Moment of the year

Antoher year ends… what could be the most memorable moment of it? The World Cup finals… the fantastic goal of Gemmill against Holland… or the turning point for Argentina – the penalty saved by Fillol against Poland perhaps? Or the goals at the final, especially the winning one? Well, let’s chose something else:

Another goal scored by Argentina against Peru. The ‘fixed’ match… the ‘culprit’ in the middle: the Argentinian-born goalkeeper of Peru Ramon Quiroga. May be deliberately letting in one more goal… and Kempes, the hero of the championship and of the whole year , right in front. The truth shall be never known, the match remains suspect, the Argentine victory a bit tarnished, and so on. Controversy may be the word describing 1978 best…


After the enigma of Cruyff’s retirement it is only proper to introduce another enigma – a player praised as great hope debuted in 1977-78. However, very little can be said about him today – his career has many ‘blanks’… ‘Blanks’ from start to end and beyond. The name is Thomas Lafchis – or Laftsis… how his name appears in Latin alphabet depends on the original source – Lafchis, if it is transliterated from Bulgarian; Laftsis, if it is from Greek. He was born in August, 1958, in Sofia, Bulgaria, and gradually climbed through the youth system of Levski-Spartak (Sofia). He was noticed as a very talented junior, included in the first team, and quickly made great impression between the goalposts. The young goalkeeper was seemingly going to be a big star, surely a national team player, and who knows what else. By the end of 1978-79 he was already a champion and twice Cup winner – after such beginning sky was the limit. But his meteoric rise was followed… by sudden disappearance. A quick glance of his statistic record immediately brings problems – scarce information and mysterious too. For instance, Wikipedia gives two other clubs before his debut for Levski-Spartak – Cherno more (Varna) and Sliven (Sliven). How many matches he played for them? Unknown… Lafchis finished 1976-77 season captaining the juniors of Levski-Spartak. For the next season he was registered with the first team – if he was part of above mentioned clubs, it must have been between seasons, during the summer of 1977… when no matches were played, it was training and recruiting period, probably lasting less than a month, between vacation and registration of new squads for the upcoming season. A mystery… since both Cherno more and Sliven were military clubs at the time, it s possible that he went on trials there – talented young players often spent their military service as active players of military clubs. But both clubs were in the system of the arch-enemy of Levski-Spartak – CSKA – which makes it unlikely destination unless Levski was not interested in his own player. Normally, military service of Levski players went in the club – Levski belonged to the Police, which had its own militarized service. But Lafchis was an ethnic Greek – a fact, which by itself did not spare him from army service, but later development casts different light on the matter: Lafchis did not even artificially served in the Bulgarian army, apparently on the strength of foreign citizenship, probably obtained at about the time of his coming to military age. Was he ever with Cherno more and Sliven is very doubtful – he started the season as a player of Levski-Sparak, the club he started playing football as a kid. He just finished high school in the spring, so there was no even slight possibility he went to clubs in other cities earlier.

The new goalkeeper was universally seen as a back-up goalie – Levski-Spartak had the national team regular Stefan Staykov as a first choice. Youngsters were rarely given starting positions at 18 and goalkeepers even less so – Lafchis was perhaps to appear in a few matches, may be not even full games, but a few minutes here and there, against weak opponents, coming in as a reserve. May be not even that, because Staykov was in very good form and he played in the most matches of the national team in 1977. In general, Lafchis was expected to weight at the bench a few years, when he was to be more mature and experienced. But it was not so – he made very unusual debut in the fall of 1977 in the derby with CSKA. Youngsters without a single official game are the most unlikely choice for starting in a derby, but the circumstances were dire… A week before Levski-Spartak traveled to Amsterdam for the second leg of the 1/8 European Champions Cup with Ajax with only 12 players – the 12th was their single reserve, the second goalie Lafchis. The team was plagued by injuries and more players were added to the list after the matches with Ajax. For the derby Levski-Spartak scraped the very bottom… whoever was able to walk. The central defender Enchev was moved to midfield, just to make a starting eleven. Four players had no official match for Levski yet, among them – Lafchis. The improvised team was seen as sure loser… instead, they played fantastic match, annihilating CSKA 4-1. Lafchis was impressive between the goalposts – if so far he was seen as promising, but uncertain future player, now suddenly he was praised to the skies. However, in his first season he was still used sparsely – Staykov was the first choice. Lafchis ended his first season as a Bulgarian Cup winner, not bad for a start. His second year was vastly different – he edged Staykov from the regular place in the team, had a strong and unusually even for a young goalkeeper performance, and was expected to be called to the national team. Everybody was sure that he will be a long-lasting and solid addition of the national team – may be for the next ten or more years, what luck! Lafchis finished the season with a double… Staykov was reserve of Lafchis by now and how often an acting national team player sits on the bench of his club, a mere back-up of barely 20-years old?

Levski-Spartak, a Bulgarian champion and Cup winner in 1978-79. Lafchis sitting in the middle of the first row.

He was certainly becoming a star – this photo is telling: Lafchis with the championship trophy in his hands between Stefan Staykov and Pavel Panov (left). Taking the place of national team player and symbolically next to the greatest star and captain of Levski-Spartak of the 1970s, Panov. There was no doubt who was the next great player and it was not even a matter of time anymore.

There was no Lafchis in the squad of Levski-Spartak for the 1979-80 season… no such player in any other team… Nothing. Not a word, not even a hint, in the press – it was like there had not been such player at all… Eventually, the grapevine cleared the mystery – to a point, because rumors are hardly the truth. Lafchis was allowed to repatriate (to emigrate is perhaps the more proper term, for he was born in Bulgaria) – there was already a precedent: back in 1975 highly talented young midfielder and Bulgarian national team player Kostas Isakidis was permitted to go to Greece. True to their vow of silence, the Communist authorities said next to nothing and only after months. No more news of Isakidis ever came… it was not a football transfer, for Communist Bulgaria did not export players, but ‘only’ permitting the ethnic Greek to move to his homeland. Of course, it had to do with football – Bulgarian Greeks were not permitted to move to Greece: rarely, particular individuals were quietly allowed to do so, but very rarely. Isakidis went to play of Aris (Thesaloniki)… and vanished. He made no impression in Greece, rather faded away – to a point, his problem was that he already played for Bulgaria and had no chance of ever becoming Greek national team player. Four years later Lafchis was let go the rumor made his case slightly different than the one of Isakidis: it was said that the permission was actually a deal between Panathinaikos, who wanted the talented player, and Levski-Spartak. A hidden transfer, for foreign transfers were officially impossible. Lafchis was in much better position than Isakidis – he moved to the biggest Greek club (according to the rumor) and since he never played for Bulgaria, most likely he was to be soon the national goalkeeper of Greece. A great future was envisioned: Greek football was rising, Panathinaikos was rich club, Lafchis, young, talented, and now in true professional situation was most likely to become not just Greek, but European star. Nothing was heard of him for years… star named ‘Lafchis’ never appeared. Instead, a quick look at his statistic record shows a gap… Lafchis debuted not in the fall of 1979, when he moved to Greece, but in 1981. Not for Panathinaikos either, but for the still virtually unknown outside Greece OFI Crete, a small club… There he stayed for the next two years, but… a next glance of statistics is in order: Lafchis played for OFI a total of 33 matches. Playing in less than 50% of the official matches of so-so club hardly suggests impressive career…

Lafchis eventually reached Panathinaikos – in the summer of 1983 and stayed with the club for two years.

