Players stepping down do not finish the sport – others come up, so let wrap 1984 with debutante.

One Eric Cantona, barely 18-years old, debuted in 1983-84 for AJ Auxerre. The club was already hot news, the new talent was noticed, but let face it: at the time the French national team focused all attention to itself, a mere newcomer was hardly a big bang. It is easy now – we all know who Cantona was and what he did. Back then… ambitious as he was, perhaps he was further encouraged by watching the great French team, Platini, Tigana, Giresse, and the rest conquer Europe. But he was yet too young and only promising talent, nothing more than that. Perhaps in another club he was not to play at all – credits to Guy Roux are in order.


Retirement. It was a sad story – Rainer Bonhof had to quit the game prematurely. He did it 1983, but since the season is 1983-84, his retirement belongs here – he started the season for Hertha (West Berlin) and after 6 games and 1 goal had to gave up because of ankle-joint injury. Unfortunately, injuries plagued him and there was no way out. He was 32 at the time.

Thus, after 371 games and 67 goals on club level and 53 games and 9 goals for the West German national team, Bonhof stepped down without fanfare. But what a career, even with the injuries!

Bonhof started with Borussia (Moenchengladbach) quickly becoming a key player of the great team in the 1970s. 4 German titles and 1 Cup. Also 1 UEFA Cup.

Moving to Spanish Valencia paired him with Mario Kempes and new victories – 1 Spanish Cup and 1 Cup Winners Cup.

Then he captained 1.FC Koln and won one more German Cup. But injuries…

And he moved to Hertha in the summer of 1983.

Here was the unfortunate end after 6 games.

Of course, his great talent was noticed quickly and he was invited in the German national team in 1972 and played for it until 1981.

Considering the competition at the time, Bonhof really impressed – of course, his finest moment was the 1974 World Cup, won by West Germany with his great help, but it was not all: he played at 2 World Cup finals and 3 European Championship finals. He became twice European champion (1972 and 1980) and silver medalist in 1976. More than impressive career, peppered by intriguing details. To this day, he is one of the most successful players in the history of the European championships, but… his titles came without him playing even a minute at the finals: he was reserve in both 1972 and 1980. His silver medal, though, was a result of playing in 1976. In 1974 he became the youngest German player to win World Championship and remain so for long, long years. He had one of the hardest kicks in the game at the time, so his long shots and free kicks were more than deadly – Ray Clemence, the great 1970s goalkeeper of Liverpool and England openly feared Bonhof. He was also great passer and tough, but not dirty, defensive midfielder – truly versatile player, a great example of what a total-football player should be. And it was because of him and Stielike the West German Federation lifted its ban for inviting foreign-based players to the national team – both were indispensable. Unfortunately, injuries piled up after 1978 and eventually killed his career.

The Golden Shoe

The Golden Shoe. This season provided a bit of surprise: top European leagues rarely gave a top Continental scorer, because they were tough and scorers had fewer chances. But Ian Rush of Liverpool came with the highest number this time.

The Welshman scored 32 goals for Liverpool – that he scored a plenty was not new and Liverpool had yet another very strong season, but even domineering English football normally did not help much scorers. So, it was fantastic.

Marco van Basten (Holland and Ajax) was second with 28 goals and Nico Claesen (Belgium and Seraing) – third with 27 goals. It was refreshing to see striker from one of the best European leagues scoring the most goals in the whole continent after years of Cypriots and Romanians scoring most goals just because they played in weak championships.

European Player Of The Year

European Player of the Year. Michel Platini was voted number 1, just like in 1983, but his second consecutive award perhaps reflected his finest season.

No point to praise the midfield genius in detail. 1983-84 was wonderful season – was it his personal best is debatable, but he achieved a lot exactly at that time.

