Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Soccernostalgia Interview-Part 33 (Interview with English Author Mr. Robert Fielder and Paul Whittle of France Football’s Ballon d’Or for the year 1982)


For this interview, I look back at France Football magazine’s European player of the year award (Ballon d’or) for the year 1982.

Issue Number: France Football, Issue 1916, December 28, 1982

This will be a semi-regular and continuous series.

The Interviewees are:

Mr. Robert Fielder

Mr. Fielder is the Author of ‘The Complete History of the World Cup’ (2014) and ‘The Complete History of the European Championship’ (2016).


Mr. Fielder’s contact info:

twitter: @ademir2z

Book links:*Version


The Interviewees are:

Mr. Paul Whittle, English Blogger and Podcast partner


Mr. Whittle’s contact info:

twitter:  @1888letter


Link to Mr. Paul Whittle’s book (Before the Premier League: A History of the Football League's Last Decades):



Soccernostalgia Question: Let’s start of by discussing the winner Paolo Rossi, was this is a fully deserved win or was it regarded as controversial at the time?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: I think at the time it was seen as less controversial than it potentially is now. As well as the Ballon d’Or, Rossi also won the inaugural World Soccer player of the year and the Onze d’Or. He was top scorer at the 1982 World Cup and also named as the best player of the tournament. From 26 jurors, he was named 1st by 21 of them and in the top three by another three. So he was streets ahead of his rivals in the voting and on that basis it’s one of the clearest victories we have seen.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: I think any other winner would have been controversial!

Photo From: France Football, Issue 1916, December 28, 1982

Soccernostalgia Question: Briefly, describe the merits of the winner Paolo Rossi and the main reason the player won?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: Quite simply, he won because of the World Cup. His hat-trick against Brazil in Barcelona, double against Poland in the semi-final and important goal in the final against West Germany were decisive in transforming Italy from an underwhelming side in the first group stage to world champions. Rossi arguably didn’t play as well, goals aside, as he did in 1978, but he turned up when it really mattered. In particular his performance against Brazil in the 3-2 victory (one of the greatest World Cup matches of all time) was an exceptionally clinical one.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: His outstanding performances and decisive goals in the closing stages of the Spain World Cup meant it would be difficult to look elsewhere.


Soccernostalgia Question: Playing devil’s advocate, what would be the legitimate arguments against his selection?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: Returning from his ban for conspiring in a match-fixing scandal, he had only played three times for Juventus in Serie A and only scored one goal in the 1981-2 season. So, I think there is quite a fair argument that he simply didn’t play enough football in the time period to be the winner of such an important prize. Even in the World Cup he started the tournament, like the whole Italy side, very slowly. He really had two particularly good games.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: The lack of club football (while his ban expired) in the first half of the year, and the fact that he was then part of an Italian side which was immediately underperforming after the World Cup in Euro 84 qualification.


Soccernostalgia Question: Let’s discuss the top 5 (1-Rossi, 2-Giresse, 3-Boniek, 4-Conti, 5-Rummenigge). How do you assess this list and were there any surprises?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: Putting Rossi to one side, I think it’s a pretty good reflection of the Europeans who played well at the World Cup. Boniek was a particular star and someone who was less well known prior to the finals but ended up as a major player.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: I think it’s a fair selection, no real surprise and only the order might have changed as there’s probably not much to choose between them.


Photo From: France Football, Issue 1916, December 28, 1982

Soccernostalgia Question: From the top 5 selections, which one please you the most?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: I’m a big admirer of Alain Giresse so it’s nice to see him included in the list. Playing with someone as great as Michel Platini, he was sometimes overshadowed but was technically excellent, gritty but full of guile and craft and it’s quite an accolade for the diminutive Frenchman.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: It’s nice to see two of the World Cup’s most creative players in Giresse and Conti were recognised, for more than just goalscoring.



Photo From: France Football, Issue 1916, December 28, 1982

Soccernostalgia Question: Any notable omissions in the top 5 (or top 10)?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: Of the players who received any votes I might have expected Platini to be higher up. He had as good a World Cup as some of those more highly rated and was coming off the back off an excellent final season in France. Really though what was notable was the almost total exclusion of players who hadn’t performed well at the World Cup. Kevin Keegan arguably enjoyed his best club season, scoring 26 for Southampton and ending as the First Division top scorer. Ruud Krol had a terrific season with Napoli but neither earned a single vote in the Ballon d’Or. Of those eligible and who played well at the World Cup, Lato is an omission. He was one of the best players of the tournament. He might not have scored the goals he got in 1974 but his performances were consistently very good and he had a good combination with Boniek.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: I see there were no English selections at all, despite providing the European Cup winners and going unbeaten at the World Cup! Kevin Keegan was still scoring goals and had he played more in Spain, I imagine would have made the list. Bryan Robson would have been the other English possibility. From the Football League champions Liverpool, Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness probably missed out due to Scotland’s early World Cup exit, and a young Ian Rush could also have featured with more international exposure. For France, it’s a little surprising that Amoros and Tigana were overlooked.


