Debut. One out, another in – even before the old greatness exits. Platini was still playing when Paul Ince made his debut in the 1986-87 season.
Born in 1967, the midfielder debuted for the club he was the product of – West Ham United. It was natural – his talent was already noticed during his progress in the youth system of ‘the Hammers’, so barely 20-years old it was time to start playing professionally. A great talent, but also a talent of the current times and their understanding and demands. If Platini debuted 18-years old and even that was a bit late, for he came to professional club from a smaller one, Ince was thought still too young and fragile at 20 – that was the difference between 1972 and 1986. Careful with the youngsters – they were not ready for professional clash with full grown men and may burn out. Too young to trust them, but then if not playing them, they will never be ready and burn out by inaction. 20 years seems agreeable risk, 18 – not at all. Unlike Platini Ince was physically strong and fit, a born fighter. The rest was also different – Ince was a product of the 1980s football – hard worker, a team player, good overall, but not exceptionally skillful and imaginative. Not a free artist, surely. Of course, all that was not immediately clear or even important – at the time, he was just a youngster who made his strong debut. He was ‘the Gov’ner’ yet, that came years later, but his debut was fine, thus an important stepping stone not just for his own career.
Trademark gestures and success will come soon, though. Paul Ince debuted on November 30th, 1986 against Newcastle United. West Ham lost 0-4… hardly the day to remember.


Retirement. Always a tense moment – was it too early; was it too late? Nobody wants their favourites to quite and nobody wants them to become pale shadows of themselves, to become a disgrace. In the case of Platini it looked like too early – he was still at the top and announcing retirement at 32 felt disappointing. It was also felt just right – a great player stepping down before becoming a mockery of himself. To be remembered well, without ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’, shining bright. In retrospective, his decision to announce retirement at the end of the 1986-87 Italian season only became more plausible, justified and wise. Just a few months before he played his last game for France.
April 1987 – Platini captained France in the home game against Iceland. France won 2-0, which was the only win of the 1986 World bronze medalists in this year. It was a team going through changes and going down. Platini apparently sensed what was coming – and left after a victory. Excellent timing.
Soon after he announced his retirement from the game – Juventus finished 2nd in the championship and was not the great winning team anymore. Platini was not enough to keep neither Juventus, nor France on the top in the turbulent time of rebuilding. His timing was right. And there was another factor, largely unnoticed at the time – he looked healthy, but injuries were taking their toll. His career was not all that rosy, as it appeared to be from aside – he was playing professional football 15 years already. And because he was a great star, nobody remembered that he played football by chance – 15 years later, his body alone remembered. He did not mentioned this reason when he announced his retirement after the match against Brescia in June 1987 – he said “I played for Nancy because it was my hometown club and the best in Lorraine, for Saint-Étienne because it was the best team in France, and for Juventus because it is the best team in the world!” instead. Sounds great, but the begining was not so – he was unable to make a trial with Metz because of injury. A second trial failed with terrible medical verdict: breathing difficulties and weak heart. He was not only not to play for Metz, but very likely not to play professional football at all. But he did and in 1972 debuted for Nancy – it happened thanks to a hat-trick he scored earlier for the reserve side of the club and he made his first appearance for the first team on May 3, 1973 against Nimes. And soon he was a regular.
Yes, we remember Platini with number 10, but at the beginning he had to play with other numbers – 8, sometimes 11. Number 8 seems right, though – for he was primarily a playmaker, although not entirely – rather, an attacking midfielder-playmaker, something between classic number 8 and 10. Yes, he made the first team, but Nancy was playing in the Second Division – quite well, as it happened, but for Platini it was not a steady climb up: he suffered heavy injury, a double fracture of his left arm in March 1974 and missed the rest of the season. Nancy was going back to Second Division meantime.
Another setback was inevitable military service – although he served largely in Army team, he was not regularly available for Nancy. But he served together with his old friend, the goalkeeper Moutier, with whom he trained his famous (later) free-kicks. And after the Army – new setback: booed by Laval fans and angered by that, he scored three goals and injured again himself in the effort. Another season was going to be cut short… however, initial reports proved untrue. At least for awhile, for two weeks later he had to leave the field injured in the Cup semi-final against St. Etienne. Nancy lost it 1-4, he scored the only goal for his side. A string of injuries, but when he was healthy, his talent was very noticeable.
Which earned him a place in the French Olympic team – with them, he played at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. And that in turn earned him his first professional contract – Nancy signed him for 2 years.

