Can Northern Ireland become UFWC champions?

March 28, 2014

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Uruguay versus Northern Ireland
“The next Unofficial Football World Championships match is just over two months away on the 30 May, and it looks set to be a classic. Two teams with a proud and successful footballing history and plenty of passion will play each other. First ever World Cup winners Uruguay face reigning British Champions Northern Ireland in the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo – the venue where the World Cup began back in 1930. It will be the light blue of Uruguay against the shining emerald green of Northern Ireland.” UFWC


Joe Gaetjens – the footballer who disappeared

March 22, 2014

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Joe Gaetjens (centre) with friends in New York
“One of the biggest shocks in World Cup history happened in 1950, when the US beat England, thanks to a goal scored by Haitian Joe Gaetjens. After Gaetjens returned to Haiti a hero, he later disappeared and was killed, possibly by the president himself.” BBC


World Cup: 25 stunning moments … No3: West Germany 1-0 Austria in 1982

February 25, 2014

“You have to pity the youth of today. They were born to banter, they think it’s normal behaviour to tell complete strangers on the internet what they have had for their tea. And worst of all, they have never experienced proper World Cup villainy. There was Luis Suárez’s handball in 2010, yes, but that was a fleeting moment from an individual rather than an extended body of work shared between a whole squad. The World Cup – which is about great stories as much as great football – is so much richer when a team leaves the rest of the football world raging with impotent frustration.” Guardian


Bergkamp Statue Revealed: “Henry Himself, Would Argue That Dennis Was Better.”

February 23, 2014

“This weekend, whilst a lot of the British press are passing judgements on Arsenal’s current star signing, arguably the greatest Gunners arrival of them all is set to be honoured outside Emirates Stadium. As a big name with a similarly big price tag in 1995, Dennis Bergkamp had a slow start adapting to a new league, but went on to be revered by Arsenal fans. Certainly in the Wenger-era, few would argue that Thierry Henry is the greatest player for the Gunners. Henry himself, would argue that Dennis was better.” Sabotage Times


Peladad

January 8, 2014

“The Brazilian state of Amazonas is one of the most awe-inspiring places on the face of the Earth. Home to an incredible array of plant and animal life it is undoubtedly one of the world’s most well-known natural wonders. Yet outside of South America, it seems few people are aware that in the depths of the jungle, there is a large city now home to over two million people. Even less celebrated is the fact that each year it holds what locals claim to be the largest football tournament in the world. Manaus is a city of contradictions. It’s a functional modern concrete metropolis yet leave the suburbs behind and you are engulfed by the vastness of the rainforest. In Manaus people go about their daily lives as they would in any big city in the world yet a few miles down the Rio Negro there are jungle tribes whose lives have changed little in centuries. The climate is stiflingly hot and humid all year round and it is well over a day’s travel by road to any other city. Yet despite the unlikely isolated location, people have been flocking to Manaus for decades and it continues to be one of the fastest growing and most economically thriving places in Brazil.” In Bed With Maradona


It’s a squad thing – part 2

December 22, 2013

“In the second of two posts, Jonny Sharples reminisces about his three favourite squads of all time, who brought unity, glamour, and entertainment to football. If you’ve not read Part 1, do so first…” Put Niels In Goal


The Perfect World Cup

December 5, 2013

“In Bahia on Friday, the draw for Brazil 2014 represents a crucial stage in the incubation period of World Cup fever. For the next six months, symptoms may include fractured metatarsals, a fixation with Brazilian hotel facilities and cravings for football nostalgia. Much like Second Season Syndrome, there is no known cure, but it is treatable. The 19 previous tournaments have each provided their own iconic moments, images and (possibly apocryphal) tales. Looking back over the competition’s history – and with logistical and ethical fears surrounding the 2014, 2018 and 2022 editions – just what would a perfect World Cup be like?” Football Clichés


World Cup draw set to reveal unique magic

December 1, 2013

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“Day after day, reports from the land of the next World Cup send shudders through the soul. A collapsing crane claims the lives of two construction workers at the stadium in Sao Paulo. The Brazilian FA, the CBF, makes the sad announcement that the legendary left-back Nilton Santos has passed away after a lung infection. Concerns rise over local companies fleecing visiting fans over accommodation and internal flights. Anger at socio-economic problems is expressed through protests. The 2014 World Cup is currently associated with many issues, few relating to the promise of an on-field spectacle.” Telegraph – Henry Winter (Video)


