Although we’re only in the early stages of this ‘worst decisions’ series every post has taught me a story about football that I didn’t already know.
This excellent post from Marco Jackson is the worst decision Marseille ever made. It’s the story of how the team who won the first Champions League had Tony Cascarino playing for them only 2 years later. I urge you to read this.
In May 1993, Olympique de Marseille won the European Cup. OM became
the first and remain the only French team to lift the trophy.
In May 1995, Olympique de Marseille won Ligue 2, but were denied
promotion back to the top flight of French football. The team have won
only one French League title since.
It would be wrong to say something between the two events had gone
wrong, because it turned out that Marseille made their biggest mistake
a matter of days before that European Cup Final.
From a personal point of view, the saddest thing about the whole saga
is that it didn’t need to happen. Marseille would, most likely, have
gone to Valenciennes and won. To be found out, some months afterwards,
in that the game immediately before the biggest game in the club’s
history was fixed tarnished everything, tarnished what should have
stood alone as the greatest achievement in French club football bar
Bernard Tapie, the Marseille chairman, was a flamboyant man, and he
had a dream. He wanted Marseille to win the (first ever) Champions
League. He also wanted them to win Ligue 1, the weekend afterwards –
against the perennial enemy Paris Saint Germain. To that end, Tapie
thought, if I could persuade some of the Valenciennes players involved
in the match beforehand to ‘take their foot off the gas’ (lovely
terminology, isn’t it?), everything should fall into place.
As it was, Tapie got Jean-Jacques Eydelie to offer a bribe to Jorge
Burrachaga, Christophe Robert and Jacques Glassman – rumoured to be
around F250,000. Marseille ended up winning the game 1-0 (Alen Boksić
scored) and OM went to Munich to face Milan with Tapie’s dream intact.
Of course, they won the final. Basile Boli scored the winner, and the
squad wrote their names large in the history books. Of course, they
beat Paris Saint Germain, and clinched the Ligue 1 title (their fifth
in a row), and wrote their names large in the history books.
The story was out by the end of the next season, the fifth title was
stripped from the club, and Marseille were relegated to Ligue 2. The
Champions League title remained (the match in question was not in that
competition, went the argument) with the club, but was immeasurably
tarnished by the affair.
So, two years after the greatest night in their history, Marseille
were playing Ligue 2 football, Tony Cascarino top-scoring in a
division they won, but found themselves denied promotion to the top
flight. All for the sake of a match against Valenciennes, a team who
ended up relegated to Ligue 2 anyway.
Bernard Tapie, at some point, thought that the glory that came to the
team was worth running the risk of the shame that eventually enveloped
them. He was wrong.
He had built a glorious, glorious team (Barthez – Angloma, Di Meco,
Boli, Desailly – Sauzee, Deschamps, Eydelie – Boksić, Pele, Völler)
but they’re a team that are disgraced today.
And that’s the worst decision Marseille ever made.