Ever wondered why all the final matches of the season are played at the same time? Ditto the final matches of the World Cup Group stages and also the Champions League. Well, you can thank The Disgrace of Gijon for that.
The Disgrace of Gijon was a match played between West Germany and Austria at the 1982 FIFA World Cup. It was the final match of the first round for Group 2 with Algeria and Chile having played theirs before. That match had Algeria placed ahead of West Germany and would qualify ahead of them if the Germans failed to win against Austria. The problem for Austria was that they were also well placed to qualify, with a better goal difference than Algeria. A win was only worth two points back then. Losing by more than one goal would see them get knocked out of the competition. So what happened? Of course, the Germans won 1-0, a result that favoured the two German-speaking countries.
West Germany had come into the competition as one of the favourites, having won the ‘80 Euros but suffered a shock loss to Algeria in the first group stage match and in the process became the first European side to lose to an African nation in World Cup history.
In the match against Austria the Germans scored within the first 10 minutes of the game, giving it what seemed to be some semblance of life but from that moment on, the game progressively deteriorated into one of the most glorious displays of antifootball one could ever witness. I mean, a lot of football games are given names because they were memorable like “The Battle of the Bridge or “The Battle of Nuremberg”. This game was memorable but for all the wrong reasons. It was haram football at its peak.
Of course, there is an element of caution to be expected when a scoreline favours you; West Germany wouldn’t be too attacking because they could risk the Austrians pulling one back and the Austrians wouldn’t be too eager to attack cause the goal difference was still in their favour but this was taking it too a new level. The teams were content with passing the ball around in midfield and back to the keeper. Opta have kept stats for every World Cup game since 1966 and there were three shots, none of them on target. Both teams posted past completion rates that would make Pep Guardiola foam at the mouth. Austria had a 99% success rate with passes in their own half; West Germany’s was 98%.
Inside the stadium, the Spanish crowd was shouting “Fuera, fuera” (out, out), whilst some fans took to waving banknotes at players, implying the match had been sold to the West Germans.
At one point back home, German commentator Eberhard Stanjek refused to comment on the game any longer. Austrian commentator Robert Seeger bemoaned the spectacle and actually requested the viewers should switch off their sets.
The Algerian fans around tried storming the pitch afterwards but were held back by the police while the Algerian FA lodged a complaint with FIFA which was turned down.
There is no actual proof that the match was rigged however but it seemed obvious to all onlookers.
It was described on British TV as follows: “quality players who should all be in the book of referee Bob Valentine for bringing the game into disrepute. This is one of the most disgraceful international matches I’ve ever seen.”
In German, it is known as the ‘Non-Aggression pact of Gijon’ while in most of the non-English-speaking world, it is simply known as the ‘Anschluss’ – a reference to Germany’s annexation of Austria before WW2.