Belgium – the Cup

May be the big clubs exhausted themselves in the championship and the European tournaments, may be with the new crop of talented players the whole Belgian football was on a higher level, or may be the old ‘logic’ of cup tournaments was at play, but none of the big clubs reached the Cup final. Instead, mid-table, rather small and insignificant clubs appeared at the final – SK Beveren and Sporting Charleroi. Beveren got some notice, for they finished 5th in the championship – strong performance, if not excellent. Charleroi, however, ended 12th – nothing remarkable. But both teams excelled in the Cup, making their way to the final.

Beveren won 2-0.

To a point, playing at the Cup final was a success for Sporting Charleroi. To a point, it was not – they were not a force in Belgian football, yet, occasionally, they were able of a strong season. Sadly, they lost.

Standing from left : Mathy, Jacobs, Cloquet, Dekker, Van Toorn, Gebauer.

First row : Esgain, Royet, Vermeir, Iezzi, Bardaux, Bucci (supporter).

And their squad reveals why they lost… it was a typical mid-table Belgian team. No stars, not even half-stars. Sporting had no real sporting argument… they left an interesting picture, though: with apparently faithful supporter, Mr. Bucci. Nice recognition of the ’12th player’, usually anonymous, if photographed at all. Still, it was a team full of foreigners – 10 in total. Only the former Yugoslavian national team defender Enver Hadziabdic was known, but the veteran was well beyond his prime. The rest was mostly amusing names – the obligatory Dutch players, Chris Dekker and Mathijs van Toorn,, the anonymous Polish goalkeeper Andre Sumera, very likely a defector, for he was too young and entirely unknown for a legal transfer, an inevitable Congolese player – Victor N’Sengi-Biembi, the expected Austrian – Gerhard Bohmen, the also expected West German, Rainer Gebauer, and the mysterious Italian Antonio Iezzi. The last and biggest mystery was Muchel Esgain – a white player, but listed as Congolese. And among all that unknown players there was a young talented reserve, barely 18 years old, who was to be a star after a few years – one Alex Czerniatynksi. Too young to change the fate of his club in 1977-78.

 SK Beveren were amusing winners at first – it looked like chancy victory, taking advantage of big clubs not paying enough attention, and at the end facing pretty much equal squad. At least outside Belgium it did not matter who won – both finalists were little known and they were not the type of clubs going to challenge the status quo. In retrospects, though, the win of Beveren was not so chancy – the club was quietly building strength and confidence. The same team was to produce a sensation very soon. It was sensation in 1977-78 too, but somewhat underestimated. Actually, there was no way to take them very seriously – Anderlecht, FC Brugge, and even new Standard were full of professional stars. They had world-class players. Beveren was semi-professional club – some of its players had other jobs, including a veteran defender working at the docks, a stevedore, playing football part-time. Nobody was going to take such team seriously, but it was also very brave achievement: so rare and unusual was semi-professional club to succeed in the world dominated by professionals. Most importantly, this was the first ever trophy won by SK Beveren. So far, their biggest success was winning the Second Division twice – in 1966-67 and 1972-73.

 

Fantastic year for the modest club, but they were different team than Sporting Charleroi – they had rising players, with big potential still not fully revealed. Jean-Marie Pfaff was between the goalposts since 1974 – soon he was to be discovered as one of the top keepers in the world. The barely 20-years old Dutch Wim Hofkens will be playing for Holland in 1983. Marc Baecke – for Belgium. Jean Janssens already played for the Belgian national team. The club may have been semi-professional, but still employed foreigners – one more Dutch, Patrick Verhoosel; a German – Heinz Schonberger, and an Argentine – Saul Lisazo. It was a curious mix of veterans and youngsters, but the young players were really the strong ones. Contrary to common sense, Beveren was not to be one-time wonder. And most importantly, it was a fine example of the new rise of Belgian football – the young hopefuls were not many, but popped up in many clubs and made an impact. Two of them belonged to the Cup finalists – Pfaff and Czerniatynski. Pfaff enjoyed his first trophy, just a taste. Beveren also tasted success – and liked it very much.

Belgium I Division

First division. Clear outsiders at the bottom – two clubs with pathetic records. Only 4 wins each in a league generally playing attacking football. The outsiders were doomed early.

FC Boom finished last with 15 points. Nothing surprising – they rarely played at top level and when they did, the whole aim was escaping relegation. Hide and seek game, not lasting long.

KSV Cercle Brugge took the 17th place with 16 points. Normally, they were stable first-leagers, occasionally coming close to peril, but relegation was not exactly expected from them. Very poor season they played and had to accept the blow: safety was 8 points out of their reach at the end. Relegated clubs are pitied only by their own fans and nobody else, yet, it was a bit sad to see a city derby gone – Cercle Brugge was no longer a match for their neighbours, FC Brugge, but still a loss.

A large group of weak, but untroubled clubs, more or less waited for something better in the future – untroubled by fears of relegation, but having no squads for anything better than lounging in the lower half of the table. Five clubs, the lowest, KV Kortrijk, with 24 points, and highest, Charleroi, with 29 points at 12th place.

Another group occupied the real comfort zone between 11th and 5th place. SK Beveren was 5th with 40 points and KSV Waregem was 11th with 32 points. Rather equal clubs, not really able to do anything else than bumping into and edging each other. Such clubs exist anywhere and perhaps the Belgian ‘bulk’ was typical – clubs with few either fading or rising stars. Both suppliers and receivers of the top clubs.

KSV Waregem, 11th this season, was typical of this group: standing from left: DeMesmaeker, E. Denorme, A. Saelens, L. Millecamps, J. Dreesen, M. Millecamps.

First row: Giba, M. Devolder, R. Haleydt, H. Delesie, A. Koudizer.

Anonymous squads, having an occasional good player – Luc Millecamps, for instance. Talent was hard to keep, but Luc Millecamps became internationally famous playing for Waregem. For new recruits second division was the likelier source. Giba exemplifies that: he also played for KAA Gent and captained it, which brings the question of reliability of pictorial material: KAA Gent above is from 1977-78 – Zoltan Varga did not play anymore after this season. Waregem’s photo is also labeled 1977-78… unless Giba changed clubs in mid-season, something rare and even unlikely at the time, one of the pictures is wrong.

Perhaps the Belgian league was just too large for a small country with small pool of talent – 14 out of 18 first league clubs were entirely out of the race for the title. But it was exciting race – normally, two or three clubs really competed. This years they were four and the race was tight to the very end. And this was the big optimistic change. Anderlecht and FC Brugge were in top form, successful in Europe, and a fair match of the biggest European clubs. Standard (Liege) spent most of the 1970s in decline, but now had a new bright team and was back in the race. And K. Lierse SK, usually a modest club, had a splendid season. These four clubs left the rest in league far behind – the 5th placed was 7 points behind the 4th – but the difference between the champions and the 4th was only 4 points. The quartet played attacking and high-scoring football. The highest number of wins in the rest of the league was 15 – the lowest of the top 4 had 20. The lowest number of goals scored of the top four was 69 – the highest in the rest of the league was 59. Surely, these four clubs outclassed the rest, but in the same time they appeared very up to date clubs, playing open football, not scheming and fearing anybody. Pleasure to watch.

