1. The logo
A photograph of President Juan Domingo Perón from behind was the inspiration. That is the legend around the 78 World emblem. Why put Perón in a World Cup organized by the civic-military dictatorship? Why a photo of the former president?
Perón assumed his first presidency in 1945 and his first two terms, until the military coup of 1955, transformed his doctrine of social justice into a powerful popular movement. The connection between Perón and the working people that filled the Plaza de Mayo to hear him speak from the balcony of the Casa Rosada was sealed in countless opportunities with the image of the president waving to the crowd, with arms raised high around his head. Even that May 1, 1974, when he threw the Peronist organization Montoneros out of the Plaza, the begining of the extermination plan that would begin a year later. The World Cup was organized during the civil-military dictatorship, but it was decided Argentina to be host at the 1964 FIFA summit. Ten years later, in 1974, Perón had created the World Cup Commission, but, according to the reporter Ricardo Gotta in We Were Champions, Argentina developed an emblem yet, which had to be officially presented that year in the World Cup in Germany.
They say that it was the Minister of Social Welfare, José López Rega, who was responsible for the 78 World Cup Commission, who gave his approval to the idea of one of his advisers.
The image of Perón from behind waving his arms to the crowd would be translated: two Argentine banners of parallel bands, one on each side, wrap a ball of black and white segments. The ball was the neck of the “General”. The flags, his arms. In 1972, with the military regime installed by Juan Carlos Onganía still in power, an open contest had been held and its winners were published by Gente magazine, but the return of Perón changed that decision and the logo presented to FIFA by López Rega couldn´t be removed.
The logo would be officially presented at the 74th World Cup Closing Ceremony, after the final that the host country would win. Six days before, Perón had died. “Auf wiedersehen, au revoir, good bye, goodbye”, was read on the electronic screen of the Olympic stadium in Munich, which reproduced the logo with Perón's arms held high. “Argentina 78”, it said.
While in Argentina reigned silence or, on June 6, 1978 was first published Humor Registrado magazine, founded by Andrés Cascioli. The publication used graphic humor as a tool of critical journalism to deal with the censorship of the regime. The cover illustration of that inaugural issue had “Menotti de Hoz”, a merger of the national team coach César Luis Menotti with the ears of the economy minister of the dictatorship José Martínez de Hoz, and the phrase: “The World Cup will be done whatever the costs”. The economic crisis of the country and the high costs of the World Cup were a sharp issue that the national media sought to avoid.
The first three numbers were traversed by the World Cup, with special pages that offered acid coverage. “The fantasies of the World Cup”; “Everything was fixed!”, joking with a possible ending between Iran and Tunisia; or the exclusive images of “Menotti's book”, with annotations such as “prohibiting reading La Razón”, a newspaper that had been taken out of circulation by the dictatorship before the World Cup 78, were some of the articles in the publication of young journalists and graphic comedians.
3. The ball
The official 78 World Cup ball was Adidas Tango. Before reaching its final design, the German brand modified it five times. The innovative feature was that it was covered with a synthetic material that aimed to make it more impermeable to rain. The enthusiastic chronicles of '78 stated that the cowhide with which the Tango was made was from the back of steers weighing between 250 and 300 kilos, then waterproofed. For some players that material made it a more unstable ball.
It was the German player Rainer Bonhof who defined it as “a lifeless ball” and said it had a different “behavior”, that he couldn´t curve the ball. It was the Germans who played the opening match with Poland, It ended 0-0. The first goal would be scored by Frenchman Bernard Lacombe in the first minute of play in the second game of the Cup against Italy. The design, with new versions, lasted over time and was used until, paradoxically, the 1998 France World Cup.
4. The gauchito
Openers, cups, plates, school notebooks, key rings, t-shirts, headbands, hats, sweets, ashtrays. “Mundialito” saturated all possible merchandising in the pre-World Cup world. The mascot chosen by the civic-military dictatorship was a boy dressed in the blue and white shirt, wearing a gaucho hat with the inscription "Argentina 78", a whip on his right arm and the ball under his left foot.
The boy who represented the stereotype of the gaucho was commissioned to Manuel García Ferré´s studio –creator of Anteojito, Hijitus and Petete, among other children's characters. Hugo Casaglia´s design was selected. The logo was criticized for its similarity to “Juanito”, the mascot of 70 Mexico, who also had the inscription on his Mexican hat and the ball under his right foot.