Here he is a PAO player, but a star? Hardly… His numbers improved – 55 matches in two years, well over 50%, yet, not exactly overwhelming starter. May be adapting to life in Greece was difficult and halted his career, but if one traces his complete record… to the end of 1984-85 season Lafchis was never a regular – 27 matches for Levski-Spartak in 2 season, then 2 ’empty’ years, then 33 for OFI in 2 seasons, and 55 for Panathinaikos in 2 years. After 7 years of professional football, Lafchis achieved roughly a 50% average – certainly, a doubtful player, not a star… Greece had weaker goalkeepers than Bulgaria at the time, so the fact that he never appeared for Greece casts more doubts. And just when he seemingly came into some more reliable performance, he vanished again… after the end of 1984-85 season he was no longer part of Panathinaikos – most statistical records do not mention any club; Wikipedia places him in Belgium. A mystery again: just ‘a Belgian club’ is written, no name, no appearances… at least statistical records of the First Belgian league have no mentioning of such player. If he ever played in Belgium, it had to be in the lower divisions – clearly a step down… after playing for the top Greek club. He reappeared again in Greece – between 1987 and 1989 he played again for OFI Crete, a measly 15 matches. 30-years old he was retired from football… 130 matches in 12 years is nothing… was Lafchis just one of the countless failed players, who showed great talent at first, but quickly faded into obscurity? May be, but even this cannot be supported by evidence – very little is written about Lafchis: generally, only that he was a professional player. His current life is similar mystery.

In 1991 he reemerged in Bulgaria, now presented as a successful businessman, who became president of his original club, Levski. At the time, his appearance was welcomed with great hopes: Communism just fell down and the grip of the Communist party over football as well. Levski restored its original name and Lafchis was seen clearly as a new and sound beginning of proper professional era: coming from the West, rich, experienced, and loyal to the club he started with as a kid, certainly a fan. He was to introduce ‘normal’ business practices in the club and guide it to greatness… Big hopes, and naivete, for football clubs are never run like ‘normal’ business… and it was soon clear: was Lafchis a president or an owner? It was said ‘authoritatively’ that when he finished his money, he got rid of the club. It was said that he sold a whole team just to cover personal losses… that he sold the club to the next owner, who was no longer even called president. But the information is scarce: Lafchis was at the helm of Levski for 8 years – as a whole, successful period. Very quickly Lafchis got the best coaches and players of Bulgaria and they were winning. With time, controversies popped up – he was accused of looking after his own profit and manipulates officials. Then he was accused of ruining the club by going personally broke… Nothing is really established – pros and cons are largely journalistic and opinions. Fans, both of Levski and rival clubs, add folklore.

Thomas Lafchis as Persident of Levski (Sofia). Perhaps the moment remaining most vividly in memory is his refusal to play a Cup final against CSKA in 1996. The boycott of the Bulgarian League Cup final is remembered just because it was a scandal. Lafchis wanted foreign referees – he accused the appointed one of manipulating matches in favour of CSKA. It was a big accusation implicating everybody in Bulgarian football in massive corruption. But it was not very convincing argument – first, it was nothing new, and second, Lafchis himself was accused on numerous occasions of scheming and manipulating . Not even Levski’s fans were entirely convinced he was doing the right thing – they were hoping for another victory over the arch-enemy, not for the opposite (CSKA was awarded victory, since Levski did not show up, and got the Cup.) Fans of CSKA argued that Lafchis thought CSKA was going to win anyway, and to save face cooked the whole ‘protest’ as an excuse. Apart from this scandal hardly anything was backed with facts about Lafchis, who was less in the news than other, much more vocal and scandalous ‘presidents’. He stepped dwon – or sold – the club in 1999 and once again vanished. It seems that he divides his time between Greece and Bulgaria, running some business, but also he is a FIFA licensed players agent (very low key, if so), but generally staying away from football. His name pops up once in while for occasional interview on football – his opinions are essentially very critical and he states that he has an opinion, but no desire to take active part. Recently he became quietly involved in the futsal championship of Bulgaria. Thus, the information about him is so small, it looks like he does not want anything to be known about him. There are just three sentences about him in Wikipedia, essentially telling that he was a football player… He was a great promise back in 1977-78, but he did not become a star. Was he just one of the many ’empty promises’, or there was something else blocking his playing career? Nobody knows… an enigma.

Retirement of Facchetti

And a real retirement – Giacinto Facchetti. Low key, almost unnoticed. 1977-78 season ended, Inter won the Italian Cup and Facchetti retired. There was no fuss – but Facchetti was almost forgotten for years. The news were about others, yet he was not only playing, but on high level. His last match for Italy was in 1977 – months before he exited the game. A forgotten legend.

Born in 1942, Facchetti debuted for Inter (Milano) in 1960, only 18-years old. He played for no other club – one of the last ‘old-fashioned’ stars loyal to his club. For Inter he appeared in 476 championship matches, scoring 59 goals. His time was really the 1960s, when ‘Grande Inter’ ruled the football world: 4 Italian titles ( 1962-63, 1964-65, 1965-66, 1970-71), 2 European Champions Cups (1963-64, 1964-65), 2 Intercontinental Cups (1964 and 1965). Two lost European Champions Cup finals – 1966-67 and 1971-72. Impressive and successful to the end – he quit after Inter won the Italian Cup in 1977-78. Facchetti ended his illustrious club career as a winner. At 36, he was obviously not the same players as in the 1960s – he played only 18 matches during his last season – but still finished with a trophy.

No less impressive was his record with the Italian national team – he debuted for Italy in 1963, at 21 years of age, and his last match was almost coinciding with his retirement – in 1977. He played a total of 94 matches for Italy – an all-time record at the time, bested by very few in the following years (Zoff, Paolo Maldini, Cannavaro). He scored only 3 goals, but captained Italy in 70 matches!

