Debut. Sotil’s unhappy story ended in 1986 and in the same year started another story with unhappy end. Again, bright beginning – Andres Escobar Saldarriaga debuted this year for Atletico Nacional.
Like Sotil, Escobar debuted at 19 and immediately was noticed. Like Sotil, he quickly became national team player. Like Sotil, the newcomer was blessed with good teammates – one of them the flamboyant goalkeeper Rene Hiquita, already known to the world. Only Sotil was a striker and the Colombian – central defender.
Escobar was unusual case not only for South America – he did not come from the working class, but from the middle class – and not just from middle class, but form upper middle class: his father was banker. The son was highly educated as well and technically did not need to play professional football, having much better options with other professions. But football is football and even father Darrio Escobar was not immune to its charms: he founded organization giving young boys the opportunity to play football instead of living on the streets and had no objections to his own sons becoming professional players. Which they did and Andres and Santiago played together for Atletico Nacional. This was not the best time in Colombia and particularly in the city of Medellin – it was the time of the drug cartels and political violence, a time of practically civil war and general violence and lawlessness. In terms of football, it was the time Colombia was blessed with talented generation of players, gradually lifting up Colombian football from its relative obscurity. Escobar was not only part of the improvement, but unusual part too: in the brutal football practiced in the 1980s and the general brutality of Colombian life in the same decade, he was rather odd – he played clean football, eventually earning the nickname El Caballero del Futbol (The Gentleman of Football) and he was tireless advocate of good causes and things Colombian. As far as it is known, Escobar had nothing to do with corrupt practices and drug cartels – staying clean in such atmosphere was really a heroic task, may be possible only because of Escobar’s family background: he did not need money from playing football, he had other options in life, unlike the typical professional footballer coming from poverty. Plenty of talent too, so Andres Escobar quickly established himself – practically in his very first season and by 1988 he was playing for the national team as well. Bright talent and positive example as well – and all that came to end in most gruesome way on July 1, 1994. But that is still far ahead in the future – in 1986 a new star emerged, something to enjoy.


Retirement. One of the greatest Peruvian footballers retired this year without much of a notice. Hugo Alejandro Sotil Yeren was born in 1949 made his professional debut in 1968 for Deportivo Municipal (Lima). His club was in Second Division then, but earned promotion to the top league and not without the help of the young talent.

Playing for Deportivo Municipal was fine – the team was talented and Sotil became the star of the team with which he stayed until 1973.
The young striker was instantly noticed, praised and included in the national team, which in turn sensationally qualified to the 1970 World Cup finals.
The national team of Peru 1970: Standing: Campos, Challe, Chumpitaz, Rubiños, Risco and De La Torre. Bended: Del Castillo, Sotil, León, Cubillas and Gallardo.
Peru had impressive World Cup and the key players became known around the world – Sotil was not yet regular starter before the finals, but really established himself in Mexico and became one of the three stars of the team along Chumpitaz and Cubillas. In a sense, he was discovered during the 1970 World Cup. He was one of the key Peruvian players after that, making strong duo with Cubillas.

‘El Cholo’, as he was already nicknamed, was transfered to Barcelona in 1973. He was the first foreign player Barcelona bought after the lifting of the ban on foreign players in Spain – before Cruijff!
Cruijff arrived soon and the two stars became instant friends.


