Postscript

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Features, Issue 4 (Jul/Aug 2008), Volume 16

Santiago’s Estadio Nacional—the Republic of Ireland would become the first international team to play Chile in the very stadium where opponents of the Pinochet regime had been detained and tortured.

Santiago’s Estadio Nacional—the Republic of Ireland would become the first international team to play Chile in the very stadium where opponents of the Pinochet regime had been detained and tortured.

Within a year the euphoria both on and off the pitch had long since evaporated. By May 1974 the Ulster Workers’ Council strike had put paid to the Sunningdale power-sharing experiment, and Northern Ireland was to endure another quarter-century of violence. The Republic had already missed out on qualification for the 1974 World Cup before the Brazil game was played. But the eventual winners of their qualification group, the USSR, wouldn’t make it to the finals either. In the first leg of an inter-continental play-off the USSR drew nil-all with Chile in Moscow. Before the return leg, General Pinochet’s bloody coup overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. In the aftermath, Pinochet had ordered the torture and murder of hundreds of Allende supporters. The venue for much of this horror was Santiago’s Estadio Nacional, where locker rooms and corridors were used to torture and murder political prisoners. In protest the USSR refused to play the second leg in Santiago, thus handing Chile a place in the 1974 World Cup.
The FAI would have no such scruples. In May 1974, in the course of a South American tour, the Republic of Ireland would become the first international team to play Chile in the very stadium where these horrors had taken place. Eamonn Dunphy, a member of the Irish team, was to later recall: ‘When we went out to inspect the pitch, armed guards ordered us back to the dressing rooms. It was a sobering experience; we knew we were being used’.

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