Thursday, June 30, 2016

30 June 2002 - The Worst Team In The World

On 30 June 2002, while Germany and Brazil met in the World Cup Final, Montserrat and Bhutan faced off to determine which one of them was the worst team in the world.

The match, a friendly, was the idea of Dutch filmmaker Johan Kramer. When the Netherlands failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup, he decided to make a movie about the world's two worst teams. He chose Montserrat and Bhutan, who, at the time, were the two lowest-placed teams in the FIFA world rankings.

The match was played before a crowd of 25,000 at the Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu, Bhutan. It wasn't much of a contest--Bhutan won 4-0 with a hat-trick from forward Wangay Dorji (4', 67', 78') and a goal from Dinesh Chetri (76').

Kramer's film, titled The Other Final, went on to win Best Documentary at the 2003 Avignon Film Festival and the Documentary Prize-Special Mention at the 2003 Burmuda International Film Festival.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

29 June 2003 - A Saadi Day For Perugia

On 29 June 2003, Perugia announced their new signing, a forward who also happened to be the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Saadi Gaddafi started his career in Libya with Al-Ahly Tripoli in 2000, but moved across town in 2001 to Al-Ittihad. That year, he was named Libyan striker of the year and went on to score 20 goals for Al-Ittihad in 74 league appearances.

In mid-June 2003, Gaddafi started training with Perugia. Then, on the 29th, the club announced that they had signed him to a two-year contract. In order to join them, however, he first had resign from the board at Juventus and relinquish his shares in the Turin club. The move immediately drew criticism as a publicity stunt, but Perugia president Luciano Gaucci claimed the move was made for football reasons, saying "Above all, I believe in him as a person and in his ability as a player."

His ability never really manifested, however, and Gaddafi made only one appearance for Perugia in two seasons. And that appearance came after he served a three-month ban for testing positive for steroids. In 2005, he moved to Udinese for a season, but again made only a single appearance before moving on to Sampdoria (where he made no appearances), then retiring in 2007.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

28 June 1999 - Palmeiras Get Their Hands On The Cup

On 28 June 1999, Palmeiras won their first (and to date only) Copa Libertadores, beating Deportivo Cali on penalties. The win concluded Brazil's domination of the tournament in the 1990s, with six out of ten titles.

Palmeiras had to go through two Brazilian teams to reach the final, including defending champions Vasco da Gama in the Round of 16 and rivals Corinthians in the quarterfinals. They then beat River Plate over two legs in the semifinals to advance to the final. Meanwhile, Deportivo Cali reached the final over Colo-Colo, Bella Vista, and Cerro Porteño.

The final was played over two legs, with Deportivo Cali winning 1-0 at home thanks to a 42nd-minute goal from striker Víctor Bonilla. For the second leg, the teams met at the Estádio Palestra Itália in São Paulo, where a crowd of 32,000 gathered to watch.

After a scoreless first half, Palmeiras went ahead with a penalty kick in the 65th minute, but Deportivo Cali equalized five minutes later with a penalty kick of their own. Penalties would go on to decide the title, after Palmeiras forward Oséas Reis dos Santos scored the final goal of regulation in the 76th minute to level the series at one win each. From there, the match went into a shootout, which Palmeiras won 4-3.

Monday, June 27, 2016

27 June 1984 - For France, There's No Place Like Home

On 27 June 1984, France won their first international trophy, beating Spain 2-0 in the Final of the European Championship. Perhaps not coincidentally, France hosted the tournament.

Les Bleus had enjoyed some prior international success, finishing in third at the 1958 World Cup, fourth in the 1982 World Cup, and fourth at the 1960 European Championship, but had not reached a final. That changed in 1984, when, as hosts of that year's European Championship and led by midfielder Michel Platini, they successfully navigated through their first-round group, winning all three matches. Platini scored in all three and recorded hat-tricks in two of them. In the semi-finals, they defeated Portugal in extra time thanks to a 119th-minute Platini goal to advance to the final against Spain.

The final was played before a capacity crowd of 47,368 at the Parc des Prince in Paris. After a scoreless first half, Platini struck again with a 57th-minute goal to give France the lead. His tournament-best ninth goal, it came from a free kick that slipped through the hands of Spanish keeper Luis Arconada. Striker Bruno Bellone sealed the win with a 90th-minute goal.

