Sunday, April 26, 2015

26 April 1905 - Instead Of A Rose, England's Lily

On 26 April 1905, Dick, Kerr's Ladies winger and the first woman to be inducted in the English Football Hall of Fame Lily Parr was born in St. Helens, Lancashire.

The fourth of seven children, Parr (pictured, far right) grew up playing football with her brothers before joining St. Helens Ladies. There, she was spotted by someone from the Dick, Kerr & Co. locomotive factory, who sponsored the most successful women's team in the country - the Dick, Kerr Ladies. She joined them in 1919 when she was 14 years old and scored 43 goals for them in her first season. She would go on to score more than 900 goals before her retirement in 1951.

In 1920, Parr and the other Dick, Kerr's Ladies represented England against France in a match recognized as the first women's international, winning 2-0.

When the FA banned women's football in 1921, Parr and her team continued to play on non-FA grounds despite decreasing attendances. In 1922, she toured the United States with Dick, Kerr's Ladies and played eight matches against top division US sides, winning three, drawing three, and losing two.

Parr continued to play until 1951, by which time Dick, Kerr's Ladies had been renamed Preston Ladies. Openly gay, she lived with her partner Mary until her death of breast cancer in 1978. In 2007, the London Lesbian Kickabouts club established the Lily Parr Exhibition Trophy in honor of Parr's accomplishments.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

25 April 1936 - A Born Fighter

On 25 April 1936, Leonel Sánchez, Chile's record cap-holder for an outfield player, was born in Santiago.

A left winger, Sánchez began his professional career in 1953 with Universidad de Chile, where he would remain for seventeen years and win six league titles (1959, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1969). In 1955, he made his first appearance for the Chilean national team in a 1-1 draw with Brazil. He would go on to earn a team-record 84 caps between 1955 and 1968. (The record was later beaten by goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who currently sits at 89 appearances).

He was a key member of the team that finished third in the 1962 World Cup, scoring four goals to tie five other players as the tournament's top scorer. He scored two of those goals in Chile's opening match, a 3-1 group stage win over Switzerland.

Chile's next match, played on 2 June, was the infamous "Battle of Santiago" in which several fights broke out and two Italian players were sent off. One of the Italians ejected was Mario David, who was sent off for kicking Sánchez in the head. Sánchez had first punched David, but escaped punishment. Sánchez also broke the nose of Italy's Humberto Maschio with a punch, but somehow again avoided punishment as Chile won the match 2-0. They eventually lost to Brazil in the semi-finals, but finished in third place with a 1-0 win over Yugoslavia in the consolation match.

Sánchez left Universidad in 1969 over a contract dispute and played for three other Chilean teams before retiring in 1973.

Friday, April 24, 2015

24 April 2006 - One Small Step Forward

On 24 April 2006, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a controversial decree lifting the 17-year ban on women attending football matches.

Over the years, supporters of the ban have justified it as protecting women from the rowdy behavior that often accompanies football matches. Women consistently fought the ban, which was imposed as part of the 1979 Islamic revolution, even to the point of fighting with police stationed at stadium entrances. They also occasionally were able to sneak into matches disguised as men. Tensions reached dangerous heights in March 2006, when security personnel for a match at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran attacked dozens of women who had bought tickets and tried to enter the stadium.

Ahmadinejad claimed that the presence of women would help to tone down the behavior at matches. Still, his lifting of the ban was qualified - women were allowed to attend, but were restricted to separate areas from the male audience. Even then, it did not last long. Religious responded to the decree by claiming that it is improper under Islam for women to look at the bare legs of male strangers. Ultimately, the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stepped in to resolve the dispute, convincing Ahmadinejad to back down.

Women have gained some freedom, however, and are now allowed to play football, although they must do so while adhering to the Islamic dress code that forbids them from showing any hair.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

23 April 2006 - Once Is A Coincidence, Twice Is A Trend

On 23 April 2006, West Ham defeated Middlesbrough 0-1 in an FA Cup semifinal played at Villa Park in Birmingham before a crowd of 39,148. West Ham went on to lose in the Final to Liverpool - the second of five consecutive FA Cup competitions in which the team to defeat Boro went on to become losing finalists.

That peculiar streak started in 2005, when Manchester United eliminated Boro in the Fourth Round on 29 January, then lost to Arsenal in the Final. It continued on 23 April 2006 when West Ham striker Marlon Harewood scored the match's only goal in the 77th minute to give the Londoners the win. They advanced to the Final at Cardiff's Millenium Stadium, where they fell to Liverpool in a penalty shoot-out, 3-3 (3-1).

