The day Internacional stole the show

The Joan Gamper Trophy is an international invitational friendly tournament that Barcelona have been staging since 1966. Named after the mighty Spanish club’s founder, Hans Gamper, the competition is usually held in the first two weeks of August and provides the club with the perfect showcase for unveiling their star signings ahead of the new season.

The 1982 edition of the prestigious four-team tournament generated even greater expectation than usual among Blaugrana fans for one very good reason: set to make his debut at a refurbished Camp Nou was none other than Diego Armando Maradona, the club’s then record signing.

“VAYA GAMPER” (What a Gamper!) blared the front page of Barcelona sports daily El Mundo Deportivo on the day the tournament began, reflecting the widespread anticipation in the city.

That day, Tuesday 24 August, nearly 110,000 fans made their way to the legendary stadium to see Manchester City kick proceedings off with a penalty shoot-out win over Cologne.

The result came as something of a surprise. The Germans had won the competition the year before, and with the likes of goalkeeper Harald Schumacher and forward Pierre Littbarski in their ranks, they were expected to contest the final against the host team.

“My team played well tonight and deserved to win,” said City manager John Bond before the second semi-final. “It will be a great experience and an honour for us to face Barcelona in the final.

Like the vast crowd who had turned up at the Camp Nou, however, Bond had made the mistake of writing off Internacional’s chances. As the Brazilians would show, they had not travelled all the way from Porto Alegre just to make up the numbers.

Spoiling the party
Os Colorados were viewed as the weakest team in the competition, and not without good reason. Though the club had enjoyed a lot of success in the second half of the 1970s and finished runners-up in the Copa Libertadores in 1980, the side that young coach Ernesto Guedes took to Barcelona was going through a transitional phase.

I think we can consider ourselves fortunate to have formed part of that team, one that knew how to be in the right place at the right time.
Ruben Paz

“It’s true. We were the makeweights, but what nobody seemed to realise was that we had had a pretty good tour leading up to the tournament,” recalled their talented left-footed Uruguayan playmaker Ruben Paz, speaking exclusively to FIFA.com.

“The first thing I remember was the atmosphere. I’d never seen so many people in a stadium before,” added Paz, who had joined Inter earlier that year and went on to represent his country at the FIFA World Cup Mexico 1986™.

“It wasn’t a great game because we knew who we were up against and spent more time defending than playing. Chiquito Benitez had a great match that night. He kept a clean sheet and saved a penalty in the shoot-out.”

The custodian in question, Jose de la Cruz Benitez, was one of the surviving members of the team that went unbeaten in winning the 1979 Brazilian league title.

Like his Uruguayan team-mate, he too was a key figure in the reinvention of a side that also featured full-back Edevaldo, who had just appeared for Brazil at Spain 1982, 21-year-old defender Mauro Galvao and front man Cleo, recently returned from a luckless spell at Barcelona, where he had failed to figure in coach Udo Lattek’s plans.

Paz was one of four Colorado players to find the target in the shoot-out that followed a goalless draw in normal time, with Andrezinho, Ademir and Andre Luiz also scoring from the spot to give the unfancied Brazilians a 4-1 win. Maradona was Barça’s only goalscorer, while Quini struck a post and Benitez kept out Alesanco’s effort.

In the consolation match the following day, Lattek’s men suffered the same fate, going down on penalties to Cologne, rounding off the only Gamper in which Barcelona have lost both of their games.

Flying the flag
The following day Internacional downed Manchester City 3-1 in the final courtesy of an Edevaldo penalty and goals from Paulo Cesar and Fernando Roberto, all of them in the second half.

“We played a different kind of game that night, possibly because we’d got over our fear of playing Barcelona. We performed very well and we were clear winners,” explained Paz, reflecting Inter’s domination of their English opponents.

Surprised to learn that no other side from outside Europe has ever won the tournament, the Uruguayan voiced his praise for his then team-mates, many of whom formed part of the Internacional side that won silver in representing Brazil at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Los Angeles 1984.

“The success we enjoyed had a major impact in Porto Alegre back then and it also put Internacional on the world map, right through till the club won its two Copa Libertadores titles and the Club World Cup,” added Paz. “I think we can consider ourselves fortunate to have formed part of that team, one that knew how to be in the right place at the right time.”