Georgina Turner
Tuesday May 18th, 2010

World Cup founder Jules Rimet's dream for a global soccer tournament was the revival of the chivalrous spirit, a championship founded on fair play that would unite a world constantly torn apart by nationalism. After 80 years of brawling, bribery and outright war, his ideals now look wonderfully naive. But for every episode of murky off-pitch intrigue, the World Cup has thrown up a moment of rib-tickling mischief or incompetence. Here are some highlights:

The draw for Spain 1982 was the first to be televised live, prompting FIFA to lavish a whopping $8.8 million on the event. Having negotiated their way through terror threats from Basque separatists and political squabbling over seeding, FIFA suits could be forgiven for wishing they hadn't bothered; a global audience of 500 million tuned in to witness a spectacular farce.

The set included two giant bingo-hall-style spinning cages, marshaled by boys from a Madrid orphanage, who got things off to a good start by selecting the names of Scotland and Belgium in entirely the wrong sequence. FIFA had hoped that the involvement of underprivileged children would highlight its goodwill message, but this was slightly undermined as West Germany's Hermann Neuberger, sweating profusely under the lights, shouted, "Get it sorted, boy!" in earshot of the microphones. The panel eventually cleared up the mishap, only to find that the plastic footballs containing names and numbers kept getting jammed in the cages -- those for Chile and Peru actually split open, on camera. This is probably why the draw now involves a handful of middle-aged men dipping their hands into shallow bowls.

You might think that at the international level, turning up with the right kit is the least you could expect. But France thought so little of its chances in 1958 that the players traveled to Sweden with only three shirts each -- enough to get them through the group matches. But the French accidentally sailed through the group, scoring seven goals against Paraguay, to find themselves in the quarterfinals and in need of a trip to the laundromat. And another. And another. France lost its semifinal meeting with Brazil, but eventually won the third-place playoff against West Germany thanks to four goals from Just Fontaine, the tournament's top scorer. In the final that year, Sweden won the toss to play in yellow, which left Brazil with no kit. Someone was sent to buy a set of plain blue shirts and the Brazilian badge was hastily stuck on.

In Argentina 20 years later, the French had another kit emergency, in their final group game against Hungary, turning up with just their white alternate uniforms only to find the Hungarians were playing in white. Fortunately, police pinched a kit from local side Atletico Kimberley, so France appeared in green-and-white-striped shirts for one game only.

The lesson of 1982 was to keep away from your balcony. First, Italian roommates Paolo Rossi and Antonio Cabrini were snapped bare-chested at the window, setting off a flurry of gay rumors that prompted the squad to shun all interviews for the remainder of the tournament. The "silencio stampa" proved a good move -- Italy lifted the Cup for the first time since 1938.

Meanwhile, West Germany plumbed the depths of popularit�t. Having played out a dreadful 1-0 group-match victory against Austria that was just right to see both teams through, the West Germans were derided by their own nation -- "Shame on you!" cried Bild, Germany's big-selling tabloid. When fans gathered outside the hotel demanding an explanation, the players opted instead to lob water balloons over the balcony and drench them. As you do.

No one can accuse the English of failing to make an entrance for Mexico 1970. Having downed several bottles of Dutch courage on the plane, jittery flier Jeff Astle arrived steaming drunk. Bobby Moore didn't turn up at all: After England's warmup match in Colombia, he was arrested on suspicion of shoplifting. Moore and teammate Bobby Charlton were both questioned about the disappearance of a bracelet from the gift shop at their hotel, and after a witness fingered Moore, he was charged. After lobbying from British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, Moore was released and made his way to Mexico, where the press branded England "a team of thieves and drunks." It wasn't until 1975 that Moore received confirmation from the Colombian authorities that they would not be pursuing his case any further.

Adidas has established a close relationship with the World Cup, developing official match balls since 1970. But it hasn't always been a happy one. In 1974, the Scotland team was embroiled in a money row with the kit makers that had manager Willie Ormond considering his position. Adidas wouldn't meet his price for sponsoring the team, so it trained with any trace of the famous logo covered up with boot polish. Things got worse when Puma man Johan Cruyff forced the Dutch football association to make a special kit for him featuring only two stripes, and the boot polish was back in 1978 when France decided it didn't think much of the cash on offer from Adidas either.

There's something about sending a group of men abroad with their coaches that renders the former children and the latter grumpy parents. In 1934, German coach Otto Nerz sent defender Sigmund Haringer home ahead of the third-place playoff against Austria for eating an orange. Apparently a dabbler in the science of nutrition, Nerz had decided that the players would only be allowed milk on the train journey from Rome, where they'd just been beaten by Czechoslovakia, to Naples. But he caught a starving Haringer tucking into the orange and gave him his marching orders there and then.

Years later, in 1962, Spain traveled to Chile under Helenio Herrara, who would later become the god of Internazionale. Bringing new meaning to the phrase "control freak," Herrara was never too keen on star player Alfredo di Stefano, who wasn't scared to speak up if he didn't like the manager's ideas. The striker was carrying a bit of an injury when the squad got to Chile; two days before Spain's opener against Czechoslovakia, Herrara was reported to have gone in hard on Di Stefano in training, ruling him out of the tournament.

Argentine defender Alberto Tarantini struck a blow for disgruntled players everywhere, mind you. In 1978, the World Cup circus traveled to Argentina, where the oppressive regime of General Videla's military junta made anybody who stood in its way "disappear" -- or who made the place look untidy when the world's camera crews arrived. After the home nation beat Peru 6-0 to earn a place in the final, Videla turned up in the dressing room to congratulate the players. In the showers, Tarantini, who had lost friends to the regime, made sure he gave his undercarriage a rigorous lather right up until the moment the General reached him to shake his hand, which he enthusiastically proffered. Videla grimaced; Tarantini had to find a new club overseas.

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