Review: "The Opposition" Provides Crucial History Lesson
Ezra Edelman and Jeffrey Plunkett co-directed ESPN 30 for 30’s The Opposition, a documentary that digs into Chile’s controversial 1974 World Cup Qualifying match.
Despite the short 30 minute run time, this film provides viewers enough information to learn why the Soviet Union did not show up in the second leg of the 1974 FIFA World Cup qualifying playoffs to play against Chile.
Two months after Augusto Pinochet led a coup-de-tat against Salvador Allende and became dictator of Chile, the Estadio Nacional de Chile in Santiago was converted into a detention camp for those who opposed the Pinochet-led government. From September 1973 to November 7, 1973, Pinochet sent many people to the stadium where they were tortured or executed.
Upon learning that the second leg of the qualifying match that was to be played on November 21 and also be held at the stadium, the USSR complained to FIFA regarding the venue and asked if the match could be played elsewhere. FIFA supposedly found “nothing wrong” with the stadium, leading the USSR to forfeit the match.
The documentary provides a valuable insight regarding the event and reveals how FIFA turned a blind eye regarding the tragedy that was occurring on the grounds. Through the interviews with former players of the Chilean national team, the film reveals how the players were initially puzzled by the circumstances of their qualifying match and later angered by the government.
The most revealing scene in the film comes at the end when decorated star Carlos Caszely described how his mother was tortured by the government and was told to remain quiet about his thoughts.
With a short amount of time to work with, the directors did a great job utilizing the interviews to tell an impactful story that history should not forget. Even if football is just a sport, a game that merely provides entertainment, its relationship with politics is inseparable.
With the political climate in Brazil looking tumultuous, viewers could have a glimpse as to what might be surrounding the mindset of the Brazil national team in preparation for the World Cup.