World Cup controversies: the “battle of Santiago” in one of the most violent World Cups in history

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The 1962 World Cup was one of the most conflictive editions on the field with a chaotic game that was marked forever

World Cup controversies: the “battle of Santiago” in one of the most violent World Cups in history


Miguel ScimeThe battle of Santiago between Chile and Italy of the 1962 World Cup

The 1962 World Cup in ChileIt had a series of particularities on a planet that lived with the constant blows of the Cold War. That celebration in South American territory also had to face the painful consequences of the earthquake that occurred in 1960 in the city of Valdivia, which pushed the trans-Andean population to take this event as a patriotic cause.

The President-elect of the Republic, Jorge Alessandri Rodríguez, led the reconstruction of a country hit by what happened. In this context, four venues and stadiums were designated where the sports competition would take place: Santiago, Arica, Viña del Mar and Rancagua.

It would be the last World Cup that did not it would look live, at the same time that the United States launched the first communications satellite Telstar that would open the door to the first transatlantic broadcasts, which allowed the next World Cup to reach televisions all over the planet live. . At that time, a distant, traditional regulation was in force and far from the reality of a football that requested updates to the rules of the game. There was tension, rivalry, world political conflicts… All part of a cocktail that would end up having an impact on the field of play.

The draw determined that Group 2 would be made up of host Chile along with Italy, Switzerland and Germany. Criticism against the draw was not long in coming, since they would have to face three European teams, two of whom had been world champions. The local team, to top it off, had not participated in the World Cups since Brazil 1950.

The table was set and the only thing missing was for the guests to arrive. Thus, on May 30, 1962, the initial kick was given…

One ​​of the most violent encounters in history arrived, disputed between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia< /b>. At one point in the game, Mujic, a Yugoslav striker, attacked defender Dubinsky without the ball in the way, breaking the tibia and fibula of one of his legs . The Soviet suffered an ordeal, since his leg never recovered. Over time, he developed a malignant tumor on his limb, his leg had to be amputated, and the disease ended up significantly affecting his health until he passed away at the age of 34.

At the same time on the same One day, in Santiago, Germany and Italy would stage another pitched battle. “From the beginning the party became a frank fight”, described it in the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio.

World Cup controversies: the “battle of Santiago” in one of the most violent World Cups in history

The " battle of Santiago " in the 1962 World Cup

In this context, one of the most scandalous events that went down in history as “The Battle of Santiago” took place. In the preview, two Italian journalists who were in the country covering the World Cup, Antonio Ghirelli and Corrado Pizzinelli, wrote a note in the newspaper Il Resto de Carlino , where they exposed a series of violent criticisms against the Chilean society.

“This capital, which is a sad symbol of one of the underdeveloped countries in the world and afflicted by all possible ills: malnutrition, prostitution, illiteracy, alcoholism, misery… Under these aspects, Chile is terrible and Santiago its most painful expression, so painful that it loses its characteristics of an anonymous city. Entire neighborhoods practice prostitution in the open air: a desolating and terrible spectacle that takes place in full view of the 'callampas', a belt of shacks that surround the already poor on the periphery and inhabited by the most suffering humanity. Let it be understood, they are not of Indian origin. 98% or 99% of the Chilean population is of European origin, which makes us say and think that Chile, in the problem of underdevelopment, has to be placed at the same level as the countries of Asia or Africa, but that here, due to the formation of its population, regeneration is much more serious than in the cases cited. The inhabitants of those continents are not progressive, they are retrograde.”

The story was reproduced by the newspaper with the largest circulation at the time, El Mercurio, the Chilean people reacted furiously to such words, a lack of respect that the Italian team would pay dearly for, during the match.

While the temperature rose around the duel, the English referee Ken Aston, seconded by the linesmen Fernando Buergo Elcuaz (Mexico) and Leo Goldstein (United States), had to take charge of preventing the tension from outside from being transferred to the pitch. game.

From the opening whistle, the style of play was exposed on the pitch with Italy appealing to constant and, at times, violent pressure. The first foul was committed after 12 seconds of play. The clock barely marked the 7th minute when a violent blow by the forward Giorgio Ferrini to the Chilean Honorino Landa caused the first expulsion by the Englishman Aston, who years later would be in charge of inventing the yellow and red cards. Scandal broke out: Ferrini refused to leave the field, the Chilean police intervened and he was arrested.

The Chilean Landa, minutes later, committed a foul deserving of expulsion, but was “forgiven” by the referee. The match progressed maddeningly slowly because everything was surrounded by protests and artful fouls that caused arguments and confrontations between the players in the face of the passivity of the judge, who did not know how to control the game.

At 38 minutes into the first half, a play was produced that would be a reflection of what was happening. The figure of the Chilean team, Leonel Sánchez, overwhelmed the left wing while he was marked by Mario David. The trans-Andean fell as a result of a foul, but it was just the beginning of the chaos: while he was on the floor, David kicked him repeatedly , causing the irritation of Sánchez (son of Juan Sánchez, Chilean boxing champion ). The local footballer hit the Italian with his left fist… Neither of the two actions were sanctioned by Judge Aston.

The referee was visibly overwhelmed by the circumstances. A few minutes passed and, in the middle of the game, the Italian revenge was expressed with a flying kick from David against Sánchez that ended with the expulsion of the Italian.

During the complement, Chile achieved two goals, between grotesque fouls and protests. The match was barely able to reach 90 minutes, with careful precision from the English referee. The Battle of Santiago had come to an end, being immortalized as one of the most scandalous events in the history of the World Cups.

The English commentator David Coleman, recognized in Europe as one of the most influential of the time, presented that match on deferred and made one of the most remembered descriptions of his career. “Buenas tardes. The game you are about to witness is the stupidest, most horrible, disgusting and possibly embarrassing display of football in the history of the game,” Coleman said.

Referee Aston apologized for his performance: “I wasn't refereeing a soccer match, I was acting as a judge in a military conflict”. An orthodox judge of a football that was in full transformation and that began to travel the path from a simple sport to an economic, political and cultural phenomenon in a definitive way.

Finally, Chile classified to second round. In the quarterfinals, Chile beat the Soviet Union 2-1 and, in the semifinals, they were defeated 4-2 by Brazil that would end up being crowned champions. Argentina was one of the 16 teams that was part of the tournament, but after the “Sweden disaster” in 1958, it also failed to meet expectations in Group D of Chile 62, finishing in tenth place and not even advancing to the next round.

With the “battle of Santiago” as a parameter, the 1962 World Cup went down in history as one of the most violent due to the large number of expelled players and violent plays that are remembered.

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