To be a footballer means being a privileged interpreter of the feelings and dreams of thousands of people.-Cesar Luis Menotti
Our football belongs to the working class and has the size, nobility and generosity to allow everyone to enjoy it as a spectacle.-Cesar Luis Menotti
In 1976 Argentina underwent a military coup that plunged the country into seven years of fear and oppression. Many doubted whether Argentina could stage a successful World Cup in such circumstances.
The name Mario Kempes was written large across the 1978 tournament. He won both the Golden Boot (top scorer) and Golden Ball (player of the tournament). His six goals included 2 in the highly charged final.
Kempes (of Valencia) was the only foreign based player in the Argentina team. He typified the image of the dashing Latin footballer of the era.
The Netherlands accused the Argentines of gamesmanship in the final. The host team came out late and lengthy debates ensued about the legality of René van de Kerkhof’s plaster cast. There was an intensely partisan atmosphere in the Estadio Monumental. Argentina were heading for a 1-0 win when Dick Nanninga equalized a few minutes from the end. Rob Rensenbrink then hit the post in stoppage time. Argentina went on to win 3–1 after extra time. The Netherlands boycotted the post-match ceremonies.
Another enduring image of the tournament was that of Cesar Luis Menotti, El Flaco, Argentina’s sullen, long haired manager, seemingly chainsmoking his way through the competition.Daniel Passarella, Argentina’s captain, said of Menotti: He always knew exactly what to say to motivate his players. And he was always very calm. We only saw him get really angry once: just before extra time in the Final against the Netherlands. He looked at us and said, ‘Look around you. There are 80,000 of us and eleven of them. We’re not going to lose, are we?’ It was the type of shock tactic that the team needed. We took to the field again certain we’d win and we made the title ours.
The 39 year old Menotti won admirers by refusing to associate with the dictators, insisting that football and politics were not related.Interviewed earlier this year Menotti reiterated: I just don’t think a head of state has the right to muscle in on sports victories, neither a democratically elected one nor, as was the case back then, a rotten dictator.
Tunisia made history by beating Mexico 3–1. It was the first time that any African team had won a match at the World Cup finals.
The fact that only black and white TV was available in the host country gave us the unique situation of seeing France playing their game with Hungary in borrowed kit of white and green stripes, their blue being indistinguishable from Hungary’s red to viewers watching in black and white.