And now he debuted for the national team of France. Still the young broom, wearing number 8, against Czechoslovakia in 1976, on March 27th. It was the debut of both Michel Hidalgo at the helm of France and his most memorable player. The match ended 2-2, but this time there was no setbacks, no doubts – a star was born. Platini scored his first goal for France in his first match from his trademark free-kick. And France was only going up after that.
From shaky talented youngster to bright young star, acclaimed around Europe.
From mere hopeful, happy to have his photo next to the current stars – the Revelli brothers – in 1973 to playing along them in 1976 and outshining them.
With him in the center France qualified to the 1978 World Cup finals – for the first time since 1966.
And Nancy was not doing badly with him either – in 1976 he was already wearing number 10.
However, he won the French Cup with number 9. At the time, he was the captain of Nancy and France was going to play at the 1978 World Cup.
And performed well in Argentina – both France and Platini made impression, even if they eliminated in the preliminary group stage. And once again misfortune… it was their bad luck to have no required reserve kit for the game against Hungary and played with borrowed shirts from a local club. France and Platini with unfamiliar green-white stripes.
Stardom has its own demands – Nancy was too small for Platini and St. Etienne was rebuilding, determined to stay best. Platini was part of the new team, joining them in 1979.
Playing along with Johnny Rep was great, winning was great, but… St. Etienne with Platini was not the great team of mid-70s. They failed to reach the international success of the previous generation. Still, for Platini was big step up – this time he was winning championships! And was a hot property too – around 1978 not only St. Etienne was interested of obtaining him, but real interest built up after 1980 when Italy opened its market for foreign players. Juventus, Inter, Arsenal, Napoli, Barcelona, Valencia were interested – for one or another reason, the next move happened in 1982, when France played excellent World Cup, lead by Platini – he already a big international star, his status amply confirmed by the great performance of France. Juventus was the next stop and with them – both domestic and international success. “We bought him for a morsel of bread and he put foie gras on top of it!”, said Gianni Agnelli, then the President of Juventus. Admiration was mutual, although the first season was rather shaky and remained so until Platini and Boniek rebelled against the coach’s tactics and required different style of playing, more suitable to their great abilities.

And in 1984 France won the European title – the highest success of this great squad, lead by Platini. Winning at last! Winners! Platini was the best European player, one of the very best in the world. He was 29 – that was perhaps the key: he was getting old, inevitably beginning to think of the twilight of his career, feeling old and new injuries – how long he could play without becoming a disgrace, for great things were expected from great stars and nothing less. The 1986 World Cup was a disappointment, for France again failed to reach the final – played great and failed… In 1987 Boniek was no longer with Juventus. Both the national team of France and Juventus were going into the process of rebuilding – the old great stars were stepping down and the new boys were not quite right. Times were changing too, bringing new leaders and stars – Argentina won the World Cup, lead by Maradona, Napoli, also lead by Maradona, was reaching its peak. Juventus and France were at the other side of the curve, going down… it was the best moment to retire: his teams were still strong, respected, not a mockery of themselves. Platini call it a day. He played for three clubs:

Nancy – 1972-79: 181 games and 98 goals,
St. Etienne – 1979-82: 104 games and 58 goals, and
Juvenus – 1982-87: 147 games and 68 goals.
A total of 432 games and 224 goals on club level.

