"September the eleventh In nineteen seventy-three Scores of people perished In a vile machine-gun spree Santiago stadium Became a place to kill But a Scottish football team Will grace it with their skill And there’s blood upon the grass And there’s blood upon the grass
"Will you go there, Alan Rough Will you play there, Tom Forsyth Where so many folk met early The Grim Reaper with his scythe These people weren’t terrorists They weren’t Party hacks But some were maybe goalkeepers And some were centre backs And there’s blood upon the grass And there’s blood upon the grass" - Adam McNaughtan
There were those who thought that the right to host that year's tournament would come down to a toss of the coin between the United States and Australia.
The Australians would possibly be favourites to get it. Fifa had spoken of 'taking the World Cup around the globe' and the continent of Oceania had not yet been selected to stage the greatest event in football.
Save for the token North American staging post that was Mexico (1970 and 1986), Europe and South America were the traditional homes to the tournament as in the past, they would take turns every four years to stage it.
Then came a radical step to take it elsewhere. The USA were the first beneficiaries as they became the first nation who didn't have football (the Latin/Anglo-saxon version of it anyway) as their main sport to host it.
So, that just left Down Under didn't it?
Yes it did.... and it still does.
Because out of the blue, Asia got its second World Cup - Qatar.
It didn't take long for the allegations of corruption to come out. Logistically it didn't seem practical. A total of 32 squads and their hordes of travelling fans all setting up camp in a tiny landmass. It made a mockery of Fifa telling medium-sized European nations in the past that they were 'too small'.
Not to mention a Middle East summer can be excruciatingly hot with temperatures hitting 50 degrees celsius and beyond.
Questions were raised about the safety of gay football fans given Qatar's backward and homophobic 'anti-sodomy' laws only for Fifa to untactfully suggest that they be 'celibate' when in the country.
Given how rich the Middle East is in terms of oil, the cynical reader may not be too far from the mark by thinking that a World Cup in Qatar could be a nice little money spinner for Fifa.
Staging it in the USA or Australia might have made them a tidy packet anyway but as Qatar has a tax free culture... make of that what you will.
Scotland's football association were quick to jump on this bandwagon by announcing a partnership with their Qatari counterparts.
You would think that an arrangement with an FA based in a Third World country would be more philanthropic?
No, let's cosy up to a tax-free oil rich state whose footballing tradition (and I use this term loosely) consists of paying obscene amounts of non-taxable cash to European and South American footballers who are in the twilight of their careers and looking for one last big payday before retirement.
Even if all of the above wasn't an issue, there is still something that leaves a foul taste about the World Cup going to Qatar.
Their government's (read dictatorship) record on this is woeful. Even before the 2022 bid was won by Qatar, they should never have been allowed to enter the process because of this allow.
The World Cup has merely sought to bring their dismal human rights record more into the open.
Stadiums in the tiny state need to be built and fast and the Qatari regime doesn't seem particularly perturbed on how the job gets done.
Migrant labour from Pakistan, Nepal, India and Bangladesh are used. These workers come to Qatar hoping to make good money to send back to their families.
Instead contracts that have been signed are ripped up, passports confiscated (so that they can't escape back home), conditions (both living and working) are poor (more so given the unbearable heat in which they have to carry out their manual labour) and these workers have been known to die on the site.
Quite a lot of them have been dying on the site - and nothing appears to be done to help them stay alive.
No desire to have a contented workforce that is paid fairly, treated humanely and given decent conditions to live and work in is apparent.
Arab racism towards migrant workers from south central Asia seems to override all of the basic things that many in the West take for granted.
The attitude is, 'what is the life of some migrant peasants as long as we can put on a big show for the gluttonous body that is Fifa?'
A shocking state of affairs.
Yet there is no inclination from the European and South American nations for a boycott. They appear happy to go along with this.
Scotland, for example, has not cancelled its footballing partnership with Qatar.
In fact, we're even entertaining them in a match at Easter Road in a few days time.
Cancel the game? Nope. Not even given what we know about Qatar? Nope. Don't you even have anything to say about it? To paraphrase Scotland manager Gordon Strachan when he was asked about this, 'nope'.
What a cop-out.
However, asking anybody associated with the SFA to act with an ethical conscience would be akin to asking the Pope to let his staff join a dating site.
Scotland has form when it comes to colluding with nations run by nasty pieces of work.
Back in 1977, the Scotland team were preparing to go on a tour of South America.
They would visit Chile, Argentina and Brazil - all three at the time were under the yolk of brutal right-wing dictatorships.
It would be the game against Chile that would cause the most controversy.
The fixture would be played at the National Stadium in the Chilean capital Santiago.
Four years earlier, that arena hosted something other than a football match.
Having toppled the democratically-elected President Salvador Allende in 1973 via an illegal military coup, the new dictator of Chile, General Augusto Pinochet used his forces to round-up all dissenters (basically anyone who didn't agree with him or his fascist thugs).
Many were herded into the National Stadium, which has since gone down in history on a par with Dachau, Mauthausen, Belsen and a host of Soviet Gulags.
