Friday, April 30, 2010

30 April 2006 - Reading Makes A Few Points

On 30 April 2006, Reading concluded the Championship season by beating QPR 2-1 at the Madejski Stadium before a crowd of 23,156. The win gave Reading a total of 106 points for the season, setting an English Football League record.

It was a fitting end to an amazing season for the Royals, who suffered only two League losses all year - at home to Plymouth Argyle in the season opener and away to Luton Town on 17 February. The remainder of their matches consisted of 28 wins and 16 draws, setting a record pace that saw them take the table's top spot on 22 November and keep it through the end of the season.

Reading's Dave Kitson gave his side the lead against QPR, tapping the ball into the net in the 40th minute. The visitors found a late equalizer from Paul Furlong in the 72nd minute, before Reading captain Graeme Murty clinched the victory with an 84th-minute penalty kick. It was the first goal of the season and only his second ever in 280 appearances for the Royals.

The win pushed Reading to 106 points, one past the previous points record of 105 set by Sunderland in the 1998-99 season. Reading moved into the Premier League for the following season, where they finished in eighth place - their highest finish ever - before getting relegated back to the Championship at the end of the 2007-08 season.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

29 April 1901 - Liverpool Walks To The Top

On 29 April 1901, Liverpool beat hosts West Bromwich Albion 0-1 to secure their first League title. It was a remarkable acheivement for the club, who had been sitting in eighth place in the middle of February, seemingly out of the title race.

Their march to the title started on 23 February with a win at Sunderland, 0-1, that lifted Liverpool to seventh place. It was the start of a 12-match unbeaten run to end the season, including wins over Notts County, Nottingham Forest, and Newcastle, and a draw against Bury, all of whom, along with Sunderland, were challenging for title.

The match against West Brom was Liverpool's last of the season. The Reds were sitting in second place, even on points with first-place Sunderland, who had completed their season five days earlier, so even a draw would win the title for the Merseysiders. And West Brom were in last place, already assured of relegation, so few people expected them to put up much of a fight.

West Brom, however, came to play and were somewhat unlucky to go down 1-0 in the first half after their goalkeeper parried a shot into the path of Liverpool's John Walker, who slammed it home. Liverpool held the Baggies off in the second half to clinch the win and the title. It was the first of eighteen League titles for Liverpool.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

28 April 1965 - A Lesson In Futility

On 28 April 1965, Glasgow's Third Lanark AC lost at home to Motherwell, 0-2, on the last day of the Scottish First Division season. It was Thirds' thirtieth loss of the season and their twenty-first in a row, which remains the longest losing streak in any season throughout Scottish League history.

Third Lanark started life as the footballing unit of Third Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers, but separated from the military in 1903, taking the name Third Lanark AC. They enjoyed some early successes, winning one league title (1904) and two Scottish Cups (1889, 1905). The success didn't last, however, and they were relegated to the Second Division at the end of the 1924-25 season and spent the next several years moving back and forth between the top two flights.

By the 1964-65 season, they had been back in Division One for seven years and had finished as high as third in 1961. But they got progressively worse in the next few seasons, finishing one spot out of the relegation zone in 1964. They were not so lucky the next year.

Thirds were already sitting near the bottom of the table when their losing streak began on 28 November with a home loss to Celtic, 0-3. The worst defeats in the string were away to Rangers (5-0), St. Johnstone (5-0), Dunfermline Athletic (8-0), and Dundee (6-1). They hit the absolute bottom of the table on 9 January after a 3-1 away loss to Hearts and remained there for the rest of the season, finishing with only seven points out of 34 matches.

They spent two seasons in Division Two, after which the club was liquidated. They played their last match on 28 April 1967, a 5-1 away loss to Dumbarton FC.

In 1971, supporters re-formed the club as an amateur side. They currently play in the Greater Glasgow Amateur League, Division Three.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

27 April 1993 - The Zambian Air Disaster

On 27 April 1993, a plane carrying the Zambian national team crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing everyone on board.

The plane, a military DHC-5 Buffalo, was carrying the team to Senegal for a World Cup qualifying match and had just stopped in Libreville, Gabon to refuel. Shortly after take-off, it lost power and crashed into the water.