In 1998, France claimed their second international trophy by winning the World Cup, which they also hosted. Two years later, they won their first international trophy on foreign soil, beating Italy in the European Championship final in Rotterdam.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

26 June 2006 - The Great Swiss Wind-Up

On 26 June 2006, Switzerland set a couple of World Cup records. Unfortunately for them, however, neither of them was one they wanted to set.

The Swiss had surprised most observers by winning their first-round group with a scoreless draw against France and a couple of 2-0 victories over Togo and South Korea. That performance sent them through to the Round of 16, where they met the Ukraine.

Playing before a crowd of 45,000 in Cologne, the two teams were locked in a defensive struggle. The Ukraine's best chance came from Andriy Shevchenko, who sent a header off the bar, while Switzerland's Alexander Frei also hit the woodwork. But nobody managed to find the back of the net through extra time, so the match went to a penalty shootout.

Shevchenko took the first kick, but sent it right into the arms of Swiss keeper Pascal Zuberbuehler. Switzerland's euphoria was short-lived, however, as their first shooter, Marco Streller, did the same. Then, after Ukraine converted their next two kicks, Switzerland proceeded to miss theirs, sending one over the bar and the other right to Ukraine keeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy (pictured). Ukrainian midfielder Oleh Husyev then scored on the next kick to send the Ukraine through, 0-0 (3-0).

The result earned Switzerland the dubious distinction of becoming the first team to get eliminated from the World Cup without conceding a single goal. They also became the first team in a World Cup to miss all of their kicks in a penalty shootout.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

25 June 1960 - Buchan's Goodbye

On 25 June 1960, former Sunderland and Arsenal forward Charlie Buchan died in Monte Carlo at the age of 68. One of the best footballers of his age, he is also remembered for his post-playing career as a football journalist and editor of Charlie Buchan's Football Monthly.

Born in Plumstead, London, Buchan began his career in 1909 as an amateur with Woolwich Arsenal, but left the club over a disagreement with the manager about expenses. In 1911, he signed with Sunderland and proceeded to win the league with them in 1913. That same year, Sunderland advanced to the FA Cup Final, but lost to Aston Villa 1-0.

Buchan made 370 league appearances for Sunderland between 1911 and 1925 (a period interrupted by World War I), and was their leading scorer in seven of those seasons. In 1925, he returned to Arsenal (who had dropped the "Woolwich" by then). He returned to the FA Cup Final with them in 1927, but was again on the losing side.

By the time he retired in 1928, he had scored 257 league goals, making him the Football League's all-time sixth-highest goalscorer. But he contributed more than goals, helping Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman develop the influential new W-M formation that led to great success for the Gunners in the 1930s.

After his playing days ended, he turned to journalism, writing for the Daily News and co-founding the Football Writer's Association. In September 1951, he started Charlie Buchan's Football Monthly, which ran until June 1974, fourteen years after his death.

Friday, June 24, 2016

24 June 2004 - Ricardo Rises To The Occasion

On 24 June 2004, goalkeeper Ricardo Pereira was the hero of the day, first saving a kick from England's Darius Vassell in a penalty shootout, then converting the next kick to send Portugal through to the Euro 2004 semifinals.

Playing before a crowd of 65,000 at Lisbon's Estádio da Luz, England led for most of the match thanks to a 3rd-minute goal from striker Michael Owen. But in the 83rd minute, substitute striker Hélder Postiga equalized for the hosts to send the match into extra time. There, the two teams traded goals from Rui Costa (110') and Frank Lampard (115') to force a decision by penalty shootout.

The first kick was taken by England's David Beckham, who, in a shocking miss, sent the ball well over the bar (later reports claimed he had slipped a bit on the sandy pitch). But England were handed a reprieve five kicks later as Rui Costa also drove his shot over. After six kicks each, the teams were level at 5-5. Darius Vassell then stepped up to the spot for England, having come on as a first-half substitute for an injured Wayne Rooney.

Vassell fired the ball to Ricardo's left, but the keeper--who had inexplicably removed his gloves before the kick--guessed correctly and pushed it away. He then stepped up to take his own attempt and confidently blasted it to the right of England keeper David James and into the bottom corner. Portugal won 2-2 (6-5) and advanced, making it all the way to the Final where they lost to Greece.

Ricardo and Portugal beat England again in a penalty shootout during the quarterfinals of the 2006 World Cup, winning 0-0 (1-3).

