As World Cup Finals go, the one played out between Argentina and West Germany in 1986 would take some beating for drama. The game seemed won, before being cast into huge doubt, and then a late winner decided the issue in favour of the South American passion play. Although he didn’t score in the final, the tournament will, for a variety of reasons, be largely remembered with Diego Maradona as the star. That said, even the great Argentine icon would surely concur that others too warranted great credit and acclaim. Standing alongside giants can often mean that a shadow falls across others, obscuring their brightness, but they too have a tale to tell that can throw light on events. Jorge Luis Burruchaga is one of those oft-perceived-to-be lesser lights, but as the scorer of the late goal that ascended La Albiceleste to the heavens, his is a story crying out to be told. Continue reading →
Linesmen, Referees’ Assistants or simply ‘Linos’, the guys running up and down the sidelines of half of the playing area are often considered the least significant characters in the passion play that is a football match. These are the ‘extras’ that make up the lower listings in the dramatis personae.’ They’re the ‘non-speaking’ participants, who have to wave a flag – or perhaps press a buzzer as well these days – to remind the rest of us that they’re there.
With Argentina now qualified for tomorrow’s World Cup final, manager Alejandro Sabella will leave the national team regardless of the result. This is a piece I penned before the tournament about Sabella, his history in English football, and the selection headache he had to get right.
Some readers may remember the name of Harry Haslam, but I’ll forgive you if not. Even in his day, he wasn’t that famous. Back in the late seventies though, Haslam was, what would probably be described now as, a ‘visionary’ manager. Argentina had just won the World Cup and as then manager of Sheffield United, Haslam was to pioneer the move to bring some of the South American country’s stars to play in English football.
United not were not a particularly wealthy club, so although he was thought to be instrumental in the move to take Ossie Ardilles and Ricardo Villa to Spurs, the Yorkshire club were shopping at a different level. Pursuing his aspiration, Haslam undertook a scouting trip to South America, and at one of the games he took in, a 17 year old mop-haired player took his eye. The player’s club was Argentinos Juniors and Haslam was so impressed, he immediately negotiated a deal to take the player back to Yorkshire with him. Unfortunately, the Blades couldn’t finance the transfer. The £200,000 required was, in those days, an awful lot of money for a club of United’s size. The deal fell through.