Thursday, December 31, 2009

31 December 1973 - Cruyff Returns To The Top

On 31 December 1973, Dutch international Johan Cruyff won the European footballer of the year award, the Ballon d'Or. It was the second such award for Cruyff, who first won it it 1971.

Cruyff began the year in his ninth season with Ajax and, by the end of the 1972-73 season, had led the Amsterdam side to a treble consisting of the 1973 European Super Cup, their sixth Eredivisie title, and their third consecutive European Cup. In the summer of 1973, he moved to Barcelona.

Internationally, Cruyff's Netherlands team had qualified for the 1974 World Cup, edging Belgium out at the top of the group on goal differential.

The award catapulted Cruyff into another successsful year in 1974, with Barcelona winning their first La Liga title in 14 seasons and the Dutch advancing to the World Cup Final, eliminating Brazil, East Germany, and Argentina along the way. Although the Oranje lost to West Germany in the Final, Cruyff was named Player of the Tournament and went on the win his third Ballon d'Or, the first player in history to win the award three times.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

30 December 1972 - There's A Doc In The House

On 30 December 1972, Manchester United appointed Scotland boss Tommy Docherty as the club's new manager. Always a controversial figure, Docherty's tenure was tumultuous, involving relegation, promotion, and an affair with the wife of United's physiotherapist.

The former Scottish international had started his managerial career as a player-manager for Chelsea in 1961 and moved to a number of different clubs, including Rotherham United (1967-68), Queens Park Rangers (1968), Aston Villa (1968-70) and FC Porto (1970-71) before taking the Scotland job in 1971.

When Old Trafford came calling in 1972, Docherty took charge of a United side that was slipping down the Division One table and sitting in 17th place after a 1-3 Boxing Day loss away to Derby County. Although his first match in charge was a 1-3 loss to Arsenal at Highbury, Docherty successfully kept the club above the relegation zone, finishing the season in 18th position.

He was less fortunate the next season. Following the retirement of Bobby Charlton, the transfer of Denis Law, and the implosion of George Best, United were relegated to Division Two for the 1974-75 season, but returned to the top flight at the first opportunity.

After winning the FA Cup in 1977, news broke that summer that Docherty was having an affair with Mary Brown, wife of club physiotherapist Laurie Brown, and he was sacked in July. He and Mary eventually wed and had two children. After spells with a number of clubs, he retired in 1988.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

29 December 2007 - The Death of Phil O'Donnell

On 29 December 2007, 35-year old Motherwell midfielder and captain Phil O'Donnell collapsed during the second half of a Scottish Premier League match against Dundee United. He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. The cause was later determined to be left ventricular failure.

O'Donnell had started his professional career with Motherwell in 1990 and claimed a Scottish Cup winner's medal in his first season. He continued to impress, winning the Scottish PFA Young Player of the Year Award in 1992 and 1994. In 1994, he transferred to Celtic for a fee of £1.75 million, which remains the highest fee ever earned by a Motherwell player.

He earned another Scottish Cup medal and won a league title with Celtic, but his time in Glasgow was plagued by injuries and he left the club in 1999. After an uneventful time at Sheffield Wednesday, where he made only 20 appearances in four seasons, he returned to Motherwell in 2004.

Motherwell were enjoying a successful season in 2007-08. Going into the match on 29 December, they were sitting third in the table, which is where they would finish the season.

O'Donnell was just about to be substituted before he collapsed. His nephew, David Clarkson, was also playing for Motherwell that day and had to be substituted himself after seeing his uncle taken away in an ambulance.

After O'Donnell's death, supporters around the world paid tribute, some by leaving mementos, including scarves and shirts, at Motherwell's Fir Park ground.



Monday, December 28, 2009

28 December 1998 - 'Pool Sinks Newcastle

On 28 December 1998, Liverpool rallied from a 2-0 deficit to secure a 4-2 win against Newcastle before a crowd of 45,000 at Anfield. All four of Liverpool's goals came in an 18-minute span in the second half.

The two sides entered the match separated by four points in the table, with Newcastle in 12th place on 24 points. Liverpool were in 9th place, but were suffering from the fallout of their recent Christmas party scandal, which reportedly included strippers and Jamie Carragher in a Hunchback of Notre Dame costume.

Newcastle took the lead with a 29th-minute blast from midfielder Nolberto Solano, but were forced into a defensive strategy a minurte later when midfielder Dietmar Hamann received his second yellow card and was sent off. Nevertheless, they were able to capitalize on a Liverpool defensive lapse in the second half and substitute Andreas Andersson put the visitors ahead 2-0.

Liverpool's comeback started deep into the second half when striker Michael Owen (pictured) deflected a Carragher shot into the back of the net. Five minutes later, striker Karl-Heinz Riedle equalized with a rebound after keeper Shay Given blocked his first attempt. After another eight minutes, Given blocked a shot by Owen, who also caught the rebound and slotted home the eventual game-winner. Riedle scored an insurance goal five minutes later to complete his brace.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

27 December 1931 - Long Live The King

On 27 December 1931, legendary center forward and Welsh international John Charles was born in Swansea. Known as the "King John," Charles starred for both Leeds United and Juventus.

In 1948, at the age of 17, he started his career with Leeds United, who were then in the Second Division. He played at Elland Road until 1957, scoring 150 goals in 297 league appearances, and helping the side earn promotion to the First Division in 1956.

In 1957, Charles moved to Juventus for the then-British record fee of £65,000. While in Italy, he won three Scudettos (1958, 1960, 1961) and two Coppa Italia titles (1959, 1960). His success with Juventus brought him several individual accolades, starting with the 1958 Italian Player of the Year award. He was later voted the greatest foreign player ever to play in Serie A and, in 2001, was the first non-Italian elected to the Azzurri Hall of Fame.

He returned to Leeds in 1962, but failed to recapture his former glory, making only 11 appearances. He then spent time with Roma (1962-63), Cardiff City (1963-66), Hereford United (1966-71), and Welsh side Merthyr Tydfil (1972-74) before retiring in 1974.

Charles was elected to the English Hall of Fame in 2002. Leeds have honored their former hero by naming both the West Stand and the reserve stadium in his honor. He died in 2004.



Saturday, December 26, 2009

26 December 1936 - A Gift For Celtic That Kept On Giving

On 26 December 1936, future Celtic and Scottish international center forward Stevie Chalmers was born in Glasgow.

Chalmers began his career with Kirkintilloch Rob Roy FC in 1953, and spent time in England with Newmarket Town in England (1955-56) before returning to Scotland with Ashfield FC (1956-59). Later in 1959, however, the 23-year old signed with Celtic, where he would make his mark on history by scoring the winning goal in Celtic's 2-1 victory over Inter in the 1967 European Cup Final in Lisbon. The win made the Glasgow side the first British team to win the trophy and earned them the nickname "the Lisbon Lions."

He played 13 seasons for Celtic, claiming 6 league titles, 4 Scottish Cups, and 5 League Cups in addition to the European title.

Chalmers left Celtic in 1971 and played for Morton (1971-72) and Partick Thistle (1972-75) before retiring in 1975.




Friday, December 25, 2009

25 December 1914 - The Christmas Truce

On 25 December 1914, British and German troops stationed on the front lines near Ypres, Belgium engaged in an impromptu football match in the no-man's land between their respective trenches. The match was part of the Christmas Truce that had begun the night before when the opposing sides took a break from hostilities to sing Christmas carols and exchange gifts.