Thursday, June 23, 2016

23 June 2010 - The Yanks Aren't Dead Yet

On 23 June 2010, Landon Donovan's 91st-minute goal saved the United States from a first-round elimination and won them the top spot in their World Cup group.

The US had opened the tournament with a 1-1 draw against England, followed by a 2-2 draw with Slovenia. In both matches, the Yanks had surrendered early leads and had to claw their way back to earn a point. Against England, they went down 1-0 to a 4th-minute goal from Steven Gerrard before Clint Dempsey's speculative shot in the 40th minute slipped through the hands of keeper Rob Green to level the sides. Against Slovenia, the US were down 2-0 at the break before goals from Donovan (48') and Michael Bradley (82') earned them the draw. They appeared to get a late winner when Maurice Edu struck the ball home off of a Donovan free kick, but the referee disallowed the goal.

Against Algeria in the group's last match, the US managed to avoid giving up an early goal, but struggled to find one of their own. Playing before a crowd of 35,827 at Pretoria's Loftus Versfeld Stadium, the teams battled to a scoreless draw for 90 minutes. Had that result stood, both the US and Algeria would have been eliminated.

But in the first minute of stoppage time, US keeper Tim Howard threw the ball upfield to Donovan, who raced forward and passed it to forward Jozy Altidore in the Algerian box. Altidore crossed the ball in for Dempsey, but the Algerian keeper, Raïs M'Bolhi, beat Dempsey to the ball and batted it away. It fell at the feet of a surging Donovan, who fired it home for the win.

In the Round of 16, the US again fell victim to an early goal and were eliminated by Ghana, 1-2 (aet).

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

22 June 1974 - One Won The Battle, The Other Won The War

On 22 June 1974, East and West Germany met in the first round of the World Cup, with the top spot of their group at stake. East Germany won, 1-0, but it proved to be a hollow victory.

The teams had met three times previously, all of which came in Olympic competition. They played a two-legged tie during qualification for the 1964 Olympics, with each side winning at home (East Germany advanced on goal differential). In the 1972 Olympics, they met in the second round, with East Germany again advancing. Those three matches involved amateurs, however, making the World Cup meeting the first one with full professionals.

Playing before a crowd of 60,350 at the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg, both teams had already qualified for the second-round group stage. West Germany were one point ahead of East Germany and needed only a draw to take the group's top spot.

The match's early stages contained little drama, as most of the action occurred in the midfield, with hardly any action in front of either goal. Both sides had chances, though, with West Germany's Gerd Müller hitting the crossbar and East Germany's Hans-Jürgen Kreische firing over it. Then, in the 77th minute, East Germany's second-half substitute midfielder Erich Hamann raced down the right side and floated a cross into the West German box, where his fellow midfielder Jürgen Sparwasser (pictured) was there to meet it. Sparwasser controlled the ball, then slotted it into the net for the 1-0 win.

East Germany advanced as group winners into the second round group stage, where they were joined by Brazil, the Netherlands, and Argentina. They managed only a single point--drawing with Argentina--and were eliminated. The West Germans, meanwhile, won their second round group over Poland, Sweden, and Yugoslavia, then proceeded to win the Final over the Netherlands.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

21 June 1953 - Stuttgart Gets Kaiserslaughtered

On 21 June 1953, Kaiserslautern won their second league title, beating Stuttgart 4-1. The win was the last of a four-year series in which the two teams alternated as German champions.

Founded in 1900, Kaiserslautern finished as league runners-up in 1910 and 1912, but declined in subsequent years, finishing at the bottom of their division in 1944. Their fortunes improved when German football resumed in 1948, as they reached the league final, only to lose to Nuremburg. In 1950, they advanced to the quarterfinals of the German championship, the Meisterschaft, but lost to that year's champions, Stuttgart.

Kaiserslautern won their first title in 1951, while Stuttgart reclaimed the title in 1952. Then, in 1953, the two teams met for the first time in a Meisterschaft Final. Played before a crowd of 80,000 at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, that final was never in doubt. Kaiserslautern went up 2-0 with goals from Fritz Walter (pictured, playing for West Germany) (37') and Karl Wanger (57'), before Stuttgart got on the scoreboard (Leo Kronenbitter 72'), then pulled away with two more goals near the end (Erwin Scheffler 78', Wanger 83') to win the match 4-1.

They returned to the final in 1954 and 1955, but did not win another title until 1991, then added a fourth--their last one--in 1998. Stuttgart, meanwhile, have a total of five after winning the league in 1984, 1992, and 2007.