Lierse finished 4th with 47 points. Certainly their squad was short on big talent and may be enthusiasm carried them that far, but it was not a bad team at all.

 

Unlike most Belgian clubs, Lierse did not depended heavily on foreigners. They had only one – the Portuguese forward Raul Aguas. The real strength was young Belgian talent – Janssens, Leo De Smet, Walter Ceulemans, his younger – only 20-years old – brother Jan Ceulemans and even younger Erwin Vandenbergh (or Van den Bergh), born in 1959. A teenager practically. These group obviously inspired their rather modest teammates and was enough to challenge the big clubs. And, if Lierse was able to keep their stars and add a few more, they had great chance to become really remarkable. The future depended on money and planning, but Lierse was already significant sign of change in Belgian football – a new vintage of excellent players was emerging and already making an impact.

Standard finished with bronze – they ended with 2 points more than Lierse, a point short of second place, and two points short of the title. Historically, this was hardly remarkable year for Standard, but it was a great sign of recovery. The 1970s were bad years for the club – it suffered from long decline, was late to rebuild the aging squad with which they entered the decade, and lost their position as one of the two best Belgian clubs. Given the weakness of the rest of the league, Standard never sunk low, but struggled and not a factor in championship race. This year was entirely different and most importantly – the new young team was shaped and it was clear that these boys were to be going up and up.

 

Gerets, Renquin, Preud’Homme – the world was yet to hear about them, but these were staple names in the 1980s. The difficult name of the goalkeeper was to trouble fans and journalists until 1996! Obvious talent – Michel Preud’Homme was just 18 in 1977-78 season, who benched the well known Belgian national team keeper Christian Piot. At 30, the best age for goalkeepers, Piot had to give way to a mere teenager – this speak loudly of the qualities of the youngsters in Standard. Eric Gerets already captained the team – another recognition of young quality. But it was not all – Standard was well rounded and had quite a long reliable bench. Still, it was mainly young team – the 22-years old Siguirvinsson from Iceland was also to be very well known in the 1980s. The 24-years old West German striker Harald Nickel was also making a name for himself – he was the top scorer of the season with 22 goals. Like his Belgian teammates and Siguirvinsson he was soon to be asked to play for West Germany – he did not last, unfortunately, unlike his teammates, but still moved from Standard to better contracts in the Bundesliga. These were the great hopes for the future, young talented players already making the skeleton of Standard. They were complimented by competent and experienced bunch – the 28-years old Austrian national team striker Alfred Riedl, who was the best scorer of Belgium in 1974-75; the 31-years old West German Helmuth Graf; Christian Piot, still a prime choice for the Belgian national team; the Yugoslavian Josip Keckes; and the Hungarian defector Yuli Veee (real name Gyula Visneye), who already was statistical nightmare – listed as Hungarian, Belgian, and US American, not to mention the problem with his two names, one of which a whimsical confusion. And not to mention where he really played, for he shuffled between Europe and North America and was found in different clubs in the same year, depending on the month. Lastly, Standard had a very good coach – Robert Waseige – thus, entirely matching Anderlecht and FC Brugge. It was clear Standard was just coming back, was rising, and was to stay and compete for the title for a long time.

Anderlecht finished with silver, thanks to their 50 points. One point better than Standard, one point behind FC Brugge. Anderlecht was flying high – excellent team, carefully adjusted every year, great coach – Raymond Goetals – and great stars.

 

To go player by player would be redundant – Anderelecht were famous. It was also the year of their second Cup Winners Cup. May be playing both domestic championship and the strenuous final rounds of an European tournament was too much and they had to sacrifice the league title? Hardly a strong argument – FC Brugge was in exactly the same situation. The national team of Holland perhaps had a reason to grumble for not having star players and coach on time for World Cup preparations, but Anderlecht had enough experience and depth to fight for he title along with competing in Europe. It was a ‘Dutch team’ – Arie Haan, Nico De Bree, Johnny Dusbaba, Rob Rensenbrink, Ronny van Poucke – but the Belgian part was not at all to be dismissed as mere helpers: half of the regular Belgian national team. Add the Dane Benny Nielsen and the Congolese (or Zairean, for his home country was still called Zaire) Jean-Claude Bouvy for ‘spice’. Strong, well balanced squad, in its prime. One of the most exciting to watch teams of the time, one of the very top in Europe. To beat them was a privilege. To beat them was not a matter a luck, but a matter of real class.

FC Brugge had it and clinched the title at the end of the exciting race between three great clubs and three great coaches. Lierse was tough opposition too, only not all that famous, so the success of FC Brugge has to be really appreciated – Ernst Hapel was pressured by the Dutch federation to start training Holland for the World Cup. Meantime, FC Brugge had two tournaments to win – the European Champions Cup and the Belgian championship. They lost the European cup, but not in disgrace, and still outfoxed the domestic enemies. It was dramatic victory by a point – Anderlecht had much better goal-difference and equal points were to leave FC Brugge second. The champion’s defense left much to be desired – they allowed 48 goals in the 34 season’s matches, the worst record among the title contenders. Anderlecht allowed exactly ½ less – only 24. Eleven clubs had equal or better defensive record than the champions – telling only that FC Brugge was shaky in its own half. But they had the best scoring record in the league – 73 goals. An anomaly, when compared to their European performance, clearly marked by tough defense and almost Italian approach: defensive football, waiting for occasional counter-attack. They scored little and hardly allowed any goals in their net. May be that was all because of Hapel – his team had two faces, depending on the opposition. Credit to the great tactician, but the players were to be credited too – for understanding and executing very different tactics, changing from one to the other in a single weak. Worthy champions of wonderful and dramatic race. And more – it was their third consecutive title. Belgium was theirs.

Standing from left: Jensen, Bastijns, Volders, De Cubber, Leekens, Vandereycken.

Crouching: Soerensen, Cools, Lambert, Sanders, Courant.

Another team no needing much introduction, but deserving perhaps one more look:

 

Lovely Puma kit – their home blue and away white. The huge strange numbers of the sponsor’s name, looking more like uniform element than advertizement. In the battle of kit makers, Puma topped Adidas in Belgium. As for the team, just like Anderlecht, FC Brugge continued to shape its squad, thus making one more interesting opposition – if Anderlecht were Dutch, FC Brugge were Danish: to Jensen and Le Fevre (who departed in 1977, but captained FC Brugge the previous two years) one more was added – Soerensen. The Danes were not as famous as the Dutch, but they bested them three years in a row. Of course they were not alone – big group of Belgian national team players: Lambert, Bastijns, Cools, Leekens, Volders, Van der Eycken; the defector from Hungary and former national team player of the same country Ku; the Austrian national team player Krieger, going to the World Cup finals soon; the English striker Davies; the former Holland-Under 21 goalkeeper Barth. Coached by Hapel, FC Brugge firmly established itself in Europe and Belgium.

