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March 25 , 2010

Behind the Curtain

Football in Eastern Europe


From the war-ravaged streets of Sarajevo, where turning up for training involved dodging snipers' bullets, to the crumbling splendour of Budapest's Bozsik Stadium, where the likes of Puskás and Kocsis masterminded the fall of England, the landscape of Eastern Europe has changed immeasurably since the fall of communism. Jonathan Wilson has travelled extensively behind the old Iron Curtain, viewing life beyond the fall of the Berlin Wall through the lens of football.

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Where once the state-controlled teams of the Eastern bloc passed their way with crisp efficiency - a sort of communist version of total football - to considerable success on the European and international stages, today the beautiful game in the East has been opened up to the free market, and throughout the region a sense of chaos pervades. The threat of totalitarian interference no longer remains; but in its place mafia control is generally accompanied with a crippling lack of funds.

In BEHIND THE CURTAIN Jonathan Wilson goes in search of the spirit of Hungary's 'Golden Squad' of the early fifties, charts the disintegration of the footballing superpower that was the former Yugoslavia, follows a sorry tale of corruption, mismanagement and Armenian cognac through the Caucasuses, reopens the case of Russia's greatest footballer, Eduard Streltsov, and talks to Jan Tomaszewski about an autumn night at Wembley in 1973...

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