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Rewriting history…

Rewriting history…

Dermot Corrigan on 6 October 2011

Spain's European Nations Cup winner Jesus ‘Chus’ Pereda passed away last week and his legacy is one that includes rumours of a shady conspiracy...

Last week saw the passing of Jesus ‘Chus’ Pereda at the age of 73. Pereda was one of the goalscorers in Spain’s 1964 European Nations Cup final win over the USSR and an influential coach for decades within the RFEF (Spanish FA). There was lots of sympathy and nostalgia in Spain, with fond remembrances from former colleagues, older journalists and current national coach Vicente del Bosque. The homage was most heart-felt at Barcelona, where Pereda scored 107 goals in 312 games, with Pep Guardiola dedicating his side’s 5-0 Champions League win over BATE Borisov to ‘Chus’.

Pereda had a long career as an inside forward, including a spell at Real Madrid where he won the La Liga and European Cup double in 1957-58 and eight years and two Copa del Generalisimos at the Camp Nou. He then worked for the RFEF coaching under-age national teams, was briefly in charge of the senior side when Vicente Miera was ill in 1992, and latterly worked as an advisor to clubs including Barcelona.

So the extensive coverage was well deserved. More surprising though were recollections of a 40 year conspiracy of silence which followed the Nations Cup final. In the contemporary highlights Pereda scores the opening goal, volleying a bouncing ball past Lev Yashin from near the penalty spot. The Soviets then equalise, but the Spanish winner comes in the 83rd minute, with Marcelino heading in a cross from Amancio Amaro. This black and white footage was shown all around Spain the week after the game in the NODO (news and documentary) state-controlled cinema newsreels, and then for decades on Spanish TV whenever they recalled what was until 2008 the country’s only international trophy win.

Actually though, it was Pereda, not Amancio, who crossed the ball for Marcelino to score. The footage had been put together in a way which, depending on your point of view, was either a technical error or politically motivated. Most people were none the wiser, and those who did know kept their mouths shut even after fascist dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975, in keeping with the ‘pact of forgetting’ agreed when democracy was established in Spain. Spanish TV showed the doctored action right up until 2008, when Canal Plus show Fiebre Maldini found the actual footage in a Dutch TV archive. You can see the two versions here in this Spanish language video, with the dodgy edit pretty clear to modern eyes.

Reading about this made me dig out my well-worn copy of Phil Ball’s book ‘Morbo - the story of Spanish Football’ (new edition released this year). Ball writes that Franco certainly used the Spanish national team (as well as Real Madrid) for political purposes. Spain withdrew from the 1960 European Championships rather than play against his civil war enemies from the USSR. Four years later he had to allow the teams to meet as it was the final and being played in Madrid.

The victory over the commies was then seen as a win not just for Spain’s footballers, but for the Spanish nation, and the Franco regime. According to Ball, the day after the final “the conservative newspaper ABC featured a cartoon of Franco shaking the victors’ hands and telling them ‘You and I have come out winners. We’ve both beaten the reds’.” ABC also ran a comment piece to drum the message home:

“In this quarter of a century there has never been displayed a greater popular enthusiasm for the state born out of victory over communism and its fellow travellers…Spain is a nation every day more orderly, mature and unified, and which is steadfastly marching down the path of economic, social and institutional development. It is a national adventure.”

The key players in the victory jarred with this ‘national’ aspect of the adventure. Pereda was a boyhood Athletic Bilbao fan who left Madrid for Sevilla and then Barcelona, and was now mostly associated with the Catalan team. Marcelino was from Galicia and played for Real Zaragoza. Ramon Besa, writing in El País last week, reckoned it likely that the regime ordered Madrid star Amancio to be included as the official footage of the winning goal needed to feature at least one player from Franco’s favourite club.

Some people in Spain still maintain that the inclusion of Amancio was not so devious. AS columnist Alfredo Relaño, who was at the game, wrote this week  that newsreels were often badly assembled in those days. Relaño added however that Spanish people were regularly fed football-related propaganda, and he’d been taught in school that Yashin, then widely regarded the best keeper in the world, was a “Basque boy who had been taken to Russia during the Spanish civil war, where he had been brainwashed so he would remember nothing.”

Pereda himself seems to have not wanted to get involved in any controversy. He said in a recent interview, which was republished last week on the RFEF site, that the exclusion of his cross from the official film had never bothered him.

“I saw it in the NODO and knew that it had been me who had crossed the ball. I believe they put in Amancio because they were changing the film in the camera and could not record my cross. I got on well with Amancio, we were good friends.”

Which is fair enough. He and his team-mates always knew the truth, and a lot worse happened under Franco. It’s still good to remember though what can happen when football and a certain type of politics mix.


Dermot Corrigan is an Irish freelance writer living in Madrid and writing about football at Sport 360, Fox Soccer, When Saturday Comes and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter here.

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