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The Most Controversial Match In World Cup History

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dpa/Corbis

When Algeria lines up for their crucial World Cup Round of 16 match against Germany, it will be the first time the African nation has ever participated outside the tournament's group stage. They had a chance in 1982, but a dubious result between two other nations denied them the opportunity. That match was so controversial, fans burnt flags and money, television commentators begged viewers to change the channel, and FIFA eventually changed the World Cup's format to prevent anything like it from ever happening again.

One of the teams in that controversial match was West Germany, which makes Algeria's upcoming showdown all the more dramatic. Let's go back to the 1982 World Cup to find out what exactly happened on the pitch in Gijón between West Germany and Austria. Take us to Spain, Naranjito!

In 1982, West Germany were the most dominant force in world soccer. After winning UEFA Euro 1980, they cruised through qualification and easily earned a spot at the World Cup in Spain. Their first match was against Algeria, a team that West Germany could have beaten while chomping on cigars. Those aren't my words — a member of the West German team actually said they would be able to trounce Algeria while enjoying cigars. Another German reportedly boasted, "We will dedicate our seventh goal to our wives, and the eighth to our dogs."

When they actually played the match, however, there would be no dedications to Fräuleins or German Shepherds. Algeria beat West Germany 2-1, turning the entire tournament on its head. No African nation had ever even won a World Cup match until four years prior (when Tunisia topped Mexico 3-1), and now Algeria had put a global superpower on their keisters.

As group play continued, West Germany rebounded and thrashed Chile 4-1, while Algeria stumbled against Austria and lost 0-2. Then, on June 24th, Algeria squeaked out a 3-2 victory over Chile and earned a spot behind Austria at the top of the group with four points (back then, a win was only worth two points). West Germany still had their last group match to play against Austria, scheduled for June 25th. The Algerians had 24 hours to wait and hope for either a draw or an Austrian victory (a West German win by three goals or more would have also sufficed, as it would have knocked Austria below Algeria via goal difference).

The Algerians had reason to hope, too. Austria shocked West Germany 3-2 in the round of 16 of the previous World Cup (a.k.a. "The Miracle of Cordoba"), and before the 1982 match, Georg Schmidt, Austria's manager, said, "My players always find a special motivation against Germany." A valiant effort from the Austrians looked to be in the cards before kick-off, and not the result that would send both European teams through: a narrow West German win.

But then the match started at El Molinón stadium in Gijón. Horst Hrubesch (the pride of Hamm, Germany) scored in the 11th minute. And then...well, not much else happened. It soon became evident that the 1-0 scoreline was on remarkably sturdy ground. Some half-chances fell to the teams here and there, but they looked content to pass the ball around and conserve energy. According to the Guardian, at half-time, "one of the German players makes a beeline for an Austrian...puts an arm round his shoulder and engages him in discourse." Rumors abound that the two teams had decided at half-time that 1-0 was how it would end.

Now, here comes a big fat hedge: There is no concrete proof that the two teams conspired to achieve this result. It's not like they formed a circle around the ball and sang "Im Mӓrzen der Bauer" as the clock neared 90'. It's entirely possible that the world just witnessed an especially drab match, and not a monumental loogie to the face of sportsmanship. It's even more likely that both teams knew this result was mutually beneficial, and they decided to conserve energy and subconsciously suppressed their killer instinct (not easy, given the participants).

BUT...a hedge is different than a pardon. The Guardian compiled some stats to see just how lackadaisical the play was:

Opta have a detailed archive of every World Cup game since 1966, and there are some belting statistics for [the second half]. There were only three shots, none on target. West Germany made only eight tackles, around one every six minutes. Both sides had an overall pass-completion ratio in excess of 90%, a level usually reserved for people like Xavi and Paul Scholes – and, more tellingly, Jamie Carragher, the king of the no-risk pass. Austria had a 99% success rate with passes in their own half; West Germany's was 98%.

You can also check out these "highlights" and decide for yourself. (Man of the Match has to go to the video editor responsible for culling anything approaching competitive play from the available footage):

If you don't think something fishy was going on, spectators and commentators at the match certainly did. A huge section of Algerian fans in the stadium waved money and lit it on fire as soon as they suspected foul play. A German supporter in attendance reportedly burnt his country's flag and Robert Seeger, the man doing play-by-play for Austrian TV, asked viewers at home to change the channel. Afterwards, "a group of West German fans went to the team hotel to forcibly articulate their interpretation of the game...the players bombarded them with water bombs from the balcony."

The match is still known as "The Disgrace of Gijón" or, to those who have no qualms about equating sports with war, the "Anschluss."

The Algerians demanded that FIFA investigate the result, but the federation's three-and-a-half hour meeting about the subject returned no proof of tampering or illegality. Instead, they changed the rules to make it so the last match of each World Cup group stage happen simultaneously in the hopes of preventing any sort of collusion ahead of time. Obviously, this is little consolation to the Algerians, who in 1982 had to watch West Germany make it to the World Cup Final from the discomfort of their homes.

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History
Beyond Board Shorts: The Rich History of Hawaii's Surf Culture
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From Australia to the Arctic Circle, adrenaline junkies around the world love catching waves—but the very first people to develop surf culture were Hawaiians. Their version of the pastime shares both similarities and differences with the one that’s commonly practiced today, according to TED-Ed’s video below.

Surfing wasn’t just a sport in Hawaii—there were social and religious elements to it, too. Hawaiians made offerings to the gods while choosing trees for boards and prayed for waves. And like a high school cafeteria, the ocean was divided by social status, with certain surf breaks reserved solely for elite Hawaiians.

The surfboards themselves used by early Hawaiians largely resembled the ones we use today, although they were fin-less and required manual turns. Learn more about surfing’s roots and evolution (and how surf culture was nearly destroyed by foreign colonizers) by watching the video below.

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Big Questions
Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?
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Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Because it's tradition! But how did this tradition begin?

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team started in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings.

HOW 'BOUT THEM COWBOYS?


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The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.

WHAT'S WITH THE NIGHT GAME?


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In 2006, because 6-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Washington Redskins will welcome the New York Giants.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.

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