Football

The Scandalous Story Of How Chile Was Thrown Out Of The 1994 World Cup

The Scandalous Story Of How Chile Was Thrown Out Of The 1994 World Cup

It was a great night for Chile last night as they won the Copa America on home soil, beating Argentina 4-1 on penalties.

Chilean football is at an all-time high, 26 years after the country's footballing low point. Not that the class of 1989 were an incompetent side.

In the qualifying stages for the 1990 World Cup, Chile were in a group with Brazil and Venezuela. The top side would go through. Venezuela were no obstacle to anyone so, in reality, the grouping was in effect a play-off between Brazil and Chile.

Chile and Brazil played out a 1-1 in Santiago in August. The following month the sides met in the Maracana. The old Maracana, that is. There were about 140,000 spectators in the ground that night.

On 67 minutes with Brazil winning 1-0 through a goal from Careca, a girl threw a firework onto the pitch. Chile's 32 year old goalkeeper Roberto Rojas slumped to the ground, holding his neck.

His head was bloodied and he looked badly injured. He was hauled off the pitch and his teammates refused to return citing the unsafe conditions. The spirit of Kevin Kilbane, who refused to let the trifling matter of a knife thrown onto the pitch in Georgia in 2003 deter him from carrying on, was evidently not pervasive among the playing staff.

But then it emerged the whole thing was a ruse.

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The FIFA investigation found that Rojas' injury had been self-inflicted with a razor blade hidden in his glove. To give him his dues, Rojas showed more willingness to suffer for his art than Tom Williams. Blood capsules are for children, clearly.

Rojas was banned from football for life, though this was lifted in 2001. The coach Orlando Aravena and team doctor Daniel Rodriguez were also banned.

Chile was disqualified from the 1994 World Cup.

Rosenery Mello, the girl who threw the firework which ended up in Rojas's general vicinity, became a model and a celebrity in Brazil, largely thanks to the incident. She appeared on the cover of Playboy two months afterwards.

She died in 2011.

Conor Neville
Article written by
Perennial finalist in stand-up comedy competitions and former Contract Lawyer/ Coal Salesman with Corless, Corless and Sweeney

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