Soccernostalgia Question: Any player who should have received more votes than they received (For myself, Tardelli only one fifth place vote)?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: Scirea was coming off the back of a great club season with Juventus and was outstanding at the World Cup. How he only got one vote, I’m not sure because he was an outstanding player. I agree with Tardelli as well as he was arguably Italy’s most consistent performer throughout the World Cup.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: Scirea and Tardelli might have expected more votes on their World Cup showings alone, and maybe suffered from the Italy nominations being ‘shared out’.


Photo From: France Football, Issue 1916, December 28, 1982

Soccernostalgia Question: Which players benefited from the World Cup and which ones were recognized for their performance during the entire calendar year?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: Really almost all of the top players were selected on their World Cup showings exclusively. In 1982 it seemed like the World Cup was the only show in town.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: The World Cup obviously dominated these selections, when there was relatively little television coverage outside the major European competitions. On that basis Bernd Schuster and Torbjörn Nilsson were chosen on club performances.


Soccernostalgia Question: Let’s analyze the previous winner Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. What counted against him this year?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: Although he made it to the final and scored five goals, I’m not sure Rummenigge was quite at his physical peak in this World Cup. His domestic season with Bayern Munich wasn’t as strong as some of his previous ones and the Bavarians were also beaten in the European Cup final by Aston Villa.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: Again, the fact that he was not fully fit for the closing stages of the World Cup – despite his goals – and possibly Bayern’s loss to Aston Villa in the European Cup Final. Still a very good player but not quite at his best in the biggest games this year.



Photo From: France Football, Issue 1916, December 28, 1982

Soccernostalgia Question: If the voting had been open to non-Europeans at the time, who would have been the main beneficiaries(s)?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: Even though they lost 3-2 to Italy, most observers came away from the 1982 with very fond memories of Brazil. Had they been eligible I think Paulo Roberto Falcao, who also played extremely well for Roma, and Zico would have been major contenders, perhaps not for the top spot but in terms of the top 5. That team played some great football and either would have been a worthy winner. Maradona had a bit of a hit and miss tournament in comparison, so I don’t think he’d have been among the leading players for this year. Of the Argentines Daniel Passarella was probably the best player in Spain.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: I would have thought that Falcão would have been very high up in the rankings, not only for his World Cup performances but also his influence on Roma (who would win the 1982/83 scudetto). As an outside choice, maybe Thomas N’Kono, whose World Cup for Cameroon earned him a move to Europe with Espanyol in La Liga.


Photo From: France Football, Issue 1916, December 28, 1982

Soccernostalgia Question: Let’s discuss the jurors, which were the most interesting votes from a correspondent?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: Probably the choice of Torbjorn Nilsson by the Danish juror. He had enjoyed a great time with IFK Gothenburg who had won the UEFA Cup, beating Valencia, Kaiserlautern and Hamburg on their way to the title. He had ended up as the top scorer in the tournament and earned a move to the Bundesliga as a result. The selections of Eric Gerets and Walter Schachner were also a little more unusual though both were merited. Gerets was one of the best full-backs at the World Cup and Schachner had played very well with Cesena in Serie A.


Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: Austria’s had Rummenigge second and Breitner fifth, that seems almost as suspicious as the game in Gijón! Bulgaria’s placing Schuster second and Denmark’s placing Rinat Dasaev also second are quite generous votes.



Photo From: France Football, Issue 1916, December 28, 1982

Soccernostalgia Question: What were the most unbelievable or baffling selection from a juror?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: By and large this was a year in which jurors stuck to familiar names who had done well at the World Cup. Even Dermot Ashmore, the Irish juror who often went off piste, played it straight with his choices. Probably the most unusual was the choice of Bernd Schuster by the Bulgarian juror Nicolas Ignatieff. Schuster had only played 13 times in the league for Barcelona and hadn’t featured at the World Cup.


Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: Turkey’s found room for two Austrians...


Photo From: France Football, Issue 1916, December 28, 1982

Soccernostalgia Question: In closing, what is the legacy of Paolo Rossi’s selection as Ballon d’Or, how is it regarded after all these years?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: I think in the modern era, where we get to see so much of top players and the Champions League has taken on so much importance, it’s hard to look back and understand someone being named the best player in Europe by virtue of three great World Cup games. For Rossi it ensured immortality in the football pantheon but it’s hard to entirely subscribe to that in retrospect. Ultimately, Rossi did extremely well for Italy but only scored 82 goals in total in Serie A, thanks in part to all the disruption caused by his earlier ban. Had there been a broader focus, with more TV coverage of the top leagues and the World Cup taking less of the attention, someone else might have won.


Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: This year – specifically the World Cup – cemented his reputation as one of the great strikers. It’s impossible to think of that summer in Spain without his goals coming to mind and the Ballon d’Or was a fitting reward.

Photo From: France Football, Issue 1916, December 28, 1982

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