The stadium had been turned into a concentration camp where many Chilean citizens were tortured and killed.
And in 1977, Scotland were going to play a football match there.
This was not without controversy.
The cause of Chile's deposed democracy had strong support within Scottish society. A significant number of Chilean refugees fleeing Pinochet's tyranny arrived in Scotland with many speaking then and now of the warm welcome they received from the compassionate Scots.
Workers at the Rolls-Royce factory in East Kilbride showed their solidarity with Chilean democracy by deliberately sabotaging engines once they had learned they were to power Chilean warplanes which had been used to hunt down and kill activists in Chile. Their deeds will be celebrated in the documentary film, "Nae Pasaran" which is due for release later this year.
However, the SFA under Ernie Walker refused to see what all the 'fuss' was about and were determined to proceed with the plan to let their footballers play a game where innocent people were brutally tortured and murdered. Indeed, the team would be seeing bullet-hole marks around the stadium where the firing squads had executed those who wanted the right to vote for a political party of their own choice.
The matter was even debated in Parliament. Two debates took place in the House of Commons.
The first place during Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs questions on May 4th, 1977. The following extract is from Hansard:
Chile v. Scotland Football Match
HC Deb 04 May 1977 vol 931 cc445-744510. Dennis Canavan (Labour) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Ted Rowlands (Labour) what representations he has received about the official facilities proposed for the Chile versus Scotland football international at Santiago; and if he will make a statement.
Mr Rowlands: No official facilities from the Government are proposed for this match, with which they are not in any way concerned.
Mr Canavan: As the Scottish Football Association is using the threat of disciplinary action to force footballers to play in a stadium which has formerly been used as a concentration camp and which is stained with the blood of countless innocent victims, will my hon. Friend demand that this match be stopped? If the SFA refuse to stop it, will he tell Willie Allan, the reactionary autocrat who runs the SFA, that there will be absolutely no Government hospitality or official facilities at all during the whole of the SFA tour of South America?
Mr Rowlands: As I told my hon. Friend, no official facilities from the Government are proposed for this match. When the Scottish Football Association wrote to me asking for a political assessment, I gave it, as my hon. Friend will know, in very clear terms.
Mr Donald Stewart (SNP): Is the Minister aware that there is deep offence in Scotland at the crass insensibility of the Scottish Football Association in approving this fixture, since it will be taken as tacit approval of a vicious and despotic regime? Will he make his objections more strongly to the SFA?
Mr Rowlands: If the right hon. Gentleman reads the letter that I wrote to the Scottish Football Association giving the political assessment, he can come to no other conclusion about where the Government stand on the issue.
Mr Reginald Maudling (Conservative): On what grounds of foreign policy or respect for human rights is it bad to play football with Chileans but good to play football with Russians?
Mr Rowlands: I was asked by the Scottish Football Association to give an assessment of the position in Chile, and that is what I gave. It is a perfectly accurate description.
Mr Malcolm Rifkind (Conservative): Does the Minister agree that if only countries with democratic Governments were allowed to take part in international football competitions such as the World Cup, Scotland might have more prospect of reaching the finals than she seems to have had in recent years?
Mr Rowlands: The Welsh managed to beat Czechoslovakia very convincingly recently, but I do not know what conclusions one should draw from that. I cannot forecast the success of the Scottish football team in any circumstances.
Mr Nicholas Fairburn (Conservative): Does the Minister appreciate that, whatever his hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) may say, those on the terraces who watch football and vote Socialist do not share the humbug that he utters?
Mr Rowlands: The hon. and learned Gentleman ought to realise what deep feeling there is about this visit to Chile, particularly because the game is to be played at the stadium that was the scene of considerable hardship and torture to citizens.
It doesn't escape the eye that those of the British right adopted a flippant attitude towards the sinister aspect of this game taking place, while the left-leaning government of the day was hesitant in telling the SFA outright that they 'were not going'.
On May 25th, 1977, this matter was again debated in the House of Common at Scottish questions. Once again, the following is an extract from Hansard.
Football Match (Chile)
HC Deb 25 May 1977 vol 932 cc1382-413829. Mr Sidney Bidwell (Labour) asked the Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr Frank McElhone (Labour) how many protests from organisations he has received in a recent period concerning the forthcoming football match in Chile, in which a representative Scottish team may participate at Santiago Stadium.
Mr McElhone: Since December 1976, when the Scottish Football Association announced the details of the South American tour, my right hon. Friend has received representations from 29 organisations expressing concern about the proposed match in the Santiago Stadium.
Mr Bidwell: May I assure my hon. Friend that my English and non-English constituents, of whom there are many, have nothing but the most warm-hearted appreciation of the historic record of the Scottish people in their dedication to the principles of democracy, human freedom and liberty? Is my hon. Friend aware that there is much dismay that the Scottish Football Association has not announced that it is to call off plans to stage a football match in this blood soaked Santiago Stadium? Will my hon. Friend press the Football Association to call off the match? Is he aware that some trade unionists, including many in the trade union that I represent, are planning to do their level best to ensure that the match does not take place and that the football team does not travel?
