Sunday, September 10, 2006

An Earlier 9/11

Thirty-three years ago today, the Chilean armed forces launched a coup against the democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende. The new regime proceeded to use the Estadio Nacional – home of club side Universidad Chile and site of the country’s third-place triumph in the 1962 World Cup - as a concentration camp for several weeks after after the coup.

Just two weeks after the coup, the national team had to play a match in Moscow against the Soviet Union, as part of a tie to decide the 16th and final spot available for the World Cup finals in Germany. The return match was scheduled to be held in Santiago on the 21st of November, a fact which helped to persuade the regime to wind up its operations in the Estadio Nacional in mid-October.

However, the Soviet Union protested the venue, saying they could not possibly play in a stadium that had so recently been as a venue for executions and torture (yes, yes, pot/kettle/black, I know). FIFA sent a fact-finding mission to the stadium, which came back with the view that conditions in the stadium were good, that Santiago was calm and that since FIFA was a non-political organization, the match should go ahead.

The Soviets, to what would have been their credit had it not been for that pot/kettle thing, refused to play the return match and thus forfeited both the match and their chance of making it to the World Cup. Chile was awarded a 3-0 victory (they were allowed to score on an empty net first) and headed off to Germany ’74.

An interesting video of this can be found over on YouTube here.

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