want to take – the schedule was to be tied and compact and it was not easy to balance between the needs of commercial sponsors and complains from every country which felt robbed in every occasion when their next opponent had an extra day off. Then came the draw, in early 1986. It was done ‘scientifically’ by using ‘the proven mathematic formula’: take the points games every country earned in the qualifications for the 1986 World Cup and the 1984 European Championship and divided it by the games they played. The result placed them in different urns – the strongest in one, and so on to the urn of weakest, so to be fare and no big teams to kill each other prematurely. Since Italy did not play any qualifications for the 1986 World Cup as reigning champions, they had plain zero for this campaign and thus ended in the 4th urn, the one next to last. Some science… Italy was just ahead of Turkey by this science, both in the urn of the outsiders. But that was that and the groups eventually formed – 7 of them. The 8th place of the finals went automatically to the host, West Germany. After qualifications started with their ups and downs, and sudden collapses, some due to utter stupidity, some for objective reason. By the end of the 1987 the final standings were completed and here, briefly as possible, the qualifications will be shown.
Group 1. Spain, Romania, Austria, Albania. Spain and Romania were the favourites, with some rather thin possibility for Austria.

Predictably, Albania finished last, losing every match they played. 0 0 6 2-17 0
Austria ended 3rd – it was also pretty much expected: although Austria had a bunch of good player, the golden generation of the 1970s was retired or too old by now and the team was in relative decline. However, the Austrians were still tough enough and managed to spoil the Romanian chances in the last game – it was 0-0 in Vienna. 2 1 3 6-9 5 points.
Romania lost in the last minute… Standing from left: Laszlo Böloni. Silviu Lung, Stefan Iovan, Rodion Camataru, Adrian Bumbescu, Miodrag Belodediçi. First row: Georghe Hagi, Marius Lacatus, Michael Klein, Dorin Mateut, Nicolae Ungureanu. Spain and Romania were old foes – they were grouped together quite often in qualification groups. This time Romania had its own golden generation with increasingly high-profiled Hagi as a leader. And as usual Spain and Romania went shoulder to shoulder to the end – the group winner was to be decided in the last games, played at the same time – Spain was hosting Albania and Romania was visiting Austria. Goal-difference was in favour of Romania, so any victory was going to qualify them. Spain needed enormous victory – at least by 10 goals. Thus, memories of the shameful win with the ‘right’ result in the previous qualifications for the 1984 Euro came back. But Albania was not Malta – or at least that was concluded after the game: the Albanian fought somewhat and lost by only 5 goals. There was no ‘helpful’ Malta, but there was helpful Austria – the Austrians played for their honour, which meant playing for a draw and to achieve that they went into frustrating killing of time. Austria wanted to avoid loss and thus they worked for Spain – Romania was unable to score and lost the race by a point: 4 1 1 13-3 9 points.
Whether Spain deserved to qualify is another matter – the team was not so great and had some problems, particularly in attack, where apart from Butrageno there was practically nobody worth mentioning. The key strikers of the leading clubs were foreigners and it came to unusual decision to include Paco Llorente, who was mere reserve in Real Madrid. But the team managed to prevail over Austria and Albania and the real decisive games were against Romania – at home they won 1-0, using every possible mean to achieve that, including superstition: the match was played in Sevilla, because there Spain qualified at the expense of Holland by beating Malta 12-1. By the way, Sevilla stayed the official city for home qualifications 11 and half years! With great difficulties Spain won at home, but in Bucharest Romania practically destroyed them – 3-1 does not luck scary result, but Romania played excellent football and Spain looked ugly weaklings in comparison. But the points were equal before the last group matches and Austria eliminated Romania. Still, Spain proved tough as ever and against results one can hardly argue: 5 0 1 14-6 10 points.