Number 9 and number 10 had great understanding and played well together, winning the title.
Sotil played and scored a goal in the legendary annihilation of Real Madrid at Bernabeu 5-0 this season. It could be said that 1973-74 was the peak of Sotil’s career – he was the top Peruvian player playing for the top club not just in Spain. No other Peruvian player of his generation reached such a position: Cubillas, for instance, went to play in Portugal and later in Switzerland. Not the same exposure. But going to Barcelona was also the undoing of Sotil.
In 1974 Barcelona bought Neeskens and although the smiling pictures of the three great foreigners were great, reality was cruel: the rules allowed only 2 imports to play, Sotil became one too many and out of the team. In 1974-75 he did not play a single official match for Barcelona. The next year he came back only because fans demanded his return to the starting squad after terrible performance of the team. It was too late and not real return… Sotil was unable to handle his sudden relegation to the bench in 1974, he lost form for lack of playing time, lost confidence and turned to drink. His last season with Barcelona was pathetic – he played only 5 games in 1976-77, scoring one goal.
Playing for Peru was bitter-sweet experience too: after Neeskens’ arrival in Barcelona, the national team of Peru was more than matter of patriotism and loyalty – it became the only chance to actually play for Sotil. But in that times clubs were more than reluctant to release players for national team duties and South Americans playing in Europe suffered the most because of the distances. Yet, Sotil reached the peak with the national team in that time, winning Copa America in 1975. It was fantastic event: Sotil was permitted by Barcelona to join Peru only for the final in Caracas and he arrived not even in the last minute, but after the last minute – travel was such, that he entered the stadium when his teammates were warming-up on the pitch already. It was exactly from the airplane to the field, hardly the best circumstances for strong performace. However, Sotil made a miracle – he scored the only goal of the final against Colombia and thus Peru won Copa America. Hero again and at least to the general public, there was nothing wrong with ‘El Cholo’ – but there was…
Barcelona let him go in 1977 and by now European clubs were not interested – Sotil lost his lustre, he was yesterday’s news, and very likely he did not want to stay longer in Europe after the bitter experience in Spain. He returned to Peru, joining Alianza (Lima).

It was lucky strike – Sotil was again in great company, between old buddy Cubillas and bright new star Cueto. It worked, Sotil recovered his form, but in a new position: age, inaction and alcohol combined did damage – Sotil lost speed and moved back to midfield. But he shined there and enjoyed playing – and was included in the Peruvian team for the 1978 World Cup finals.

Peru’s Hugo Sotil (third l) tries to retain possession, watched by teammate Teofilo Cubillas (second r), as Scotland’s Stuart Kennedy (third r), Kenny Burns (second l), Martin Buchan (l) and Asa Hartford (r) defend on the edge of their own penalty area (Photo by Peter Robinson – EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images)