El Fantasma helps bitter rivals unite

December 1, 2013

“The ghost of 1950 is back to haunt Brazil. With Uruguay snapping up the last place in the 2014 World Cup, the possibility opens up of history repeating itself – of Brazil organising the party only for its tiny southern neighbour to walk off with the prize. In the final game of the 1950 tournament host Brazil needed just a draw to become world champion for the first time. It seemed to have a hand and a half on the trophy when it took the lead early in the second half but Uruguay hit back, silencing a huge crowd in the newly-built Maracana stadium to win 2-1.” The World Game -Tim Vickery (Video)


Dennis Bergkamp: The Man Who Transformed Arsenal

October 22, 2013

“It was August 1995, and Dennis Bergkamp had just played his first game for Arsenal at the club’s cosy, iconic Highbury Stadium, a friendly against his old club Internazionale. Afterwards, two Dutch journalists and I snuck into Highbury’s marble halls to wait for the great man. Bergkamp’s family was already there, hanging around while Dennis got changed. The father, an electrician, was standing with his hands folded behind his back studying framed pictures of Arsenal greats. He would have known most of them; like many Dutchmen of his generation, Bergkamp Sr. was an Anglophile, who named his youngest son after Manchester United hero Denis Law. The father and a Bergkamp brother greeted us shyly. This was not a loud family.” askmen


The month Senegal were better than France — Remembering Metsu

October 20, 2013

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“As World Cups go, the 2002 edition was not a classic. A combination of stifling heat and a draining European club season combined to leave the best players woefully out of form, with joint favourites France and Argentina both departing at the group stage. There’s nothing wrong with successful underdogs, of course — but there was a feeling that the quality throughout the competition was particularly low. Turkey and South Korea both reached the semifinals, a genuinely remarkable achievement for both — but neither side will be remembered particularly fondly by neutrals.” ESPN – Michael Cox


The Global Theater: The World Cup exhibits the best and worst

September 18, 2013

“There are two moments from my time in the stadia of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa that I remember particularly vividly. One of them I couldn’t take my eyes off. The other I couldn’t watch. I was in FNB Stadium for the Final between Spain and the Netherlands. It was a grueling game, the frustration and ugliness seeping across the turf as the minutes ticked by. Oddly enough, though they are always riveting spectacles, many World Cup finals are actually pretty disappointing as soccer. Often the best games are in the quarterfinals, or even earlier in the tournament. Watching that final on TV seems to have been particularly frustrating. In the stadium, though, there was something wonderful about being collectively enraged. We could yell, stomp, hold our heads in our hands, and it felt like the Dutch players, the poor referee Howard Webb, and even the heavens above could hear us.” SI – Laurent Dubois


C is for Cosmos

May 29, 2013

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“Take a deep breathe, it’s going to be alright. It has to be alright. Sure, things didn’t begin so well, but you learned. You learned from the handful of fans who watched you play at Yankee Stadium, and you learned from the scattering who followed you to Hofstra. You learned not to be average. You couldn’t be average. Not in New York. Not in Andy Warhol’s New York.” futbolintellect


The great European Cup teams: Ajax 1971-73

May 29, 2013

“It’s difficult now, given the city’s reputation for liberalism and excess to imagine Amsterdam in the years following the second world war. It was a dull, staid place where, as Albert Camus wrote in the Fall, published in 1955, ‘for centuries, pipe smokers have been watching the same rain falling on the same canal’.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


The Beavers and the Champions League

May 24, 2013

“As the Portuguese Primeira Liga drew to a close at the weekend, all eyes were understandably on Benfica and Porto as they battled it out for the League Championship and, for the latter, the enviable record of enduring the season without defeat. Slipping underneath the radar, however, there has been another big story in Portuguese football this year: that of the relatively unknown Pacos De Ferreira and their qualification for the Champions League. Pacos secured the third and final Champions League qualification spot in the Primeira Liga with a game to spare, and now find themselves only a two-legged playoff tie away from the elusive and lucrative group stages of Europe’s premier club competition.” In Bed With Maradona