Monday, June 20, 2016

20 June 2000 - England Gets Nevilled

On 20 June 2000, Romania humbled England, eliminating them from the European Championship with an 89th-minute penalty kick.

England have traditionally struggled in the Euros, advancing out of the group stages only twice from 1964 to 1996 (and failing to qualify for four of those tournaments). But they made it to the semi-finals in 1996 before losing on penalties to Germany and were looking to improve on that showing in 2000. Although they lost their opening group stage match to Portugal, they beat Germany and needed only a draw against Romania to advance to the quarterfinals.

Playing before a crowd of 30,000 at the Stade du Pays de Charleroi, Romania took the lead with a 22nd-minute goal from defender Cristian Chivu, whose attempted cross missed its target and instead found the top corner of the net. But England scored twice before the break, first after a Chivu foul on Paul Ince resulted in an Alan Shearer penalty kick (41'), then when Michael Owen found the net four minutes later.

Midfielder Dorinal Munteanu equalized three minutes after the restart and England appeared content to play for the draw. In the 89th minute, though, Romanian striker Viorel Moldovan charged into the England box and was brought down by left back Phil Neville. The referee awarded the penalty and substitute Ioan Ganea converted it with ease. The kick sent England home and put Romania through to the quarterfinals, where they lost to Italy, 2-0.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

19 June 1960 - They Started Strong And Finished Well

On 19 June 1960, Peñarol won the inaugural Copa Libertadores tournament with a late goal from midfielder Luis Cubilla. It was the first of their five titles, making them the third most successful club in the tournament.

Known originally as the Copa de Campeones de América, the competition was open to the champions of all CONMEBOL nations, though only seven clubs chose to participate. Peñarol, the Uruguayan champions, opened the tournament with a 7-1 crushing of Bolivian champions Jorge Wilstermann, then beat Argentina's San Lorenzo in the two-legged semifinal. Olimpia of Paraguay, meanwhile, received a first-round bye, starting their campaign by beating Colombia's Millonarios in the other semifinal.

The Final was played in two legs, with the winner decided by points (two for a win, one for a draw). In the first leg, played on 12 June at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, Peñarol eked out a narrow 1-0 victory with a 79th-minute goal from the tournament's top scorer, Alberto Spencer.

The teams met for the second leg at the Estadio Manuel Ferreira in Asunción, where Olimpia forward Hipólito Recalde gave the home team a 1-0 lead in the 28th minute. Had that score held to the final whistle, the teams would have been forced to play a third time in a replay. But Cubilla avoided that by finding an equalizer in the 83rd minute. The draw gave Peñarol three points to Olimpia's nil, making the Uruguayan side the competition's first champions.

Peñarol successfully defended their title in 1961 and went on to win again in 1966, 1982, and 1987. The five titles represent the third-best haul by any club, behind only Independiente (7) and Boca Juniors (6). Olimpia eventually won it in 1979, then again in 1990 and 2002.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

18 June 1988 - Benni Turns On The Jets

On 18 June 1998, striker Benni McCarthy scored South Africa's first-ever World Cup goal to earn a draw with Denmark.

The 1998 World Cup was the first one for which South Africa had qualified and they were placed in Group C with France, Denmark, and Saudi Arabia. They failed to score in their opening match, a 3-0 loss to France, though one of the goals was an own goal from South African defender Pierre Issa. 

Their second match of the tournament came against Denmark, played before a crowd of 33,300 at the Stade de Toulouse. It appeared to be headed the same way as the first match, as Denmark's Allan Nielsen scored a 13th-minute opener. But South Africa's defense tightened up and prevented any further goals. Then, in the 52nd minute, McCarthy struck. He split two Danish defenders, then fired the ball between the legs of goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel. It struck the inside of Schmeichel's left leg, then deflected into the net.

The match finished 1-1 to earn South Africa their first World Cup point. They earned another in their next match, a 2-2 draw with South Africa with both goals coming from striker Shaun Bartlett. But it wasn't enough to advance past the group stage.

McCarthy's goal was the 9th of his international career. He is currently their highest scorer, with a total of 32.

Friday, June 17, 2016

17 June 1992 - No Cup For Old Boys

On 17 June 1992, São Paulo won their first Copa Libertadores, beating Newell's Old Boys on penalties. It was an appropriate ending, as the only goals scored over both legs of the Final were penalties.