Group 2. Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Malta – that by the urns the teams came from. Of course, nobody saw Italy as an outsider, Sweden was on the rise with new talented generation, Portugal was in good shape and Switzerland had decent team – everything was possible, but the main battle seemingly was going to be between Italy and Portugal. Malta counted only as point donor, as ever. The qualifications started on the wrong foot – after the first game, which Switzerland lost to Sweden 0-2, the Swiss delivered protest to UEFA – somebody from the stands hurled a peace of marble and injured their goalkeeper. That was serious incident and most likely UEFA would have punished the Swedes, but in the last minute the Swiss changed their protest, now objecting from the Bulgarian referee’s booking of their captain when he tried to call his attention to his injured goalkeeper. This was much smaller and different ‘crime’ and the result stayed. The second match was between Portugal and Sweden and before it something almost comic in its stupidity happened – the Portuguese performance at the 1986 World Cup was considered a disgrace and investigation was conducted, finding the culprits and severely punishing them. As usual, the players were found guilty – their lesser crime was preoccupation with shopping; the big crime – hiring prostitutes all the time and going on strike because their bonuses from contract with Adidas were not paid. Both the players and the general public felt the Federation was the prime culprit and now was only looking for somebody else to blame and that practically left Portugal without a national team – the Federation decision was severe and 7 key national team regulars, including Fernando Gomes and Paulo Futre, were disqualified from the national team for life. That resulted in players’ protest – a petition for withdrawal from national team duties was signed by 173 players in support of their punished colleagues. This scandal practically killed the Portuguese campaign – eventually the decision of the Federation was reversed and the stars were convinced to play again for Portugal, but it was too late by then. As for the match against Sweden, it ended 1-1 and Sweden was lucky to escape – but got a point. Portugal remained in the race against the odds after their second match – they got a point away in Switzerland, which was almost finishing off the Swiss chances for qualification. Then Italy started at last and it was typical Italy – minimal wins, but wins. Meantime Sweden had shaky performances, pretty much as their coach kept cautioning all the time – he knew best the problems of his team and he was right, unfortunately. Yet, the Swedes were battling with Italy and won their home game. But then lost at home to Portugal… it was September 1987 by then: that late the Portuguese ended their own stupid scandal and all stars were back in the team. By then the only thing they could achieve was spoiling the chances of Sweden… and they succeeded in that by fielding another inferior squad in their last game against Italy – this time FC Porto refused to let its players playing for the national team with the argument they were much needed fresh for the coming Intercontinental Cup. Italy did not have to put much effort to beat the Portuguese 3-0, but by then Sweden ended their games and Italy already won the group.
Malta – last, as expected, but got 2 points, which was kind of successful campaign for them. 0 2 6 4-21 2 points.
Switzerland – 4th, also pretty much as expected. From left to right: Roger Wehrli, Heinz Hermann, Georges Bregy, Alain Sutter, René Botteron, Christian Matthey, Charly In-Albon, Alain Geiger, Claudio Sulser, Erich Burgener, André Egli. 1 5 2 9-9 7 points.
Portugal – 3rd. Here is one of the strange formations they fielded because of the scandal – in view of that, may be not so bad performance. 2 4 2 6-8 8 points.
Sweden – 2nd. This is the team which won over Italy in Stockholm and placed Sweden on top of the table – top, left to right: Glenn Strömberg, Thomas Ravelli, Glenn Hysén, Peter Larsson, Lennart Nilsson, Stig Fredriksson. Bottom, left to right: Johnny Ekström, Robert Prytz, Ulf Eriksson, Roland Nilsson, Hans Holmqvist. Not a bad team, but inconsistent. 4 2 2 12-5 10 points.
Italy – hardly a great squad, but the Italians were often able to sneak themselves in when nobody was taking them seriously and did it again. 6 1 1 16-4 13 points.
Group 3. France, USSR, DDR, Norway, Iceland. A battle between France and USSR was expected. However, in early 19865, at the time of the draw, that was certainty, which collapsed even before the year ended. France sharply declined, which was expected – the great generation of Platini and Co. aged and due to retire and the next was not so talented. The curve inevitably was going down, reaching its peak already in 1984. Yet, nobody supposed so sharp decline so fast. USSR had its problems, but of a different nature – rivalry and mutual dislike between Dinamo Kiev and Dnepr Dnepropetrovsk played a role and pigheaded Lobanovsky irritated observers and fans by ignoring Dnepr players, particularly Litovchenko and Protassov. Dnepr, it should be pointed out, was the best team at the moment – hence the irritation. A string of injuries contributed to the mood against Lobanovsky’s choises – he often preferred to improvise and called suspect players – particularly Khidiatullin (Spartak Moscow), who routinely underperformed in the national team, and aging Chivadze and Sulakvelidze from declining Dinamo Tbilisi. In coach’s defense can be said that his Dinamo Kiev was long enough and versatile team, he knew perfectly what his own players were capable of and also was able to motivate them – his dictatorial methods were difficult to swallow for players from other clubs, so the best way to avoid rebellion was to call the already tamed. As for what agenda was top in his head… as soon as the long and scandalous saga of the transfer of Litovcnehko and Protassov from Dnepr to Dinamo Kiev ended successfully for Lobanovsky, he included them in the national team right away. No matter what, USSR was not in the situation of France – they had plenty of talent and a team going up and not at its peak yet . Meantime East Germany got a new talented generation – some of them would be big stars for unified Germany in the 1990s – so instead of duel between USSR and France, DDR and USSR competed for the 1988 finals.

