Sunday, February 18, 2018

18 February 1973 - The Role Came A Little Bit Later

On 18 February 1973, Claude Makélélé, who redefined the modern defensive midfielder position, was born in Kinshasa, Zaire.

He moved to France when he was four and spent the first several years of his career there, first with Stade Brestois (1990-91), then with Nantes (1991-97) and later Marseille (1997-98). In 1998, he left for Spain, playing two seasons for Celta de Vigo and three for Real Madrid.

At Madrid, he was an integral member of the Galacticos side assembled by club president Florentino Pérez, including Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Ronaldo, and Roberto Carlos. Although not regarded as highly (or paid as much) as some of the others, Makélélé drove the side by operating less like a traditional defensive midfielder and more like a deep-lying playmaker.

When he left for Chelsea in 2003, a bitter Pérez tried to minimize the loss, downplaying Makélélé's contribution to the team. But after winning two league titles (and the Champions League) with him, Real Madrid did not win La Liga again until 2007.

Makélélé, meanwhile, flourished at Chelsea, winning two league titles and one FA Cup before moving back to France in 2008, joining Paris Saint-Germain. He ended his career there, retiring in 2011. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

17 February 1957 - Real Madrid Gets Into The Home Security Business

On 17 February 1957, Real Madrid beat Deportivo de La Coruña to launch a record 121-game home unbeaten streak in the league.

It was Madrid's first home league match since a loss to Atlético Madrid two weeks earlier and they responded by beating Deportivo 1-0 with a goal from forward Enrico Mateos in the 25th minute. They then won their last three remaining home games and claimed the league title.

Amazingly, they continued to defend their home ground in the league for another eight years, going unbeaten over a span of 121 matches that carried them to another six La Liga titles. Of those 121 matches, only eight were draws; they won the remaining 113.

The streak's last game came on 21 February 1965 with a 6-1 win over Real Betis and it ended on 7 March with a loss to Atlético, 0-1.

Friday, February 16, 2018

16 February 1964 - The Celebration Would Have Been Appropriate Here, Too

On 16 February 1964, Bebeto, star of the 1994 World Cup and creator of a famous goal celebration, was born in the Brazilian city of Salvador.

A forward, whose real name is José Roberto Gama de Oliveira, he spent the majority of his career alternating between the Brazilian and Spanish top flights, including lengthy spells with Flamengo (1983-88, 1996), Vasco da Gama (1989-92, 2001-02), and Deportiva la Coruña (1992-96). Along the way, he won league titles in 1983 and 1989, as well as the 1995 Copa del Rey.

He earned his first cap for Brazil in 1985 and made 75 appearances through 1998, scoring a total of 39 goals. During Brazil's winning campaign in the 1994 World Cup, he played every minute and scored three goals. After his third, which put his team up 2-1 against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals (Brazil went on to win 3-2), he honored his newborn son by making a rocking motion with his arms. It eventually became a staple goal celebration.

After his retirement in 2002, he briefly managed America FC in Rio de Janeiro from 2009 to 2010, then switched to politics with his 2010 election to Brazil's legislative assembly.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

15 February 1995 - The Lansdowne Road Riot

On 15 February 1995, a riot erupted at a friendly between Ireland and England in Dublin. A subsequent report laid the blame on English supporters and Irish authorities.

The supporters in question were members of Combat 18, an English neo-Nazi white supremacist group with a history of violence including football hooliganism.  They wasted little time in turning the friendly ugly, chanting "sieg heil" and giving Nazi salutes during the playing of the national anthems.

After a disallowed English goal, the away supporters in the higher stands ripped up benches and threw them down onto the home fans in the lower stands, prompting the referee to halt the game and send the teams off the pitch. Ireland manager Jack Charlton, a former English international, left to chants of "Judas."

The violence escalated, with rioting in the stands as the referee decided to cancel the remainder of the match. Most fans were evacuated, but those that remained clashed with police. A total of twenty people were injured.