Belgium II Division

Belgium next. Strong Anderlecht and FC Brugge in Europe, but there was something else as well – the emerging of new great generation of ‘Red Devils’. They were still young and not fully developed, so Belgium missed the 1978 World Cup, so the strength of Belgian club football was based on the foreign stars. To many, Belgium was a country without any restrictions on foreigners, which perhaps was not the case. It was foggy matter – since Belgian clubs were hardly the best known and had constant financial problems, leading to mergers and bankruptcy, the best world stars were clearly not to be found on Belgian soil. Most imports were little known or completely unknown. Congolese players were often to be found playing for Belgian clubs, but they were no international stars and perhaps even considered domestic, for they came from former colonies. The Dutch traditionally played in Belgium in huge numbers. Hungarian defectors often appeared in Belgium perhaps because of the liberal rules. West Germans too, including suspended in Germany players. Yugoslavians, Swedes, Austrians, Danes, any kind of foreigners. Including stars – Lothar Emmerich back in 1970-71, for instance. Rolf Russmann during his suspension – 1973-74. Robbie Rensenbrink and Arie Haan by the current year. At least the biggest Belgian clubs had money for stars and to them their international success was often attributed – most of the league consisted of small, financially shaky clubs of no significance. Haan and Rensenbrink together with semi-professionals, and, curiously, the part-timers were even able to top the clubs with famous players now and then. The last intriguing thing about Belgian football was their unusually big sponsor adds on their shirts: shirt adds were still a bit exotic and normally not very large, except in Belgium. As a result, the club shirts were quite colourful and interesting to the eye. Of course, the real reason was plain money – the clubs had to find any possible mean to survive as professional clubs in a country with small and not so crazy about football population.

Naturally, the second division football was entire under the radar – the first league was barely known to outsiders, to whom the whole Belgian game consisted of the national team, Anderlecht, Standard, and, recently, FC Brugge. The rest was a blank… and no wonder. The 16-team strong second division hardly had better known clubs. It was poor league too – perhaps the reason why only one club was directly promoted at that time. The second promotional spot had to be earned in play-off tournament between 2nd and 5th finisher in the regular season. Made sense, since most of the clubs were really small fry, like KFC Diest.

KFC Diest finished 6th with 34 points, 3 less than the 5th placed, but really the most interesting thing about them were the exotic large adds on their shirts. Clearly, not a club able to disturb the status quo – and that was the case of every second division club. The four clubs above KFC Diest were not very different, except that they all were no strangers to first division football. Unfortunately, no strangers to second division either… they competed for the second promotion in two-legged round-robin play-off group. In the regular season 3 points divided 2nd from 5th place, which was decided on goal-difference. The promotional tournament mirrored the championship: AS Oostende KM ended last with 2 points. In the championship they were 4th, thanks to better goal-difference. KAA Gent finished 5th at the end of the season with the same points as AS Oostende KM (torturous full name has to be preserved because there was one more Oostande in the league: KVG Oostande, which finished dead last) – 37. KAA Gent was not a surprise in the promotional tournament either – they finished 3rd, 2 points more than AS Oostende KM, but hopelessly 5 points behind the other two clubs.

KAA Gent achieved nothing, but is a good example of Belgian football bursting with foreigners:standing from left:  Brösch, Coenije, De Groote, Van Wassenhove, Tudor, Daffe, Temmerman 

Crouching:  Heyt, Varga, Bene, Giba, Van Herp.

Two Africans plus one Hungarian, certainly a defector. Intriguing name, Varga – yes, the much travelled Zoltan Varga in his last year as a professional. Add the West German goalkeeper Helmut Brosch, the Dutch Henk Heijt, one Brazilian – Francisco Benedito, and very Italian, only 17-years old, Francesco Pirelli.

Second and third place were decided by a single point in the championship and the parity was preserved in the play-offs: both clubs ended with 9 points and goal-difference decided who went up and who stayed in purgatory for another or more seasons. KSK Tongeren finished 3rd in the league – they finished 2nd in the mini-league. They were unbeaten – 3 wins and 3 ties, but, just like in the regular season, a little something was missing. Goal-difference – 5:2.

K. Bershem Sport bested Tongeren by a single goal. They were one point better in the championship, but it was a equal race. Tongeren were stronger in the direct clash – a win and a tie. But Bershem made no mistake against the outsiders – 4 victories, with which they also finished with 9 points. However, Bershem scored 7 goals and received 3 – they ended with +4 goals, Tongeren with +3, and Bershem went to up – or returned to first division, where they used to play in the 1960s and sometimes in the 1970s. It was doubtful they will last, but it was a concern for the next year. Lucky now – and happy too.

The direct promotion was unquestionable – K. Watershei SV Thor finished far above the competition: with 46 points, they had no real pursuer – the next team was 6 points behind. Best attack, second best defense, they lost only 3 championship matches – a record shared with K. Bershem Sport, but they excelled in winning – they won 19 out of 30 total championship games, the only club with more than 50% wins this year. The name of the club means nothing nowadays, for the club does not exist, but back in the 1970s they were one of the two clubs in the city of Genk, Limburg province. The other was Winterslag, slightly better known, for they played almost constantly in the first division, sometimes qualifying for the European tournaments. Watershei had nothing to be proud of so far – founded in 1919, they registered in the Belgian FA in 1925 and played mostly lower-level football. Their best years were in the late-1950s -early-1960s, when they played in the first division. Relegation followed and in 1977-78 they finally matched the relative success of the old 1950-s team – won the Second Division and promotion for second time.

 

Confident winners, but, as normally is the case with second division clubs, nothing really can be said about the squad. May be the only thing worth saying about the winners is description of their name. It was very, very long and amusing: Koninklijke Watershei Sportverenigung Thor. A mouthful? Not even close… for ‘Thor’ itself was an achronym of ‘Tot Herstel Onzer Rechten’, meaning ‘To Recover Our Rights’. Politically motivated name, hardly all that rare in football, but just try to use the whole proper name of the club… Try chanting it in full voice… no wonder the name was shortened to just Watershei. Watch out, first division, here they come. Minus their Moroccan player of 1977-78, Mohammed Maarouf, who was to stay in Second Division with KAA Gent.