Norway finished last. Top row from left: Roste Fossen, Andersen, Ahlsen, Thoresen, Bratseth, Kojedal.
Middle row: Okland, Soler, Giske, Herlovsen, Osvold.
Bottom: Henriksen, Thorsvedt, Mordt, Rise.
1 2 5 5-12 4 points.
Iceland – 4th. Improving, having well respected stars, but as the result against East Germany shows, still modest team. Came ahead of Norway – that was the measure of success. 2 2 4 4-14 6 points.
France – 3rd. A disgrace, but inevitable… Henri Michel announced well in advance that he is going to build new team. After the 1986 World Cup Bossis, Giresse, and Rocheteau announced their retirement from the national team. Tigana was also planning to quit, Platini was hinting the same – Michel succeeded in persuading both stars not to go yet, but it was partial success: Platini said that he is staying in the national team only because it needed help, but will not be always available. He was not going to play the first game in Reykjavik for sure. France still had some teeth left, but as a whole they performed miserably, winning only once – at home against Iceland, which was also the last game Platini played for France and three months later he announced his full retirement from the game. 1 4 3 4-7 6 points. Ahead of Iceland only on better goal-difference…
DDR was always a tough opponent, but mostly trouble maker than a real contender. This time, though, there was a bright new generation of which Kirsten and Thom were rapidly rising, eventually becoming huge stars in the 1990s. Suddenly there was a team capable of matching the great team of 1974 and they compteted with USSR for top position – the direct clash between them decided the group winner and DDR lost the battle after losing 0-2 away in April 1987 and then unable to beat the Soviets at home in October 1987, 1-1. The East Germans played the last group game and won the away match against France, but it was only for pride – USSR already finished their games and was unreachable. 4 3 1 13-4 11 points.
USSR was expected favourite and possible winner and they delivered. No matter what problems and frictions existed, the Soviets had great generation and great, no matter how controversial, coach and managed to steer clear of big trouble. The French collapse helped too, but as a whole, team USSR was well prepared and focused and even without really outstanding performances, they managed to win game after game. It was strong and very experienced team – most of all that. Practically, Dinamo Kiev plus the great goalkeeper Dassaev. A handful of other players Lobanovsky used for a long time too, but as the picture above shows, no more than 2-3 of them at a time. In the crucial games against DDR – three of the 13 used were from other clubs in the home match; four of the 13 used in the away game. Against France: 5 from 13 in the first match and 4 from 13 in the second. Practically, there were no debutantes – Tishtenko and Lossev played a single match each (well, Tishtenko only half a match, for he was substitued at half-time); Dobrovolsky – twice (once substituted). Only once more than one newcomer played – Dobrovolsky and Lossev started in the home match against France, but Dobrovolsky did not finish the game, substituted in the 70th minute. Gaps were usually filled by Dinamo’s players – injured Demyanenko was replaced by his midfield teammate Ratz, for instance. In any case Lobanovsky preferred versatile players, capable of playing different positions like Bessonov, Sulakvelidze, Alleynikov, and Khidiatullin to those playing strict positions. Team USSR rarely shined during the qualifications, but always got what they wanted and that only counts – at the end of the day, they did not lose a game. 5 3 0 14-3 13 points.
Group 4. England, Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia, Turkey. Well, England was the favourite, possibly fighting with Yugoslavia and just in case – with Northern Ireland. One interesting aspect of this group was its schedule – in all other groups there was chaotic approach, negotiated between the opponents in a way rightly or wrongly convenient to their schemes for outfoxing the opposition not just on the pitch. By sharp contrast, the schedule in Group 4 was fair – everybody played in the same day and there were no strings of games followed by long pauses. Apart from that – no surprises at all. England dominated, Yugoslavia, going through shaky period, was not real challenger, Northern Ireland played without heroics, and Turkey was bellow the others.

