Sunday, September 21, 2014

21 September 1968 - The Magpies Hit Bottom

On 21 September 1968, Notts County suffered a 0-3 home loss to Swansea City in the ninth week of the Division Four season. The defeat dropped the Magpies to the bottom of the Division Four table.

Notts County is widely recognized as the oldest professional association football club in the world, with a founding date of 1862. In 1888, Notts County joined eleven other clubs to found the Football League. The club struggled early and were relegated to Division Two in 1893. They did enjoy some success in the FA Cup, however, making the Final in 1891 and winning it in 1894.

The Magpies returned to the top flight in 1897 and spent the majority of the pre-WWI years in Division One, but after the war, they again slid back into the lower tiers, spending lengthy spells in Division Three. By the time they played Swansea City on 21 September 1968, Notts County had spent the previous four years in Division Four, the Football League's lowest tier. The loss to Swansea marked the nadir of the Magpies' fortunes, signifying a drop from Football League founder to the bottom the entire Football League organization.

Notts County avoided relegation, finishing in 19th place out of 24 teams. In 1969, the club appointed Jimmy Sirrel as manager and he orchestrated the club's climb back through the higher divisions. They made it back to Division One in 1981.

The club has since returned to the lower divisions, having last played in the top flight in 1992. They currently play in England's third tier.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

20 September 2007 - The Special One Has (Temporarily) Left The Building

On 20 September 2007, Chelsea manager José Mourinho left the club "by mutual consent." The move was unexpected and reportedly was precipitated by confrontations between Mourinho and club owner Roman Abramovich.

Mourinho joined Chelsea in June 2004 from Porto. He had just completed a string of successes at the Portuguese club, including a 3-0 win over Monaco in the 2004 UEFA Champions League Final the previous month. In an early press conference with Chelsea, he told reporters "I'm European champion and I think I'm a special one," which led to the press giving him the nickname "The Special One."

The nickname proved well-earned, as Chelsea won the Premier League in each of their first two seasons under the often-controversial Mourinho--a remarkable feat for a club who won their last (and only prior) league title in the 1954-55 season. And before his departure, Mourinho had won every other domestic trophy available to him: the FA Cup (2007), the League Cup (2005, 2007), and the FA Community Shield (2005).

His relationship with Abramovich was strained from the beginning, however. The owner acquired Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko from Milan over Mourinho's objections and Shevchenko's playing time, or lack thereof, became a point of contention. Abramovich also installed Avram Grant as Director of Football, again over Mourinho's objections. Tensions were increased when the Blues struggled at the beginning of the 2007-08 season, losing away to Aston Villa and drawing at home to Blackburn Rovers. The final straw for Mourinho was a 1-1 home draw with Norway's Rosenborg in Chelsea's opening Champions League match on 18 September 2007. Mourinho left the club three days later.

He was succeeded by Avram Grant, who led the Blues to the Champions League Final, but lost to Manchester United. Chelsea also finished runners-up to United in the league and to Tottenham in the League Cup, but finished the season without winning any silverware.

In June 2008, after a season out of football, Mourinho signed with Serie A champions Inter and retained the Scudetto in his first season. In 2010, he moved to Real Madrid, then returned to Chelsea in June 2013.

Friday, September 19, 2014

19 September 1948 - The Colombian Capital Classic

On 19 September 1948, Santa Fe defeated local rivals Millonarios 5-3 in the first official Bogotá derby, El Clásico Capitalino. (The coin toss for that match is shown to the right, with Sante Fe's captain on the right and Millonarios' captain on the left).

Millonarios was founded in 1946, though it traces its history back to 1937 through two earlier versions of the club. The name "Millonarios" had originally been a nickname given to the club for its heavy spending to bring in foreign players. Santa Fe was founded in 1941 in a Bogotá café and was named after the street on which the café was located.

The clubs first met in a local league match in 1942, when Millonarios were known as Club Deportivo Municipal, but the 1948 derby was the first meeting between the clubs as they currently exist and the first in the División Mayor del Fútbol Profesional Colombiano ("Dimayor" for short). 1948 was the inaugural season for the Dimayor, who had just seceded from FIFA over a dispute with the Colombian amateur football organization.

Both Millonarios and Sante Fe benefitted from working outside FIFA's constraints on transfer and player payments, and both were able to lure high-profile signings from both sides of the Atlantic. Millonarios acquired Alfredo di Stéfano and Adolfo Pedernera from River Plate, while Sante Fe signed Neil Franklin from Stoke and Charlie Mitten from Manchester United.

Santa Fe won the Dimayor in that first season, while Millonarios won it the next year. Between them, Santa Fe and Millonarios have won 19 first division titles, though the last title for either club was Millonarios' title in 1988.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

18 September 1976 - Looking For A Birthday Present? Try A Silverware Case.

On 18 September 1976, future Galactico and Brazilian star striker Ronaldo Luis Nazário de Lima, more commonly known simply as "Ronaldo," was born in Rio de Janeiro.