On Christmas morning, the British Royal Welch Fusiliers left their trench to meet the German troops. Someone produced a football, though no one involved could later recall who provided it or where it was obtained, and the game began. According to Fusilier Corporal Bernie Felstead, "It was not a game as such--more of a kick-around and a free-for-all. There could have been 50 on each side for all I know." The game lasted about a half hour and no one kept score.

In most areas, the truce lasted through Christmas night, but it extended to New Year's Day in some spots.

The Christmas Truce has been popularized in music, books, and movies, including the 2005 film Joyeux Noël.



Thursday, December 24, 2009

24 December 1938 - The Blues Get A White Christmas

On 24 December 1938, Chelsea beat Liverpool 4-1 at Stamford Bridge. It was a considerable upset, as Chelsea were sitting in 20th position at the time, while Liverpool were in third.

Unfortunately for the Blues, only 6,801 people showed up for the match, which remains Chelsea's lowest attendance for a top-division match. The small crowd was due in part to weather, as London had received about a foot of snow in the days leading up to the match, making travel difficult.

The win did little to change Chelsea's fortunes for the season, as they finished in 20th, one spot above the relegation zone. Liverpool finished in 11th.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

23 December 1889 - They Peaked A Bit Early

On 23 December 1889, Dr. Alexander Mackay and a group of British workers at the Rio Tinto mining company in the city of Huelva formed the Huelva Recreation Club. Now known as Recreativo de Huelva, it is Spain's oldest football club, earning it the nickname "El Decano" (the Dean).

The club enjoyed early success, winning twelve straight regional Andalusian titles from 1903 to 1914. Since then, however, the club's fortunes declined, with Huelva spending most of the seasons in their history in La Liga's Segunda, Segunda B and Tercera divisions. They have spent only five seasons in Spain's top flight, most recently from 2006-07 to 2008-09.

Huelva currently compete in the Segunda División, where, at present, they sit 16th out of 22 teams.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

22 December 2004 - Racism Rears Its Ugly Heads

On 22 December 2004, FIFA fined the Spanish Football Federation €60,000 as punishment for racist chants during a friendly between Spain and England at the Bernabéu Stadium the previous month.

The abuse consisted of monkey chants directed against England's black players, including defenders Ashley Cole and Rio Ferdinand, as well as substitutes Jermaine Jenas, Shaun Wright-Phillips (pictured), and Jermain Defoe. While such chants have a regrettably long history in football, the chants at the Bernabéu were notable for the pervasive participation of the crowd--according to one spectator, 80% of the crowd were chanting.

The event came on the heels of an earlier incident in September, when Spain manager Luis Aragonés had been overheard calling Thierry Henry a "black shit" when trying to motivate Henry's Arsenal teammate, Spanish international José Antonio Reyes.

The incident drew wide condemnation from authorities and commentators in several countries, including Spain itself. Afterward, the Spanish Football Federation began work on an anti-racism campaign.

Monday, December 21, 2009

21 December 1957 - A Summers Day In December

On 21 December 1957, Charlton Athletic staged a record-setting comeback to beat Bill Shankly's Huddersfield Town in a Second Division match at the Valley.

The hosts got off to a difficult start when center half Derek Ufton went off injured in the 17th minute. The rules at the time did not allow for substitutes, so Charlton had to play on with only 10 men. Visiting Huddersfield took the advantage and were up 2-0 by halftime.

At the half, Charlton left winger Johnny Summers (pictured) moved to center forward. He also switched boots, throwing out his old ones for a new pair. The changes appeared to help, as, in the 48th minute, he scored to close the gap to 2-1. But Huddersfield responded and, by the 62nd minute, had extended their lead to 5-1. Then the momentum shifted. Within 19 minutes, Charlton were unbelievably in front 6-5, after four more goals from Summers and one from Buck Ryan.

Still, the drama had not ended. Huddersfield scored an 86th-minute equalizer, then, right before the whistle, Ryan powered the game-winner past the Huddersfield keeper. Charlton got the win, 7-6. It was the first and only time that an English league team scored 6 goals and lost.

After the match, Summers told reporters that he would hold on to those boots for the rest of his life. Sadly, he died five years later from leukemia. He was 32 years old.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

20 December 1983 - A Little Lesson In Hubris

On 20 December 1983, unknown thieves stole the Jules Rimet Trophy from the Brazilian Football Association headquarters in Rio. To date, it has not been recovered.

In 1946, the original World Cup trophy was named the Jules Rimet Trophy, after former FIFA President Jules Rimet, who organized the first World Cup tournament. The trophy is awarded to the winning team, but only those teams with three World Cup victories get to take permanent possession. Brazil were the first country to do so, winning their third title in 1970. Since then, both Italy and West Germany have earned permanent trophies as well.

The trophy was stolen before in 1966, just before the start of the tournament in England, but it was found under a garden hedge by a dog named Pickles, whose owner collected a £6,000 reward. The BBC reported that, at the time, Brazilian authorities claimed such a theft would never happen in their own country, as even Brazilian thieves love football too much to steal the trophy.

To replace the trophy stolen in 1983, Kodak of Brazil commissioned a copy which the company donated to the BFA.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

19 December 1909 - Pubs, Beer, And Football, Who Could Ask For More?

On 19 December 1909, Ballspiel-Verein Borussia 1909 e. V. Dortmund was founded in a pub in the city of Dortmund, located in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. They would go on to become one of Germany's most decorated clubs, with multiple league and cup titles, as well as Germany's first European trophy.

The founding members were unhappy with their former club, Trinity Youth, which was run by a strict authoritarian local priest. Reportedly, he tried to prevent the formation of the new club, but was blocked at the door of the pub where the meeting was held. As perhaps a further sign of rebellion from the church side, the club took the name "Borussia" from a nearby brewery.

Dortmund reached a peak in the late 1950s, winning back-to-back Bundesliga titles in the 1955-56 and 1956-57 seasons. They repeated that feat in the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons and currently have six league titles. In 1966, they defeated Liverpool 3-2 at the end of extra time to claim the Cup Winners' Cup, the first international honor for a German club.

The club plays in Germany's top flight, finishing in 6th position for the 2008-09 season.

Friday, December 18, 2009

18 December 1961 - A Name Only An ENT Could Love

On 18 December 1961, the North American Football Confederation and the Football Confederation of Central America and the Caribbean merged to form the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, better known by its acronym, CONCACAF.

As one of the six FIFA confederations, CONCACAF is in charge of World Cup qualification for its member teams. It also runs its own competitions, including the Gold Cup for international sides and the CONCACAF Champions League for clubs.

At the international level, the confederation has been controlled by the United States and Mexico who, between the two of them, have earned more than half of the confederation's World Cup appearances. Mexico has advanced the furthest, making it to the World Cup quarterfinals in 1970 and 1986 (both times as the host country). El Tri also dominates at the club level, with the three highest-ranked clubs at present (Cruz Azul, Pachuca, and Deportivo Toluca) all coming from Mexico's Primera División.

Curiously, CONCACAF also includes three South American teams--Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

17 December 2007 - Yet Another Brazilian Hat-Trick

On 17 December 2007, FIFA presented its World Player of the Year awards. It was a sweep for Brazil, with Kaká and Marta named World Player of the Year and Women's World Player of the Year, respectively. It was the first--and to date only--time a single nation claimed both awards.

