WORLD CUP MEXICO 86 : Like Magic, History Will Pass Before Your Eyes : One Spanish Journalist Has Been a Witness to Every World Cup Since 1934

Times Staff Writer

Pat Jennings, Northern Ireland’s goalkeeper, may be the oldest player in the World Cup, but there is someone else taking part in the tournament who makes the Irish veteran look like a youngster.

Jennings turns 41 on June 12, the day Northern Ireland plays Brazil in Guadalajara. On that same day, Spain plays Algeria in Monterrey, and working there in the Estadio Tecnologico press box will be a man more than twice Jennings’ age.

If there is such a thing as an old World Cup hand, Pedro Escartin is it. Born in Madrid on Aug. 8, 1901, Escartin has witnessed every World Cup since the second one in 1934. His soccer background goes back even further than that since he was a referee in the Olympic soccer semifinal between Argentina and Egypt in Amsterdam in 1928.

Despite his years, Escartin is not here as merely a spectator. He is writing for Marca magazine and working as a commentator for Spanish radio. “A reporter never grows old,” he said.


Nor do reporters such as Escartin pull any punches. Asked his assessment of the tournament, he replied: “Mexico ’86 will be a balanced Cup, without favorites, hard and violent if the referees don’t control it.”

A final note. Escartin does not hold the record for World Cup attendance. Journalist Diego Lucero of Argentina was at the first Cup in Uruguay in 1930 and has not missed one since.

Repercussions: The Mexican and Uruguayan soccer federations have each been fined 10,000 Swiss francs ($5,233), and the United States Soccer Federation has been fined 5,000 Swiss francs ($2,616) as the result of a brawl at the L.A. Coliseum in April.

The disciplinary committee of FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, issued the fines and also cautioned the Mexican and Uruguayan federations here last week after investigating the April 14 incident.


The World Cup warm-up game that afternoon attracted 47,000 to the Coliseum, and most were still there when fighting broke out between the teams after the game had ended. Film of the match shows Uruguayan players jostling referee Angelo Bratsis in the closing minutes and also shows Uruguayan goalkeeper Rodolfo Rodriguez kicking a Mexican player near the Coliseum tunnel as the teams left the field.

Retaliatory acts by the Mexican team led to the fines being issued against both federations for the “misconduct of the players.” The USSF was fined for providing “insufficient security measures” at the Coliseum.

And still counting: FIFA welcomed eight new member nations to its ranks last week, bringing the total number of countries belonging to the organization to 158.

The newcomers are Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome, Cape Verde Islands, Maldives, Belize, Equatorial Guinea, Seychelles, and Western Samoa. Belize is in the same confederation as the United States, meaning that it is a possible future Olympic and World Cup qualifying opponent for the United States.


Covering those who cover: The 2,200 newspaper and magazine writers, the 2,300 radio and television reporters and technicians and the 500 photographers assigned to cover the World Cup have received some good news.

Guillermo Canedo, chairman of Mexico’s World Cup Organizing Committee, announced that all 5,000 journalists are covered by an insurance policy taken out by the committee. The policy, he said, provides “civil liability, judicial protection and personal injury” coverage.

It does not protect against those same journalists asking questions that Canedo might prefer not to hear, such as:

--How much the organization of the World Cup is costing and what profits and/or losses are expected?


--Why the press center in Leon is still not ready?

--How much is being received from worldwide television rights?

--What response is there to player complaints that they can hardly be expected to perform at their peak when the kickoff times of the matches are set for noon and 4 p.m., the hottest part of the day?

Canedo and newly reelected FIFA President Joao Havelange managed to sidestep these and virtually all other meaningful questions at a midweek press conference. Typical of their responses was this one from Canedo regarding finances:


“It has been customary since 1970 never to speak of figures, whether we lose or make money. . . . Nor will we do so now.”

Intriguing: The days leading up to Saturday’s opening game were filled with all sorts of psychological warfare by the 24 World Cup coaches. A few examples:

Uruguay’s Omar Borras accused the West German TV cameramen of spying on his team, and retaliated by taking four of his players and an assistant coach to watch the West Germans practice. The teams meet on Wednesday.

Spain’s Miguel Munoz allowed all other reporters in to watch his team’s practice games, but barred the Brazilian press. Spain plays Brazil today.


Belgium’s Guy Thys, like several other coaches, held some of his team’s training sessions behind closed doors, not allowing any media into the stadiums.

Mexican Coach Bora Milutinovic had a perfect response to Belgium’s stance and to the entire question of spying in general.

“There is nothing Belgium can do that we cannot figure out,” he said.

Whether Milutinovic is correct will be determined on Tuesday when Mexico meets Belgium at Azteca Stadium.


Briefly Appearing on a Mexican television show last week, Argentine star Diego Maradona was asked to sing. Having already performed at a festival with Julio Iglesias and Placido Domingo, Maradona knows his limitations. He declined. . . . Canada became the 23rd and next-to-last team to arrive in Mexico when it reached Mexico City on Thursday afternoon. Scotland completes the field when it arrives this afternoon. . . . Pele, diplomatic as ever, has announced in Guadalajara that Brazil, his home country, and Mexico, the host, are his favorites to win the World Cup. . . . Part of the Soviet Union’s training program involves “theory sessions.” Whether this means Marxist or soccer theory is not clear. . . . Dino Zoff, the goalkeeper who led Italy to the 1982 World Cup, has been awarded a gold medal by FIFA for his contributions to the game. . . . A record 112 countries have registered to take part in the 1988 Olympic Games soccer qualifying tournament.