El Maracanazo of 1989 – One of the Most Shameful Events in World Football

El Maracanazo

In 1950, Brazil’s infamous World Cup final loss against Uruguay became known as El Maracanazo, but there’s more than one of these footballing fiascos. In Rio, 1989, Brazil and Chile were competing for a place at the FIFA World Cup. Stakes were high. Anything except a Chilean win meant Brazil would qualify. Chile were determined to appear on football’s greatest stage for the first time since 1982. So determined they’d be willing to do anything – even cheat. It went down in history as the El Maracanazo of 1989.

One of the Most Shameful Events in World Football

The Match

Napoli’s Careca gave Brazil the lead in the 49th minute. What occurred 18 minutes later made the match go down in infamy. Chilean goalkeeper Roberto Rojas fell to the ground, having seemingly been injured by a flare thrown by Brazilian fans. As a result, Chilean players and officials left the pitch in protest. The Argentinian referee tried to convince them to continue with the game, but to no avail. The Brazilian fan who threw the flare was eventually identified and rightfully arrested, but there was no evidence that the flare hit Rojas.

Several photos and television images later revealed that the flare landed over a metre away from Rojas. He eventually admitted to having cut himself with a razor blade hidden in his glove to fake an attack by Brazilian fans. Furthermore, it emerged that Orlando Aravena, Chile’s coach, had asked Rojas and team doctor Daniel Rodríguez to stay on the pitch to force an outrage with the hope that Brazil would get disqualified in favour of Chile.

Consequences of El Maracanazo

FIFA decided that Roja was to be permanently banned from professional football, but it was lifted in 2001. However, Rojas’ only involvement with professional football following his ban was a brief stint as Sao Paulo’s manager in 2003. Additionally, FIFA banned Chile from entering qualification for the 1994 World Cup, but that was “just” for them abandoning the match and not because Rojas cheated. Brazil originally led the match 1-0, but FIFA retroactively awarded the Brazilians a 2-0 win.

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