The crash killed all thirty passengers, including 18 members of the Zambia national team, their manager and support staff. The only team member not killed in the crash was their captain, Kalusha Bwalya, who was in the Netherlands playing for PSV Eindhoven and had made separate flight arrangements to get to Senegal.

The Football Association of Zambia chose to continue its efforts to qualify for the 1994 World Cup and quickly formed a new squad around Bwalya. They fell one point short of qualification, however, losing 1-0 to Morocco in the final match when a draw would have put them through.

The new team found success the following year, advancing to the 1994 African Nations Cup Final against Nigeria. They took an early lead in the 3rd minute and, though they eventually lost 2-1, returned home as national heroes.

Monday, April 26, 2010

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 decreasings 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.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

25 April 1936 - A Born Fighter

On 25 April 1936, Chile's record cap-holder Leonel Sánchez 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 national record 84 caps between 1955 and 1968.

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.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

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.

Friday, April 23, 2010

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.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

22 April 2007 - Ronald'oh!

On 22 April 2007, three-time FIFA World Player of the Year and all-time World Cup scoring leader 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.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

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.

Monday, April 19, 2010

19 April 1960 - Peña-rolls

On 19 April 1960, Uruguay's Peñarol and Bolivia's Club Jorge Wilstermann contested the inaugural match of the first Copa Campeones de América. Now known as the Copa Libertadores, it is the top club tournament in South America.

The competition was open to all South American domestic league champions, but only seven participated - San Lorenzo (ARG), Bahia (BRA), Universidad de Chile (CHI), Millonarios (COL), Olimpia (PAR), Peñarol (URU), and Jorge Wilstermann (BOL). The champions of Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela were invited, but did not attend, so the number of teams was unbalanced. As a result, the participants were divided into three two-team groups, with Olimpia winning the draw for a bye into the semifinals.

Peñarol hosted the tournament's first match at Montevideo's Estadio Centenario, with a crowd of about 35,000. It was a rout - Peñarol's Luis Borges scored the opening goal, one of his two on the day, while his teammate Alberto Spencer (pictured) adding four goals of his own. Luis Cubilla contributed another as the Uruguayan side won 7-1.

The Bolivians managed a 1-1 draw in the return leg, played in La Paz, but Peñarol went through to the semifinals, where they defeated San Lorenzo. They then beat Olimpia in the Final to claim the trophy - the first of the club's five Copa Libertadore titles.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

18 April 1905 - Madrid Starts A Cup Collection

On 18 April 1905, Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 in the Copa de Su Majestad El Rey Alfonso XIII (His Majesty King Alfonso XIII's Cup). Now known simply as the Copa del Rey, the win gave Real their first national title.

The competition originated in 1902 as an invitational tournament called the Copa del Ayuntamiento de Madrid (Madrid City Council's Cup) to honor the coming-of-age of King Alfonso XIII. Five teams participated that year, including Real Madrid (known at that time simply as Madrid FC) and FC Barcelona, who met each other for the first time in a semifinal match on 14 May with the Catalan side recording a 3-1 win.

Only three teams contested the 1905 edition - Madrid, San Sebastian RC, and Athletic Bilbao. The tournament used a table format, with each team scheduled to play one match each against the other two. Wins earned two points, while draws earned one and the team at the top of the table at the finish took the trophy.

Madrid opened the tournament on 16 April with a 3-0 win over San Sebastian, then faced Bilbao two days later. It was a close contest, refereed by one of San Sebastian's players, but Madrid claimed their second win thanks to Manuel Prast (pictured, front row, second from left), who scored the match's only goal. The win secured Madrid's place at the top of the table with four points, while San Sebastian later defeated Bilbao to finish in second.

Madrid went on to win the tournament each of the next three years and has since amassed a total 17 Copa del Rey titles. Their last one came in 1993, however, and they have since struggled in the competition. For the past two seasons, they were eliminated by lower division sides Real Unión (in 2008) and Alcorcón (in 2009).

