Sunday, April 29, 2012

Scottish football's game of shame

It was a football match that every self-respecting Scottish fan should hold their head low in shame.

In 1973, After the military coup ousting Allende, Pinochet's soldiers used Chile's national football stadium as a temporary detention camp. The military imprisoned 40,000 in the stadium.  Among those killed were the U.S. citizens Charles Horman, and Frank Teruggi, events that inspired the Jack Lemmon film, Missing. Within its walls they beat, and tortured thousands of workers, students and political activists. Many were murdered.

 A few years later in 1977, on the road to the Argentina 1978 World Cup, Scotland played against Chile and played in that very same blood-soaked stadium. Former non-commissioned officer Roberto Saldias said he saw prisoners taken off for execution at the stadium. Saldias said prisoners at the stadium were organised in groups identified by yellow, black and red discs. "Whoever received a red disc had no chance [of surviving]," he said

Russia forfeited their place in a qualifyer for the 1974 finals by refusing to take part in a play-off match against Chile yet the mandarins of the SFA, ably supported by football's 90-minute nationalists, insisted - no politics in sport. They went ahead with what was just a warm-up friendly game of little importance. Officials of the SFA refused to meet a delegation of three former prisoners of the Chilean military regime who called at their headquarters in Glasgow. Ernie Walker, then the SFA secretary, declared that he could see no point in meeting the delegation. About 70 per cent of Scottish professional footballers voted in favour of the national team playing Chile in June. Only ten per cent were opposed.  MPs Dennis Canavan and Donald Stewarrt raised the issue in parliament. Norman Buchan, the then MP for West Renfrewshire, said that the SFA didn't appear to comprehend what happened in the Santiago stadium where the game is to take place. It had been used as a concentration camp and was the scene of mass murder and torture.

Inside that stadium Victor Jara,  a singer/song-writer of international repute was detained along with the many other thousands and taken to the Santiago stadium where an officer thought he recognised him and with a questioning look, motioning to him as if as strumming a guitar. Victor nodded confirming who he was. He was seized, taken to the center of the stadium and told to put his hands on a table. Rifle butts beat his hands to a bloody pulp. "All right, sing for us now, you **** " shouted the officer. Defiantly, Victor staggered to his feet, faced the stands. "Companeros, let's sing for el commandante." Waving his bloody stumps he sang part of "Venceremos" (We Will Win), a song supporting the Popular Unity coalition. The officer played Russian roulette with Jara, by placing a single round in his revolver, spinning the cylinder, placing the muzzle against Jara's head and pulling the trigger. The officer repeated this a couple of times, until a shot fired and VĂ­ctor fell to the ground. He was then machine-gunned in the body with 44 bullet shots.

Eternal shame on Scottish football!

Scotland's guilty side 
Alan  Rough         
Danny McGrain          
Willie Donachie          
Martin Buchan          
Tom Forsyth              
Bruce Rioch         
Don Masson          
Kenny Dalglish      
Lou Macari          
Asa Hartford          
Willie Johnston          

Archie Gemmill                 
Jim Stewart          
Sandy Jardine      

Manager: Ally McLeod

A song by Adam McNaughtan, better known for his The Jeely Piece Song, makes sure some of us won't forget this heartless episode in Scottish footbal history.

Blood on the Grass

September the eleventh
In Nineteen seventy-three
Scores of people perished
In a vile machine-gun spree
Santiago stadium
Became a place to kill
But a Scottish football team
Will grace it with their skill
And there's blood upon the grass
And there's blood upon the grass

Will you go there, Alan Rough
Will you play there, Tom Forsyth
Where so many folk met early
The Grim Reaper with his scythe
These people weren't terrorists
They weren't Party hacks
But some were maybe goalkeepers
And some were centre backs
And there's blood upon the grass
And there's blood upon the grass

Victor Jara played guitar
As he was led into the ground
Then they broke all of his fingers
So his strings no more could sound
Still he kept on singing
Songs of freedom, songs of peace
And though they gunned him down
His message doesn't cease
And there's blood upon the grass
And there's blood upon the grass

Will you go there, Archie Gemmill
Will you play there, Andy Gray
Will it trouble you to hear the voice
Of Victor Jara say
Somos cinquo mille -
We are five thousand in this place
And Scottish football helps to hide
The Junta's dark disgrace
And there's blood upon the grass
And there's blood upon the grass

Do you stand upon the terracing
At Ibrox or Parkhead
Do you cheer the Saints in black and white
The Dons in flaming red
All those who died in Chile
Were people of your kind
Let's tell the football bosses
That it's time they changed their mind
Before there's blood upon their hands

2 comments: said...

I'd like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this site. I really hope to see the same high-grade blog posts by you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own, personal website now ;)

followyourkite said...

Thank you for writing this article. I'm curious to know what's your source for this? ----> 'About 70 per cent of Scottish professional footballers voted in favour of the national team playing Chile in June. Only ten per cent were opposed.' Many thanks and keep up the good fight!

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