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An unfair advantage?

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Tim Vickery | 11:23 UK time, Monday, 25 October 2010

In 1922, when English politician Stanley Baldwin wanted to launch a revolt against Prime Minister David Lloyd George, he described his adversary as "a dynamic force".

And, he added, "a dynamic force is a very terrible thing".

Those of us who love football will know what he means.

The game runs on passion, from fans, players and coaches. Take the passion away and the game is nothing but too much is deadly.

Football has brought countless benefits, but there is also plenty to lament from stadium disasters to lives lost in pointless conflicts. Uncontrolled human emotion can be a very terrible thing.

I was dwelling on this after watching the quarter-final places filled in South America's Europa League equivalent - known as the Copa Sul-Americana in Brazil, and the Sudamericana elsewhere - or simply the South American Cup.

Home advantage is part of football, and it is especially strong in South America for legitimate reasons, one of those being the distances involved.

South American football fans

The atmosphere in South American football is a far cry from the Premier League (Getty Images)

The continent is vast. From Banfield, Buenos Aires to Ibague in Colombia, home of Tolima, is a marathon trek, and helps explain why the home side came out on top in both legs.

Then there are differences in climate and conditions - especially altitude.

Some will argue that this is an unfair advantage. For the moment, though, it is legal - and it always seems to me that any medical evidence would have to be very convincing in order to ban clubs based at altitude from international competition.

There is no doubt, though, that against unacclimatised opposition, altitude is an advantage for the home side.

It is a factor that helps explain LDU of Ecuador beating Chile's San Felipe 6-1, or the 2-0 victory of Bolivia's San Jose over Newell's Old Boys of Argentina (though Newell's had won the first leg 6-0).

But if unfamiliar conditions and hostile environments are part of the game, it is clear that this can be taken too far.

In their newly rebuilt stadium, Independiente, of Argentina, took on Defensor, of Uruguay, in a hard fought, entertaining tie.

Before the second half, visiting keeper Martin Silva, Uruguay's third choice in the World Cup, was struck by a large stone thrown from the crowd. There was blood all over the place, and a hold up while he recovered.

Silva would have been within his rights to refuse to carry on - I have seen games abandoned when players of officials have been hit. Sportingly, he shrugged it off and the game proceeded - an excellent game, in which Defensor deserved better fortune than to lose 4-2 and go out 4-3 on aggregate.

This type of incident must have consequences. Independiente are next at home in the competition against Tolima on 11 November - a match which must surely take place behind closed doors or at an alternative location.

It is unfortunate for Independiente, who have sunk time and money into their ground but there must be punishment.

This type of thing happens far too much in South American stadiums. In some parts of the continent, especially Colombia, visiting players can only take corners with the aid of police holding up riot shields to protect them from objects raining down from the stands.

Less dramatic, less dangerous but equally undesirable were some of the practices on show in the tie between Brazil's Avai and Emelec, of Ecuador.

To be fair to the Brazilians, they were very unhappy with the treatment they received in the away leg, and as someone who was once on a pitch in Ecuador with bottles being hurled from the crowd I can sympathise.

But Avai did not cover themselves in glory by resorting to a ruse which is depressingly common in South American football. In the second half, when the home side are ahead, the ball boys disappear, and the rhythm of the game is slowed right down.

Another trick, often employed in Brazil, is designed to make a substitution take as long as possible. The player about to be taken off looks across, sees his number on the board and goes down to the ground. The little cart has to come on and take him away and a change that should take 10 seconds ends up eating into a minute or more.

To my mind this is a blatant abuse of a facility that has been provided to help players who have suffered an injury.

These are all instances where the passion for a club and the desire for victory lead people to trample all over ethical considerations. Unlimited passion is indeed a terrible thing, so terrible that it destroys the purity of the victory it craves.

If football was just numbers it would be bingo. What has always mattered in the game is not just what you do, but how you do it.

Some like to say that only the winners are remembered. They can say it all they like, but it doesn't make it true. Hungary in '54, Holland in '74, Brazil in '82 - none of them went home with the World Cup, but all are recalled fondly and passionately by people who loved their style.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag;
Do you think that some European clubs will want to take a risk on Gremio's Jonas? He is the top scorer in Brazil with 20 goals, but at 26 is he too old for clubs to take a look at?
Elliott Sweeney

I don't see his age as a problem - he's only a year older than Hernanes, who's made such a good start with Lazio. But what's not really clear is whether this is just a flash in the pan. He's something of a late developer - he was training to be a pharmacist and needed persuasion to take up the game. He's in a run of form where everything he's striking is going in. He's never been this prolific before, though he has always been talented. So that's the big question for anyone wanting to invest in him - can he produce this form on a long term basis?

Pele or Maradona, who is the better player?
Chris Bender

Horrible question! It's not a debate I really like. I've seen how much in South America this can provoke idiot, infantile nationalism. It's so hard to compare across eras, especially in a team sport, and I hate the fact that the argument usually becomes adversarial, when the point of players of this calibre (and Alfredo Di Stefano has a strong case as well) is to enjoy them.

You can make cases for both of them (and Di Stefano!). Pele is more complete in the sense of being more two footed and better with his head than Maradona, but I'm also fascinated by the observation from Alf Ramsey that he thought Pele had nearly everything, while Maradona has the lot.

You would expect Ramsey to go with Pele - people usually choose contemporaries, and Pele played against Ramsey's sides. I've always thought Ramsey was a very shrewd judge, and I think he was saying that he thought Maradona was better in a collective sense, more integrated into the team.

Maradona's case - triumphing with Napoli whereas Pele played a lot of friendlies with Santos. And 1986, of course, which Pele can't quite match. Both the exuberant youngster of 1958 and the wily veteran of 1970 were great, but a bit short of what Maradona achieved in Mexico.

Perhaps this argument would be easier if Pele hadn't been injured in his second game of the 1962 World Cup. I think that around then he was at his absolute peak - the goal he scored against Mexico in the opening match is simply breathtaking. Chile '62 could have been what '86 was to Maradona, and might have clinched the argument in Pele's favour.


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  • Comment number 1.


    Surely heat is a bigger problem to the health than altitude? I know bolivia is high but they aint playing on top of mount everest, where as Colombia is rarely below 25c with 90% humidity levels even at its most temperate.

    Didnt you once observe the fact brazilians were kickong off league matches at 4 in the afternoon in 35C heat and them moaning about playing at altitude?

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Tim, I was wondering if you think that the clubs themselves in South America take this seriously and take action? It seems to me that when players cannot behave, they are contributing to inciting such things as you mention from the Independiente incident?

  • Comment number 3.

    Tim, regarding Jonas, dont forget that he would probably be top scorer last year TOO, if he didnt suffered an injury midway in the league. If I am not mistaken, he was top scorer of the league too when he suffered the injury last year (playing alongside Maxi Lopes). Of course... Jonas only "functions" when he is confident. Which might explain his bad spell at Libertadores last year which resulted in that spanish newpaper calling him the worst attacker in the world...

    1 - a minority of matches happen at 4pm.
    2 - there is no brazilian league in the summer
    3 - international matches only happen at night, when the scorching sun is obviously not a problem
    4 - that means teams from other countries dont need to "adapt" to 4pm brazilian heat. Brazilian and Argie players must ALWAYS adapt to play at high altitudes

  • Comment number 4.

    regarding these incidents... CONMEBOL´s was always too lenient regarding fan violence. The punishments are MINIMAL.

    these kind of things diminished in Brazil DRASTICALLY when punishments became more and more severe. Throwing a bottle of water into the pitch can result in a few matches ban to the stadium. You dont even need to hit someone. Hitting a goalkeeper in the head with a stone like happened in this match, if in Brazil, would result in over a month of stadium ban.

    Coritiba recently got its stadium banned for NINE months for fan invasion into the pitch AFTER a match (that resulted in their relegation) and fight with the police. Yes, NINE months.

    Juventude had some fan racism cases some years ago... resulting in a fine of U$ 100,000 and 2 matches ban at the stadium. Which is better than most racism related punishments you see in Europe.

