Friday, August 22, 2014

22 August 1964 - A Sad Day For Football Widows

On 22 August 1964, the newly-formed BBC2 broadcast the first showing of Match of the Day. The show quickly became a mainstay of British television and popular culture.

BBC2 had been launched only four months prior and intended MOTD as a way to train the BBC's cameramen and technicians prior to England's hosting of the 1966 World Cup. The first show featured highlights of only one match--Liverpool's 3-2 defeat of Arsenal at Anfield. It was presented by Kenneth Wolstenholme and Walley Barnes.

Because BBC2's broadcasting area was restricted to London at the time, the audience for that show was approximately only 20,000. As BBC2's broadcasting area expanded, the audience quickly grew. In the 1970s, by which time the show had moved to BBC1, MOTD's audience reached 12 million.

MOTD is still airing on BBC1, hosted by former England captain Gary Lineker.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

21 August 1936 - J.A.H., R.I.P.

On 21 August 1936, football reporter and author J.A.H. Catton died at the age of 76. He was widely regarded as the greatest sports writer of his day and is considered the father of modern football journalism.

He got his start as a reporter in 1875 when he went to work for thePreston Herald and began covering local side Preston North End. In 1886, he began writing for The Athletic News, a weekly sports journal based in Manchester. He wrote under a pseudonym, first using "Ubique," and then "Tityrus." He later became the editor and helped drive circulation up to 50,000 by 1891, then to 100,000 by 1893 and 170,000 by 1919.

In 1926, Catton published a book, The Story of Association Football, which further helped publicize the increasingly-popular sport.

By the time of his death in 1936, newspapers in Britain devoted substantial coverage to football, due in significant part to his efforts.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

20 August 1916 - Putting The Swords To The Swedes

On 20 August 1916, the United States played their first official international match, defeating Sweden 2-3 in Stockholm. 

The United States had earlier played a couple of unofficial matches against Canada, first losing 0-1 in 1885, then winning 1-0 in 1886, both in Newark, New Jersey. The match against Sweden, however, was the first since the founding of the United States Soccer Federation in 1913.

Approximately 21,000 people watched the match, including Sweden's King Gustav V. US captain Thomas Swords scored the opening goal in the first half, with Charles Ellis adding another in the second half to put the Americans up 2-0. Sweden then pulled one back, but Harry Cooper netted a third for the US. Five minutes from time, Sweden added a second to end the match 2-3 in favor of the visiting American side. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

19 August 1995 - The Dutch Master Debuts

On 19 August 1995, striker Dennis Bergkamp debuted for Arsenal in a 1-1 home draw against Middlesbrough.

Arsenal manager Bruce Rioch lured the Dutch international away from Inter, who had signed him from Ajax in 1993 for a transfer fee of £12 million, making him the second-most expensive footballer in the world at that time. His two seasons in Italy were unsuccessful, however, and Arsenal was able to purchase him for the relative bargain of £7.5 million.

A three-time Eredivisie top scorer during his time with Ajax, Bergkamp did not score for the Gunners until his seventh match, a 4-2 home win over Southampton on 23 September 1995. He quickly resumed his former proficiency in front of the goal, however, and notched 120 goals in 411 appearances for Arsenal before retiring after the 2005-06 season.

He earned a number of personal honors while playing for the North London side, including the English PFA Player of the Year award in 1998, a third-place finish in FIFA Player of the Year voting (1997), and two Premier League Goal of the Season awards (1998, 2002).

Monday, August 18, 2014

18 August 1979 - Brentford Beats Death

On 18 August 1979, Reading FC drew 2-2 with Brentford FC, thus ending Reading's 1,103-minute streak without conceding a goal. The match was the season-opener for both teams, and the first in Division Three for the newly-promoted Reading.

Reading's keeper throughout the streak, which consisted of 11 consecutive clean sheets, was Englishman Steve Death, who made 471 appearances for the Royals from 1969 to 1982. The streak began on 28 March 1979, with Reading's 4-0 win over Grimsby Town. At the time, the Royals were playing in Division Four. The win moved them into first place in the table, which is where they finished after following up the win over Grimsby with a season-ending run of 7 more wins and 3 draws, earning promotion to Division Three.

The streak was an English league record until 31 January 2009, when it was broken by Manchester United's Edwin Van Der Sar.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

17 August 2006 - A Small Fish Gets Caught In A Big Net

On 17 August 2006, Italian football's governing body, the Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio ("FICG"), penalized Reggina Calcio SpA with a 15-point deduction for the club's involvement in the Italian football scandal nicknamed "Calciopoli." The scandal involved a number of Italy's biggest clubs, including Juventus, Milan, Fiorentina, and Lazio.

Reggina was founded in 1914 as Unione Sportiva Reggio Calabria in the southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria on the Straits of Messina, just across from the island of Sicily. It underwent several name changes over the years, settling on Reggina in 1986. It has spent recent years bouncing back and forth between Italy's top two divisions, Serie A and Serie B.

During the investigation in 2006, the club were in Serie A, having earned promotion in 2003. The FICG found Reggina guilty of match-fixing during the 2004-2005 season, in which Reggina finished in 13th place out of 20 Serie A teams. The prosecutor asked for Reggina to be demoted to Serie B, but the FICG instead applied a 15-point deduction for the following season. The deduction was reduced on appeal to 11 points, but additional penalties remained, including a club fine of £68,000 and a fine of £20,000 on club President Pasquale Foti, who also received a 2.5 year ban from football.

Despite the points deduction, Reggina finished the 2006-07 season in 14th position with 40 points, just one point above the relegation zone. They were relegated two years later, however, and are currently back in Serie B for the 2009-2010 season.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

16 August 1997 - The Bafana Bafana Play With The Big Boys

On 16 August 1997, South Africa beat Congo 1-0 at Soccer City (pictured) in Johannesburg. With the win, South Africa qualified for its first World Cup Finals ever. It was also the first time that any team from the southern part of Africa qualified for the Finals.

The victory was significant for the young Bafana Bafana, whose racially-unified team had been established only five years prior and were now pushing for the top of African football as one of only five sides qualifying from the CAF.

Their trip to the World Cup was short-lived, however, as a loss (to France, 3-0) and two draws (with Denmark, 1-1, and Saudi Arabia, 2-2) placed them third in their group and prevented them from advancing to the knockout rounds.