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The 25 Biggest World Cup Scandals Of All Time

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Scandal 21 - 15: From the "lifeless" superstar in Paris to the Duce as trickmaster

21st Scandal: Ronaldo solely in Paris

Ronaldo spielte im Finale, war aber nicht er selbst. (Photo by Henri Szwarc/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Ronaldo spielte im Finale, war aber nicht er selbst. (Photo by Henri Szwarc/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Roberto Carlos interrupted his telephone call. At the other end of the line was his French friend Christian Karembeu. The midfielder, who was the opponent in the evening’s World Cup final in Paris, had to wait. “Just a moment, there’s something with Ronny,” says Carlos and puts the phone down. Something with Ronny…

“Ronny” is none other than Ronaldo Luiz Nazario de Lima, born on September 22, 1976, in Rio de Janeiro. Better known under the name Ronaldo. The most sought-after soccer player in the world. With four goals and three assists in six World Cup matches, 21-year-old Ronaldo has brought the “Selecao” to the finals as expected. Now “El Fenomeno”, the phenomenon of world football, lies lifeless on the floor of a room in the elegant country hotel Chateau de Grande Romaine in Lesigny, 34 kilometers southeast of Paris. It’s early afternoon and before the grand final against the World Cup host in the city, the Brazilians just wanted to rest. Edmundo is first in line. He and Cesar Sampaio find Ronaldo and may save his life with his first aid measures. “When I saw Ronaldo, I immediately woke everyone up, it was a huge shock for me and my team-mates, says Edmundo 2018 in an English documentary about the 1998 World Cup, “we pulled his tongue out of his throat.” Ronaldo is not on the team bus when the team leaves for Paris.

What then happens is nebulous and becomes the late scandal of this World Cup. While the French fans are eagerly awaiting the new football temple in the Parisian suburb of St. Denis, the first rumors are seeping through the press gallery. “I arrived at the stadium and was immediately approached: Have you heard it yet? Ronaldo isn’t there,” recalls Gary Lineker, the 1986 World Cup top scorer and now working for BBC Sport. It’s true. Ronaldo is missing from the line-up published shortly afterward by the Brazilian Federation (CBF). The French team is already on the warm-up programme when the Brazilians’ savior arrives at the stadium. He gets out of a taxi. Ronaldo is as white as chalk. He wears shorts, tennis shoes and has nothing but a toilet bag with him. He seems completely enraptured. “Baldy”, Ronaldo announces to the completely perplexed association press spokesman Ricardo Stetyon, “I will play”.

Shortly afterward, the French know it too. After the warm-up, I went to the Brazilian stateroom and said to Ronny: “We can’t beat you without you,” said Youri Djorkaeff, 1998 UEFA Cup winner together with Ronaldo and Inter Milan. “Don’t worry, my friend, I’ll see you on the pitch,” the Brazilian replied. “It seemed as if they had given him stimulants,” Edmundo, who may have saved Ronaldo’s life and career at the hotel with his first aid measures, speculates. “I want to play, I’m fine,” Ronaldo repeats. You can hear a pin drop when Setyon brings Ronaldo, who has been discharged from the hospital on his own responsibility into the cabin. Zico, Brazil’s uncrowned white Pelé, is the head of the World Champion’s delegation. He knows even more details about Ronaldo’s miracle cure. ” They said Ronaldo couldn’t play in the afternoon, they said he could play in the evening. It was crazy.” Witnesses confirm that Zico grabbed Toledo’s shirt and threatened: “If anything happens to the boy, I’ll kill you myself.” The white Pelé didn’t sit on the bench and never worked for the Brazilian national team again. “I was afraid the whole game,” says Zico in 2006. In fact, Ronaldo is the last Brazilian player to enter the Stade de France. The defending champions hope that the final will be saved despite, or perhaps because of, the confusion surrounding the superstar. The happy ending for the Brazilians, who had inhuman expectations after their 1994 triumph in France seemed within their reach. Thanks to Ronaldo.

At Brazil's world champion the show rules...