    Punishments DO work. Now, we really do need to see better punishments regarding the ball boys. But this game happened in a CONMEBOL competition. So Avaí doesnt need to fear. In fact, considering CONMEBOL, I guess brazilian fans can even resume old habits and start throwing things at adversary players again.

  • Comment number 5.

    I'd say the unfair advantage in the Sudamericana is that Brazil get 8 entrants into the competition despite only ever providing one winner, Argentina only get 6 entrants, even though they are by far the most successful nation in the tournament with 4 wins.

    Other nations that have provided as many winners as Brazil only get the automatic right to enter 3 teams (Peru & Ecuador). Ecuador get one extra place this year as LDU Quito are the holders but that still only gives them half as many berths as Brazil.

    As for the high altitude controversy, it is telling that you take the Brazilian position against playing at high altitude, even though the rest of South America (including the predominantly lowland countries of Argentina, Uruguay and Paragay) lobbied against FIFA's absurd ruling that Peru, Ecuador and Colombia should not be able to host international games in their own capital cities.

    Brazil were the only association to try and hold onto the artificial advantage that FIFA were trying to award to the lowland nations, by refusing to sign up to the CONMEBOL protest against the ruling.

  • Comment number 6.

    I totally agree with you about the Independiente - Defensor game being excellent, one of the most entertaining games I've watched for a good while. It is a shame that one of the sides had to be eliminated.

  • Comment number 7.

    Problems with crowds, whether it be hooliganism, nationalism, racism or such like I find are problems that will never go away until the clubs in question start taking responsibility for their own 'fans'.

    I've always thought a good anaology is that if you are invited to a party and you bring some friends with you, one of whom then goes and cause havoc, you have to take a large portion of the blame because by bringing that person with you, you vouch for their good character. If a football team bring X thousand fans with them, for home or away games, then they are surely the 'responsible adult' at the 'party'.

    We have all seen that racist chanting in countries like Spain and Russia continues somewhat unabated at certain venues because the clubs themselves will not accept the blame for the actions of the few. Punishments from the respetive domestic FA's provide no practical detterent (a fine of a few thousand Euro's is nothing to a club raking in tens/hundreds of thousands in gate receipts) and the clubs take a fatuous moral highground by denouncing the actions of what they percieve as a tiny minority. But this is simply cowardice and a case of making excuses for something the clubs in question want to take no responsibility for.

    The numbers of hardcore fans, or Ultras, at football clubs may be technically a small minority but surely the fact that it only a few people misbehaving is no excuse for effectively tolerating attitudes and actions that would be simply reprehensible in most day to day walks of life. Racism, sectarianism and violence is utterly unnacceptable in people home, in the street or at work but at football grounds it's almost seen as part of the experience. Let us not forget that until Jean Laporta took over at Barca, the club used to give away 500 tickets free each home game to their 'Ultras' in return for them not causing mayhem of the ugliest kind. Laporta was seen by many as being a traitor to the clubs history and tradition by getting rid of this awful practise and recieved death threats in return!

    In England thatnkfully we may not be rid of these problems (no society is 100%) but both clubs and fans all seem unified that there is a line when it comes to behaviour in the stands of and if you cross it, the fans AND the club share the shame, and the blame. Clubs like Liverpool, and Manchester United made a conscious decision some time ago that the traditional sectarian cultures identified with themselves respectively (Man Utd - Catholic, Liverpool - Protestant) were things of the past and stopped promoting them. Racism in football in England is no longer treated as anything but abhorant.

    Perhaps the greatest example of a club (of person) leading from the front was when Nottingham Forrest experienced crowd trouble at a match one day in the form of a pitch invasion. Brian Clough, with no instruction from the FA or real precedent of doing so announced how utterly unnacceptable this was and said the next game would be played behind closed doors. no-one should underestimate how brave and groundbreaking decision this was by him. It is hard to imagine any manager having the power to demand this today. But it remains the greatest example I know of, of a club taking the appropriate blame and action for crowd trouble and should be an example for many clubs overseas today.

  • Comment number 8.

    1 - indeed, as far as i'm aware extreme heat is a bigger health risk than altitude - one of the reasons that i'm not at all convinced by moves to ban altitude - but no doubt that it is an advantage

  • Comment number 9.

    @1 Heat is a bigger problem than altitude but heat affects both teams - it doesn't give the home team an advantage. For example here in Paraguay where temperatures get up above 40c in the summer nobody would dream of playing football before 4pm (even now in the spring) - simply because the players wouldn't be able to cope and it would be a boring spectacle for any of the fans who turned up.

    As for crowd violence - nothing will happen while the presidencial candidates at the clubs need fan's votes (namely the ultras/barras bravas etc.) - and neither the club's nor the federations will crack down until they realise that way more money can be made when grounds are made safer (a la England and the Premier League).

  • Comment number 10.

    Tim- as a follow up to your blog last week on Ronaldo and the Paulista derby yesterday, did Ronaldo live up to the occasion? I saw he played without scoring in a 1-0 victory for Corinthians, any more information from you?

  • Comment number 11.

    That's why the relevance of Pele having scored over 1000 goals is irrelevant when discussing his greatness. He played against too many penny ante teams and had the home advantages you described for 20 years. That's why I'm so impressed by the likes of Diego (or Tevez) who play abroad and excel. Now that's adaptability !

    Unfortunately, I didn't see either Pele or Diego play much so don't have an opinion on who was greater.

  • Comment number 12.


    A quote from Maradona which I've always liked is "My mother says it was me and Pele's mother says it was him". Part of me wishes the debate is left to that quote.

    I've seen some Di Stefano footage on youtube, it's disappointing that there's not more of it or of better quality.

    Edit: Just seen that Jonathan Stevenson used the same quote in his blog.

  • Comment number 13.

    This Pele vs. Maradona argument is simple to me:

    When you look at their respective games in depth it's easy to see that everything Maradona possessed Pele also possessed - except for pace, which equates to "nothing" as Pele's game wasn't lacking as a result..... BUT, if you look at everything in Pele's game there's an awful lot that Maradona did not possess.

  • Comment number 14.

    @13 Maradona possesses European Titles...that's something that Pele doesn't possess ;)

  • Comment number 15.

    Re No.1

    Although certain places in Colombia fit your description, for example, Ibague (Tolima), Cali (Deportivo Cali and America) and la Costa (principally, Junior), the other places don't quite have the same problems. Medellin for example, would be about 25C but with very little humidity making it very nice to play in, Manizales (Once Caldas) is similar, but Bogotá is a completely different proposition. When Santa Fe played on Wednesday night the temperature must of been between 5-10C.

    Re the comments from Tim about gamesmanship, I'm a referee in Colombia (although at the lower levels) and I'm shocked at the playacting that goes on here from going down like easier than a pint, to tieing their laces in front of the opposition as they go to take a free kick. Unfortunately, the coaches on both sides seem to encourage this...

  • Comment number 16.

    talking of time wasting and other tricks employed by clubs in Brasil, a favorite during night games is to have a ´power cut ´..the floodlights go out and while all the surrounding town is bathes in light , the stadium stays dark for about an hour ...usually this happens just after the start of the second half and caqn last from half to a full hour.

  • Comment number 17.

    I confess my medical/sports science knowledge is limited but surely the effects of heat (which are undoubtedly significant) can be combatted with proper preparation and continued action (i.e. regular re-hydration, shade when required and such like).

    The effects of altitude can only be truly combatted through acclimatization (spelling?) which to be done properly is simply impossible due to timing restraints. I believe it has been said that if you play at Sea level usually and go to play in La Paz the estimated time for full acclimatization is 3-6 weeks?!

    This is surely the issue, altitude is an advantage that visiting teams have no realistic chance of overcoming, even with a squad of doctors and the best equipment/facilities.

    I should note that this isn't me arguing in favour of an altitude ban, but rather trying to see the rationale behind those who say it's unfair.

  • Comment number 18.