Saturday, April 17, 2010

17 April 1937 - A Guinness Type Of Day (And A World Record Day, Too)

On 17 April 1937, Scotland hosted England at Glasgow's Hampden Park for the last match of the 1937 British Home Championship. The official attendance at the match was 149,415, which set a world record at the time and remains a record for European competition.

The two sides were competing for second place, as Wales had already secured the title by winning all three of its matches. Scotland and England, meanwhile, had identical records - both had 2-1 losses to Wales and 3-1 wins over Ireland. On the day, Scottish striker Bob McPhail (pictured) provided the decisive edge, scored 2 goals in the Scots' 3-1 win over the English.

The true attendance figure for the day is unknown, as a large number of people reportedly entered the stadium without paying. But the official recorded attendance of 149,415 was, at the time, the largest football crowd in world history. That number was subsequently surpassed on the last day of the 1950 World Cup, when Uruguay upset Brazil 2-1 at the Maracaña in Rio de Janeiro. FIFA recorded the official attendance for that match as 173,850, but, like the previous record, it does not include a large number of attendees who entered the stadium illegally.

The 1937 figure, however, remains the highest recorded attendance for a European match.

Friday, April 16, 2010

16 April 1975 - Macdonald Uses His Head

On 16 April 1975, England beat Cyprus 5-0 in a UEFA European Championship qualifier before a crowd of 68,245 at London's Wembley Stadium. Forward Malcolm Macdonald (pictured), who played his club ball at the time for Newcastle United, scored all five goals, setting an English record that stands to this day.

England had already played two qualifying matches, both at Wembley, first defeating Czechoslovakia 3-0 then drawing 0-0 with Portugal to top the group. Cyprus, by contrast, had not yet played a match in qualification.

England started the match in rapid fashion, taking the lead in the 2nd minute with Macdonald's first goal of the day. The Cypriots were unable to mount an attack of their own, or much of a defense, either, as Macdonald added to the scoreline with goals at 35', 48', 53', and 86' (four of the five goals were headers). It was one of only 14 caps for Macdonald, who scored only one other international goal (in a 2-0 win over West Germany).

Unfortunately for England, they failed to maintain the form they demonstrated on that day and, after another win over Cyprus (0-1), a loss to the Czechs (2-1), and a second draw against Portugal (1-1), they finished in the group's second place, one point behind group winners Czechoslovakia. Only the top finisher qualified for the tournament, so England were eliminated.

In 1976, Macdonald left Newcastle for Arsenal, where he was the Gunners' top scorer for two seasons, but he suffered a knee injury at the start of the 1978-79 season. He played sparingly after that, including a brief spell with Djurgårdens in Sweden, but he never fully recovered and retired in August 1979. His five goals against Cyprus remain the most any England player has scored in European Championship competition.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

15 April 1934 - When Your Best Isn't Enough

On 15 April 1934, France beat Luxembourg 1-6 in a World Cup qualifier before a crowd of 18,000 at Luxembourg's Stade Municipal. It was both sides' best performance during qualification for that year's tournament.

The 1934 World Cup was the first to require qualification, with a total of 32 teams divided into 12 groups. FIFA placed France and Luxembourg in three-member Group 8, along with Germany. The teams were scheduled to play each once, earning 2 points for a win and 1 point for a draw, with the top two teams advancing to the World Cup.

Luxembourg hosted the first Group 8 match, playing Germany at the Stade Municipal on 11 March 1934, with the Germans rolling to a comfortable 1-9 win. Luxembourg then played France in the second match on 15 April.

The French took a quick lead with a 3rd-minute goal from winger Alfred Aston, then doubled their lead when striker Jean Nicolas found the back of the net in the 26th minute. Shortly after the break, Luxembourg's Théophile Speicher closed the gap to one with a 46th-minute strike, but that was their only score on the day. Nicolas, meanwhile, netted a second-half hat-trick (67', 84', 89' (pen.)) to tally four on the day, while his strike partner Ernest Libérati added one of his own (80').

With both France and Germany sitting on 2 points and Luxembourg on none, there was no need for France and Germany to play the scheduled third match against each other. Both advanced to the World Cup, where France was ousted in the first round by Austria. Germany, playing in their first World Cup, lost to Czechoslovakia in the semifinals, but beat Austria in the third-place match.

