This series of articles will celebrate (or laugh at) some of the worst professional sports teams of all time. I will focus on teams within my lifetime so expect the worst from the 1970s to present day.
Life in El Salvador in the early 1980s was strife with conflict. A bloody civil war was tearing up the tiny Central American country, leaving thousands dead and or missing. Tensions were extremely high and no end was in sight.
In the midst of this horror, the national football team was doing its best to distract the nation from this, by participating in World Cup qualifying. Their mission was to somehow earn a trip to Spain for the 1982 FIFA World Cup tournament. To the surprise of everyone in CONCACAF, La Selecta advanced to the World Cup defeating the likes of Mexico, Canada and Panama. Their 1-0 upset over Mexico in qualifying still ranks as one of the greatest sporting achievements in El Salvador sporting history.
With war still raging in their homeland, El Salvador flew to Spain with heavy hearts. As always, war leads to corruption and the football team was not immune to this. Only 20 players, instead of the normal 22 players were on the plane to Spain. The Salvadorian Football Association decided to take a few “friends” who did some personal favours in exchange for 2 key players who helped El Salvador qualify for the World Cup. These so-called “friends” were not members of the squad by any stretch. Conspiracies suggest that these “friends” had connections to the government, and were guaranteeing safety from the war, when the players returned home. The “friends” used this trip to see all of Europe, and used the World Cup as a paid vacation. The players were very upset about this, and tried to raise the money to get their 2 comrades to Spain. Sadly, they failed on this regard.
More controversy ensued when they arrived in Spain. Adidas was to send 4 white and 3 blue uniforms for each player. However only 3 white and 1 blue arrived to the team. The players decided they would only play in the white uniforms, and use the blue uniforms as a keepsake. It was discovered later that the association stole the other uniforms and kept it for themselves.
Their first match was against Hungary in Elche. It would be a match never forgotten. The good news for El Salvador is that they did score a goal. The bad news was that Hungary scored 10! No team had ever scored 10 goals in a World Cup match until Hungary pulverized El Salvador 10-1. It is a record that still stands today, and quite possibly will never be broken. Following the match, tempers flared within the El Salvador camp. Players had a strained meeting with the coaching staff, in which harsh words, along with some pushing and shoving ensued. Following this quarrel, Pipo Rodriguez was let go as manager, and in an unusual move, 3 players, Francisco Jovel, Norberto Huezo, and Ramon Fagoaga took over the squad.
The Salvadorians showed improvement in their next two matches, but couldn’t get the results they wanted. A 1-0 defeat to Belgium was followed by a 2-0 defeat to the defending World Cup champions Argentina. El Salvador’s World Cup nightmare had finally ended.
The team arrived back in their homeland, still stuck in war and ruin. Most players stayed in their war-torn country but one managed to free himself. Striker Magico Gonzalez stayed in Spain following the World Cup, as he agreed to a contract with Cadiz CF. Gonzalez then transferred to Real Valladolid, then finally ended up with mighty Barcelona FC.
The civil war ended in 1992, with 70,000 confirmed deaths, with many more missing. The football team hasn’t been to the World Cup since the negative experience in 1982. Currently, the football team is in the midst of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. El Salvador are in the third round of CONCACF qualifying and are sitting in third place in Group B, behind Mexico and Costa Rica. If they cannot catch either team that is ahead of them, the Salvadorians will not be in Brazil in 2014.
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