Friday, September 22, 2017

22 September 2005 - The Wrong Way To Make A First Impression

On 22 September 2005, Real Madrid's Jonathan Woodgate used an own goal and a red card to make one of the worst debuts in football history.

The defender had joined Real Madrid over a year earlier, completing a £13.4M move from Newcastle in August 2004. But a lingering thigh injury suffered against Chelsea the previous April had kept him out of any competitive matches for his new club until he finally got the call to start in a league contest against Athletic Bilbao.

He made his mark in the 25th minute, when he misjudged an attempted clearance and headed the ball into his own net past keeper Iker Casillas. Then, just before the break, he received a yellow card for a challenge on Athletic midfielder Carlos Gurpegi. His day ended twenty minutes into the second half after he received a second booking for a foul on winger Joseba Exteberria.

Fortunately for Woodgate, his errors did not impact Real Madrid, who went on to win the match 3-1. But he made only eight more league appearances for them before moving back to England on loan with Middlesbrough, then signing for them on a permanent deal in 2007.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

21 September 1929 - The Start Of Sándor's Story

On 21 September 1929, forward Sándor Kocsis was born in Budapest. He went on to become one of the most prolific scorers of the era.

He started his professional career in 1945 with Hungarian club Kobanyai, but spent only one season there before moving to Ferencváros. He spent two quiet years before his breakout season in 1948-49 when he scored 33 times in 30 league appearances to help the club run away with the title. He gave them another 30 goals in 30 appearances the next season, then moved to Honvéd, where he won three more league titles. His 36 goals in 1952 and 33 in 1954 were European bests for those two years.

His scoring form carried over to the national team, where he knocked in 75 goals in 68 appearances between 1948 and 1956. Along the way, he won Olympic gold (1952) and a Central European Championship (1953), as well as reaching the World Cup Final (1954).

Honvéd were in Spain for the European Cup when the Hungarian revolution started in 1956, so like many of his teammates, he remained there. He spent seven seasons with Barcelona before his retirement in 1965, though he never reached his previous scoring heights.

Later in life, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and died in 1979 at the age of 49.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

20 September 2011 - Women And Children First

On 20 September 2011, Fenerbahçe and Manisaspor played in front of a crowd of women and children only. 

The unusual crowd resulted from a friendly that Fenerbahçe hosted against Shakhtar Donetsk the previous July. Several home supporters invaded the pitch, prompting the Turkish football association to take action. They originally ordered Fenerbahçe to play two of their home matches behind closed doors, but later decided to allow a crowd of women and children.

More than 41,000 of them turned up for the match, with players from both teams tossing flowers into the stands. The match ended as a 1-1 draw, but Fenerbahçe captain Alex De Souza said afterward "This memory will stay with me forever. It's not always that you see so many women and children in one game." 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

19 September 1926 - The San Siro Sees Action

On 19 September 1926, Milan and Inter inaugurated the San Siro with a friendly. Inter won, 3-6.

Although the two teams share the stadium now, it originally belonged to Milan. The idea for the new stadium came from club president Piero Pirelli, who also funded the 5 million lire construction cost. Contrary to the multi-use model of most Italian grounds at the time, architect Ulisse Stacchini rejected the inclusion of a track surrounding the pitch in order to create a more intimate setting for the stadium's capacity crowd of 35,000.

Named the New San Siro Football Stadium after the district in which it is located, the new stadium did not have an auspicious start for Milan, as they lost that first match to Inter, 3-6, then lost their first league match there as well.

The club sold the stadium to the city of Milan in 1935, but the Rossoneri remained the sole occupant until 1947, when Inter became joint tenants. In 1980, it was offiicially renamed after Milan and Inter star Giuseppe Meazza, but it is still commonly referred to as the San Siro.

It has since undergone several expansions and currently holds a capacity of 80,018.

Monday, September 18, 2017

18 September 1967 - The Man With The Caps For Japan

On 18 September 1967, defender Masami Ihara was born in the Japanese town of Minkuchi. We went on to make a then-record 122 appearances for the men's national team between 1988 and 1999.

Ihara received his first cap at the age of 21 while playing for the University of Tsukuba and made five national team appearances in that first year. Upon graduation, he joined the Nissan Motors team (which later became known as Yokohama Marinos) and remained there until 1999.

In between, he made another 117 national team appearances, including their title-winning run in the 1992 Asian Cup and, in 1998, their first World Cup. His record of 122 remains a record for the men's team, but is second to Homare Sawa, who was capped 186 times for the women's team.

At the club level, Ihara won the J-League with Marinos in 1995, a season in which he was also named the Asian Footballer of the Year.

After one season with Júbilo Iwata (2000) and two with Urawa Red Diamonds (2001-02), Ihara retired and moved into coaching.

His 122 caps remained a team record until October 2012, when he was passed by Yasuhito Endō. Ihara currently sits in second place on the appearances table after Endō's 152 caps. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

17 September 2011 - Better Late Than Never For Swansea

On 17 September 2011, Premier League debutants Swansea City became the final team across the top four divisions of English football to score a goal that season.

Playing in their first-ever Premier League season (and their first one in the top flight since 1983), the Swans had gone scoreless in their first four matches, getting draws with Wigan and Sunderland in between losses to Manchester City and Arsenal.

By the time they hosted West Brom at Liberty Stadium for their fifth match, Swansea were the only team across the Premier League, the Championship, League One, and League Two--a combined 92 teams in all--without a goal to their name.

That changed quickly against West Brom, with Swansea forward Scott Sinclair (pictured) delivering from the penalty spot in the 14th minute. It was the first goal scored by a Welsh team in the English top flight since Swansea's Bob Latchford netted at Old Trafford in May 1983. But they didn't stop there, as Leroy Lita extended Swansea's lead in the 24th minute, then Nathan Dyer added a third in the 49th to cap the 3-0 victory.

Swansea went on to pull a double over West Brom that season en route to an impressive 11th-place finish the final table.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

10 September 2010 - That's Why You've Got To Keep Your Eye On The Ball

On 10 September 2010, FAR Rabat goalkeeper Khalid Askri committed a blunder that made him an instant internet celebrity.

It happened during a Coupe du Trône match against FAR Rabat's Moroccan league rivals, Maghreb Fez. Askri and his counterpart had done well to keep the match scoreless to force a decision by penalty shootout. There, Askri did well to parry a shot by a Maghreb player. After knocking the ball away, he jumped to his feet and faced the stands, pounding his chest. But he failed to notice that, after landing outside the goal, the ball's spin carried it in. The shooter noticed it, however, and brought it to the attention of the referee, who awarded the goal. Maghreb went on to win the shootout, 0-0 (7-6).

Askri's mistake hit YouTube shortly afterward and immediately went viral, with over a million views in the first week. But Askri's notoriety did not end there; just a few days later, an opposing player robbed the ball from his feet inside the box and scored, prompting Askri to storm off the field in a scene that earned him even more YouTube views.

Maghreb, meanwhile, advanced to the Coupe du Trône Final, where they lost to FUS de Rabat.