Facchetti played at 3 World Cup finals (1966, 1970, 1974), ending with silver medal in 1970, but his greatest moment with the national team was in 1968, when Italy won the European championship.

Impressive statistics, but numbers don’t tell the whole story – Facchetti was hailed for years as a revolutionary player, one of those changing the game and the roles. He is considered – especially in the 1960s – the first modern full back: still a model in the 1970s, more desired than achieved, but in the 1970s the heroes were those who followed in Facchetti’s steps – Krol and Breitner, for instance – the full backs, who constantly participated in the attacks and scored goals. Back in the early 1960s this was unheard of. There were occasional forays on the wings, a rare goal scored by a defender, but most of the time defenders did not cross the middle line and watched their strikers from deep back. Facchetti changed that, although for the most of the decade he was pretty much the only full back consistently going into attacks. An unusual full back, though – Facchetti was 1.91 m and tall players were either centre-forwards or central defenders. As a junior Fachetti was exactly centre-forward – it was the great Helenio Herrera, who changed that, moving him back in defense and it was still strange move, for young Facchetti was placed as left full-back, a position not for tall players. But Herrera obviously saw the attacking skills of the youngster and made the right decision: catenaccio, also Herrera’s invention, reduced the number of strikers to two and they were most likely to operate in the centre, not on the flanks. Hence, there was often vast empty zone on the sides to be explored – the new role for a full-back, doubling as a winger. Facchetti was, if not the first to do so, the most effective and impressive. He surprised the opposition, adding more strength to Inter’s attack, and scored lots of goals.

A typical and familiar picture of Facchetti from the 1960s – another goal scored by the left full-back. But it was not only the novelty of striking back liner – Facchetti was impeccable defender, one of the very best in the world. A skilful player, who did not depend on rough tackles and intimidation, but on elegant outplaying the opposition. Italian defenders have a reputation for uncompromising, often brutal treatment. In 18 years of competitive football Facchetti was sent off only once – for sarcastically applauding the referee. No wonder he was loved and respected everywhere.

But the football changed in the early 1970s and the heroes suddenly were different. Facchetti was one of the revolutionaries in the 1960s, but still he was considered part of the dreadful defensive football introduced by Herrera and picked up by whole Italian football. With the introduction of total football, everything focused on those who practiced it. The new modern defender was no more Facchetti, but players who really just played like him – perhaps they went a step ahead, no longer restricted to the wings, but still Vogts, Suurbier, Krol, Breitner, and so on, did essentially what Facchetti did – helping the strikers, then quickly returning back to do their defensive job. A lot of running, excellent physical condition. Perhaps the end of Facchetti was in 1972, when Inter lost the European Champions Cup final to Ajax, the gods of total football: this day was the death of catenaccio – not as practice, but as a fashionable model. The final blow came in 1974, when Italy was clearly and hopelessly old-fashioned, ridiculous, and quickly eliminated. Facchetti, unfortunately, played in both 1972 and 1974… thus, immediately associated with catenaccio and no longer mentioned as a leading star. He was getting old, but it was not the age – it was the Italian style of football, which relegated him back to the gone 1960s, a historic fossil, mentioned in past tense. Perhaps this was one of the reasons his retirement went practically unnoticed – few thought he was still playing anyway. For most he was a 1960s icon, long gone… but he finished his career as a winner! Ending with a trophy and perhaps more importantly with a trophy he never won before – this was the only Italian Cup won by Inter during Facchetti’s long career! Of course, he was never forgotten in Milano – a legend of Inter, a shiny example of loyalty and class, he continued to work for the club until his death from pancreatic cancer in 2006. The club honoured him by retiring his playing number 3 and the city named a square after him. One of the all-time greatest players.

The retirement of Cruyff

After the awards – those exiting the game. The retirement of Johan Cruyff… the news came out largely in relation to the coming World Cup finals. In Holland it was strongly felt that he was needed and although he already quit the national team, he was asked again. To the interested journalists Cruyff announced not so much his refusal, but his retirement. It was the typical enigmatic talk of the big star, leaving much for interpretation and ‘misunderstanding’… it was remembered what the star said back in 1974 after the end of the World Cup finals: that he was to retire in 1978. Cruyff was quick to remind those who did not remember too and it looked like he was true to his word… But no such thing was hinted during the just finished season in Spain – the announcement was made ‘out of the blue’ by Cruyff and not in Spain, but in Holland. To his retirement he added another reason for ending whatever debate there was about him playing at the World Cup: Argentina was far away, he was tired, needed quality time with his family, sunny beach to relax with wife and kids. The political opposition to the rule of the Argentine Junta was speculated on – Holland was close to refusing to participate and the issue was not so much brought to Cruyff, but cited as a possible reason – he did not deny so convenient reason, leaving many to think his refusal was noble… but when pressed what he meant by retirement, Cruyff ‘qualified’: ‘ a kind of semi-retirement’. What exactly was that, was left open for interpretations and possible denials by Cruyff with the convenient ‘lost in translation’ argument. It was brought to the surface that he firmly stated his refusal to play for Holland because of retirement only after the Dutch Federation refused to use kits made by his own firm. Speculations that if Michels was hired a Dutch coach, not Happel, Cruyff may have said ‘yes’ sound plausible – pigheaded Cruyff knew that very likely to clash with equally pigheaded coach and Happel was most likely to win. In any case, Happel showed no enthusiasm for Cruyff and made no effort to recruit him. The situation with Barcelona was similarly dark: the club said nothing about potential retirement of its greatest star and made no comments during the big Dutch debates – it was not even low-key retirement, but rather as if nothing was happening at all. Very likely relation between the club and the player were sour at that time, possibly Cruyff wanted to stay, but for more money, and the club had different view. May be Cruyff was hoping to the end – the mysterious ‘semi-retirement’ sounded as an open door… if Barcelona suddenly invited him to play or coach… then Cruyff certainly was going to change his tune. He was only 31 years old and had no heavy injuries – his age alone made his ‘retirement’ suspect… As for wanting to spend time with his family and relax on the beach… well, he spent the World Cup finals not on the golden sand of Palma de Mallorca with his wife and children, but as a TV commentator of the finals, together with Brian Clough. After all, summer is long, business first, family vacation – later… So far, it looked like he was waiting for an offer and a very particular offer. Such did not come and retirement appeared to be real – especially when his farewell match was announced. Cruyff’s testimonial remains as one of the strangest and ill-spirited tributes ever and also one more enigma, mystified with time. On November 7, 1978 Ajax and Bayern met and the match ended 8-0 for Bayern. No testimonials end in this way – they are friendly matches with many goals and loughs, celebrating a great player. 5-5, 5-4, 4-3 – such are the results and the veteran is allowed to score a few. These are not serious matches, everybody knows that, and they are focused on the departing player. Nothing like that happened in Amsterdam.

