Triumphs and turbulence

In UEFA's 60th year, we continue to look back over six decades with a review of the 1980s when UEFA led European football through times of great development and moments of tragedy.

France's European national team champions of 1984 take the acclaim in Paris
France's European national team champions of 1984 take the acclaim in Paris ©Getty Images

On the field, England ruled the European club scene as the decade got under way. The 1980s opened with a second successive European Champion Clubs' Cup win for Nottingham Forest FC who, in just three remarkable years, had emerged from the English second division and flourished under their mercurial manager Brian Clough. This time around, a single goal was enough to see off Germans Hamburger SV in Madrid. Clough's viewpoint of his team's rise was typically forthright: "When I won the European Cup, I didn't bankrupt Nottingham Forest," he said. "I did it by being a good manager, not waving the cheque-book round."

Liverpool FC overcame Real Madrid CF 1-0 in Paris in 1981, and another surprise package, Aston Villa FC, made it six English triumphs in a row. Shrewd disciplinarian Ron Saunders managed them to domestic glory before leaving, and his relatively unknown successor Tony Barton produced the goods – Villa marched to the 1982 final in Rotterdam and beat favourites FC Bayern München. England's seemingly unbreakable grip on the trophy was interrupted by durable Hamburg, with Felix Magath's long-range strike enough to see off Juventus in Athens, but the English were back in business in 1984, Liverpool defeating AS Roma on penalties and, into the bargain, doing it on Roman soil at the great city's Olympic Stadium.

The 1985 final brought a deeply dark hour for European football. Thirty-nine fans lost their lives when a retaining wall gave way before the kick-off of the match between Juventus and Liverpool at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels. The game itself eventually went ahead, a penalty from Juve's Michel Platini taking the trophy to Italy, but it paled into insignificance alongside the evening's tragic events. The disaster led to security and spectator-related issues becoming a major priority for the football authorities over the ensuing years, with UEFA pursuing intense cooperation with the European political instances in particular.

Eastern Europe's hour of glory arrived in 1986 – FC Steaua Bucureşti goalkeeper Helmut Duckadam saved all four FC Barcelona penalties in a shoot-out in Seville to bring the European Cup to Romania. One of football's great goals – an audacious back-heel from Rabah Madjer – sealed FC Porto's success over Bayern a year later. 1988 was certainly a boom year for the Dutch, and at club level PSV Eindhoven won a dramatic penalty shoot-out against SL Benfica in Stuttgart to capture the precious silverware.

A memorable team closed the decade in style. The talented Dutch triumvirate of Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard were part of an irresistible AC Milan side that thrashed Steaua 4-0 in Barcelona in 1989. Their mentor was Arrigo Sacchi, a coach who had never played professional football and who had worked for some years as a shoe salesman. Sacchi repelled his doubters with a splendid response: "I never realised that in order to become a jockey you have to have been a horse first!"

Meanwhile, on the national-team stage, the opening UEFA European Championship of the 1980s was the first to feature eight teams. Germany triumphed in Italy, two goals from giant spearhead Horst Hrubesch – nicknamed 'The Monster' – finally subduing resilient Belgium, the tournament's dark horses. "We had a good side, one of the best in Europe," said Hrubesch. "It was a team that was strong in every position, but it was also a team where the players fit together and we played some beautiful football." Four years later, a hugely entertaining final round in France saw the flamboyant hosts, led by the talismanic Michel Platini, set the tournament alight. Platini scored nine goals, including a left foot/right foot/header hat-trick against Yugoslavia. The Frenchmen were too strong for Spain in the final in Paris. "It was an overwhelming joy to become champions," said the future UEFA President. "To do that in front of our own fans was the icing on the cake."

Orange was the brightest colour in West Germany in 1988. The Netherlands welcomed back the legendary Rinus Michels as coach, 14 years after his great side's exploits in the FIFA World Cup, also on German soil. Michels and Milan stars Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard drove an exceptional new generation to the EURO title. The Dutchmen's preparations were not always orthodox, as Gullit recalls. "The day before the final [against the USSR] we went to a Whitney Houston concert – can you imagine? So on the day of the final we said, 'Look, we had a party, we had Whitney Houston; now we are here we can have this trophy!'" Gullit's opener and a stunning Van Basten volley from an acute angle in the Munich final made sure they did ...

Women's football forged an identity in the 1980s, with the creation of the UEFA European Competition for Representative Women's Teams. The inaugural event was played between 1982 and 1984, when 16 countries competed for the right to contest a two-legged play-off final, Sweden emerging victorious. Norway won the second edition in 1987, and West Germany powered to the title in 1989. The fledgling competition struck a positive chord and was given European championship status for the following edition.

As football became more commercially driven, UEFA gave vital emphasis to reinvesting funds generated by its activities back into the game. From 1987, UEFA also experienced dramatic growth in terms of staff and budget to deal with the game's overall expansion. There were the effects, particularly from a legal point of view, of a Europe without borders; television rights matters and the rise of sophisticated sports marketing techniques. UEFA continued to organise technical and referee courses to educate and exchange expertise. It created a Medical Committee in 1986; allowed sponsors' advertising on players' shirts in the club competitions from 1982/83; admitted San Marino as the body's 35th member in 1988; and began embracing new technology by starting to set up a European football data bank within the Berne secretariat.

Tragedy struck in August 1983 when UEFA President Artemio Franchi died in a car accident. A brilliant administrator, European football mourned his loss. His successor was the respected Frenchman Jacques Georges, who steered UEFA through the recovery period in the wake of the Heysel tragedy and was a commanding figure as the European body faced ever new challenges.

Within the UEFA administration, a distinguished career ended with the retirement of general secretary Hans Bangerter at the end of 1988 after three eventful decades at the helm. Bangerter handed over the reins to German Gerhard Aigner, who had joined UEFA in 1969 and collected a vast wealth of experience across the body's activities, thus making him an ideal choice as general secretary. Gerhard Aigner was to be a crucial UEFA figure in the coming years as European football underwent even more explosive growth ...