Everything clicked just right at Juventus and the team was at its peak. With France, Platini won the European Championship. Of course, it was largely the European finals tipping the scales in his favour, but unlike his rivals Platini had it all together – wonderful and successful on both club and national team level. So, 24 of the 26 voting participants put him number 1 and the remaining two placed him second. Those two thought gave the top place to Jean Tigana and Ian Rush, but neither was able to come even remotely close to Platini – it was almost full and universal agreement that the 29-years old French star was supreme. Jean Tigana (France and Bordeaux) came 2nd and Preben Elkjaer-Larsen (Denmark and Hellas Verona) – 3rd. Which was also telling: both players were voted high largely because of their strong performance at the European finals. On the other hand, Ian Rush (Wales and Liverpool), 4th, was great at club level, but playing for weak national team prevented him for going higher – the European finals were the main factor for the journalists. Platini, solely, had it both – success on both levels and captaining the new European champions certainly helped a lot, yet, it was not just that. Well deserved award, perhaps one of the most convincing choices of best player of the year ever. And now Michel Platini was European Player of the Year twice, and he was 3rd in 1977 and 1980.



Finland. Was this the weakest European football is debatable, but one thing was certain – Finnish football, lowly as it was, was seemingly getting worse. Compared to others at the bottom of the European pile, here football was not improving at all. Partly because of that, partly because of the problems every small league had – few games, mainly – the championship was run in complicated way. A regular season at first, followed by direct elimination play-offs for the title. And there was also mini promotion/relegation tournament, which involved the next to last in the preliminary stage and the 2nd placed in the Second Division. Since 2 teams ended with equal points, at first there was a play-off for the safe 10th place in the top division: Koparit (Kuopio) prevailed 2-1 over KPV (Kokkola), which went to play in the promotion/relegation play off. MP (Mikkeli) was 12th – last – with 11 points and directly relegated.

OTP (Oulu) won the Second Division championship with 32 points and was promoted. KPV (Kokkola) kept its top league place after 1-2 and 2-0 against Elo (Kuopio), 2nd in the Second Division.

So far, so good. The top 4 teams of the preliminary stage proceeded to the semi-finals of the final stage. Kuusysi (Lahti), 3rd in the preliminary stage, eliminated the winners of the same stage Haka (Valkeakoski) 2-0 and 1-2.

Ilves (Tampere), 4th in the preliminary stage, lost to 2nd placed TPS (Turku) – 2-1 and 0-4.

Ilves won bronze medals after beating twice Haka – 2-1 and 1-0.

Ilves (Tampere), hoping the names are right: crouching from left – Lemivara, Koivisto, Aho, Malinen, Rasanen, Uimonen, Kuulovainen.

Standing: Linusmaki, Kuusisto, Runsas, Ninimaki, Widgren, Hjelm, Waklin, Bellfield, Ristimaki – coach.

Champions in 1983, now 3rd – not bad.

TPS (Turku) ended with silver – they were no match for bright opponents, who stepped up when it mattered most. Kuusysi won the home leg of the final 4-0 and then tied the away leg 4-4.

Perhaps Kuusysi (Lahti) was the only bright thing in Finnish football – they were new club, established from amalgamation of local teams, with ambition. If their first title in 1982 was taken with a grain of salt, not they confirmed their intention to lead: second title! Back row, left to right: Kenneth Mitchell, Esa Pekonen, Ismo Korhonen, Markus Tornvall, Raimo Kumpulainen.

Front: Ilkka Remes, Ilpo Talvio, Jyrki Hannikainen, Ismo Lius, Jari Rinne, Keith Armstrong.

No secrets here: as everywhere else, improvement was based on imports. Two British players – Mitchell and Armstrong – were imported specifically with winning in mind. They delivered.

Kuusysi attempted to win a double, but no luck – they lost the Cup final 1-2 to HJK Helsinki.
HJK (Helsinki), traditionally the strongest and most successful Finnish club, managed to get one more trophy this year, but it was also significant victory – HJK mostly won championships, not Cups. So far, they won the Cup only 2 times – in 1966 and 1981. Third Cup was much needed, especially when they unable to win the title.


