Quiet retirement should be followed by quiet debut. Probably you will be surprised – Christo Stoichkov played his first official match this season. Great players make their debut early, so nothing different – he was barely 16-years old. Great talents are usually noticed early – and so his was. But he was no Maradona… Stoichkov debuted for 3rd Division clib – Hebros (Kharmanly). No fuss, no pictures, no journalists. Third division… that is, nobody noticed. And it was also mysterious debut, for Stoichkov is from the city of Plovdiv, where he trained and played in the youth system of Martitza. An old club, but lowly – ranks forth in the city. Which means that talented juniors were more than likely to move to one of the biggies – Botev (than Trakia) or Lokomotiv. Both had excellent youth systems at the time, producing tons of talents, who quickly became stars. So, how talented Stoichkov really was? The big clubs did not take him. Even his club was not eager to play him – Maritza was not much, but at least was Second, not Third, division club at the time. And something else – at 16, he was still at school. Moving to another city, even if not far away from home, as was the case, was still unlikely – unless his family moved for some reason to the small town. The mysteries remain, but the fact is Stoichkov debuted this season.

And nothing was heard of him for a few more years. Pretty much until this photo was taken – in 1985, at his almost first First division match. The ill-fated derby between CSKA and Levski in the spring of 1985, which ended in disgrace. Stoichkov, playing for CSKA, participated eagerly in the fights and red-carded. Did not want to leave, so had to be ‘helped’ by Levski’s stuff and players. After this match there were heavy penalties – both clubs and many players were banned. One of them was Stoichkov – he was banned for life! His career was over before it even started. He was still a nobody. But CSKA and 1985 were still far away in the unknown future – for the moment, he played third level football.


Retirement. Rob Rensenbrink stepped down this year – a quiet finish of illustrious career. He played his last football for Toulouse (France) and it was not a great season… 12 matches and 1 goal. One of the greatest heroes of the 1970s exited the game modestly. Well, his game was no longer the same for some time and considering his current state of health (diagnosed with Spinal muscular atrophy in 2012), injuries must had been the reason for his decline. He played football for a very long time, though.

Born in 1947, Rensenbrink debuted for DWS Amsterdam in 1965. In 4 years the very young left winger played 120 matches, scoring 34 goals – and he was noticed.

First by the national team coach and then by FC Brugge (Belgium). He debuted for Holland in 1968. The next year moved to Belgium, following in the steps of countless Dutch players. This move was both a blessing and a curse: he became true star in Belgium, but meantime ‘total football’ took the world by storm and he was not part of it. But he won his first trophy with FC Brugge in 1970 – the Belgian Cup.

And moved to the real thing at the time – Anderlecht – in 1971. However, his true international break-through was in 1974, when Rinus Michels made him a starter of his great team at the World Cup finals.

Rensenbrink became forever one of the great ‘flying Dutchmen’ and instantly a world-class star. Now he was expected to really shine.

And he shined, winning with Anderlecht the Cup Winners Cup in 1976. Now Anderlecht was the team taking over where Ajax left – and, with Rensenbrink, won a second Cup Winners Cup in 1978. And Rensenbrink was expected to replace Cruijff in the Dutch national team and lead it at the 1978 World Cup.

It was bitter-sweet time: Rensenbrink spent much time protesting his new role – he said he was no Cruijff and cannot play like him. Yet, he played well, Holland reached the World Cup final for a second time and… lost. If Rensenbrink scored… but the ball went to the goalpost and not in the net. “If the trajectory of my shot had been five centimetres different, we would have been world champions. On top of that, I would have been crowned top scorer and perhaps chosen as the best player of the tournament – all in the same match. That’s why I keep things in perspective.”, said Rensenbrink. Twice unlucky… he was injured at the 1974 final and managed to play only half of the game. And contributed little…

His last match for Holland was in 1979 and after that he was on the path to retirement.

Moved to USA to play for Portland Timbers in 1980 (18 games and 6 goals) – and against Johann Cruijff, at that time playing for Washington Diplomats. The photo shows what made many thinking Rob was the natural replacement of Johann: they looked so alike. As if looks equal style and position. Part of the controversy: Rensenbrink was similar to Cruijff, so that was why he did not play often for Holland. Sound true, but first of all in the early 1970s Dutch stars often preferred not to play for the national team, Cruijff included. As far as positions go, not Cruijff, but Piet Keizer was the real competition. And Keizer was at his best before 1974. All speculation about why Rensenbrink was not a regular before 1974 were born in 1977, when Cruijff decided not to play anymore for Holland – and grew bigger after. There was deliberate effort to put Rensenbrink in Cruijff’s position at that time – contrary to the player’s protests. Yet, many maintain this opinion to this very day – here is Jan Mulder: “Robbie Rensenbrink was as good as Cruijff, only in his mind was he not.” Coming from Mulder… who was expected to replace Cruijff in Ajax and failed totally. That was in 1973. In 1974, after the World Cup, Ajax tried to sign Rensenbrink for the same reason – to play as Cruijff. Muddy story… according to some, the negotiations fell apart. According to Rensenbrink, he was never fond of Ajax and did not want to play for the club. One of the main reasons he played mostly in Belgium, again according to him. Posing with Cruijff was one thing, playing as Cruijff – another and not up to him. Anyhow, he played in NASL only one season and moved back to Europe – this time joining French second division team. Toulouse. Did not play much, but still ended as champion – Toulouse won the second division championship. And that was the final chapter.