Unlike “Juanito”, “Mundialito” was left-footed as the future goalscorer Mario Alberto Kempes, but the stadium, in the final, would shout the goals and celebrate by throwing confetti with the character chosen by the people: Caloi´s Clemente.
On May 19, 1978, Menotti left a 17 years old Diego Armando Maradona, out of the World Cup. Diego was already a rising star in Argentine football, where he played for Argentinos Juniors. That day, the coach also informed Víctor Alfredo Bottaniz and Humberto Rafael Bravo that they would not be part of the FIFA World Cup National Team. When he was among the preselected ones, the kid from Villa Fiorito declared: “I want to be in the World Cup even if it's at the bench”. He had begun training with the senior team when he was 16.
Diego practiced from Monday to Thursday under the orders of Menotti and from Friday to Sunday he played for Argentinos Juniors. Finally, the battle for the place in the final list was resolved in favor of Racing Club midfielder Ricardo Villa, who would enter from the bench in the matches against Poland and Brazil.
In an interview during after the pre-World Cup friendly match Menotti had advanced his preference for Villa. “I know that the presence of Maradona on the bench will hurt him because, as it happened before, the public will ask for the kid.” The Racing Club player was recovering from a knee injury and an infection that had made him lose weight. “Maradona will enter when I think the time is right. Let no one be mistaken: he will enter when it seems to me and not when the stadium asks for it.” Diego would win the 1979 FIFA World Youth Championship and began to make history in the national team in the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
6. The 309
The civic-military dictatorship created the 78 World Cup Autarchic Agency to take control of the former organizing committee, created by previous decrees, and gave superpowers to captain Carlos Lacoste, who was officially the vice president, and responded to Emilio Massera. The first measure was to remove David Bracuto from the presidency of the AFA, man of the metallurgical union and Peronist, who had appointed César Menotti as a coach. According to the writer and researcher Pablo Alabarces in the book Heroes, Machos y Patriotas, to achieve this Military Junta blocked all the AFA bank accounts and forced his exit to then place there someone they wanted: Alfredo Cantilo.
The journalist Ezequiel Fernández Moores recalls the limited experience of Cantilo in the world of Football: Jockey Club and Velez FC member and former president of the College of Arbitrators during the intervention period of the AFA during Juan Carlos Onganía´s dictatorship. Menotti received the news of Bracutto's resignation during a Europe tour and on his return presented his resignation, which was rejected. The Military Junta had already taken the reins of the AFA and set a new standard to ensure the continuity of the coach for the World Cup. On September 1, according to Alabarces, Cantilo signed resolution 309, prohibiting the international transfer of 66 players. The scorer Mario Alberto Kempes was the only one who played abroad.
7. The Argentine barracks
The place where the National Team stayed during the World Cup received the military qualification of “The Argentine barracks” by the magazine Gente, which supported the communication campaign of the civic-military dictatorship. The World Cup organization had been planned in such a way that Argentina would play in the River Plate Stadium all of its matches, while the rest of the teams traveled; the National Team shouldn´t have leave Buenos Aires if they haven´t lost to Italy in the last game of the first round. For that reason, “the barracks” had been set up in José C. Paz, in the western part of the Buenos Aires suburbs, in “El Hacha” estate of the Salvatori Foundation. The National Team settled there after visiting Jorge Rafael Videla, who encouraged them in a military tone that dyed everything: “Gentlemen: just as the commander harangues his troops before the battle, so I wanted to urge you today to feel and know you are really winners.
The "barracks" were under a strong security operation commanded by the Navy, under the command of the repressor Emilio Massera, the same one that had under his command the ESMA clandestine detention center. The property –with its large dining room, the “old chalet” where the coach staff was housed and "the pavilion", where the players were divided into 12 rooms, with private bathrooms, two beds and a night table in the middle– belonged Natalio Francisco Salvatori, a pharmaceutical entrepreneur and former first division player of Argentinos Juniors during the 1930s.
Salvatori, as detailed by Pablo Llonto in his book La verguenza de todos (The Shame of All), was a good friend of the repressor Guillermo Suarez Mason who died without being convicted of the crimes against humanity he committed as the command of the clandestine detention centers of El Pozo of Banfield, El Olimpo, and La Cacha, among others. Suarez Mason was one of the repressors named honorary member of different football clubs of which they were fan; in his case, Argentinos Juniors.
