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.