    @11 and @13 please please lets stop this nonsense that Pele played "penny ante" teams or whatever you want to call them. He played in the Brazilian and South American leagues in a time that the vast majority of South Americans did not migrate - meaning local club football was as strong, arguably stronger, then European club football. Santos walked over Benfica and AC Milan and other Brazilian, Argentinan and Uruguayan teams of that decade would be a match for thheir European counterparts. What after all makes you think winning European leagues instead of the Brazilian leagues, or the Libertadores, in a time when Europe did not import players from all over the world, would be a measure of success? Remember this is the decade when Brazilian football thoroughly dominated the game, having won 3 of 4 successive World Cups - and a few exceptions all the palyers of all these campaigns played all their careers in Brazil. Or you think the only 22 good players we had at the time were in the National team, all other players in the country were muppets that allowed Pele to destroy them at his will?

    and AndyTevez - the home effect you said Pele 'had' was actually to his disadvantage, please properly read the article, as a Santos player he had to confront Uruguayan and Argentine crowds far more agressive that what your beloved Tevez faces - and he still awed them all.

  • Comment number 19.

    I don't see the point in trying to compare them - they were star players in different eras and the game changed. It is just too subjective as there is no objective way to fairly compare them.

    In terms of trouble at matches - it really needs pressure down from the top to force a change but is it there in any countries or are they happy to just ignore it rather than stick their necks on the line?

  • Comment number 20.

    in south america's international club competitions i usually think in terms of 1 away win for every 3 home wins.
    this year's sul/sud americana has gone way over this - current standing is 42 home wins, 13 draws, 7 away wins - and of those 7, 4 came in matches between two clubs from the same country

  • Comment number 21.

    @18. I admit I don't know all the facts about Pele's career and am somewhat influenced by the way he played when he was with the Cosmos in the 70s. But I think in his day, the Brazilian or other South American crowds are not as violent as they might be today -- i.e. they did not chuck things at the players. I'm here in the United States and so am having trouble visualizing the animal behavior you and Tim describe as commonplace today. I think the world was different in the 50s and 60s -- both here and down south.

  • Comment number 22.

    As a football player and marathon runner living in Las Vegas, Nevada USA, I can testify that heat is something that can be overcome. Regularly we play in temperatures in excess of 40C. Since both teams are used to the conditions it is not an advantage.
    However, three years ago we played a team from Manchester. Even though we played the game in April and at 7pm in the evening, the temperature was still 33-36C. The first 15 minutes were competitive and the teams evenly matched, alas the conditions soon told and despite frequent drink breaks and unlimited substitutions, the game became a struggle for the visitors.

    So heat is just as big an advantage as altitude. The difference is heat can be overcome with less acclimatisation. Certainly when I go to run in nearby Big Bear, California-elevation 6,700 ft. I struggle despite the perfect weather conditions.
    Personally, I would rather play at 40c than play at 10,000ft altitude, but that is only because I am used that heat. I am sure anyone living at 10,000 ft would dread a game at 40c.

  • Comment number 23.

    Pele v Maradona is an interesting debate. Unfortunately both players are before my time. I never saw Pele play live or in the flesh and I started to watch Maradona when he was a bloated shadow of his former self- I only have vague memories of 86 and was only 11 years old when I saw Italia 90. I also never saw Maradona when he was at Napoli either, although if you watch footage of his goals there some of his goals are quite incredible, and this is against top Serie A defenders too.

    Then I watch footage of Pele and his ability and imagination is incredible too, but he's obviously more of an out and out goalscorer than Maradona. Maradona is more of an all round, deeper creative influence. Maybe thats what Ramsey meant and what Tim V was saying regarding his team performances.

    Anyway, it's too difficult to compare eras. If Pele had played in Europe he would undoubtedly have been a great success, all the top Brazilians in the modern era have done it in Europe- Falcao, Zico, Romario, Bebeto, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho. So why wouldn't Pele have done well? Therefore I think it's impossible to compare, I'd like both in my dream XI to be honest!

  • Comment number 24.

    @ #5

    pal, dont forget that Brazil only sends teams that DO NOT go to the Libertadores, to play the Sudamericana.

    the number of wins is irrelevant, since most brazilian teams didnt give a damn about the competition, since it achieved NOTHING.

    this year, CONMEBOL changed the rules and the winner gets a Libertadores spot. Guess what happened? The quarter finals are full of brazilian clubs, 3 of which are in the RELEGATION ZONE of the brazilian league (Goiás, Atletico Mineiro and Avaí).

    Yes, 3 brazilian clubs in the relegation zone of their national championship reach quarterfinals of Sudamericana. How is that possible?

  • Comment number 25.

    Re: The Maradona vs Pele debate. You have to say Pele played with some outstanding individuals, especially in 1970, that allowed him to exhibit his skills. However, Pele was also brutally hacked in an era that offered little protection.
    Maradona was a player who could transform a game in an instant. He was a rogue at times, but his dribbling ability was something else.
    But Pele played alongside Jarzinho, Carlos Alberta, Garrincha, Tostaun. I feel Brazil 1958 and 1970 would have won the World Cup with or without Pele. Argentina would not have won the World Cup in 1986 or reached the final in 1990 without Maradona.
    I do agree with Tim that Pele was at his pomp at the 1962 World Cup, which might have sealed the deal.

  • Comment number 26.

    Brazil and Argentina federations have too much power in South America that's why they have 6 teams or more in Libertadores and Sudamericana, and also they never change the World Cup qualifiers calendar because it fits them. Plus most of the Brazil and Argentina teams start in the second or third round of the tournaments while the teams from other countries have to start from the bottom.

  • Comment number 27.

    Tim your comment about the 1962 world cup being Pele's chance to be like 1986 doesn't make any sense, at least not to my mind. Argentina would not have won the world cup in 1986 without Maradona, simple as that. Brazil did win the 1962 world cup, with very little involvement from Pele. Quite simply he could never been as important to the 62 Brazil team as Maradona was to his 86 Argentina team.

  • Comment number 28.

    27 - eric your comment above doesn't make any sense, at least not to my mind.
    no comparison was made or intended about the respective quality of the back up cast of pele or maradona. only that 62 was when pele was in his prime - by his own account, his best performance came that year in lisbon v benfica in the world club final. and, unhappily, injury prevented him from showing that type of form at the world cup that year.
    in the same way that 86 is the definitive statement of maradona's greatness, 62 could have been for pele.

  • Comment number 29.

    Tim, I don't think that the Pele vs Marardona debate will ever get to an end. What do people think of Garrincha in Brazil? I remember a few years ago seeing a documentaty made by Garrincha's son (yes he had a son!) who was born to a Swedish lady and lives in Sweden. The son went to Brazil to research his father's history and everywhere he went, crowds of people told him that his father was better than Pele. They all said that Garrincha was the love of Brazil and its best footballer ever, especially the older ones who saw both Garrincha and Pele active. Is this the general feeling there?

  • Comment number 30.

    Aces High - So from your comment you are a clearly a Brazilian football supporter.

    OK Tolima and LDU are at the peak of Colombian & Ecuadorian football right now, but Newell's Old Boys are mid table this year and haven't been serious title challengers in Argentina since 2004 and Independiente have had a pitiful season so far in the Primera División, they are in 17th place with 2 wins from 12 games. They are both through too.

    Avai and Goias scraped through very close games against Emelec and Penarol. Perhaps the reason that these two are struggling so badly is that they are concentrating all their energy on this competition instead of concentrating on staying in the top flight in Brazil.

    It is no surprise that Atlético Mineiro are doing well, they have recovered from their dismal start to the season and are now the form team in the Brazilian league with 12pts from the last 15 (FYI they are no longer in the RELEGATION ZONE). The only Brazilians to get through their tie convincingly were Palmeiras but they were playing a Bolivian team and look what Newell's did to the other Bolivian side.

    I remember Tim giving a similar argument about Brazilian club football being better than Argentine during Copa Libertadores 2009 because 4 Brazilian sides reached the QF and only one Argentine side did. The problem with the theory was that Estudiantes de La Plata went on to win the competition beating a Brazilian side on their own pitch in the final to win it.