Spain Cup

Barcelona still saved the season, setting a new record as a cup winner. It was tit for tat – Real won their 18th title and Barcelona – 18th cup. A consolation, but still second best. Second best, but still something to be proud of -especially because the final was played in Madrid, right on Santiago Bernabeu stadium. The home stadium of the arch-enemy, which was out of the race. It was interesting final for other reasons, though. UD Las Palmas was the other finalist.

No doubt, it was great for the islanders to reach the final. They hoped to win it too and it would have been great for seasoned players like Carnevalli and Brindisi. But the two Argentine stars were no match for the much classier Catalunian squad, led by Cruyff. Barcelona won 3-1.

Brave Las Palmas, reaching the final, but just like in the championship, they ended empty-handed. Good team, good coach, but a relatively small club – this was the best they could do. Munoz, though, was to coach the Spanish national team thanks to his work with Las Palmas.

Barcelona triumphed at the enemy’s den. It was the last hurray for Cruyff.

Familiar Barcelona squad, betraying nothing of dark dealings. The flying Dutch captained his team to a record win of the trophy. Confident victory. So far – so good. Lost championship, however… with Cruyff, Barcelona won one title back in 1973-74. With the other great Dutchman, Neeskens – nothing. Cruyff was at the end of his contract and hinting retirement. The question was much debated, but in terms of Holland’s national team and the World Cup finals. At the end of the season Cruyff announced his retirement in his typically veiled manner: he was true to his old word announced at the end of the 1974 World Cup, that he was going to retire in 1978. But he nevertheless added that he ‘is semi-retiring’. Hard to tell what he really meant – at 31, he was still good for active professional football. Yet, he was out of it, in his own words. And it was his own decision, perplexing as it was. He was loved by Barcelona’s fans, there was no known conflict with the club – both the player and the club acted as they were happy with each other, it was only the that the star did not want to play the game anymore. Respectful goodby… sadly, nothing was to be done about it. In the fall of 1978 Cruyff played his testimonial match and there his words of ‘semi-retirement’ suddenly took another meaning: Cruyff played only for two clubs – Ajax and Barcelona. Barcelona, his last club, where he was a god, did not participate – it was a match between Ajax and Bayern. True, the time was bad, right in the middle of fall domestic and international tournaments, but Barcelona was entirely absent from the testimonial. It was strange… and most likely the whole retirement-semi-retirement story was different, but hidden from the general public. It was more than likely, that Cruyff wanted to stay in Barcelona, perhaps not only expecting a new contract, but a bigger one. It was also clear that Barca needed a new, different squad. Cruyff, often antagonizing, may have been out of favour – he left open the possibility, but Barca was not interested. He was out, may be he miscalculated the situation. May be so, but the sad reality was not in favour – Barcelona really needed rebuilding and new stars. Cruyff, and Michels as well, had to go. For one of the greatest players in football history it was noble ending: he finished his days in Barcelona with a trophy.

There was one more thing about the squad: a strange black player, called Bio. By sight, a third foreigner… but Bio was listed as Spaniard. Still worth a note, for there were hardly any black Spanish players at the time. Even if he was a genuine Spaniard, still Barca had too many foreigners in the squad above: Rafael Zuviria was an Argentine. So, oriundi again… with two Dutch players, may be Bio, like Zuviria, was also with Spanish blood? No. He was naturalized Spaniard. The 26-years old striker with real name Williams Silvio Modesto Verisimo was Brazilian by birth. Bio had no Brazilian fame and came to play in Europe very young – at first he played in Portugal, then moved to the Spanish second division club Terrasa. Maried Spanish woman and became Spanish citizen by marriage. Barcelona took him from Terrasa, but most likely in mid-season, for he was not listed at all as Barcelona player in 1977-78. But he played at the cup final, in April 1978. Obviously, Barcelona counted on him for the future, but… Bio played a total of 9 matches for Barca and that in 1978-79 season. Scored 3 goals, not a bad percentage, but that was all. A curiousity really, not a new star. For him, winning the cup in April 1978 was to be the highest career achievement. For Barcelona – just a small episode.

Spain I Division

The top of the league proved to be somewhat equal – six clubs competed not for the title, but mostly for bronze and silver, dropping out of race for the first place one after another. There was no real division between the top clubs and the rest of the league in term of points. Las Palmas finished 7th, continuing consistent strong performance – strong, but not great.

A mid-table club really, Las Palmas hardly challenged anything, yet remained solid for quite some time. More or less, the team depended on two Argentinians already under the radar: Brindisi, skilful midfielder and a star just a few years ago, and the long-serving former national team goalkeeper Carnevali. Brindisi kind of disappeared from the big picture, perhaps going to Las Palmas was the reason. Carnevali was a bit of curiousity – one of the first foreign crop imported by the Spanish, he settled in Las Palmas. Strange for a goalkeeper – the general ‘wisdom’ was that the imports were mostly strikers and attacking midfielders. Goalies were not interesting, so the wisdom went – Carnevali contrdicted it. Apart from that, the other novelty was his shorts: narrow and long, excentric in the 1970s , when such shorts were sported generally by Sep Maier and Hugo Gatti.

Atletico Madrid finished 6th, out of the race for medals for a long time.

The familiar successful team of the 1970s, nothing new. The same boys won the title the previous year, but they were never able of coming to the real top, so to say. Consistent, always among the best 6 teams, but not a dynasty. Not able to win two titles in a row or conquer Europe. The team needed rebuilding – Ayala, Luis Pereira, and Leivinha, their key foreign players reached their peak may be two or three years back. Good as they were, they were getting old, not able to improve anymore, and their football was well known to everybody. Atletico was still running, but it was inertia… the club missed the right moment of changing the team.

Fifth was unlikely club, which was ascending at that time – Sporting Gijon. Normally, lower half of the table, flirting with relegation. Quitely, the usually modest club built sturdy team and now was disturbing the peace.

 

As a whole, not an exceptional team, but they had fantastic striker – Quini. Prolific goal-scorer, strong, physical, hungry, Quini was already one of the best Spanish players. The strength of Gijon was largely based on him, but it was also clear that the club would not be able to keep him and develop greater team around him. Gijon had to enjoy the moment and they did, missing second place by two points – very admirable season.

Valencia finished 4th on goal-difference. Apparently, no better and no worse the rest of the top clubs. May be they should have been stronger, considering their possession of the best player of the world… but such consideration would be faulty, for it was based on performance at the World Cup finals, following the normal season.

Mario Kempes shined in Spain – Valencia’s captain scored plenty of goals, ending not only the top goal-scorer of the season, but leaving pursuers in the dust. Kempes scored 28 goals – the next best, Santillana of Real Madrid, had 24. Only two other players reached 20 goals marker – scoring in Spain was difficult, so Kempes’ achievement was remarkable. But Valencia did not have a team strong enough to compete for the title – Kempes was not enough. May be the best about them was their reserve kit – a bit outlandish, but nice nevertheless.