First, the choice of Bayern was suspect. The whole thing was somewhat hastily organized – it was announced almost before the match started. Time was ill chosen – testimonials are normally played when regular football is not played, mostly after or before season. Late fall and winter are avoided in order of having festive atmosphere and crowds to come. November was strange time… the opponent was also strange: Ajax vs Barcelona was the normal combination – between the two clubs Cruyff played for. It was said that Cruyff wanted precisely that, but Barcelona was not available. The plausible reason for declining the invitation was that early November is very busy time for Barcelona – the Spanish championship is played, getting hotter by the weak, and also the European club tournaments are in progress, but not yet at their most difficult rounds, so almost certainly Barcelona was playing still and concerned with advancement. Timing was inconvenient, but also an easy excuse: there were no big statements from Barcelona in the news. No Barcelona player or official went to Amsterdam. The testimonial was hardly mentioned in Spain – may be the relations between the club and Cruyff were truly sour at that time. Another option for testimonials is a match between a club and a national team – Ajax vs Holland was meaningful choice, perhaps playing half-time for each side, perhaps various former teammates appearing. Such is the usual course, but the national team was not the last opponent… may be more than Barcelona the Dutch national team was unwilling to bid farewell to the great player: he alienated the Federation and many players so mush so that perhaps there was no point for even imagining such a match. The timing again clearly prevented another usual option: Ajax vs the World. Active players were busy with the season and the time was too short even for retired players to arrive in Amsterdam. After Barcelona’s refusal, a ‘second choice’ was found – Bayern. They accepted and arrived… there nobody from Ajax waiting for Bayern at the airport. The team was placed in dismal third-rate hotel. The Germans were infuriated from the start. Later Paul Breitner explained that Gerd Muller, Sepp Maier, Branko Oblak, and he decided to allow Johan Cruyff to shine regardless the disrespectful treatment of Bayern. Other accounts state the opposite – that the Germans were so outraged, they decided from the beginning to play for real and Breitner and the other senior players made the decision. Things did not improve at the beginning of the match: Ajax completely ignored Bayern and the crowds greeted the Germans yelling ‘Nazi Schweinhunden’. According to Breitner, he and the other senior players still tried to convince their teammates to let Cruyff shine and enjoy his testimonial. Neeskens, however, things the opposite: quite recently he said that ‘there are no friendlies for the Germans’, citing this match. Nowadays, it is said he was speaking from experience, from playing in this ill-fated ‘tribute’. Myth grows with time… but a look at the surviving footage of the benefit shows very cold atmosphere.

That is what a farewell match is all about – focused on the retiree. Cruyff in the centre of everything… the photo kind of suggest that.

The ‘opposition’ greeting the man of honour, players smiling and sharing few jokes before the start. Maier was almost the only German player with friendly attitude before the match towards Cruyff… the gifts were small, if any.

Then the match started and Bayern trashed Ajax…

7 november, 1978, Ajax-Bayern 0-8 (0-2).


Scores: 2. Muller 0-1, 41 Rummenigge 0-2, 48. Breitner 0-3, 57. Rummenigge 0-4, 58. Breitner 0-5, 67. Muller 0-6, 73. Breitner 0-7, 75. Rummenigge 0-8.


Referee: Beck.


Attendance: 48.799.


Ajax: Schrijvers (70. Jager); Meutstege (46. Meijer), Zwamborn, Krol, Everse (9. Arnesen/46. Schoenaker); Erkens, Cruijff (85. Clarke), Lerby; Ling, Kaiser, Tahamata.


Bayern : Maier; Niedermayer, Schwarzenbeck, Augenthaler, Horsmann; Durnberger, Breitner, Rausch (46. Jol), Oblak (Reisinger); Muller, Rummenigge.

Where to begin? Not only Neeskens did not play, as is often claimed today, but not any of the Cruyff’s teammates from the great days of Ajax, except Rudd Krol. He was the last of the great team still playing for Ajax and since it was the current team of the Dutch, his presence was unavoidable. Let suppose those who were still active players were either busy or not allowed to go to Amsterdam by their clubs… a convenient explanation of the absence of Neeskens, Suurbier, Haan, G. Muhren… but some were already retired, not restricted by club or schedule, and they were absent too… no Stuy, no Swart… no Piet Keizer (the similar name above is the 18-years old Ruud Kaiser, at his first professional season and not yet a regular). One cannot help, but remember how pissed off was Kaizer by the ‘transfer saga’ in 1973, when Cruyff said he was staying, then he was leaving, until alienating everybody in Ajax. Keizer was openly happy when at last Cruyff moved to Barcelona and expressed no friendly feelings whatsoever. There is good reason to think that no former Ajax players was invited to the benefit and none came on his own. Other great Dutch stars did not appear either – it was just the current Ajax under their current coach Cor Brom, a team, which had no direct relation with Cruyff, save Krol. On the pitch, it was clueless team – visibly, no real effort was made, just a terrible performance. It looked like the team had no idea what to do with suddenly included Cruyff and his presence even destroys the flow of the team. Against clueless Ajax, Bayern appeared much too strong, but the goals scored one after another give weird impression: as if it is a testimonial of some of the German players and they are let score because of that easily. One sided match in which Cruyff faded entirely, overwhelmed by Bayern. Even his replacement – the grand moment of such matches – was casual… he just stepped out in the 85th minute and Ray Clarke, the English player of Ajax, who just arrived in the summer from Sparta (Rotterdam) took his place. Sad looking, if not openly disgusted Cruyff left the field… almost too late, compared to thousands of fans, he departed much earlier.

Cruyff went to the bench of Ajax, sat down and immediately lit a cigarette, the last image of him this night. His smoking was not a secret at all, yet, it was a curious picture of him smoking at the bench. The camera wants to focus on him, but… it was unbecoming for the a great sports hero to be shown like that, so the camera moves away, then cmes back, and moves away again. Funny, but hardly a tribute… the most memorable picture is another one:

This is the moment of Cruyff’s exit… the disgrace of 0-8 weights heavily, taking away everything from Cruyff. At the final whistle enraged fans through sitting cushions at both teams – some celebration…

