Friday, July 31, 2015

31 July 2009 - Mutu Loses Some Of His Appeal

On 31 July 2009, the Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed an appeal filed by former Chelsea striker Adrian Mutu, thus requiring him to pay €17,173,990 to the Blues in compensation for breach of contract.

The dispute between club and player arose in September 2004, when Mutu, starting his second season with Chelsea, tested positive for cocaine use. The club sacked him the next month. He moved to Juventus the following January, but around the same time, Chelsea sued him for damages related to the costs spent to acquire him from Parma, the cost to replace him, and other expenses.

In May 2008, the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber ordered Mutu to pay Chelsea €17,173,990, including €16,500,000 for the unamortized portion of the transfer fee Chelsea paid to Parma. At the time, it was the highest fine ever levied by FIFA. Mutu appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport - his second appeal to the CAS during the lengthy proceedings. The CAS dismissed the appeal on 31 July 2009 and also ordered Mutu to pay the arbitration expenses for Chelsea in the amount of 50,000 Swiss francs.

Mutu appealed a third time, but that appeal was dismissed in June 2010. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

30 July 1981 - Rocky Takes The Pitch

On 30 July 1981, Paramount Pictures released Victory, a film about a group of football-playing Allied prisoners of war in a German prison camp during WWII. Known as Escape to Victory outside of North America, the movie starred Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone alongside a group of real-life footballers including Pelé and Bobby Moore.

Based loosely on the 1941 "match of death" between Soviet prisoners and a German Army team, the film follows a group of POWs who agree to play an exhibition match against their captors and assemble a side led by Englishman Captain John Colby (played by Michael Caine). Pelé's character, Corporal Luis Fernandez, is from Trinidad and Tobago, while Stallone plays the team's inexperienced goalkeeper, American Captain Robert Hatch.

Hatch organizes a plan for several of the POWs to escape at halftime, but, despite being down at the break due in part to biased officiating, they are convinced to stay in attempt to win the match. Near the end, with the sides even at 4-4, Fernandez scores the potential match-winning goal, but is incorrectly ruled offside. Shortly afterward, as time is about to expire, the referee awards the Germans a penalty kick, but it is saved by Hatch, causing a celebration in the stands. Using the celebration as cover, the POWs then escape.

In addition to Pelé and Moore, the cast included Tottenham Hotspur star midfielder Osvaldo Ardiles, Manchester City midfielder Kazimierz Deyna, and several players from Ipswich Town.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

29 July 2001 - Enough Clean Sheets To Fill A Linen Closet

On 29 July 2001, hosts Colombia won their first Copa América title, beating invitees Mexico 1-0 in a Final that saw the visitors finish with nine men and no manager on the touchline.

The competition almost didn't happen, as drug-fueled political violence in the country forced CONMEBOL to cancel it. But promises of increased security by the organizers allowed it to go forward, albeit without CONMEBOL member Argentina and invitee Canada, both of whom withdrew amid concerns over the safety of their players.

Both Colombia and Mexico provided stout defenses throughout the tournament, with Mexico conceding only two goals, while Colombia had not allowed a single one. The Final proved to be much of the same, as the two teams battled through a scoreless first half notable mostly for the touchline ban issued against Mexican manager Javier Aguirre for his repeated excursions outside the bounds of the technical area. Colombia suffered a loss as well, losing the tournament's leading scorer, Victor Aristizabal to injury in the 25th minute.

Colombia eventually got the edge in the second half with a 65th-minute header from defender and captain Iván Córdoba - his only goal of the tournament. The frustrated Mexicans began lashing out, earning two late red cards for Juan Rodriguez and Gerardo Torres, as Colombia earned their sixth consecutive clean sheet of the competition and raised the cup.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

28 July 2007 - Barça Breaks Hearts' Record

On 28 July 2007, FC Barcelona played Edinburgh's Heart of Midlothian FC in a friendly. Although Barça got the win, Hearts got an unofficial home attendance record.

The Catalonians' visit was a rare one to Scotland and the demand for tickets to see the glamorous side prompted Hearts to move the location of the match. Their usual home, Tynecastle Stadium, holds fewer than 18,000 people, so the club relocated the friendly to nearby Murrayfield Stadium, owned by the Scottish Rugby Association. Murrayfield's capacity of 67,130 makes it the largest stadium in Scotland and one of the largest in the UK.

On the day, 57,857 people showed up to watch the preseason contest, blowing past the previous Hearts attendance record of 53,396, set in 1932 when Tynecastle still had terraces. Barcelona quickly showed their class, forcing early saves from Hearts keeper Craig Gordon before taking the lead with a 21st-minute penalty kick from captain Ronaldinho. Hearts, however, equalized just three minutes later after a Laryea Kingston free kick resulted in a tap-in from Juho Makela (pictured).

