In 1982, French defender Patrick Battiston was flattened by German goalkeeper Harald “Toni” Schumacher, who sent him to the hospital where he fell into a coma. There are many historic games in World Cup history, but what became known as the “Tragedy of Seville” belongs to the group of infamous.
What enraged not only French fans, but football loving people all around the world, was the viciousness of the collision between Battiston and Schumacher, the apparent lack of remorse, and cold attitude on the part of the German goalie, as well as the fact that the referee — Charles Corver, from the Netherlands — didn’t even call a foul.
But Battiston doesn’t like that people remember the match between France and Germany only as it relates to the injuries he suffered — three broken teeth, three bruised ribs, and a damaged vertebrae. There were several important factors that conspired to make his injuries even worse than they were.
“Entrenched in our memories is this charge by Schumacher who flattened the little Frenchman. That’s how things are. People talk to me about 1982 often. But it wasn’t only about me.”
Indeed that’s how most people who watched the “Tragedy of Seville” remember the match, sadly, and it goes to show just how wrong all of it was. Patrick Battiston had come in as a sub and when he was carried off in a stretcher — barely breathing. French coach Michel Hildago was forced to send in a sub (in those days only two were allowed). This gave the Germans a big advantage, as the match went into extra time and was ultimately decided by penalty kicks in favor of Germany.
Battiston kept quiet for a long time, but finally opened up about what happened that day and how he viewed Schumacher’s actions. The French defender believes the German goalie’s charge was unintentional, but the video suggests otherwise, as the football was already far away from the site of the collision.
“I remember his attitude even when I was sitting on the substitutes bench. I observed his behavior, the way he clashed with Dominique Rocheteau and Didier Six. I thought he was very hyped up, very excitable. I remarked on this to the other players on the bench.”
Battiston didn’t care for Schumacher’s comment during a press conference after the game when the German said: “I will pay for the crowns,” referring to Battiston’s broken teeth.
“That was not a very wise remark. It was pretty gauche. Still to his day I have a cracked vertebra and broken teeth.”
Even though Patrick Battiston forgave Toni Schumacher long ago, he is not so forgiving of the ref. As he slowly recalled what actually happened to him, his fury is squarely directed at Corver:
“Recently I tumbled upon by accident images of the match on Arte (a German/Franco financed TV station). I paid more attention to what happened on the pitch, after I had been stretchered off, as I had never seen them before.
“The refereeing by Corver who did not whistle for obvious fouls when Germany went behind. That struck me as odd and we have the right to be astonished by that.”
At the time, many saw the actions, on Corver’s part, as favoritism for the powerful German team. France was the Cinderella team in the 1982 World Cup, and as such they were facing one of the best teams in that year’s tournament.
One of the things that struck Battiston while regaining his memory — aside from French captain Michel Platini holding his hand while medics took him away — was the crass attitude displayed by Corver and Schumacher on the field. The German goalie was so astonished at the bad press he was getting that he asked his agent to arrange a press conference with Battiston — who had already said he had forgiven him.
In France, Schumacher was declared to be less popular than Adolf Hitler, but that didn’t erase what has become one of the darkest incidents in World Cup history. Patrick Battiston has been more than gracious considering the long lasting effects the brutal charge had on him, which last to this day:
“Maybe he did feel guilty, one can draw all sorts of conclusions as to what he did feel. All I know is that Schumacher was someone who wanted to win at all costs and he went way over the top that evening.”
In the 1986 World Cup — hosted by Germany — France once more had the chance of avenging Battiston but came up short, losing to Germany in the final. As we prepare to once again watch France vs. Germany at the 2014 World Cup quarterfinal, it’s time to see if France can finally put that dark chapter behind her.
Do you remember the “Tragedy in Seville”, when Patrick Battiston was knocked out by Toni Schumacher at the 1982 World Cup in Spain?
[Image via Twitter]