Afterward, an inquiry found the English supporters, and Combat 18 in particular, responsible for the outbreak of violence. But the Irish authorities also shared some of the blame. They had been alerted before the match to the presence of Combat 18, but failed to take action (and even declined assistance offered by their English counterparts).


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

14 February 2000 - There's No Mercy Rule In Football

On 14 February 2000, Kuwait set a world record by beating Bhutan 20-0 in an Asian Cup qualifier.

Even though they won their first qualifying match 6-1 over Turkmenistan, Kuwait had shown no indication that they were capable of producing such a scoreline. But Bhutan were not the stoutest competition, having recently ended a self-imposed exile from international football to join FIFA earlier that year (they lost their opening game 3-0 to Nepal).

Kuwait took a few minutes to get going, with Jassem Al-Houwaidi scoring the opener in the 17th minute. But  that one opened the floodgates, as Bashir Abdullah scored the second in the 20th minute--it was the first of his eight goals on the day (20', 24', 38', 45' (pen.), 47', 50', 59', 89'). Al-Houwaidi added another four (36' (pen.), 39', 52' (pen.), 57') and Ahmed Al-Mutairi got a hat-trick (21', 51', 63'). The other four were scored by Fawwaz Bakhit (31'), Nohair Al-Shammari (21'), Issam Sakeen (65'), and Ahmed Jassem (77' (pen.)).

The scoreline beat the previous international record of 13-0, which was set about three weeks earlier when China beat Guam 19-0 in the same qualifying series. But it was beaten when Australia beat Tonga 22-0 in 2001.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

13 February 1948 - The Sweet Smell Of Success

On 13 February 1948, Köln formed from the merger of two other clubs. They went on to become the first Bundesliga champions.

The two previous clubs were Kölner BC, founded in 1901, and Spielvereinigung 1907 Köln-Sülz, founded in 1907. Their merger came about as a result of the reorganization of German football under the Third Reich and the re-establishment of league play after the end of World War II.

Initially assigned to the regional Oberliga West, they were one of sixteen teams chosen for the new national Bundesliga, which started play in the fall of 1963. Spurred by the goal-scoring duo of Karl-Heinz Thielen (16 goals) and Christian Müller (15), they finished at the top of the table, six points clear of runners-up Meidericher SV.

They won the league again in 1964, with second-place finishes in 1963 and 1965, then won it for a third time  in 1978. After finishing as runners-up a few more times, including 1989 and 1990, they went into a slump that ended in relegation in 1998.

Since then, they have moved between the top two divisions and currently sit at the bottom of the Bundesliga table. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

12 February 2007 - Kaká Turns Italian

On 12 February 2007, AC Milan and Brazil star Kaká became an Italian citizen. But he continues to play for Brazil.

The midfielder joined Milan in 2003 after two seasons with São Paulo. The Italian side paid €8.5M for him and he immediately started providing dividends for them, scoring a total of 14 goals in 44 appearances across all competitions in his first year there as Milan won both the league and the Supercoppa Italiana and he was named the 2004 Serie A Player of the Year.

He got off to a strong start at the beginning of the  2006-07 season, which would ultimately result in him winning the 2007 Ballon d'Or. In the middle of the season, he applied for Italian citizenship, which was granted and made official in a private ceremony on 12 February.

The move was not intended to alter his international status, as he was already locked into playing for Brazil and ineligible to play for Italy. (He also maintained his Brazilian citizenship). Instead, the move allowed Milan to claim him as a European Union player for UEFA quotas, opening up a spot in the team for a non-EU player. After the ceremony, Kaká said "It is an honor. Now I both Italian and Brazilian. I am very happy. This helps not only me, but also Milan."

He remained with Milan until June 2009, when he joined Real Madrid. In 2014, he moved the the US and played for Orlando City until his retirement in 2017.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

10 February 1946 - A Familiar Pattern Emerges In Buenos Aires

On 10 February 1946, Argentina won their eighth South American Championship, beating Brazil as usual.

Four of Argentina's previous titles had come at the expense of Brazil, with the teams finishing as champions and runners-up, respectively. In three of them, Argentina won by finishing higher in the final table, though they did beat Brazil along the way. In the 1937 edition, the teams finished level in the table, forcing a playoff that Argentina won 2-0 in extra time.

