The 1978 World Cup was the first to remain in the hands of Argentina. And even when 42 years have passed, continues to generate controversy for the alleged interference that the dictatorship established in the country for the team of César Menotti to win the trophy.
Now he was the former Dutch footballer René Van der Kerkhof, figure of his selected who was a finalist, who stated that “everyone” said to them “that Argentina should be champion for good or for bad” and that the dictatorship favored obtaining the tournament from the locals.
In an exclusive interview with . at 42 years of the World Cup played in Argentina, Van der Kerkhof, who was also part of La Naranja Mecánica who lost the final to Germany in ’74, also said that they knew about the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo but that “most of the players were not interested in it”.
Skillful and fast forward, René Van der Kerkhof he started his team’s seven games in the World Cup: 3-0 to Iran, 0-0 with Peru and 2-3 with Scotland for Group 4 of the initial phase in Mendoza; 5-1 to Austria, 2-2 with Federal Germany (scored the 2-2 goal at 84m) and 2-1 to Italy for Group A of the second round in Córdoba; and 1-3 of the final against Argentina, in which he assisted Dick Naninga’s goal.
Van Der Kerkhof, who will be 69 in September, lives in the city of Waalre, Eindhoven, where he has a business near the PSV club stadium, where he played for more than a decade and with whom he won the UEFA Cup in 1978.
Tarantini and Neeskens fight for the ball. (Twitter @ tphoto2005)
The complete interview:
Before the 1978 World Cup in his country there was a campaign that questioned the team’s participation in the tournament. At any time did the team hesitate to travel to Argentina?
Van Der Kerkhof: There was a campaign and they told us everything that was happening in Argentina regarding Human Rights. They even told us that there was a concentration camp. But we told them that if we didn’t go, in Argentina they would be happy. We went to play soccer for everyone, whether or not they were in favor of human rights.
He knew, then, before traveling to Buenos Aires that there was a dictatorship.
Yes, we knew that (Jorge Rafael) Videla was a dictator, especially for Human Rights and for all the people they had locked up.
Did you know of the existence of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo? There were many stories and legends in that regard. Did you go to Plaza de Mayo to see them? His teammate Wim Rijsbergen did.
Yes, we heard about the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, but most of the players were not interested in that. I think the only one who visited Plaza de Mayo was Wim Rijsbergen, but I’m not sure.
Did you have any kind of instruction or recommendation from the technical staff of the Dutch embassy in Buenos Aires to be careful?
No, we do not receive instructions from the Dutch embassy. I don’t think we saw them.
There is a myth or legend about why his team did not go to the party after the final. Can you explain the reasons?
Yes. The reason we didn’t go was that there were thousands of people outside our hotel and we were afraid to go out. That is what our organization told us. They told us not to go because of the Argentine fans who were outside.
Did you know that the Monumental stadium, where the final was played, was about 600 meters from one of the concentration camps that Argentina had during the dictatorship, where the Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA) operated?
No, we did not know that the concentration camp was there. They told us later, when we were already back at home.
However Jan Jongbloed, starting goalkeeper for his country’s national team in the 1978 World Cup, in an interview with . in 2011 in Amsterdam revealed that he knew of the existence of a concentration camp where ESMA operated.
I insist: we knew but not everything. Soccer players are not political people.
From a sports point of view, do you think the dictatorship favored the Argentine team to win the Cup?
Yes of course. Everyone told us that Argentina should be the world champion by hook or by crook. The following matches (those of the first phase) should have been played at the same time. You know: the match that Brazil beat Poland 3-1, and Argentina with Peru. Argentina played two hours later and FIFA was afraid to back down on this. Argentina had to beat Peru by at least four goals difference. In the end he won 6-0 and was able to advance to the final.