Well, so much for soccer as an instrument of world peace.
International relations, at least those between Scotland and Uruguay, took it on the chin here Friday afternoon.
What happened on the Neza ’86 Stadium field during the teams’ 0-0 World Cup tie was bad enough. What happened during the postgame press conference was nothing less than astonishing.
Omar Borras, Uruguay’s coach, wasted no time in attacking referee Joel Quiniou of France, calling him a “murderer” for having ejected Jose Batista when the game was only 56 seconds old and forcing Uruguay to play nearly the entire match with just 10 men.
Borras then delivered an impassioned defense of the negative tactics and thuggish play his team used to earn the tie that advanced Uruguay to the next round and eliminated the Scots.
“You have to understand what it means for a team to play one man short,” Borras said. “We got a slap in the face in the very first seconds, and this affected our mental condition. Yet, we did try to win in spite of everything, and I think we could have won.”
Borras also blasted anti-Uruguayan “propaganda” that he claimed has been aimed at his team throughout its World Cup stay in Mexico but declined to specify the form it has taken or its source.
Those remarks, plus the free-for-all that developed in the interview room as dozens of Uruguayan reporters fought to gain admittance to a room far too small to accommodate them all, were too much for Scottish Coach Alex Ferguson.
When he got his chance at the microphone, he fired more shots than the Scottish team had been able to produce all afternoon.
“I’m sitting here and I’m saying to myself, ‘What the hell is going on?’ ” he said. “Look at this here. It’s a shambles, a complete shambles.
“I mean, it’s not just a part of football, it’s the whole bloody attitude of the nation. You can see that attitude there. The whole thing. They (Uruguayans) have no respect for other people’s dignity.
“I think what happened today, after the traumas that have happened to world football in the last year, the debacle out there today--I tell you, I’m glad to go home, believe me, because it’s no part of football as we have been accepting it for years and years.
“For Borras to try to defend his team today, he doesn’t have the talent that great men have, the ability to look at themselves. He’s sitting there lying and cheating. He mutters a lot of rubbish about his country here.
“It’s a disgrace what they did. Their behavior turns the game into a complete farce. As far as Scotland’s concerned, it’s all right to say you’re playing 10 men; as far as Uruguay is concerned, they’re used to that.
“It’s a difficult situation playing against 10 men. Our players were completely upset, and I have great sympathy for them. It’s a tragic day for them. I would not criticize one of them.
“But there you are, we’re out of the World Cup. I can’t even say good luck to Uruguay because I don’t think they deserve it.”
And that torrent of emotion was just in answer to the first question.
Later, Ferguson snapped back at a Scottish reporter who had asked if he did not think that, technically, Uruguay’s players--specifically Enzo Francescoli and Venancio Ramos--are not “light years” ahead of the Scots.
“If they’re so great, why did they not beat West Germany and Denmark?” Ferguson shot back.
The truth is, Uruguay, which tied with West Germany, 1-1, and lost to Denmark, 6-1, is not so great. It has two highly talented players in Francescoli and Ramos, but the rest of its team is too prone to kick or shove or slap first and worry about the consequences afterward.
That’s what Batista did in the game’s opening minute, savagely bringing down Scotland’s finest player, flame-haired Gordon Strachan, with a tackle from behind.
Referee Quiniou’s decision to expel Batista might have been a trifle harsh, but his intent was clear: To immediately establish his authority. He succeeded to a degree, but Uruguay was not entirely prevented from fouling, nor from employing time-wasting tactics in the final minutes.
Strachan was the target of the Uruguayan defenders’ less-than-gentle behavior more often than not, having proven himself Scotland’s most dangerous offensive threat in his team’s earlier losses to Denmark and West Germany.
Although Francescoli was treated with reasonable respect by the Scottish defenders, Strachan was the target of constant fouls by the Uruguayans.
“Gordon Strachan, in terms of technical ability, is as good as any of the Uruguayan players,” Ferguson said. “But was he allowed to demonstrate that technique and talent? Was Francescoli? Was (Francescoli) savagely treated in any part of the game?”
Ferguson also pointed out that Uruguay had the advantage, needing only a tie and therefore being able to drop back on defense and rely on the counterattack.
“It’s a much easier thing to do, to defend than to attack,” he said. " . . . There’s all the room in the world to play, there’s always spaces to run to. We were up against a barrier at the edge of the penalty box all the time.”
Unable to penetrate that barrier--largely because of a total inability to play the short-passing game and atrocious finishing--the Scots today must fly home, their World Cup bid ended.
Uruguay will play its next game Monday afternoon at Puebla against its greatest rival, Argentina, the nation on the other side of the River Plate. International relations may again take a beating, but Ferguson no longer cares.
“It’s not my problem any longer,” he said. “It’s FIFA’s problem. It will be Argentina’s problem Monday.”
And that, as well as anything, sets the stage for the drama to come.