The whole ‘book’ in plain stats: Twice champion of Belgium (Anderlecht – 1972, 1974). Five Belgian Cups (FC Brugge – 1970, Anderlecht – 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976). Two Cup Winners Cup (Anderlecht – 1976, 1978), Two UEFA Supercups (Anderlecht – 1976, 1978), One Second Division title (Toulouse – 1982). Twice World vice-champion (Holland – 1974, 1978).

In numbers: DWS Amsterdam – 120 matches, 34 goals.

FC Brugge – 55 matches, 24 goals.

Anderlecht – 262 matches, 143 goals.

Portland Timbers – 18 matches, 6 goals.

Toulouse – 12 matches, 1 goal.New

Total: 467 matches and 208 goals.

Holland – 46 matches, 14 goals (1968-1979).

What else? He was a great penalty taker – he missed only two in his career. He and Eusebio are the all-time highest penalty scorers at World Cup finals – both scored 4 (Eusebio in 1966, Rensenbrink in 1978). In 2004 Pele named him among the 125 greatest living footballers.

What else? Anderlecht named him its greatest ever player in 2008. Ahead of Paul van Himst!

And those who saw Robbie Rensenbrink played consider themselves blessed. What a lovely player he was… but everything comes to end.

European Player of the Year

The European Footballer of the Year. This was a bit predictable: Italy won the World Cup and Paolo Rossi was the hero of the winning team. By the end of 1982, he was already the top scorer of the World Cup finals and voted best player at the finals. So… to be number 1 in Europe was expected. And he won the trophy practically unchallenged: with 115 points. Second was Alain Giresse (France and Girondens Bordeaux) with 67 points. Third – Zbigniew Boniek (Poland and Juventus) with 53.

Well, Rossi was king and considering the troubles he went through in the recent years, it was nice to see him at the very top. But… practically, Rossi triumphed thanks to just 2 games. True, he played vital role, particularly in scoring the goals which made Italy champion of the world – and that counts a lot.

Pictures like this one were fresh and influential.

However, it was pictures like this one, which made Rossi a big star and rightly so. But this one was already old and almost forgotten photo of his days with L.Vicenza. Back than he scored a plenty. Now, he was playing for Juventus, where it was difficult to score so many goals – the competition was very harsh. Among so many stars it was difficult to distinguish Rossi and he was not exactly the key player of the team. Unfortunately, scorers and particularly scorers in important finals get the glory and journalists are slaves of glory. Rossi, then… even when others had much stronger overall season: Platini (9th with 5 points), Antognoni (11th with 3 points), Pezzey (12th with 2 poinst), Breitner (15th with 1 point). Yes, none was world champion. And none won much this year. All that counts at the end is winning… one may play great football, but without a victory nobody cares. So Rossi was the best of all with his two matches.

The Golden Shoe


The Golden Shoe. The European top scorer for 1981-82 was Wim Kieft with 32 goals.

Born in 1962 and playing for Ajax, Kieft brought new hopes for Ajax and Dutch football in general – a new talented generation seemingly was emerging. But the Golden Shoe was already a misleading award – weaker championship had better chances to elevate a goalscorer. Kieft followed Kist, who won the award not long ago. That was promising. But… neither Kist, nor Kieft became truly great stars.



Finland. Two-phased championship, designed with the aim to improve the quality of the game, but as every such design there were problems. Well known problems: the first phase counted only for qualifying to the second phase – 8 out 12 league members. The last 4 went to promotion-relegation phase with the top 4 of Second Division. The top 8 teams carried half of their 1st phase points to the final phase – and here was the problem. 7th placed in the first phase KPV Kokkola had 25 points – 4 less than the winner of this phase, TPS Turku. Halving the points reduced the difference to 2 points. The whole first phase was quite meaningless and a clever club would play just well enough to qualify to the final stage, when the competition would be already tired from spending too much effort in the first phase. And that was seemingly the case in Finland this year: HJK Helsinki, 5th in the first phase, and Kuusysi Lahti, 6th, stepped up in the 2nd phase, but the leaders of the 1st phase, TPS Turku and Koparit Kuopio (formerly KPT Kuopio), were no longer competitive. At the end Kussysi prevailed and won the title.