Both France and (West) Germany both would go to win multiple World Cup titles, while Luxembourg has yet to qualify for the World Cup.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

14 April 1912 - The Saints Go Marching In

On 14 April 1912, a group of footballers in the Brazilian city of Santos, located in the state of São Paolo, founded a new football club which they named Santos FC. The club credits their formation to three men in particular - Raimundo Marques, Mário Ferraz de Campos, and Argemiro de Souza Júnior. But they are best known as the 17-year home of Pelé.

Santos enjoyed some modest early success, winning a handful of regional competitions starting with the Santos City Championship in 1913 and 1915, but they reached their highest heights only after the arrival of the then 15-year old Pelé in 1956. Within a few short years, Santos were established as a national power, winning five consecutive Brazilian Cups from 1961 through 1965. During that period, they also twice won South America's Copa Libertadores (1962 and 1963).

After Pelé's departure in 1974 for the New York Cosmos, Santos went into decline. They enjoyed a resurgence in the early 2000s, however, winning the Brazilian top flight in 2002 and 2004 with help from their skillful young forward Robinho.

Robinho left in 2005 for Real Madrid, triggering another dip in Santos' fortunes. They finished mid-table in 2009, finishing 12th out of 20 teams, but will enter the 2010 season next month with renewed optimism, having signed Robinho back on loan from Manchester City, whom he joined in 2008.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

13 April 1936 - Bristol Rovers Feel The Payne

On 13 April 1936, Luton Town crushed Bristol Rovers 12-0 in a Division Three (South) match. 10 of the goals were scored by one player, Joe Payne, whose tally remains the record number of goals scored by one individual in a League match.

Payne (pictured, on the left in the white shirt) joined the Hatters the previous season at the age of 20. By the time of the match against Rovers, he was primarily a reserve team player, but was forced into starting at center forward on 13 April due to injuries among his teammates. His 10 goals, however, secured his place in the first team and he led Luton Town to promotion the next season, scoring 55 goals.

In addition to Payne's record haul, the match remains Luton Town's greatest victory and Bristol Rovers' worst loss.

Monday, April 12, 2010

12 April 1948 - The Italians Get Lippi

On 12 April 1948, future World Cup-winning manager Marcello Lippi was born in Viareggio, Italy. After a lengthy and distinguished career as a player in Serie A, he made his real mark as a manager, winning five Scudettos and one Champions League title with Juventus before taking the Italian national team to World Cup victory in 2006.

A midfielder, Lippi spent most of his playing years with Sampdoria, for whom he played from 1969 to 1980 (with a brief loan to Serie C side Savona in his first season). In that time, he made 274 league appearances for the Blucherchiati. In 1980, he transferred to Pistoiese, who were in Serie A the time, but were relegated at the end of the 1980-81 season. He spent one year with them in Serie B before retiring in 1982.

He returned to Sampdoria later that year to coach the youth team, then spent the next decade managing eight different clubs before landing in Turin in 1994 for the first of his two spells in charge of Juventus. In his first season there, the Bianconeri won both the league and the Coppa d'Italia, while finishing as runners-up to Parma in that season's UEFA Cup Final. Lippi then put together a string of additional trophies, including the 1996 Champions League Title and back-to-back Scudettos in 1997 and 1998.

In 1999, he moved to Inter, but had an unsuccessful 1999-2000 season and was sacked after one match into the 2000-01 season. He returned to Juventus in 2001 and won two more league titles in his first two seasons back in Turin.

In 2004, the Italian Football Federation appointed Lippi as manager of the national team, replacing Giovanni Trappatoni. He helmed the Azzurri to the 2006 World Cup title in Germany and retired three days later, handing the reins over to Livorno manager Roberto Donadoni. But after a disappointing Euro 2008 performance, the Azzurri sacked Donadoni and re-appointed Lippi, who is preparing to take the team to South Africa this summer.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

11 April 2001 - The Ellis Park Stadium Disaster

On 11 April 2001, Kaizer Chiefs hosted Orlando Pirates at Johannesburg's Ellis Park Stadium in a match that turned into the worst sporting disaster in South African history.