The 1946 tournament was a shortened version after three teams withdrew, leaving Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina, who entered as defending champions after winning it in 1945 (with Brazil again finishing second). They did not play Brazil until the final scheduled match on 10 February. Argentina started the day ahead of Brazil in the table by a single point, meaning they needed only a draw to win the competition. 

But playing before a home crowd at the Estadio Monumental in Beonos Aires, it was clear early on that they were not planning to settle for a draw. In the thirtieth minute, a clash between Argentina's De la Mata and Brazil's Chico led to the ejection of both players and an ensuing seventy-minute delay as the officials sought to restore order.

Shortly after the restart, Argentina forward Norberto Méndez (pictured) scored a thirty-eighth minute goal to give the hosts a 1-0 lead. He then scored again in the 55th minute to seal the 2-0 victory.

Argentina went on to win the tournament over Brazil three more times (1957, 1959, 1991) before Brazil eventually beat them in 2004, then again in 2007.

Friday, February 9, 2018

9 February 2007 - Yes, I Know I Spoiled The Ending

On 9 February 2007, Goal II: Living the Dream opened in Ireland and the UK, starring Kuno Becker and a host of Real Madrid and Arsenal players.

The second part of a trilogy, the film follows Becker's character, footballer Santiago Muñez, as he moves from Newcastle United to Real Madrid. The movie builds to the Champions League final, with Real Madrid facing Arsenal and coming back from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2.

In addition to Becker, the cast included several real-life players from both clubs, such as David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, Iker Casillas, Thierry Henry, and Cesc Fabregas. It also featured actor Nick Cannon as fictitious Arsenal star T.J. Harper.

With a budget of approximately £10 million, the movie did poorly at the box office, taking in only £326,807 in its opening weekend and grossing under £1 million in the first week. Nor did it fare well with critics, with a current rating of 39% on RottenTomatoes.com. Audiences were kinder, however, rating it at 62%.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

8 February 2012 - A T'riffic Result For 'Arry

On 8 February 2012, Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp was acquitted of tax evasion charges. The decision cleared the last roadblock for him to take over as England manager, but it didn't happen.

The charges stemmed from Redknapp's time at Portsmouth. In 2002, the club sold striker Peter Crouch to Aston Villa, triggering a fee due to Redknapp in his position as manager. According to prosecutors, club owner Milan Mandaric deposited a portion of the fee, amounting to around £200,000, into an account held by Redknapp in Monaco, thus avoiding taxes in the UK. Redknapp and Mandaric admitted to the deposit, but claimed it was an investment and not a fee related to the Crouch sale.

Highlights of the two-week trial included the revelation that Redknapp had named the Monaco account after his dog Rosie and his claim that he has never used a computer or sent an email, fax, or text.

The jury ultimately found both men not guilty, relying in part on the defense's argument that, for men who deal in substantial sums, the amount involved was too small to justify such efforts to avoid the payment of taxes.

During the trial, Redknapp was considered by many to be the favorite to replace Fabio Capello as England manager. But although Capello resigned on the same day as Redknapp's acquittal, the FA opted instead for West Brom manager Roy Hodgson.

Redknapp ended up leaving Spurs later that year.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

7 February 2004 - The Young Yoann Gourcuff


On 7 February 2004, Yoann Gourcuff made his Ligue 1 debut, coming on as a late substitute for Rennes in a loss to Auxerre. He later went on to become the league's Player of the Year.

The French midfielder joined the club as a youth player in 2001 when his father took over as manager, then signed with them as a professional in 2003. His first appearance with the first team came in January 2004 in a 2-0 win over Croix-de-Savoie in the Coupe de France, leading to his league appearance the next month.

He was on the bench as eleventh-place Rennes hosted third-place Auxerre and watched as the hosts went down 0-2 to goals from Philippe Mexès (16') and Bonaventure Kalou (54'). That was still the score when Gourcuff entered the match as Rennes' third and final sub, replacing Cédric Barbosa in the 77th minute, and remained the margin when the final whistle blew.