Mr McElhone: I am grateful for those kind comments about the Scottish people by my English colleague. But I must tell him that the Government cannot interfere in sporting affairs. I have expressed my deep concern to the SFA about the proposed match. I hope that even at this eleventh hour it will reconsider its proposal to play at the stadium.
Mr Teddy Taylor (Conservative): Is the Minister aware that there is considerable support in Scotland for the SFA from people who do not necessarily support the Government of Chile but who are sickened by the hypocrisy of the Labour Party and Left-wing Members who never seem to complain when Scottish teams and others play Communist dictatorships, such as Hungary and Czechoslovakia, which in some cases are soaked in blood? Will the Minister dissociate himself from that hypocritical attitude which adopts double standards?
Mr McElhone: Not for the first time, the hon. Member talks about hypocrisy and double standards. But he knows that from time to time I have called him the ace of double standards. My constituency is next to his. When one hears him speaking of the Pakistani population in Glasgow and one knows his attitude towards race, Rhodesia and other questions, one can understand what hypocrisy means.
I have made my answer clear. I sit on a working party with the SFA. I have made it known, although I have deep respect for the officials of the SFA, that I deeply regret their misjudgment in deciding to accept an invitation to play in this stadium, where there have been some terrible incidents. I hope that there will be a change of attitude and that the match will not go ahead.
Dr. Maurice Miller (Labour): I appreciate that my hon. Friend cannot tell the Scottish Football Association what it must do. However, could he ask the association at least to take into account the feelings of the Scottish footballers? Does he agree that if they were given the facts, they might have some say in what is to happen about the proposed tour?
Mr McElhone: I must be frank and honest with my hon. Friend. I have to tell him that a poll organised by the Scottish Professional Footballers' Association resulted in 70 per cent. of the membership saying "Yes" to the game in Chile. I must be fair and honest about that. However, I agree with my hon. Friend that perhaps the players did not get all the facts of the situation. I am still hoping—and I repeat this—that the SFA will reconsider the decision to play in the Santiago Stadium.
Mr Thomas Galbraith (Conservative): Would it not be better if politicians stuck to politics and allowed sportsmen to get on with the game?
Mr McElhone: Sometimes when I see the hon. Member's antics I do not know whether he is a sportsman or a politician. I do not intend to change my attitude. I do not wish to repeat what I have said.
Mr Norman Buchan (Labour): I thank my hon. Friend for the strong statement of disapproval that he has made today and previously. I also thank the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Is it not the case that the SFA asked for a judgment from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office before going ahead and that that judgment was given against the match? Is it not shameful that the SFA should ignore the wishes of the Government and the people?
May I remind the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Teddy Taylor) that when so-called Left-wingers protest against oppression, bloodshed and tyranny they do so irrespective of the régime concerned and whether it is in the East or the West? There is blood on the ground of the stadium upon which the hon. Member is asking our young Scottish football players to perform.
Mr McElhone: My hon. Friend has played a notable part in the campaign. He is correct about the Foreign Office and its advice. I can only repeat that I hope that the SFA will still change its mind, even at this eleventh hour.
Mr George Younger (Conservative): Does the Minister ever express disapproval of Scottish football teams playing behind the Iron Curtain, where there is a universal denial of human rights?
Mr McElhone: I think that the hon. Member does not follow football as much as some of us do. He may well remember the courageous stand by the Glasgow Celtic Football Club, a stand which most of us on the Government side of the House supported. I say for the benefit of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) that I have taken a stand against Russia concerning the Jews and I have expressed my disapproval in writing and in speeches. It is not a one-sided stand as far as I am concerned.
As you can see, the pattern of debate mirrored the first one. In any event, James Callaghan's Labour government stood by and allowed the SFA to take the Scotland team to South America - and Chile in particular.
How did the team get on?
Look it up yourself. It would be somewhat inappropriate to tell you who won in a place where many paid the ultimate price for being on 'the wrong side'.
Fast forward to 2015 and Scotland are set to play against another nation with a brutal human rights record.
The SFA, as usual, see nothing wrong with this but fans can make their opposition clear.
Boycott the game. Lobby the players, lobby the manager, lobby those within the SFA's corridors at Hampden, lobby your MSP, lobby your MP.
Do not stop at this match. Lobby Fifa to award the tournament to another nation. Lobby the World Cup sponsors like McDonald's and Coca-cola to withdraw their financial backing from the Qatar World Cup event until that nation cleans up its appalling human rights record.
It is your choice of course but before deciding, ask yourself this...
What if such abuses were happening in Scotland?
You would want someone, somewhere else to be in your corner so that you could enjoy the same rights as them.
This match, and the 2022 World Cup itself, is a shameful episode for football.
If the title of this blog entry reminds you of something, it should do.
It was taken from the below documentary on how democracy activists in Holland voiced their objections to the Dutch team playing in the 1978 World Cup hosted by Argentina who, like Chile, were under a brutal army dictatorship run by General Jorge Videla.
The Dutch protesters didn't succeed but their message is still heard today and continues to shame those who ignored it.
People in Scotland with a sense of decency can do the same.