With the sport earlier dominated by English clubs, the 1980s is seen as the turning point in football history. This period posed to be one of the darkest phases British football ever faced. In 1985, a five-year ban from European leagues was imposed on all English clubs, after the bitter clash between Liverpool and Juventus at the Heysel Stadium, which led to 39 casualties and severe injuries to hundreds.
Nevertheless, other countries grabbed the opportunity to prove their mettle in the game. Germany emerged as the winners of the European League in 1980, and also reached the finals in the World Cups of 1982 and 1986, where they lost to Italy and Argentina respectively. Welsh football was also on the rise, with Swansea City and Cardiff at its spearhead. However, financial shortcomings led to their ruination.
Spain, which hosted the 1982 World Cup, staggered on the national front. Real Madrid was its prime club, winning 6 domestic titles in the decade, with Barcelona, Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao sharing the same feat before Real’s dominion. Meanwhile, the chapter for Italy turned out to be a golden one, with the country emerging as champions in 1982. With van Basten, Maradona and Platini on their side, Italy had one of the strongest teams.
Unfortunately, the decade ended with what is considered the most tragic football events ever – the Hillsborough Stadium disaster of 1989. 96 fans were crushed to death at the FA Cup semi-final in Sheffield. A larger-than-expected crowd filled up the centre pen of the stadium, leading to a mass rampage.
Technically, a forward is simply a player who plays in the front line of the team, and hence includes inside forwards, center forwards and wing forwards, amongst others. However, a striker is one whose sole objective is to net the ball, i.e. score goals. Sometimes, the difference is respected to an extent where the two positions are considered completely exclusive of each other. The terms are, however, still used interchangeably and no accurate distinction can be made, and thus, the list of forwards included in this article includes strikers as well.
While many varying opinions exist on the best forwards in the 80s, these extraordinary players are never disagreed upon.