Earlier that year, Kaká led AC Milan to the 2006-07 Champions League title, finishing as the tournament's top scorer with 10 goals. Marta, meanwhile, had helped her club, Swedish side Umeå IK, claim a double, winning both the league and the Swedish Cup. She also led them to that year's UEFA Women's Cup Final, where they lost to Arsenal LFC, 1-0.

The 2007 award was the second consecutive Player of the Year award for Marta, who won it a third time in 2008.

Brazil walked away with a total of three honors, as FIFA conferred the 2007 Presidential Award on Pelé for his years of service to the game.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

16 December 2002 - This...Is...Baggio!

On 16 December 2002, Brescia forward Roberto Baggio scored his 300th career goal in the home side's Serie A win over Piacenza. With that goal, he became the first Italian in over 50 years to reach 300, and only the third Italian ever to do so.

Baggio started his professional career in Serie C1 with Vicenza (1982-85) but soon moved to bigger stages with Fiorentina (1985-90), Juventus (1990-95), AC Milan (1995-97), Bologna (1997-98) and Inter (1998-2000), before moving to Brescia in 2000. By the time he retired in 2004, he had scored 318 goals in all competitions, third among Italians only to Silvio Piola (364) and Giuseppe Meazza (338). Along the way, Baggio amassed a number of honors, including two Scudettos (1994-95 and 1995-96) and the 1993 Ballon d'Or.

Despite his shooting prowess, he is widely remembered for a goal he did not score. In the 1994 World Cup Final, Italy were tied with Brazil 0-0 at the end of extra time. In the ensuing penalty shootout, Brazil were leading 3-2 after four kicks. Baggio stepped up to take the Italians' fifth and final kick and sent it over the crossbar to give the Brazilians the win.



Tuesday, December 15, 2009

15 December 1995 - Bosman Beats The Bossman

On 15 December 1995, the European Court of Justice issued its opinion in a trio of cases involving Belgian midfielder Jean-Marc Bosman (right). The decision rewrote the football rules governing transfers by allowing players out of contract to change clubs without a fee.

Bosman initiated the legal action on 8 August 1990 by filing suit against his then-current club, RC Liège, because the Belgian club refused to allow his transfer to French second-division side US Dunkerque. Although Bosman was out of contract, Liège still owned his playing rights and refused the transfer unless Dunkerque coughed up a transfer fee of 1,200,000 Belgian francs, which the French club declined to do.

The European Court of Justice ruled that Liège's actions constituted an illegal restraint of trade prohibited by Article 39(1) of the EC Treaty. The court held that players out of contract were able to move between clubs without a transfer fee, provided they were moving between clubs in the European Union.

While the landmark decision opened the floodgates for footballer transfers, it came too late for Bosman himself, who, after short spells for lower-division sides in France and Belgium, was out of football by the time the court published its opinion.

Monday, December 14, 2009

14 December 1935 - Drake Takes The Cake

On 14 December 1935, Arsenal topped Aston Villa 7-1 in a First Division match before a crowd of 60,000 at Villa Park. All seven of the Gunners' goals were scored by center forward Ted Drake, setting a record for most goals scored in a single match by one player in the English top flight.

Drake had joined Arsenal in March 1934, moving from Southamption for a transfer fee of £6,500. The following season, he scored a club-record 44 goals.

Having firmly established his prowess as a shooter, his 7-goal tally against Villa was nonetheless a surprise. In fact, Villa seemed to have the better of the chances in the first 15 minutes before the floodgates opened for Drake. By the break, he had hat-trick and after 60 minutes, he had two hat-tricks. In all, Drake took nine shots on the day, with one hitting the bar and one saved by the Villa keeper.

At the time, Drake's tally was a record in all of English football. Twelve days later, however, Tranmere's Bunny Bell scored nine against Oldham in a Third Division match. Still, Drake's effort remains a record for the top division.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

13 December 1981 - Liverpool Probably Should've Stayed Home This Time, Too

On 13 December 1981, Flamengo beat Liverpool 3-0 in the Intercontinental Cup before a crowd of 62,000 at Tokyo's National Stadium.

Since its creation in 1960, the Intercontinental Cup pitted the European champions against the South American champions. As winners of the European Cup in 1977 and 1978, Liverpool qualified for the Intercontinental Cup in both years, but declined both times. The 1981 match was thus the first appearance for both clubs.

The outcome of the match was never in doubt, as it became a showcase for the Brazilians' playmaker and captain, Zico, who created all three of Flamengo's goals. In the 12th minute, he sent a lob pass over the Liverpool defense to set up the goal by Nunes; in the 34th minute, he delivered a free kick that was slotted home by Adilio; and in the 41st minute, he sent a precision pass into the box for Nunes, who completed his brace.

The English side, meanwhile, was unable to penetrate Flamengo's stout defense and ended up on the wrong side of the 3-0 scoreline. For his efforts, Zico was named man of the match.

The 1981 match is Flamengo's only appearance to date in the Cup. Liverpool made it again in 1984, when they lost to Argentinian side Independiente.



Saturday, December 12, 2009

12 December 2004 - Bernabéu Bomb Scare

On 12 December 2004, Spanish authorities evacuated Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in response to a bomb threat from the Basque terrorist group ETA.

Real were nearing the end of their match against Real Sociedad with the score tied at 1-1 when, three minutes from time, officials stopped the match and directed the 70,000 fans in attendance to exit the stadium. It was the first time that a major Spanish sporting event was interrupted due to terrorist activity, but the second time that the Bernabéu itself had been targeted by ETA, who exploded a bomb outside the stadium before a Champions League match in May 2002. This time, fortunately, no bomb exploded, nor was anyone injured as the crowd exited the stadium.

ETA, which stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna ("Basque Homeland and Freedom"), is a Basque separatist organization with a violent history, claiming responsibility for 800 deaths since 1968. Real Sociedad is located in the Basque city of San Sabastián, which may be why their match against Real Madrid was targeted.

Police searched the stadium for hours, but never found a bomb. The match was replayed on 5 January 2005, with Real Madrid earning a 2-1 victory.

Friday, December 11, 2009

11 December 1886 - Arsenal Dials It In

On 11 December 1886, Dial Square FC played its first match, defeating Eastern Wanderers 6-0. The match was played in an open field in London's Isle of Dogs.

Dial Square were founded earlier that year by a group of workers from the Dial Square workshop at the Royal Arsenal, located at Woolwich in southeast London. The club's founding members included Scotsman David Danskin (who captained the side for the match against Eastern Wanderers and had also purchased the club's first football) and Englishmen Jack Humble, Fred Beardsley, and Morris Bates.

The club played in red shirts obtained from Nottingham Forest. Both Beardsley and Bates had previously played for Forest and convinced their former club to donate the shirts.

On Christmas Day 1886, Dial Square changed their name to Royal Arsenal, then changed it again in 1891 to Woolwich Arsenal. In 1913, they moved to Highbury in north London and changed their name once more, this time dropping the "Woolwich" to be known simply as Arsenal. They have since become one of the most successful clubs in football, winning 13 top flight titles and 10 FA Cups.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

10 December 1907 - Laurent Sees The Light Of Day

On 10 December 1907, French international Lucien Laurent was born in Saint-Maur-des-Fossés outside Paris. In July 1930, the then-22 year old forward scored the first ever World Cup goal, which was also his first of only two goals he scored for the national team in his career.

Laurent started his career with CA Paris, for whom he played from 1921 to 1930. In 1930, he went to work in a Peugeot factory and transferred to the company's team, Peugeot Sochaux. He also received his first call-up to the French national team that year, debuting in a 2-0 loss to Portugal in February 1930.

