Archive for November, 2007

November 30 – Women: Know Your Limits

ALTHOUGH men have hijacked the game in the past 150 years or so women have actually been playing football for just as long.

The first recorded women’s match was in March 1895 in England when a northern XI beat a southern team 7-1.

Despite this start it took nearly 100 years for the women’s game to get its own world cup and it was on this day in 1991 when the USA team beat Norway to win the first ever women’s tournament.

In the intervening 96 years between the first recorded match and the first world cup it is fair the say the women’s game had more ups and downs than Pete Docherty on a week-long bender.

On Boxing Day 1921 53,000 people turned up to watch leading women’s team Dick Kerr’s Ladies from Preston beat rivals St Helens’ Ladies 4-0.

Obviously scared stiff of the challenge to the men’s game by the large attendance (which is more than double what Premier League sides such as Wigan, Bolton and Fulham get), the FA reacted by banning women from playing on football league grounds.

The FA said: “Complaints have been made as to football being played by women, the council feel impelled to express their strong opinion that the game of football is quite undesirable for females and ought not to be encouraged.” Thanks for that Mr Chomondly-Warner.

The nationwide equivalent of saying, ‘it’s our ball and you can’t play with it,’ had the desired effect and although women continued to play, interest in the women’s game dwindled severely as the men’s game flourished.

It was not until 1971 that the FA ban was lifted and the female game began to develop again. By the late 1980s FIFA president Joao Havelange was keen on it and he was the driving force behind the new women’s world cup.

The tournament was held in China with 12 teams competing and the American’s conquered all before them, sailing through to the final with ease, and scoring 23 goals in the process.

There, watched by 65,000 fans in Guangshou’s Tianhe Stadium they would meet Norway who held the Yanks at 1-1 going into the final minutes of normal time.

With extra time and penalties looming USA striker Michelle Akers stepped up to the plate when she intercepted a back pass from Norway’s Tina Svensson and fired the ball past Reidun Seth in goal to win the trophy for Uncle (Auntie?) Sam(antha?).

Since then the competition has gone from strength to strength and has been held a further four times with more and more people around the world tuning in to watch.

Just to show that equality hasn’t quite taken over the world of football entirely good old Sepp Blatter risked the ire of women players everywhere when he famously suggested ladies should wear tighter shorts when playing to generate more interest. Ahh the sexist old bastard. Still, it’s a better idea than half the crap he comes out with about using penalties to decide every game, or all his meddling with the offside rule.

Here’s a look at those all American gals strutting their soccer skills – look out for a bit of shirt-related celebration that would surely have had Blatter applauding.

November 29 РM̩s que un club

IT’S birthday day today for one of the biggest clubs in the world. FC Barcelona have more history than you can shake a stick at and it all started today back in 1899, when Joan Gamper and his group of merry men founded the side that, as their motto suggests are ‘more than a club’ for the legions of fans in Catalonia and beyond.

In a move that would delight the dwellers of lonely heart columns across the land, the Barca ball started rolling when Gamper placed an advert in the local rag Los Deportes, asking if anyone was up for a regular kick-about. A group of eleven Swiss, Catalan and Englishmen turned up for the first meeting and FC Barcelona were born.

One of the first points on the new club’s agenda was creating Barca’s now iconic strip. It’s been rumoured that Gamper based it on a mixture of his hometown team of FC Basel and Merseyside’s Merchant Taylors’ School. For over a hundred years the shirt was untouched by sponsors and now it only shows that of Unicef. Well done lads.

Off the field Barca have historically played a big part in the identity of the Catalan people. A nation within a nation, the region of Catalonia was suppressed by Franco’s fascist rule and the Camp Nou was the only place that proud Catalonian’s could express any form of regional identity without fear of reprisal.

As Real Madrid have been traditionally been seen as Franco’s team, there’s not many matches in the world that are explosive as the Barca-Real derby. Whether it’s been Alfredo Di Stefano turning out for Real after a tug of war for the player between the two clubs or Luis Figo having a pig’s head thrown at him on his return to Camp Nou, El Clásico rarely disappoints the neutral.

You could write a book on the trophies and greats who have graced Camp Nou over the years, but we’ll leave you with a montage of los culés at their finest and if you’ve ever thought you were underpaid and underappreciated at work come back tomorrow.

November 28 – ‘Keeps Keeps The Ball

TODAY we are looking at a goalkeeper who has scored more goals for his country than Emile Heskey has for England: José Luis Félix Chilavert González.

All goalkeepers have a reputation for being a bit mental, but it is fair to say that Chilavert stands head and shoulders above other net custodians.