The Bundesliga’s True “White Brazilian” – Part I

May 24, 2013

“‘I’m not in right now… If you want to reach me you can find me down my local pub from five in the evening to five in the morning – Beeeeeeeeeeep.’ It’s not an answer phone message you would want your mum to hear. And it’s certainly not a message you would expect from a professional footballer. But then Ansgar Brinkmann was never a professional footballer in the true sense of the word. He drank, he fought and he womanized. He had run-in’s with the police. And he had a reputation for arguing with his teammates and managers. With Ansgar, you never knew what to expect. And therein lay his appeal, both on and off the pitch.” Bundesliga Fanatic – Part 1, Part 2


The Bringer Of Famine

May 14, 2013

“Today, the goalkeeper seems eternal. It feels natural that a team should be made of ten plus one, that behind the outfielders scurrying in their or striker less there should be an unspoken other, his place so taken for granted that nobody even bothers to refer to it when discussing formations. That, though, is a relatively modern phenomenon. When the game that would evolve into football began with the foundation of the Football Association in 1863, there was no such thing as a goalkeeper in the modern sense.” [PDF] The Outsider


Dortmund: The Class of 97

May 9, 2013

“Football Hipsters rejoice! Borussia Dortmund are into the Champions League final! Even more brilliantly for those ‘Bundesliga-philes’ out there, they are taking on league rivals Bayern Munich, a team many are tipping to claim Barcelona’s throne as the most exciting and dominant team in European football for the foreseeable future. ‘FC Hollywood’, as Bayern are known by many fans are exactly that – a team of stars to rival the great.” Outside of the Boot


An Andalusian Summer Of Magico

May 9, 2013

“While South Americans have dominated Spanish soccer for decades, much rarer is the successful player from the Northern half of the hemisphere. For every successful Mexican like Hugo Sanchez and Rafa Marquez, a disappointing Omar Bravo returns home with his tail firmly tucked between his legs. For Central Americans, the numbers are even sparser. And that’s why Jorge Alberto “Magico” Gonzalez’s 1983 season at Cadiz was so unforgettable.” In Bed With Maradona


When Rachid Mekhloufi took the struggle for Algerian independence to the pitch

May 3, 2013

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“In April 1958, Rachid Mekhloufi, the great St. Etienne striker was 21 years old. Mekhloufi along with nine other players, left their careers in France and returned to Tunis to comprise the first FLN squad. They were playing for a country that did not yet exist. Algeria was in the beginnings of an uprising against its’ colonizer France. Their move would be analyzed, critiqued and applauded by many.” A Football Report

“From Meghni to Yebda, the French academy system has produced many players who have represented Algeria. Long before Algeria’s independence, though, it wasn’t quite so easy. Juliet Jacques looks at early French-Algerian relations in football. In April 1958, Rachid Mekhloufi stood on the brink of international superstardom. Having scored 25 goals in thirty games to help AS SaintÉtienne win their first Championnat the year before, Mekhloufi was about to win his fifth France cap in a friendly against Switzerland, with coach Paul Nicolas including him in the forty-man preselection for Les Bleus’ highly fancied World Cup squad.”
Spiel Magazine

Football Rebels: Mekhloufi and the FLN team
“The FLN football team raised the profile of Algeria’s independence movement. And Rachid Mekhloufi was one of the brave men who refused to play for France. French footballing legend Eric Cantona presents the next part of Al Jazeera’s Football Rebels series.” Aljazeera (Video)


Saving Filadelfia

April 30, 2013

“In its heyday it stood majestically as the home of Torino. It housed ‘Il Grande Torino’, arguably the greatest side calcio has ever witnessed. It presented a wall of noise in an intimate atmosphere. It was where Torino claimed six of their seven Scudetti. Today the Stadio Filadelfia is a desolate, crumbling shadow of its former glory. The spiritual home of the Granata – claret reds – has few sections remaining. Like an Ancient Roman ruin, pieces of edifice linger to offer a haunting reminder of its majesty. Torino haven’t played a League match at the stadium since May 19, 1963. On that occasion 1982 World Cup winning Coach Enzo Bearzot was on target in a 1-1 draw against Napoli.” In Bed With Maradona


Defending Your League Title: Analyzing Failure

April 18, 2013

“Historically it’s been said, in football, getting to the top of the league is one thing but staying there is a whole different ball game. More often than not teams fail to defend the league title that they had worked so hard to gain in the first place. Over the past 20 years in some of Europe’s biggest leagues, only a handful of sides have managed to successfully defend their league titles. The question remains what, if any trends, exist between the sides that have managed to win back to back titles and whether there are lessons to be learned by new-be champions from their predecessors who had failed to defend their titles.” Not Just the Bottom Line…