The city of Lahti was no stranger to success, but the club was Reipas, not this one. Kuusysi was new club – or kind of new club. Its roots were old, but 1969 was the most important year. At that time the name was Lahti69 and it is difficult to figure out what exactly this club was: a brand new one, an off-shoot of Reipas, taking off on its own, amalgamation of other clubs or remains of other clubs. The name was odd and was quickly changed to something more palatable… or well, so it looks just because it is letters and looks like name. Who knows Finnish isn’t fooled – it is just that instead of numbers 69 is written with letters. The new boys did well in their short history – established themselves in the top league, sometimes playing better than Reipas, which showed signs of decline. However, nothing spectacular so far…

The squad means nothing to almost anybody, but it is historic nevertheless: these boys made Kuusysi champions for the first time. Did they take advantage of the championship formula or were they even a bit lucky no longer mattered: the young ‘underdog’ won. At the same time Reipas was playing in 2nd Division (won promotion this year, after finishing 2nd in the promotion-relegation tournament).

The Cup final opposed Haka Valkeakoski to KPV Kokkola.

Haka won 3-2 and got their 7th Cup.





Luxembourg. The winners of Second Division were US Rumelange. Stade Dudelange was 2nd and both teams were promoted. It was wonderful season for US Rumelange – they almost reached European spot.

Spora Luxembourg was last. May be a bit of a surprise, but they were weak. So was Jeunesse Hautcharage, which finished 11th thanks to better goal-difference. The lowest teams finished with 10 points each, plummeting down to second division. With 14 points Olympique Eischen was safe – 10th place was almost a success for them.

Jeunesse Esch/Alzette finished 3rd with 29 points.

Progres Niedercorn was strong, but unable to repeat their success of the previous year – 2nd this time, 4 points behind the champions. 32 points.

With 36 points Avenir Beggen was confident winner. One more title for them.

The Cup final opposed the Second Division champion US Rumelange to 4th placed Red Boys Differdange. A good opportunity for US to make a double and to become one of the underdogs playing in the Cup Winners Cup. Red Boys had relatively good season in the top league, but winning the Cup was their true chance for success. US put the good fight, came close, but the objectively stronger first division team tampered their ambition.

Red Boys prevailed 2-1 and the Cup was theirs. Well done.


Mysterious Albania. Terribly difficult to found pictorial material, among other things – even now. KS Traktori (Lushnje) won the Second Division championship – on goal-difference. KS Skenderbeu (Korce) was 2nd and both teams were promoted. Worth noticing that both teams were relegated the previous season – together they were returning to top flight right away.

KS 24 Maji (Permet) was the absolute outsider, finishing last with 13 points. KS 31 Korriku (Burrel) was 13th with 20 points. Relegated both, just like they were promoted together the year before. Up the table nothing much until the very top – no shifts of power. KS Dinamo (Tirana) was 3rd with 32 points, KS Flamurtari (Vlore) – 2nd with 33 points. The champion was a bit of surprise, however.

May be not a photo of this season, but at least from the period. KS 17 Nentori (Tirana) was confident champion with 37 points – 4 more than the 2nd placed. 15 wins, 7 ties, 4 games lost, 42-15 scoring record. It had been a long wait – 17 Nentori failed to win the championship since 1970! This was their 11th title, including the 6 titles won by their predecessor SK Tirana in the 1930s. However, they were still the 3rd most successful Albanian club, trailing behind Dinamo and Partizani.

A chance for a double – 17 Nentori reached the Cup final, facing KS Dinamo (Tirana). Dinamo won the first leg 1-0. 17 Nentori won the second leg 3-2. The rule of away goals made Dinamo the winner.

Like the photo above – may be not from this year. Dinamo won its 10th Cup. Only Partizani had higher record – 11 Cups.


Malta. The smallest league in Europe – only 8 teams. Two relegated, though. Insignificant as it was, this season was historic. On the field – nothing to catch attention really. Zebbug Rangers and Rabat Ajax finished at the top of Second Division and were promoted.

Gzira United was the big outsider in the outsider land: they finished the season with a single point, losing all games but one. Senglea Athletics was the other relegated from First Division – 7th with 10 points. The rest was uneventful – there was a single dominant team and no other came close. Sliema Wanderers was 2nd with 18 points: 8 points less than the champions. And they had amazing record – 12 wins and 2 ties. Not even one match was lost – Sliema lost 4 games, for instance. 36-7 scoring record! Yes, the league was small, weak, and the championship consisted of only 14 rounds, but such dominance was rare and especially in small leagues – hard to achieve. Hibernians was really formidable champion. And there dominance was completed with the Cup – at the final they won over the 2nd best team, Sliema Wanderers, 2-0. A double.