Suker, Zidane und Ronaldo. Foto: Getty Images
Suker, Zidane und Ronaldo. Foto: Getty Images

“We were convinced that Ronaldo would make it for us,” said Romario, who was a star of the 1994 World Cup team where Ronaldo hadn’t played in the USA four years earlier. Edmundo, on the other hand, believes he knows: “Ronaldo had knee problems and couldn’t train properly. They had to treat him permanently.” But Ronaldo’s dilemma is not just on the pitch. He is staying with his separated parents in the same house. Zoff in the house de Lima from the first day on…

The often staged harmony in the Brazilian team of even the landing in France is transmitted live from the cockpit to the home country and wobbles after the 1:2 in the preliminary round final against the outsider Norway in Marseille precariously. Ronaldo hardly trains at all but prefers to show his naked upper body at the team’s barbecues in the hotel garden. His fitness remains the big issue until the end in the completely overheated Brazilian media landscape. “200 million people at home in Brazil have relied on us to make them happy,” says 39-time Brazilian international Edmundo. “O Animal”, as the brawny striker from AC Florence is known, will have to be on the bench for Ronaldo in the final contrary to coach Mario Zagallo’s first announcement. He does it half an hour before the kick-off. No consolation for him that he is still in the game after 74 minutes for Sampaio. The Brazilians can’t resolve the tension after the drama and the Ronaldo farce in 90 minutes. “The incident was a strain on the whole team,” Romario believes. Unlike Ronaldo, France’s superstar is focused on the point. Zinedine Zidane scores head-to-head to 1-0 and makes Stade de France tremble. After Ronaldo’s clash with French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, Brazil loses both control and the game. Once again Zidane and Emmanuel Petit make France the world champions at the 3-0. The Brazilians’ dream of defending their title for the first time since 1962 and of a second South American triumph in Europe after 1958 has come to an end.

Brazil is looking for answers. “He was on the pitch because I put him up,” raged Zagallo at the press conference after the game at the Stade de France, “don’t turn the words around in my mouth! The scandal certainly leaves room for conspiracy theories. The Brazilian federation is said to have exerted pressure. Other sources from Brazil say that the sponsors insisted on Ronaldo’s commitment.

“The Ronaldo case has shown that in Brazil it’s not the people who count, but only the sporting performance, says Edmundo today. His words still speak bitterness. “For 20 years, every taxi driver has told me that Brazil sold the game to win the World Cup in their own country,” complains Edmundo, “if that was the case, then I never got my share…”.

20th Scandal: World Cup qualifier at the torture stadium? The Soviets say "Njet"

Die Mannschaft Chiles. Foto - Imago
Die Mannschaft Chiles. Foto - Imago
Carlos Caszely raises his arms at the center circle. He pretends to greet the spectators in the empty stadium. It’s as if the grey-haired football star of the past is once again feeling the peculiar atmosphere of the Santiago de Chile National Stadium. He remains, looking up at the sky.

In the highly acclaimed television documentary Les Rebelles du Foot (Rebel on the Ball), hosted by France’s former enfant terrible Eric Cantona, the Chilean Caszely once again reports on one of the biggest World Cup scandals of all time in 2011. And “Carlito”, as the middle forward with the fuzzy head is called in his homeland, revisits the place of bizarre events for Cantona.

It is November 21, 1973, playoff game for the World Championship in Germany. Chile against the USSR in Santiago which is the pairing. The European Champion of 1960 has won the Group 9 on his own continent, Chile the Group 3 in South America. After a 0-0 draw in Moscow, the Soviets insist on the return leg being played in another country.

Rightly so. Chile has long been ruled by the military. General Augusto Pinochet who overthrew the socialist president Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973, and takes rigorous action against his supporters. Already in the first hours after the coup, more than 12,000 opposition members were captured.

Cantona: "Football became an accomplice of Dictators

Das Team der UDSSR. Foto: Imago
Das Team der UDSSR. Foto: Imago

And this is the stadium where the World Cup qualifiers will be played? Hard to imagine. This circumstance outraged Eric Cantona, who tends to overreact quickly, even more than 30 years later: 

“It was pretended as if nothing had happened. And then a new game follows. It’s not cynical, it’s inhuman. Football must not become the accomplice of dictators.” Unfortunately, in the history of the World Cup, the sport was all too often the accomplice of dictators. Like 1934 in Italy, 1978 in Argentina or 1973 in Chile. The Soviets are exerting pressure. In their despatch, they demand the transfer. Otherwise, it is announced by Moscow that the ” Sbornaja ” will not compete. “Game in Chile is impossible. Stop. USSR Football Association”, this is the concise and unmistakable text of the telegram of November 12, 1973, to the World Football Association. FIFA rejects a relocation. The reply states that the conditions are “regular”. Until today, Mimica can only shake her head about such formulations. “They have played in this stadium,” he exclaims, “while most of the dead were not even known by name. What was FIFA thinking?”