Athletic Bilbao clinched the bronze, narrowly missing silver in the same time – one point above Gijon and Valencia and one point behind Barcelona. Second-best attack in the league, decent defense, good mixture of old,experienced players and new talent.

 

To a point, the Basques are eternal enigma – their performance is traditionally strong, they rarely slip outside the top half of the league. But their policy of using only Basques players make them unpredictable – all depends on the team of the moment. The best stars often move to other clubs, so it is hard to maintain consistency. Athletic played well during the 1970s, but so far the teams they had did not match great teams of the past. They were good for occasional cup, more likely just to play at finals, instead of winning them – they reached the UEFA Cup final in 1977 and lost dramatically the cup to Juventus. In Spain, third place was just about the best they were able to do – but the club was really on ascend, preparing their much more successful squad of the early 1980s.

At the end, Barcelona vs Real Madrid… as ever. Well, no. There was no race, Barcelona dropped out and finished 6 points behind. May be the most interesting about Barca was their defensive record – they had the best defense in the league, allowing only 29 goals. Their scoring was also very low, however. Michels, Cruyff, Neeskens represent attacking football, that is why the low numbers were strange. And also not strange – it was the swan song of this squad and of Cruyff in particular.

No goalkeepers? Barcelona posed in team colours before their fans before the season started and hopes were still high. The goalies are in the picture, only dressed in regular jerseys – for the record, Mora and Artola. Familiar squad… familiar for years, getting older and older, and stubbornly postponing the moment of starting a new one. To their peril, for this team won only one title and that was a few years back. Of course, hopes were high in August, 1977. By the end of the season in 1978 there were no hopes, but getting rid of failures. Perhaps it was too late, but getting rid of Cruyff was not an easy thing.

With Barcelona out of the way, there was confident victory for Real Madird. They won easily, finishing with 22 wins – the next best record was 16. Scoring was high – 77 goals. Far better than any other club. Attacking team, then, not concerned with defense , which received 40 goals. A new record for Real – their 18th title. What else could be expected from the legendary club? Quite a lot more, actually – a double did not happened. European triumph was not coming at all. By Madrid’s standards, hardly an exceptional year.

Only one cup on display? Rather modest… may be the reason the name ‘Molowny’ is not very well known. Born in 1925, the former striker-midfielder was already at his second stint with Real. The first was a brief one in 1974. Already Luis Molowny appeared as an emergency coach, filling up until ‘a real coach’ was hired – he was to coach Real on two more occasions, will win more than ‘just’ the Spanish league, will become one of the most successful coaches in the club’s history, and… will remain almost unknown name, never lasting more than 2 years at the helm. The curse of the Spanish coaches, especially in the biggest clubs: reluctantly hired, easily fired – foreigners were preferred, native coaches were heavily scrutinized and criticized, almost never seen as equal, let alone better, than foreigners. Every mistake was amplified; every success was not exactly enough. Molowny won the title confidently, yet… he win only a title. The squad at his disposal was quite good – unlike Barcelona, Real constantly shaped and reshaped the team. In the summer of 1977 Uli Stielike arrived and fitted more than well – a young, vastly talented German star, still far from reaching his peak and entirely modern player. Versatile enough, physically fit, technical, strong in every aspect of the game, Stielike already played in every position for Borussia Moenchengladbach, so far seen as a constructive midfielder, but it was obvious already that he was going to be moved further back and made a libero, like the great Beckenbauer. With him, Real had a key player for many years to come. Of course, Stielike was not alone.

 

Apart from the mystery who was and who was not foreign player, the team was strong and healthy – the squad above was not even the strongest: Del Bosque and Camacho are absent. Both were key players at their prime, the core of the team. Pirri was getting old, but transition was going on smoothly. Real had many options not only for this particular season, but also for the future – the Argentine defender Enrique Wolff and the Danish centre-forward Henning Jensen most likely were not going to last, Pirri was nearing retirement, but with Stielike, Santillana, Camacho, Del Bosque, Juanito the future was secured. In the case of Real Madrid, the proper question was not who was a national team players, but who was not. Few of those… one thing clearly distinguishing Real from Barcelona of that time was goalkeeping: Barcelona was unable to find strong replacement of Sadurni. Artola and Mora rotated, neither great. Perhaps weak goalkeeping affected negatively Barcelona’s tactics, somewhat restraining the team. Real had two national team goalkeepers – Miguel Angel and Garcia Remonq a luxury. Strong team, no doubt, but still not strong enough to conquer Europe – the European dominance from mid-1950s to 1966 waited heavily, every new team was compared to Di Stefano and Co. But great clubs are like that and Real Madrid was the greatest in the world. Too bad for Molowny… a title in only a number, much more was expected.

Perhaps the last note on Spanish championship will be on kits: ‘modernity’ was not completed yet. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia, Athletic Bilbao were seemingly supplied by Adidas. “Seemingly’, for every club appeared in traditional uniforms without a sign of kit-maker’s logo. Training tops had the famous three-stripes and goalkeeper’s jerseys. Were Spanish clubs using mixed kits? Or were they insisting on plain kits made by Adidas? The big clubs perhaps had the last say. Smaller ones played with ‘normal’ Adidas – or Puma – kits. Yet, it was a bit strange – goalies played with obviously different kits than their teammates. Well, just you wait a few more years. As for 1977-78, the curious question may be only this: who made Cruyff’s kit? Barcelona seemingly was supplied by Adidas. Cruyff had his personal contract with Puma – and played with different kit than the rest of the Dutch national team for years. Was it the same when playing for his club? Or was he quietly ‘compromising’ with his employer? He readily abandoned his famous number 14 when the club gave him number 9 – or ordered him to take it. Food for thought.

Spain I Division

First division, the real drama, the real excitement, the real winners, if only on Spanish scale. Same old, same old, in other words – Barcelona against Real Madrid. But it was never just that. Difficult league, where scoring was not high – only one club scored 2 goals per game average – but unlike Italy, there was worship of the single point in Spain, and everybody fought for a win, not for a tie. At the end, only three clubs finished with with 10 or more ties – Hercules (Alikante) with 10 and Las Palmas and Burgos, 11 ties each. There was no club with 50% or more of their games tied, like in Italy and USSR. Winning was everything, yet, it was largely winning home games. As for outsiders, there was one – the debutant Cadiz CF.

A rather typical story – a modest club, finally reaching top division, but not having enough resources to recruit strong players. Lasting a single year at the bottom of the table practically from the start of the championship and existing more or less as a point donor to the other clubs. Cadiz CF fought the best they could, but were clearly outclassed. They were the only club with less than 10 wins this season. Their strikers were second worst with 30 goals – only Racing Santander scored less goals. Their defense was also the worst – Cadiz received 69 goals. The finished last. May be the only thing needed to be said about them is a reminder of the fashion trends in the decade – the bell-bottoms of their coach above. Even then it was weird to see middle-aged men dressed in youth fashion, but the trend was already accepted by the mainstream culture. Even in conservative Spain. Yet, it looked and look weird. Such were the days, though. Fashion did not help Cadiz a bit.