This was his second World Cup, but it was bitter-sweet experience – Sotil was regular this time, a key player, and Peru played again well. Here is El Cholo in the middle against Scotland, a match Peru lost, but the bitterest pill to swallow was yet to come: it was not that much the huge loss from Argentina itself, but the never ending accusations that the match was fixed and Peru was bribed. Nothing directly related to Sotil, but he was part of tarnished team… and also he was no longer prime star: Cubillas and Cueto were, El Cholo was just one of the lesser boys. Not so impressive.
His next move was entirely miserable – like many South Americans, he went to play in Colombia, joining Independiente (Medellin) in 1979. He stayed with them two years, but did not play well. He was in and out of the team, scored only 8 goals, and considered retirement.
Going downhill is tough road: wrong decisions and foul habits often drive players to new efforts largely in hope of making some money. Sotil decided to make one more try and joined his original club Deportivo Municipal (Lima). He stayed with them two years, but it was only getting from bad to worse and in 1982 he retired. It was bitter end – nobody noticed his retirement at the age of 33 in the year when Peru was playing again World Cup finals. His old friend Cubillas was in the squad – he and Sotil were ‘discovered’ at the 1970 World Cup, became international stars, but Cubillas stayed at the top. Sotil was going steadily down, reaching obscurity at the end. Almost farsically El Cholo repeated his other great friend, Cruijff, who came back after official retirement: in 1984 Sotil returned to the field and donned the shirt of small Los Espartanos (Pacasmayo) – it was full circle: he started in Second Division and ended in Second Division. He stayed 2 years with Los Espartanos, playing a little, scoring a little.
In 1986 he went to Deportivo Junin and that was the real end – again in the obscurity of second division, this time full obscurity: how many games he played Deportivo Junin is unknown. His final moments left no record, only a photo.
As a whole, the story of Sotil is unhappy one – it was a story of destruction and downhill, akin to the life of Garincha and George Best and pretty much for the same weakness: alcohol. It could be traced to 1974, when Sotil, a prime star, lost his place in the regular line of Barcelona with the arrival of Neeskens. No doubt, Sotil was weak character, but the rules contributed pushed him on the wrong path as well: he was suddenly reduced to play occasional friendly, a top star at his prime reduced to forced idleness. Was it another club, it would have been easier for Sotil to make his mind and leave – but a member of Barcelona… who wants to go elsewhere?
Sotil and Cubillas – what a great duo and how different careers. Compared to Sotil, Cubillas had it worse in 1973 – he was already bigger star than his friend, but went to relatively smaller club and inferior championship: FC Porto. Sotil went right to the top – Barcelona and the Spanish championship. And immediately shined. Cubillas was in the shades somewhat – FC Porto was not yet the great club known to everybody and played secondary role in Portugal. From there Cubillas moved even further down – to Switzerland. But he played regularly, he was local star, he maintained high form. Sotil was at the top of professional football, but sitting on the bench, losing form and value. It could have been different if Sotil, realizing the hopelessness of his situation in Barcelona demanded to be transferred – but he did not and the club chose to keep extra player just in case, diminishing the value of Sotil this way. By 1976 very likely there were interested buyers, so the only thing for Sotil was to go back to Peru and more or less starting from scratch. It was only brief recovery of form, bad habits taking their tall as well. Like Garincha and George Best, Sotil lost money and needed more to feed his habit, thus plunging further down, going to play for whoever was willing to pay him, but unable to impress even in lower levels of footballing world. Cubillas made the most of his talent, Sotil – the least, he destroyed it and became pitiful and painful site. He quit playing anonymous, forgotten, and miserable.
But unlike Garincha and George Best, Sotil did not destroy himself entirely and managed to come out of his demons – eventually, he became a coach and returned to normal life. And he is still alive and regular. His story as a player is sad and bitter one, but at least his life after retiring from playing was not lost. We lost the player, but not the man.

European Player of the Year

The European Player of the Year. It was increasingly more and more difficult task to vote somebody the best – plenty of talent, but hardly unquestionable stars, combining great personal performance with overwhelming performance of their club. 27 players were listed by the participating journalists – longer list than some of the lists in the past, but… there were plenty of ‘but’. At the end 4 strikers ended on top. Preben Elkjaer-Larsen, Denmark and Verona, was 4th with 22 points. One may wonder why so high, another would be satisfied with such recognition. Emilio Butragueno, Spain and Real Madrid, was 3rd with 59 points. Bright young star, just coming to maturity. Real Madrid won the UEFA Cup, Spain had some strong games – but also few questionable ones, just like Real Madrid. Gary Lineker, England and Barcelona, was 2nd with 62 points – perhaps more deserving than Butragueno and Elkjaer-Larsen, but England generally failed at the World Cup. And in Barcelona Lineker did not have a presence similar to Butragueno’s in Real Madrid. Compare these high positions with rather low place Ian Rush got with only 20 points and not a single journalist putting him first or second in his classification. Rush was perhaps better – at this time – than all of the above, but English clubs were banned from playing in the European tournaments and Wales had no chance to qualify to big finals. Rush had to depend only on the domestic English championship and that was not enough. Thus, at the end the number one player was a bit unusual:
Igor Belanov, Dinamo Kiev and USSR, got most points – 84. He was listed number one by 8 journalists and number two by 7. Certainly more people listed him at the top than any other player, but more remarkable was that 21 journalists listed him number 6, the lowest places giving points. That is, Belanov’s talent was universally noticed, but most did not considered him the best, but only one of the top continental strong players.
Really, Belanov got the award largely thanks to his play at the Cup Winners Cup final. Dinamo Kiev dazzled everybody in this match and won it against worthy opponent, Atletico Madrid, displaying football at much higher level. Belanov was splendid himself. Yet, not just to foreign eye Belanov came from nowhere – even on the Soviet Union he hardly caught much attention in the previous years, when he played for Chernomoretz (Odessa). It was his move to Dinamo which propelled him to great season and eventual inclusion in the national team. Yes, his talent finally hit home, but Belanov was not some talented youngster – he was mature player at his prime. The jump from relative obscurity to international fame was not only sudden, but inconsistent too: Belanov failed to impress much at the World Cup finals. Thus, it was mostly thanks to Cup Winners Cup final he won the European award. And unlike all previous holders of the trophy, Belanov was unable to stay at this level longer – strong player, no question about it, but also one-time-wonder.