With the fiercest rivalry in South African football, the Chiefs and Pirates already had a tragic history. In 1991, forty-one fans were killed in a stampede during a friendly between the two teams at Oppenheimer Stadium in Orkney. Then in 1998, in a match at Ellis Park, several fans rioted, resulting in the police firing rubber bullets into the crowd. Still another incident occurred in 2000 at Johannesburg's First National Bank Stadium, when several thousand spectators tried to force their way through the gates.

The incident on 11 April was rooted in the same cause - although the stadium had a capacity of 60,000, many more gained entry. Some reports place the total number of spectators at 120,000. As the crowd surged into the stadium, 43 people died after being trampled in the rush. The match was stopped and the crowd was sent home as the bodies were laid out on the pitch.

The official report placed the blame on several factors, including corrupt ticket sellers who accepted bribes to admit fans without tickets, abandoned vehicles that congested the entrances, poor control measures over complimentary admissions, and poor decision-making by security personnel. Both Kaizer Chiefs, as the home team, and the Ellis Park management were held responsible, as were the private security firms they had hired to control the crowd.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

10 April 2007 - The Red Devils Roll A Lucky Seven

On 10 April 2007, Manchester United staged a dramatic Champions League quarterfinal turnaround, overcoming a 2-1 first leg deficit by beating Roma 7-1 in the second leg and advancing 8-3 on aggregate.

The Italians entered the match at Old Trafford brimming with confidence. They had dominated United for most of the first leg at the Stadio Olimpico in a match that ended 2-1, but could have been much worse for the English side, who also saw midfielder Paul Scholes sent off in the first half of that match after receiving two yellow cards.

United, however, quickly dispelled any notions that they were going to roll over in the second leg, as midfielder Michael Carrick and forwards Alan Smith and Wayne Rooney scored three early first-half goals in quick succession (Carrick 12', Smith 17', Rooney 19'). Stunned, Roma pushed forward in attack, only to leave their defense exposed. Cristiano Ronaldo took advantage of the space, scoring goals on either side of the break (44', 49') to push the lead to 5-0.

Carrick completed his brace with a 60th-minute rocket to make it 6-0 before Roma finally drew blood with a 69th-minute shot from Daniele de Rossi. Roma's humiliation was complete in the 81st minute, as United back Patrice Evra knocked a low shot past keeper Doni to complete the final scoreline of 7-1.

The win set up a semifinal match-up against AC Milan, who beat United 3-5 on aggregate on their way to winning their seventh European Cup/Champions League title.

Friday, April 9, 2010

9 April 1988 - I Wish I Knew Why The Arsenal Always Seem To Be On The Other End Of These Records

On 9 April 1988, Southampton striker Alan Shearer became the youngest person in history to score a hat-trick in England's top flight. At 17 years and 240 days old, he smashed the previous record set by Jimmy Greaves (20 years, 290 days) in 1960.

Shearer joined Southampton's youth academy in 1986 and was called up to the first team two years later, making his first professional appearance on 26 March 1988 as a substitute in Southampton's 1-0 win over Chelsea. Around noon on 9 April, he was informed that he would receive his first start that evening at home against Arsenal because the scheduled starter, winger Danny Wallace, failed a late fitness test.

Shearer made the most of the opportunity, heading in his first goal after five minutes. Arsenal drew level five minutes later thanks to an own goal from Southampton's Kevin Bond, but the hosts took a 3-1 lead into the break after another goal from Shearer (33') and one from Mark Blake (44'). Shearer's historic moment came early in the second half, as he scored his third of the day in the 49th minute.

The Gunners mounted a late challenge and finally found the back of the net when Paul Davis scored in the 82nd minute, but it was too late and Southampton finished with the 4-2 victory.

Shearer would go on to have a prolific career with Southampton, Blackburn Rovers, and Newcastle, scoring a total of 379 career club goals in all competitions. 260 of those were in the Premier League, making him the League's all-time leading goalscorer.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

8 April 1996 - Busst's Bad Break

On 8 April 1996, Coventry City defender David Busst suffered one of the most horrific injuries in football history during a Premier League match against Manchester United.