Probably not much. But it comes how it has to come. The USSR doesn’t travel, so they don’t take part in the World Cup. This is the first time that the football sputniks have not qualified for a World Cup finals. FIFA finally forces Chile to play the match without an opponent. In front of 30,000 spectators in Santiago and in an eerie atmosphere. “It was the stupidest thing I’ve ever experienced,” said Carlos Caszely, “we came to the pitch and there was nobody there. No opposing team. The referee whistles offense, we run forward, score a goal and the referee gives the goal. It was the most absurd performance you can imagine and I was part of it.” At 7.34 pm, Chile captain Francisco “Chamaco” Valdez scored the 1:0 and finished the “most absurd game in football history”, as THE MIRROR 2007 very aptly called it.

Carlos Caszely travels with Chile to the World Cup in Germany and sees a Revenge foul against Berti Vogts Rot in the first match against the hosts. Referee Dogan Babacan from Turkey shows Carlito the first red card of the World Cup history. Although the attacker playing for Espanyol Barcelona at the time is back in the final match against Australia but Chile is out after the preliminary round. The Valech Commission, set up in 2001 to investigate the crimes of 17 years of dictatorship in Chile, later recognized 27,255 political prisoners and named tens of thousands of victims of torture. For Carlos Caszely, the bizarre World Cup theatre of 1973 remains a reminder of history: “The stadium became a concentration camp. People were murdered and raped in the changing rooms. It’s a story you have to remember to make sure it never happens again.”

19th scandal: Ghana wants cash in a suitcase

Ghana spielte bei der WM zeitweise richtig gut. Foto: Getty Images
Ghana spielte bei der WM zeitweise richtig gut. Foto: Getty Images

Three million dollars touring through Brasilia live on television. This is not a documentary-soap of any private channel on June 24, 2014. It’s an attempt by the Ghanaian Football Association to help its less successful “Black Stars” on their way to the World Cup in Brazil.

They don’t have it easy in their group but in West Africans. Ghana is not exactly the favorite in the group with the future world champion Germany, Portugal and the USA and coached by former national coach Jürgen Klinsmann. The mood among the “Black Stars” is at zero after the second game against Germany with a more than the respectable 2-2 score. Only a high victory in the third preliminary round match against Portugal with superstar Cristiano Ronaldo can help. What to do?

The “Black Stars” don’t want any more. Sure, they could put their foot down against Portugal, which has been so disappointing so far. But they don’t want to. They only want one thing: their money. They want it now and in cash. No tricks, no uncovered checks.

As the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (F. A. Z.) writes in its daily edition under cinematic circumstances. It’s about three million US dollars for the 23-strong World Cup squad of Africans. It will be a race against time for the top federation officials. They hurriedly pack the sum in 100 dollar notes into a plane that lands at Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek airport in the Brazilian capital Brasilia at half past eight in the evening before the game.

Three million on tour - Reality TV made in Ghana

Deutschland freute es. Foto: Getty Images
Deutschland freute es. Foto: Getty Images
The money transport through Brasilia is shown live on television. Three million dollars are loaded in all due peace of mind and driven through the capital. Actually an invitation for every gangster.

But: According to the Brazilian channel Globo, the transport of 72 military police officers, 19 local police officers, 26 soldiers, 14 men from the local military special unit, a pilot of the police air surveillance of the air force, two police officers of the highway patrol and an operational force of the mobile air surveillance from Brasilia is secured. Good that we talked about it… So you have to imagine a payday for Ghana’s national football team… The gravel reaches the players of the German group opponent just in time. The match against Portugal can take place as planned. The money blessing from home can no longer make the “Black Stars” legs. They lose with 1:2 against Portugal and go home together with the star ensemble around “CR7”. However, two players have already said goodbye in advance. They are Berlin-born midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari from AC Milan. Kevin-Prince Boateng, at that time under contract with FC Schalke 04, played for the German junior national teams until 2009. It was not until 2010 that he opted for his father’s country and took part in the World Cup in South Africa for Ghana.