Political football: how Brazil’s military hijacked the beautiful game

April 16, 2013

Brazil
“As five-time World Cup champion, the Brazilian national team has become known the world over not just for winning, but for winning with a joyous panache that has become synonymous with the beautiful game. However, behind every one of Ronaldinho’s toothy grins and camouflaged by the color-shocked mohawk clinging to Neymar’s head lies an intensely complicated relationship between nation and sport.” World Soccer

“Brazil is a country commonly associated with the highest level of soccer. The world has grown used to Brazil winning, but the Brazilians themselves seem to have an insatiable appetite for world football dominance. Their nation has produced soccer players that have come to represent spontaneity, creativity and skill on the playing field. The bandy-legged Garincha, a walking paradox, the goal scoring machines Friedenreich and Ronaldo, the modern hope Kaká, and, of course, the eternally great Pelé – all these players have left their indelible marks on football’s canon.” Soccer Politics

Zero Dark Thirteen – Brazilian football wallows in the mire of corruption
“If the 2014 World Cup is to signal the arrival of Brazilian football’s brave new world, a desperately needed fresh start for the game in a country where on-field majesty is usually matched by administrative skulduggery, it can’t come soon enough. The year is not yet four months old but it feels, to misquote autocratic former president Getúlio Vargas, as though Brazilian football is standing in a sea of mud. Worse, it often appears as though chaos has become the norm.” Independent

Socrates and the Corinthians’ Democracy
“As the global sporting world faces one corruption scandal after another, former Manchester United star Eric Cantona presents the stories of five football heroes whose social conscience led them to challenge unjust regimes, join opposition movements and lead the fight for democracy and human rights. Football Rebels looks at a side of football that does not always make the headlines.” Aljazeera (Video)

All the President’s Torturers
“Chosen to host both the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games and with abundant natural resources and one of the fastest growing economies in the world, one way or another Brazil is set to become a major player in the affairs of the 21st century. With an ambitious, progressive government, a population of around 193 million, now well established federal democratic structures and apparent political stability, many even see it as a global superpower in the making, perhaps even deserving of a permanent seat on the UN Security Council in the not too distant future. But its solid international reputation has not always been so glossy.” Aljazeera (Video)

The Copa Libertadores and differing stories for Ronaldinho and Riquelme
“The Copa Libertadores this season has been the story of two brilliant players in the twilights of their careers: one having immense fun as though he can’t quite believe he’s still getting away with it, the other grumpily raging against his waning powers. For Ronaldinho and Atlético Mineiro, this has been, so far, a tournament of glee, of great goals and big wins; for Juan Román Riquelme and Boca Juniors, it has been all about suffering. Both will be in the last 16, but their journeys could hardly have been more different. It’s also been the story of the continuing development of Ecuadorean football.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Neymar! Reducing Brazil’s Football ‘Trade Surplus’
“It’s time for another sporting feature since we haven’t had one for quite some time now. Fortunately, there’s interesting stuff courtesy of TIME Magazine about the changing complexion of ‘the beautiful game.’ Even if the Brazilian economy has cooled off markedly in recent times, it has had a strong run-up and most folks remain optimistic about its economy’s future. Contrast its fate with that of the European football powerhouses that traditionally import South American players in droves–especially Portugal, Spain,and the United Kingdom–and you begin to understand the reduced “trade surplus” of Brazil sending away its best footballers time and again…” International Political Economy Zone


The Return of Matt Le Tissier

April 16, 2013

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“Matt Le Tissier is coming out of retirement, and I’m going to type that again, because it contains words that deserve to be repeated. Matt Le Tissier is coming out of retirement. If you don’t know who that is — and there’s a good chance you don’t, if you’re American, not a soccer fan, or under 25 — watch the YouTube clip of him scoring against Newcastle on October 24, 1993. This is the second season of the Premier League, all lunging tackles and signboards for Street Fighter II. Le Tissier’s playing midfield for Southampton, the team in red-and-white stripes. The ball comes flying over the left flank to the Southampton striker, Iain Dowie, who heads it down toward the middle of the pitch, where Le Tissier’s running forward at a smooth trot. It’s a bad header; the ball scuds directly behind him. The move should be over. But watch what Le Tissier does.” Grantland – Brian Phillips


Hristo all mighty!

