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MAYHEM IN MONTEVIDEO

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JOHN HUGHES was ordered off during the most sensational, unruly game in the history of Celtic as they lost 1-0 to Racing Club in the third and deciding game of the World Club Cup Final in Uruguay.

Here is how Big Yogi recalls the torrid encounters with the hard men from Argentina in his book, ‘Yogi Bare’.

“Trust me to get involved in one of the craziest orderings-off in the history of the game. I can only look back on it now, almost half-a-century later, and wonder what on earth I was thinking at that precise moment. I’m talking about the infamous brawl in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo on November 4 1967. It was supposed to be a showpiece encounter against Racing Club of Buenos Aries, the exciting meeting between the acknowledged champions of Europe and South America. Sadly, the occasion manifested itself into one of the most shocking and sorry episodes in Celtic’s proud history.

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“We had been goaded beyond tolerance by a motley collection of the dirtiest players I have ever encountered or witnessed. They kicked and spat on us in the first leg at Hampden where we won 1-0 with a superb headed goal by Billy McNeill from my right-wing corner-kick. We wondered how they would behave in their native country if that’s how they abused us in front of 83, 437 of our fans in Glasgow. We soon got our answer. They were even more brutal in front of their maniacal support. Sir Alf Ramsey called Argentina’s players ‘animals’ after England had played them in the World Cup quarter-final at Wembley the previous year. We discovered he wasn’t over the top in his comments. We netted first in Buenos Aires with a Tommy Gemmell penalty-kick – an absolute stonewaller after Wee Jinky had been decked – but they came back to score twice to take the Final to a third game in a neutral country. By the way, their first goal by Norberto Raffo was only a mile offside!

“In hindsight, we should have come home immediately. The chairman, Bob Kelly, was all for getting us back to Scotland and away from the madhouse that was Argentina. The Racing players provoked us on the pitch and their supporters urinated on us in the stand. Unfortunately, I became a target for these filthy cretins. I was sitting beside Bertie Auld and Joe McBride as we were showered from a terracing above us. The Racing supporters were taking it in turn to relieve themselves on us and there was nothing we could do to escape. We just had to sit there and get drenched by the these scum. Could anyone have blamed us if we had packed up there and then and made our way home? I don’t think so.

“However, one man was adamant we should play a third game in Montevideo. Jock Stein was determined that Celtic should be crowned the greatest team on the planet. Big Jock wanted us to show the world how football should be played. He also believed we might get some protection from the referee in neutral Uruguay. Some hope! The Paraguayan match official, Rodolfo Osorio, was even worse than the weak Uruguayan Esteban Marino in Argentina. Big Billy is one of the most circumspect and fair men I know, but even our inspirational skipper was convinced the referee was bent. It takes some motivation for Billy to make such an observation, but no-one would argue with that assessment.

“If anyone has ever been in any doubt, they just need to have to look at his decision to send off Jimmy Johnstone. The ref got a good view of the incident, I think he was only about ten yards or so away from the scene of the so-called crime. Jinky played a one-two and was running past their player when the defender simply grabbed him by the neck to block his movement. Jinky had a temper, as the Racing players probably realised, and he tried to wrestle free. His arm caught the Racing defender and, of course, he went down as though he had been hit by an invisible train. That was all the match official required to send our wee winger packing. The Racing defender escaped any punishment whatsoever. Not even a slap on the wrist. In that one moment, any thoughts of fair play from the ref were dispelled. Bent? I agreed wholeheartedly with Billy.

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“What can I say about my own sending off? I’ve got to hold up my hands and plead guilty. Although I believe Big Jock thought I would be better off pleading insanity. What came over me? I can only say that I got caught up in all the chaos and confusion of the battle. There was very little football played that day and Racing were ruthless as they launched savage attacks on our players. Amazingly, the first Celtic player to be ordered off was Bobby Lennox. Bobby wouldn’t say boo to a goose. He used to get some fairly heavy treatment from opponents in the Scottish game, but he refused to retaliate. He would take the punishment and get on with the game. His answer to the hackers and cloggers was to put the ball in their net as often as possible. I had never seem him react violently, yet he was first to go that dreadful afternoon. Everyone thought it must be a case of mistaken identity. Bobby was coming off when Big Jock told him to get back on. Our pacy frontman returned to the pitch, but the referee wasn’t for changing his mind. Bobby about-turned to walk off when our manager signalled once again for him to get back into the fray. It was only when soldiers, with sabres at the ready, intervened that our player decided it was a good idea to ignore Big Jock and head for the safety of the dressing room.