Before the match against the Portuguese, the eccentric Boateng and Muntari have a hard fight in training on Tuesday. Coach Appiah (“I don’t wish any coach such a thing”) kicks both out. According to legend, the Prince learns about the suspension through a note on his hotel room door. Silent mail made in Ghana.

But: According to the Ghanaian reporter Gary Al-Smith, who reports from Brasilia for the radio station Citi FM in Accra, both Muntari from AC Milan and Boateng refuse to leave the team camp. They want their money. It wasn’t until they collected it on Thursday morning after the match against Portugal that they both leave the hotel. Both never play for the “Black Stars” again. Payday in Ghana.

18th Scandal: 1966 - Pelé's saddest World Cup

Pele verlässt den Platz. Foto: Imago
Pele verlässt den Platz. Foto: Imago

“For us, our departure is a catastrophe. Without Pelé, Brazil is not just Brazil! Vicente Feola, Brazil’s national coach after the end of the 1966 World Cup in England.

1966 is to be the absolute crowning glory for Brazil’s football idol, Pelé. On 21 February of that year, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, as the football genius with the middle-class name is called, marries his first wife, Rosemarie dos Reis Cholbi. In England, he wanted to become world champion for the third time in a row in the summer of 1966. At the invitation of Pelé friend and Austria President Josef Brandstätter, the dream couple of football travel through Salzburg in an open carriage or appear in the colorful carnival hustle and bustle of Rio. In general, it is the wedding that the whole of Brazil has been waiting for. Even an audience with Pope Paul VI in Rome must not be missing. This summer, Pelé in England wants to present himself with the third World Champion title in a row.

Because the young couple doesn’t have a quiet minute during the turbulent first days of their marriage. In the preparations for the tournament, media hype and deadline stress, Brazil has become the double world champion. “When we saw each other for three days in a row, it was a lot,” Pelé says frankly. The wedding can’t motivate him. It’s not the world championship of the great Brazilian. Soccer King Pelé and the “Selecao” are facing vehement opposition from their opponents.

The 2-0 start against the No Names from Bulgaria is nothing more than a compulsory task for Pelé who scores 1-0 and his aging, congenial attacking partner Garrincha, who scores the second goal. I think the other teams will do the same,” Bulgaria coach Rudolf Vytlacil suspects after the match. He has a point!

Joao Morais: New public enemy number one in Brazil

Pele in Paris. Foto: Imago
Pele in Paris. Foto: Imago
On July 15, 1966, the Hungarians disenchanted the world champion with the Puskas-Erben Florián Albert who was the only Hungarian to win “Europe’s footballer” in 1967 and János Farkas in Goodison Park in Liverpool. It is the beginning of the end.

“The generation of 58 and 62 faded away because they were only veterans”, Brazil striker Tostao 2018 notes, “With the exception of Pelé, they were no longer in a position to play in the national team.” That’s true. Goalkeeper and double world champion Gilmar is 35; defender Djalma Santos and Bellini, the first Brazilian team captain to win the 1958 World Cup, are 36; Pelé’s congenial partner Garrincha (32), marked by operations and alcoholism will retire from the Selecao in 1966. Goal machine Pelé has many opponents in this tournament. He was born on January 25, 1942, in Mozambique. His name: Eusébio da Silva Ferreira. The “black panther”, as the center forward is called, is no less legendary than Pelé at FC Santos, with 317 league goals in 301 matches for Benfica Lisbon. Eusébio will make this World Cup his tournament. The Portuguese international has nine goals to secure his goalscoring title and third place for his country. It is Portugal’s best World Cup result ever. The duel between Pelé and his European counterpart Eusébio on July 19, 1966, will be a highlight of this World Cup. The former Portuguese colonial rulers humiliate the world champion. 3:1 with two goals from Eusébio. The match in Liverpool is a reflection of Brazil’s messed up World Cup. “The South Americans were already tough guys but the Europeans weren’t without them either,” recalls Wolfgang Weber and runner-up to the 1966 World Cup in November 2017 in the Berlin Tagesspiegel newspaper, “Pelé felt the effects against the Portuguese, but they didn’t need it, they were such great footballers with Eusébio and Coluna and all the others from Benfica Lisbon.

