Liam Brady has shared his memories about the Republic of Ireland’s 1982 South American tour in a new RTE radio documentary about the ill-fated trip.
Having just missed out on World Cup qualification on goal difference, the FAI infamously scheduled the end of season tour to Brazil, Chile and Argentina as tensions between England and Argentina over the Falkland islands were reaching boiling point.
This resulted in the majority of English clubs refusing to release their players and Brady himself was going through a period of upheaval with the news that Juventus were bring in Michel Platini. With the limit on foreign players in Italy set at two and Zbigniew Boniek also at the club, three into two wouldn’t go.
“I had just had news at the end of that season that I would be leaving Juventus and my future was well and truly up in the air. This was something that I didn’t really expect,” Brady told documentary producer David Coughlan.
“I had to sort out certain things. My wife, we just found out she was going to have a baby. To be honest, it was the last thing that I needed was to go on probably two weeks plus end-of-season tour to South America, you know. But I seem to remember Eoin was really desperate to get personnel because an awful lot of the lads just said no.
“I think those were the days where you wouldn’t necessarily have to have permission from FIFA to prove that you were injured or something like that. The lads just point blank said no. Liverpool lads didn’t travel, the Man United lads didn’t travel. I think that was half the team.
“We were left with scratching around trying to make up a squad to go. And, Eoin was desperate. I had these things in the background, but I decided to go.“
Eventually a squad was pulled together by manager Eoin Hand with regulars Mick Martin, Tony Grealish, Gerry Daly and Brady supplemented by players with barely a handful of caps and League of Ireland players.
And while the scheduled game against Argentina was eventually scrapped as the Falklands War broke out with a hastily arranged fixture against Trinidad replacing it, a visit to Chile, then under the oppressive dictatorship of General Pinochet at the time went ahead.
“That was a pretty volatile place. That had gone through huge upheaval being a coup d’état. The democratically elected government of Allende was overthrown by Pinochet a couple of years before and it was a strange place because you could actually see the people were intimidated,” Brady recalled.
“They didn’t want to talk about it, they didn’t want to protest about anything because I think they were getting lifted by the military government. And actually, I think where we played in the stadium, a lot of the atrocities went on.
“That was the start of the tour but I must admit I enjoyed Santiago. When I went on tour, especially as I got a bit older, I wanted to learn where I was playing, what was going on and so forth.”
Outside of politics, the football didn’t go any better with a 1-0 defeat in the opener against Chile before the team moved on to Brazil and what Brady had initially though was to be a game at the famous Maracana Stadium. Unfortunately, when the itinerary was confirmed there was another unexpected destination.
“I was thinking I was going to play in the Maracana Stadium in Rio, which is an iconic kind of stadium,” Brady remembered.
“But when we learned that we were going to Brazil but we weren’t playing in the Maracana, we had to go somewhere, a place we’d never heard of called Uberlandia.”
A 7-0 thrashing, still Ireland’s record defeat, followed at the hands of the Brazlians before the tour was due to move on to the Caribbean island of Trinidad.
“For me, the two games against Chile and Trinidad, come off it, you know. Why are we going there? I had all these things going on in the background, so I wanted to get out of there and unfortunately, I couldn’t manage it with flights, so I ended up going to Trinidad.”
It was there that things reached a further level of farce with two games scheduled, one against a club team and one against the national side.
To this day, Eoin Hand claims that having lost the warm-up game 2-1 less than 24 hours after landing, Ireland went on to beat Trinidad and Tobago 3-1. Yet the record books show a defeat to the national team 2-1 and a win against the club side, a result of local officials reversing the fixtures.
But while Brady is still critical of the organisation of the tour in general, nearly forty years on, he’s able to laugh about it now.
“They (the FAI) were so amateurish that they didn’t see anything wrong with it but it undermined Eoin with the players because he was trying to, you know, make excuses for things that were none of his doing,’” he said.
“I can well appreciate those lads who played on that tour saying, well that was great for us. Like the League of Ireland lads. And they were great. We got on great together, everybody got on really well together. Happy memories, good times. A good time was had by all.”
Cigarettes and Samba has been produced by David Coughlan and Sarah Burke and will be broadcast on RTE Radio One at 7pm on Sunday evening. It’s currently available to download on the RTE website.