After the match it is said that Frantisek Fadrhonc, the former coach of Holland, went to Bayern’s dressing room to ask bitterly why they did this. This moment is usually pointed out in current retrospective writings on the match – if Fadrhonc was really at the stadium, one has to bow to him in respect: it was Fadrhonc who had to endure for years Cruyff’s big mouth. Cruyff often refused to play for Holland. He often spoke negatively of Fadrhonc. To a point, the demotion of Fadrhonc for the 1974 World Cup finals, when he was reduced to mere tourist, was masterminded by Cruyff. Fadrhonc had every reason not to be present this evening – if he was, then he was much bigger man than Cruyff. The Dutch were outraged and remained so to this very day – for years, mostly their view was presented. Curiously, Cruyff said nothing… Yet, with time, the Germans were asked about their side of the story. They had to be asked: the disgrace of this match begged some explanation and demanded at least apology. The Germans were embarassed, but did not really see themselves as guilty. The situation was and is quite impossible – they are blamed for ruining the testimonial and even they are clearly not feeling guilty, some excuses still had to be made. With time, it is even difficult to really believe them, for their words are entirely based on memory and memory is often choosy… Franz Beckenbauer condemned Bayern, saying that of he was there such thing would have never happened. Easy for him to say – he was not involved, playing for Cosmos (New York). Breitner agrees that it was a shame and claims that he and the other big stars of Bayern tried to put the game into normal course, but he blames others, mostly the Dutch. He said that Ajax was entirely disrespectful to Bayern, the fans were entirely hostile and provocative, the younger players of Bayern were too infuriated to listen to reason, and Ajax did not make even an effort to stop German attacks. What was Rummenigge to do, when he was left again and again alone in front of the net? Nobody ever tried to stop him… and he scored three goals, he cannot miss every shot, it would have been a mockery. Well, Rummenigge had no chance, but to score, says Breitner, conveniently not mentioning the three goals he scored. Gerd Muller climas pretty much the same, adding another Dutch fault: nobody told Bayern to take it easy. Fine, but he also adds that Bayern never played ‘easy’ – they always played seriously, no matter what kind of match (conveniently forgetting the serious accusation that Bayern ‘faked’ two European Supercup finals, just going through the motions, using some reserves, and seemingly not interested). Personally, still added Muller, he was conditioned from early age to play only at his best, seriously, for a win… thus, somehow stating that even if Bayern were asked to ‘fake’ the match, it was impossible – conditioning is hard to change at a moment notice. ‘Wounded pride’ was also a factor – the stupid and degrading Dutch behaviour towards Bayern easily evoked the old humiliation – in 1973 Ajax destroyed Bayern 4-0 and not in a friendly, but in the ¼ finals of the European Champions Cup. It was not forgotten in Munich, certainly not by the direct victims, of which there were plenty in Amsterdam (Muller, Maier, Breitner, Schwarzenbeck, Durnberger). Under the circumstances, the thought of taking revenge was more than a thought… Muller usually points that out too… Breitner also claims that Bayern always played seriously, so it was up to Ajax to recognize that and respond in kind. They did not, so who was there to blame? Why Bayern? The game unfortunately supports the German view – Ajax is clueless, clearly not making even a half-effort. Martin Jol, the Dutch player of Bayern at the time, and now a famous coach, remembers the match bitterly: he felt awful, as a Dutch, to be part of that, and felt ashamed and sorry – to tears! – for Cruyff. But once again, this is ‘memory’ – Jol’s opinion nowadays. Back in 1978 he said nothing. Rather, the opposite of what he says today: he replaced Rausch for the second half, when 6 of the 8 goals were scored. May be had no choice? Plausible… a player following coaches instructions, nothing depends on him… but it was still a friendly, it was already clear that the match deteriorated into humiliation, not a tribute, and Jol could have refused to take part. It was not all that difficult to excuse himself from playing, but he did not. Rummenigge, the most outraged and not wanting to ‘take it easy’, according to Breitner, offered no explanation, but curiously, as a big boss in Bayern today, he signed the ‘politically correct’ apology addressed to Ajax (and the media – perhaps largely to the media) a few years back. Nobody thinks the letter an apology, but just a PR act. Bayern playing the game of the day… Whatever was said in all that years following the weird match, one thing is clear: it was ill-thought affair and Ajax managed to provoke Bayern. The testimonial of Cruyff was as scandalous as his career had been – and ‘lost in translation’… Yet, it was sad match, he deserved at least something more joyous, something focused on him, some tribute.

Cruyff exited football almost as an anonymous extra… and at this moment it looked real. His testimonial finally convinced the doubters that he really stepped down. His exit left sour taste… one of the greatest and most adored players was out, it was sad to think we will never see him on the pitch.

But one should have never forget that Cruyff was sneaky… the retiree was not retired for long. Soon he came back and stayed for many more years in the game. Soon it was clear what he meant by his enigmatic ‘semi-retirement’: a good offer. It came from the USA, so once again the slippery wording of Cruyff was not entirely untrue: after all, playing in NASL was more ‘a semi-retirement’ than actual active playing. A few ‘guest appearances’ or ‘demonstration games’ at first fitted into ‘semi-retirement’ just swell. Then – a regular contract, then back to Europe… Cruyff tricked the football world once again – announcing his retirement, playing his ‘farewell match’… and actually retiring years after. What a lovely fake.