    Do you think it would be sensible for UEFA to decide to give 8 UEFA Cup places to a country with a limited level of success but a large population & landmass (say Russia) then 6 places to the most successful country (Spain) then three places to everyone else regardless of achievement?

    Does your love of Brazilian football blind you to the fact that in the last decade Argentina with a population a 5th of the size of Brazil has won 4 Sudamericana's for Brazil's 1.

    And don't give me the Sudamericana doesn't matter to Brazilian clubs as an excuse, Argentina are 5-3 in Libertadores since 2000 and you were just telling me that Brazilian clubs are so motivated by the Libertadores that simply qualifying to play in it as a prize has got the Brazilian teams trying in the Sudamericana this time around.

    I don't dislike Brazilian football, I just recognise an unfair advantage when I see one.

  • Comment number 31.

    Tim, I always love reading your blog, football in South America has always fascinated me. Whereas i have become disillusioned with the attitudes of high profile (even medium profile) footballers in Europe, i always believe the love for the game is still apparent amongst players over in South America. I guess i like to think that every player plays through love of the game, although I'm sure there are exceptions.
    Pele and Maradona distinguish themselves from moderm professionals in many ways, and reading their stories (El Diego is paricularly good) suggests that loving the game above all else and playing like their lives depend on it is one of those factors.
    An outstanding moment of the 2010 world cup was Martin Palermo scoring for Argentina. The unbridled joy in the celebration of a goal that meant everything to a man, a team and a nation, it felt like time had stopped.

  • Comment number 32.

    To be fair to ericstevens, Tim, your comments about the '62 World Cup could easily have been interpreted the way he chose to take them. In fact, I made that mistake as well, until I read your comment clarifying what you meant.

    As for the whole 'Pele vs Maradona' debate, personally I think people should just let bygones be bygones and accept that both were brilliant players (even though at least one of them has/had serious flaws as a human being). Especially since half the people who take part in the debate are too young to have ever seen either of them play, and are therefore relying on other people's writings and highlight videos to formulate their opinions... I'm enough of a pragmatist to realise that this won't happen, though. Oh well, at least I tried!

    Good blog, anyway. :) I had no idea things could get so violent on a regular basis in South American football!

  • Comment number 33.

    Its funny how similar south american and north african football are. everything you mentioned about south american fans is the exact same with north african fans. As an Egyptian, we have had our fair share of crowd troubles with in our league, but when it comes to African champions league games, it gets deadly, especially when its a north african derby. Take the semi final between Al Ahly and Esperance. Both legs were absolutely insane, with Tunisian fans losing their minds, rioting just because their team is playing bad while the game is still going on in cairo. Second leg in Tunisia, they score the most blatant hand ball goal (makes the hand of god goal look legit) then their ball boys start disapperaing, it took 5 minutes to find the ball once, ahly players ripped off the side ads trying to find the ball. And the laser pointers, oh the laser pointers, they were flashing everywhere, especially on the keeper. The lengths fans will go to is unreal.

  • Comment number 34.

    I watched The Strongest v Bolivar in La Paz in June and it was seriously one of the worst games I've seen... Is Bolivian football that poor, or is it the altitude? Or both?

    I managed to see 11 games in all on my travels, you may even remember meeting a young British tourist at the metro station after Botafogo 3-3 Santos..

    Thankfully I didn't come across much trouble, the worst was having to leave Universitario 0-1 Alianza Lima getting pelted with stuff (we were in the away end by accident), and a couple of fires. Uruguay fans set light to their own stadium after err, beating Israel 4-1 at home.

  • Comment number 35.

    33 - forgot to mention the laser pointers - a sad feature here too - just to re-enforce your point about south america-north africa similarities.

    34 - do remember you from the botafogo-santos game. glad you got plenty of football in on your trip (though perhaps not too much as entertaining as that game).
    no doubt about it - bolivian football is these days the worst on the continent. even with the altitude thing, it's years since a team from bolivia made it out of the group stage of the libertadores (bolivar in either 2000 or 2001, if memory serves me right)

  • Comment number 36.

    I fully agree with the premise of No.7, that clubs need to take responsibility for curbing their supporters and, if necessary, educating them as to what constitutes acceptable behaviour. At the height of hooliganism, supporters groups seemed to see themselves as their team's 'army', confronting the opposing team's army in a parallel contest on the terraces and in the streets. The clubs have to disown such behaviour! Any club stating unequivacably that supporters behaving in a socially unacceptable way have nothing to do with the club and are not wanted, will quickly see an improvement in behaviour, if this is backed up by strong security measures, monitoring, stadium bans etc. That said, No.9 makes a very good point about how club administations over here still depend on the supporters' votes to get elected and stay in power. So it's necessary for both sides to take the longer view as to what kind of environment they want to create. Do they want it to be safe to bring wives and children along to games, or not?

    I also agree with those advocating appropriate punishments for clubs whose supporters create unacceptable trouble inside (and outside?) stadiums, as long as cases are thoroughly investigated before a decision is handed down, to avoid opposition supporters deliberately creating problems for a club.

    As far as the 'climate' debate is concerned, I appreciate that extreme temperatures and altitude exert a significant effect on performance and that, in the case of altitude, it is especially difficult to adapt. But at the same time, I think it is a little sad to deprive the players of a given club from being able to participate in competitions. home and away legs help, but perhaps the onus should shift from 'making it as difficult as possible' for visiting teams to 'making it as simple as possible', as any good host knows is the right thing to do.

    I think you were unwise to get into the Pele v Maradona argument Tim, as it attracts silly posts (to what is usually a blog conducted at a far higher level) from people who are not qualified to give a valid opinion on the matter, having seen only one or neither of the players concerned during their prime and with no concept of the background (eg: the Europe/S.Am balance was far from being weighted in the former's favour, as it is today and has been tending towards since the 80s). From what I have seen, those who have seen both come down overwhelmingly in favour of Pele, which supports my own observations. However, No.29, a lot of older Brazilians do indeed think that Garrincha was even better, though his career was more akin to that of Maradona. And there are those who argue that Di Stefano was better than his compatriot. So I echo the sentiments of No.32. Let's just enjoy the contribution that all the great players have made to the game and to our entertainment AND make sure that their legacies are preserved for posterity. More than one poster has pointed out how difficult it is to get hold of recordings of players, and this difficulty tends to increase the further back we go. The film industry is busy transforming celluloid into digital format and sports lovers should zealously try to make sure the same is done for recordings of the great players who have graced the game. I'm sure the number of people willing to buy DVDs would more than cover the expense of such a venture. And then there would be physical and virtual visitors to any physical and/or online museums that might be set up.

  • Comment number 37.

    36 - some good points - though if we're going to be drawn into the greatest player thing (and you're probably correct on this - it's unwise) then let's knock the idea of garrincha on the head - thinking of him as the greatest is almost as crazy as pushing the claims of george best. both were unbelievable - for about 6 years. with pele, maradona, di stefano we're talking about at least 15 years.

    to be fair to independiente, their players did take the field on sunday with a banner apologising to the uruguayans and calling on fans to support without aggression.

  • Comment number 38.

    For those too young to have seen them live, comparing Maradona with Pele is very difficult, but I would like to break it up in areas of the game and let the bloggers make up their mind. I have seen them both play live (started playing and understanding football - somewhat - in 1962 approximately) and lived in Argentina until the mid eighties. Watched Pele play the very traditional then summer tournaments in Mar Del Plata and Buenos Aires, where 'pentagonales' or 'cuadrangulares' were held, attracting Brazilian, Hungarian, Czecoslovaquian, Spanish and Argentinian teams used to compete. I had the immense pleasure of watching Barcelona, the Hungarian national team, Botafogo (with Garrincha), Santos with Pele and Coutinho, Gilmar (possibly the last decent Brazilian keeper until Tafarell came around in the 80's), Lima, Zito, Mengalvio, Dorval y Pepe. At the time, Santos toured the world similalrly to the Harlem Globetrotters. The opposing teams played for the spectacle and took the customary 4 or 5 or 6 goals from the team in white and everybody went home happy. There was no TV coverage then, either you had a ticket or else you heard it on radio. It was in World Cups where people could see Pele in context, and he was a special player, no doubt. I discount his years in NYC and the NASL as 70's folklore. He was a one-club player who travelled with the team, was humble and rarely failed to entertain. He was not Maradona in that he did not take a team by the scruff of their necks and won the game singlehandedly. Similarly to what Messi does now, he was part of brilliant teams (read lineup above... Santos won everything in the 60's) or the famous 1970 verdeamarela machine with the best midfield/offense (1-4-1) I have seen. Very much like Barcelona today, the players had total freedom and exchanged positions showing up in disparate places, the five in front deadly passers and finishers.