For France, he played 72 games and scored 41 goals between 1976 and 1987. Add 7 games and 4 goals for the French Olympic team. And lastly he played one more national team match – in 1988 he was persuaded to come out of retirement by the Kuwaiti Emir and on November 27 played 21 minutes for Kuwait in a friendly against USSR. The match ended 0-2, which was not surprising. However, it was official game – and it is a bit of mystery how it counts, for technically Platini could not represent Kuwait by FIFA rules. But he played, the game apparently did not create any fuss or threats with sanctions for Kuwait. That was the last official match Platini played, so his retirement came when? In 1987 or in 1988? Never mind.
At the end dry statistics tell it best: winning the French Cup with Nancy in 1978, the French title with St. Etienne in 1981, the Italian Cup with Juventus in 1983, the Italian title with Juventus in 1984 and 1986, the Cup Winners Cup with Juventus in 1984, the European Champions Cup with Juventus in 1985, the Intercontinental Cup with Juventus in 1986, World Cup bronze medals with France in 1982 and 1986, European champion with France in 1984, three times top scorer of the Italian championship in 1982-83, 1983-84, and 1984-85, three times voted European Player of the Year in 1983, 1984, and 1985.
Platini was universally loved player, for he was everything fans dream of: highly skillful, imaginative and creative player with great vision and passing abilities. One who weaves beautiful games, creates great opportunities for his teammates and scores beautiful goals. His free-kicks were always a delight. Graceful, elegant, intelligent, with unique ability to read the game and control it, a wonderful dribbler and also a gentleman on the field – he was never sent-off, never retaliated to provocations and rarely argued with the referees. He really deserved his nickname ‘Le Roi’ – the King – and Pele considered him the most influential player of the 1980s. However, Platini was not always praised by specialists: he was criticized first of all for lack of enthusiasm in training, particularly physical training. As many of the greatest stars he disliked training, the hard work, preferring the artistry of real competitive game. In his own words, ‘we’re not going to compete in the 5000 metres at the Olympics, we have to play with our feet.’ Naturally, he was criticized – sometimes even by teammates- for his reluctance to help defensively. Poor defensive work-rate and lack of stamina. Compared to Cruijff – inevitable at the time – he lacked the explosivity of the Dutchman and some even thought him physically weaker, which sounds laughable, for when Cruijff was at his peak he was criticized pretty much for the same faults: poor defensive work-rate, lack of stamina and reluctance to work on his physical deficiencies. Lastly, Platini was criticized for lack of restrain in celebrating Juventis’s win at the ill-fated European Champions Cup final in 1985. The Heysel Stadium tragedy was very dark, indeed – many thought the final should not have been played at all after the fight on the stands left 39 dead and over 600 injured. The game was further tarnished by the controversial penalty awarded to Juventus from which Platini scored the only goal and thus won the trophy for Juventus. Boniek was brought down outside penalty area, but the referee decided the foul was committed inside. Platini defended himself by saying that he was not fully aware of the dimensions of the tragedy and as for the penalty – the referees decide them, not the players. True, on both counts… after all, it was not the players deciding to play the final, but officials. And official gave the penalty. But his excuses sounded shallow – the death toll waited darkly against every word a player would say. This should have been the greatest moment in Platini’s career – winning the European Champions Cup for both himself and Juventus, but instead became dark moment in which he was guilty of celebrating unfair victory, a feast in time of plague… somehow his scoring and celebration justified previous injustice: the shamefull viscious foul committed by Tony Schumacher in the semi-final of the 1982 World Cup, leaving Battiston almost dead and practically robbing France of a chance to win the world title. Apart from such negative sides, Platini’s career was almost blameless and in any case the general opinion of him remained very positive. Stepping down in 1987 perhaps was very wise decision in terms of future – Platini was mainly loved and remembered as adorable great player.
He stepped out of his football boots to step in another kind of shoes – that of a coach first and administrator later and this part of his life did no go plausible, respectful, and adorable, so let remember the player and not the administrator.