“Brazil came as defending champion but then I was out,” said Pelé. The Portuguese defender Joao Morais hits the football king hard on his knee and fouls him a little later a second time so hard that he is degraded to an extra. There were no substitutions in 1966. Pelé continues to play, but he limps across the court. His passports don’t arrive, Brazil loses the match and is out. To this day, it’s the only preliminary round out for the record world champion.

“It was a catastrophe that the two-time world champion was eliminated in the preliminary round,” Tostao remembers. The police and security forces at home are prepared for this. In Rio de Janeiro, street battles break out over radio sets after the results against Portugal were announced. The association’s headquarters in Barra da Tijuca and the home of coach Vicente Feola are immediately placed under police protection. “When I returned after the 1966 World Cup, my heart was no longer in football,” Pelé told The Guardian in 2016, “the game had revealed non-sportsmanship and cowardly refereeing. Football was no longer art, it became war.” Pelé’s bitter conclusion: “1966 was certainly the saddest World Cup. For me, for the players, for all Brazilians.”

ANOTHER LIGALIVE STORY?

17th Scandal: The Sheikh's Wrath

Kuwait vs. Frankreich. Dieses Spiel führte zum Skandal. Foto: Imago
Kuwait vs. Frankreich. Dieses Spiel führte zum Skandal. Foto: Imago

The power of the oil princes of the Persian Gulf is being felt by world football long before the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, which is still controversial today. Paris St. Germain and its Qatari investors are still football science fiction on June 21, 1982. Or is it not?

At the World Cup, co-favorite France meets the crass outsider Kuwait in the northern Spanish city of Valladolid. For the team from the Persian Gulf, it is the world championship premiere. Between 1974 and 1978 “Al Azraq”, the blue team, never qualified for a world championship. Now the 1980 Asian champion is in and has achieved a real respectable success against the CSSR. Faisal ad-Dachil scores the final goal 1:1. Kuwaitis star, however, is the coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira. The then 39-year-old Brazilian becomes world champion with the “Selecao” in 1994. His second of a total of six engagements with a national team in Kuwait.

And then there’s Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. The highly decorated officer is the chairman of the Asian Handball Federation and president of the Kuwaiti Football Federation. He always looks a little grim but Al-Sabah can be quite generous. The 1-1 draw against the Czechs is a princely reward for his team. With prize money of 175,000 US dollars. Per man, of course.

In Valladolid, TV cameras constantly focus on the sheik in the stands. His mood darkens with every French goal. Bernard Genghini, superstar Michel Platini and Didier Six have shot out a sovereign 3-0 lead for France after 48 minutes. Abdullah Al-Buloushi (75th) brings the golf team up to 3:1.

A Sheik in Rage

Edel-Fans aus Kuwait. Foto: Imago
Edel-Fans aus Kuwait. Foto: Imago

Five minutes later, France’s super-dribbler Alain Giresse scored the supposed 4-1 victory after the Kuwaiti players had obviously been taken in by a whistle from the crowd. Too much for the Sheikh. He pushes down, onto the playing field. The Spanish policemen, with their berets and their flying glasses really authoritarian looking cannot stop him. He rages, he scolds, he gestures. And he looks grim.

The game is interrupted for almost ten minutes. Like a dervish, Al-Sabah talks to referee Miroslav Stupar from the Soviet Union. “Fuck FIFA, it’s worse than the Mafia,” is one of the traditional curses from the curse canon. The extent to which he seems to be right about this only becomes apparent many years later. On December 2, 2010, FIFA surprisingly awards the 2022 World Cup to the Gulf State of Qatar. The kingdom which is not blessed with football tradition is quickly suspected of having bought the games with its oil dollars. The Sunday Times presents the first concrete evidence in 2014, triggering an avalanche. FIFA is coming under pressure from corruption and lack of transparency. The scandal is already perfect eight years before the first kick-off of the World Cup in the winter of 2022 and is causing huge damage to the image of the World Football Association.

The image doesn’t matter to Al-Sabah at his legendary appearance in Valladolid. The sheik is raging for success. The Referee, who is considered one of the best in his profession actually takes back Giresse’s hit. Stupar lets himself be intimidated by the sheik and thus destroys the World Cup for himself. FIFA suspended him the following day for the rest of the tournament on the grounds that he had provoked the situation with his own behavior.

