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France, Germany, and one of the ugliest incidents in World Cup history


As Germany closed out its Round of 16 win over Algeria, we heard Jon Champion allude to 1982, only this time, the ESPN broadcaster wasn’t talking up the collusion-angle that’d been reprised ahead of Monday’s game. Instead, Champion was alluding to one of the more notorious incidents in World Cup history, one that will come to the attention of a new generation of soccer fans ahead of Germany’s meeting with France on Friday in Brazil 2014’s quarterfinals.

It was the first two straight semifinals where West Germany would face Michel Platini’s France, eventually eliminating them on penalty kicks after the 3-3 draw. In the second half, however, the match was marred when German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher collided with France’s Patrick Battiston, sending the defender to the ground as he pursued a ball at the edge of the German penalty box.

Battiston would eventually be stretchered from the field and require oxygen after a hit that knocked out two teeth, cracked three ribs, and left the French player with a damaged vertebrae. Battiston didn’t regain consciousness for 30 minutes and eventually slipped into a coma.

No foul was called on the play. From YouTube:

Perhaps Champion describing this as a near-decapitation was an exaggeration, but he’s not the only one to put the incident in such graphic terms. The play is commonly referenced among the worst challenges in the sport’s history, making it even more inexplicable Schumacher was allowed to continue.

From The Observer’s Tim Pears, published six years ago:

[…] As the German journalist Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger puts it: ‘Just prior to crashing into Battiston he [Schumacher] did a little jump and turned his upper body in order to ease the impact. Ease it for himself, that is, as the helpless Battiston was hit in the face by Schumacher’s hipbone with full force, immediately going down unconscious.’

[…] By grim chance the Seville police had, for some unknown reason, barred Red Cross officials from the sidelines. It took three minutes for a stretcher to appear, lifted up from some basement store beneath the stands. Eventually uniformed men with Red Cross armbands trotted on […]

[French captain Michel] Platini later said that he thought his team-mate was dead. ‘He had no pulse. He looked so pale.’ Finally Battiston was carried off, accompanied on one side by a medic, on the other by Platini, who walked along bent towards Battiston’s ashen face. The unconscious player’s right arm flopped over the side of the stretcher, and Platini took Battiston’s hand. He spoke softly to him as he walked. As they neared the edge of the pitch, Platini raised Battiston’s hand and kissed it.

The whole report, posted on The Guardian’s website, is worth a read (that’s a big selection, but it’s only a small piece).

Battiston eventually forgave Schumacher, but reliving the incident remains difficult. From

“I have forgiven [him],” he told RTL. “But I don’t want to speak about it in these circumstances.”

Schumacher recently apologised once again for his actions but Battiston revealed that he has no interest in burying the hatchet with the German face to face.

“I do not particularly want to meet him,” the former Bordeaux man confessed. “Over time, I realise that people have forever marked him with this. But now it’s finished.

“It was [an incident] on the field of play; we’ll never know if it was deliberate or not.”

Thirty-two years ago, soccer was truly a different game. Had that foul occurred today, Schumacher likely gets dismissed, leaving his team without their starting goalkeeper for the impending penalty kick shootout (West Germany eventually lost to Italy in the final). Even back in 1982, there was outrage about how the incident was handled.

Thankfully, the sport’s changed. In addition to increased scrutiny on the field, the culture around the game is less forgiving when a player shows such blatant disregard.

Still, we’re likely to hear a more about this incident in the lead up to Friday’s quarterfinal. Though unfortunate, the play serves as a small, extreme reminder of how far the game’s hopefully come.

Mourinho “working like never before” to turn Chelsea around

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Jose Mourinho got the dreaded much-needed vote of confidence from Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich last weekend, seemingly giving the Portuguese manager a temporary stay of execution despite the Blues’ worst start to a season in 37 years.

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Speaking this week, Mourinho has revealed that while he’s thankful to have been kept on at the club for which he regularly professes his love, he still thinks it was no-brainer for Abramovich. In other words, Mourinho’s not backing down from his incredible, seven-minute rant to one question following Saturday’s defeat to Southampton.

Mourinho, on what he’s doing to turn Chelsea around — quotes from the Guardian:

“It shows the confidence of Abramovich in the manager who has won three Premier League titles with this club. I thank him and I keep working.

“What’s going on? I do not know. The results with Chelsea at the moment have been really bad. I cannot hide that reality, and I don’t want to. And I struggle to find an explanation. But I assure you: I’m working like never before and we will come out of this. And there is also the Champions League that we will not neglect, for certain.”

What did you expect from Mourinho? Well, you know, I should probably be fired, but thanks to Mr. Abramovich for not realizing this and keeping me employed? It’s simultaneously interesting and the least surprising thing ever, though, that Mourinho claims to not know what’s wrong with Chelsea at the moment. Of course he has a theory (or five), and of course he’s “working like never before” to correct it.

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The most fascinating thing about Chelsea’s sluggish start to the season is to see, hear and read Mourinho speaking from a position of powerlessness. Always the clever one, the one dictating where the discussion goes, the one in charge of every press interaction, Saturday’s rant felt like watching a desperate Mourinho grasping for anything by which to pull himself back up.

Reports link Guardiola with Manchester City summer move

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There are claims out of Spain that Manchester City has a verbal agreement to bring Pep Guardiola to town when his Bayern Munich contract expires in June.

Don’t expect comment from Guardiola, who bristles when discussing his future. In the past he’s hinted he might not be the right man for the Bavarian side, but has lamented any questions about clubs other than Bayern.

Now Mundo Deportivo writer Francesc Aguilar says there’s a secret agreement between Guardiola and Manchester City director of football Txiki Begiristain to reunite at the Etihad Stadium this summer.

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Both Barcelona buffs and former Spanish internationals, Begiristain was Barca’s director of football when Guardiola took over for Frank Rjikaard in 2008.

Manuel Pellegrini signed a contract extension this summer and has led the club to a Premier League title, though the club has struggled in European competition. For what it’s worth, the Manchester Evening News got rumor reaction from Sergio Aguero:

On the latest Guardiola rumour, Kun said: “It has been talked about a lot. I don’t know him, but he’s a great manager and it’s wonderful to have the best managers train you.”

But he also added: “I’m very good with Manuel Pellegrini, we talk a lot. I’m happy in the team and with him, but the club will be the one who chooses who comes in.”

In other words, “I’m really good, and they pay me well enough that I’m prepared to play for any big name that arrives.”

It’s a story to keep up with, even as it intrudes on the seasons of two big, rich European clubs.