War-torn country’s players travelled to the 1982 tournament as heroes but were shunned on their return after some shockingly gung-ho tactics brought about a 10-1 defeat to Hungary
One of the smaller, yet still very pleasing features of the great 1982 World Cup was that even the goal celebrations had a poetic quality. The joy of successfully channelling a lifetime of aspiration into a single glorious kick has never been better expressed than it was by Marco Tardelli after he scored Italy’s second in the final; the awesome beauty and menace with which Brazil played in the tournament was captured magnificently by Socrates’ mimed volcanic eruption after his exquisite strike against the Soviet Union; and the reaction to Luis Ramírez Zapata’s goal for El Salvador against Hungary gave dramatic expression to an extraordinary tale – of horror, farce and, despite everything, triumph.
When Ramírez swept the ball into the Hungarian net in the 64th minute of their opening match of the tournament, he charged away in uncontainable ecstasy before eventually being engulfed by four equally delighted team-mates. We know his ecstasy was uncontainable because several other team-mates tried to contain it. “Several of them told me not to celebrate,” Ramírez later admitted. “They were afraid that it would make Hungary angry and we would concede more goals. But I was happy and I celebrated as if I’d put us into the lead.” Which, of course, he had not. He had merely cut the deficit to 5-1. Whether because they were piqued or just because they could, Hungary hit back five times, inflicting a 10-1 defeat that remains the heaviest in World Cup history. What Ramírez had scored was the ultimate consolation goal.