April 16, 2013

“In the middle of the 4th century B.C., the all-conquering army of Philip II of Macedon swept southwards through the Balkans, thus setting into motion an enduring legacy that would be continued and expanded upon by Philip’s more renowned son; the famous, infamous, and glorious Colin Farrell.” World Soccer


Optimism For the Benna Boyz

April 13, 2013

“As a previous visitor to the small group of islands known as Antigua & Barbuda I was pleasantly surprised to see the media coverage their national side received in the UK in the summer of 2012 and for the few months afterwards. This coverage came in light of the appointment of Englishman and former Chesterfield midfielder Tom Curtis. His first venture into management Curtis’ appointment certainly helped raised the profile of the national side within England and there was a good degree of optimism going into their World Cup Qualifying clashes with Guatemala.” In Bed With Maradona


Hajduk Split Torcida: trailblazers across Europe

April 11, 2013

“Astronauts looking down on earth in February 2011 would’ve been greeted with an unusual sight. Alongside the Great Wall of China and Felix Baumgartner on practice missions, thousands of flares lit up the night sky as the Torcida celebrated the 100th year of their beloved club Hajduk Split. Their slogan, ‘Hajduk lives forever’, appears apt.” World Soccer


Brian Clough Television Interview From 1969-70: Cocky And Confident As Always

April 7, 2013

“I came across a new TV documentary this evening that I hadn’t seen before about Brian Clough. It’s from 1969-70. Uniquely, the TV documentary starts off by asking then Derby County manager Brian Clough what his expectations are for the season. He goes through his entire squad and offers his critique of each player, what they can contribute and how he thinks his just-promoted side will do. Then in the second half of the interview, the same interviewer goes back to Brian Clough at Derby and reviews how well (or not) his predictions did, as well as discussing how the season went.” EPL Talk (Video)


Forward Brazil

April 4, 2013

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“As five-time World Cup champion, the Brazilian national team has become known the world over not just for winning, but for winning with a joyous panache that has become synonymous with the beautiful game. However, behind every one of Ronaldinho’s toothy grins and camouflaged by the color-shocked mohawk clinging to Neymar’s head lies an intensely complicated relationship between nation and sport. Over the course of the 20th century, the average Brazilian’s rabid devotion to football allowed the game to be manipulated – serving as an opiate to anesthetize the Brazilian people toward the actions of their government. This wicked transformation has never been more apparent than during the 1970’s. Then, the military dictatorship under Emílio Médici spared no expense to ensure that its brutal totalitarian measures were shaded by the blinding brilliance of joga bonito.” In Bed With Maradona


Deconstructing the Plovdiv Pistolero

April 2, 2013

“In the middle of the 4th century B.C., the all-conquering army of Philip II of Macedon swept southwards through the Balkans, thus setting into motion an enduring legacy that would be continued and expanded upon by Philip’s more renowned son; the famous, infamous, and glorious Colin Farrell. In the course of that marauding charge – in 342 B.C., to be precise – Philip passed through the now-Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, renaming it after himself as he did so (Philippopolis). The arrival of Philip preceded centuries – millennia, even – of invading forces pitching their tents at the walls of Plovdiv, attempting to make the city their own. 72 B.C. saw the Romans give it a shot, under the leadership of Marcus Lucullus. More than a hundred years later, in 46 A.D., Plovdiv finally ceded to the Romans and their Emperor Claudius.” In Bed With Maradona


USA did it in 1994, why not Qatar?

March 26, 2013

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“The latest debate in World football is getting ugly. A political agenda is being created. A heated discussion on culture. Questions are being raised over just the nature, ethics and customs of the host nation. As Marina Hyde puts in her piece for the Guardian ‘football may finally be about to go to war’. And this unfortunate chain of events has taken away the beauty of this beautiful game, and put it into a cringe-worthy and down right embarrassing situation. The respect that this ‘World’ sport demands, its very synonym of a ‘Global’ game may seize to exist.” Outside of the Boot


The Heart and Soul Of Khalilou Fadiga

March 26, 2013

‘Bouba Diop is there!’ … There is a short but telling pause. John Motson, one does sense, must have been comfortable in the knowledge that nothing would shock him on the pitch that day, that in the world of football he had simply seen too much. And yet the commentator older than time itself, and whose trademark sheepskin coat is probably even older than that, is lost for words. He is forced to repeat himself, this time louder, certainly, but somehow more hesitant, more noticeably taken aback. … ‘Bouba Diop is there!’ Again, momentary silence.” In Bed With Maradona