European Championship Qualifications Group 5, 6, and 7

Group 5. Holland, Hungary, Poland, Greece, Cyprus. Something strange here… a revival of Holland was already noticed after 1984, but by itself it was not enough to place them in urn 1, the urn of the favourites: Holland failed to qualify to both 1984 Euro and 1986 World Cup. Yet, they were in among the mightiest and Italy – among the so-so teams in urn 4… Meantime Hungary was so-so and Poland in decline. Since past shapes the present, Holland was cautiously seen as a favourite, but also cautiously Poland and Hungary were pretenders… anything could happen. At least before the games started. Greek football was rising, but for the moment the most Greece was able of was giving troubles to the stronger teams and perhaps messing up their plans. Cyprus… the usual outsider. What was imagined as rather tough and unpredictable group crushed such illusions right away – Holland was really coming back with vengeance and Poland and Hungary were really less than supposed to be. Of course, not everything was smooth: Poland gave the fright to the Dutch with their blatantly defensive football in Amsterdam – Holland dominated the match by far, but it ended 0-0. Then a few months later Greece did the same – 1-1 in Amsterdam. And at this point – March 25, 1987 – the group was suddenly truer than the expected: Greece was leading the table! The great rivalry between the three favourites was going to cost them dearly – the underdog sneaked unnoticed. Rather, noticed… Hungary had issues with the lost game against Greece in Athens – from Polish standpoint, the Hungarians had to blame only themselves. However, it was tit for that – usually the home team won, so 4 teams just shuffled positions depending on the latest result. Everything ended at the end of the schedule: on October 19th, 1987, when the four teams played at the same time. Greece, still on top of the table, visited Hungary in Budapest. Poland hosted Holland. Now everything fell into the right position – Greece fought as much as they could, but lost 3-2. Poland was really too weak for the new Dutch and lost at home 0-2. Right after that came a farce… Holland won at home 8-0 against Cyprus. Nothing wrong with the result itself – and Holland actually needed only a tie to win the group – but hoolliganism popped-up its ugly head: a Dutch supporter hurled smoke-bomb or cracker which exploded next to the Cypriot goalkeeper and he fell down. Really injured or not, the referee stopped the game, the keeper was carried out on a stretcher and the whole Cypriot team left the field. In the next 56 minutes the President of the Dutch Federation tried to persuade the Cypriots to come back and finish the game. Eventually, he succeeded and the Cyprus came back with substitute keeper to whom 7 of the 8 Dutch goals were scored. But even if the Cypriots decided not to file protest the incident was noted and recorded and a month later UEFA issued its verdict: the game was annulled and Cyprus was awarded 3-0 victory. Holland immediately appealed this decision. The basis of their appeal was the very unclear decision of the Luxembourg referee to stop the game – according to the Dutch, he did it right away, so it least their leaving the field was only following his order. Referee’s version was different – he decided to stop the game because the Cyrpiots already left the field. All that shifted the blame to the Cypriots and new verdict for a replay of the match on neutral ground was issued near the end of November. This infuriated the Greeks, whose only hope for qualification laid on awarded victory to Cyprus and heroic win in the last group match in which they hosted Holland – now this scheme was out and in retaliation they changed the venue of the match with Holland from Athens to tiny stadium in the city of Alexandropoulis at the Turkish border. UEFA reacted with big threats and Greece had to abandon this idea, but still without giving up – the new proposal was in Rodos Island and they also announced that they will field their Olympic team because this match is of no importance to anybody now. This time UEFA accepted the Greek proposal and one may wonder why… Well, the game really did not mattered any more – that was certain. In the replay Holland won 4-0 and soon after both Greece and Holland met with substitute squads and Holland won 3-0. It was mere formality anyway, but Holland was the last team to qualify to the 1988 finals.
Cyprus – last, as expected. 0 1 7 3-16 1 point.

