Tuesday 17 August 2010

Them communists was quite handy with the ball, you know.

Dukla Prague away-kit
Interesting little snippet  from this weekend's Observer newspaper, reviewing a new biography of former Spurs manager Bill Nicholson, who took the club to the league and cup double in 1960/61 and then to the semi-finals of the European Cup. Back in the day .... when it was a proper cup ... played by the proper champions of each league.

Rob Bagchi writes how the author of the biography Brian Scovell paints a vivid picture of European football behind the iron curtain:
"the tales of trips behind the Iron Curtain to play Poland's Gornik Zabrze and Czechoslovakia's Dukla Prague have a distinctly Len Deighton-ish air with their misty train platforms, journalists taken into custody and bug-ridden beds"
'Len Deighton-ish'. Pretty self-explanatory adjective, which fits nicely into the lexicon of 20th century shared cultural references. Demonstrates the extent to which Funeral in Berlin and The Ipcress File have become literary and historic short-hand for conjuring up popular images of the Cold War.

The book sounds very interesting. Back in the sixties and seventies Eastern Europe was another world for most people. The footballers, like the Eastern bloc military and spy networks, were regarded as ruthlessly efficient, lacking in art but dedicated to the inevitable (!) victory of international socialism on the playing field as well as the battle field. 

As anyone who's read the book Behind the Iron Curtain by Jonathan Wilson will know, the links between the Communist parties and the secret police in most Eastern European countries were frequent, pernicious and sometimes pretty transparent, as was the case with Dynamo Berlin, which was the Stasi's pet club. 

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