Turkish football was improving, but still was unable to narrow the gap – predictably, Turkey finished last. 0 2 4 2-16 2 points.
Northern Ireland left little evidence of their campaign – this is not even a picture from the qualifications, but still one around the 1986 World Cup, yet, it suits the purpose: with its limited resources, the Irish were hardly able to make brand new team – it was practically the same they used at the World Cup minus retired Pat Jennings. Hence, a photo with Jim Platt… who was not a newcomer at all. And that sums it all, for lovely Northern Irish short of heroics were almost nothing. Ordinary modest campaign and predictable 3rd place. 1 1 4 2-10 3 points.
Yugoslavia – 2nd, as expected. As a whole, the 80s were shaky decade for the Yugoslavs – they still had plenty of high-profiled stars, but somehow never all of them coincided in time and never enough for really strong team. Still, not a team to be ignored, but… at best second-best. This squad is point in case – standing from left: Zoran Vujović, Srećko Katanec, Mauro Ravnić, Ljubomir Radanović, Faruk Hadžibegić, Mirsad Baljić. First row: Borislav Cvetković, Fadilj Vokri, Zlatko Vujović, Mehmed Baždarević, Marko Mlinarić. Some already aging, others not at their peak yet, and few obviously ordinary for there were nothing else. Strong enough to beat the likes of Northern Ireland and Turkey, but not up to the real test – they lost both games with England. It was particularly humiliating at home: 1-4! 4 0 2 13-9 8 points.
There was already a pattern, which probably blinded the British somewhat and nobody else: England was superior in qualification groups, which suggested a revival of great years and may be new success at last, but then at the finals – bland nothing. England, however, did not play badly at the 1986 World Cup and if not for the shameful goal Maradona scored with his hand… that obscured reality: England certainly played better than ever did since 1971, but not brilliantly. Stubborn old deficiencies remained in their approach to the game. The great qualification campaign was to a big degree wrongly taken as a revival. The future looked bright… Tony Adams and David Seaman were already noticed, that was the shining future… But nobody can argue successfully against formidable statistics: 5 1 0 19-1 11 points.

African Player Of The Year

African Player of the Year. Among the top 10 six were European-based and 8 nationalities were represented – Egypt, Ghana and Cameroon had 2 players each. But the best of all was without rival, collecting 130 points in the voting – twice as many as the second-best. Francois Oman-Biyik (Cameroon and Stade Lavallois, France) was third with 52 points. Youssouf Fofana (Cote d’Ivoir and AC Monaco, France) – second with 63 points.
Rabah Madjer (Algeria and FC Porto, Portugal) was practically undisputed first with 130 points. At 29, he was well known and respected name in Africa, having played for his native Algeria since 1978, but it was his recent success in Europe which propelled him to the top. Of course, he impressed at home first, playing for NA Hussain Day/MA Hussain Day 94 games in which scored 58 goals between 1975 and 1983. That helped him to a contract with Racing Club (Paris) in 1983, where he stayed until the end of 1985 season – which he finished loaned to another French side: Tours. So far – nothing much, really… Racing Club was still in the lower French leagues. But his transfer to FC Porto changed things significantly – now it was a team competing for titles and Algeria had impressive World Cup finals. But it was really 1986-87 season putting him in the spotlights, particularly the famous cheeky goal scored at the European Champions Cup final against Bayern with which FC Porto won the trophy. It was long climb to the top, but well deserved, although recognition was largely due to a stellar moment. Now even his memorable goal against West Germany at the 1982 World Cup was recycled – Madjer was really something: he steadily destroyed Germans, the best measure for greatness. Yet, it was a bit of a bitter success: he missed the Intercontinental Cup final, which FC Porto won without his help and three lucrative contracts did not materialized – Inter (Milan) dismissed him after discovering serious injury at the medical check, Bayern wanted him quite seriously, but nothing happened at the end and Johan Cruijff was furious with his bosses in Ajax for making FC Porto canceling the negotiations. Yet, FC Porto was seemingly willing to part with Madjer, for they loaned him to Spanish Valencia – which did not work well and Madjer was back after playing a few months for Valencia. So, 1986-87 was a period of both triumph and frustration, but nevertheless the highest point in the long career of Madjer – and voted number one in Africa confirmed it.