When Al-Sabah returns to his grandstand seat, Maxime Bossis does not let himself be whispered back. The defender of FC Nantes scores the no less regular 4-1 for France. There’s no flaw in Giresse’s goal either. Whatever: Kuwait is out. Back to Al-Sabah. His generosity is also felt by the French winners. In the spring of 1990, he invited France’s national football team to the sheikdom with Platini, who had meanwhile advanced to coach. As compensation, so to speak. A few months later Al-Sabah is dead. He dies during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, at the age of 44.

16th Scandal: "Greater German" into defeat

Das deutsche Team im Sommer 1938. Foto: Imago
Das deutsche Team im Sommer 1938. Foto: Imago

The 1938 World Cup comes too late for Austria’s ambitious national team. After the annexation of Hitler’s Germany on March 12, 1938, nothing in Austrian football is as it once was. The following World Cup in France becomes a unique and historical fiasco.

Austria’s footballers have been real professionals since 1924. Matthias “Der Papierne” Sindelar advertises suits, watches, and dairy products. He later owns a café in Vienna. The middle forward Karl “Der Blade” Sesta, like his friend Sindelar a member of the legendary Austrian ” team of wonders ” of the early 1930s, makes records with Viennese songs. Things suddenly changed for the Austrian star kickers with the German invasion in March 1938.

After the annexation of Austria to the German Reich, the Nazis banned “Jewish” professional football by the decision of May 31, 1938. Their “vision”: a “Greater German” team set up by Reich coach Sepp Herberger with the stars from Vienna, Schalke or Nuremberg, which won its first World Cup title in France. The world championship premiere for Germany in 1934 is a real success in terms of respect with third place. But the new rulers want more.

Herberger doesn’t have much time left. The world championship begins on June 4. Until then, he must recruit Sindelar, a Jewish friend of his, as well as other Austrian players for the “Greater German Team”. That fails. Sindelar already provokes the National Socialist sports officials at the “follow-up match” on 3rd of April in the Viennese Prater Stadium with a Veitstanz in front of the VIP stand. Previously, as captain, he had ordered the Austrians to run aground once again in their traditional red-white-red playing clothes. Sindelar then persistently refuses to play for the ” Greater German team “. Sesta or miracle team captain Josef “Pepi” Bican do not play either. “Der Papierne” dies as early as 1939 in Vienna under never completely clarified circumstances. In 1941, at 35, Sesta becomes the oldest debutant of all time in the “German” national team.

Ruhr area stars annoy Viennese football artists

Die Schweiz schlägt Deutschland mit 4:2. Foto: Imago
Die Schweiz schlägt Deutschland mit 4:2. Foto: Imago

Herberger finally travels to France with six Germans and five Austrians. The company ” Greater German Team ” becomes a nightmare. “National coach Sepp Herberger was forced by the National Socialist government to integrate the Austrians,” dfb.de says, “the World Cup system and the Viennese school pair seemed impossible.

Disciplined fighters here, sloppy geniuses there with fire hitting the water. Every expert saw that. But Herberger’s protests at the ” Professional Office for Football ” in Stettin ebbed away unheard.” The players are at loggerheads. The Viennese consistently avoid the Germans. The Schalkers make fun of the Austrians with derogatory words from the Ruhrpott. The Reich trainer has to go into the night at the Hotel Littre in Paris to have grueling discussions about his line-up with the Nazi functionaries. He will not be able to manage a personal surprise like the one he had later during the successful World Cup in 1954. He makes the Viennese Hans Mock the captain of his community of convenience, which is never a team, even though he has never played an international match before. The secret captain, Schalke idol Fritz Szepan, meanwhile sits sulking in the stands. Szepan is used only once. The Mannheim striker Otto Siffling, who scored five goals in 32 minutes in 1937 in the famous “Breslau game” against Denmark (8:0), remains completely outside.

Even the German fans don’t find it easy in France. The 2,000 fans who arrived with special trains were already hostile, insulted and spat at upon their arrival in Paris. Nobody likes the “new” Germans. Before the kick-off of the round of sixteen matches against Switzerland on June 4, 1938, at the Prinzenpark Stadium in Paris, rotten eggs and tomatoes rain down on the players.

