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29 October 2014
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TV programme to feature Welsh football's great forgotten story

The match made headlines around the world and the fallout had a direct effect on Welsh football fortunes for years to come - yet it has now been largely forgotten by even Wales's keenest football fans.

BBC Wales is set to prepare for its live coverage of Wales's big Euro 2004 qualifier against Serbia & Montenegro in Belgrade with a special programme remembering one of the most controversial matches in Welsh football history.

When Wales came back from Belgrade in May 1976 trailing 0-2 to Yugoslavia after the first leg of their European Championship quarter final, everything was set for a fiery return at a packed Ninian Park in Cardiff.

The Great Match (BBC 2W, 19 August, 8.30pm) shows what happened next.

In 1976, football hooliganism was at its height – Ninian Park had become one of the first grounds in the UK to erect perimeter fencing – and there was nothing to prevent alcohol being taken into football grounds.

It was a potentially explosive mixture and it was ignited by an East German referee called Rudi Glockner.

Herr Glockner had been one of the world's top referees – controlling the 1970 World Cup Final and the UEFA Cup Final only a week before his trip to Cardiff – but, with his brylcreemed short back and sides and military manner, he looked out of place among the flowing locks and drooping moustaches of 1970s football.

Within 20 minutes he had the Welsh crowd seething as he adjudged Birmingham City's Malcolm Page to have brought down Popivoda in the area although the replays show clearly that the Yugoslav had dived.

Katalinksi despatched the resultant penalty leaving Wales needing a miracle to reach the semi-finals.

Ian Evans of Crystal Palace equalised before half-time and that miracle looked possible for one fleeting moment after the break when John Toshack squeezed John Mahoney's knock-down into the net.

But Glockner ruled Mahoney's bicycle kick – which would have been allowed by any Football League referee – to have been dangerous and awarded a free kick.

The crowd of 30,000 exploded. Full beer cans were thrown at the referee, a handful of spectators scaled the fences in an attempt to attack him and the pictures show spectators aiming Nazi salutes at the East German.

The game was halted as Glockner threatened to abandon the match.

Within minutes he had further stoked the fires of resentment as another Toshack effort was disallowed – this time for offside – prompting another hail of beer cans from the Bob Bank.

When Terry Yorath missed a late penalty, the Welsh crowd's misery was complete and their anger was aimed squarely at the referee.

As he blew the final whistle, a guard of 16 policemen surrounded the official to shepherd him to safety.

As the cameras zoom back, it is possible to make out a thin, white object flying towards Glockner. It was a corner flag. A spectator had hurled it towards the East German like a spear. It was to land in the neck of a policeman.

Gory photographs were flashed to newspapers around the world and Welsh football supporters were vilified.

When the next potential flashpoint game arrived (a World Cup qualifying decider against Scotland) Wales had to play at Liverpool's Anfield where Joe Jordan's infamous handball started a series of Welsh qualification near misses that has continued to this day.

But the rot had first set in on that hot May afternoon in Cardiff.

"It's one of the great forgotten stories of Welsh sport," said programme producer Peter Williams.

• The Great Match, Tuesday 19 August, BBC 2W, 8.30pm

• Euro 2004 Live Football – Serbia & Montenegro v Wales, Wednesday 20 August, BBC TWO Wales/BBC 2W, 6.45pm

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