It was the first of nine Ligue 1 appearances for Gourcuff that season, followed by an additional 57 before he left for AC Milan in 2006. But in 2008, he returned to France to play for Bordeaux, winning both the league and the Coupe de la Ligue in the 2008-09 season. He was then voted the league's Player of the Year and, later, the French Player of the Year.

In 2010, he left Bordeaux for Lyon, but injuries hampered his time there, restricting him to a total of 40 league appearances in his first two seasons. He returned to Rennes in 2015.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

6 February 1996 - The Wizard Of Kansas City



On 6 February 1996, Kansas City acquired the rights to former Everton and Portsmouth winger Preki, who went on to become the club's career leader in goals and assists.

The 32-year old Yugoslav-born American international, whose full name is Predrag Radosavljević, had played for a number of different clubs, including Red Star Belgrade and three different American indoor soccer teams, before joining Kansas City for the first MLS season. Despite a mid-table finish, they managed to reach the conference finals in the playoffs, while Preki shined as their star, scoring a team-high 18 goals that year.

He was the league MVP the following year, leading Kansas City to the top of the Western Conference table while individually finishing as the league's scoring champion (based on a combination of goals and assists in which the former were worth two points and the latter one). In 2000, the team finished with the best regular-season record and won the the MLS Cup.

After spending the 2001 season with Miami, he returned to Kansas City in 2002 and the next year was again the scoring champion and league MVP. (He rejoined Kansas City in a supplemental draft after Miami folded, but only after every other team in the league declined to sign him).

He retired from playing after the 2005 season, but moved quickly into management, joining Chivas USA as an assistant in 2006 and taking full rein of the club in 2007. Chivas won the conference that year, leading to Preki being named the MLS Coach of the Year. By 2009, however, the club was struggling, which led to his departure and a brief but unsuccessful spell in charge of Toronto in 2010, the same year he was inducted into the US Soccer Hall of Fame.



Monday, February 5, 2018

5 February 2011 - I've Always Said A 4-Goal Lead Is The Most Dangerous One

On 5 February 2011, Newcastle earned a dramatic point against Arsenal, coming back from a 4-goal deficit to draw 4-4.

Newcastle were in their first season back in the Premier League after a one-season spell in the Championship and had already beaten Arsenal away in the league, 0-1. But in the return fixture at St. James's Park, the visitors from London took a quick lead with a strike from Theo Walcott in the first minute.

Nine minutes later, Arsenal were up 0-3 with additional goals from Johan Djourou (3') and Robin van Persie (10'). Van Persie scored again in the 26th minute and, to all appearances, a rout was on. Down 0-4 at the break, Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton later commented that the hosts were just hoping to "avoid a cricket score."

The momentum shifted in the second half, however, as Djourou left the game with an injury in the 48th minute. Two minutes later, they were down to ten men as referee Phil Dowd ejected midfielder Abou Diaby after an incident with Barton.

Barton went on to score twice from the penalty spot (68', 83'), with his brace sandwiched around a 75th-minute goal from Leon Best. Cheik Tiote (pictured) then completed the comeback with an 87th-minute blast from the edge of the box that beat Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczęsny and landed in the bottom corner of the net.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

4 February 2004 - Manchester City Shines In London

On 4 February 2004, despite being a man down, Manchester City came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat Spurs 3-4 in a fourth round FA Cup replay.

The teams had played to a 1-1 draw in Manchester over a week earlier to set up the replay at White Hart Lane. There, Spurs eased to a 3-0 lead in the first half with goals from Ledley King (2'), Robbie Keane (19'), and Christian Ziege (43'). As if the score advantage wasn't enough, Manchester City dropped to ten men for the second half as midfielder Joey Barton, who had already been booked earlier in the match, received a second yellow card in the 45th minute for arguing with the referee.

But manager Kevin Keegan must have delivered an amazing speech at the break, as City roared back to life in the second half. Sylvain Distin started the comeback, heading the ball past Spurs keeper Kasey Keller in the 48th-minute. A few minutes later, City goalkeeper Arni Arason scrambled to save what look liked a certain Tottenham goal to keep the margin at 3-1.