After a 1:1 after extra time, a repeat match must be played five days later. The Swiss win 4:2 – and “Greater Germany” is embarrassed. For the press, the spectators in the witch’s cauldron of the Prinzenpark are the ones who once again set the mood against the cobbled troops. “The football week believes that if we have to search for the culprits here, it will only be in the auditorium. Sepp Herberger’s extensive archive contains notes that interpret defeat in a completely different way. Herberger is following the Viennese in a bad footstep under the heading “Reasons for retirement”. “The inadequate deployment of our Austrian players in scenes where strength and fighting spirit alone would have been decisive. They are shining players through the bank. But you don’t win with play alone. A world championship is the least.”

15th Scandal: 1934 - The Duce corrupts the World Cup

Der faschistische Gruß. Foto: Getty Images
Der faschistische Gruß. Foto: Getty Images

Italy’s world championship success in 1934 has an eternal flaw. The first World Cup in a fascist country because the propagandistic use and the demonstrable influence of the Italian rulers around Benito Mussolini on the referees become the first annoyance of the tournament history.

The three villains are Enrique Guaita, Luis Monti and Attilo de Maria. They were all born in Argentina. That doesn’t make them suspicious per se. Unfortunately, the professionals from AS Rome, Ambrosiana-Inter (today Inter Milan) and Juventus Turin played for Italy. Thus the “Squadra Azzurra” commits the first rule violation long before the tournament starts.

According to the FIFA statutes, the Argentine trio would have lived in Italy since March 1931 and, above all, would no longer have been allowed to play for the “Albiceleste”. They did, however, and Guiata did until February 5, 1933, just over a year before the second World Cup. The Italian organizers have no problem since the OC is permeated by fascist officials. After all, they argue that Romanian Iuliu Barátky would have played for Hungary earlier.

Italy will receive the World Cup award on December 14, 1932, in Zurich. The “Duce”, Benito Mussolini, who in 1925 became Italy’s dictator, provided the necessary change for the eight stadiums. The ball rolls in Bologna, Florence, Genoa, Milan, Naples, Rome, Trieste, and Turin. The ball will only be played in Montevideo at its World Cup premiere in Uruguay in 1930. With his investment in the World Cup stadiums, Mussolini is fooling the world into believing Italy to be a fast-growing country while the Lira has long since been in an inflationary downward spiral. In addition, the new arenas serve him as the perfect setting for self-staging. There are prepared jubilant storms wherever Mussolini appears during the World Cup.

Mussolini's influence becomes concrete after the quarterfinals

Mussolini war eigentlich Fan des Modernen Fünfkampfs. Foto: Imago
Mussolini war eigentlich Fan des Modernen Fünfkampfs. Foto: Imago
To make sure nothing else goes wrong, Mussolini has put his ardent supporter Giovanni Mauro at the head of the Italian Football Association. Giorgio Vaccaro, general of a fascist militia, is the mediator between the association as well as FIFA and the party.

Italy 1934 is a World Cup that only takes place in the knockout system. The first scandal is in the quarter-finals against Spain. The Italians have out-booted their Iberian rival at the World Cup awards. They have now succeeded in doing so on the pitch in Florence under scandalous circumstances. After an extra-time of 1:1 draw, a repeat match is scheduled just one day later. Spain’s goalkeeper witch Ricardo Zamora († 1978) cannot participate due to injury. His representative Juan José Nogués is hindered by several players at the decisive 1-0 win for Italy even though Italy’s legendary striker Giuseppe Meazza relies on the keeper. It’s unbelievable that the Swiss referee René Mercet gives this goal. Even more incomprehensible is the fact that he denied the Spaniards two regular goals in the second half.

Mussolini is playing it safe before the semi-final against Austria’s ” Wonder Team ” with the legendary Matthias Sindelar. He invites the Swedish referee Ivan Eklind as a guest of honor one day before the match.

The Swiss referee Mercet and the Belgian referee Louis Baert will also be at the table. In the game, Eklind allows Meazza and three other Italians to move the ball across the line together with Austrian goalkeeper Peter Platzer. The referee even beheads a cross over the completely free-standing Austrian Karl Zischek himself out of the danger zone. No question about it, with such a referee performance you “deserve” the final. In the final against Czechoslovakia, Eklind denied the Czechoslovakians several clear penalties and Italy won 2-1 in extra time. The Duce World Cup is saved. The Italian sports historian Marco Impiglia 2014 cannot prove a direct influence of the fascist politician. But it is an alliance between Swedish and Italian sports officials. “The abundance of circumstantial evidence speaks for a World Cup that has been postponed in Italy’s favor,” he concludes. That sounds almost a little mild.

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