Not did anybody else. Elche and Real Betis joined Cadiz.

Ten foreigners were unable to save Elche from relegation. They fought to the end, but lost the battle for survival – ended with 27 points, 5 more than Cadiz, but still three points behind the nearest escapee. For Elche a whole period ended this year – their perhaps most successful period, stretching from 1959 to 1978. Elche never won anything, but played constantly in the first division and back in the 1960s were among the strongest clubs, finishing among the best 8. But the club was gradually slipping down in the 1970s, reaching the sad and fearful stage of small clubs concerned only with escaping relegation. The inevitable happened this year.

Above them competition was vicious. All teams from the 10th placed down (if not even from the 5th placed down) spent the season running away from the spectre of Second Division. Six points divided Atletico Madrid at the 5th final place from the relegated 16th, but the bitter struggle was between the clubs spread from 10th to 16th place. Rayo Vallecano and Real Sociedad at the end finished 10th and 11th with 33 points each. Burgos and Racing Santader ended just bellow them with 31 points. Three clubs finished with 30 points each. Two survived – Espanol (Barcelona) and Hercules (Alikante). The third did not. What was the decisive factor? Hard to tell, for there was no particular consistency in the rules deciding the places of clubs with equal points: up the table, goal-difference was seemingly the factor. So it appears, looking at the goal-difference Valencia (4th) and Sporting Gijon (5th). But only between these two clubs appears so – all other clubs with equal points were seemingly positioned not by goal-difference, but on the accumulated results of their head to head matches. Real Betis had rather good goal-difference – certainly better one than not only Hercules’ and Espanol’s, but better than a total of 9 clubs: 51:52. Did not matter.

16th and relegated… Real Betis won the Spanish Cup in 1976-77 and were relegated the next season. Strange, yet not so strange – after all, Real Zaragoza were relegated not very long after winning the cup. Looked like a curse for smaller clubs – winning the cup exhausting them to death. Real Betis did not look all that on paper, but in reality Gerrie Muhren and Atilla Ladinsky were fading rapidly. Both were mostly reserves this season. The club hardly had strong core players and they went down. Sadly, with their relegation the number of local derbies in the league were reduced to two cities – Madrid and Barcelona. May be the fans of Sevilla FC were happy to see their neighbours down and out, but still it was sad to see a local derby gone to the dogs. Real Betis may have been unlucky, but such is football. Others were lucky:

Rayo Vallecano finished 19th, which may be considered a success for the modest club from Madrid. Playing in first division was a success, indeed – with neighbours like Real and Atletico, a chance of another club attracting fans and money was next to impossible. Once upon a time there were few clubs competing more or less on equal footing in Madrid, but by the 1970s the two giants dwarfed whatever other clubs existed. It is even questionable whether Real and Atletico considered the matches against Rayo Vallecano as a derby. Clearly, the smaller club was unable to compete with the big clubs, but still it was great to have them in the league. Madrid was the only Spanish city with three first-division clubs, at least for the moment. Rayo Vallecano could not even dream of winning anything or even building relatively strong squad. Playing in Primera Division was their success.

Standing, from left: Alcazar, Anero, Uceda, Nieto, Tanco, Rial

First rwo: Francisco, Landaburu, Salazar, Fermin, Alvanito.

Not a single recognizable player here, if those are the right names. And if the names correspond to players’ positions on the picture… but lovely kit. And something else about their kit – small Spanish clubs used the ‘orthodox’ production of Adidas and Puma. The big clubs – no. These were still early years for the new kits, advertizing more the maker than the club, in Spain. The change was coming with clubs like Rayo Vallecano, the small fry.

Spain Second Division

Segunda Division was terra incognita to the world. Apart from England, France, West Germany, and Italy, no second division attracted attention, but considering the traditional strength and focus on Spanish football, it is a bit strange that it looked like nothing else than Primera Division existed. It did exist of course – tough, big second division of 20 clubs. Occasionally well known names went down there, but largely the league consisted of smaller clubs, moving up for a few years, then down for a few more. A smaller group of clubs never even lusting after promotion among the ‘big guys’ also played there – some old, faded long ago, clubs like Real Jaen; some without grand history, like Terassa. Some names are familiar today, but not back in the 1970s – clubs like Deportivo La Coruna, Getafe, Tenerife. A cursory look at any second division table from the 1970s tells that most of the clubs were no strangers of first division football, but never made big impression. Competition was fierce, though. It was not an easy league. CF Calvo Sotelo was the pariah this season, finishing last – a good 6 points behind the nearest club. Two other teams, much better known by names, also ended a bit distant from the real fight for safety – CD Tenerife, 19th with 31 points, and Cordoba CF, 18th with 32 points. The race for escaping the last relegation place was cruel – 4 clubs ended with 35 points. Goal-difference played no role – it looks like the final standings were decided by the results between the unlucky competitors. Real Oviedo went down, placed 17th, although they had the best goal-difference. It was even very unusual one – 40:42. Minus two goals was the goal-difference often found in solid mid-table – but not in Spain. Two more clubs of the bottom group had similar goal-difference as well: Real Jaen, 15th , was mines 4, and CD Castellon, 14th – minus 2. The 6th and 7th placed teams, Sabadell and Real Valladolid, finished with minus 4 – worse than those fearing relegation. But the group was tough – 5 points divided the relegated Real Oviedo from 5th finisher Real Murcia. Four clubs competed for the three promotional spots at the top. At the end, the unknown outside Spain Barakaldo CF failed – they ended 4th with 44 points. Celta Vigo and Recreativo Huelva finished with 46 points each – goal-difference did not count, and Celta took the 3rd place, although having better one than Recreativo. Did not matter at all, for both teams went up.

Champions – and comfortably at that – were Real Zaragoza. 50 points, best scoring record, most wins in the league – 20, not so great defense, but Zaragoza had no match in Segunda. It was good season for the champions, but for only one reason: they were relegated the previous year, a great disgrace for one of normally strongest Spanish clubs, who not long ago won the Spanish cup. Luckily, Real Zaragoza returned quickly to their normal place. It was a return of a kind for Celta too. The third promoted club was another story.