Allah’s Back Heel

March 17, 2013

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“The tendency to categorise and rate the footballing talents Africa has produced is something of a modern phenomenon. This is due in part to the perception that African players have been somewhat late to the party in terms of making an impact on a global stage. As such the majority of the ‘greatest African footballers’ lists are weighted greatly towards players of the mid- 90s onwards, give or take a dancing Cameroonian. One player who is consistently overlooked is Mustapha Rabah Madjer. A player of unheralded finesse and technical ability on the pitch, only matched by his combative nature off it. His footballing attributes led to him becoming not only Algeria’s greatest footballing export but also a symbol for a nation to latch onto as it searched for its identity. Madjer was born in the costal city of Algiers in 1958. The city was at the epicentre of the Algerian independence movement, which sought to throw off the shackles of French colonialism. A bloody and vicious war was fought between the various factions and the French troops sent to maintain order – a war that resulted in Algerian independence and the fall of the 4th French republic.” In Bed With Maradona


An Obsession With Marcelo: No Madness at All

March 6, 2013

“On insanity, few have been more veracious than the Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño. In his own inimitable way the nomadic novelist and poet acknowledged what others often refuse to see; that we are all unhinged in our own delicate fashion. To some extent we will freely admit to our peculiarities, but largely our madness is defined by those around us, who witness our behaviour and for reasons of comfort believe it to be more abnormal than their own. How strange it is to be denied even the possession and enjoyment of our own madness by people who yearn to tell us that, yes, we are certainly mad.” In Bed With Maradona


Any way back for one of Scotland’s legendary names?

March 4, 2013

“Heard the story about the Glasgow based football club who ran into financial calamity and went bust? Of course you have, but this tale of woe isn’t about the collapse of Rangers, but a club whose name is woven into the fabric of Scottish football’s early days – Third Lanark.” World Soccer


England’s World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore: 20 years gone, but never forgotten

February 24, 2013

“Across town at Wembley, setting for Moore’s finest hours, the flag of St George will fly at half-mast. A skilled surgeon operated on Moore’s colon in 1991 but the cancer would not yield. It spread to the liver. Moore never complained. He simply set about delaying its pitiless impact. Eventually, on Feb 15, 1993, England’s World Cup-winning captain released a statement, revealing his illness was terminal. Two days later he was at Wembley, commentating on England’s game against San Marino for Capital Radio, his collar turned up to hide his paleness. A week later, on Feb 24, 1993, Moore passed away. He was only 51.” Telegraph – Henry Winter


The Dromedaries

February 17, 2013

“The politics of Western Sahara are complex. Spain renounced control of the territory in 1975 giving Morocco and Mauritania joint administrative control but the Polisario Front rebelled and announced a Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) with an exiled government based in Algeria. Mauritania pulled out and a 1991 ceasefire left Western Sahara largely in Moroccan hands but partly in those of the SADR. The territory has been in political limbo ever since, a story largely ignored by the mass media and the big nations who tend to overlook the divide and push for an agreement.” In Bed With Maradona


The Second Coming Of Third Lanark

February 10, 2013


“Heard the story about the Glasgow based football club who ran into financial calamity and went bust? Of course you have, but this tale of woe isn’t about the collapse of Rangers, but a club whose name is woven into the fabric of Scottish football’s early days – Third Lanark. The club who were based in the city’s south side were founded in 1872 by the 3rd Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers after the soldiers were inspired to create their own team by the first ever international match between Scotland and England at Hamilton Crescent, Glasgow.” In Bed With Maradona


Bundesliga Rewind – West Germany vs. France – 1982 World Cup

February 5, 2013

“The German national team kicks off their calendar year with a friendly against France this Wednesday. To get you in the mood we’ll wind back the years and take a look at a match widely considered to be one of the greatest in World Cup history and certainly one that still sticks in the memories of many France and Germany fans, their epic encounter in the 1982 semi-finals in Spain.” Bundesliga Fanatic