Luxembourg. For a tiny country, Luxembourg has enormous amount of football clubs – going down to 6 divisions, if not more. But it was also lowly football, leaving almost no memories, even pictures. Thus, very briefly. The 12-team Second Division was won by Alliance (Dudelange) – they were vastly superior to anybody, finishing with 6 points advantage. Olympique (Eischen) was second. Both teams were promoted, almost newcomers to the top league.

The 12-teams top league had two outsiders, which was very convenient for all others. Etzella (Ettelbruck) finished last with 9 points. CS Grevenmacher was 11th with 12 points. Both going down. Three teams battled for the title, but at the end it was arguably the most consistent club since the early 70s finishing first. Progres (Niedercorn) took 3rd place with 31 points. Red Boys (Differdange) was 2nd with 32 points. Avenir (Beggen) ended champion with 33 points.

Avenir also reached the Cup final and there destroyed US Rumelange 4-1.

Thus Avenir triumphed with a double, a sweet moment even for clubs used to winning.


Malta. The tiniest league in Europe – only 8 teams. Maltese football was entirely local drama, occasionally played to the fullest: the last match of the championship, between Rabat Ajax and Valletta, was abandoned after pitch invasion. Later it was replayed behind closed doors and Rabat Ajax won 2-0. Still, there is uncertainty to this very day – some sources tell that Valletta was punished with 1 point deduction, others so not. One may say that was all that happened in the Maltese season.

Marsa FC and

Sliema Wanderers got promoted from the Second Division. It was just as small as the top league and because of relegation and promotion only half of the participants remained for the next season. But the winners were happy, going up.

The top league was played in two stages – at first regular one-leg championship, followed by divided stage – the top 4 teams proceeded to the final two-legged round-robin battle for the title and lower 4 to the same format, trying to escape relegation. Points from the first phase were not carried over, but seemingly it did not matter. St. Patrick and Birkirkara were too weak, finishing last in both stages, far behind the others. They went down.

Since the league was small no matter in which phase, there was no way for building big difference in points, but the usual favourite was on top of things all the way. Rabat Ajax put some fight in the final stage – they were 4th in the first – but even after winning the replay they were unable to catch with Valletta. Worse – even if Valletta really had a point deducted for the pitch invasion, Rabat Ajax was still second: the points would be equal, but Valletta had superior goal-difference.

So, Valletta collected one more Maltese title and if there was anything significant – or curious – about it, it was the unthinkable today sponsor of the club: the whiskey producers Teacher’s displayed their add on the shirts. Did the drink helped Valletta win? Did not prevent them from winning, that was sure.

The Cup final opposed Zurrieq to Hamrun Spartans. Now, this was high drama – the final ended scoreless after overtime. Then the replay went into overtime and only at this late time Hamrun Spartans scored the only goal of the two games and grabbed the Cup.

Zurrieq, a modest by Maltese standards club, was most unlucky this season – fist they ended in the relegation group only on worse goal-difference. Then they lost the Cup in most dramatic circumstances . So close both times and disappointed at the end.

Hamrun Spartans did well, although they seemingly gave up on the championship (2nd in the first phase and 3rd in the final standing). Zurrieq was tough enough opponent, but they prevailed in the Cup final and ended the season victorious.


Albania. Memorable season – at least for those few following closely this country’s football. Interesting battle in the Second Division – Apollonia (Fier) lost the battle for the 1st place, the only promotional spot, by a single points. However, they were the highest scorers and ended with the best goal-difference in the all three Albanian divisions: 42-13.

KS Beselidhja (Lezhe) clinched the first place and got promoted – they were relegated from the top league the previous year, but bounced back immediately.

In the First Division the opposite happened: KS 31 Korriku (Burrel) which was just promoted finished last and dropped back to Second Division after a single season. But what happened at the very top was the big deal. None of the big – for this country anyway – clubs from Tirana managed to win the title.