African Champions Cup

African Champions Cup. Again, withdrawals – Sporting Moura (Central African Republic) and Old Edwardians (Sierra Leone) before the first leg of the Preliminary Round. Then before the First Round – Sporting Clube Bissau (Guinea Bissau), Al-Ittihad (Lybia), and Juvenil Reyes (Equatorial Guinea). And AS Police (Mauritania) was disqualified after the first leg for not paying their dues. After that, no more trouble. Three of the leading African clubs reached the semi-fnals and there was one surprise: Al-Hillal (Sudan) eliminated Canon Yaounde (Cameroon) 1-0, 0-1, and 4-1 penalty shoot-out. In the other semi-final Al-Ahly (Egypt) eliminated Asante Kotoko (Ghana) 2-0 and 0-1. It was even something as a revenge, for Asante Kotoko eliminated the other Egyptian team and 1986 Champions Cup winner Zamalek in rather humiliating manner (0-2 and 5-1).
And at the final there was little doubt which team was stronger – Al-Ahly kept 0-0 tie at The Stadium in Khartoum, then won the second leg at the International Stadium in Cairo 2-0.
Heroic season for Al-Hillal (Omdurman), but there was difference of class at the end. Still, they made kind of sensation by reaching the final.
Well deserved victory of Al-Ahly, which continued their triumphal march: after 3 consecutive Cup Winners Cup wins, they won the Champions Cup. This was remarkable run: from 1982 to 1987 Al-Ahly played African final every year and lost only the Champions Cup final in 1983 to Asante Kotoko. They won so far 1 Champions Cup (1982) and 3 Cup Winners Cup (1984, 1985, and 1986). Now they won their 2nd Champions Cup, rapidly becoming the best African club ever.

African Cup Winners Cup

African Cup Winners Cup. The usual… Real Repunlicans (Sierra Leone) withdrew without playing in the Preliminary Round. In the same opening stage Lybia FC (Lybia) was disqualified, also before playing a game. In the First Round Ela Nguema (Equatorial Guinea) and Sporting Clube Batafa (Guinea Bissau) withdrew. The rest was played smoothly and at the semi-finals Abiola Boys (Nigeria) was eliminated by Esperance (Tunis) 1-0 and 0-2, and Dragons de l’Ouémé (Benin) lost to Gor Mahia (Kenya) 0-0 and 2-3.
So, the big final: Esperance vs Gor Mahia. It finished unresolved – 2-2 and 1-1. But the away-goal rule was established and benefited Gor Mahia – they scored 2 goals away in Tunis.
Hard to lose unbeaten, but rules are rules… Esperance Sportive de Tunis went home empty-handed.
Lucky perhaps, but the flagship of Kenyan football finally got international success – Gor Mahia reached a final for the first time and won the Cup Winners Cup. Historic victory for both club and country.


Algeria. The development of African football was acclaimed around the world, but the rapid improvement did not mean all that much at home – the oldest and better organized leagues along the Mediterranean coast still had gaps. Thus, Algerian football was already going on the road of full professionalism, but as late as 1986-87 it is impossible to establish reliable records: how many goals MS Oran scored this season is still disputable. What happened to ESM Guelma? If they were relegated, why? Or were they were expelled for some violations of rules? Or what? Anyhow, Algerian football was one of the best organized in Africa, having a very long tradition. The top league had 20 teams, but was going to be reduced to 18 the next season – so, 5 teams were going down and 3 were promoted from second level. USK Alger, JSM Tiaret, JSM Skikda earned promotion. The last 4 in the top league were relegated: WO Boufarik, last with 27 points, MB Saida – 19th with 28 points, GCR Masacara – 18th with 31 points, and CM Constantine – 17th with 33 points. One more team had to go down, however… and that should have been the 16th: WM Tlemcem. But they stayed. Apparently ESM Guelma, 13th with 37 point disappeared from the league. Since nobody seems able to find why, statisticians keep the final table with a question mark – ‘relegated?’
The rest was normal.
JS Bordj Menaiel finished 9th with 40 points.
Better known Mouloudia – MC Alger – finished 10th with 39 points.
One club was above the rest, had a splendid season and won the title easily:
Entente Sportive Setifienne – usually known just as ES Setif (but sometimes written EP Setif) – won 19 games, tied 10 and lost 9. Scored 40 goals, received 22. 48 points left MP Oran 6 points behind. Not the best scorers – 7 teams scored more than them (most of all this season scored RCM Relizane – 49. They finished 15th), but had the best defence – the only other team allowing less than 30 goals in their net was JE Tizi Ouzou with 28; they finished 6th. Ties dominated the championship – only 2 teams ended with less than 10 – so the champions were quite modest in that department – they mostly won games and that makes one a champion.
Excellent season for ES Setif, no doubt about it. And historic one as well – they won their 2nd title after a considerable wait.


