Savagery… 25 Years Later.
To many Barcelona fans, all 120,000 of them that came to the Nou Camp that fateful September 24th saw that this was going to be their year. If having won the Copa del Rey the year before was any indication, the match against defending champ Athletic Bilbao would be their defining statement. Little would they know that it would be the beginning of the end of an era. It was a day when they game on the field was violated by the men that had personal vendettas of their own. The most intense rivalry of the moment in Spain was between the Basques and the Catalans. To many people, Barcelona´s rivalry with Bilbao reached a boiling point and was much more intense than the one they had against Real Madrid during that three-year period. The matches between these two were more steel cage fights than skillful chess matches. They were all-out battles on the pitch and the reason would be due to the storylines and subplots that developed
Barcelona midfielder Bernd Schuster knew that he was going to be facing Andoni Goikotxea. This man tore his ACL just two season before, causing him to miss nine months of the 1981-82 season. So there would be that sense of revenge on behalf of the German midfielder. If there was one man that Schuster would have liked to seen hurt it was ¨The Bilbao Butcher¨. He got his reputation not because of the skill he had with the ball or his finesse while running around the pitch. His tough guy image was as visible as Russia from Sarah Palin´s backyard.
Another subplot that got fans´ blood boiling was also the exchange of words between coaches Javier Clemente and César Luis Menotti that made the intensity of the game escalate even more.
Vendettas and sideplots were the soup du jour in Spanish society back in 1983. It was a time in which Spanish society began to see their lives affected on an everyday basis by three letter- ETA. The Basque separatist movement killed 43 people in various random attacks and bombings throughout the country. For many people and in the media, they looked at this instant in Spanish football as a microcosm of what was going on in the country. They were able to make a figurative connection between It was a time where several things would get confused with playmakers were being attacked in almost ¨terrorist¨ fashion. The context was a bit distorted to a point where the game and national politics of the time were confused. Basque separtist movement ETA claimed the lives of 43 people that year and the attack on Maradona was being looked at in the same light. As crazy as it seems now, it was very logical at the moment. It was easy to make sense of all of this especially when it was a Basque that caused this injury. It further reinforced the idea that the anti-football that the Basques played was ¨separate¨ to what teams like Real Madrids and Barcelonas played.
Barcelona romped over Athletic Blibao by two goals and Andoni Goikoetxea looked for revenge against the blaugrana after Bernd Schuster came after the Basque hardman. Barça went up 3-0 and things looked secure for the culés. So when things Unfortunately, the young Argentine star would be caught in the crossfire. Maradona would tell the Bilbao hardman to calm down, and the latter would take offense to El Pibe´s comment. Goiko knew that something had to be done in order to get back at Schuster for a previous challenge that the German international gave him. Maradona´s comment changed the target. He saw the Argentine star running towards a ball and Goikoetxea simply went after Maradona´s ankle. He would end up with virtually a state of shock after all three main ankle ligaments were torn medial malleolus was fractured.
The Argentine international would be out for four months. Bilbao would eventually win their second consecutive league title and would face off against Maradona´s side at the Santiago Bernabéu for the final of the Copa del Rey and the Basque´s would come out on top to earn their domestic double. Despite the result the game was marred by one of the most violent post-game brawls in history. That would be the last time El Diego would ever wear the blaugrana jersey. He would later make a move to little known Italian side Napoli and help them become one of the biggest sides in Europe during the late 80´s and early 90´s.
In an article written this past Monday by Spanish daily El País, the incident was revisited. In the article, they talk to Goikoetxea about the entire incident now. Many players throughout the years called it ¨hard but uncalculated¨. Goikoetxea said in the interview that he never meant to hurt the Argentine star and asked for apologies. To this date, his apology was not accept, but it was answered- unfortunately not the way the Bilbao center back wanted it to be. Goikoetxea´s cause was not helped very much when then club president Pedro Aurtenetxe came out and said, ¨I can´t be held responsible for what happens if Maradona keeps talking.¨ Then after the brawl Maradona mentioned that Bilbao were after him and that Goikoetxea want to ¨finish what he started.¨
Goikoetxea´s legacy will forever be etched in football for the wrong reasons. In 2007, he was given the dubious by English newspaper The Times distinction of being ¨awarded¨ the most violent football in history and thus became the posterchild for Basque terrorism in football.
Whether you come from the camp that believe that is the case or not is irrelevant. You can see that the sport has evolved in some aspects and regressed in others. Goikoetxea´s foul would have been (nine times out of 10) a direct red card and a suspension. He only received a yellow, although the disciplinary board gave him an 18-match suspension.
The displeasure was obvious when people saw Goikoetxea was cheered by the Bilbao faithful in their next home match as the Baque faithful thought that the suspension given to the Spanish international was excessive. Goiko would score a goal and would help Bilbao win a crucial European Cup match against Lech Poznan. He would then be taken off the field on the shoulders of his teammates and to the crown chanting his name. This is why he did something that seems controversial to many. A man seems more like a hunter when he places the boots that he only wore twice in a glass case. Those boots were the same ones that he was just breaking in when he broke Diego Maradona´s ankle. To many it´s a encasing a weapon. To Goikoetxea it´s a reminder.
¨I hope I am not misinterpreted. I don´t want people to think that I did this I did this is in order to symbolize the two sides of the game. The time after I was being harassed after injuring (Maradona) and then the support I got from the Bilbao fans afterwards.¨
Wow, the more things change. The more things stay the same.