“Good evening. The game you are about to see is the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game.”
Those were the words of BBC commentator David Coleman as he introduced the British broadcaster’s coverage of a group match between host Chile and Italy at the 1962 World Cup.
During his commentary, he described what he was watching as the “Battle of Santiago.” It is a label that has stuck to describe what is likely the most lawless match in World Cup history.
The backdrop to the game had already added an edge to the match. Two Italy players — Jose Altafini and Humberto Maschio — hailed from South America, while Italian reporters had maligned Chile as a country. Italian football was also in the vice-like defensive grip of “catenaccio,” which literally translates as a door bolt.
It was a toxic brew.
The 66,000 fans at Chile’s national stadium witnessed spitting, two-footed challenges, punches, scuffles and even police intervention.
Italy got much of the blame but Chile wasn’t immune — Maschio’s nose, after all, was broken following a punch from Leonel Sanchez.
Amazingly, Sanchez, the son of a professional boxer, stayed on the field — referee Ken Aston and his assistant missed the punch.
But Italy defender Mario David was looking for revenge after he had been felled by a Sanchez left hook. Soon after, he high-kicked at Sanchez’s throat and was sent off, joining teammate Georgio Ferrini, who had earlier been ejected for lashing out at a Chile player.
Italy, down to nine men, held on until two late goals saw Chile come out a 2-0 winner. Chile eventually came third in the tournament while Italy went home in disgrace.
AP World Cup coverage: www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup