CLASSIC UFWC TITLE MATCH:
Austria 1-1 Greece
(Match abandoned but score stands)
5 November 1967
European Championships Qualifier, Praterstadion, Vienna
Scorers: Siber (Austria); Sideris (Greece)
On paper this match should not have offered much to get excited about. The last Group 3 qualifying match for the 1968 European Championships was effectively meaningless, as the USSR had already secured the only qualifying spot at the top of the table. To the uninformed observer, Austria and Greece were playing for nothing but pride, and certainly the match was very ordinary for the first 84 minutes. But, unbeknown to those involved, there was something important at stake – the not-inconsequential matter of the UFWC title.
Helmut Siber of German club Kickers Offenbach struck after 32 minutes to give title-holders Austria a first half lead. Free-scoring Olympiakos striker Giorgios Sideris pulled Greece level in the 73rd minute, but the match only really came to life amid late controversy. In the 85th minute on the 5th of November, fireworks duly erupted, ensuring the match would go down in history as one of the strangest ever played.
With just five minutes left to play, referee Gyula Gere of Hungary saw fit to send off Greece’s star player, Takis Loukanidis. For the record, Panathinaikos’s footballing all-rounder Loukanidis is now considered one of Greece’s best ever players and was regarded at the time as something approaching a living Greek god. Inevitably, the Greek supporters in the crowd were enraged, and mindless mayhem immediately erupted.
Scores of spectators, apparently of both Greek and Austrian persuasion, charged onto the pitch and began to engage in a mass brawl. Players from both sides were caught up and became involved in furious fistfights, while ref Gere was unceremoniously bashed over the head with a bottle.
A full-scale riot was underway, and 200 Austrian policemen, with horses, dogs, and big sticks, were sent onto the pitch to put an end to it. Order was eventually restored but there was no sensible way that play could continue, so the match was abandoned.
In the aftermath of the riot the Austrian authorities were severely reprimanded, and UEFA threatened to make Austria play all fixtures away from home if such an incident ever happened again. But what made the case particularly unusual was UEFA’s decision not to order a replay. UEFA declared that the 1-1 score should stand, even though the match had not been completed. The fact that the result had no effect on European Championships qualification probably had some bearing on the decision. As, no doubt, did the possibility of another riot.
This was only the second UFWC title match in history to be abandoned (the other being the Ibrox disaster of 1902), but the score in this one stands for UFWC purposes, as it does for official FIFA records.
Not that the 1-1 draw changed the title-holders or ranking points, with Austria retaining the title for another seven months before losing 3-1 to the Soviet Union.