We all laughed but it was no laughing matter

One of the most prevailing stories of the 1974 football World Cup happened during the Brazil v Zaire (as they were then called) match. As Brazil lined up a free kick, a defender broke free of the Zaire wall and booted the ball as far as he could, receiving a yellow card for his troubles. African ignorance of the beautiful game was cited and laughter and derision was thrown at the men of the Congo. In fact, that kick may have saved lives. After losing 2-0 versus Scotland, then being thrashed 9-0 v Yugoslavia (as they were then called), the Zaire ruler threatened the players and insisted that they not lose against Brazil by more than 3 goals. The time wasting tactic at that free kick helped the Zairian footballers cause. They only lost the game 3-0. I’m not sure if they lived happily ever after. At least they lived.

The then ruler of the African nation was Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (meaning “The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake). Now there’s a name for a monster. Every day is a school day, they say. Alas, just like at school there’s no way I’m remembering that.

I do remember the free kick.

One thought on “We all laughed but it was no laughing matter”

  1. Many years later North Korea’s football team found itself in a major international event. They were clearly not the strongest side but they had somehow managed to qualify against all odds. In a match against, I believe, Portugal they were utterly humiliated. The Portuguese thought little of the humiliation they visited on their North Korean adversaries. For them, the more points the better. Those more familiar with the politics and machinations of the Hermit Kingdom feared, rightfully, for their well-being if not their lives. That they would lose was obvious and even the greatest optimists in Pyongyang expected nothing else. That they lost so horribly came with horrific consequences. They were allowed to live, but they were badly beaten and tortured. This was one of those incidents in which the winner came out looking horrible.

Add your Comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: