On a September evening in 1989, Brazil and Chile faced off in the mythic Estadio Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro to determine which nation would qualify for the 1990 World Cup in Italy. Chile and Brazil entered the game both tied on points, with Brazil in first place due to goal differential. Chile needed to beat Brazil in order to qualify directly.

During the qualification campaign, Chile had beaten Venezuela 3–1 in Caracas, drew 1–1 with Brazil in Santiago, and beat Venezuela 5–0 in Mendoza, Argentina. Chile already had issues during the qualification process since FIFA had banned Chile from playing in their home stadium due to crowd violence in the 1-1 draw with Brazil.

When the two teams faced each other on September 3, 1989, the match itself was hardly a classic, after the first 45 minutes the game was scoreless. In the second half in the 49th minute Careca would put Brazil ahead 1-0. In the 67th minute, a flare was thrown in the Chilean penalty box that at first seemed to have hit goalkeeper Roberto Rojas, who immediately threw himself to the ground and seemed to have been injured.




The Scandal 

Rojas was bleeding heavily, and it seemed that he was impacted by the object that caused a severe laceration to his face. The rest of the Chilean team left the field in protest, and the referee had to suspend the game as a result after failing to convince the Chilean players to continue.

Upon arrival to Santiago, the Chilean players were greeted as heroes and with the intention to be awarded the three points, it looked like Chile was going to qualify for the 1990 World Cup. Then everything was turned on its head when Brazilian police arrest the perpetrator of the incident, Rosenery Mello do Nascimento, and photographs and footage began to circulate showing that Rojas was nowhere near the flare nor was he impacted by it to have caused such a wound.


The Aftermath 

Upon reviewing the evidence, CONMEBOL had discredited Rojas’ version of an attack, and now solely focused on the nature of the injury he had suffered. Reports would show that the injury was not caused by a flare, but by a blade or sharp object. After the confederation had investigated more thoroughly it was apparent that Rojas' cut was self-inflicted and the blade was hidden in one of his gloves.

The investigation lead all the way to Chilean coach Orlando Aravena who asked Rojas and the team doctors to stay on the field to simulate an attack and suspend the match. Ten days later FIFA suspended Roberto Rojas for life from soccer and Chile was declared losers of the match and thus did not qualify for the 1990 World Cup and was disqualified from competing in the qualification of the 1994 World Cup. Further suspensions were handed down to the Chilean national team coaches, players, and doctors.

Roberto Rojas' life suspension was lifted in 2001 and while he was not of age to play soccer professionally, he did become a coach in 2003, coaching none other than Brazilian giant Sao Paulo for only a few games.