Category Archives: World Football

Hotbeds of Football – Istanbul

According to the Lonely Planet website, Istanbul is the place is “where continents collide.” Given that the Bosporus that divides the city forms the border between the continents of Europe and Asia, some may see the description as somewhat less than illuminating. Delve a little deeper into the intricacies of this polyglot city though, and particularly its football culture as will be seen later, and there’s more than a hint to suggest that the key word in the quote may well be “collide” rather than “continents.” Istanbul is a city of contrasts, some that combine in glorious splendour and others that compete with the reckless abandon of a passion unabated.

Founded some 3,000 years ago the colony of Byzantium grew to become the eastern capital of the Roman empire, named as Constantinople, for the emperor who took it as his own. Later it was conquered by the Ottomans who cemented its prominence as the heart of their own empire. The land on which the city stands has been fought over for many centuries, and in so many ways, that remains the case today. Continue reading →

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Eriksson before England

Aged just 35, to say Adam Crozier was a surprise choice to step into the role of Chief Executive at the FA would be understating the case more than a little. The former Saatchi & Saatchi executive was, however, the new broom, the fresh face, the untarnished non-old school tie appointment that the organisation needed. It was 2000, and going into the new millennium, dusty old corridors were well overdue a spring clean. In two years, Crozier shook up the Football Association in a way it hadn’t experienced throughout a history dating back to 1863 – or, for that matter, since.

The organisation’s headquarters were moved from Lancaster Gate to more modern facilities at Soho Square. The average age of staff was reduced from over 55 to just 32, the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium was progressed and the FA Council, nominally its controlling body, was reduced from 91 members, to a much more manageable 12. Without doubt though, the most revolutionary of Crozier’s achievements was to appoint the first foreign manager to head up England’s national team. In January 2001, Swedish manager Sven-Göran Eriksson was invited by Crozier to step into the hottest of managerial hot seats. The Swede accepted and the Walls of Jericho came a-tumbling down. Continue reading →

Gérson de Oliveira Nunes, the ‘Brain’ of Brazil’s 1970 World Cup team.

The Brazil team that lifted the 1970 World Cup has been regarded by many aficionados as perhaps the greatest collection of footballing talent assembled under national colours at a major tournament. Not only was there an abundance of star players, each capable of turning a match in favour of the Seleção with a moment of magic, but they also combined to produce outstanding team performances, sometimes subsuming individual glory for the greater good of the whole; not in any collectivist manner, but with a joy and exuberance that reasserted an affection for jogo benito. It was the sort of team that allowed all who hold a passionate affection for the ‘beautiful game’ to believe again.

Of course, there were stars. Péle is the name that always come to the fore as the first among equals when considering that particular heady vintage of Brazil’s footballing talent. Then there was Rivelinho; he of the cannonball shooting. Tostão led the line with elegance, but an almost brutal grace. This tournament also saw the arrival of Jairzinho’s burgeoning talent, and then there was the imperious captain of the ship, Carlos Alberto, who netted the signature fourth goal in the final against Italy, to usher his crew over the line to glory and eternal fame. Continue reading →

Heinz Krügel – National hero and enemy of the state.

Heinz Krügel was born in the small village of Ober-Planitz, near Zwickau on 24th April 1921 in what would be – between the end of the Second World War and the reunification of the German state – East Germany. Even as a young boy, football was a major part of his life and at the age of six, he was playing for the local club, SC Planitz, He stayed with the club for the next 23 years, and in 1948, he had his first taste of national success when Planitz won the inaugural Deutscher Sportausschuss Oberliga (the East German league championship). Less than two years later, Heinz Krügel’s playing career was ended by a serious knee injury. It was that misfortune however, that ultimately led to a more celebrated career, as Krügel turned his hand to coaching and management. It would also have the unfortunate consequence of bringing him into conflict with the government authorities. Continue reading →

Jimmy Scoular and Cardiff City’s European adventures.

When at the top of his game in the fifties, to many, Jimmy Scoular was the type of hard-bitten Scottish footballer hewed from the toughest of rock north of the border that provided the bedrock of any successful team.  He was the sort of player that would consider the likes of more modern-day ‘hard men’ of the north such as Billy Bremner, Graeme Souness or, bringing it up to date perhaps, Scott Brown, as possibly less than fully deserving of the description.

Born in Livingston, ten days after Hogmanay in 1925, he went on to become an engineer working on submarines during the Second World war, before signing as a professional football at the end of hostilities. His work in constructing things that would go into battles in distant places would serve him well when he turned his hand to club management. Continue reading →

The heirs of Chollima and the long and complicated path to the 2010 World Cup.