There he knew Salvatori. After an agreement between the Military Junta and the Navy, that mounted the security, they took the players to “El Hacha”. “Despite the thick privet and even the barbed wire, more than a hundred people gather every day around the estate of José C. Paz (...). The people applauses and encouragements are continuous. (...) The surveillance staff of the estate, persuasively, tries to take them away”, said Gente.
Sponsored by Pepsi, Pele, the historic 10 of the Brazilian team, published during the 78 World Cup a series of notes in the newspaper Clarín. The star –recently retired with a final match in the New York Cosmos, a league that had the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as its promoter– was very tough with the Brazilian team: “Brazil didn´t reaching the 78 World Cup final wasn´t a failure, actually they were lucky to achieve a third place”. He even criticized the delegation of his country when they questioned the Argentina 6 Peru 0, which left them out the World Cup. “I am Pele, I´m not a part of them” he took distance “but the Argentina-Peru match should go down in history surrounded by an unpleasant smell”.
The day of the final, Pelé entitled his column “A slight advantage” to highlight the favoritism of the Dutch to win the Cup, although he added: “Emotionally, I would like a South American team to win the World Cup again, as it always happened when it was played in our continent (the only one that won in another continent was Brazil in 1958 Sweden).” A day later, Pelé started his column: “This triumph of Argentina is one of the greater emotions that I experienced in my life.”
The Brazilian star, who spent three weeks in Buenos Aires for the World Cup, stayed at the eighth floor of the Plaza Hotel, where Venezuelan television had set up a studio to broadcast a special coverage, in which Pelé was the star. He thanked the attentions received, greeted his “great friend César Menotti” and, although he had promised when he arrived in the country, he never named “Argentina” his newborn daughter in New York. Her name was Jennifer, as was decided by his wife.
9. The names
Pelé couldn´t name "Argentina his fourth baby with Rosemeri, but hundreds of Argentine couples would honor the world champions in baptisms. According to the information of the Civil Registry –quoted by the journalist Matías Bauso in the note "From birth and names"–, in the year of the World Cup, 3,455 babies were baptized under the name of the national team's top scorer: Mario Alberto.
Another 1,134 children were named as the captain of the National Team: Daniel Alberto. The unusual name of the goalkeeper Ubaldo Matildo Fillol was more resisted among the parents, but 144 newborn were named after him, when in 1977 only one child had been called as the "Pato".
The third in the ranking of most chosen names was for the coach, with 559: César Luis. “In no other year of the last century this name was used as much as in 1978,” Bauso says. He adds that on that year another 511 children were named as the genocidal Jorge Rafael Videla.
10. Foul play
As a metaphor for the “good image” campaign that the civic-military dictatorship mounted for the 78 World Championship, in the midst of the repression, death and disappearances, FIFA President João Havelange would give the Captain Daniel Passarella, in a ceremony after the culmination of the contest, the Fair Play award. The players had won that award on the field. The Argentine national team only received one yellow card during the first round, it was for Captain Passarella. In the second half of the tournament, Américo Gallego would be reprimanded against Poland and Ricardo Villa against Brazil. And in the final, would come another two, of the total 5, for Osvaldo Ardiles and Omar Larrosa.
The award was highlighted by Somos magazine in that sadly historic edition with a photo of Videla celebrating on the cover under the title “A country that changed”. The magazine compared the Fair Play of 1978 with the match vs. England in 1966, when the team earned the nickname “animals”. With that same manichean analysis, the balance sheet of the World Cup ended with another “key fact”, in which it described how “crowds of people spontaneously gathered on Monday in the Plaza de Mayo claiming for the presence of General Videla in the balconies of the House of Government.”
11. The guide
“You cannot introduce prohibited weapons, subversive literature or pornography” warned the tourist guide made by the EAM 78 for the hundreds of thousands of tourists the dictatorship expected to receive. The most optimistic calculate only 15,000 arrived. However, in the Map of Stadiums and Touristic Circuits, also made by the official group and sold exclusively at Esso gas stations, the de facto government showed another facet with respect to the ethical question, in particular about pornography. The official guide listed restaurants, travel agencies and ... cabarets. The Karim, located in Carlos Pellegrini st.1143; the King in Córdoba Av. 937; or the Palladium, in Corrientes Av. 1267, were some of those