In July 1930, he traveled with Les Bleus to Uruguay to participate in the very first World Cup. Peugeot gave him time off to make the trip, but he was not paid to play and received only a small amount of money from the French Football Federation to cover expenses. France's opening match was played against Mexico before a crowd of 1,000 at Montevideo's Estadio Pocitos. Laurent's record goal came in the 19th minute, when he sent a 12-yard volley into the net from a pass by his teammate Ernest Liberati. France went on to win 4-1.

After the World Cup, Lucien returned to France and played for a number of different clubs. In 1940, he was taken prisoner by the Nazis while fighting for France and spent three years as a prisoner of war. Upon his release in 1943, he resumed his playing career for Besançon RC.

Upon his retirement in 1946, he remained in Besançon and continued to play in regular matches until he was 86 years old. By 1998, he was the last remaining member of that 1930 squad and thus the only one to see France win the World Cup that year.

He died in 2005 at the age of 97.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

9 December 2001 - When Cranes Attack

On 9 December 2001, Uganda trounced Djibouti 10-1 at the Stade Amahoro in Kigali City, Rwanda. The match set the Uganda record for margin of victory.

It was the teams' opening group stage match in the 2001 CECAFA Cup, which is the oldest active football tournament in Africa. It has been contested among the East and Central African nations since 1973.

As defending 2000 CECAFA Cup-holders, Uganda were heavy favorites over Djibouti, whose national team had yet to win a match in their history. Djibouti, however, initially appeared to be the more dangerous side, mounting a handful of attacks in the early stages of the match. They were fully supported by the crowd, who also booed every time the Ugandans gained possession.

The Ugandan side eventually took charge of the match in the 25th minute, when forward Alex Isabirye headed in the match's opening goal from a corner kick. By the break, the Cranes were up 3-0. In the second half, Uganda continued to press, while Djibouti fell apart. Isabirye finished with a hat-trick and the remaining seven goals game from six different Uganda players, plus one Djibouti own goal. Too add to the humiliation, Djibouti back Abdurhamane Mohamed was sent off in the 85th minute. Mohamed Said salvaged a late goal for the losing side, but it was small consolation as the final scoreline read 10-1.

Despite the offensive firepower shown in the auspicious start to their title defense, the Ugandans struggled for the remainder of the tournament. They failed to score another goal, losing to both Tanzania (1-0) and Burundi (2-0), and were eliminated from the competition.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

8 December 1863 - Like Moses Coming Down From The Mountain ...

On 8 December 1863, the FA voted to approve the first Laws of the Game, setting forth a set of rules for the growing sport of football.

The Laws were drafted by FA Secretary Ebenezer Cobb Morley (pictured) and consisted of the following thirteen rules:

1. The maximum length of the ground shall be 200 yards (180 m), the maximum breadth shall be 100 yards (91 m), the length and breadth shall be marked off with flags; and the goal shall be defined by two upright posts, eight yards (7 m) apart, without any tape or bar across them.

2. A toss for goals shall take place, and the game shall be commenced by a place kick from the centre of the ground by the side losing the toss for goals; the other side shall not approach within 10 yards (9.1 m) of the ball until it is kicked off.

3. After a goal is won, the losing side shall be entitled to kick off, and the two sides shall change goals after each goal is won.

4. A goal shall be won when the ball passes between the goal-posts or over the space between the goal-posts (at whatever height), not being thrown, knocked on, or carried.

5. When the ball is in touch, the first player who touches it shall throw it from the point on the boundary line where it left the ground in a direction at right angles with the boundary line, and the ball shall not be in play until it has touched the ground.

6. When a player has kicked the ball, any one of the same side who is nearer to the opponent's goal line is out of play, and may not touch the ball himself, nor in any way whatever prevent any other player from doing so, until he is in play; but no player is out of play when the ball is kicked off from behind the goal line.

7. In case the ball goes behind the goal line, if a player on the side to whom the goal belongs first touches the ball, one of his side shall be entitled to a free kick from the goal line at the point opposite the place where the ball shall be touched. If a player of the opposite side first touches the ball, one of his side shall be entitled to a free kick at the goal only from a point 15 yards (14 m) outside the goal line, opposite the place where the ball is touched, the opposing side standing within their goal line until he has had his kick.

8. If a player makes a fair catch, he shall be entitled to a free kick, providing he claims it by making a mark with his heel at once; and in order to take such kick he may go back as far as he pleases, and no player on the opposite side shall advance beyond his mark until he has kicked.

9. No player shall run with the ball.

10. Neither tripping nor hacking shall be allowed, and no player shall use his hands to hold or push his adversary.

11. A player shall not be allowed to throw the ball or pass it to another with his hands.

12. No player shall be allowed to take the ball from the ground with his hands under any pretence whatever while it is in play.

13. No player shall be allowed to wear projecting nails, iron plates, or gutta-percha on the soles or heels of his boots.

Since 1882, the Laws have been administered by the International Football Association Board, which meets each winter to determine whether any changes to the Laws are required.

Monday, December 7, 2009

7 December 2008 - The Dorrance Dynasty

On 7 December 2008, the University of North Carolina women defeated Notre Dame 2-1 to capture their 19th NCAA Women's Soccer Championship, all under head coach Anson Dorrance. The heroine of the match was UNC junior forward Casey Nogueira, who scored both Tar Heel goals on her way to being named the tournament's most outstanding offensive player.

The match did not start favorably for UNC, as Notre Dame's Kerri Hanks gave the Golden Domers the lead after just 16 seconds. Notre Dame had kicked off to start the match and Hanks sprinted past the UNC defense to receive a lobbed ball from Courtney Rosen, which she then collected and slotted into the bottom right corner of the net. Hanks' goal was the fastest goal scored in Notre Dame history.

Notre Dame fought to protect the lead and their unbeaten season, but were flagged for a foul just outside the box in the 52nd minute. Nogueira took the ensuing free kick and blasted a right-footer into the net for the equalizer. Then, with just over two minutes remaining, she dribbled into the left side of the Notre Dame box and chipped a left-footed shot over Notre Dame keeper Kelsey Lysander.

Notre Dame thought they had a chance to equalize in the final minute when Hanks went down in the box, but the referee did not call a foul and UNC held on to claim the victory.

In 2009, Dorrance's UNC women beat Stanford 1-0 to claim their 20th NCAA title.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

6 December 1979 - The Wizard of Oz

On 6 December 1979, future Australian international and Oceania Player of the Year Tim Cahill was born in Sydney.

The midfielder signed his first professional contract at the age of 18 with English Division Two side Millwall FC. His time with the Lions coincided with one of the club's most successful periods, with the club earning promotion to Division One for the 2001-02 season and advancing to the FA Cup Final in 2004. In all, Cahill made 241 appearances for the Lions in all competitions, scoring 58 goals.

2004 also saw Cahill earn his first cap for Australia, despite having played for Samoa at the u-17 level. He was a key member of Australia's campaign in the 2004 Summer Olympics, which, along with his performances for Millwall, earned him the 2004 Oceania Footballer of the Year award.

He transferred to Everton for the 2004-05 season in which the club finished in the top four at the expense of crosstown rivals Liverpool. The following season, he was named one of the 50 finalists for the 2006 Ballon d'Or (and was the only finalist named from the Asian Football Confederation and Oceania).