In 1993, Ronaldo signed his first professional contract with Brazilian club Cruzeiro, but made only 14 appearances for them (and scoring 12 goals) before transferring to PSV Eindhoven in 1994 for a fee of $6 million. He rose to prominence with Eindhoven, scoring 54 goals in 57 appearances. He was the Eredivisie's top scorer in his first season and helped propel Eindhoven to the Dutch Cup trophy in his second season.

Ronaldo hasn't stayed particularly long with any club, leaving PSV after two seasons for Barcelona. He stayed at Barça for the 1996-97 season, then moved to Inter (1997-2002), Real Madrid (2002-07), and Milan (2007-08 ). Along the way, he earned numerous team honors, including the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup (1997, with Barça), UEFA Cup (1998, with Inter), and La Liga title (2003 and 2007, with Real). He also led Brazil to the World Cup title in 1994 and 2002.

Ronaldo claimed an ample supply of individual awards as well, including the European Golden Boot (1996-97), UEFA Most Valuable Player (1997-98), World Cup Golden Ball (1998), and the Ballon d'Or (1997, 2002). He is one of only two people (the other being Zinedine Zidane) to be named the FIFA World Player of the Year three times (1996, 1997, 2002).

In February 2008, Ronaldo suffered a potentially career-ending knee injury while playing for Milan. Released at the end of the season, Ronaldo trained with Brazilian side Flamengo during his recovery before controversially signing with rivals Corinthians in 2009, where he remained until his retirement in 2011.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

17 September 2007 - That Bright Light At The End Of The Tunnel? Train.

On 17 September 2007, Derby County defeated Newcastle 1-0 at Pride Park.

It was the sixth game of the season, and the first win, for the newly-promoted Premiership side. The winning goal was scored in the 38th minute by Scottish striker Kenny Miller (pictured), making his league debut in his first season with the Rams.

The excitement, however, was short-lived. Derby's next match was a 5-0 loss at Arsenal, the first of an English record 37 consecutive League matches without a win. That streak of futility saw Derby become the first team in history to be mathematically relegated from the Premiership in March. They ended the 2007-2008 season with a record-low 11 points from one win and eight draws.

In November, two months after the win over Newcastle, manager Billy Davies left the club by mutual consent and was replaced by Paul Jewell. Miller, whose goal secured Derby's only win of the season, left the following summer for Rangers.

It was almost a year before Derby claimed another league win, a 2-1 English League Championship victory over Sheffield United at Pride Park.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

16 September 1992 - The Original Black Pearl

On 16 September 1992, Moroccan-born French international midfielder Larbi Benbarek died in his home in Casablanca at the age of 75.

Nicknamed "the Black Pearl," Benbarek has been hailed as the first African football star. He was born in Casablanca in 1914 and played professionally for his hometown clubs Idéal Club Casablanca (1930-34) and US Marocaine (1934-38) before moving to France to sign with Marseille at the age of 20. He stayed with Marseille until 1939, scoring 10 goals in 30 league appearances, before the onset of World War II forced him back to Morocco. Before he left, he had made four appearances for the French national team.

He stayed with Marocaine for the duration of the war, but moved back to Europe when the war ended to play for Stade de Français (1945-48), Atlético Madrid (1948-53) and again with Marseille (1953-55). He also resumed his career with the French national team, making a total of 17 appearances between 1938 and 1954.

In 1955, he again returned to Morocco, where he played for Sidi-Ben-Abbes for a season. He retired from playing in 1956. He briefly managed to Moroccan national side in 1957, and again in 1960, before retiring from football completely.

Soccer legend Pelé reportedly once said about Ben Barek: "If I am the king of soccer, then Larbi Benbarek is the god of it." In 1998, FIFA posthumously awarded him its highest honor, the FIFA Order of Merit.

Monday, September 15, 2014

15 September 1956 - The Tigers Roar In Hong Kong

On 15 September 1956, South Korea defeated South Vietnam 5-3 at the Government Stadium in Hong Kong to claim the title in the first ever AFC Asian Cup.

The tournament began with a qualifying round of nine Asian Football Confederation teams in three groups. Israel qualified from Group 1 without playing a match, as fellow group members Afghanistan and Pakistan withdrew. South Vietnam won Group 2 and South Korea advanced from Group 3. The three group winners were then joined by hosts Hong Kong, who automatically qualified for the round-robin Final Tournament.

The Final Tournament was played as a series of six matches between 1 September and 15 September. Two points were awarded for a win and one point for a draw. All matches were played at Hong Kong's Government Stadium.

South Korea drew its first match 2-2 against Hong Kong, then beat Israel 1-2 to go into the final match with three points. They were one point behind Israel, who had already completed their matches, and thus needed a win against South Vietnam to claim the title.

The teams were tied at 2-2 early in the second half when South Korea's Choi Jung-Min put them ahead with a strike in 57th minute. They extended their lead to 4-2 when Woo Sang-Kwon, who had earlier converted a penalty kick, scored his second goal of the match in the 58th minute. South Vietnam pulled back within one in the 63rd minute, but Choi added another in the 66th minute, giving South Korea a 5-3 victory.