Chile-1962- A Nation Overcomes a Disaster and Unites all

Three nations formally applied to host the 1962 World Cup – Argentina, Chile and West Germany. It was generally agreed that the tournament couldn’t be held in Europe for the third successive time, so the German application was rejected. Argentina had better cards on their hands, because of their footballing heritage, larger stadiums and a tremendous interest in the game amongst its people.



May 1960 saw Chile rocked by a dreadful and disastrous earthquake which claimed 5000 lives and affected many more. This tragedy, one would have thought, would have made Argentina even stronger candidates, but that was when Carlos Dittborn, president of the Chilean FA pleaded with FIFA with his famous remark: “We have nothing – that is why we must have the World Cup.” FIFA sympathized and declared Chile the hosts of the 1962 World Cup. Chile had to unite and get everything into place, the earthquake almost completely ruined the stadiums and other infrastructure and they only had two years left to host the biggest sporting event in the World after the Olympics.

Rejuvenated by FIFA’s faith in the country, the Chilean people started the process of building new stadiums and repairing the damaged ones with unprecedented urgency. Amazingly, they were able to complete all the work on time and even managed to build the magnificent National stadium in Santiago. Dittborn, the man behind giving the chance to Chile to host the tournament, sadly did not live to see the success of his efforts, as he died one month before the start of the tournament.



02 Jun 1962, Santiago, Chile — Tumultuous scenes during the 1962 World Cup match Chile versus Italy at the National Stadium in Santiago de Chile — Image by © -/dpa/Corbis


While there was a lot to be inspired from the effort of the Chileans towards hosting the event, the same cannot be said of the football on the pitch. The infamous first-round match between host Chile and Italy, known as the Battle of Santiago, was marred by constant violence on the pitch. Although only two players (both of them Italian) were sent off by the English referee Ken Aston, the match saw repeated attempts from players on both sides to harm opponents, and the Italian team needed police protection to leave the field in safety. The violence on the pitch was mainly triggered due to an article published by two Italian journalists who wrote unflattering articles about the host country and its capital city; describing Santiago as a “proudly backward and poverty-stricken dump full of prostitution and crime”. But the violence was not limited to this match alone and incidents of player injury and bad temper was coming from all four centers hosting the tournament, Santiago, Arica, Vin del Mar, and Rancagua. Less than a week after the opening match it was announced that there had already been more than 40 casualties among the 16 teams. The injuries claimed some notable players from many teams including Colombia’s captain, Zuluaga, The Soviet Union full-back Dubinski, and even Pele.



In the first round, Brazil topped their group with Czechoslovakia finishing second, above Mexico and Spain. USSR and Yugoslavia finished above Uruguay and Colombia. Hungary, along with England progressed to the quarter-finals, while Argentina and Bulgaria were eliminated. England had the same number of points as Argentina but progressed due to a superior goal average; the first time such a requirement had been necessary in a World Cup finals tournament. Switzerland lost all three games while West Germany and Chile both went through over Italy.

The ‘Little bird’ Garrincha dribbling past defenders- courtesy-

The absence of Pele saw another hero emerge for Brazil, “the little bird” Garrincha, considered as one of the best wingers of the game, had a memorable tournament. He sparkled as Brazil defeated England 3-1 in the quarter-final scoring two goals. He was again instrumental as Brazil beat the hosts Chile 4-2 in the Semi-final, scoring a goal and setting up one, before eventually being sent off.



Santiago’s Estadio Nacional served as the venue for the final between Brazil and Czechoslovakia. After 15 minutes, Brazil again found themselves a goal behind in the World Cup final, as a long ball from Adolf Scherer was latched onto by Josef Masopust: 1–0 Czechoslovakia. As in the previous final in 1958, Brazil soon hit back, equalising two minutes later through Amarildo (a replacement for injured Pele) after an error by Czechoslovak goalkeeper Schroijf. The Brazilians scored goals from Zito and Vavá midway through the second half, and the Czechoslovaks could not get back into the game. The match ended 3–1 to Brazil, as they successfully defended the title for only the second time in the history of the competition.

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