Blood on the Crossbar: The Dictatorship’s World Cup – Review

This book is the story of the most controversial football World Cup of all time. When Argentina both hosted and won the World Cup in 1978, just two years after the coup d’etat that ousted Isabel Perón as president, it was against the backdrop of a brutal military dictatorship in the country.


Under the leadership of General Jorge Videla, up to 30,000 citizens, categorised as subversives, ‘disappeared’. Dogged by allegations of bribery, coercion and an historic failed drugs test, this is the story of Argentina’s maiden World Cup triumph and the controversy that simmered behind it.


This isn’t exclusively a tale of footballers and generals, and the risks they took to succeed. It’s a story of the people: Argentinean exiles, Parisian students, brave journalists, the marching mothers of Plaza de Mayo and their missing children – and Dutch stand-up comedians who led international boycotts from thousands of miles away.




Rhys Richards has written one of the best football books that I have ever read. It is a thoroughly enjoyable and, equally, eye-opening read about the 1978 World Cup and the circumstances surrounding the host nation Argentina.


The book is filled with many great footballing moments mixed in with some shocking tales from the Argentine regime at the time of the tournament. It really has to be read to be believed – particularly if like me, you were not alive when the tournament was played – and is a fascinating journey into the complexities of Latin American politics at the time.


Overall, Rhys has produced a beautifully researched masterpiece with the right balance of interesting contributions. I cannot recommend this book enough.


Published by Pitch Publishing, Blood on the Crossbar: The Dictatorship’s World Cup is available to purchase from Amazon and all good book stores.


By: Callum McFadden / @Callum7McFadden

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Peter Robinson – EMPICS / PA Images