European player of the year

If the Golden Shoe award, chancy as it was, appeared fair this season – the top three were remarkable, constant, and well known scorers for years – the European Footballer of the Year award was not so. The problems started after 1974 – aging stars and no truly outstanding players. Habits were also playing a negative role – young talent did not get many votes, but old reputation was preferred. What largely counted was technically the previous season – voting took place at the end of the calendar year, but the autumn was practically ignored: votes were largely based on the end of the season, on winning teams, especially those winning international trophies. 1978 was problematic year mostly because Europeans did not really impress at the World Cup finals – those who did were unfortunate enough to play for teams early eliminated. There was not a single exciting player like Cruyff and Beckenbauer before 1975. It was uncertain choice – pros and cons were more or less equal, it was trying to figure out a better one of a bulk of equals… And for a first time in the 1970s (if not in the whole history of the award) the best player did not win anything with his club and country. 30 players were voted for and what a mixed group they were! What a display of ‘reasoning’ too… local sentiments (Joao Alves, Benfica), recognition of emerging new talent (Hansi Muller, Didier Six), impressive World Cup discoveries (Paolo Rossi, Antonio Cabrini, Zbigniew Boniek, Archie Gemmill), some strong performance of players compared largely with their domestic rivals (Marian Masny, Slovan Bratislava, Zdenek Nehoda, Dukla Prague, and Peter Shilton, Nottingham Forest) or on international club level (Fracois van der Elst, Anderlecht). As a shiny example of confusion stays to this very day in the international statisticians site the club Boniek was ignorantly listed back in 1978 – Stal (Mielec), a club he never played for. The mistake is somewhat understandable: Boniek was really discovered at the 1978 World Cup finals and his club was almost unknown outside Poland – Widzew (Lodz). Later, when Boniek was real mega-star, his early days were more or less unimportant – and the mistake stays. Anyway, nobody of the mentioned so far got many points – most finished with 1 or 2. Yet, the list is strange – no Spanish players for instance. True, Spain did not impress at the World Cup, but some were no worse than Alves or Masny. Few Italians and they got little points – Antognoni was not chosen by anybody. Playing for smaller clubs clearly was no help – Platini, although considered one of the fastest rising stars and having impressive World Cup, got just a single point. Playing for Nancy and the fact that France was unfortunately, but still early eliminated at the World Cup worked against him. Archie Gemmill ended with more points than Platini, seemingly because of his fantastic goal against Holland at the World Cup. The Germans paid heavy price for their dismal World Cup performance – Karl-Heinz Rummenigge got a single point. Sepp Maier was not voted for at all – but Shilton, still ‘shaky’ in the English national team (Clemence was preferred) got 9. From the emerging stars only Paolo Rossi was recognized – he was 5th with 23 points. The checkered Scottish performance obviously affected the points Dalglish got – 10 – although he had excellent season with Liverpool. He shared 8th place with Alan Simonsen, the European player of 1977 – the Dane played no worse than the previous year… Some had dismal season and yet appeared on the list – Cruyff and Neeskens. Some had strong year and got almost nothing – Franco Causio. But the desperate search for somebody truly above the rest was most obvious at the very top. Roberto Bettega was overlooked… he ended 4th with 28 points, but he was at his peak, Juventus was strong and Italy played surprisingly well at the World Cup finals. Near him were Rossi – 5th, and Ronnie Hellstrom and Ruud Krol, 6th with 20 points. Hellstrom excelled at the World Cup finals, yet Sweden did not go far, was less impressive than France and Scotland, and at club level Kaiserslautern was hardly a winner. Anyway, Rob Rensenbrink got 50 points – the combined number of Bettega and Rossi. Yes, he was strong with Anderlecht, but hardly the most memorable player of Holland at the World Cup. He failed to replace Cruyff, as it was expected, and in general was less exciting than 4 years earlier. Three journalists voted him best in Europe, but this was good only for a distant 3rd place. The race was between two players Hans Krankl and Kevin Keegan. Krankl got 81 points – selected first by 8 journalists. Keegan was voted number one by 9 – neither was really best in the minds of the voters… On the positive side, Krankl was the best scorer in Europe, had wonderful World Cup, and was in perhaps at his peak. On the negative – Austria, as good as it was, did not reach the top 4 at the World Cup and Rapid (Vienna) won nothing. But look at the rival.. Keegan was a big news in 1977-78. He was still adjusting to German football and new teammates. Hamburger SV won nothing. England did not even qualify for the World Cup finals. The most memorable moment of the season was the European Super-cup final, which Hamburger SV and Keegan lost 0-6 from his former teammates of Liverpool, now lead by Kenny Dalglish. Compared to the previous few years, Keegan had rather weak season… but since nobody was really excellent this year and negative arguments against practically everybody were easy to find, Keegan seemingly got points on reputation – a recognition of a star of high caliber since 1974, who so far got no award. Did not seem right, yet, it was pretty much the same in 1977, when Simonsen emerged as the best player – and without any drop of form the same player was ignored in 1978. Of course, not everybody thought Keegan best, but point here and a point there added to a total of 87. In general, the voters settled on Keegan and Krankl – 22 out of 26 put those two on their lists.

Kevin Keegan – the new European footballer of the year. An ironic photo somehow – Barcelona’s duo seemingly laughing at the pink shirts… Keegan was questionable winner. Not because he was not a top-notch player, but because his season was not great. May be Roberto Bettega deserved to be number one, but points count and Keegan was proclaimed best.

Golden shoe

The Golden Shoe. That no striker playing in Italy, England, Spain, or USSR had a chance to win the award was certain for years – the best scorers were coming from middle-range championships, where strikers actually had chances to score… the top three cane from such championships, but they were recognized as great and regular scorers already. Ruud Geels (Ajax) was third with 32 goals. The Argentine striker of Paris Saint Germain, Carlos Bianchi, ended second with 37 goals. The Golden Shoe went to the Austrian Hans Krankl. He scored 41 goals – a record still unbeaten in Austria.

Hans Krankl in dark shirt getting ahead of the defender once again.

Already a familiar name around Europe, Krankl had his best season so far – at the end of the season he had scored 160 goals in 205 championship matches played for Rapid (Vienna) since 1970. Add the 27 goals he scored in 26 matches in 1971-72, when loaned to Wiener AC (Vienna). Add that he was vital part of the revival of the Austrian national team, constituting with Bruno Pezzey and Herbert Prohaska the backbone of the strong and exciting Austrian team if the late 1970s. Krankl was at the age considered the best for footballers – 25 years old, with plenty of experience, yet, with many years to play and refine his skills. He was the top scorer of Austria for a third time, after 1974 and 1977, and already was voted Austrian player of the year 3 times (1973, 1974, and 1977). Perhaps curiously, Krankl lacked trophies – with Rapid he won a single one: the Austrian Cup in 1976 – but he was still young. A really outstanding season, capped by Krankl’s wonderful performance at the World Cup finals in the summer of 1978. And prolific scorer like him was not to be missed by the big clubs – Barcelona got him fresh from the World Cup to replace no other but Johan Cruyff.



Malta at last. Hardly any real changes at the bottom of the football world. Two relatively unusual clubs won promotions from Second Division.

Qormi FC, formed in 1961 from the amalgamation of Qormi Youngsters and Qormi United, was small club even by Malta standards. They debuted in First Division in 1967-68 and so far played a total of five seasons, quickly relegated back to second league football. Their 6th attempt to establish themselves in top flight was coming, but most likely it was not to be different than the earlier ones.

The other promoted club was a newcomer.

Founded in 1950, Ghaxaq FC was unheard of club belonging to the village with the same name in South-Eastern Malta. Their biggest success so far was exactly this promotion. As for surviving in first division, it was unlikely, yet, a great moment for the tiny club.

The bottom of the 10-club first division was occupied by real outsiders: the combined record of both clubs in the relegation zone was still lower than the 8th placed St. George’s.

Birkirkara earned 8 points this season and finished 9th. Hardly a surprise – the club was really weak before 21st century.

Vittoriosa Stars, hailing from the town of Birgu, was one of the oldest Maltese clubs – founded in 1906 – but with checkered history. Winners they were not. Second division is more likelier place for them than top league. Their season was pure misery – they won a single match and tied two… 4 points. Birkirkara finished with 8, and St. George’s at 8th place was a real giant with 13 points… The name of the last team in the league sounded as a cruel joke.

Not much excitement up the table. More or less, two club competed for the title.