Just under two minutes into the match at Old Trafford, Coventry won a corner kick and Busst (pronounced "Boost") rushed forward into United's penalty area. As the kick came in, United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel knocked the ball toward Busst, who slipped in between two United players to get a toe on it. Then, as Busst tells it, "that's when the screaming started." He fell to the ground with his right leg bent at an unnatural right angle - his tibia and fibula both had snapped in two after colliding with United's Brian McClair and Denis Irwin.

The match was delayed for 15 minutes while the ground staff cleaned blood off the pitch. Reportedly, Schmeichel was so disturbed by the sight of the injury that he vomited. He also later sought counseling to deal with the memory. Soon after the match, he visited Busst in the hospital, as did United's Alex Ferguson, Steve Bruce, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, and Eric Cantona, as well as Busst's Coventry City teammates.

Busst underwent a total of 22 operations to repair the damage, but while the doctors saved his leg, he never played professional football again. He remains involved with the game, however, and currently serves as director of Coventry City's Football in the Community program.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

7 April 1983 - The First Time France And Germany Agreed On Anything

On 7 April 1983, future two-time French Player of the Year Franck Ribéry was born in Boulogne-sur-Mer. A winger who prefers to play on the left, he is considered by many to be one of the leading French players of his generation, with former French superstar Zinedine Zidane calling him "the jewel of French football."

Ribéry began his professional career in 2000 with his hometown team, Boulogne, then in the fourth division. After only two seasons, which saw Boulogne promoted only to be relegated again, he moved to couple of lower-division teams (Olympique Alès, 2002-03, and Stade Brestois, 2003-04) before landing in Ligue 1 with Metz in 2004. His initial stay in the French top flight was brief, as he left after only six months due to a contract dispute, ending up at Istanbul's Galatasaray in January 2005.

His stay in Turkey was equally brief, as after winning the 2005 Turkish Cup, he returned to Ligue 1 to play for Marseille. Although he had three years left on his contract with Galatasaray, he petitioned FIFA to void it, claiming that he had not been paid and that a Galatasaray director had threatened him with a baseball bat. The Turkish club denied the charges, but FIFA decided the matter in Ribéry's favor.

In two seasons at Marseille, he established himself as one of France's most dynamic and creative players, helping the club to capture the 2005 UEFA Intertoto Cup, then reach the back-to-back Coupe de France finals in 2006 and 2007, leading to his first French Player of the Year Award. His success in Marseille sparked a bidding war among several European clubs, including Arsenal and Real Madrid, but Germany's Bayern Munich eventually signed him in 2007 for €25 million.

At Bayern, Ribéry was instrumental in helping restore the club to its former glory, securing a double in 2007-08 by winning the German Cup and the league. For his role, Ribéry was named both the 2008 French Player of the Year and the 2008 German Footballer of the Year. He is currently still playing for Bayern, who are leading the Bundesliga and have advanced to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

6 April 2005 - Mourinho Gets Away Clean

On 6 April 2005, Chelsea manager José Mourinho - already well-known as a quirky and controversial figure - added to his growing legend by cleverly defying a UEFA ban instituted for Chelsea's Champions League quarterfinal match-up against Bayern Munich.

Chelsea had played Barcelona in the previous round, losing the first leg 2-1 on 23 February. Afterward, Mourinho publicly accused Barça manager Frank Rijkaard of influencing the match by allegedly entering the dressing room of referee Anders Fisk at halftime. The accusation was so explosive that Frisk received a number of death threats, leading to his premature retirement on 12 March. Less than two weeks later, UEFA dismissed Chelsea's complaint and subsequently found Mourinho guilty of bringing the game into disrepute, issuing a two-match ban from the touchline and the dressing room.

When Bayern arrived at Stamford Bridge on 6 April, however, there were signs that Mourniho was present. Chelsea's fitness coach, Rui Faria, appeared to be wearing an earpiece covered by a heavy woolen hat, while their goalkeeping coach, Silvinho Louro, made several second-half trips to the dressing room, returning with pieces of paper that he handed out to the other coaches, with substitutions shortly following.