Canada. From the ashes of NASL professional football was reborn in Canada – it was a second attempt, after short-lived Eastern Canada Professional Soccer League, which lasted from 1961 to 1965. 8 teams participated in the first championship of the Canadian Soccer League – their rosters were mainly made of former NASL players, but it was modest affair compared to NASL: no big foreign names were hired, it was largely domestic talent. The difficulties were old and obvious: travel concerns, which inevitably were money concerns. Soccer existed in Canada since late 19th century, failing to even register in the minds of the mainstream population, so there was little hope for big attendance to cover the costs. Thus, the championship formula was odd – the teams were divided in two Divisions, Eastern and Western, 4 teams each. They played 4 times against opponents in the same Division and twice against opponents from the other Division – that made a regular season of 20 games, after which the play-offs started – first a Division final, between the top in each division: a semifinal between the 2nd and the 3rd and then the winner played against the division winner. And then the division champions played the final for the league title. The original members were: Hamilton Steelers, Otawa Pioneers, Toronto Blizzard, and North York Rockets in the Eastern Division and Vancouver 86ers, Calgary Kickers, Edmonton Brickmen, and Winnipeg Fury in the Western Division.
Here is the long forgotten Winnipeg Fury – they happened to be weak in the opening season – only North York Rockets finished with worse record than theirs.
The very first league game was played in Aylmer, Quebec, which was the home of Ottawa Pioneers, in front of 2500 fans. That sums it all: a team had no big money to play on big venue, sometimes having to play out of town just because of it and in turn it was practically impossible to get real exposure and built bigger fan-base. Small crowds, small out of the way venues, just trying to survive. But never mind, football is tough. Hamilton Steelers won the Eastern Division followed by Ottawa Pioneers. In the Western Division Calgary Kickers was best, followed by Vancouver 86ers. Then the real championship started in earnest: in the Eastern semifinal Ottawa lost to Toronto 1-2. However, Hamilton was best – at the final they won 1-0 against Toronto Blizzard.
In the West Vancouver eliminated Edmonton 2-1, but in the final Calgary still remained best, beating Vancouver 86ers 4-3.
In the big league final the West prevailed: Calgary won 2-1 vs Hamilton.
Hamilton Steelers ended second – not bad at all.

Calgary Kickers team photo 1987 – Calgary, AB, CAN Canada Soccer Archives SITTING: .. Sue Daniels .. FRONT ROW: .. .. .. Kevin Scullion .. .. Ron Knipschild David Hughes Sven Haberman Gord Weidle Derek Ballendine Mike Scullion Colin Hargreaves SECOND ROW: .. .. Dino Pasquqate John Catliff Chris Daniels Peter Weininger .. .. Randy Okubo James Jim Armstrong Bruce Angus Gary Thorne .. Peter Welsh .. BACK ROW: Scott McGeoch Marco Aravena Rob Hackl Kenny Price Burk Kaiser Drew Stanley Greg Kern Graham Slee David Phillips Harry Hackl

Calgary Kickers won the first professional championship of Canada Soccer League.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica. The oldest championship in Central America had one more season largely invisible to the big football world.
Alajuelense, perhaps too much involved in international tournaments, failed to win.
It was not Deportivo Saprissa’s year either.
Herediano won and it was significant victory for one of the traditional powers in Costa Rica – it was their 20th title. Well, depending on what is counted, since one of their victories was of a championship running concurrent to the one governed by the Federation. Or the other way around – it was long ago and hard to tell for sure who recognized what. Still, it was 20th title for the club, no matter what others said, and such number is no small achievement.

Mexico I Division

First Division. 21 teams, to be reduced to 20, so 2 teams relegated this season. Divided into 4 groups, yet, playing against all league members twice. The teams with least points – relegated. The top 2 teams of every group going to the play-offs. Well, traditionally the English championship was considered the longest and most grueling – consider this: in Mexico, after 40 games in the first stage 8 teams continued to add championship games and the finalists ended with 46 games – or 47, if there was no winner after the two legs. In England – 42 games were played in First and Second Division.
The first stage:
Group 1:
Necaxa – last with 33 points.
Atlante – 4th with 34 points.
Toluca – 3rd with 37 points.
Monterrey was 2nd with 39 points and Tecos – or Universidad Autonoma Guadalajara, or UAG – 1st also with 39 points, but better goal-difference. Both teams qualified to the play-offs.
Group 2.
Leon – last with 32 points. Unfortunately, they finished with the second worst record in the league and were relegated. Champions of 1983, now going down.
Deportivo Neza – 4th with 39 points.
Tampico Madero – 3rd with 41 points. Were they in Group 1, they would be going to the play-off… here – end of the road.
UANL finished 2nd with 44 points and Guadalajara – CD Guadalajara, or Chivas – were group winners with 55 points. They had the best record at the first stage.
Group 3.
Atlas – last with 33 points.