 

Recreativo is the oldest club in Spain – with them, Spanish football was born in 1889. Naturally, it was done with British help – two Scottish doctors, Alexander Mackay and Robert Russell Ross, working at the Rio Tinto mines (in passing, Rio Tinto is still one the world’s mining giants in the 21st century), found the club in order of providing the miners with physical recreation. The original name was Huelva Recreation Club, eventually becoming Recreativo. Locally, the club was successful, but that was long, long ago. Spanish football centralized into national league championship relatively late and by mid-1930s Recreativo was hardly a big club. Their biggest success was in 1940, when earned promotion to Second division. Where they lasted a single season. Huelva waited for another ascend 17 more years – Recreativo managed to go up again in 1957. This time they stayed in the second league, a constant member, although nothing more. Until 1977-78, when finally they gathered strenght and had their best season – they finished 2nd and got promoted to Primera Division for the first time in their history. Great and strange – it is quite unusual the oldest club of a country to reach top flight after 80 years of existence.

As a second division club, Recreativo had no team worth mentioning. The strength of the team was in the feet of two Uruguayans – the 25-years old defender Eduardo Gerolami, who played for Nacional (Montevideo) before moving to Spain, but without becoming a star. The midfielder Victor Esparrago was much better known, if only for playing for Uruguay at the 1974 World Cup. He was in Spain since the ban on foreigners was lifted, and was already 32-years old. Well past his prime, therefore no longer interesting for bigger and stronger clubs. But suitable for Recreativo and with them – returning to first division football. There was one more Uruguayan in the team – the much younger brother of Victor Esparrago, Ricardo, only 19 years old. Young, but not really talented… Ricardo Esparrago played a single match this season, which proved to be his total contribution to the club during his 2-year spell. Modest squad, perhaps too modest for Primera Division, but that was a concern for the next year. Presently, it was just fantastic – Recreativo finally promoted to the top league. Becoming for the oldest club? Very much so.

Big names were, of course, rare in Secunda Division, but still there were imports. The great, rich Spanish clubs, robing the rest of the world of the best players… the myth and the reality: CD Malag a finished 13th with the help of man playing for the national team of his native country.

Standing from left: Aráez, Vara, Vilanova, Nacho, Palomo, Macías

Crouching: Quevedo, Jantunen, Orozco, Migueli, Adolfo Benítez

Here is Pertti Jantunen, 25-years old centreforward. Snatched from… Finland. Yes, he was part of the strong Reipas Lahti team. Yes, he was a national team player. But… a player from Finland. Not exactly the kind of player able to lift up Malaga. In all fairness to the player, Jantunen was a good professional – after his spell in Spain, he also played in England and Sweden. Not for big clubs, but still he was among the early imports in England, which means quite a lot, given the critical attitude of the English towards ‘continentals’ in the 1980s. As for Spain, Jantunen was more typical than exceptional foreign player. More like Jantunen? Deportivo Alaves had one too, also a guy, who already donned the shirt of the national team of his home country.

Alaves attraced no attention – they finished a bit better than Malaga, 11th. The first crouching on the left is young Argentine, named Jorge Valdano. 22-years old by now, he already debuted for Argentina. Then he left to play for Spain, awarded with second division football. Obviously, not a great prospect… Menotti quickly forgot about him. Alaves was not taking the road up either. One more obscure player in Spain… the greatest thing about Valdano was his rolled down socks and no shin pads. Nothing suggesting stardom. Hard to imagine a future world champion in 1977-78. Even harder to imagine Alaves playing in Primera Division.

Spain in general

Spain was news and no news – some of the fears and expectations faded away already. With them – the hype. Back in 1973, the big fear was rich Spanish clubs quickly buying the greatest world stars and establishing dominance on club level. By 1977 it was no longer the case – no Spanish club won anything. The most they did was playing two European finals, which they lost, but most importantly, the finalists were not Real Madrid and Barcelona. Not a single Spanish club was a trend setter in the 1970s. Nor was the Spanish national team, which continued to struggle. At last, Spain was going to the World Cup finals – for the first time since 1966 – but it was not an exciting team. The big transfers, depleting other countries from the best talent, became rare. By 1977, Spain was hardly the preferred destination for the best players – Germany was more attractive, at least for the Europeans. Spanish clubs made impressive transfers still, but the not many – Real Madrid bought Uli Stielike in 1977, but that was all. It was interesting pattern, somewhat confirming the fears: Real bought once again a high-profile player from Borussia Moenchengladbach, the third already, after Netzer and Henning Jensen. Add Breitner, and the picture was complete – Real chose Germans, products of the most advanced football system in the world (Jensen was Danish, but became a star while playing in the Bundesliga). Barcelona preferred Dutch school, but no new transfer was made since 1974 – Cruyff and Neeskens were in the club and Rinus Michels returned to coach. Big names were playing Spain, but most of them arrived years ago – 1974 was more or less the benchmark. Ayala, Luis Pereira, and Leivinha in Atletico Madrid, Mario Kempes in Valencia… pretty much, that was the whole list of great stars. Old hands by now and, unfortunately, most of them already reached their peak and were no longer the same. Cruyff was hinting retirement. Netzer already retired. Breitner was gone. Only Mario Kempes was still going up. As for Stielike, going to Real Madird playing cruel joke on him – he missed the 1978 World Cup, thanks to funny decision of the West German Federation to include only German-based players in the national team. Funny, because Uli Stielike was the only candidate (Beckenbauer moved to USA, but he did not want to play for the national team anymore – and his decision was known well before his relocation) – it was counter-productive rule, judging by the pitiful German performance in Argentina. Back in Spain Stielike was strong, but… most of the ‘stars’ flocking to Spain were hardly known players, predominantly from Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

The advantages were obvious: skilful South Americans, Spanish speaking, cheap, and easy to naturalize. Cheap, because the exodus of troubled countries under heavy-handed dictatorships was massive – for both political and economic reasons. The political part benefited Spanish clubs – it was easy to naturalize exiles, especially when the old ‘oriundi’ rule was unchanged. Whoever wanted to look deeply quickly found a cypher: Spanish rules allowed for 2 foreign players on the field. Yet, most clubs had plenty of foreigners and more than 2 were often fielded. Real Madird had 5 in 1977-78 – Stielike (b. 1954), Jensen (b. 1949), Enrique Wolff (Argentina, b. 1949, defender, played at 1974 World Cup), Roberto Martinez (Argentina, b. 1946, forward), and Carlos Guerini (Argentina, b. 1949, forward). Stielike, Jensen, Wolff, and Roberto Martinez were often on the pitch at the same time. Barcelona had one player more than the arch-rivals: Cruyff (b. 1947), Neeskens (b.1951), Heredia (Argentina, b. 1952, midfielder), Rafael Zuviria (Argentina, b. 1951, forward), Alfredo Amarillo (Uruguay, b. 1953, defender), and at the end of the season a Brazilian striker was added – Bio (full name: Williams Silvio Modesto Verisimo, b. 1953). Bio came not from abroad, but for the second-division club Terrasa, where he played for awhile, after playing in Portugal before. And Cruyff, Neeskens, and Heredia were almost always together on the pitch. No problem adding Bio too… why? At least his case was clear – he married Spanish woman and naturalized on the strength of marriage. So he was Spanish citizen. Spanish clubs kept more foreigners than allowed from the very moment the ban on foreigners was lifted – it was ‘wise’ to have reserves in case the prime stars were injured, out of form, or suspended. The extras stayed unhappily on the bench most of the time… the Peruvian star Hugo Sotil was the biggest, and somewhat tragic, example. But oriundi had no problems playing – and just how many, on what criteria, and when they were considered ‘oriundi’, was something never discussed – at least outside Spain. Well, ‘Wolff’ is hardly Spanish name, but enough Spanish blood was ‘found’ in the former Argentinian national team defender to become ‘oriundo’ and play along with Stielike and Jensen, who, together, exhausted the limit of foreigners.

