Marc Cooper tips me to the fact that the trial of the monstrous Jorge Videla, the initial leader of the brutal Argentine Junta of the 1970's started last Friday. It's worth noting Videla's and the junta's role in influencing the World Cup that year:
The Argentine committee in charge of World Cup organisation was headed by the ruthless Carlos Lacoste, protege of Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera, the navy's top man in the junta. Massera had set up the torture centre at ESMA and helped run it in its early days. Lacoste's committee had decided Brazil - Argentina's rivals for a place in the final - must play their last group match in the afternoon. Argentina would play a few hours later with the huge advantage of knowing they had to beat Peru by at least four goals to reach the final.
In the event, Argentina won 6-0, which was surprising because in the first round Peru had thrashed Scotland and Iran and drawn with Holland. On the evidence of watching the game again (highlights currently available on YouTube) one can understand why Glanville claimed that the Peruvians were "obviously bought".
For the first 15 minutes Peru, playing vigorously, are the better team. Then their running, passing and tackling falls away to near zero and they begin giving the ball away - and Argentina start rattling in goals.
Somehow this doesn't surprise me:
The more interesting question about the Peru game is: if it was fixed, then how? The Argentine investigative journalist Maria Laura Avignolo published a plausible account in The Sunday Times in 1986 - and received death threats as a result. Later her work received added support from David Yallop in his book How They Stole the Game. According to Yallop, General Videla ordered Captain Lacoste to fix the result, and Lacoste negotiated the details with three senior officials travelling with the Peruvian squad. They agreed the price: 35,000 tonnes of grain to be shipped from Argentina to Peru, $50m of credits to be unfrozen and substantial bribes paid directly to Peruvian officials from accounts held by the Argentine navy.
Three members of the Peru squad were offered money to ensure the "correct result" by a senior member of the ruling junta. The players received just $20,000 each. When Carlos Ares, a journalist from a pro-junta paper who had close access to the Argentine squad, voiced suspicions that the game was fixed, Lacoste threatened to have him killed. Ares fled into exile in Spain.
Before the game, General Videla (accompanied by former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger) visited the Peruvian dressing room and lectured them on the need for Latin American solidarity. The players had never seen a dictator up close and were terrified. [my emphasis]
Kissinger is kind of a reverse Tom Joad: "Where there's a leftie being tortured, I'll be there. Where there's a dictatorship that shares my beliefs, I'll defend them. It doesn't matter if they fixed football matches."
One wonders if they were behind this:
For three decades, it has been one of the most enduring mysteries in world football. Why did Johan Cruyff, widely regarded as one of the three greatest players ever, decide that he would not play for Holland in the 1978 World Cup finals in Argentina? The Dutch reached the final - despite being beaten by Scotland in the group stages - but lost 3-1 to the hosts, and many blamed Cruyff's absence for their failure to lift the trophy.
At the time, speculation over the reasons for his decision was rife. It was claimed he had fallen out with the Dutch football association over sponsorship. Or maybe he objected to Argentina's rightwing military junta.
Now 30 years on, Cruyff has finally broken his silence to reveal the real reason for his no-show on football's biggest stage.
The former Ajax and Barcelona player has revealed that he and his family had been the victims of a kidnap attempt a few months before the tournament.
He said several criminals entered his house in Barcelona at night and tied him and his family up at gunpoint.
Winning the 1978 World Cup had the effect for the Junta that they had hoped for with the Falklands invasion in 1982 that failed miserably and essentially undid them: the 1978 World Cup solidified support for their government and played upon nationalist pride.
Now Videla finally has to answer for something, and although messing with the 1978 World Cup was undoubtedly one of his lesser sins, it is illustrative of the depths to which he would sink for his own self-preservation.