Universidad de Guadalajara – or Leones Negros – 4th with 36 points.
UNAM – or Pumas – 3rd with 40 points.
Puebla, 2nd with 42 points, and Morelia, 1st with 47 points, qualified to the play-offs.
Group 4.
Cobras (Queretaro) – last with 31 points. And since that was the worst record in the league, they were relegated. Not living up to their deadly name, but what can you do?
Angeles (Puebla) – 5th with 34 points.
Irapuato – 4th with 36 points.
Atletico Potosino – 3rd with 42 points.
America, 2nd with 52 points, and Cruz Azul, 1st with 54 points, qualified to the next stage.
The play-offs – or quarter-finals – were live or die, like any cup-format.
Monterrey, the Mexican champions of 1985-86, were eliminated by CD Guadalajara by a goal: 3-3 and 0-1.
America went down by a goal too, losing to Puebla 2-2 and 1-2.
Tecos – or UAG – lost to Cruz Azul, but only after penalty shoot-out: 2-0, 0-2, 2-3 penalty shoot out.
UANL – or Tigres – lost to Morelia 2-3 and 0-2.
In the semifinals
Puebla was eliminated by CD Guadalajara 0-2 and 0-2.
Morelia lost to Cruz Azul 2-0 and 1-4.
Thus, the big final was between the strongest teams all the way from the star of the championship – Cruz Azul (Mexico City) and CD Guadalajara (Guadalajara). The boys from the industrial capital of Jalisco were stronger and made no mistakes – they won both legs: 1-0 and 3-2.
Strong season for Cruz Azul, but second-best.

For outsiders, the squad is fairly anonymous – even those following World Cup could recognized only a handful of names, those playing for the national team of Mexico. But a team consistently strong in such a long season as the Mexican, must be quite good. All together, they won 26 games, tied 14, and lost 6. Scored 75 goals, received 33. In the play-offs they were unbeaten: 5 wins and 1 tie. Scored 12 goal, allowed 5. Very impressive record. Club Deportivo Guadalajara, increasingly becoming officially known as Chivas, won its 9th title. This was their first title since 1970, so they were back with vengeance – and bettered their record as the most successful Mexican club. Cruz Azul stayed 2nd with 7 titles.

Mexico II Division

Mexico. The well established formula remained unchanged: the top two divisions were divided into 4 groups, but the teams played twice against all teams. After that the top 2 teams in every group proceeded to the next stage. At this point the formulas differed – direct play-offs to the final in First Division, but not so in Second Division – over there the 8 remaining teams were again divided in 2 groups and the winners went the final to compete for the title and promotion. Two teams were relegated from First Division and one was promoted from Second Division – which was to even the numbers in both leagues, for presently they were 21 in the top league and 19 in the second level. Those with least points at the end of first stage of First Division went down. Relegation from Second Division was differently decided: the team with least points at the end of the first stage was directly relegated. The 4 teams at the bottom by total points in the initial stage went to final tournament between themselves and the last two were relegated. Not very complicated, but still questionable concept, as it will be shown. The ever present trouble with Mexican football was names and franchises – who was who and for how long? Is there direct relation between some contemporary club and one with the same name from past? To which city a team really belongs and what is its name? Official name and popular nicknames are seemingly always mixed in the tables, often alternative names given in the one and same information of championship. Nothing certain… so here and there alternatives shall be given.
The Mexican formula had been suspect largely in terms of objective strength and this Second Division championship was a great example of it – the groups were drawn in unfortunate way: four of the strongest teams this season happened to be together in Group 2, so inevitably two of them did not qualified to the next stage. In the same time Group 1 was the weakest – three of the five teams went to the relegation tournament and those who qualified to the next stage were rather weak so far. Since at the end of the season a full combined table was made, the discrepancy is hard to ignore:
If the formula was standard league formula, Santos Laguna would have been unquestionable winner: they had 66 points after 36 games, 9 more than second-best Tecoman. Jalisco would have been 3rd. Nut as the formula was… Jalisco did not even qualified to the next stage, for the top three were together in Group 2. In standard league championship the eventual winner would have been… 12th with their 45 points. However, nothing like that happened at the bottom, for relegation depended on points, not on group standing and the relegated team was last on both accounts: last in the meaningless final table and last in the relegation tournament.
Zacatecas, or Mineros (Zacatecas) was directly relegated – they were last with 27 points and worst goal-difference in the combined table.
The next four at the bottom played the final relegation tournament: Nuevo Necaxa and Pachuca ended out. Progreso (Cocula) and Chetumal survived. If it was just direct relegation – Nueva Necaxa was going to be relegated, but not Pachuca – Progreso would have been. Zacatecas, Chetumal, and Pachuca played in Group 1… Nueva Necaxa played in Group 2, Progreso – in Group 3, and no team in Group 4 was too weak to end in danger of relegation.
In the next stage things changed… In Group 1 Texcoco finished last with 4 points, Tecoman was 3rd with 6 points, Pioneros (Cancun) – 2nd with 8 points, and U.A. Queretaro won the group with 10 points. In its original Group 4 Queretaro quaified as 2nd in the group with 50 points – which placed them 6th in the combined final table. But they reached the final.
More surprised in Group 2: Universidad de Colima was last with 6 points, Zacatepes – 3rd with 6 points, Santos Laguna – 2nd with 7 points and on top – Correcaminos UAT with 11 points. In the combined table the winners were 12th… Meantime the originally formidable Santos Laguna lost all of its steam – either that, or Correcaminos, placed in the weakest original group played at first the bare minimum in order to qualify, saving strength for the games which mattered.
May be before the final of the season the rest of league members should be given with alternatives in brackets and final position in the combined table: Tapatio, 14th, La Piedad (or Reboceros), 13th, Tepic (or Deportivo, or Deportivo Tepic J.A.P.), 11th, Oaxaca (or Chapulineros), 10th, Texcoco (or Faraones may be? Or Club de Futbol Texcoco? Or Toros?), 8th, Orizaba (or Albinegros), 7th.
So, the final – two-legged affair, contested between U.A. Tamaulipas and U.A. Queretaro. Then again… contested between Correcaminos and Gallos Blancos. Or between Correcaminos de la UAT and Gallos Blancos de la UAQ. Same teams, different varieties of names, go figure. They were equal, though and the two legs produced no victor – 0-0 and 1-1. Third match was stage, at Azteca in Mexico City, neutral ground. This match ended scoreless – 0-0 – and the last resort was penalty shoot-out, where Correcaminos prevailed 4-2. High drama.
Thus Correcaminos UAT – best known as Correcaminos – was the champion of Second Division and promoted to the top league. How fair was that is another story, but they won and that was all of importance. A return to top flight in their case. They won the championship of Second Division for the first time. Still… in a normal championship formula, they would have been 12th…