    Maradona started in 1976, at 15 playing for neighbourhood club Argentinos Jrs. with a cast of total unknowns. He was top scorer each season he played and took the tiny Argentinos to the finals or close to the finals every year he played. He then went on loan to Boca Jrs. (who at the end of the loan could not afford him) and led them to a Championship. He returned to Argentinos but never played, as he was sold to Barcelona for just under U$D 6M. The rest is more recent history and had lots of turns: Napoli, Sevilla, Boca again,etc.

    Two foot ability: Pele by a country mile
    Dribbling ability: Maradona by a foor or two
    Shooting strength: Pele could smoke it
    Shooting with accuracy: Maradona; he could curl it.
    Leadership: Maradona, for the reasons stated above
    Heading ability: Pele
    Professionalism: Pele (hands down)
    Charisma: Maradona (this might not count,but I wanted to be thorough)
    Physicality: Pele (he could knock your teeth off if you were not looking)
    Raw talent on the ball: Maradona
    Stamina: A Tie
    Making the team play: Maradona by a whisker
    Durability/proclivity to Injury: A tie.
    Finishing in front of the net: A tie
    Defensive Play: a tie or really N/A

    I hope someone can (and I am sure they will) add something to this analysis.

    I do not think that goals scored or having played in Europe or not counts for anything. I saw them both playing at home and people lined up to pay and go see them. For those football lovers, cherish the existence of both, as we should with Dinho time ago or Lio now.

  • Comment number 39.

    BLRBrazil: everything you say sounds beautiful... but at least in Argentina it ain't going to happen. I explained in past posts the links running deep between several clubs directors (moderator, please just let this one go by), barras (who are not the entire following, just the most organized and vicious), politicians and police.

    Tim: at the same time Independiente's fans (not the fans but the club authorities, let's not be naive) displayed their banner (they know Conmebol is coming down hard on them and they have just inaugurated their new stadium) they also pelted the field before game start with hundreds of Bolas de Fraile (monk's balls, a well known pastry here in Argentina) which of course because they are soft and edible the police did not bother confiscating at the door. This was to tease (and many, included AFA and the Justice system say an open act of discrimination) the Boca fans, who apparently happen to have a higher number of Bolivian immigrants in their ranks, therefore opposing teams mock the Xeneizes because of their ethnic makeup. These are the same fans that hit the Uruguayan goalie midweek and applauded when he went down. BTW great game and great attitude form the Uruguayans who did not appeal to walking off the field antics, etc. Sadly they lost but they are an excellent team with great sportsmanship.

  • Comment number 40.

    Since i was talking about North African football, I've always wondered, do South American countries have major rivalries between each other like North African countries do. national team or clubs. Like Egyptians hate Algerians, and just recently Tunisians regardless if were up against their national teams or their clubs, things always turn ugly. Is it like that in South America?

  • Comment number 41.

    as always, marcelao, this blog owes you a debt of gratitude for your astute comments.

  • Comment number 42.

    @ #40 I think the main rivalries are Brazil vs. Argentina, Uruguay vs. Argentina and then Peru vs. Chile and Peru vs. Ecuador. The thing is, the matches almost always have only local fans, the distance and price of the flight tickets are too expensive.
    I disagree though with the comparison between the North African and South American crowds, foreign people can come to the matches with no problem, the only thing is you have to go to the good seats in the stadium, not "las populares" and not get involved in the surroundings with the barras bravas, just follow the ordinary crowd.

  • Comment number 43.

    To fully understand the level of penetration Argentine barras have on the clubs, I dont think we must go much further than the british documentary "The Real Football Factories - International".

    There are episodes about hooliganism around the world, including Brazil, Argentina, Russia, Italy, etc, etc.

    I suggest Marcelao and Tim watch it (its available on Youtube) if you havent already. Although obviously you know the situation well enough, its worth watching, if for the tragi-comical aspect of the barras influence.

  • Comment number 44.

    I dont think we should expect clubs to do their part. The barras/organizadas/ultras influence is too great in too many countries.

    Thus, the action must come from the Federations/Confederations. Just like I said, Brazilian football got quite better in some aspects after heavier and heavier punishments started to be applied on clubs with misbehaving fans.

    Unfortunatelly, outside stadiums there isnt much that Confederations can do to punish clubs. Thats up to the justice system to punish fans themselves. And we all know the brazilian justice leaves a lot to be desired.

  • Comment number 45.

    well, ok, re-watching the documentary I mentioned above, I just remembered Tim Vickery DOES appear in it lol.

    Foolish me to think Tim would have missed a documentary related to S.American football. Or that a british documentary wouldnt call the opinion of their best specialist in S.American football.

  • Comment number 46.

    @ #42 thanks for the clarification and but i think when it comes to derbies it all seems similar to me when you compare the 2 types of football, with South American crowds being a bit more rowdy, both in my opinion need to tone it down a bit, with maybe less projectiles clunking players in the head!

  • Comment number 47.

    gotta love Tim´s comment about violence in Rio on the documentary:
    "after 12 years of experience here, I agree. Its not as bad as people say it is... its WORSE!" LMAO

  • Comment number 48.

    In our part of the world the away team frustrates the home team by delaying restarts like throw-ins, corners, free-kicks, etc. The Player who is farthest from the ball walks slowly, then keeps asking the referee/linesman for the exact position from where to re-start. In this way the rhythm of home team is broken time and time.

  • Comment number 49.

    I'd like to ask a question to any of you South American football experts. Which is the better league to watch in terms of quality, the Argentinian or the Brazilian?

    I know very little about SA football but i'm interested in watching some matches. Also, which are the best teams to watch?

  • Comment number 50.

    Players can be compared, even if they played during different eras. There are many ways of comparing players. I would do it this way:
    If I had a £ 50 and I was to choose between watching Maradona or Pele play the match of their lives, I would go for Maradona. If I had a season ticket to 10 seasons, I would choose to see Pele more often. If I had the same choice to make between Ronaldinho and Ronaldo (Brazilian),I would go for Ronaldinho for the one match and Ronaldo for the season. Reason? I am a spectator, and I'll always go for the player who has the ability to do it for himself, his team and the crowd at the same time. Ronaldino was pure fantasy, Maradona was fuctional fantasy, Pele and Ronaldo are fuctional..

  • Comment number 51.

    On the point of the poor standard of Bolivian football, how did this decline begin ?
    I remember then qualifying for the '94 WC and inflicting what i believe was Brazil's first ever defeat in a WC qualifying match in La Paz.
    Also, more recently their 6-1 drubbing of Argentina in the qualifiers for WC 2010, shows the talent is still there, no?

  • Comment number 52.

    @51 "On the point of the poor standard of Bolivian football..."

    If Bolivian football is poor, just spare a thought for the standards of the Chilean league, considering that the 2 biggest and most popular teams from Chile were recently eliminated from the Copa Sudamericana by the Bolivians...and they didn't even have to send their top teams to do that!

  • Comment number 53.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 54.

    53. a question mark?

  • Comment number 55.

    If Bolivian football is poor, just spare a thought for the standards of the Chilean league, considering that the 2 biggest and most popular teams from Chile were recently eliminated from the Copa Sudamericana by the Bolivians...and they didn't even have to send their top teams to do that!
    surprising given how good chile looked in the WC. The clubs you refer to are Colo Colo and Uni de Chile ??