Sliema Wanderes finished 3rd with 24 points, but they were not really participating in the race for the title. Rather, bronze was their aim, besting Floriana by a point and Hamrun Spartans by two. The rest of the league was far behind.

Hibernians (Paola) won 11 matches, tied 4, and lost 3. With 26 points, they were well above the bulk of the league and competed for the first place. But they lost it and had to be satisfied with silver.

Maltese players were practically unknown outside the island, but perhaps Muscat rings some bells… local heroes often mean nothing abroad.

Hibernians were strong, but Valletta FC were stronger. 12 victories, 4 ties, and only twice they lost. They were best in all departments: scored the most goals in the league by far – 44 (Hibernians with second best strikers, still scored under 40 – 39 goals). Their defense was supreme: only 6 goals they allowed in the 18 matches of the season. Floriana had the second best defense – 13 goals. At the end, Valletta finished 2 points ahead of Hibernians: their lead does not correspond to the overwhelming numbers they made, but in a tiny league it was not really possible to build large lead.

Once again champions – their 8th title. And it was not all.

Valletta FC reached the Cup final. The other finalist was Floriana. They had rather weak season – 4th in the league – and winning the Cup was important for one of the most successful Maltese clubs.

Floriana had enough ‘argument’ – a whole bunch of players with very well known names in Malta – Micallef, Farrugia, Sultana, Xuereb, some of them really clans, for they produced top players for many generations. The boys fought hard, but lost the final 2-3.

The dramatic final was won by Valletta FC and they finished with a double. From a distance – nothing surprising: whatever foreigners knew about Maltese football, was Valletta FC, for they were regular champions and participants in the European club tournaments in the 1970s. The most famous Maltese club… to their 8th title, they added 5th cup.

All trophies to the strongest, right? More national team players here; more ‘dynastic’ names too – two guys named Farrugia… add two more playing for Floriana and one with Hibernians colours. Well, those playing for Valletta got all the trophies. The victories of Valletta FC appeared normal, traditional, unchanging… how wrong. Valletta FC were not even nearing the success of two other clubs: 8 titles and 5 clubs was really nothing compered to Floriana’s 24 titles and 14 cups, and Sliema Wanderers’ 21 titles and 15 cups. Valletta FC were clearly the best Maltese clubs in the 1970s and remained so, but their victories were relatively new and they had long way to go… in fact, the lead of the other two clubs was so massive, even now, in the second decade of 21st century, Valletta FC is behind.


Luxembourg.If there is anything to say, it must be that most of the 12-strong league was equal and generally fighting to avoid relegation: all clubs bellow 3rd place were involved in that – at the end 5 points divided the 4th, Etzella (Ettelbruck) from the last two.

Stade Dudelange finished last with 18 points.

Spora (Luxembourg) was 11th, also with 18 points. Both clubs, but especially Spora, knew better days, but past is past and now it was going down to second division. They missed survival by a point. Spora ended with very curious record: they had positive goal-difference – 49-47 – something not even unusual, but unique for a relegated club (only the top three clubs had positive goal-difference!), and their attack was the third strongest in the league.

The Second Division was won by clubs who were not strangers to top level football:

Aris (Bonnevoie), normally playing in the first division, and

Young Boys (Diekirch), a club which had livelier presence before the Second World War, but after that faded away. To a point, a surprise climb up and may be not long lasting.

Up the table there was little excitement – two clubs competed for the silver medals – Red Boys (Differdange) lost the race by a point, settling for bronze with 25 points.

The best known internationally club, Jeunesse (Esch/Alzette) clinched silver medals with 26 points and the country’s spot in the UEFA Cup, but that was the maximum this season – Jeunesse was not a contender.

A sole club dominated the championship from start to end. They won 13 matches, tied 6, and lost 3 – the best league record by far. Their goal-difference was also best: 55-33, outscoring everybody else, and having second-best defensive record. Overwhelming champions with no equals.

Progres (Niedercorn) – true to their name and confidently winning… their second title. The first one was won long time ago – in 1952-53 – so one can imagine the joy.

Outside Luxembourg the names meant plain nothing, but at home it was another matter: Progres reached also the Cup final. There they met Union (Luxembourg).

Union had measly season – they ended 6th in the championship, quite low for one of the usual title contenders, hence, the desire to compensate for the lost season was big. And may be they were seen as favourites – traditionally, stronger club than their opponents. But it was not to be… Union scored a goal, but Progres responded with two and won the final.

Empty-handed this year – Union or US Luxembourg, as they are also frequently called, were still to play in Europe: as losing cup finalist, they were to represent the country in the Cup Winners Cup. Small consolation…

Progres receiving the Cup – it was their 4th. Previously, they won it in 1932-33, 1944-45, and 1976-77. Two consecutive cups – a rare achievement anywhere.

Surely, Progres enjoyed strong period, but in fact this was their finest moment ever: a double, their first and their last. The Cup they never won again, so it is only right to say that this squad is the best ever the club had. A legendary team on its own right.



Albania, behind her own impenetrable curtain, was dark enigma at that time. Nothing came out (and nothing came in) – in the sporting aspects: occasional international game was the only glimpse of Albanian sports, including football. Final tables was practically the whole information. Even today the period is dark – few pictures emerged. One thing was known, though: Albanian football was weak. The top league was going to be enlarged for the next season – from 12 to 14 teams – so only one club was relegated in 1977-78 and three clubs were promoted.

Of course, promotion concerned the best three in the Second Division.

Besa (Kavaje) won the second division – champions in their own right.

Besa was joined by Besëlidhja (Lezhë) and Naftëtari Qyteti Stalin. Nothing really to tell about the best of second level football… except the third club with curious and possible only in Albania by the end of the 1970s name: this club was named and renamed.

It hails from the town of Kucove, was quite old by Albanian standards – found in 1926 – and was related to the petrol industry. Still exists, but ‘Stalin’ was dropped years ago.

Four clubs fought the battle for survival in the first division. The battle went to a play-off after the end of the regular season – Traktori Lushnjë and Lokomotiva Durrës escaped unharmed with 19 points each, but Labinoti Elbasan and Skënderbeu Korçë had only 18 . Skenderbeu had better goal-difference, but the Federation decided on play-off. The relegation play-off was dramatic, judging by the results – both legs ended scoreless. Over time changed nothing and penalty shoot-out followed.

Labinoti clinched 6:5 victory, double sweet for it was extracted in Korce, the home of Skenderbeu.

Skenderbeu, one of the oldest Albanian clubs, went down.

At the top of league something else happened – the clubs from Tirana, normally favourites, were out of the race for the title. 17 Nentori was actually 6th.