In 1966, after a qualification marked by controversy, withdrawals and political intrigue, North Korea arrived to play in the World Cup as unknown players from a land that few knew very much of. Typical of the British culture, ever keen to support the underdog though, the fans took to the ‘Chollima’ squad with their small stature and naïve innocence.

It was an approach that saw them vanquish Italy in one of the most sensational results in World Cup history and then lead Portugal by three goals to nil, before being swamped by the brilliance of Eusebio. The football observing public were charmed by these apparent innocents abroad. A brief dip into the fairy-tale of make believe that, as always seems to be the case, eventually fell short. The North Koreans left for home, leaving behind them nothing but fond memories of a team small in stature, but big in heart. Continue reading →

Jared Borgetti – Mexico’s other star striker and a lost year in Bolton.

On 25th March Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez scored the opening goal in a 2-0 victory for Mexico over Costa Rica. As well as giving his team an early lead, the goal also brought the Bayer Leverkusen striker’s international tally to 46, equalling the record of Jared Borgetti. Hernandez will be well known to fans of the Premier League for his five years at OId Trafford as Manchester United, under Sir Alex Ferguson dominated the English game, in the first decade of this century. Perhaps less well-known though is that Borgetti also plied his trade in the English north-west for a while, but with much less success. Continue reading →

FC Nania, Abedi ‘Pele’ Ayew and a hatful of goals.

The last day of any season can be a bit of a nail-biter, especially when there’s everything still to play for. Back at the end of the 2002-03 Scottish Premier League season, with a single game to play, Celtic and Rangers were tied on 94 points. The clubs also had a tied goal difference of plus 68. It became a last day shoot-out as to who could win their last game by the largest margin and take the title. Celtic travelled to Kilmarnock and won 4-0. At the same time however, Rangers entertained Dunfermline and secured a 6-1 victory. It was a result that also brought the title back to Ibrox by the slimmest of margins. In the end, it had come down to an injury-time penalty, coolly slotted home by Mikel Arteta to give Rangers the round half-dozen, and stymy Celtic’s effort by a single goal.

Although the two Glasgow giants rattled in a total of ten goals between them, whilst conceding a single strike, there was precious little talk of any underhand skulduggery or anything less than scrupulously contested games. After all, despite the two defeated cubs finishing the league in fourth and fifth positions respectively, Kilmarnock trailed the top two by no less forty points, and the gap to Dunfermline was over fifty points. The results therefore were not that much out of kilter, especially with the Glasgow clubs having so much to play for, and the other two teams comparatively little. A few years later, another last day battle took place between two clubs tied on points and battling for big wins to sway goal difference advantage and gain promotion to the top echelon of their domestic league structure. If the ‘Old Firm’ battle offered no hint of controversy though, this one differed on that particular count. Continue reading →

With these gloves, you can walk through mirrors.

On 20th August 2006, in a match against Cruzeiro, São Paulo goalkeeper Rogério Ceni saved a penalty. A feat worthy of mention in the context of most games of course, but perhaps not much beyond that. A few minutes later however, Ceni was called forward from his sentinel position between the sticks to take on a free-kick at the other end of the park. He scored. Now it all begins to sound a little unusual. Add on top of it that, later in the game, Ceni also took and concerted a penalty to draw his team level with their opponents and it all gets a bit special. Now, consider that the penalty was Ceni’s 64th goal for his club, surpassing by two, the exploits of legendary Paraguayan goalkeeper, José Luis Chilavert and you realise there’s more than a bit of a story relating to the career and exploits of Rogério Ceni – goalkeeper and goal-scorer. Continue reading →

UD Lanzarote: Volcanic roots football.

Why volcanic roots? Well, there are three reasons. The first is pretty obvious. We were on holiday in Lanzarote, and the island was born through volcanic action, so that’s one reason. Usually, the wife and I take our holidays in early June. Unless there’s a World Cup or European Championships, there’s no football to miss. This year was different however and we jetted out in September for two weeks of summer sun.

As I mentioned, usually when we’re away, there’s no football on, so nothing to miss. Of course, there’s always Sky TV’s big satellite footprint, so we weren’t bereft of news. Fortunately, there was also the prospect of taking in a local game and we discovered that Union Deportiva Lanzarote play in the fourth tier of La Liga. While we were there, they played at home against Union Viera from Gran Canaria. It’s a ‘Canaria derby.’ For a football blogger, it was just too good a chance to miss.   Continue reading →