One night in Rio (starring Brazil, Chile, and a concealed razor blade)

Dominic Hougham covered the infamous World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Chile in 1989 where Brazil were close to missing out on a place at Italia 90. Tensions were high, and a flare thrown at Chilean keeper Roberto Rojas cost Brazil the match:

On 68 minutes, Chile had possession of the ball in their own half through Astengo when a huge roar suddenly burst out from the crowd. TV cameras swivelled across to goalkeeper Rojas who lay in his penalty area while something flamed and smoked beside him. As the cameras lingered, it appeared as though a flare had been thrown by someone, Chilean players rushing to Rojas’ aid. As they understood what had happened, tempers began to rise. Patricio Yanez made several obscene gestures at the Brazilian fans.

The Chileans motioned for a stretcher but, with none immediately forthcoming, took the initiative and carried their stricken goalkeeper off the field. The cameras showed blood running down the back of Rojas’ head as he was carried down the stairs into the tunnel, along with his teammates.

The stunned Brazilian players discussed what to do next with the referee, spending a further 20 minutes on the pitch awaiting the return of the Chileans. Eventually, the referee was forced to abandon the game, meaning that the likely solution would be a replay at a neutral venue. It appeared that Brazil had been just 22 minutes from Italy before their unruly fans ruined the day.

Except they didn’t…

Two days on from the game, the medical report from the incident stated that there had been no burn marks on Rojas, just a cut on the left side of his forehead. Now back in Santiago, Rojas released a statement saying that he was shocked that people were doubting the nature of his injury.

[…] Finally, five days later, FIFA came to their decision: due to the lack of burn marks and Chile refusing to play on, the game was awarded to Brazil by a 2-0 margin. The Selecao had qualified for yet another World Cup.  

But the mystery hadn’t been settled. Had a Brazilian thrown the firecracker? And how did the wound on the forehead arise? The first question was soon solved. It had been thrown by a Brazilian, a 24-year-old woman by the name of Rosenery Mello.


So now we knew where the flare came from that missed Rojas, but we still didn’t know what had caused the wound. The answer finally came out when Rojas was questioned further in the ensuing days.

He had concealed a razor blade in his glove ahead of the match in order to simulate injury should the need arise. Just think about that for a minute – a professional player had decided before a vital World Cup qualifier to have a blade ready with which to cut himself should he feel it was necessary.

Whatever it takes, I guess!

South American keeper related: South American goalkeepers and Pink Panther

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