Manchester United again fell victim to the "Boro curse" in 2007, beating the Teessiders in the Sixth Round, then losing in the Final to Chelsea. In 2008, second-division Cardiff City made an improbable run to the Final, beating Boro in the Sixth Round then Burnley in the semifinals before losing 0-1 to Portsmouth in the Final. In 2009, Boro suffered another Sixth-Round exit, this time at the hands of Everton, who then lost to Chelsea in the Final.

The streak ended on 24 February 2010, when Manchester City, who had beaten Boro in the Third Round, lost 3-1 to Stoke City in a Fifth Round replay.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

22 April 2007 - Ronald'oh!

On 22 April 2007, three-time FIFA World Player of the Year Ronaldo moved from the football pitch to the small screen with a guest appearance on The Simpsons. He provided the voice for an animated version of himself in the episode that aired that night.

The episode's main plot concerned Marge's and Bart's participation in an online game called "Earthland Realms." Ronaldo showed up in the secondary plot in which Homer becomes a referee for Lisa's football match.

Homer awards a free kick when Lisa takes a dive, but when she tries a second dive, Ronaldo arrives and explains to Homer how "floppers" are ruining the sport. In response, Homer shows Lisa a yellow card, but she tears it up, forcing Homer to show her a red. As she exits the pitch, Ronaldo shouts "Another family broken up by Ronaldo! Yes!"

Ronaldo appears again near the end of the episode as Homer and the kids are playing football in their back yard. Homer demonstrates some impressive moves, to which Ronaldo says "Ha ha ha, I have taught you well," then thinks to himself "Too well."

While promotional images for the episode showed Ronaldo in his Brazil kit (as pictured), he appears in the episode wearing the all-white home kit of Real Madrid, his club at the time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

21 April 2007 - Arsenal Win The Champions League

On 21 April 2007, Arsenal Ladies defeated hosts Umeå IK 0-1 in the first leg of the UEFA Women's Cup Final. Arsenal full-back Alex Scott (pictured on the left) provided the late match-winner with a 25-yard rocket in stoppage time.

It was the fourth final in six years for Umeå, who had won it twice and were heavy favorites over Arsenal. The Swedes had breezed through the tournament, winning every match they had played, from the group stage to the semifinals. Arsenal, making their first Final appearance, had similarly gone undefeated, but had conceded one draw - a 2-2 scoreline against Danish side Brøndby IF in the first leg of the semifinals.

The Swedes created loads of chances, particularly from their forward pairing of Hanna Ljungberg and Marta, but they were constantly denied by goalkeeper Emma Byrne and the rest of the Arsenal defense. The match appeared to be headed for a draw when, in the second minute of stoppage time, Scott rushed forward and rifled a shot just under the bar. The match ended one minute later.

The teams met in London for the second leg on 29 April, but battled to a scoreless draw that gave Arsenal the title. It was part of an historic quadruple for the club, who also won that season's league title, the FA Women's Cup, and the FA Women's Premier League Cup.

UEFA has since rebranded the Women's Cup as the UEFA Women's Champions League.

Monday, April 20, 2015

20 April 1895 - Villa Wins The Cup, Then Loses It

On 20 April 1895, Aston Villa (pictured) scored what was at the time the fastest goal in FA Cup Final history to beat West Bromwich Albion 1-0 before a crowd of 42,560 at London's Crystal Palace. Because many of those attendees were slow entering the stadium, they missed the record-setting goal.

There is some dispute about who actually scored the goal. According to post-match reports, Villa center forward John Devey started the match, kicking the ball to inside-left Dennis Hodgetts, who then sent it to winger Charlie Athersmith on the right. Athersmith then crossed it to the goalmouth, where it fell to inside forward Bob Chatt, who then half-volleyed it toward the goal. The ball entered the goal sometime between the 30th and 39th second of the match.

Press reports credited the goal to Chatt, but some Villa players said later that West Brom keeper Joe Reader deflected Chatt's shot into the path of Devey, who fired it into the net. In any event, the FA still lists Chatt as the goalscorer on the 30th second. It turned out to be the match-winner, as neither team was able to penetrate the other's defense for the remainder of the match.

It was the second FA Cup title for Villa, who had won it in 1887 by beating West Brom 2-0. Villa didn't get to hold on to it for very long, though, as the 1895 Cup itself was stolen shortly after the Final and has never been recovered.

Villa's record goal stood for 114 years until it was overtaken in 2009 when Everton's Louis Saha scored at the 25-second mark in their 2-1 loss to Chelsea.