On 12 June 2006, Cahill came on as 53rd-minute substitute in Australia's opening 2006 World Cup group stage match against Japan. The Socceroos were down 0-1, but Cahill scored an equalizer in the 84th minute -- Australia's first-ever World Cup goal. He added another in the 89th minute before teammate John Aloisi contributed a third in stoppage time to claim the country's first World Cup win.

The Socceroos finished second in their group to advance to the Round of 16, where they lost to eventual winners Italy, 1-0.

Cahill recently signed a contract extension to keep him at Everton until 2012.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

5 December 1921 - The FA Adds "Penis" To The Equipment List

On 5 December 1921, the Football Association issued a ban on women's football on the grounds that "the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged."

The FA's action was a response to the growing popularity of the women's game in the early part of the 20th century--popularity which some FA members believed was beginning to threaten the success of men's football.

The women's game was best exemplified by the dominant Dick, Kerr's Ladies (pictured). The Dick, Kerr's Ladies were formed in 1917 at the Dick Kerr and Co. munitions factory in Preston. They were highly successful and played charity matches in front of large crowds, such as the 53,000 who showed up to see their match against St. Helen's Ladies at Goodison Park on 26 December 1920.

The FA ban, however, stifled the growing women's game and prevented any women's sides from playing on grounds belonging to any Football League member. While unofficial matches continued to be played, they did not capture the popularity they had enjoyed before the ban. Dick Kerr's started a rapid decline and disbanded in 1965.

In 1969, driven by England's World Cup success in 1966, female footballers and their supporters formed a new Women's Football Association. The FA eventually recognized the distaff side of the sport in 1971 and, in 2008, officially apologized for the ban.

Friday, December 4, 2009

4 December 1965 - Spurs See Red (For The First Time In 37 Years)

On 4 December 1965, Burnley and Tottenham Hotspur drew 1-1 in a league match at Turf Moor. The match was notable for the sending off of Spurs forward Frank Saul, which ended the club's 37-year streak without a dismissal in a league match.

Saul played his youth football for his hometown club of Canvey Island, then signed his first professional contract with Tottenham in 1960, in time to play for the Double-winning side of 1960-61. He stayed at White Hart Lane for eight seasons, scoring 37 goals in 116 league appearances. In 1968, he transferred to Southampton and later played for Queens Park Rangers, Millwall, and Dagenham before retiring in the late 1970s.

Prior to Saul's dismissal, the last Spurs player to be sent off in a league match was full back Cecil Poynton, who was ejected in a 2-0 loss to Stoke on 27 October 1928.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

3 December 2004 - Marks Ups The Ante

On 3 December 2004, MSV Duisburg secured a 0-3 away victory over Karlsruher SC in a second division league match. Refereed by Dominik Marks (right), the match was the last of thirteen that year which were later investigated by the DFB in response to allegations of match-fixing.

The investigation focused on referee Robert Hoyzer and included matches from the 2.Bundesliga, the third-division Regionalliga Nord, and the DFB-Pokal (German Cup) going back to 30 May 2004. Investigators determined that Hoyzer and Marks met regularly with members of a Croatian gambling syndicate run by three brothers, Ante, Filip, and Milan Sapina.

Hoyzer's fellow referees reported him to the DFB after he raised suspicion by making a series of questionable decisions in a German Cup match on 21 August 2004. Upon learning of the investigation, Hoyzer resigned. He later testified that he and Marks had received payment in order to influence the outcome of certain matches. Both Hoyzer and Marks received lifetime bans, with Hoyzer also receiving a 29-month prison sentence and Marks an 18-month prison sentence.

Reportedly, Ante Sapina placed a €240,000 bet on the Karlsruher/Duisburg match and won €870,000. Investigators, however, concluded that while Marks was guilty of attempting to manipulate the match, the attempt did not affect the outcome and the DSB allowed the result to stand.

Duisburg finished in second place that season, earning promotion to the 1.Bundesliga for 2005-06, but returned to the second division the following season.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

2 December 1907 - Manchester Unites

On 2 December 1907, a group of professional footballers including Manchester United's Charlie Roberts and Billy Meredith (pictured) organized the first meeting of the Association of Football Players' and Trainers' Union at the Imperial Hotel in Manchester. Operating today as the Professional Footballers' Association, it is the oldest professional players association in the world.

The group was motivated in opposition to the Football League's setting of a £4 per week maximum wage for players. Although the group successfully negotiated bonus payments to supplement the wage, the Football League continued to impose a maximum wage until the 1960s.

Today, the PFA supports community outreach, scholarship, and education programs. It also awards three yearly honors - the Players' Player of the Year, the Young Player of the Year, and the Fans' Player of the Year.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

1 December 1959 - Liverpool Gets It Right The Second Time

On 1 December 1959, Liverpool FC announced the appointment of Bill Shankly as the club's new manager. He would go on to become one of the Reds' most successful managers.

After a distinguished playing career that included spells at Partick Thistle, Carlisle United, Preston North End, and the Scottish national team, Shankly turned to management in 1949. His first post was a return to Carlisle, followed by moves to Grimsby Town (1951-54), Workington (1954-55), and Huddersfield Town (1956-59), before joining Liverpool. He had interviewed for the Liverpool post in 1951, but had been rejected in favor of Don Welsh.

When he arrived on Merseyside, Liverpool were sitting in tenth position on the Division Two table and had not been in the top flight since 1954. Shankly steered them to consecutive third-place finishes in his first two seasons, then earned promotion in 1962 by winning the division. He subsequently guided Liverpool to three league titles (1964, 1966, 1973), two FA Cups (1965, 1974), and one UEFA Cup (1973).

Shankly retired in 1974 at the age of 60 and died in 1981.

Monday, November 30, 2009

30 November 1991 - Akers Aweigh

On 30 November 1991, the United States women's national team beat Norway 2-1 in the inaugural FIFA Women's World Cup Final before a crowd of 63,000 at Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou, China.

The United States entered the Final after winning all of their previous matches in the tournament, including a 5-0 hammering of Brazil in the group stage, a 7-0 demolition of Chinese Taipei in the quarterfinals, and a 5-2 victory over Germany in the semifinals. Norway, meanwhile, had opened the tournament with a 4-0 defeat to hosts China, but then put together a string of wins to reach the Final, including a convincing 4-1 victory over Sweden in the semifinals.

US midfielder/forward Michelle Akers (pictured) entered the Final as the Cup's leading scorer with 8 (5 of which came in the win over Chinese Taipei). True to form, she gave the Americans the lead with a goal in the 20th minute, but Norway struck back with a 29th-minute equalizer from forward Linda Medalen. The match remained even until the 78th minute, when Akers pounced on a stray back pass from Norway's Tina Svensson and sidestepped keeper Reidun Seth to tap the ball into the open net. The goal gave the United States the win and upped Akers' tally to 10, making her the tournament's top scorer.

Norway got their revenge in 1995, when they eliminated the United States in the quarterfinals, 1-0, then beat Germany in the Final.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

29 November 1904 - Héctor, The Nacional Hero

On 29 November 1904, future Uruguayan international forward and manager Héctor Castro was born in Montevideo.

Nicknamed El Manco ("The Maimed") because he accidentally amputated his right forearm with an electric saw at the age of 13, Castro began his professional career in 1923 with Montevideo's Club Nacional, with whom he won the 1924 Uruguayan championship. In 1926, he started a successful run with the Uruguayan national team, winning the 1926 version of the international tournament that would later be known as the Copa América and the 1928 Olympics

He also earned honors in the 1930 World Cup, memorably scoring the last goal in Uruguay's 4-2 win over Argentina in the Final (pictured above).

