The Dangerously Keen Football Fan (Turned Out To Be A Conspiracy)
September 3, 1989, was not looking good for Chile. Well, it was fine enough for the country overall, but it wasn't looking good for the Chilean football team. They needed to beat Brazil in that day's game to qualify for the World Cup. With about 20 minutes to go, the score was 1 to 0, with Brazil leading, and if you aren't very familiar with the game of association football (sometimes known as soccer), take our word that there was every probability the game would end without another goal from anyone.
Then a fan in the stands launched a flare. It reached the field and exploded. The Chilean goalie, Roberto Rojas, fell to the ground and didn't get back up, his head was bleeding so bad. He had to be carried off the field. The ref cheerfully suggested the game should quickly resume, but the Chilean team stormed off.
It seemed like the match wouldn't count, and Chile would still be in competition, whenever they decided they were ready to play again. The fan was identified as a Brazil supporter, adding to Chile's complaints that they'd been attacked. This fan, Rosenery Mello do Nascimento, became a bit of a celebrity. She made the cover of Playboy and was known as the "Maracanã Firecracker"—Maracanã being the name of the stadium, named for the Maracanã river, and nothing to do with the "Macarena" dance craze that was still years away.
Yet when people got a close look at photos of the game, they saw the firework blast hadn't hit Roberto Rojas at all. If you're thinking the blast then merely startled him, making him fall and hit his head, which adds up to the same thing as the firework injuring him ... that's very reasonable of you, but that's not what happened.
Under questioning, Rojas admitted that he'd had a razor stashed in his glove throughout the game. When the chance presented itself, he fell to the ground, used the razor to cut his own head, and pretended the flare was to blame.
It was a conspiracy between Rojas and the team doctor, Daniel Rodriguez, to nullify the match if things went poorly for the team. As far as we can tell, the Maracanã Firecracker herself wasn't in on it at all. Even without any flare showing up, Rojas would have feigned a fall and sliced himself open. The surprise flare just happened to offer a perfect opportunity.
So, FIFA kicked Chile out of the 1990 World Cup after all, and then banned then from the 1994 World Cup as well for good measure. As for Rojas, they banned him from the sport for life. Or at least until 2001, when he asked to come back as a trainer and they said yes, because hey, it had been 12 years.
This fact came from the new One Cracked Fact newsletter. Want more like this, straight from your email inbox, without any ads or popups? Join here:
For more stories of playing dirty, see also:
Top image: El Gráfico