Newell's Old Boys hosted the first leg one week earlier and won, 1-0, with a 39th-minute penalty kick from midfielder Eduardo Berizzo. The teams met at São Paulo's Estádio do Morumbi for the second leg, where the match somehow remained scoreless deep into the second half despite constant end-to-end runs and flowing attacks from both teams.

The balance finally tipped in the 65th minute when the referee awarded a dubious penalty to the hosts. Midfielder Raí Souza Vieira de Oliveira (younger brother of Brazil's legendary Sócrates) converted the kick, blasting it into a bottom corner to even the series. The match ended 1-1, requiring a shootout to determine the winner.

The first attempt fell to Berizzo, who hit the post. Later, with the teams level at 2-2, Old Boys keeper Norberto Scoponi saved the shot from São Paulo defender Ronaldão, but Old Boys were unable to capitalize, as forward Alfredo Mendoza then sent his attempt over the bar. São Paulo scored on their next try, which meant that defender Fernando Gamboa needed to convert his shot in order to keep the shootout going. But São Paulo keeper Zetti guessed correctly, diving low to his left to swat the ball away and give the trophy to São Paulo.

São Paulo successfully defended their title in 1993 and won it once more in 2005. Old Boys, meanwhile, who were losing finalists in 1988, have yet to make it back to the final.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

16 June 1950 - The Sistine Chapel Of Football

On 16 June 1950, an all-star match inaugurated the new Municipal Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Now known as the Maracanã, it is one of the most famous football venues in the world.

The stadium was built for the 1950 World Cup with a capacity of just under 200,000, making it was one of the world's largest stadiums at the time. Construction began in 1948 was not fully completed for the opening match--the stadium still lacked toilets and showed signs of ongoing work. Nevertheless, a group of Rio de Janeiro All-Stars defeated a group of São Paulo All-Stars 3-1, with Fluminense midfielder Valdir "Didi" Pereira scoring the first goal for the home side.

The stadium's most famous match, nicknamed the "Maracanazo," came in the 1950 World Cup, as Uruguay upset Brazil to claim the trophy. It was also the place where Pelé scored "O Milésimo," his 1,000th career goal, in 1969.

Since then, it has hosted matches for Rio's four prominent clubs, Vasco da Gama, Botafogo, Flamengo, and Fluminense. In 1966, it was renamed the Estadio Jornálista Mário Filho, after a local journalist who championed the stadium's construction. But it is still known as the Maracanã, after a local river which, in turn, is named after a type of parrot common to the area.

In 2014, the Maracanã hosted the World Cup final, with Germany beating Argentina 1-0.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

15 June 1969 - Khaaaaaaaaaaannn!

On 15 June 1969, Bayern Munich legend and 2002 World Cup Golden Ball winner Oliver "King" Kahn was born in Karlsruhe, West Germany. He is widely considered one of the greatest goalkeepers in history.

Kahn started his professional career in 1987 with his hometown team, Karlsruher SC (after joining their youth academy in 1975). But in 1994, he moved to Bayern Munich for a fee of €2,385,000--a record at the time for a goalkeeper--and remained there for the rest of his career.

In 1996, he won his first piece of team silverware, the UEFA Cup, followed a few months later by winning that year's European Championship as Germany's starting keeper. He then added to his collection with eight Bundesliga titles (1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008), six German Cups (1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008), the 2001 UEFA Champions League trophy, and the 2001 Intercontinental Cup.

In the 2002 World Cup, Kahn captained Germany, keeping five clean sheets and surrendering only a single goal as they advanced to the World Cup Final. Although they lost to Brazil, 2-0, Kahn became the first goalkeeper in history to win the Golden Ball award as the tournament's best player.

He retired from the national team in 2006, then from Bayern Munich in 2008.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

14 June 2009 - Spain's Better-Than-Magical Moment

On 14 June 2009, Spain beat New Zealand for their 33rd consecutive unbeaten match, surpassing the previous record of 32 set by the Magical Magyars of Hungary.

Hungary's streak ran from June 1950 to June 1954 and included the 1952 Olympic gold medal and a trip to the 1954 World Cup Final. After losing 0-1 to Romania in Cadiz on 15 November 2006, Spain started their unbeaten run on 2 February 2007, beating England in a friendly played in Manchester, 0-1. Their streak carried them through qualification for Euro 2008, then through the tournament itself, which they won by beating Germany in the Final. That was their 22nd unbeaten match.

