Holland international attacker RUUD GULLIT of AC Milan (left), who won the UEFA European Championships with the Netherlands in the summer of 1988, dances alongside SSC Napoli star midfielder DIEGO MARADONA, who led Argentina to the FIFA World Cup title in the summer of 1986, during a match in Italy’s crack Serie A in the late 1980s.
Well before Dutch superstar RUUD GULLIT of Italian Serie A side AC Milan decided to formally dedicate his 1987 Balon d’Or award as the European Player of the Year to imprisoned South African political dissident NELSON MANDELA, a public statement had been made in Canada.
Naturally, the decision by the more than 20 African nations to boycott the 1976 SUMMER OLYMPICS en masse to protest the appearance of NEW ZEALAND directly affected the football tournament at the MONTREAL GAMES. Of course, the New Zealanders had not qualified for the football competition that year. But, their national rugby team had toured South Africa, still with its notorious policy known as Apartheid and so, despite the fact that rugby was not an Olympic sport, the decision to not appear in Canada was reached at the very last moment.
South Africa, to review, had been prohibited from participation at the Olympic Games after a formal ban was enacted in 1964.
Ghana, Nigeria and Zambia had been the three African countries to earn the right to enter the competition at the ’76 Summer Olympics. The final tournament featuring sixteen nations had been originally structured to consist of four groups with four teams each. The top two teams from the round robin in each group would then advance to the knockout quarterfinal stage.
The late announcement of the African boycott ensured that there would be no time for replacement teams to be added to the Olympic football tournament at the Montreal Games. Three of the four groups, obviously, were affected but it was determined the best option was to keep the format and simply cancel the matches involving Ghana, Nigeria and Zambia. This meant that, in three of the four groups, each individual contest in the first round took on an even greater sense of urgency as the opportunity to earn points in the standings would be rather limited.