Object of the Month – September 2013

September 2013 - Chile Fights, Scotland vs. Chile Don’t Play Ball with Fascists, 1977

“sub-lieutenant Heinrich personally pulled the two trade union leaders out of the back and shot one of them with his own machine gun, while another officer shot the other.” Testimony from the national stadium, in Santiago, on 16 or 17 September 1973

On 11 September 1973 in Chile, General Pinochet led a military coup and overthrew Salvador Allende’s socialist government. During the turbulent days following the coup, foreigners, trade unionists and anti-Pinochet protesters were rounded up and taken to detention camps. One such camp was the National Stadium, where several detainees were tortured and executed, while others were forced into exile overseas.

Four years after the coup, with Pinochet’s regime still in power, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) arranged a friendly against Chile, which took place in the National Stadium on the 15 June 1977. The SFA used the argument that there was no politics in sport. History has demonstrated however, that politics and sport frequently clash. The England football team had given the Nazi salute before a match in Berlin in 1938, leading to outrage back in Britain. More recently controversy has surrounded current Sunderland manager Paulo Di Canio’s history of fascist views. At the Olympics held a year before the Scotland Chile match several African Countries had refused to take part. While in the games in 1968 there was the famous black power salute.

The front cover of Chile Fights shows clearly the reason why there was mass outrage at the SFA’s decision. A Scotland football player laces up his boots with bullet holes in the wall and blood dripping and pooling on the floor.

“The cell was one of the team changing rooms… By the entrance to the tunnel where the players would go out onto the pitch, a heavy machine-gun was mounted.” British eye-witness, imprisoned in 1973

The issue was raised in the House of Commons, a group of Chilean exiles were refused a meeting with the SFA, a weeklong picket was organised outside SFA headquarters and many fans boycotted Scotland matches. Despite all this the game went ahead. Scotland won the match 4-2 (details here).

The banner pictured was used in protest outside Wembley during the England vs. Scotland match 4 June 1977. It will be on display, in the Main Galleries, in January 2014. The Chile Fights magazine is part of the Chile Solidarity Campaign collection held in our archives [Acc 931].


Below is an extract from Adam Naughtan’s Blood Upon the Grass written in protest:

September the eleventh In nineteen seventy-three Scores of people perished In a vile machine-gun spree Santiago stadium Became a place to kill But a Scottish football team Will grace it with their skill And there’s blood upon the grass And there’s blood upon the grass

Will you go there, Alan Rough Will you play there, Tom Forsyth Where so many folk met early The Grim Reaper with his scythe These people weren’t terrorists They weren’t Party hacks But some were maybe goalkeepers And some were centre backs And there’s blood upon the grass And there’s blood upon the grass

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