by Noel Draper

It is the 1982 World Cup Semi Final. Two old enemies in the shape of West Germany and France are pitting their wits against each other. On the French side is one of the world’s best players, Michel Platini who later described the match as his “Most beautiful game”. Unfortunately, for one French player “Beautiful” is not a word he would have used to describe the match. That player? Patrick Battiston.

Patrick was a defender cum midfielder cum defender who had a distinguished career with such French teams as Bordeaux and Monaco managing to win the French league five times and the cup twice. He also played for France over fifty times and in three World Cup tournaments not forgetting the European Championship winners medal  he won in 1984. All well and good I hear you say but Patrick Battiston is not really remembered for any of this. He is remembered for one thing and one thing only and it happened in that “Most beautiful game”.

As with most games between these two sides it was a niggly match full of sly off the ball digs and full on tackles. Watching this game as a teenager I had a feeling that both of these teams didn’t really like each other. The German midfielder, Dremmler, looked like he didn’t like anybody from France at all judging by his constant fouling. The game reached the second half, and was nicely balanced at 1-1 before France made a substitution. Onto the pitch trots a player called Patrick Battiston. He immediately begins to make a difference and France begin to take the upper hand. Giresse shot narrowly wide. Rocheteau put the ball in the net only for it to be disallowed by a suddenly picky Dutch referee. Platini was in full control and proved this a few minutes later by drifting past his marker before hammering a shot into the sea of blue shirts behind the goal.

The sight of a man with a bucket running onto the pitch provided a moment of pathos

What happened next is still very vivid in most people of a certain ages minds. Dremmler was tackled by a sliding Bossis and the ball made it’s way via Tigana to Platini who glanced up and saw a gazelle like Battiston steaming through the middle. The pass was perfect, it split the defenders and Patrick raced onto it. Seeing the danger, Harald Schumacher the German fuzzy haired goalkeeper, rushed out of his goal to try and stop the chance. Patrick reached the ball first and poked it goalward, past the onrushing goalkeeper but unfortunately past the post. Neither player saw any of this because Schumacher had decided to carry on running and planted his backside into Patrick’s jaw knocking him unconscious.  It was a sickening collision.

The French players immediately rushed to their team-mate’s aid desperately signalling at the bench for help. The sight of a man with a bucket running onto the pitch provided a moment of pathos that was not needed but it was the only medical help that Patrick received for a few minutes as bizarrely the Seville police had banned the Red Cross from pitch side. Eventually a stretcher was found and Battiston was carried off the pitch. Platini said afterwards that he thought his team mate was dead because he “had no pulse and look so pale”.

Unbelievably, the Dutch referee gave a goal kick to the German’s and said nothing to Schumacher who, whilst all the medical help to Patrick was going on, stood with the ball under his arm looking on impassively. The game carried on and ended up being 1-1 after full time and 3-3 after extra time thus becoming the first ever semi final to go to a penalty shoot out.

Patrick Battiston’s injuries were not life threatening but he remained unconscious for almost a half an hour and sustained a broken jaw,  cracked ribs and damaged vertebrae. He also managed to carry on with his career after recovering and forgave Schumacher even thought the German still insisted that he didn’t mean to do it unlike the rest of the footballing world and general public.

So there you go, Platini’s most beautiful game, the first ever World Cup semi final to go to a penalty shoot out and Battiston nearly loses his life. All in one game. Modern football is shit compared to this.