The record-breaking match came in the FIFA Confederations Cup, played in Rustenburg, South Africa. Spain got goals from Fernando Torres (pictured) (6', 14', 17'), Cesc Fabregas (24'), and David Villa (48') en route to a comfortable 0-5 victory. It was their second biggest scoreline during the streak, coming after a 6-0 win over Azerbaijan in a friendly five days earlier.

Spain followed their record victory with wins over Iraq (1-0) and South Africa (2-0) to stretch their unbeaten run to 35 consecutive matches before it ended in the semifinals with a 2-0 loss to the United States.

Monday, June 13, 2016

13 June 1986 - A Red In Record Time

On 13 June 1986, Uruguay defender José Batista set a World Cup record. Unfortunately, it was a record for fastest ejection, coming after only 56 seconds.

That day, Uruguay met Scotland in the last group stage match for both teams, with a place in the knockout rounds at stake. Uruguay needed only a draw to advance, while Scotland had to win.

The Scots got a lucky break in the first minute, as Batista received a straight red for a rash challenge on Gordon Strachan. Strachan had just received a throw-in when Batista came barreling in behind him, collapsing him like a rag doll. The ensuing red card earned Batista a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for fastest ejection in a World Cup match and also helped him claim the 14th spot in a 2007 Times list of football's 50 greatest hard men. Strachan, meanwhile, was able to continue playing after treatment.

The challenge set the tone for the match, which saw five yellow cards (three for Uruguay, two for Scotland) and no goals. It ended scoreless, which sent Uruguay through to the Round of 16, where they lost to Argentina.

Batista continued to play for Uruguay until 1993, making a total of 14 appearances.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

12 June 1971 - Blackpool, International Champions

On 12 June 1971, Blackpool won their first (and to date only) international trophy, beating Bologna in the Anglo-Italian Cup.

Organized by agent Luigi Peronace in 1970, the Anglo-Italian Cup matched teams from six teams from each country. For the 1971 edition, those teams were Blackpool, Huddersfield Town, Swindon Town, Crystal Palace, West Brom, and Stoke City, while the Italian teams were Bologna, Cagliari, Inter Milan, Roma, Sampdoria, and Verona. Teams from both countries were mixed into three groups. The clubs from each country with the most points at the end of the group stage then faced each other in the final.

The final was played before a crowd of 26,000 at Bologna's Stadio Renato Dall'Ara. The hosts went ahead in the 32nd minute, beating Blackpool's 19-year old goalkeeper, John Burridge. After the break, Blackpool fought with renewed energy in the Italian heat and were rewarded with a 62nd-minute equalizer from John Craven. Still level at the end of regulation, Blackpool's Micky Burns scored the extra-time winner in the 99th minute.

Blackpool returned to the final in 1972, but lost to Roma. After the 1973 tournament, interest in the competition waned and it was not held again until 1992. The renewed tournament fared no better than the previous one, however, and the last tournament was played in 1996.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

11 June 1990 - I Prefer To Think He Was Just Helping Fertilize The Pitch

On June 11 1990, England's Gary Lineker had two memorable World Cup moments: scoring a goal against Ireland and crapping his pants.

Playing before a crowd of 35,238 at Cagliari's Stadio Sant'Elia, England met Ireland in the first group stage match for both teams. Lineker, who had just finished his first season with Tottenham Hotspur as the top flight's leading scorer, put the Three Lions ahead in the 8th minute. Chris Waddle sent a long ball into the box, where Lineker rushed onto it and chested it down past the prone Irish keeper. The ball bounced over the keeper's legs and rolled toward the goal, only for Lineker to catch up to it and give it sliding kick home.

Irish midfielder Kevin Sheedy scored an equalizer in the 72rd minute and the match ended 1-1. Both teams advanced out of the group stage, with Ireland eventually falling to Italy in the quarterfinals and England to West Germany in the semifinals.

At the time, the press reported that Lineker had been suffering from stomach cramps during the match. But twenty years later, in 2010, Lineker revealed the full extent of his suffering--while trying to making a tackle, he lost control of his bowels. Footage of the match shows Lineker sliding around on his bottom and wiping his hands on the grass. In describing the incident, he remarked that he "never found so much space" afterward.