Years later, insiders reported that Mourinho had been smuggled into the Chelsea dressing room by hiding in a laundry basket. He spoke to his team during the break, then snuck back out after the match using the same laundry basket. The plan apparently worked, as Chelsea won 4-2 and Mourinho never faced any consequences for violating the ban.

Monday, April 5, 2010

5 April 2002 - Suwon Says Goodbye To Anyang

On 5 April 2002, defending champions Suwon Samsung Bluewings met their fellow South Korean compatriots Anyang LG Cheetahs at Tehran's Azadi Stadium in the 2002 Asian Club Championship Final. The two teams had met earlier in the quarterfinals, where they played to a 0-0 draw, and the Final was an equally close contest.

The Asian Club Championship started in 1985 as a replacement for the previous Asian Champion Club Tournament, which had been played from 1967 to 1972. The new tournament was modeled after UEFA's European Cup, pitting the top Asian Football Confederation clubs against each other. For the first several rounds, the clubs were divided into Eastern and Western brackets, culminating in the quarterfinals, which were played as a group stage with the top two teams from each group advancing to the semifinals.

Suwon and Anyang opened the East Asian quarterfinals by playing to a scoreless draw on 17 February before finishing as the top two East Asian sides, while the top two West Asian sides were Iran's Esteghlal FC and Uzbekistan's Nasaf Qarshi FC. In the semis, Suwon easily dispatched the Uzbekistani side 3-0 while Anyang needed a 72nd-minute goal to edge the Iranians, 2-1.

The two South Korean sides were equally matched in the Final, playing to another scoreless draw through extra time. In the ensuing shootout, Suwon keeper Lee Woon-jae provided the edge, twice denying Anyang to give Suwon a 4-2 win on penalty kicks. It was Suwon's second consecutive Asian Club Championship trophy.

It was the last such trophy, as the following season, the AFC rebranded the tournament as the AFC Champions League.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

4 April 2009 - Hungry Like The Wolves

On 4 April 2009, upstart Bundesliga side VfL Wolfsburg reached the top of the table by crushing the previous season's champions, Bayern Munich, 5-1 before a sellout crowd of over 31,000 at Wolfsburg's Volkswagen Arena. The small northern German side never looked back, remaining at the top to claim their first Bundesliga title at the end of the season.

Wolfsburg entered the match full of optimism, riding a seven-game winning streak that started in the first week of February with a 2-0 home win over VfL Bochum. And they had already beaten Bayern in Munich 2-4 earlier in the season.

On the day, Wolfsburg and Bayern were tied for second, even on points (48), goals scored (53), and goals allowed (31). The sides remained even through the first 45 minutes, exchanging late first-half goals from Wolfsburg's Christian Gentner and Bayern's Luca Toni. But in the second half, the balance shifted in Wolfsburg's favor with a quick brace from Bosnia striker Edin Džeko (63', 66'), then a goal from his Brazilian teammate Grafite (74'). Grafite (pictured) later matched his strike partner's tally, capping off the win with a brilliant 77th-minute backheel that was hailed as one of the best Bundesliga goals in history.

The win was especially sweet for manager Felix Magath, who arrived in Wolfsburg in 2007 after having been sacked from Bayern earlier in the year. It lifted Wolfsburg into first place, where they remained for the rest of the season after winning six and drawing two of their last eight matches.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

3 April 2009 - This "V" Is For "Vacation" (From The National Team)

On 3 April 2009, the Scottish FA announced that Scotland internationals and Rangers teammates Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor were banned from making any further national team appearances. The bans were the result of the duo's conduct over the previous week, which included a late-night drinking session after a Scotland loss to the Netherlands on 29 March and making "rude gestures" while on the bench for a match against Iceland on 1 April.

Ferguson had been a stalwart for Scotland, earning his 45th cap in the match against the Netherlands - 28 of those as captain. He was also a key player for Rangers, having played for them from 1994 to 2003, then returning at the start of the 2005-06 season when he was given the captain's armband by then-manager Alex McLeish.