Partizani, for instance, ended 3rd and played no real part in the race for the title.

17 Nentori was more competitive, yet, settled for 2nd place 3 points behind the champions.

The new champion of Albania was really new: a club which never won the championship before.

Labinoti (Elbasan) had splendid season in which they won 15 games, tied 7, and lost 4. 26-14 goal-difference was nothing to brag about, except that the low numbers suggested tied defensive approach, but even this does not much the other numbers – Labinoti was the only team winning more than 50% of the championship games and the next best record was 10 wins. As for ties, only one team had fewer than them – 17 Nentori, in fact, was more defensively minded squad with their 14 ties, the most in the league. Anyway, Labinoti finished 3 points ahead of 17 Nentori, meaning they were really strong, minded business, and achieved their goal before the actual end of the championship. It was wonderful victory, their first title ever. In fact, so far Labinoti had only one trophy – the Albanian Cup, which they won in 1975. Now – the title.

What made the season significant was not just the first Labinoti’s first title – for the first time since 1946 provincial clubs won two consecutive titles: Vllaznia the previous year, now Labinoti.

What was left was the Cup – and it was almost complete rerun of the previous year final: same finalists, same winner, almost the same result. 17 Nentori (Tirana) and Flamurtari (Vlore) met again. In 1983 17 Nentori prevailed 1-0. This time it was 2-1 at the final whistle.

Flamurtari lost second consecutive final. Too bad. They were close, though.

17 Nentori won second consecutive Cup, making their grand total 5 Cups. A title could be better, but still they got a trophy and their rivals Partizani and Dinamo got nothing again (Dinamo, in fact, was in dark period and struggled terribly – they were 11th this year).


Iceland. The predicament of small country and small clubs – although good Icelandic players came out in the 1980s, they inevitably made their names playing for foreign clubs. Domestic football was the same, though – lowly.

FH Hafnarfjördur dominated Second Division and ended 1st with 40 points. Promoted, of course.

Vidir (Gardur) was 2nd and also promoted. 7 points behind the winners, but going up, which was their best achievement so far.

The second division winners were going to replace those at the bottom of the top league next season: KA Akureyri, last, and UB Kopavogur, 9th. Nothing much up the small league, not even big battle for the title.

IA Akranes had no rival at all – at the end, the second placed Valur (Reykjavik) was 10 points behind. 12 wins, 2 ties, 4 losses, 33-18 goal-difference, 26 points. Life was good.

More than good, for IA Akranes also reached the Cup final and won it over Fram (Reykjavik) 2-1.

A double, which was their best achievement so far.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland. May be one easily confuses Republic of Ireland with Northern Ireland – the low profiles of both may confuse Shamrock Rovers with Linfield – both leading clubs, but if Rovers had to suffer 20 years without a title, it was not the same for Linfield. The championship was not much, as usual – two teams were far above the rest of the league and fought for the title.

Glentoran lost the battle and settled for 2nd place with 42 points. They lost only 2 games and received least goals – 19 – but so what?

Linfield was still the winner with 45 points from 22 wins, 1 tie, and 3 losses. 76-23 goal-difference, proving, as ever, that high scoring is far more sufficient than stubborn defense. Third consecutive title, making the grand total… well, does not even matter.

The Cup final was unusual – Carrick Rangers vs Ballymena United. Current form and strength decided the outcome – Ballymena 4, Rangers 1.

No surprise there – Carrick Rangers not only is not known for winning, but had particularly awful season. They were hopeless outsiders, finishing last in the championship with 9 points. FC Larne, just above them, ended with 15 points and that because they were penalized with 2-point deduction. No way a miracle could happen.

Ballymena United was expected winner and easily got the Cup, which they did as well in 1981. Good years, then, for rather modest club even by Irish measures. They were 6th in the championship,which was also fine.