The Soaring Blue and Black Lions

January 26, 2013

“A short drive south of Rome is a rather curious city, so very Italian and yet in all of Italy there exists no other city like it. It is a city whose football club has never before gone beyond the third division and yet which has produced one of Italy’s greatest ever goalscorers and one of the jewels in Maradona’s Napoli. But if you haven’t heard of Latina and its blue and black lions, perhaps you soon will. The team is within touching distance of playing in Serie B for the very first time. Latina lies less than an hour south of Rome along the historic Via Appia and is a very atypical city; rich in history and yet less than 100 years old. Founded by the Benito Mussolini-led Fascist regime in 1932, it was first named Littoria (after the fascio littorio) and was a grand symbol of the regime’s nation building program.” In Bed With Maradona


Excursionistas

January 17, 2013

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“It is the 24th of April 2000 in Argentina, and the turn of a new millennium has seen the continued upturn in fortunes of Club Atlético Excursionistas, a Primera C side who have racked up ten successive victories under director técnico Néstor Rapa. Sitting pretty at the top of the table, they have a home clash versus Club Comunicaciones at Pampa y Miñones, the 8,000 capacity ground that hides, camouflaged, in the Belgrano neighbourhood of Buenos Aires.” In Bed With Maradona


Die Dritte Nationalmannschaft

January 13, 2013

“Most football fans can recall two German national teams, East and West, participating on the international stage prior to the demolition of the Berlin Wall. But, for a while, a third German national team existed. In modern Germany, Saarland is a small federal state along the border of France and Luxembourg. In the past, the political identity of this state has been the cause of a tug-of-war between France and Germany. After World War II, Saarland came under the administration and jurisdiction of France as the Saar Protectorate. Its highly valuable coal industry was one of the reasons why the French government showed great interest in the area. During this period, Saarland had its independent political identity and its own constitution and between 1950 and 1954, it was accredited by FIFA as a separate footballing nation.” In Bed With Maradona


St Pat’s ’98 and the False Dawn Of Irish Football

January 9, 2013

“Paul Lambert and Henrik Larsson were in no mood to hang around. After Celtic’s 73rd home game in Europe, they shook a few hands and immediately hurried off the pitch. It was a result that verged on the humiliating: a 0-0 stalemate, just the 12th draw in those 73 games that included 53 wins, against a team they hadn’t given a second thought to swatting aside. The 56,000 home crowd had mostly dispersed as a group of players — most of whom they’d never heard of — sprinted to salute the pocket of 1,500 delirious away fans tucked into a corner of Celtic Park. It was just the second time their team had avoided defeat in an 11-game European history.” In Bed With Maradona


Revival of Videoton bodes well for Hungary

January 7, 2013

“Twenty-six long years have passed since Hungary last participated in a major footballing tournament. It was the World Cup of 1986 in Mexico and even though confidence was high, the Magyars crashed out in the group stage after disappointing results to France and their bitter foes, the Soviet Union.” World Soccer

After the Curtain Had Fatten
“The domestic football league of the old USSR was a vast, vibrant, and powerful competition, containing as it did clubs such as the Moscow giants Dynamo, Spartak, CSKA – and occasionally Torpedo – as well as influential teams from the republics, like the Dynamos of Kiev, Tbilisi, and Minsk. Evidently, the league would have been exceptionally strong and closely contested – it was so strong, in fact, that it rose to second place in UEFA’s league rankings.” In Bed With Maradona


Snapshot: Applause For The Brave Amateurs From Germany

December 31, 2012

“Borussia Mönchengladbach’s first journey into European action earned them the respect of their professional opponents. German sides have throughout the existence of the European Cup Winner’s Cup been involved in a number of memorable matches: Fortuna Düsseldorf’s 4-3 loss to a legendary Barca side in the final of 1979 or Werder Bremen’s win over Arsene Wenger’s AS Monaco are certainly highlights to cherish. The list goes on. The competition itself got off to a bumpy start in the 1960/61 season though. Only ten cup winners chose to participate in the first edition of the competition. Borussia Mönchengladbach were amongst those ten teams, and were lucky enough to go past the first round on a walk over draw. The luck ran out when it came to the quarter-final draws. Bernd Oles’s side had to go up against Scottish cup champions and greats Glasgow Rangers.” Bundesliga Fanatic