He left Nacional in 1932 for Argentinian club Estudiantes, but returned to Nacional 1933 and won another national title before retiring as a player in 1936. In 1939, Castro returned to Nacional as manager, winning four consecutive Uruguayan championships (1940-43) before retiring in 1943. He returned for another season in 1952 and led the club to yet another Uruguayan title.

Castro passed away in Montevideo on 15 September 1960 at the age of 55.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

28 November 1995 - Danny Plays A Blinder

On 28 November 1995, Ajax claimed their second Intercontinental Cup by defeating Grêmio on penalties, 0-0 (4-3), before a crowd of 47,000 at Tokyo's National Stadium.

Established in 1960, the Intercontinental Cup matched the reigning European champion against the reigning South American champion. The Cup was initially contested as a two-leg home and away tie, but switched to a single-match format in 1980.

Both Ajax and Grêmio had previously participated in the Cup, with successful results. Ajax's prior appearance was in 1972 and ended as a 4-1 aggregate win over Argentinian side Independiente. Grêmio's earlier match was a 2-1 extra-time win over Hamburg in 1983.

In the 1995 Final, the two teams were even at 0-0 at the end of extra time, despite the Brazilian side losing defender Catalino Rivarola to a red card in the 57th minute. In penalties, the shooters got off to a rough start with Ajax keeper Edwin Van der Sar saving the first shot from midfielder Dinho, while the next two shots, from Ajax forward Patrick Kluivert and Grêmio defender Francisco Arce, were off target. The remaining kicks were converted, however, with Ajax center back Danny Blind scoring the decisive shot. Blind was subsequently chosen as man of the match.

Starting in 2005, the Cup was taken over by FIFA and renamed the FIFA Club World Cup.

Friday, November 27, 2009

27 November 1994 - Celtic Feels The Wrath Of Raith

On 27 November 1994, Raith Rovers defeated Celtic on penalties before a crowd of 45,000 at Glasgow's Ibrox Stadium to claim the club's first (and, to date, only) Scottish League Cup.

Founded in 1883, Rovers had enjoyed some past success, winning the First Division in 1907-08, 1937-38, and 1948-49 (a season in which they also made it to their first Scottish League Cup Final, but lost to Rangers). They began to decline through the 1950s and '60s, including relegation to the second and third divisions, but had started a resurgence in the early 1990s, earning promotion to the Premier Division for the 1993-94 season (though they were relegated back to the First Division for the following season).

At the same time, Celtic were in the midst of an uncharacteristic fallow period, having gone five seasons without winning any major silverware. They were close to ending that streak against Rovers, after going up 2-1 in the 84th minute, but Rovers striker Gordon Dalziel equalized two minutes later.

The teams battled through extra time but could not break the deadlock, sending the match to penalties. Each side's first five shooters converted and it went into sudden death. Rovers went first and again found the net, so the tally stood at 6-5 Rovers when Celtic captain Paul McStay (pictured) stepped up for his kick. He sent it low to the left, where Rovers keeper Scott Thomson met it and turned it away, giving Rovers the victory.

Rovers returned to the Premier Division in 1995, but were relegated again in 1997. They currently play in the First Division.

Celtic finally ended their silverware drought in 1995 by winning the Scottish Cup.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

26 November 2003 - Milan's Maldini Makes His Mark

On 26 November 2003, Milan defeated Ajax 1-0 in a Champions League group stage match before a crowd of 50,000 at Ajax's Amsterdam ArenA. The match was the 100th European Cup/Champions League appearance for Milan defender Paolo Maldini and the fourth time the two teams had met in the Champions League in 2003.

Maldini signed with Milan as a youth player in 1978, then as a professional in 1984. He made his first European Cup appearance in the 1988-89 campaign, which saw Milan claim its third title in the competition. By November 2003, Milan and Maldini had claimed three more European Cup/Champions League trophies (1990, 1994, 2003).

Ajax and Milan had a long history together in the competition, dating back to the 1969 Final in which Milan beat the Dutch club 4-1. Ajax returned the favor in the 1995 Final with a 1-0 win over the Italians. The clubs met in the quarterfinals of the 2002-03 Champions League, with Milan emerging victorious by the aggregate score of 3-2.

Maldini's century match was the second leg of the 2003-04 group stage, with Milan having won the previous leg 1-0 at home. In Amsterdam, Ajax battled to 0-0 draw at the break, despite having had to withdraw their star forward Zlatan Ibrahimović in the 40th minute due to injury. In the 51st minute, Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko chested a Cafu pass in front of the goal and calmly put the ball into the net. Milan then held on for the 1-0 win.

Both Ajax and Milan lost their last group stage matches, Ajax to Brugge and Milan to Celta Vigo. Ajax's loss to Brugge dropped the Dutch club to the bottom of the table and out of the competition. Milan finished at the top of the table to advance to the knockout rounds where they successfully defended their title.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

25 November 2005 - Best In Peace

On 25 November 2005, former Northern Ireland international and Manchester United superstar George Best died in London. His death was caused by complications related to a liver transplant required after years of alocohol abuse.

Best was born and raised in Belfast where, at the age of 15, he was discovered by a Manchester United scout. He joined United's youth academy, then signed a professional contract with them in 1963. He soon became a crowd favorite, with his flashy playing style and long-haired good looks earning him the nickname "the Fifth Beatle" and making him one of football's first international superstars. He helped United to several honors, including the European Cup in 1968, the same year he was named European Footballer of the Year.

Unfortunately, Best's playing career began to suffer as he battled with his alcoholism. He left United in 1974 and started a journey that saw him play for a number of different clubs, including the Los Angeles Aztecs (1976, 1977-78), Fulham (1976-77), Ft. Lauderdale Strikers (1978-79), Hibernian (1979-80), and the San Jose Earthquakes (1980-81). He last played for Tobermore United in the Northern Irish league, for whom he made a single appearance in 1984.

He also earned 37 caps for Northern Ireland between 1964 and 1977, but the side did not qualify for the World Cup during that time.



Tuesday, November 24, 2009

24 November 1874 - Brazil's Prometheus Unbound

On 24 November 1874, Charles William Miller, the man who introduced football to Brazil, was born in São Paulo, Brazil to a Scottish father and a Brazilian mother.

In 1884, like many children in Brazil's British community, Miller was sent by his parents to England for his education. He enrolled in a public school on the outskirts of Southampton, England, where he was introduced to football. While overseas, he played for Corinthian FC in London and St. Mary's, the forerunner of Southampton FC.

He returned to Brazil in 1894 with a football and a set of rules and set about organizing matches among the British expatriates. He was one of the founding members of São Paulo AC and also helped organize Brazil's first football league. With Miller at striker, São Paulo won the first three league championships (1902, 1903, 1904).

A few short years after Miller's return from England, football had become Brazil's most popular sport.

Monday, November 23, 2009

23 November 1996 - A Lesson In The Value Of Having Caller ID

On 23 November 1996, Senegalese striker Ali Dia made his Premier League debut, coming on as a first-half substitute for Southampton in a 2-0 away loss to Leeds.