Fantastic season, but even such dominant year would not be historic one for a club familiar with success – this was 6th title for Hibernians and their 5th Cup. But they never had a double before. Or after… so, it was the best ever season and remains so: the only time Hibernians won a double. One day they may win another double.


Iceland. Trottur Reykjavík confidently won the II Division.

They lost just a single match, won 12, and received only 8 goals – the best records this in both I and II Divisions.

Thor Akureyri was 2nd with 23 points – 5 less than Throttur. Both teams were promoted.

KA Akureyri – 10th with 14 points, and Fram Reykjavík – 9th with 15 points, were relegated from I Division. Valur Reykjavík lost 2 games for using illegible player – they were awarded to Valur’s opponents, but the consequences were mild – Valur was strong and 4 lots points did not endanger it, but not strong enough to worry about lost title – they finished 5th after penalties, otherwise would have been 3rd. Now 3rd was KR Reykjavík, which managed to tie 11 of total 18 championship games – only 2nd division Fylkir had more ties this year – 12. ÍB Vestmannæyjar ended with silver medals and 22 points.

23 points were enough to win the championship and Vikingur Reykjavík achieved that after 7 wins, 9 ties, and 2 losses. They scored 25 goals, receiving 18 in the same time. Vikingur got second consecutive title and their 4th in total.

The Cup final opposed ÍB Keflavík to ÍA Akranes and Akranes prevailed 2-1.

The Cup was theirs, which was great.

IA Akranes had long strong presence in Icelandic football, becoming one of the recognized Icelandic clubs in Europe, but usually they won the championship. So far, they had just a single Cup in their trophy room, so it was much desired second Cup victory.



Norway. What came to the world’s attention was little, as always – more or less, the final table. But Norwegian football was vast.

A glimpse of the depths: Third Division Alta IF.

Anyway, top level football was the only really important thing. The highest division was still small, 12 teams, two of them directly relegated and one going to promotion/relegation play-offs. Thus, second level comes to the surface and the end of this season was remarkable: Fredrikstad was 10th and went to the play-offs to meet the second division candidates, Steinkjer and Eik. Eik, to the world, was the same as already mentioned Alta IF – entirely unknown. Looked like Fredrikstad would not have any trouble keeping its place among the best. But they lost their opening match at home against this very Eik and although they won – away – the match with Steinkjer, it was not enough. Eik took full advantage of their home game against Steinkjer, prevailing 2-1. In fact, the unknown team already knew the result of Fredrikstad vs Steinkjer and needed only a tie.

This was the biggest success in the history of the club. Eik IF was founded in 1928 and represented Sem municipality. So far, they played in total obscurity and most certainly were pleasant surprise, going to debut in the top league the next season.

As for the rest of Second Division:

Strømsgodset Drammen failed to win promotion, but

Brann was successful.

Molde finished last in First Division with 16 points.

Sogndal was 11th , also with 16 points. These, plus Fredrikstad, were relegated.

Start survived – 9th with 20 points.

At the more important higher end of the league nothing really dramatic happened. Lillestrom ended 3rd with 25 points and Bryne bested them by a point to finish 2nd and earn the sole Norwegian spot in the UEFA Cup.

Viking (Stavanger) practically had no challengers this season, winning the championship with 29 points from 11 wins, 7 ties, and losing 4 games. 39-24 was their scoring record. Three points difference hardly suggests dominance, but remember that Norwegian league was small and fairly equal. Viking won their 7th title.

The champions had no chance for a double, for they did not reach the Cup final. The finalists were technically lowly teams – Molde, which was last in the championship, and 2nd Division Brann. Brann (Bergen) prevailed 3-2 and won the Cup.

Second row from left: Oddvar Løkkeberg (assistant coach), Thor Åge Johansen, Paul Danielsen, Bjørn Erik Brandt, Nils Espen Eriksen, Stein Norstad, Geir Andre Johannesen, Tore Strand, Terje Rolland, Neil MacLeod, Ingvar Dalhaug.

Sitting: Arne Møller, Asgeir Kleppa, Øyvind Pettersen, Kjell Rune Pedersen, Arve Mokkelbost (coach), Geir Austvik, Hans Brandtun, Finn Krogh, Geir Midttveit, Magnar Heggen.

Their 5th Cup! Also, it is always nice to see lower division team winning a trophy – and inevitably contributing to the fall of the Cup Winners Cup…