CONCACAF Champions Cup

CONCACAF Champions Cup – or Copa de Campeones y Subcampeones CONCACAF, as the tournament is officially called. The usual messy and rather strangely organized competition, in which the only worthy teams were the Mexican: America and Monterrey. They, however, could not reach the big final both – at the final of Northern/Central Section one of them was inevitably out. One may argue that stronger teams (from Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador) were actually in impossible position unlike the much weaker Caribbean teams, but such was the construction of the tournament. US teams were practically a joke – San Pedro Yugoslavs (who did not even play – they withdrew) and St. Louis Kutis SC and the Mexican sailed to the final in which America won over Monterrey 3-3 and 2-0. Thus, one of the CONCACAF was America.
The Caribbean Section was even murkier: the representatives of Surinam – Robin Hood and Paloeloe withdrew for financial reasons at the first leg. The whole divide into sections hardly made sense – few Caribbean states participated and among those who did not was even Haiti, better known to most thanks to their play at the 1974 World Cup. Jamaica had only one team in the tournament, which required 2 of every country. In the second leg the second match between Defence Force (Trinidad & Tobago) and Club Franciscain was not played – apparently, the hosts of it, Club Francisacain, decided to withdrew after losing the first game. At this stage is also entirely unclear how Etoile de Morne-à-l’Eau (Guadelupe) was eliminated – by results, they won against VSADC (St Lucia) 0-0 and 3-1. Seemingly, records of semi-final round are non-existent – if there was such round. However, 3 teams qualified from the previous round, yet the next was already the final and between the teams of Trinidad & Tobaco – Defence Force (who played so far just one match – they had a bye in the first round, then Club Franciscain withdrew before the second leg) and Trintoc, who played solid 4 games before reaching the final (they successfully eliminated teams with outlandish names – Rick’s Superstars from Saint Vincent first and then Golden Star from Martinique). Where and why Etoile de Morne-a-l’Eau evaporated nobody knows… The clash of Trinidad ended with Defence Force victory – 1-1 and 2-1 – and once again they had a chance to win the CONCACAF trophy. On theory. In reality they managed a tie at home – 1-1 – and lost in Mexico 0-2.
One can appreciate Defence Force in their own terms – a small team from small country, which was doing quite good on international level. But not when against them were real professionals – no matter how determined and heroic, they had no chance.
America (Mexico City) won the CONCACAF Champions Cup for a second time.