Dia had just recently been signed by Saints manager Graeme Souness, who had learned of the striker during a phone conversation with someone claiming to be Liberian legend George Weah, the 1995 FIFA World Player of the Year. The caller recommended Dia to Souness, saying that he had played for Weah's former club Paris St. Germain, as well as making 13 international appearances. On the strength of that recommendation, Souness signed Dia to a one-month contract, sight unseen.

Although Dia was unimpressive during training, Souness included him on the bench for the match against Leeds and subbed him on in the 33rd minute for midfielder Matt LeTissier. It became readily apparent, however, that Dia was not the talent Souness had been led to believe and the manager pulled him after 20 minutes. Leeds went on to win the match with two late goals from Gary Kelly (82') and Lee Sharpe (89').

Shortly afterward, it was revealed that the call to Souness had not been from George Weah, but was actually from Dia's agent and that none of the purported facts stated during the call were accurate. Although Dia himself denied any knowledge regarding the call, the Saints released him from his contract after two weeks.

Souness resigned at the end of the 1996-97 season, citing differences with club chairman Rupert Lowe.



Sunday, November 22, 2009

22 November 1877 - Barça's Founding Father

On 22 November 1877, future Barcelona player and president Hans-Max Gamper was born in Winterthur, Switzerland.

An avid sportsman, Gamper grew up in Zürich, where he helped found and played for both FC Excelsior and FC Zürich. He also played for FC Basel.

In 1899, he moved to Barcelona and, on 22 October, placed an ad in Los Deportes calling for people interested in forming a club. Several people responded and, on 29 November, they founded FC Barcelona. Gamper reportedly chose the club colors of red and blue, based on Basel's colors. He made 48 appearances for Barça between 1899 and 1903 and helped them claim their first silverware, the 1902 Copa Macaya.

By 1908, the club's fortunes had begun to fade. With membership declining, it appeared that Barça was on the verge of shutting down. Gamper volunteered to serve as president. He rejuvenated the membership and guided the club to an undefeated season and the 1909-09 Catalan Championship.

He stepped down as president after that season, but later served four more terms when called upon (1910-13, 1917-19, 1921-23, and 1924-25). His last term ended on 17 December 1925 when the Spanish government, in a crackdown on Catalan independence, deposed the entire board and closed the club's doors for six months.

Gamper, who by then went by "Joan Gamper," the Catalan version of his name, returned to Switzerland. He subsequently became depressed over personal and financial problems and committed suicide on 30 July 1930.

In 1966, Barça established the Joan Gamper Trophy, an annual preseason friendly, in his honor.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

21 November 2007 - Croatia Rains On England's Parade

On 21 November 2007, the final day of qualification for Euro 2008, Croatia defeated England, 2-3, before a rain-soaked crowd of 88,000 in London's Wembley Stadium. The loss eliminated England from the tournament and sealed the fate of England manager Steve McClaren.

England started the day in second place in Group E on 23 points. They were three points behind leaders Croatia, who had already booked their place in the tournament, and two points ahead of third-place Russia, who were facing last-place Andorra.

England had lost to Croatia 2-0 in Zagreb, but were hoping for a better result at home, despite missing several key players, including forward Wayne Rooney and all four players from their preferred back line. The available personnel forced McLaren to change the formation from a 4-4-2 to a 4-1-4-1, with Peter Crouch playing as the lone striker.

England's hopes took a blow in the 8th minute, as Croatian midfielder Niko Kranjčar found the back of the net with a 25-yard shot that was helped past keeper Scott Carson by a tricky bounce off the wet pitch. Ivica Olić doubled the visitors' lead in the 14th minute as a precision pass by forward Eduardo da Silva beat the English defense and allowed Olić to walk the ball into an open goal.

England entered the second half to a chorus of boos and jeers from the home fans, but soon gave them something to cheer when Jermain Defoe won a penalty which Frank Lampard converted in the 56th minute. Peter Crouch equalized nine minutes later with a goal from a David Beckham pass.

As it turned out, a draw would have been enough to see England through on goal differential, but it did not last. Croatian substitute forward Mladen Petrić (pictured), who had replaced Eduardo in the 69th minute, beat Carson with a 25-yard stunner in the 77th minute. England were unable to find another equalizer and conceded all three points to Croatia.

Russia, as expected, beat Andorra and moved into second place in the group, dropping England into third and out of the tournament. The FA terminated McClaren's contract the next day after only 18 matches in 16 months, making his time in charge of the national team the shortest of any England manager.



Friday, November 20, 2009

20 November 1971 - A Hat-Trick Of Hat-Tricks

On 20 November 1971, Third Division side Bournemouth thoroughly thrashed the Southern League's Margate by the score of 11-0 in the First Round of the 1971-72 FA Cup. Bournemouth's hero that day was 24-year old Scottish forward Ted "SuperMac" MacDougall (pictured), who scored nine of the Cherries' eleven goals.

MacDougall had joined Bournemouth in the summer of 1969 (when the club was still known as "Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic") after being acquired from York City for £10,000. He scored 21 league goals for the Cherries that season, but they were nonetheless relegated to Division Four. Under new manager John Bond, they were promoted at the first opportunity and were enjoying their return to the Third Division when they met Margate in the FA Cup.

MacDougall scored five goals in the first half, prompting the Margate manager to ask Bond jokingly to substitute the forward in the second half. MacDougall went on to score four more after the break.

The Cherries advanced to the Third Round where they were eliminated 1-0 by Walsall. MacDougall moved to Manchester United in September 1972 for a transfer fee of £200,000, but never settled. He played for a number of other clubs, including a second stint at Bournemouth, before retiring in 1980.

His 9 goals still hold the FA Cup record for the most scored by a player in a single game.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

19 November 1969 - O Milésimo

On 19 November 1969, Santos defeated Vasco da Gama away, 1-2, before a crowd of over 65,000 at the Maracaña Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The winning goal was scored by 29-year old Santos forward Pelé--his 1,000th goal for club and country.

The Brazilian public was eager to see the goal, known as "o milésimo." In Santos' previous match, with Pelé sitting on 999 goals, the home crowd booed when one of their own players blocked one of Pelé's subsequent shots. The Vasco da Gama supporters were no different, cheering each of his attempts on 19 November. The Vasco da Gama players, however, were eager to prevent the milestone from occurring against them. Indeed, when a Santos player sent in a cross for Pelé, a Vasco defender headed it into his own goal rather than allow Pelé to receive it.

The moment finally arrived late in the match after Pelé was tripped in the box and the referee signaled for a penalty. Pelé calmly stepped up to the spot and slotted a low shot into the bottom right corner to claim the win. The crowd invaded the pitch and carried Pelé away on their shoulders.

By the time he retired in 1977, Pelé had scored a record-setting 1,281 goals. While some critics claim that several of the goals should not count because they were scored in friendlies, FIFA nevertheless recognizes Pelé's 1,281 goals as the most ever scored by a professional footballer.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

18 November 2003 - DC Likes 'Em Young

On 18 November 2003, DC United signed United States U-17 international Freddy Adu to his first professional contract, making the 14-year, 169-day old Adu the youngest athlete to sign a professional contract for a team sport in the United States in over 100 years.

Born in Ghana in 1989, Adu emigrated to the United States in 1997, becoming a US citizen in 2003. While growing up in Maryland, he quickly displayed a talent for the game. As a 10-year old, he played with the US U-14 squad and began to draw attention from noted clubs including Inter Milan and Manchester United. In January 2002, he joined the US Soccer Federation's U-17 residential program at the IMG Soccer Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

Despite the interest from Europe, Adu and his family decided he should stay close to home with MLS and DC United. He made his first appearance for DC as a second-half substitute in their season opener on 3 April 2004. He played in all 30 regular season matches, finishing with five goals and three assists, and also helped DC to the 2004 MLS Cup.