The Golden Shoe

The Golden Shoe.
Marco van Basten became the top European scorer with 37 goals. Ajax’s new wonderful team in great form without doubt contributed to the success of the talented striker.

It was wonderful reward to be enjoyed in the company of Cruijff, who never got such a shoe.


Luxembourg. Ranked last in Europe – 33th – by UEFA this season. Yet, football was going on and there was exciting battle for the title between three teams. And much more in the lower leagues. CS Petange easily took 2nd place in the Second Division and got promotion.
FC Wiltz 71 won the second level championship – 13 wins, 7 ties, 2 lost games, 48-27 goal-difference and 33 points – 2 more than CS Petange. The champions were promoted, of course.
Stade Dudelange was pitiful – they did not win even a game in the top league, managed only 2 ties and lost all other gamers. Last and relegated with 2 points. Aris Bonnevoie lost their battle for survival by a single point – they were strange team, though: scored 40 goals in 22 championship games. Only three teams scored more than them – Avenir, Spora and CS Grevenmacher – but points decided and Aril ended with only 15. Thus, they were 11th and went down. Despite their great scoring abilities, CS Grevenmacher was way bellow the leading teams – they finished 4th with 26 points. Above them CA Spora Luxembourg, Jeunesse d’Esch/Alzette, and Avenir Beggen competed for the title. At the end 2 points separated the winners from the bronze medalists: Spora was 3rd with 31, Jeunesse – 2nd with 32 points.
Avenir Beggen – pictured playing against PSV Eindhoven for the UEFA Cup – prevailed with 33 points. They won 14 games, tied 5, lost 3, scored 62 and received 21 goals, and won their 4th title.
At the Cup final met the holders Red Boys Differdange and US Luxembourg. Union prevented Red Boys from winning second consecutive Cup by destroying them 4-1.
Union triumphed and it was sweet victory: it was their 7th Cup, but the previous one was one long time ago, in 1969-70.


Iceland. Two teams dominated the season, engaged in tough battle to the very end, decided only on goal-difference. Another memorable moment happened in the Second Division. Iceland introduced the new point system: 3 points for a win and 1 for a tie.
The top 2 were promoted from Second Division as usual and if the second finisher was familiar name with top league experience, the winner was very different.
KA Akureyri got promoted, but was unable to win the second level championship.
Volsungur (Husavik) was Second Division champion with 38 points from 12 wins 2 ties, and 4 losses, 38-15 goal-difference. They were greatly outscored by KA Akureyri, but no problem in that – they clinched the title by a point.
This was not an ordinary victory, but historic event: Volsungur never won anything before, nor had played top league football. Now they won their first trophy and got promoted to the top league – that was to stay in memory.
Meantime the newly promoted teams in the First Division suffered and they were the outsiders in the top championship. IB Vestmannaeyjar finished last with 12 points and UB Breidablik Kopavogur – 9th with 16 points. Both newcomers were relegated right away.
The league, small as it was, was still divided between 4 distinct groups: the two outsiders, then 3 so-so teams, much weaker than the next group of 3 teams, which fought for the 3rd place, but had nothing to do with the race between 2 dominant leaders. It was Reykjavik rivals competing for the title and finishing with same records and points. Goal-difference decided the title: Valur had 31-11, +20, but their opponents finished with +26.
Thus Fram Reykjavik clinched the title after 11 wins, 5 ties, 2 losses, and 39-13. It was very sweet victory not only because it was won in so dramatic way and over local rivals, but because their 16th title came almost 15 years after they won the 15th. There was a long dry spell after 1972, finally over.
Fram went for a double, reaching the Cup final as well, but no luck. IA Akranes prevailed 2-1.
Akranes’ captain Sigurdur Larusson lifted the Cup.
IA Akranes was not a title contender this year, but still managed to stay on top and win a trophy. It was their 5th Cup and perhaps more enjoyable, because the champions of the country were beaten.


