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Of all the buzzwords in football, 'revenge' fits best

THERE is no talk of letting bygones be bygones with Bernard Genghini, no sense of releasing the vice-like grip on one damaging element of his past.

Patrick Battison, flanked by Michel Platini, is carried off in the 1982 semi-final with West Germany. Picture: Getty
Patrick Battison, flanked by Michel Platini, is carried off in the 1982 semi-final with West Germany. Picture: Getty

Time, it is safe to say, has been no healer for the 56-year-old. The anger from one night in Seville 32 years ago still burns strong and deep within him. Prod him ever so slightly and the wounds show readily on the outside too.

Genghini was part of the supremely-talented French team that lost out to West Germany in the semi-finals of the 1982 World Cup on penalty kicks. The Brazil side which graced that competition are often discussed as the best collection of players never to have won the famous trophy, but you can make a strong case for the squad carefully assembled by Michel Hidalgo.

Genghini performed in a midfield populated by no less than Michel Platini, Alain Giresse and Jean Tigana. With the score balanced at 1-1 early in the second half against the West Germans in the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan, a calf injury picked up earlier in the game forced Genghini to make way for a certain Patrick Battiston and begin a chain of events that turned an already pulsating match into one of the most memorable in history - for reasons both good and bad.

Just seven minutes after his grand introduction, Battiston was sent clean through by an exquisite pass from Platini. The German goalkeeper, Harald Schumacher, raced from his line and, undeterred by Battiston reaching the ball well ahead of him, jumped from the turf and knocked his opponent out cold.

Battiston lost two teeth and suffered three broken ribs as well as a cracked vertebra. Inexplicably, the Dutch referee Charles Corver - with Bob Valentine of Scotland as one of his assistants - failed to award as much as a free-kick against Schumacher, who, when informed of Battiston's welfare after the final whistle, crassly offered to pay for his dental work.

At the time, only two substitutes were allowed in international games. With Christian Lopez brought on in place of Battiston, the French had played their hand before the hour-mark. Despite going 3-1 up in extra-time, they ran out of steam and ended up being knocked out on penalties, with Schumacher saving the penultimate spot-kick from Maxime Bossis.

The political leaders of both countries, Helmut Schmidt and Francois Mitterrand, released a joint statement to ease tensions in the days following the game and Schumacher, voted the most unpopular person in France ahead of Adolf Hitler, was eventually coerced into issuing an apology.

Of course, football is now littered with phrases and buzzwords, promoted rigorously by the authorities, such as 'Respect', 'Fair Play' and this World Cup's dreadful 'All In One Rhythm' catchphrase.

They mean nothing to Genghini as he looks forward to this evening's high-octane quarter-final between his nation and the Germans in the cauldron of the Maracana. There is only one thing important to him as kick-off looms.

"Yes, there is a desire for revenge," stated Genghini, who was also part of the France squad knocked out at the same stage by the Germans and Schumacher in Mexico in 1986. "How could it be otherwise? I know that some of my former team-mates, such as Battiston, do not see it as an opportunity for revenge, but, in my head and in my life, that defeat will remain a source of frustration.

"That night, my team-mates and I lost the chance to contest a World Cup final, the ultimate dream of every footballer. The German national team deprived us of happiness twice, in 1982 and 1986, but it was worse in 1982 because we did not deserve to lose.

"So many incredible things happened throughout the game. There was, obviously, Harald Schumacher's attack on poor Patrick Battiston. Head trauma and two broken teeth was still not sufficient to encourage the referee to whistle for a foul. It was the great scandal of this game, but there were others.

"The German captain, Manfred Kaltz, had managed to catch my calf in the first half. Abandoning my friends was terrible, but I could no longer stand. I have often asked myself what would have happened if I could have kept my place in the team until the end."

Anyone who watched that game could not fail to have been stirred by its sheer magnificence. It contained everything: brilliance, violence, beauty, horror, injustice and an unexpectedly dramatic ending in which the bad guys prevailed.

"It is what made this game unforgettable," said Genghini in an emotional interview published in France earlier this week. "Over the course of it all I was depressed, happy, hopeful, sad and then I was angry to finish. It's the anger that has taken over everything else."

His erstwhile coach, Hidalgo, now 81, recalls the events of that momentous evening with clarity too. "Disappointment is one thing, but what struck me was the anger of the players over the lack of sanctions vis-a-vis the German players," he recalled. "Before the game, I had men, guys ready to go into combat. After the game, I had children. They wept like children and there was no way to raise their morale."

The incident with Battiston is an image burned into Hidalgo's conscious. Even now he cannot believe Corver was permitted to get away with allowing Schumacher to remain on the park. "It was a violent shock which destabilised the game. We were losing a player and they were not being punished," he added.

Battiston, to his credit, insisted earlier this week that he has forgiven Schumacher. Others haven't. Like it or not, this is going to be one tasty old dust-up.

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