a ghost match in the middle of the cold war

"Le Monde" after Icon Sport


Posted today at 6:00 am

After the Spanish package in the quarterfinals, the Russian team defeats Czechoslovakia, before dominating Yugoslavia, in the final of Euro 1960, at the Parc des Princes, in Paris.

The central Lenin stadium will remain empty. No first leg in Moscow. No more than a return match in the Madrid enclosure of the Bernabeu stadium. In 1960, the Europe of football was first that of the Cold War. The Spanish Council of Ministers refuses to allow the quarter-final between Franco’s Spain and the USSR, the homeland of socialism.

The just emerging European Cup of Nations is off to a good start! First edition, first package. In its edition of May 30, 1960, The world do one little space in its columns for the sporting event, for its diplomatic dimension. In a statement to the Tass agency, the Soviet Football Federation "Expresses its deep indignation at the brutal intervention of the Franco authorities who have prohibited Spanish footballers from meeting those of the USSR".

Inexhaustible anti-communism

Typically, the cliché is that sport allows the war to continue in other ways. Not this time. A quarter of a century after the Civil War, where the Soviet forces sided with the Spanish Republicans, the Francoist refusal to play football had its source in an inexhaustible anti-communism.

Beyond the national teams, this "Radical anti-communism in the field of sport" also consisted of proscribing "The contacts with the clubs located on the other side of the iron curtain and in particular with the USSR", says historian Juan Antonio Simon, teacher at the European University of Madrid, in a collective work, Nations football (Publications of the Sorbonne, 2016).

This intransigence may also be explained by a sporting precedent. And out of the fear that sport might give rise to a political challenge to the Franco dictatorship. "In June 1949, emphasizes Juan Antonio Simon, during the friendly match against France in Colombes, a group of exiles displayed a republican flag when the first notes of the Spanish anthem sounded. "

Read also France – Yugoslavia 1960: a surprise slap for the first meeting of the Euro

“It will be observed that, in a certain way, the Spanish Federation had not strictly declared forfeit since it had confined itself to warning the USSR that its players had not received the exit visa, thus postponing on the higher political authorities the responsibility for the prevention ", sheds light on Jean Meynaud, former executive secretary of the International Political Science Association, in his book Sport and politics (Payot, 1966).

In 1964, Spain welcomed and defeated the USSR

The political context of the time especially deprived the competition of a great match. Spain then reigned over the continent through a club, Real Madrid. The Di Stéfano and Gento team have already won the first five editions of the European Cup of champion clubs. Unlike other clubs in the Eastern Bloc countries, the Soviet teams are not yet participating in this competition.

But, with its national selection, the USSR already shines at the Olympic Games: gold medal in Melbourne in 1956 for Lev Yachine (future "golden ball" seven years later, unique case for a goalkeeper) and the attacker Eduard Streltsov (later sentenced to gulag …).

For a while, the general secretariat of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is considering the possibility of a quarter-final between the USSR and Spain on neutral ground. In vain. The USSR finally qualified on the green carpet for the final phase of Euro 1960. It eliminated Czechoslovakia (3-0) in the halves, at the Vélodrome de Marseille. Before winning the competition in Paris, at the Parc des Princes, beating Yugoslavia in the final (2-1).

At the time, only seventeen countries took part in the playoffs of the competition. England, where the sport was born, snubs the event as it snubbed the beginnings of the World Cup. Except for the presence of an English referee in the final. The Federal Republic of Germany, the Netherlands and Italy are also missing.

Four years later, the second edition of the Euro brings together twenty-nine nations in the playoffs. And this time, in 1964, General Franco agreed to meet the USSR. At home, Spain dominated the Soviets (2-1) in the final. Perfect victory for Franco's propaganda, at the Bernabeu stadium. The first major title of the Spanish selection. And the only one until the Euro 2008-World 2010-Euro 2012 cycle.

Find our selection of matches that marked the Euro


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