Yet, the big clubs were not the biggest offenders – the small fry excelled. Real Zaragoza proudly pictured their four strikers from South America:

From left, three Paraguayans, Felipe Ocampos, Carlos ‘Loko’ Diarte, Saturnino ‘Nino’ Arrua, and the Argentine Adolfo Soto. Because of them, the team was cunningly nicknamed ‘Los Zaraguyaos’ and thanks to them Real Zaragoza won the Spanish Cup in 1974. The big ‘-guayan’ group confused the issue – Soto is often thought Paraguayan, but the ending is right – along with these four the Uruguayan defender (World Cup 1974) Juan Blanco (b. 1946) also played. By 1977 the group was cut down – Diarte moved to Valencia for the new season and only Blanco and Arrua (b. 1949) remained. From the ‘Zaraguayos’ – yes – but in general two more Paraguayans were at hand in midfield: Celso Mendieta (b. 1949) and Jorge Insfran (b. 1950). And Real Zaragoza was, in a sense, modest consumer of South American feet – Elche had 10 foreigners in 1977-78. Six Argentines, 2 Paraguyans, an Uruguayan, and one ‘exotic’ player from Honduras. Just because Honduras is unlikely producer of classy players – and even more so in the 1970s – his name: Gilberto Yearwood, a defender born in 1956. From the whole group the only known name is the midfielder Marcelo Trobbiani (b. 1955) – he came in 1976 from the successful Boca Juniors vintage winning left and right this year. Almost a whole team of foreigners did not help Elche a bit, but this is so far first division. How many foreigners played in the lower division would be anybody’s guess. Birthdates are given here, because most of the foreigners were not very young – let say, mature players, often working already for years in Spain. This was alarming: Spanish clubs did not buy current foreign stars, but preferred the same players they got in the first rush of open doors – 1973-74. Which was not exactly a formula for improvement of the game – the bulk of oldish and not at all famous Argentines and Paraguayans were no longer trend-setters, if they were ever. Thus, Spanish football remained pretty much what had been about 10 years ago – tough, physical, and hopelessly out of touch with modern football. No wonder the Spanish clubs had zero international success.

Apart from rather inflated hype over summer transfers and unrealized foreign fears that the Spanish will rob yet another nation of her stars, there was another news – the Spanish federation introduced a new league in place of Third Division. Third Division remained , under the same name, but between it and the Second Division now a 2-group league was inserted – Segunda Division B, or Second Division B. It was made of freshly relegated second division clubs plus the highest positioned third division clubs. All together about 40 clubs, previously playing 3rd level football anyway. Hard to tell what was the reason – may be financial, for everywhere in the world there is a problem at some point of the structure – professional clubs mingling with semi-professional and outright amateur. West Germany organized her second division precisely to put together the remaining professional clubs outside the Bundesliga and thus to elevate the general level of the game. Anyway, Spain started their new league. Nothing fancy there… just for curiosity sake, a picture:

Levante was hardly heard of club back in the 1970s and third level was their usual hunting grounds. As for the players down in Segunda Division B… let say that the photo is wrong. This is Levante of 1978-79 – Lorant (full name Julio Cesar Lorant Vazquez), an Uruguyan defender, played for Elche in 1977-78, freshly acquired from Sevilla. He joined Levante in 1978, but since the club finished in mid-table and remained in the new league, the photo is relatively right. If only to illustrate the unsolvable mysteries of the ‘oriundi’ – Lorant is just a little reminder that they were everywhere in Spain.

Italy – the season in pictures

Moments from the 1977-78 Italian season.

Juventus – Pescara 2-0. Zoff and Co. is down and hopelessly so. But Bertarelli missed.

Juventus – Milan 1-1. Bettega is robbed by Albertosi.

Napoli – Juventus 1-2. This time Mattolini catches the ball.

Milan – Lanerossi Vicenza 2-1. Milan claims an off-side.

Lanerossi Vicenza – Fiorentina 1-0. No off-side here – Paolo Rossi, almost entirely hidden behind the defenders, scores. Enough for 2 points.

Roman derby, ending 0-0 of course. Roma’s Manchini blocks a shot, Giordano alert for deflection and second chance – but nothing.

Milano’s derby – Inter – Milan 1-3. Albertosi saves and another attack of Inter is in vain.

Inter – Lazio 1-1. Altobelli’s header.

Foggia – Torino 1-0. A rare victory for Foggia. Pirazzini scores, but at the end his club was relegated and Torino got bronze medals.

Verona – Roma. A goal? No. The match ended 0-0, the beloved Italian result.

Verona – Bologna 1-1. Experienced Bologna getting a point at away match.

Easier at home? Not at all: Bologna – Verona 0-3. Gori scores.

Perugia – Napoli 2-0. Grassi saves, robbing Napoli from a chance.

And that is why we love football:

Because it is beautiful and dramatic. Like ballet sometimes. Lazio – Foggia 1-1.

Italy 1977-78 Cup

The old guard saved face in the Cup tournament – Napoli perhaps outdid itself by reaching the final. Inter did better – they won it. It was not easy, but Inter prevailed at the final in Rome 2-1.

For Inter, it was great… kind of. Great, because they were starting to forget the taste of victory in the 1970s. On the other hand, to be constantly left behind and empty-handed was more than painful – winning the Cup was good, but not quite satisfying. As for why Inter was unfit for anything bigger and perhaps must have been incredibly happy with a trophy, any trophy, in their hands, the team pretty much says it all: it was incomparable to Juventus. Rather disjointed and hardly promising better future. Facchetti was at his last legs – may be one, two at best, seasons. Retirement was his future. Anastasi was also nearing the end… well, certainly past his peak. Bordon, Oriali, Altobelli were the players to shape the future, but they were not leaders yet and even did not look like possible superstar of the caliber of Facchetti and Anastasi. The rest… the rest looked like journeymen. Certainly not a team of mighty winners. Rather, a team on the brink of starting rebuilding – uncertain, making faulty choices, searching for talent. There was no skeleton of new successful team – sadly, it looked like the moment Facchetti retired Inter was going to collapse. At least they won the Cup – which may be was best for Facchetti: stepping out in style, as a winner.