Thursday, December 24, 2009

Greatest World Cup Matches: Yugoslavia-Zaire (1974)

Zaire in 1974 was ruled by the despotic ruler Mobutu Sese Seko who ruled the country with an iron fist, and at the same time wanted to make the country a beacon of African sports. In December 1973 the Zairian national team, also known as “the Leopards”, became only the third African country to ever qualify for a World Cup, when they defeated the otherwise fancied Moroccans (who had qualified in 1970) 3-0 in an intense match in Kinshasa.
Zaire was the first sub-Saharan African country to ever qualify for a World Cup, and the country was ecstatic: Mobuto Sese-Seko gave each player a car and a house, and made high promises to the expectant players who would nevertheless go on to make a pathetic debut for sub-Saharan Africa in the World Cup.
The Africans were paired in a group with Brazil, Scotland and Yugoslavia. In their opening match, they lost 2-0 to Scotland, and were in their second match to face the strong Yugoslavs, who had opened their participation by tying 0-0 with the defending world champions of Brazil.
Zaire in fact had a Yugoslavian coach, who had been paid by Mobuto Sese-Seko’s millions: Blagoja Vidinic had also brought Morocco to the World Cup in 1970, and had now repeated the feat with the Zaireans. However, the team was, prior to the match against Yugoslavia, plagued by problems outside Vidinic’s control: in the despotic atmosphere of intimidation and rewards, the Zaireans players, who were expecting to be well-rewarded for their participation, were told that they would not be paid for their participation. At first, the players refused to play, but when threatened by the vicious secret service of Mobuto Sese-Seko, nevertheless went on the pitch for one of the most humiliating defeats in world cup history: the Zaireans hardly fought as the well-playing Yugoslavs ran around them on the pitch. The score was 5-0 after only half an hour, with five different goal-scorers. The Yugoslavs, seeing that they didn’t need to press the result, somewhat relaxed in the second half, but still made it to a stunning 9-0 win, with the Velez Mostar striker Dusan Bajevic (and current AEK Athens coach) scoring three of the goals.
At the time, this was the greatest defeat ever in world cup history (until 1982, when Hungary defeated El Salvador 10-1) and sub-Saharan Africa had been thoroughly humiliated.
The Zairean authorities immediately went on to put the blame on Vidinic, while the players had to be threatened from not being allowed to return home in case they were again humiliated by the Brazilians in their last match (they lost 3-0).
With a pathetic score of 0-14 and three defeats, the debut of sub-Saharan Africa in the World Cup was nothing to be proud of, but was fortunately only a one-off incident as other African nations were soon to take over and raise Africa’s profile in the world cup.

Match Stats:
  • 18th June 1974, Parkstadium, Gelsenkirchen
  • Attendance: 20,000
  • Referee: Omar Delgado (Colombia)
Yugoslavia-Zaire 9-0
Goals: 1-0 Bajevic (8); 2-0 Dzajic (14); 3-0 Surjak (18); 4-0 Katalinski (22); 5-0 Bajevic (30); 6-0 Bogicevic (35); 7-0 Oblak (61); 8-0 Petkovic (65); 9-0 Bajevic (81)

Yugoslavia: Maric; Buljan, Hadziabdic, Katalinski, Bogicevic, Petkovic, Oblak, Surjak, Acimovic, Dzajic, Bajevic
Zaire: Kazadi (Tubilandu); Mwepu, Mukombo, Buhanga, Lobilo, Kilasu, Mana, Kembo, Kidumu, Ndaye, Kakoko (Maku)


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