Poland – 4th. It was a fact: this was very inferior team compared to the one of 1974. Having chance to win the group was only that – a chance, much depending on stumbles of others. 3 2 3 9-11 8 points.
Hungary – 3rd. Like the photo of Poland, this is picture of their home game against Holland – which, like Poland, they lost, 0-1. This sums it all – the real class showed in direct games and in them chance was not a factor. 4 0 4 13-11 8 points.
Greece – 2nd. Here chance worked in their favour – to the point of entertaining hopes for winning the group. But depending on chance was not enough… 4 1 3 12-13 9 points.
Holland won. Top row from left: Ruud Gullit, Adri van Tiggelen, Addick Koot, Ronald Spelbos, Frank Rijkaard.
Middle row: Marco van Basten, Ronald Koeman, Sjaak Troost, Erwin Koeman, John Bosman.
Sitting: John van ‘t Schip, Sonny Silooy, Joop Hiele, Rinus Michels, Hans van Breukelen, Jan Wouters, Michel Valcke.
Well, this is the squad in 1987 and everything seems done – Holland was back with new great team. As usual, coming back from decline is not just an explosion, but rather long and shaky process, step by step. Really, the Dutch team started playing with comfort in 1987, but the shaky beginning of the campaign did not look so shaky at the end: 6 2 0 15-1 14 points.
Group 6. Denmark, Wells, Czechoslovakia, Finland. Denmark was considered favourite, with slight possibility of Wells or, likelier, Czechoslovakia challenging the Danes. May be, just in case, just to stay on the safe side, if something surprising happened… Nothing happened – Wells was Wells, with its limited resources they had no chance; like many other countries, Czechoslovakia was in decline during the 1980s, now even losing to Finland (0-3 in Helsinki), Finland was getting better somewhat, but may be only because others were weaker now, and Denmark, although having difficulties in scoring goals, was better the the others and fulfilled the predictions. However, they had to thank the Fins – Czechoslovakia lost only one match and that was to the Fins – if they managed different outcome, Denmark was going to be second. Then again, if the outcome in Helsinki was different, nay be other results – particularly those between Czechoslovakia and Denmark (0-0 and 1-1) may have been differed too.
Finland – 4th. Modest, but brave. 1 1 4 4-10 3 points.
Wales – 3rd. What can you say? Pity Jan Rush… However, they do not give up, which is admirable. 2 2 2 7-5 6 points.