  • Comment number 56.

    @55 "surprising given how good chile looked in the WC. The clubs you refer to are Colo Colo and Uni de Chile ??"

    Yes, the same ones.
    Colo Colo lost to Universitario de Sucre, while Universidad de Chile lost to Oriente Petrolero, not really Bolivia's top guns by any means.

    As with most (if not all) South American leagues, their best players move abroad, either to Europe or Mexico resulting in a poor quality local competition.

    In South America, you'll see every now and then a former great player coming back to play his last seasons in the local league but they are usually just a shadow of their former self relying mostly on reputation rather than on performance. Ronaldo, Salas, just to name a couple... even Maradona tried that. In the end, it's better to remember them at their best rather than in their final days as players.

    The national team is a totally different kind of beast as it's made up mostly of players playing abroad anyway, add to that a good coach and you have a team that plays really entertaining attacking football, but which, unfortunately, does not translate to a strong local league.

  • Comment number 57.

    56# excluding argentina, brazil and mexico.. which latin american country has the strongest league at present ??

  • Comment number 58.

    @57 "excluding argentina, brazil and mexico.. which latin american country has the strongest league at present ??"

    Hard to tell, although LDU from Ecuador have managed to win both the Copa Libertadores and the Copa Sudamericana in the last couple of years beating the likes of Internacional, Fluminense and Velez Sarsfield among others. They are currently in the Quarter finals of the 2010 Copa Sudamericana as well.

    It'd be interesting to know if this means that there is only one really strong team in Ecuador or whether that extends to the rest of their league.

  • Comment number 59.

    The issue of gaining an unfair advantage for playing at altitude is a curious one as it seems to affect mostly Brazil and Argentina. To me this is not a problem of altitude but rather one of "attitude".

    Take for example their losses to Bolivia in La Paz. It seems they are so worried about playing at altitude that they forget they're playing against one of the weakest teams in South America, do not prepare well (except for the Brazilians preparing all their excuses about how it isn't possible to play at altitude) and so they lose.

    Other teams prepare for playing at altitude and seem to concentrate on the fact they're indeed playing one of the weakest teams in South America and go to La Paz and actually win. Such was the case with Chile, Ecuador and Venezuela in the last WC qualifiers. Uruguay and Colombia managed to get a draw.

    It is sad to hear the lame excuses from the Brazilians when playing in La Paz. They should just get over it and prepare better. The Bolivians don't make a big mystery of hosting games in La's their home ground, their capital city and that should be respected.

  • Comment number 60.

    What state is peruvian football in these days ?
    do Universitario, Sporting Cristal or Alianza lima do anything in the libertadores ??
    Is the national team on the way up ?

  • Comment number 61.

    47 - that comment about the violence being even worse....

    much of that was based on the perspective i've picked up over the years through having a girlfriend who grew up,and whose family still live in rio's working class periphery.

    my girlfriend works as a hairdresser in a salon - on sunday one of her workmates held a birthday party - during the celebrations a car passed by and pumped bullets into the crowd - among the dead was the 17 year old son of my girlfriend's workmate.

    on and on and on it goes....

  • Comment number 62.

    Have a sister in SP. My nieces commute to school every day in their own armored cars, they get shot at randomly when driving through shady areas crossing the city... Have you seen Amores Perros?

    This is why the bloodied head of a Uruguayan goalie is not a good enough reason to stop a game and racist/xenophobic taunting is accepted as quaint and clever by lazy minded people. The descent continues...

  • Comment number 63.

    My point was that it's a lot easier to look exceptional in an amazing team. How can you not see that? Sure Pele could have played in 1962, scored some impressive goals and covered himself in glory but that wouldn't have been nearly as impressive a feat as what Maradona achieved in 1986 and took a team to victory, that otherwise almost certainly wouldn't have.

  • Comment number 64.

    Having attended matches in latin america I have two observations. First, although in all countries passion at times overtakes common sense, nowhere does it occur with more frequency than in latin america. I have seen some things within the crowd that most Americans and europeans would find just plain unbelievable. From the mandatory removal of belts before entering the stadium ( so that the passionate followers will not beat each other with these belts), to the removal of all bottle caps on beverages ( so that these bottle caps will not become projectiles), and many actions much worse under the heat of passion.
    There is definitley a home field advantage as the home team(at least while winning) is not sublect to the same danger from the crowds.
    Secondly, anyone who has spent time hiking at high altitude knows the lung-robbing affects of thin air. There is abslolutely no doubt that the teams which practice at high altitude have a tremendous advantage, even over much stronger clubs( witness the trouncing of Argentina at the hands of Bolivia).
    Just to give a humorous personal experience, I was hiking to an ungodly high overlook in Ecuador a fews years back. Although I had got myself into reasonably good shape jogging and excersizing before my journey, I found myself gasping for air as I took each difficult vertical step. Along came a young lad of 20 or so taking the steps two at a time at a brisk pace. When I finally came level with him an hour or so later, much, much higher up, I asked only one question, " are you a local soccer player?" he answered with a nod and a laugh. I thought right then and there, " my god, what a huge advantage".

  • Comment number 65.

    This Pele/Maradonna thing seems to be a never ending subject, which is good, as a football lover, living in Brasil for 20 years I have met the man a few times, the last time just 3 days ago. The man, Pele, Deus.
    I am old enough to have seen all the players that are mentioned in all time great lists and I know that people who talk of others like Maradonna never saw Pele other than the usual few clips on TV. I also saw Real Madrid in the European Cup final at Hampden Park in 1962 with Di Stefano and Puskas, the greatest game of football ever played.
    Many peoples opinion is based on available TV coverage rather than the reality and ability of players.
    Maradonna was for sure a great player, but not near the level of Pele.
    The greatest players I have seen are; 1. Pele 2. Di Stefano 3.Garrincha 4. Puskas 5. Maradonna.
    Argentinian readers may object to this but being in the 5 best footballers of all time is not bad, is it? I have loved watching them all and true lovers of the great and beautiful game should not be blinded by nationalism.
    All sorts of arguments are brought up when talking about this subject, Pele did not play in Europe but Maradonna did. When Pele played for Santos, South America was light years ahead of Europe and any player going from South America to Europe would have been regarded as a failure, not good enough to make it in the top level.
    To summarise the difference between Pele and Maradonna, they were both asked who was the greatest of all time. Maradonna said me, me, me.
    Pele said,,,,, Alfredo Di Stefano.....

  • Comment number 66.

    I find that those who favor Maradona over Pele usually have watched exactly zero minutes of Pele's club career other than friendlies and the Intercontinental Cup with few exceptions. They also tend to be younger than Pele backers and rely on the fact that Pele never joined a European club which they wrongly assume was facing much more competitive matches than domestic football in Brazil at the time. Go watch as much as you can of Pele's domestic career and pay attention to the quality of players that he faced in Brazil and I bet you'd find it difficult to favor Maradona again. The footage is available but for some reason never got distributed much in Europe.

    Pele was a more complete footballer than Maradona and was at his best for a longer period. Maradona had one great world cup and some good years with Napoli but look at the rest of his club and country career and it is hard to argue that is stacks up with Pele's career. There is also some serious myths about how lowly Napoli was before he arrived and how great they were with him. I won't even discuss the "Pele was functional" nonsense from 50 above.

  • Comment number 67.

    Interesting as ever Tim.
    Hope to 'experience' a game in South America one day.

    Shameless plug for my blog...

  • Comment number 68.

    Tim, Every week there are multi subjects come up on your page and it is obvious that you need to be doing this more often than once a week.
    I think you need to miss one day at the churrascaria and do your thing twice a week.

  • Comment number 69.

    I agree with 68, I eagerly await for this blog on Mondays, gets me through up until Tuesday afternoon reading all the comments etc!

  • Comment number 70.