Ronaldinho proved to be too much for the Scots as he restored Barça's lead with a 40th-minute header. He was replaced in the second half by new signing Thierry Henry, whose 51st-minute pass was knocked home by Giovanni Dos Santos to finish the scoring at 3-1.

Technically, Barcelona were the hosts of the match, making the attendance record even more unofficial for Hearts.

Monday, July 27, 2015

27 July 2009 - The Great Striker Swap Of 2009

On 27 July 2009, Inter and Barcelona confirmed a transfer in which striker Zlatan Ibrahimović moved to Camp Nou in exchange for Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o, a season-long loan of midfielder Alexander Hleb, and €46 million.

With Eto'o valued at €20 million, the total value given for the Swedish striker was reported as €66 million, making him the third most expensive footballer in history, behind Zindine Zidane (€76 million in 2001) and Cristiano Ronaldo (€94 million in 2009), both of whom went to Real Madrid. After the deal was announced, Hleb refused to move to Inter, so Barcelona sent him on loan to Stuttgart and paid Inter an additional €3 million, raising the total value to €69 million.

The deal had been rumored for weeks, fueled primarily by Eto'o's reported dissatisfaction at Barça. With Eto'o unsettled, the Catalan side turned their eyes to Ibrahimović, who was coming off his best season ever. He had scored 25 goals in 35 league appearances for Inter, winning his third consecutive Scudetto. Eto'o had performed even better, however, scoring 36 goals in all competitions as Barça won a Spanish-record six trophies, including La Liga and the Champions League.

After the transfer, Eto'o again got the better of Ibrahimović, as Inter went on to win Serie A, the Coppa Italia, and the Champions League with a total of 16 goals from the Cameroon international, while Barcelona had to content themselves by winning La Liga and 10 goals from Ibrahimović in all competitions. Fatefully, the teams met three times in the Champions League, with Barça earning a win and a draw in the group stage, but getting eliminated by a 3-2 aggregate loss to Inter in the semi-finals.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

26 July 2009 - A Fitting Farewell For Bobby Robson

On 26 July 2009, England and Germany played a rematch of their meeting in the 1990 World Cup in honor of former England manager Bobby Robson. Proceeds from the match went to his cancer charity, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

The 1990 match, which was won by West Germany on penalty kicks, was Robson's last in charge after eight years at the helm of the national team. The sides met in the semi-finals, marking England's deepest run in the World Cup since winning it in 1966.

After leaving the England job, Robson managed several clubs, including PSV Eindhoven (1990-92, 1998-99), Sporting (1992-94), Porto (1994-96), Barcelona (1996-97), and, lastly, Newcastle United (1999-2004). During that time, he had been diagnosed with cancer on five separate occasions. The last diagnosis, in 2007, was terminal. Shortly afterward, in March 2008, he launched the Bobby Robson Foundation to fund cancer research, detection, and treatment.

The charity match was played at Newcastle's St. James' Park, with Robson in attendance. The England XI included ten members of the 1990 side, including Peter Shilton and Paul Gascoigne, while three players. Three players from the West German team, including captain Lothar Matthäus, joined the Germany XI. The remaining slots were filled by younger internationals and celebrity players such as singers Craig David and Simon Webbe.

History appeared likely to repeat itself as the Germans took an early 2-0 lead in the 18th minute, but England leveled before the break. Newcastle hero Alan Shearer provided the winning goal with a 79th minute penalty kick and the match ended 3-2 for England.

The match was Robson's last public appearance, as he passed away five days later. By the time of his death, the Foundation had raised £1.6 million and by late 2009, that number had risen to £2 million.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

25 July 1902 - Personally, I Would Have Picked "Esparta"

On 25 July 1902, a group of ten Paraguayans and one Dutchman created Club Olimpia in Asunción. It is Paraguay's oldest and most successful team, with 39 league titles and three Copa Libertadores trophies.

The original members were Paraguayans Sila Godoy, Fernando S. Pascual, José E. Torres, Gustavo M. Crovatto, Héctor Cabañas, Juan Rodi, Antonio Pedraza, Luis Marecos, Juan Mara and Genaro Gutiérrez Yegros, and Dutchman William Paats, who brought the very first football to Paraguay. He chose the club's name in honor of the Greek city of Olympia, birthplace of the Olympics. Other name candidates included "Paraguay" and "Esparta."

Olimpia won their first league title in 1912 and have won at least one title in every decade since. They enjoyed their most successful period from 1978 to 1983, when they won six consecutive league titles and their first Copa Libertadores (1979). They have also had two undefeated seasons in 1959 (as part of five consecutive titles) and 1993. 

They won their last league title in 2011 and won their third Copa Libertadores in 2003, along with that year's Recopa Sudamericana.