“Then off went Jinky and I was next to go for my moment of madness. Their keeper, Agustin Cejas, was wasting time as he picked up a passback. I thought I would try to force him to get rid of the ball a bit more quickly. I challenged him and you won’t be surprised to be told he, too, collapsed in a heap as though he had been mortally wounded. I didn’t do my cause any good when I confronted him again and tried to kick the ball as he lay writhing on the ground. It looked a lot worse than it actually was, but the keeper made the most of it as he rolled around. The referee wasn’t slow in letting me know my work was done for the day. I was about to protest when I saw a couple of soldiers with their menacing swords about to come onto the pitch and I decided against it. Cejas, unsurprisingly, got to his feet and, unhindered, played the rest of the match.

“I have been quoted often enough saying I didn’t think anyone was watching. That’s a bit strange when you consider it was the World Club Final – or the Intercontinental Cup, to give the trophy its correct title – and the action was being beamed live to just about every country on the globe, although, curiously, Celtic fans back home only got a highlights package later that evening. The match was edited by the BBC in London and they slaughtered Celtic. And, of course, the TV editors made a big thing of Tommy Gemmell’s swinging right boot that had their player Raffo squealing during yet another lull in play. Big Jock was so furious when he saw the edited version he banned the Beeb from Celtic Park for about a year.

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“Of course, no-one can condone violence or retribution. But you had to experience what we were going through out on that field against a team consisting mainly of hoodlums in football strips who knew every dirty trick in the book. And some that weren’t. Reason just flew out the window. I will always remember Big Jock stressing to us not to get involved in a kicking match. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Everyone’s got a breaking point and the yobs masquerading as Racing Club players knew which buttons to push. I’m sure the patience of the most saintly among us would have snapped in that hellish environment. There are just so many times you can accept someone spitting on you or having a fly kick while the play is elsewhere. Yes, it was wrong, but there were mitigating circumstances to take into consideration. We allowed ourselves to be dragged down to their level and we paid the consequences. And the board clobbered each of the players with a £250 fine for our sins.

“The actual game, if you could it that, was a shambles. They won 1-0 when a long-range drive from Juan Carlos Cardenas eluded our stand-in keeper John Fallon. In fact, when you think of it, the assault on Ronnie Simpson just before kick-off in the second match in Buenos Aires should have had us heading for the exits there and then. Mind you, with over 100,000 screaming, frenzied supporters in the Avellaneda Stadium there would have been every probability of a full-blown riot erupting all around us.

“There has been a lot of speculation over what actually hit our keeper on the head that day. My view is it must have been the actions of a photographer who would have been able to hide the object in his camera bag. It would have been impossible to get something up and over the large mesh nets that were behind Ronnie’s goal. It had to be done close-up and, of course, none of the authorities thought about searching the photographers’ kit. So, that was game over for Faither after being clattered on the back of the head by some sort of metal object. And, of course, he still hadn’t recovered by the time the third game was played. John Fallon made only four first team appearances that season and, amazingly, two were in two of the most important games in the club’s history.

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“Unfortunately, that disgusting encounter in Montevideo is something I’ll never forget. Do you know I had never seen any film of that match until a few years ago? I’m not a big fan of watching Celtic lose and I just wasn’t interested in viewing any footage. However, I was working in my pub, The Condorrat Arms in Cumbernauld, one day when someone brought in a video tape. ‘Okay, to put this on, Yogi?’ I was asked by the customer. ‘Just so long as it’s clean,’ I said. ‘No problem,’ he replied. ‘It’s just a football game from the sixties. You’re involved in it.’ ‘Aye, put it on,’ I said. And that was the one and only time I have watched that match. My sending-off escapade didn’t look any better on film!

“I also witnessed Bertie Auld’s ordering-off for the first time. He simply lost his temper and appeared to throttle one of the Racing Club’s serial offenders. The referee pointed once more to the dressing room where Wee Bertie was ‘invited’ to join me, Jinky and Bobby. Bertie point-blank refused to leave the field. A harassed match official actually restarted play with a free-kick to Celtic. That just about summed up everything. The games against Racing Club developed into one huge long drawn-out farce.

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“I was informed our reprehensible opponents were promised a bonus of £1,500-per-man to win the trophy. That was a fortune in Argentina back then. That must have been all the inducement they required to win by any means at their disposal. That’s why they thought nothing of indulging in all sorts of black arts. They were an odious bunch supported by abominable fans. No, I don’t look back on events in South America in 1967 with any fondness.

“One observer remarked, ‘Racing Club players would have trampled over children’s bodies to get their hands on that £1,500 bonus.’ I couldn’t have put it better.”

Signed copies of John Hughes’ autobiography Yogi Bare are available from CQNBookstore.com

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