McGregor, by contrast, had made only 6 appearances for Scotland before the ban. But he had played for Rangers since 2001, with a couple of loan spells in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons, and had captained the club in the absence of Ferguson.

Although both players had started against the Netherlands, manager George Burley dropped them to the bench against Iceland because they had violated team rules by staying out staying past curfew. While that alone would likely not have been enough to cause their dismissal, they compounded the situation by making rude "v-signs" to the cameras during the Iceland match. Upon learning of the gestures, the SFA sent the pair home from training, then issued the ban on 3 April. Rangers also took action, suspending both players for two weeks and stripping the captaincy from Ferguson.

It may not be the end of the road for the pair, however. New Scotland manager Craig Levein has expressed his desire to select both Ferguson and McGregor, though he has not yet done so.

Friday, April 2, 2010

2 April 2005 - And Then There Were Eight

On 2 April 2005, visiting Aston Villa pounded Newcastle 0-3 before a crowd of 52,306 at St. James' Park. It was an all-out humiliation for the hosts, who finished the match with only eight men thanks to three red cards, two of which were issued for a fight between Newcastle teammates Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer.

Newcastle entered the match as heavy favorites, having lost only once in their previous 17 matches. Villa, meanwhile, had won away from home only twice in 15 attempts that season. But any optimism among the home supporters was dashed by Juan Pablo Angel's 5th-minute strike that put the visitors ahead 0-1.

Newcastle applied constant pressure for an equalizer that never came, despite several close misses and a legitimate cry for a penalty when skipper Alan Shearer's header struck the arm of Villa defender Jlloyd Samuel. The referee, however, ruled that the contact was not deliberate.

The referee did award a penalty kick for a handball in the second half, as Newcastle substitute Steven Taylor handled a Villa shot on the line, earning himself a red card in the process. Gareth Barry converted the 73rd-minute kick to extend Villa's lead to 2-1, then extended it further when Darius Vassell earned another penalty thanks to a challenge from Newcastle's Stephen Carr in the 80th minute. That's when the match moved from embarrassing to surreal.

Shortly after Barry's second penalty kick, Bowyer apparently took offense when Dyer did not pass him the ball and the two ended up in a full-bore brawl. Barry stepped in to separate the two, but both Bowyer and Dyer were sent off for violent conduct.

Oddly enough, Bowyer left Newcastle for West Ham at the end of the 2005-06 season, then was joined by Dyer, who arrived at Upton Park in the summer of 2007. They continued to play together until January 2009, when Bowyer left for Birmingham City.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

1 April 1984 - Irish Luck Returns To Rovers

On 1 April 1984, Shamrock Rovers beat Shelbourne 3-1, securing their first league title in 20 years. It was a major stepping stone in Rovers' establishment as the most successful club in Ireland.

Rovers were founded in Dublin in 1901, but struggled during their early years and twice went through a cycle of disbanding and resurrection between 1906 and 1921. In 1922, one year after their second resurrection, the League of Ireland elected Rovers as a member. It was a turning point for the club, who won the league title that season. By 1949, Rovers were the dominant team in Ireland, having won 44 major trophies, including six league titles and 11 FAI Cups.

The club struggled through the 1970s, coinciding with a general decline in fortunes for Irish football, as match attendances diminished and two clubs - Drumcondra and Cork Hibs - disbanded. Rovers finished at the bottom of the table in 1975 and had to re-apply for admission to the league.

In 1983, Rovers signed new manager Jim McLaughlin, who set about rebuilding the squad from the ground up. He released the majority of the players he inherited from the previous manager and spent freely to replace them with stars from around the league. That approach proved successful, as Rovers' win over Shelbourne on 1 April 1984 clinched their first league title since 1964. They went on to win three more consecutive titles, though only two were under McLaughlin, who left in 1986 to manage his hometown club Derry City (leading them to a domestic treble in 1989, when they won the the league, the FAI Cup and the League Cup).

Rovers currently hold records for most League of Ireland titles (15), FAI Cups (24), and League of Ireland Shields (18). They narrowly missed adding to their tally last season, finishing in second place, four points behind league winners Bohemians.