Partizani finished best – 3rd – yet, they were not contenders with their 25 points. Provincial clubs bested the capital city, something rare.

Luftëtari (Gjirokastër) with a point more than Partizani finished second, but they hardly challenged the champions. Yet, it was a great season for the club.

The most successful and perhaps the only provincial club traditionally rivaling the teams from Tirana won the titles.

VLLAZNIA (SHKODËR) won 10 matches, tied 9, and lost 3. Their goal-difference was 32-19. Best record in the league, naturally, but significantly so: it was difficult to beat squad – Luftetari, Dinamo (Tirana), and Flamurtari (Flore) ended with 6 losses. Partizani lost 8 matches – that is, 1/3 of the total 22 championship games. The defensive record of Vllaznia was best in the league, but strangely shared with the clubs at the very bottom – Labinoti and Skenderbeu also received just 19 goals. As for the attacking record, Vllaznia had no equals – only two clubs scored 30 goals: Partizani, a round 30, and the champions 32. Perhaps not an overwhelming champions, but still Vllaznia finished wit 3 points lead.

This was the 5th title for Vllaznia and 3rd in the 1970s, after 1971-72 ans 1973-74. Strong decade for the club, one of the consistently strong teams.

The Cup finals opposed Dinamo (Tirana), one of the regular favourites, but having relatively weak championship, against Traktori (Lushnjë). Traktori was not among the best Albanian clubs – quite old, founded in 1926, they had been renamed after Albania became Communist in 1945 and not only once. In 1958 they were named Traktori for the second time, but the ‘progressive’ name helped little. When playing in the first division, they were found in the lower half of the table. The club won absolutely nothing, except the Second League championship in 1960. Now they had a chance for a real trophy. And they tried hard – the first leg of the final ended 0-0. A very promising result, for the match was play in Tirana. Unfortunately, in the second leg Dinamo scored a goal and kept their fragile lead to the end. No miracle happened.

Dinamo (Tirana) won their 9th Cup.



Cyprus played her largest ever league – 16 teams. There were 15 the previous season and one more was added, as planned, bringing the league to the most common format. The motivation behind the reform was clear – big league meant more players playing more competitive matches. Thus, eventually the quality of the players should rise… never fully convincing argument, countered by exactly opposite proposition: small league concentrates the best players into few clubs, making each stronger and the best playing against the best must boost quality. At the end, neither argument is really convincing – in part because they leave lower levels of football pyramid inadequate. In Cyprus, the situation was very much alike in Finland, Iceland, other small and not populous countries: tiny town and villages often had more than one club, which dispersed talent widely without making most clubs stronger. Paphos had two first division clubs – APOP and Evagoras – for instance. Larnaca had three. So Limassol. Plus the derby of the exiles – Famagusta, in the Turkish part of the island since the civil war partitioning the country in the 1960s, had two clubs in the league, Anorthosis and Nea Salamina, both homeless and temporary borrowing location in the Greek part. Their situation is still the same in the 21st century. Such league was obviously depending on momentary form of any club, here the picture differed than the one in the Scandinavian states: Cyprus traditionally had two dominant ‘super-clubs’ – Omonia and APOEL. Nicosia ruled and the enlargement of the league became immediately counter-productive: more championship games simply meant more easy wins for the top two, making the gulf between them and the rest of the league bigger, not smaller. Lastly, the enlargement of top flight decreased the number of relatively good teams bellow – the fact that only one club was relegated and only one was promoted from the second league pretty much recognized the desperate situation. It also decreased even temporary ambitions for most clubs: small enough, now they were satisfied just with staying in the league – and now it was easier: only one spot was dangerous and with many games between relatively equal teams, it was not very difficult to achieve mediocre security. The relative parity was represented well in the final table: there was no clear outsider, every club was able to get many points, but the more familiar names still got more… the last in the league ended with exactly half the points of the 4th. But they also lost the battle for survival by a single points and two more clubs barely escaped (APOP and Evagoras – the teams from Paphos finished 13th and 14th). Digenis Akritas Morphou were lucky – 15th with 19 points.

Halkanoras Dhali got the short stick – 18 points placed them last and relegated. An young club, founded in 1948, Halkanoras were absolutely unknown – Dali or Dhali is the name of their home, either a village near Nicosia, or outskirts of the capital. There presence among the best was brief and due entirely to the enlargement of the league – they played a grand total of 2 seasons there, coming in in 1976, when the league was enlarged from the traditional 14-club format to 15, and relegated the next year. Never to return…

Poor Halkanoras was to be replaced by the Second Division winners:

Omonia (Aradippou). Slightly better than Halkanoras, but not much… a typical ‘in between’ club, which meandered between first and second division, never lasting long in top flight, but still too good for the lower level. Not exactly a club adding quality to the top league.

Above Halkanoras the teams were spread gradually, climbing up a point or two, and reaching the ‘climax’ with Pezoporikos (Larnaca) at 3rd place.

Bronze medals were a success, no doubt about it, but it was strictly domestic success – Pezoporikos prevailed over clubs more likely to finish on the podium – Paralimni and Anorthosis – and triumphed over city rivals Alki and EPA, but was not for a second threatening the real favourites – with 37 points, they were 4 points behind the silver medalists.

Which were familiar, usual, predictable, expected… APOEL (Nicosia). The bulk of the league did not bother APOEL for a second, but… they had a weak season, unable to challenge their arch-enemy. APOEL ended 10 points behind the champions.

It was not even two-horse race – Omonia was overwhelming.

22 wins, 7 ties, and a single loss. 77-15 goal difference. Omonia had no rivals.

It was even pointless to count their titles anymore… the team was full of Cypriot national team players, led by the great goal-scorer Kaiafas – but the names meant nothing outside Cyprus. It was just the best team on local scale.

As good as Omonia were, they were unable to win a double – Omonia did not reach the Cup final. APOEL did and also AEL (Limassol), otherwise having a dismal season (12th in the league).

There was no doubt about the desire of AEL to win and they fought bravely, but the opposition was not only classier – APOEL had their own ambitions, especially when they were not able even to challenge Omonia in the championship. AEL distinguished themselves by losing minimally – only 0-1. A final, but not a cup…

As for the winners – they were not overwhelming winners, but still got the cup. True, the final was dragged into overtime and it was very difficult to score, but eventually they scored the golden goal.

APOEL saved the season – cups still counted back then. Not just a small compensation for not even running for the title. Difficult victory, but a victory, bringing them back to relative parity with Omonia. The old status quo remained unchanged – the big clubs from Nicosia dominated the Cypriot football. Of course, APOEL had a good number of national team players, but they had no player like Kaiafas – that is, no player known outside the island. Perhaps that was the whole difference between the two enemies and it was huge difference… at home.