In the 69th minute, Paul Bosvelt closed the gap to 3-2 with a deflected goal, then Shaun Wright-Phillips got the equalizer in the 80th minute.

The last goal came in the 90th minute, as striker Jonathan Macken gave City their first lead of the day, which they held to emerge as 3-4 victors.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

3 February 2011 - A Scoreline So Good They Should Make A Show About It

On 3 February 2011, Coritiba beat Iraty 5-0 to start their world-record winning streak of 24 consecutive games.

Founded in 1909, Coritiba is one of the most dominant teams in the Brazilian state of Paraná, winning the state title a record 36 times. It was in that competition, the Campeonato Paranaense, that they defeated Iraty by the score of 5-0, which turned out to be the league's top margin of victory that season.

They followed that win by reeling off another 23 in a row, including victories in the state league and the Copa do Brasil. Their final win of the record run was their largest, a 6-0 victory over Palmeiras in the Copa do Brasil quarterfinals on 3 May 2011.

The streak helped them to another Campeonato Paranaense title with an overall record of 9 wins and 2 draws. They also reached the Copa do Brasil final, where they lost to Vasco da Gama on away goals after losing the first match 0-1, then winning 3-2 at home.

Friday, February 2, 2018

2 February 1936 - The Uncrowned King Is Born

On 2 February 1936, Metin Oktay, Galatasaray's all-time leading scorer, was born in Izmir, Turkey.

Nicknamed "Taçsız Kral" (the Uncrowned King), Oktay first joined the club in 1955 at the age of 19 after three seasons in the lower leagues, including one at his hometown club, İzmirspor. Although Galatasaray were already successful, winning their thirteenth national title in 1955, he gave them a boost with a club-best 19 goals in his first season to help them repeat as champions. It was the first of five league titles he would win with the club (the first three with the Istanbul League and the other two with the Süper Lig).

It was also the first of thirteen seasons in which he was their leading scorer, including each of his first seven seasons with the club. He remained with the club until 1969, broken only by a short spell with Palermo for the 1961-62 season. In all, he scored a total of 538 goals for Galatasaray in 497 appearances across all competitions (the next-highest tally belongs to Hakan Şükür, who scored a relatively meager 241 times in 545 appearances between 1992 and 2008).

Oktay also earned 36 caps for Turkey from 1955 to 1968 and scored 19 goals, but most of those were in friendlies as Turkey either withdrew from or did not qualify for any major tournament during his time with the team. He did score three times during qualification for the 1962 World Cup, but Turkey finished second to the Soviet Union in their group and did not advance.

After his retirement, he remained involved with the club, briefly managing them in the 1969-70 season and later serving on the board of directors. He died in 1991 at the age of 55 after a car accident.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

1 February 2012 - The Port Said Stadium Riot

On 1 February 2012, 79 people died and over 1,000 were injured in an outbreak of violence following an Egyptian Premier League match.

The match, between Al-Ahly and Al-Masry at the latter's Port Said Stadium, was played in a charged atmosphere from the beginning, with supporters on the pitch forcing a thirty-minute delay to the opening kick-off. The hosts went on to win 3-1, with subsequent pitch invasions after every Al-Masry goal.

When the game ended, a group of Al-Masry supporters launched an attack on the Al-Ahly players and fans, using knives, clubs, and rocks. A total of 79 people died from a combination of stabbings, beatings, and stampede-related injuries. Another 1,000 people were injured, but survived.

Afterward, many people claimed the riot was politically motivated, accusing the police and the armed forces of conspiring to punish the Al-Ahly supporters, who had been very critical of them in the wake of the previous year's Egyptian revolution.

Authorities arrested 73 people. Of those, 21 were tried and received death sentences in January 2013, which sparked another set of riots even more deadly than the first. After a series of appeals, the number of death sentences was reduced to 10. Among other defendants, 32 received prison sentences ranging from 5 to 15 years and 21 were acquitted.