Czechoslovakia – 2nd. They had a chance to win, but, frankly, such a team did not deserve to win. Of course, some good players here – but also many not so good. That was all Czechoslovakia had at hand at that time – nothing like the 1960s and 70s, when there was plenty of talent. In the 80s there was simply not enough. 2 3 1 7-5 7 points.
Denmark qualified to the Euro finals. The 1980s was their decade – great generation. Small, but wonderful. Aging already, but very experienced and as every small squad there was the advantage of players knowing each other inside out. Given their limited resources, one can understand why they struggled occasionally – especially against relatively modest, but decent teams. Yet, they deserved to reach the finals and not just because they were everybody’s darlings. 3 2 1 4-2 8 points.
Group 7. Belgium, Bulgaria, Eire, Scotland, Luxembourg. The most uncertain and unpredictable group – except Luxembourg, anybody could win. The relative parity came from the decline of Belgium, having its own great team aged and stars retiring, the decline of Scotland, having fewer and fewer really great players in recent years, on one hand. On the other hand, Bulgaria had routinely underperformimg talent, which was pretty much enough to fight successfully current Belgians and Scots, and the Irish fought bravely no matter what. No team was particularly great, but that was a matter of a draw and not their fault – an iron group was formed, so here was really difficult to make predictions. Belgium had great World Cup in 1986, but it was already clear that it was the swansong of a generation stepping down, so it was dangerous to think of them as favourites – highly possible was that goal-difference could be the decisive factor at the end, so suddenly the matches with Luxembourg became of almost crucial importance – very likely who scored the most against the eternal outsiders would win. However, none of the candidates was a high scoring team, especially when playing against punching begs… And caution was justified right from the start of the campaign – Scotland-Bulgaria 0-0 and Belgium-Eire 2-2. Then Belgium seemingly made the most important step – scored goals. Luxembourg-Belgium 0-6. At the same time Eire-Scotland ended 0-0. Nobody lost chances, everybody planned and schemed hopefully. Scotland-Luxembourg 3-0, Belgium-Bulgaria 1-1. Scotland-Eire 0-1, Bulgaria-Eire 2-1, Belgium-Scotland 4-1. Now it looked like Belgium was getting ahead, but nobody was out of the race yet. Eire-Belgium 0-0, Luxembourg-Bulgaria 1-4. Bulgaria-Luxembourg 3-0, Luxembourg-Eire 0-2, Eire-Luxembourg 2-1. Looked like Eire lost the race thanks to their small wins against the outsider and the main race will be between Belgium and Bulgaria. Bulgaria-Belgium 2-0 and Bulgaria not only killed the Belgian advantage, but gained best chances to qualify – especially after the next match in which Scotland won over Belgium 2-0. But then Eire won against Bulgaria 3-0 and everything was back at square one. Kind of… Scotland was out, Belgium was out, Eire was on top with 11 points, but finished their games already and was on the mercy of others. Looked like Bulgaria will be the group winner – they had their last game at home against already eliminated Scotland and needed only a point. Playing for the ‘sure point’ in such situations is stupid, because there is no plan B, but, as many other times, Bulgaria made the stupid decision and even forget that they had to face British team – the Scots had nothing to play for, they will take it easy, we will be a bit careful in defence, will kill time without attacking too much so not to accidentally anger and invigorate the Scots, done deal! A terrible mistake – British teams never take it easy or give up. Scotland came to Sofia to fight and shortly before the end of the game scored. And won 1-0. There was still one more game in the group and this time Scotland took it easy – and gave a point to Luxembourg at home. One has to read British teams much better than the Bulgarians did…
Luxembourg – last as ever. Only they were not the expected decisive factor of the group, but not their fault. 0 1 7 2-23 1 point.
Scotland – 4th. Not in good shape, surely, but they became the decisive factor of the group – first killing the chance of Belgium, second – those of Bulgaria. If anything, they played with heart… just about everything Scottish football had at the moment. A very long moment, unfortunately, seeming without end. 3 3 2 7-5 9 points.
Belgium – 3rd. This squad was from the early months, when they appeared to be on the right track (4-1 at home against Scotland). From left to right: Stephane Demol, Philippe Desmet, Nico Claesen, Erwin Vandenbergh, Franky van der Elst, Georges Grun, Enzo Scifo,  Leo Clijsters, Frank Vercauteren, Patrick Vervoort, Jean-Marie Pfaff. To a point, the inevitable decline is shown here – how long those players can play ? Decline in terms of the great team which emerged in 1980. From bigger perspective – nothing really terrible : Belgium always managed to come back with small group of good players. They were not Italy or West Germany with huge pool of talent and had to do with little – and little had crucial moments when in need of replacement. Scotland gave them good chance, Scotland took it away… 3 3 2 16-8 9 points.
Bulgaria – 2nd. Another failure, coming right after disappointing World Cup finals. A long list of objections to coach (the same Christo Mladenov, whp spoiled the 1974 World Cup finals), selection, attitude can be made – and it was made back then in Bulgaria in the aftermath of the shocking loss from Scotland – but what is perhaps the really important lesson of this failed campaign is about the stupidity of scheming and calculating. Playing for a ‘sure point’ against British team… 4 2 2 12-6 10 points.

Eire – or Republic of Ireland, the winners. This is the squad which tied Belgium in Brussels at the beginning of the qualifications. Pretty much all Ireland had – not much, but playing with big hearts. Lady Luck helped them – disguised as Scotland, which in way qualified the Irish by eliminating in two strokes Belgium and Bulgaria. Yet one can dismiss the Irish as just lucky team – they were modest, their tactics were considered primitive, they had only a handful of decent players, their bets known stars – Frank Stapleton and Liam Brady – were dangerously aging, but these boys gave the best they could, sometimes even more than that. In a way, Eire deserved most to win, because with them at least one thing was sure – they will give their best at the finals. Declining Belgium and rather Scotland were suspect about meaningful performance in 1988 and Bulgaria… well, it had history of pathetic performances at big finals, so better without them. In any case modest Irish lost only once in the ‘iron group’, which was recommendation in itself. 4 3 1 10-5 11 points.

European Championship Qualifications Groups 1,2,3,4

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

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

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

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

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

African Player Of The Year

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

African Champions Cup

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

African Cup Winners Cup

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


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


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

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

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

Costa Rica

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