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THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING

By GEORGE VECSEY (NYT) 1157 words
Published: July 7, 1982

BARCELONA, Spain H ow seriously does the world take the World Cup? Seriously enough to touch off suicides, vandalism, illegal use of satellite facilities, car crashes, heart attacks and the collapse of a floor in Peking, according to various items clipped from European newspapers in the last two weeks.

A first-time visitor to the World Cup got the impression of a world that never slept as long as there was a soccer game going on. None of this may be any good for the human race but it was there - in Europe, South America, Asia and Africa. Maybe someday in the United States it will be there with that emotion.

The athletes had their problems, particularly with the heat that reached 110 degrees during some games. The heat, in turn, made it hard for authorities to administer the antidoping tests.

Spaniards were sitting in front of their televisions, mesmerized by their team's woeful showing. During one of Spain's games, it was impossible to find a taxi and the roads and sidewalks were as deserted as they would be at 5 in the morning.

A survey by the Spanish television authorities showed that 69 percent of the country's population has been watching the soccer games. According to the poll, 77.8 percent of the men watched some match each night while 59.3 of the women watched. The ''upper middle'' economic class had the highest percentage, 75.7, while the ''lower'' economic class registered 64.9 percent.

According to the television officials, the normal rate for watching television in prime time here never goes above 40 percent. In the United States, the highest television figures for a sports event were for this year's Super Bowl. But that was only one game. The World Cup has been last three weeks, with semifinals to be held Thursday and the final on Sunday.

T he Poland-Italy game at Nou Camp in Barcelona will start at 11 A.M. (New York time) and the West Germany-France game in Seville will begin at 3 P.M. Both games will be seen live on ESPN and Channel 41, the Spanish International Network. The final will be shown live by ABC at 1:30 P.M. on Sunday.

The rest of the world has been following the entire World Cup - not always legally. Ninety miles south of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 13 anticorruption officials burst into the Government's satellite base at Lendu at 12:10 A.M. and arrested 33 Government workers and their friends for illegally watching the France-Czechoslovakia game at the base.

One British newspaper asked: ''The question that must be asked is why should they possibly have wanted to watch that particular match?'' (Just in case you've forgotten, that immortal game ended in a 1-1 tie.)

In Peking, 16 people crowded into one room to watch a game and the floor gave way, injuring 14 of the viewers. In Brazil, after the victory against Argentina last Friday, two fans died and more than 1,000 fans were treated for injuries as people took to the streets chanting: ''Buen Viaje, Argentina'' (''Good Trip, Argentina'').

Some fans took losing hard. The Brazilians were eliminated by Italy Monday, and officials in major cities in Brazil have reported an increase in vandalism, attempted suicides and nervous breakdowns. And according to Jornal do Brasil, the family of Coach Tele Santana has become a target of fans' ire, with the coach's wife having asked for police protection after receiving threatening phone calls.

Italian police, fearing the worst from an expected celebration after the 3-2 upset of Brazil, went into crowd-control formations in 16 cities Monday night with sirens wailing. But no major incidents were reported.

In Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 26-year-old Domingo Padille Lainez shot himself in the head shortly after the national team was eliminated. In Chile, moments after Carlos Caszely missed a penalty kick in Chile's 1-0 loss against Austria, two fans were reported to have died of heart attacks in front of their televisions.

In Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, one of the national players, Safet Susic, came back from being eliminated and found his car had been burned, presumably by disappointed fans.

T he biggest controversy of the tournament - so far -was West Germany's 1-0 waltz over Austria that allowed both teams to advance to the next round. One newspaper in Britain - memory fails to recall its name -refused to print the lineups of the two teams, saying the players did not deserve to have their names used in a family newspaper.

In Oldenburg, West Germany, a police officer, Alexander Kluemper, went to court, accusing the national team of ''damaging the prestige'' of his country.

The only problem with fans in Spain was with the English fans. Known for tearing up trains in their own country, the so-called ''hooligans'' swarmed all over Bilbao, sending the locals scurrying for cover. In Madrid during the second round, officials tried to sequester the English fans in their own section - a tactic that was not needed in Barcelona, where Italian and Brazilian fans screamed alongside each other on Monday evening and then drank on the Ramblas Monday night.

The heat was a problem for English players, who draped cold towels over their heads and drank hot tea during the 15-minute intermissions. England's Paul Mariner lost 11 pounds in one game, and teammates lost nearly as much, a tremendous loss for compact soccer players, most of whom weigh no more than 155 to 175 pounds.

Under world soccer rules, two players from each team are chosen at random after each game for antidoping tests. (In Nou Camp, there are two rooms right off the locker rooms - a chapel containing banners of all the teams that have played there, and a sterile white room labeled ''antidoping.'')

Alan Brazil of Scotland was so dehydrated that it took him 14 hours before he could give a urine sample to doctors. In the meantime, he was allowed to return to the team hotel, a violation of soccer rules. No doping violations have been found in tests given to 192 players in the first 48 games.

Perhaps the most poignant photograph in the World Cup has been four wives of Italian players waving forlornly at their husbands from the stands during a practice. This was the closest they will get to their husbands in the monthlong tournament. The players are sequestered at a hilltop hotel at San Boi de Llobregat at the edge of Barcelona, guarded by Spanish police officers carrying machine guns and poised behind walls and on roofs. The officers are there to keep out fans, terrorists, journalists and wives. That's how seriously they take soccer.

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