Algeria Looks for Revenge, 32 Years Later

At the 1982 World Cup, West Germany and Austria colluded to eliminate the upstart North Africans—or did they?

Algeria has been waiting 32 years for Monday’s match against Germany, which is one year more than the age of the oldest member of its national team. But even if most of them weren’t around for the “Game of Shame,” it has been ingrained in the collective consciousness of Algerians, who do not tend to easily forget injustices.

On June 25, 1982, Austria met West Germany in Gijon, Spain, in their final first round match. Algeria had already shocked the world by beating West Germany, the defending European Champions, in the first match 2–1. The North Africans then beat Chile 3–2, but lost to Austria 1–0. So the only result that would eliminate them, and allow the Teutonic neighbors to advance, would have been a 1–0 Germany victory. A Horst Hrubesch header in the 10th minute put the Germans up, and eventually the match turned into a kickabout. It ended 1–0 to West Germany. Algeria were out. Its supporters had no doubts: To them, it seemed like a clear case of collusion. And viewing clips of the match, you can hear Spanish fans in the stadium chanting “Que se besan” (they are kissing each other).

But the matter was complicated by the fact that the Austrians and Germans were not exactly on friendly terms, dating back to the Anschluss, when Germany annexed its neighbor in 1938. The players did go at one another: Scottish referee Bob Valentine handed out two cautions, both to Austria, and Wolfgang Dremmler could’ve gotten a third when he slid in with a two-footed challenge on Herbert Prohaska that went unpunished. If there was a pact between the teams, it doesn’t appear that it was decided before the game.

As the match progressed, though, it became clear that Austria and West Germany were, if not conspiring, than content to maintain the status quo. By the final minutes, it was clear the teams were finished playing. There are photos of Algerian fans waving money at the teams and a dramatic scene of German goalkeeper Toni Schumacher being whistled off the field at the end. Schumacher, who later in the tournament became a out-and-out villain for knocking France’s Patrick Battiston unconscious in the semifinal (and not getting a red card or even a yellow), apologized during a charity match in Algeria in 2007 and Hans-Peter Briegel also apologized, according to sources. Uli Stielike said in an interview Germany stopped going forward because they were worried about getting caught on a counterattack.

Algeria protested the result and the president of its FA, Hadg Sekkal, called it “a sinister plot,” according to a Guardian report. Austria coach Georg Schmidt called it “a shameful showing,” but German coach Jupp Derwall said Algeria’s accusation was a “grave, serious insult.”

Algerians believe the issue was never adequately resolved. But they did get a form of revenge through Rabah Madjer, who had scored in the win against West Germany nine days before “the fix.” Madjer, playing for FC Porto in the 1987 European Cup final, scored the tying goal with a back-heel in a 2–1 victory over Bayern Munich. Thirty-two years later, Algeria’s successors get another chance to settle the issue.