Ask any Brazilian about “El Maracanazo,” and a shudder will run down their spine as they think about Uruguay’s massive upset of Brazil at the legendary Maracana stadium in the 1950 World Cup. But ask any Chilean about “El Maracanazo,” and they’ll think about another incident, just as epic in scale, some 40 years later. That incident is the subject of the latest episode of 30 for 30 Podcasts, The Fall of the Condor, which tells the story of one of the most audacious acts in soccer history.
In the 1980s, soccer and nationalism were closely linked throughout South America, and in Chile in particular, anything that could give the team an edge was condoned. The feeling was that the team needed to be “mas bandidos que los bandidos” (“more bandits than the bandits”) to win their matches. During qualifying for the 1990 World Cup, Chile’s national team, led by its captain and star goalie Roberto “El Condor” Rojas, was taken by a kind of “madness” that it could beat powerhouse Brazil. The matches between Chile and Brazil were full of fights, brutal play and out-of-control fans.
In the culminating moment, Rojas was seemingly hit and injured by a flare shot by a Brazilian fan. Only after photographs of the incident were released did the truth come out — but by that point El Condor and his teammates had already pushed their madness over the brink.
The 1989 “Maracanazo” came to stand as one of the wildest moments in soccer history, and one that had ripple effects for generations of South American soccer.
For the full story, listen to The Fall of the Condor, the third episode in the new season of 30 for 30 podcasts. Other episodes feature KGB spies, an abduction that derailed an Olympic hopeful’s career and the New Orleans Superdome. You can listen for free, wherever you get your podcasts.