Friday, June 10, 2016

10 June 1976 - The Behavior Was Bad, But Those Kits Were Worse

On 10 June 1976, UEFA banned Wales from participating in the European Championships because of crowd violence during a qualifier against Yugoslavia at Ninian Park. Initially intended to last until 1982, the ban was softened later that year.

Wales and Yugoslavia had met at Ninian Park on 22 May to play the second leg of their qualification match for that year's European Championship, with a spot in the tournament semifinals at stake. Yugoslavia had won the first leg 2-0, so the pressure was on Wales to overturn the deficit. Unfortunately for the hosts, referee Rudi Glöckner awarded a penalty to Yugoslavia in the 19th minute (replays suggested that the Yugoslavian player had dived). Josip Katalinksi duly converted the spot-kick, giving Wales an even greater mountain to climb.

A ray of hope arrived in the form of Welsh defender Ian Evans, who found a 38th-minute equalizer. Then, shortly after the break, John Toshack put the ball in the net with an acrobatic overhead kick. Glöckner, however, ruled that Toshack's play was dangerous and disallowed the goal, sending the 30,000 home supporters into a frenzy. They threw beer bottles at the referee and several fans tried to scale the fencing surrounding the pitch.

The situation grew worse for Wales. Glöckner disallowed another Toshack goal as offside, then Terry Yorath missed a penalty kick. The match ended 1-1, sending Yugoslavia through with an aggregate score of 3-1. At the final whistle, Glöckner needed an escort of 16 policemen to get off the pitch, while one spectator hurled a corner flag that stabbed an officer in the neck.

Four months after issuing the ban, UEFA lifted it to allow Wales' participation in the 1980 European Championship, but directed that no matches could be played at Ninian Park.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

9 June 1994 - The Chapter On The Hertha Berlin Fan Alone Is Worth The Cover Price

On 9 June 1994, Orion Books published Simon Kuper's Football Against The Enemy. It went on to win that year's William Hill Sports Book of the Year and inspire other books, including How Soccer Explains The World by Franklin Foer.

Kuper, who was born to South African parents in Uganda and grew up in the Netherlands, finished writing the book in 1993 after traveling extensively in Europe, Africa, North America, and South America (by the time it was published, he had taken a job as the currencies columnist for the Financial Times). Written from what Kuper describes as an anthropological perspective,Football Against The Enemy includes chapters on the implications of World War II on the Dutch rivalry with Germany, the role of organized crime in Eastern European football, and the changing face of football in Brazil.

The book received very positive reviews, with the Observer calling it one of the top 25 books on sport, while Four Four Two magazine named "the best book on soccer ever."

Kuper, who continues to write for the Financial Times, has since published other books on football, including Ajax, the Dutch, the War: Football in Europe during the Second World War (2003) and The Football Men: Up Close With the Giants of the Modern Game (2011), as well as Why England Lose & Other Curious Football Phenomena Explained (2009), which he co-authored with Stefan Syzmanski.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

8 June 1998 - FIFA Gets Blattered

On 8 June 1998, Joseph "Sepp" Blatter became president of FIFA, winning an election against Swedish challenger Lennart Johansson. Shortly afterward, rumors of corruption surfaced and continue to surround Blatter to this day.

He won the election by a vote count of 111 to 80 to replace outgoing president João Havelange, who had served since 1974. Johansson immediately raised concerns about the manner in which Blatter won the election. Then, only a few months after the election, British author David Yallop published How They Stole The Game, a book about FIFA that included allegations that Blatter's votes were acquired through bribery. According to Yallop, an unnamed Middle Eastern ruler distributed a total of $1 million among 20 FIFA delegates prior to the election in return for their switching their votes from Johansson to Blatter.

Blatter successfully sued to ban the book's publication in his home country of Switzerland, but lost similar legal battles in Holland, Germany, Austria, and Brazil. The Dutch judge who rejected Blatter's request for an injunction in Holland urged FIFA to conduct an internal inquiry, but Blatter dismissed the advice, responding "Why should I? I cannot open an inquiry into myself. The elections are now finished."

Rumors of bribery and other forms of corruption have followed Blatter ever since, including allegations raised before his re-election in 2002. Those claims went to a Zurich court, who cleared Blatter of any personal involvement. 

He won remained president until 2016, when, after winning yet another re-election the previous year, he resigned amid two separate corruption investigations run by the Swiss government and the United States Justice Department. He is currently serving a six-year suspension from all football activity.