When fans were still yearning to wander around Pele in the 1970s, the prospect of hosting a second World Cup was a blast. Colombia rejected its headquarters because it was unable to cater to FIFA’s needs, and increasingly intent on making its matches reach the end of the world.
So for Mexico, who was so motivated by the experiment, it wasn’t a bad idea, and one morning newspapers across the country woke up on eight columns: Mexico was on its way to the finals of the World Cup Two.
In terms of time, the actions before FIFA were relatively straightforward. The personality of Don Guillermo Cañedo de la Bárcena and the great friendship that developed with President Joao Havelange made the miracle possible. In the FIFA Executive Committee, which was held in Stockholm in May 1984, Mexico voted in favor. On the way were the United States and Canada.
“We visited the 24 members of the Executive Committee to tell them what Mexico could do, especially with the experience it had gone through since 1970, and we were going to be the first country to compete in the World Cup for the second time, and we did our work and arrived in Stockholm, I decided there was everything. The USA is a great show, it was with Pele, who played for Cosmos, remember Justino Compiegne, who was part of the organizing committee.
“Guillermo Cannedo’s experience in the FIFA Executive Committee and the great friendship he had with Joao Havelange convinced him to support Mexico, along with some members of the committee. The surprise was that with very strict representation, we defeated the United States, which promised so much.”
The news, as expected, was captured with enthusiasm. In a country like Mexico, football has healing powers. The economy, with its lost dollars, was still reeling from the ravages of the 1982 crisis, but Azteca would become the first stadium to host two World Cup finals.
The unexpected came
In this duality of enthusiasm, where one is fully capable of feeling happy despite feelings of guilt, Mexico has begun planning its party. When it seemed that there would be no major setbacks, and that on May 31, 1986, Italy and Bulgaria would see the ball at Azteca, an earthquake managed to penetrate deep into their foundations. The 8.1 on the Richter scale and the terrifying moves not only devastated the central region of the capital, but also made the World Cup in question.
On the morning of Thursday, September 19, 1985, the offices of the Organizing Committee, located in Las Lomas, were part of the unrest that prevailed in the entire Federal District. In a city cut off from the rest of the world, the phone hung on the line and somehow it worked. The planning, frozen on the lists, alerted the remaining 254 days for the opening match, however, the priority on that day and those that followed was none other than notifying the acquaintances’ relatives that, despite everything, they were fine.
“In the offices of the organizing committee, there was a phone line, for some reason, it was working, there was someone talking to the United States and they kept calling, so people would go to the offices to talk on the phone. Through this line, we were informed of the United States and from there. To Switzerland to tell FIFA about our conditions. There were many people wanting to know their relatives. The organizing committee became a link, a lifeline, especially through communication. Compiegne remembers in an emotional voice: “Within 24 hours we were talking everywhere.”
In FIFA, upon hearing the news, the anxiety increased. It was hard to imagine that the ruined city would be able to rebuild itself in just a few months, so he sent a delegation to assess the damage. He thought the worst.
It was very complicated, because some of the runways at the same airport were damaged. All teams will arrive by plane, and this was arranged quickly. The FIFA people sent a chain of technicians and here Alejandro Borrello was responsible for receiving all visitors, inspectors and technicians. They visited them with the architect Hector Ortiz, who was in charge of the stadiums, and the truth is that Azteca resisted nicely, it had small details, cracks, but nothing in the background, “added Compiegne.
After she was struck by a constant dizziness, the organizing committee divided the days into two needs. There were pending works, but the situation in the downtown area was critical so the machines for building the World Cup were busy clearing the rubble.
They were building the press center. I remember that all the cranes that were erecting the facade went to the center to remove the rubble and lift what was in the collapsed buildings, so the delivery of the center was delayed for more than a month because all the people and all the contracting companies had to go to support the cause of the tremors. Then we had to set aside the time, work at night, until they were all in good shape, and we succeeded, ”commented the organizing committee member.
“Mister Canaido was sympathetic to the people, and he sold us a precious World Cup puzzle, from Mexico, and after the earthquake, we had to show that Mexico was standing, that the stadiums were standing, and that Mexican fans were going to take them back, that was a catalyst from a tragedy that we made a month of joy and union “.
Whistle and party
However, the months that followed were marked by social wrangling. The Mexican people, who joined their efforts, raised what they could, considered that the country was not for the World Cup, and that efforts directed at organizing the World Cup should focus on reviving the devastated countries. Although it wasn’t easy.
“The World Cup has already been committed, and we can no longer hold back, with TV stations that had the rights of the national team, through OTI (Organization of Ibero-American Communications), which we had to adhere to, as is the case with all TV stations in the world. There are suspicions, in society as well, but through disguised campaigns we were able to move forward, ”Compiegne admitted.
Thus, on May 31, 1986, at Azteca Stadium and ahead of 96,000 spectators, the expected second World Cup began in Mexico. A violating whistle nullified the speech of President Miguel de la Madrid. The way he blamed him was for not responding to the tragedy. Then Maradona came, with his hand, with his genius, the goal of Negret and Vasco Zeb, the wave in the stadiums, chiquitibum, the English and their hooligans. And the glass that looks up at the sky is painted with pelicity.
24 teams participated in the World Cup
On 20 May 1983, FIFA unanimously designated Mexico as the organizing country, replacing Colombia.
The opening match
May 31, 1986
Bulgaria 1-1 Italy
It was a tragedy
According to official data, 3,192 people died in the 1985 earthquake, however, organizations estimate the number to be around 20,000