Mexico ’86


Scotland sealed their qualification for another World Cup on a bittersweet night in Cardiff in September 1985. Another dubious penalty against Wales, this time converted by Davie Cooper, sent Scotland on their way. Just before the end of the match, Scotland manager Jock Stein collapsed in the dugout and died shortly afterwards. Qualifying for the World Cup meant little that night. However, the shock waves around Scotland were nothing compared to what Mexico experienced just over a week later.

An earthquake killed as many as ten thousand people. I tried to imagine Breogan and all its surrounding population disappearing off the face of the earth just like that. The following summer’s World Cup was put in doubt, but it went ahead and when it did the Hand of God dealt England a severe blow.

More war – soccer style. The Argentine ultras, known as ‘barras bravas’, caught flights to Mexico hell-bent on revenging their fallen compatriots in the Falklands. They burnt Union Jacks. Unlike our “Remember Bannockburn 1314” slogans, it was not necessary to remind anyone about 1982, since events were still fresh in the collective memory. 

Some saw The Hand of God as a bit of recompense for the Falklands War. Argentina’s goalkeeper Nery Pumpido said that beating England would be twice as pleasing after what happened in Las Malvinas. England raged and mourned, while in Scotland, Diego became something of a hero. Evidently he still is.

Extract from Countries of the World

©2011, Steven Porter/Breogan Books/Amazon Kindle

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