Malta. The greatest ever season of Rabat Ajax.
Tarxien Rainbows and
Floriana were on top of Second Division and earned promotions.
Mqabba, 8th with 6 points, and Birkirkara, also with 6 points, but with better goal-difference and 7th, were on the bottom pf the smallest European league and were relegated.
Valletta FC had poor season – 4th with 17 points.
Sliema Wanderers beat Valletta on goal-difference and got bronze medals, Hibernians ended 2nd with 18 points.
Rabat Ajax had fantastic season – they did not lose even one match, won 9, tied 5, scored 20 goals, allowing only 5 in their own net, and with 23 points won the title for a second year in a row. And that was not all: they reached the Cup final, where beat Zurrieq (5th in the championship) 2-0. A season to stay engraved in memory: 2nd title, first Cup, first double. Rabat Ajax were the new kings of Malta.


Cyprus. First and Second divisions were enlarging next season to 16 and 15 teams, so there were no relegations this season.
Ethnikos Achna won Second Division, followed by
Omonia Aradipou. Both teams were promoted.
Ermis Aradipou was the luckiest team – they were last in First Division without winning even one match during the season, but since there were no relegations… it was OK at the end. Aris Limassol was 13th with 19 points and under normal circumstances would go down to second level, but not this time.
Cypriot football was improving, no doubt, but given the results in the championship, the wisdom of enlarged league was questionable – pretty equal, but weak teams up to 5th place. Nea Salamina Famagusta took it with 25 points. Above them was better than mots team, but also much weaker than the top three – Anorthosis Famagusta, 4th with 32 points. Apollon Limassol was 3rd with 37 points.
Omonia Nicosia, in white in their home leg against Anderlecht in the European Champions Cup, ended 2nd with 40 points.
APOEL Nicosia dominated the championship and won it with 47 points. They had fantastic strong season – 22 wins, 3 ties, single loss, 61-12 goal-difference. The long dominance of Omonia was broken at last and in superior manner – what could be better?
APOEL had a good chance for a double, but Apollon Limassol won the Cup final 2-0.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland. Still closed league, Linfield dominated, nothing new. Carrick Rangers was the outsider this season – 14th with 10 points.
Ballymena United was 7th with 27 points.
Larne – 6th with 28 points.
Ards Newtownards – rather distant 3rd with 31 points.
Coleraine – comfortable 2nd with 35 points.
Linfield – dominant and collecting one more title after 20 wins, 3 ties, 3 losses, 59-16 goal-difference and 43 points. Fifth title in a row – it was great run already.
Glentoran and Coleraine met at the Cup final and Glentoran prevailed 2-1.
Coleraine ended second twice, thus without a trophy, but it was still nice season and going to play again in the UEFA Cup.
Glentoran (Belfast) finished the season well – they won their 11th Cup and it was also second consecutive victory.

Finland the Cup

The Cup final was played between unlikely candidates for glory: neither team ever won anything before and if RoPS had strong season, KePS only struggled to stay in the top league. Given that, experienced RoPS was the likeliest winner and they did not disappoint, winning 2-0.

KePS Kemi, although losers, could only be proud of themselves – to reach the Cup final was their greatest ever success, beating their recent best – getting promoted to the Premier Division. Another club may have been disappointed, but the tiny club could only be proud: escaping relegation and playing at the Cup final: success is relative.

RoPS Rovaniemi was also proud – after so many years with no trophy, they won their first at last. Strong overall season, topped by winning the Cup for the first time. Instant heroes, a season to remember, new Cup winner in Finland.