    The Pelé-Maradona debate is misguided, not to mention simplistic, for at least 2 reasons:

    a) Instead of asking who's the best, a question that ellicits very subjective answers based on personal taste, we should ask who's had the greatest impact on the game. This criterion, although not completely devoid of subjectivity, can be based on measurable accomplishments, chiefly number of titles at both national and club levels.

    b) The question above ignores other players, who, as far their accomplishments is concerned, are equally worthy contenders. Here's my list divided by decades, another criterion, which albeit imperfect bacause of all the overlapping, helps contextualize a bit more accurately the impact of each player in his era.

    50: Puskás, Di Stéfano
    60: Garrincha, Pelé
    70: Beckenbauer, Cruijff
    80: Platini, Maradona
    90: Romário, Zidane
    00: Ronaldo (Br), ¿?

    At the risk of contradicting myself, I'd have to say that Pelé is the player who's had the greatest impact on the game: 1958 marks a before and after in the history of our beloved sport.

  • Comment number 71.

    Re comment70 AntonioSaucedo:Good point about the different eras, an argument that often comes up, defences were not as good in the 50s, 60s, or whenever.
    I do not agree with this when we are talking about players who were a level above just good. In my opinion, Puskas, Di Stefano, Pele, Garrincha,Cruyff, Romario, were a level above this, great natural football players who were gifted more than just very good players. These players would have been great in any era because of their natural gift.
    For example, I have never seen a more naturally gifted striker than Romario, he is not in the list of best players ever, but for scoring goals, he would be my first choice, and that would be for 1950 or 2010.
    I sincerely believe that there are very few great football players, maybe 1 or 2 every decade and these players would be great in any decade.
    Considering that there have been thousands and thousands of players since the game was played, we are talking about a handfull of players and so these players must be something very, very special.

  • Comment number 72.

    you're all wrong..
    the greatest player of all time is pekster !!

  • Comment number 73.

    testin testin 1 2 3

  • Comment number 74.

    I went on an organised trip to La Bombonera for Boca x Internacional in the Copa Sudamericana in 2008. On the bus on the way to the ground we were told that chewing gum and lighters would be confiscated during searches. We were advised where to hide these items. There were two seperate searches which took place on the way to the ground as well.

    On getting onto the terrace, we were behind the goal opposite La Doce on the middle tier, you couldn't see a think because more or less every person to a man was having a cigarette lol.

    Fans, no matter in which country, will find a way of getting what they need to into grounds somehow.

  • Comment number 75.

    @18 S. American teams were at least the equal of European teams.
    Well, take it from an eye-witness - no, they were not! When Belo Horizonte toured England around 1960, Sunderland beat them 10 - 1 (I attended this game at Roker Park), Manchester City beat them 11 - 1, and I think Chelsea beat them by double figures too. They were a joke of a team by English standards, and no S. American club side was invited here again for many years afterwards.
    What made it worse was that neither Chelsea nor Manchester City had won anything for some years, and Sunderland were in the English Second Division, having been relegated in 1958!
    So please no more lame excuses for Pele's record. If he scored six goals against the Belo Horizonte side I saw, it was no more than an average English reserve player could have done. Maradona played in the best league in the world at the time - and won it. TWICE.

  • Comment number 76.

    75. Was that Belo Horizonte Unidos or Belo Horizonte FC? Maybe it was Juventude de Belo Horizonte? I looked everywhere and could not find such a team... 1960 was a long time a60, maybe you forget something?

  • Comment number 77.

    You made a very good point when you say:

    "Some like to say that only the winners are remembered. They can say it all they like, but it doesn't make it true. Hungary in '54, Holland in '74, Brazil in '82 - none of them went home with the World Cup, but all are recalled fondly and passionately by people who loved their style."

    People will also remember Holland in 2010 for how they played the Final :)

  • Comment number 78.

    28. At 8:00pm on 25 Oct 2010, Tim Vickery - BBC Sport wrote:
    27 - eric your comment above doesn't make any sense, at least not to my mind.
    no comparison was made or intended about the respective quality of the back up cast of pele or maradona. only that 62 was when pele was in his prime - by his own account, his best performance came that year in lisbon v benfica in the world club final. and, unhappily, injury prevented him from showing that type of form at the world cup that year.
    in the same way that 86 is the definitive statement of maradona's greatness, 62 could have been for pele.


    My only wish, which was not granted anyway, was to see maradona not expelled from USA94. All these talks would've been extinguished had he led his beloved Argentina squad to another glory which would have been a foregone conclusion had he continued to play.

  • Comment number 79.

    the whole Pele-Maradona debate is simple
    it was Di Stefano :-)

    my dad has seen all three and he says Di Stefano was the best.
    People overlook him just because he was so long ago and he didnt get the airtime the other two had.

    I read this morning that the Germans used doping in '54.
    Maybe fifa and germany should do the honorable thing and give them the WC they deserve.

  • Comment number 80.

    Pele or Maradona? Neither. Zidane. :)

  • Comment number 81.

    The eternal debate, probably best left to the playground, but one I can never resist!

    Maradona for me always makes a good romantic argument, but when you look at the facts in the cold light of day, Pele comes out on top in most of the criteria normally used to judge great sportsmen.

    Influence and legacy: Maradona has left an impact the size of a meteor crater on the game, but I think most football historians would be in an agreement that there’s never been a more influential or synonymous player to the game of football than Pele. Sure there were footballing superstars before him, but Pele really was the first truly global football star, a real catalyst for helping to popularise football around the world and since his retirement Pele has become the yard stick for all other players to be judged by. Also, although I will always argue Maradona’s case against those who chose to vilify him, it must be accepted, even by his most ardent supporter, that the controversy that surrounded Maradona’s career has tarnished his reputation somewhat; so as an ambassador and role model Pele has to take the plaudits. 1-0 Pele

    Success: obviously there’s some mitigating circumstance to take into consideration - Pele certainly had a significant advantage of playing in greater teams and being based at one club through most of his career - but the fact remains he’s still enjoyed far more success both collectively in terms of trophies and individually in terms of awards and records. 2-0 Pele

    Ability: most agree there’s very little to separate them in this regard; Maradona probably edges it when it comes to dribbling and creativity; Pele on the tricks, flicks and goal scoring; but what tips this one in Pele’s favour for me is his completeness as a footballer; he had the lot: two footed, great in the air, superior athlete. 3-0 Pele

    Team player: Its well known Pele was more individually motivated while Maradona had much more of an all for one and one for all attitude. Maradona also had the heart of a street fighter, that allied to his abilities, allowed him to influence and inspire his teams more than any other player I’ve ever seen. 3-1 Pele

    Consistency: Maradona was a brilliant teenager, but never quite reached the heights that Pele did in 58. Also, in his early twenties, Maradona seemed to struggle with the expectations placed upon him (82 world cup being a perfect example) and even during his peak Maradona’s self-destructive nature threatened to undermine his talents. Pele on the other hand showed more consistent form throughout his career. 4-1 Pele

  • Comment number 82.

    @75 Cuteybuns, mate, the reply at 76 from marcelao says it all - Belo Horizonte who???

    The city of Belo Horizonte has three teams, Atletico, Cruzeiro and America (only the first two are still in the first division, but America had strong teams with the past that might have played Santos).

    I checked there is a Belo Horizonte FC which is an amateur side - not sure they were around in the 60s - maybe you wee conned into watching Sunderland play a truly Brazilian professional team? sorry you only got to find out 50 years later...

    it does make your argument seem quite silly - perhaps if my local side Walton & Hersham FC go and play an intermediate First Division team in Brazil and loose 10-1 I can then claim the Brazilian League is much stronger than the EPL, he?

  • Comment number 83.

    The Belo Horizonte story reminds me of a true story which happened in the 70's when the works team from Philips, the Dutch electronics company had a factory in Scotland and the workers there had a team which played in the local works team amateur league. They had the idea to have a weekend trip to sample the pleasures of Amsterdam and asked the company if they could arrange a game against Philips works team in Holland. After a hectic night in Amsterdam they were taken to Philips headquarters in Eindhoven and later went to the Philips stadium where the match was to be played. Everyone was highly impressed by the stadium, but were not so impressed when they found out that Philips "works team" in Holland were in fact PSV Eindhoven. The final score was not recorded.