The forgotten story of … Heleno de Freitas

December 12, 2012

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“For most in Brazil, what happened in the Rasunda Stadium in 1958 was a gleeful affirmation of what they had always known. They were the world’s great football nation and beating the hosts, Sweden, in the final was vindication after the trauma of the defeat to Uruguay in the Maracanã eight years earlier. In an asylum in Barbacena in the state of Minas Gerais, patients clustered anxiously round a radio as the game entered the final minute. A cross came over, Pelé rose and made it 5-2: the world title was confirmed. Patients and staff celebrated together – all except one. In his room, alone, Heleno de Freitas filled his mouth with cigarettes, lit them all and tried to smoke himself to death.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Heleno de Freitas
“Heleno de Freitas, nicknamed Prince Cursed, (born 12 February 1920 in São João Nepomuceno, Brazil; died 8 November 1959 in Barbacena) was a Brazilian footballer. The striker spent most of his career with Botafogo, scoring 209 goals for the club, most with his head. In 1948 he transferred to Boca Juniors in Argentina, but returned to Brazil the following year, winning the 1949 Campeonato Carioca with Vasco. He ended his career with América in Rio, he played only one match for the club and it was the first and last game in the Maracanã. He died in 1959 in a sanatorium in Barbacena.” Wikipedia


Dundee United’s Domination Of Barcelona

December 3, 2012

“Celtic made waves across Europe with their Champions League group stage win over Barcelona. While the result was a notable upset, it was in keeping with the Catalan side’s decidedly average record against teams from Scotland. Curiously, in 18 contests Barca have won six, drawn five and now lost seven against Scottish opposition. The Bhoys’ recent triumph was their second against the side from the Nou Camp, following on from a first-leg win in the 2003/04 UEFA Cup which helped them progress to the last eight of the competition. Back in season 1960/61 meanwhile, Hibernian’s 3-2 victory at Easter Road clinched a 7-6 aggregate win in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup quarter-finals. However, when it comes to taming Barcelona, one Scottish team have a record that many bigger clubs can only dream of.” In Bed With Maradona


Cameroon’s Théophile Abega was so intelligent they called him the doctor

November 27, 2012

“Some time towards the end of January, Théophile Abega stopped replying to my calls. I was in Equatorial Guinea, heading on to Cameroon, and was keen to meet him, partly to talk about the rivalry between Thomas N’kono and Joseph-Antoine Bell for my book on goalkeeping but mainly because, well, because he was Théophile Abega, one of the most skilful African midfielders of all time, the man who led Cameroon in 1984 to their first Cup of Nations triumph, scoring a brilliant goal in the final.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Dictators and Soccer: Mobutu Sésé Seko of Zaïre

November 16, 2012


Mobutu (right) with Pelé in 1968 – Zaïre – 1974 World Cup
“In 1974 the ex-colonial and newly named Zaïre played its first World Cup in West Germany. The country’s diminutive strongman Mobutu Sésé Seko, famous for his trademark leopard-print pillbox hat, had rechristened the Lions the Leopards. (Consistency is key in propaganda.) He had convinced himself that Zaïrean soccer could further elevate his own stature. He liked elevating himself and he liked renaming things. He’d re-minted the country from Congo Crisis First Republic (formerly The Belgian Congo) to Zaïre, which translated to, ‘The river that swallows other rivers.’ He fully intended to hoover up every power and exploit every possibility. He’d already outlawed all political parties except his own, and outlawed all wearing of leopard-print hats, except of course his own.” Cult Football

Dictators and Soccer: Nicolae Ceaușescu, Genius of the Carpathians
“Up until Christmas 1989 when a three-man firing squad executed Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena after a quickie two hour tribunal, the archetypal Iron Curtain strongman ruled Romania with an iron fist. After getting strafed with bullets, however, the iron fist swiftly went limp, then rigor mortis. And as the title up top suggests, soccer most definitely played its part in the image engine of the autocratic regime.” Cult Football


Bundesliga 50: The 1960′s – The Rise of Professionalism and the Anglo-German Rivalry

November 16, 2012

“The 1960′s were characterized by Germany’s gradual rise as a force in international football again. The success in 1954 had been a one off but from the late 1960′s Germany was an established force in international football and the rewards paid off in European Cups as well as triumphs at the European Championship in 1972 and the World Cup in 1974. More importantly, the 1960′s saw the formation of the Bundesliga, which became an instant success story. This is the first piece in a series covering the last 5 decades of the Bundesliga, commencing with the 1960′s.” Bundesliga Fanatic


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