Though moderately successful, Adu's time in DC was marred by complaints over playing time and positioning and, in December 2006, he moved to Real Salt Lake. He has since changed clubs a number of times, including stints at Benfica, who currently hold his contract, and loan spells with Monaco and current club Belenenses.

Before signing Adu, DC United had previously signed the league's youngest players in Bobby Convey (2000) and Santino Quaranta (2001), both of whom were 16 at the time they signed.




Tuesday, November 17, 2009

17 November 2007 - Zanetti Pops A Record Cap

On 17 November 2007, Argentina defeated Bolivia, 3-0, in a World Cup qualifier before a crowd of 43,308 at Buenos Aires' Estadio Antonio V. Liberti. In that match, Argentina captain Javier Zanetti made his 116th appearance for his country, becoming Argentina's most-capped player.

Zanetti made his international debut on 16 November 1994. He represented Argentina for the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, but was controversially omitted from the 2006 World Cup squad by then-coach José Pekerman. Pekerman resigned after the tournament, however, and was replaced by Alfio Basile, who recalled Zanetti for a friendly against France on 7 February 2007. Since then, he has remained a mainstay of the national team, with 136 caps at present.

The match against Bolivia was a convincing win, with a first-half goal from Sergio Agüero (40') and a second-half brace from Juan Román Riquelme (56', 74'). Argentina struggled throughout the remainder of qualification, though, securing its trip to South Africa only on the last day with a 0-1 away win over Uruguay.



Monday, November 16, 2009

16 November 2003 - Barça Enters The Dragon

On 16 November 2003, Porto defeated Barcelona, 2-0, in a friendly held to inaugurate Porto's new stadium, Estádio do Dragão.

Boasting a capacity of 50,399 and built at a cost of €98 million, the stadium was designed by architect Manuel Salgado as intended as one of the venues for the 2004 UEFA European Championship. The name Dragão, which is also a nickname for the club, refers to the dragon on Porto's crest.

Barcelona were accommodating visitors for the opening match, conceding goals to Porto strikers Vanderlei Silva and Hugo Almeida. The match remains notable for the Catalan club, however, as the first-team debut for 16-year old winger Lionel Messi.

Unfortunately for Porto, problems with the pitch prevented them from moving into the new stadium full-time until February 2004. Nevertheless, the new venue proved good luck for Porto, who went on that season to claim their 20th league title and their second Champions League trophy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

15 November 2006 - The Reign Of Spain Starts After This Game

On 15 November 2006, Romania defeated Spain, 0-1, in a friendly played in Cadiz. The match was Spain's last loss before going on a world record-setting run of 35 matches unbeaten, a streak that also saw them win the 2008 European Championship.

Spain limped into the match against Romania, having been eliminated from the 2006 World Cup by France in the first knockout round and losing their last two matches, a couple of 2008 UEFA Euro qualifiers against Northern Ireland and Sweden. Manager Luis Aragonés shook up his side for the match, calling up Valencia star David Silva for his senior debut along with Celta Vigo's Angel Lopez and Sevilla's Javi Navarro.

Silva threatened a couple of times during a scoreless first half, but Romanian striker Ciprian Marica notched the match's only goal when he beat Iker Casillas with a low second-half shot into the far corner.

Spain rallied after the loss, rattling off a string of 35 unbeaten matches (32 wins, 3 draws) over the next three years. The highlight of that streak was the 1-0 win over Germany in the 2008 UEFA Euro Final. The United States finally ended the run, beating Spain 2-0 on 24 June 2009 in the semi-finals of the 2009 Confederations Cup.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

14 November 1934 - The Battle Of Highbury

On 14 November 1934, England defeated Italy 3-2 before a crowd of 56,000 at Arsenal Stadium in Highbury, London. Ostensibly a "friendly," the match was a violent affair, resulting in several injuries, including broken bones, earning it the nickname "The Battle of Highbury."

The match generated a lot of excitement, pitting World Cup-holders Italy against traditionally strong England. The Three Lions had not participated in the 1934 World Cup and viewed the match as an opportunity to stake their claim as the world's best side. Similarly, Italy sought to solidify their status as world champions. Prime Minister Benito Mussolini reportedly offered the Italian players a victory bounty including a car and the equivalent of £150 if they beat the English team.

Italy got off to a rough start, as center half Luis Monti suffered a broken foot after a challenge by England center forward Ted Drake in the second minute and had to leave the pitch. At that time, the rules did not allow for substitutions, so Italy played the remainder of the match with 10 men.

Monti's injury sparked retaliation by the Italians and English full back Eddie Hapgood received a broken nose, while outside left Eric Brook had his arm broken. Nevertheless, England took a 3-0 lead into the break with goals from Brook (3', 10') and Drake (12').

Despite being down a man, Italy fought back in the second half with a brace from inside forward Giuseppe Meazza (58', 62'). He came to close to completing a hat-trick, but his potential equalizer hit the woodwork and the match ended 3-2.

In addition to providing a dramatic display of international football, the match set an English record by including seven starters from Arsenal--the first (and to date, only) time the English national team started seven players from the same club.

Friday, November 13, 2009

13 November 1945 - The Soviets Invade Britain

On 13 November 1945, Dynamo Moscow drew with Chelsea, 3-3, at Stamford Bridge before a capacity crowd of 85,000. It was the opening match of Dynamo's British tour, which saw them also face Cardiff, Arsenal, and Glasgow Rangers.

The tour was engineered by members of the FA and the Football League, who were looking to celebrate the resumption of English football after its World War II hiatus. As one of the Soviet Union's leading clubs, Dynamo generated a lot of interest in a British public that was still unfamiliar with the Soviet nation. The British press, however, was critical of the Soviets' footballing abilities, with one reporter saying Dynamo were "not nearly good enough to play our class of professional teams."

The opening half against Chelsea appeared to prove him correct, as Dynamo went down 2-0. In the second half, however, Dynamo's fluid passing game allowed them to equalize. Late into the second half, new Blues signing Tommy Lawton appeared to win the match for Chelsea with a header, but Dynamo's Vsyevolod Bobrov scored a dramatic third for the Soviets, despite appearing to be offside.

Dynamo continued to impress on its tour, crushing Third Division Cardiff, 10-1, then beating Arsenal 4-3, before finally losing to Rangers, 3-2. (Highlights of the Rangers match can be seen below.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

12 November 1881 - Manchester's Heathens and Saints

On 12 November 1881, Newton Heath FC defeated hosts West Gorton (St. Mark's) FC, 3-0, in a friendly. It was the first Manchester derby, as the Heathens later became known as Manchester United and the Saints later changed their name to Manchester City. The Ashton Reporter covered the match, calling it "a pleasant game."

Since that first match, played at the invitation of West Gorton, there have been 152 competitive matches between the two teams. United currently have the advantage with 62 wins to City's 41 (there have been 49 draws). The derby's top scorers are City's Joe Hayes and Francis Lee, tied at 10 goals each. United's top derby scorer is Bobby Charlton with 9.

A number of players have taken the pitch for both City and United, including Denis Law, Peter Schmeichel, and, most recently, Carlos Tevez.

United are currently on a three-match derby win streak. City's last derby win was on 2 February 2008, which completed a City double over United that season.