  • Comment number 84.

    83. Ha! The same thing happened to a bunch of guys from Rotterdam last week...

  • Comment number 85.


    With your recent retirement are you going to be able to produce more than one column a week?

  • Comment number 86.


    I am not certain of the logic in your post.
    If what you say is correct than that only means that Pele's 1,000 goals might not means that much
    As very few brazilians played in Europe and Brazil won the 58,62 and 70 world cup than surely there must have been some good players in the league?

  • Comment number 87.

    hey, Santos recently toured the US and lost against that NY Red Bull team. Does that mean Santos suck?? Lets remember that it was Santos C team, since the main team and all the reserve squad stayed in Brazil. The ONLY player from the A team that went to the US was Neymar. Who had never played with the rest of that touring team.

    Thus, even if it turns out that the "Belo Horizonte" team was Cruzeiro ou Atletico Mineiro, we must know WHAT team went touring.

    The "weak" Cruzeiro, had players like Jairzinho, Nelinho, Piazza and Tostão in the 60s and 60s.

    The "weak" Atletico Mineiro team had players like Reinaldo, Vavá, Dadá Maravilha, etc.

    ps: there is a fourth team in Belo Horizonte: Venda Nova. Never heard of it.

  • Comment number 88.

    i found some info that Atletico Mineiro toured Europe in 1950 and won a tournament there playing against several european teams

    Winter Tournament

    1-11-50 1860 München 3-4 Atlético
    4-11-50 Hamburger SV 0-4 Atlético
    5-11-50 Werder Bremen 3-1 Atlético

    NB: Atlético won the tournament

    Other Matches

    12-11-50 Schalke 04 1-3 Atlético
    16-11-50 Rapid Wien 3-0 Atlético
    20-11-50 1.FC Saarbrücken 0-2 Atlético (part of Saarlandpokal?)
    22-11-50 Anderlecht 1-2 Atlético
    26-11-50 Eintracht Braunschweig 3-3 Atlético
    5-12-50 Union Luxembourg 3-3 Atlético
    7-12-50 Stade Français 1-2 Atlético


  • Comment number 89.

    AcesHigh, we have had our disagreements in the past but I am totally with you on that one.

    the comment from 75 is specially annoying because not only it does not properly explain why Brazilian club football was weaker than Europe in the 60s, it actually is further demonstration of the lack of information and research, of prejudice, and of plain stupidity - I mean, how come can someone go for 50 years thinking that an anonymous group of blokes that came for a few money grabbing kick abouts actually represent the same nation that in the that period won the WC 3 times - always fielding 95% of players from its own league.

    As you well put it Atletico and Cruzeiro, the two Belo Horizonte side of notice, had wonderful and world famous foootballers in those decades, they would beat English sides blindfolded.

  • Comment number 90.

    ok, lets NOT go the opposite exageration. They would not beat english sides blindfolded. But I really doubt they would lose 10-1 or 10-0.

    The matches would be played by equals, maybe even with superiority to brazilian sides, but I cannot say that for certain.

    I just searched a page with all Sunderland international friendlies results in the 50s and 60s and I could not find any match against brazilian clubs...

  • Comment number 91.

    Re comment70 AntonioSaucedo:Please stop to say "00s belong to Ronaldo",you are worng,Ronaldo's knees was pulverized in 1999 and 2000,he even wasn't a healthy player in the 2000s,but in the 90s he was best player and most skillfull player ever when he played in PSV,BARCA,INTER MILAN。
    Ronaldo of the 1990s could beat a team by himself and dribble distance over 70m,Ronaldo of the 2000s couldn't did it.If you really think RONALDO in the 2000s better than RONALDO in the 1990s,then you didn't know anything about RONALDO.
    Ronaldo was best player of the 1990s and one of greatest player of the the 20th Century.
    FIFA said Ronaldo was best player of the mid-90s,but FIFA never say he was best even one of best player of the early-00s: - Ronaldo, the 20th century footballer
    50-54: Puskás
    55-59: Garrincha
    60-64: Pelé
    70-74: Beckenbauer
    75-79: Zico
    80-84: Platini/Zico
    85-89: Maradona/Gullit
    00-06:Zidane/Ronaldinho (Ronaldinho was much better than Zidane,zidane was most overrate player ever,i don't know he won the world player of the 2000 and 2003,because 2003 belong to Henry,and 2000 belong to Figo,yeah,1998 belong to Ronaldo as most skillfull player ever at that moment)

  • Comment number 92.

    Zico was much better than Maradona,Zico's free kicks,shoot,pass and skills all better than Maradona,Maradona was in top 10 ever,because Maradona was good,but even not good enough to licking Pele's boot.Only Ronaldo's dribble in the 1994-1998 was as good as Pele, and Pele was a much better scorer,Ronaldo was fastest

  • Comment number 93.

    @91 "00-06:Zidane/Ronaldinho (Ronaldinho was much better than Zidane,zidane was most overrate player ever,i don't know he won the world player of the 2000 and ..."

    Maybe the fact that Zidane carried France to two world cup finals, winning one or perhaps the fact that Zidane won titles in both Spain and Italy, etc, etc, etc.

    Ronaldinho was a brilliant club player for a short while but that was about it. He never quite performed at the same level for his national team and when the pressure was on he tended to go missing. In fact he was very similar to Messi in that regard.

    Zidane performed at the highest level for both club and country. We can't say the same about Ronaldinho, can we?

  • Comment number 94.

    @92 "Zico was much better than Maradona,Zico's free kicks,shoot,pass and skills all better than Maradona,Maradona was in top 10 ever,because Maradona was good,but even not good enough to licking Pele's boot."

    Pele and a team of superstars won the 1970 WC.
    Maradona won the 1986 WC almost single handedly.
    Let's just agree to have Pele/Maradona as the best players ever and enjoy the memories.

    Zico? He was part of the last great Brazilian team since 1970 that won the WC in 1982...oh... that's right...they didn't, he even failed to take an extraordinary team to the final. So I guess we can add Zico to that list with Cruyff, Francescoli, etc. All great players but not quite up to the Pele/Maradona standard.

    In any case, even though those players weren't as great as Peledona, it would be nice to have them playing today when talent seems to have almost disappeared.

  • Comment number 95.

    Tim, others - I think there is a subtle, but critical, angle to add to the "altitude vs. heat/humidity" debate that isn't typically mentioned. And that is that one cannot escape from the effects of altitude. For instance, in the days building-up to a game one can (and presumably does) train and remain indoors away from the heat/humidity. Or, one can move a game and/or training to a time of day to minimize negative impacts from heat/humidity.

  • Comment number 96.

    @ 63: I could just as easily use the same criteria and come to the opposite conclusion. It's a lot easier to stand out in a weak team than it is in a strong one. You only have to look back at players who have been outstanding for lesser clubs and then looked quite modest when they joined a big one. And would you diminish Messi's rating simply because he's playing alongside other masters of the game? people get carried away with what Maradona did at Napoli, but what about Zico at Udinese, arguably a much weaker side? I think it's a valid point, but hardly decisive. Marcelão made a good effort to introduce objectivity into the argument, in post 38, but it's all getting a bit tiresome imo and I repeat my call to just treasure - and particularly preserve for posterity - the memory of those many players who have brought such joy into our lives.

  • Comment number 97.

    @ 70: the 1970 and 1966/1986 WCs were also milestones in the game, but the latter two mainly for the wrong reasons, unfortunately.
    For me it's between Ronaldinho and Messi for the second 00s spot on your list.
    Is there somewhere one can buy decent digital recordings of these great matches and profiles of great players?

  • Comment number 98.

    @ 71: I agree with you!

  • Comment number 99.

    @ 83: a lovely story, and a lot more plausible than the earlier item. I still can't believe anybody old enough to have watched a live football match in 1960 would call themselves cuteybuns :o)

  • Comment number 100.

    @ 84: :o)
    @ 88: there are some very strong opposing teams in there, and look at the schedule! To think that players complain about two games in a week.


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