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The untold scandal: When Chile plotted to eliminate Brazil from the World Cup

FEATURED COLUMNIST
Feature
7.00K   //    18 Jun 2014, 21:44 IST
Roberto Rojas: The villain who was behind the plot

In some time, Chile will grace the field against Spain in the famous Maracana stadium and they will have flashbacks of one of the most famous and untold scandals in the history of football of which unfortunately they were a part.

25 years later Chile makes a comeback to the same place and venue where one moment of wrongful deed robbed Chile of participating in two back to back World Cups.

The story dates back to 1989 when Brazil was facing Chile in a crucial qualifier where a victory for either team would have taken them through.

Brazil were looking good and was already up 1-0 when one of the most disgraceful moments in the history of football took place. 

Chile goalkeeper Roberto Rojas was lying on the ground bleeding and assumed to be hit by a flair thrown by somebody from the ground which was still fizzling and emitting clouds of smoke into the sky.

As the legendary Brazilians, Bebeto, Dunga and Careca looked on, the Chilean players sprinted towards Rojas as he was attended to by the medics. Since the flair was thrown allegedly by a Brazilian fan, the Samba boys stood the risk of not being part of the most coveted events for the first time.

Rojas whose head was bleeding and T-shirt soaked in crimson, was carried of the field and the authorities were forced to call off the game. Controversy marred the game and with a player injured, it looked for sure that Brazil would be debarred of taking part in the tournament.

"I was terrorized," Ricardo Gomes, Brazil captain on the day, told CNN. "I thought immediately of losing the chance to go to the World Cup. It was something really bad."

But as technology was not yet very advanced, nobody would have thought that a pitch side photographer would ultimately unravel one of the most horrendous scandals of all time.

Paulo Teixeira, now a football agent, would never have had thought that he would become an important part in saving Brazil from getting eliminated."Amazing as it may sound, no TV camera caught the moment the flare flew over and supposedly hit the goalkeeper," he told CNN.

"We photographers were sitting along the side line and saw the flare come over. I was amazed to see Rojas rolling over and bleeding from an eye, as the device had hit the ground about a meter from him" recalled Teixeira.

The truth later shocked the whole football fraternity.

Rojas, who was at that time playing for Sau Polo had used a razer hidden in his glove to cut himself while lying on the ground and with the flair hitting the ground, the timing was perfect for Rojas to enact one of the most important scenes of the scandal. It was one of the most Machiavellian ways of eliminating the men in yellow but proving it to be an act looked hopeless until and unless some solid proof had been found.

"Now of course -- with all the cameras on mobile phones around -- it would have been impossible," said Gomes.

"I missed the shot and so did most of the photographers," recalled Teixeira. "But there was one guy by me --Ricardo Alfieri, a good friend -- and I asked him: 'Ricardo, did you capture the flare?' He said: 'Of course, about 4-5 shots.'"

Teixeira immediately realized that those shots could only save the Brazilians from getting eliminated but then the road to unveiling the truth was beset with obstacles.

"Ricardo had a problem. He was on assignment for a Japanese magazine and had to send the films to Tokyo -- unprocessed -- the next morning, and the Japanese would only trust their laboratory," recalled Teixiera of his fellow photographer, who now works for the South American governing body Conmebol.

"I said to Ricardo: 'Listen, you are the only one to have the evidence that Rojas is lying and cheating. I won't let you out of my country with those films unprocessed.'"

But the troubles for Brazil didn't seem to end there as a Chilean pundit claimed to have seen the flare hit Rojas. Teixera found out the radio reporter and informed him that he had the shots to prove the pundit wrong.

Soon the Brazilian football president Ricardo Teixeira got into the act and demanded the photos "'Who has the films?' he asked. I have them, I answered. I was the biggest asset on earth at that point and Teixeira was always asking if I was sure about the shots. But I knew I could rely on Alfieri's word, because he was the best" said the agent.

"It took four hours to warm up and prepare the laboratory. The lab lady was furious -- having been dragged out of her Sunday to work at night," Teixeira said.

The pictures on the other side created another trouble as agencies fought for it. In the end famous Globo network brought the rights to access to the pictures. Globo on Monday evening played the scoop and it was ultimately proved that Rojas had playacted. 

FIFA wasted no time in awarding the victory to Brazil 2-0 by default and hence they qualified for the World Cup. But on the other hand Chile had to face the most disgraceful way of missing out on the World Cup. Rojas was banned for life with the coach and the medic also receiving similar punishments.

Chile not only missed out on participating in the 1990 World Cup but also was debarred from taking part in the 1994 World Cup. The scandal of 1989 is a long forgotten story. Rojas was ultimately forgiven by Brazil. Rojas continued to coach after the ban was lifted in 2001.

Chile currently have started their 2014 tourney on a positive note by winning their opener while their opponent Spain are coming back after a shameful drubbing at the hands of the Dutch team. The match is expected to be a cracker of a match only minus the fireworks the Maracanas witnessed 25 years ago.


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