A Paraguayan, Jose played most of his club football in Argentina and Spain, as well as being his country’s number one choice between the sticks.

He is unique among keepers in that he also has an eye for goal, and not just in the last-second-of-the-game-might-as-well-go-up-for-a-corner type way. A free kick and penalty specialist Chilavert scored more than 60 goals in his professional career and it was on this day in 1999 that he became the first (and as far as we can tell) only goalkeeper to score a hattrick.

He achieved the feat playing Argentine club Velez Sarsfield in their 6-1 win over Ferro Carril Oeste, but he has also hit the back of the net for his country and in 74 games for Paraguay he scored eight times (Heskey has scored five in 45 appearances). Not to be outdone by England’s own free kick specialist Chilavert has also scored from the half-way line.

Apart from being pretty nifty at scoring Chilavert was also a bit of a dab hand at the other end in keeping balls out of his own net. He was always telling the world he was the best goalie around and it seems some people agreed with him. He was voted World Goalkeeper of the Year by the IFFHS in 1995, 1997, and 1998 (that’s the International Federation of Football History & Statistics if you were wondering), and he also picked up South American player of the year in 1996.

Just like the force, Chilavert also had a dark side and was never far from trouble. He missed the opening two group matches of the 2002 World Cup through suspension after being sent off for spitting at Roberto Carlos during the qualifier with Brazil.

In a busy career he also managed to find time to punch Tino Asprilla and Diego Maradona as well as a steward, all of which landed him in hot water. He was in even hotter water in 2005 when he received a six month suspended sentence in France for the use of false documents about the compensation for the end of his contract with Racing Club de Strasbourg.

Although not the world’s most prolific goal-scoring keeper (that honour goes to Brazilian Rogério Ceni) Chilavert is second in the all-time standings which ain’t half bad.

That’s all for today folks, there is a montage of some of Chilavert’s exploits below and be sure to come back tomorrow for more footy happenings from the past.

November 27 – The Clown Prince of Football Bows Out

ON this day in 2000 Len Shackleton, the so called clown prince of football passed away, at the age of 78.

Younger readers will not remember Shack but his mention is bound to raise a smile among football fans of a certain age as his genius on the pitch was more than matched by his wit and his dislike of authority.

He started his career as an amateur playing for Bradford Park Avenue for whom he scored 166 goals in six wartime years in the 1940s.

His goal scoring exploits persuaded Newcastle United to part with £13,000 for him. He spent just under two years with the Magpies before joining their arch-rivals Sunderland for a then record fee of £20,500 in 1948.

He immediately took to his new home at Roker Park where he was adored by the Sunderland faithful – not least because of his allegiance to them rather than Newcastle. He once said: “I am not biased when it comes to Newcastle – I don’t care who beats them.”

In 11 years on Wearside he reached two FA Cup semi finals and just missed out on a championship winner’s medal after scoring 101 goals in 348 games for the Mackems.

As well as being a terrifically skilled player Shack also had an eye for fun. During one match with Arsenal Shack found his team were 2-1 up with five minutes to go. He dribbled the ball into the Gunners’ penalty area before standing on the ball and pretending to comb his hair while looking at his watch as the remaining minutes ticked down.

He was also partial to a bit of mickey taking out of opposition players and would regularly mock full-backs by playing one-twos with the corner flag.

While all his antics were amusing for the fans, not everyone was laughing. England manager Walter Winterbottom was exasperated by Shack. He once said: “If only Len would come half way to meet the needs of the team there wouldn’t be many to touch him.”

Winterbottom did pick him for a match against the world champions West Germany at Wembley in 1954, which England won 3-1 with Shack scoring in the process. This was to be his finest hour in an England shirt and he only ever gained five caps. On being asked why he was not picked more often for his country one of the England selectors remarked: “Because we play at Wembley Stadium, not the London Palladium!”

Shack himself said he should be flattered by the comment.

In 1956 he released his autobiography and used his nickname The Clown Prince of Football as the title.

It famously contained a chapter entitled: “The Average DIrector’s Knowledge of Football.” Underneath the title was a completely blank page, save for a small note at the foot of it what read: “This page has been deliberately left blank in accordance with the author’s wishes.”

Classic. RIP Shack. Be sure to come back tomorrow for another journey through football time with us here at OTFD.

November 26 – Ooh Ah Cantona

TODAY it’s back to a time when instead of scrapping around in the third flight Leeds United were the English champions and their cross-Pennine rivals Manchester United were wondering if their twenty six year wait for a title was ever going to end. In one of the most significant transfers English football has seen in modern times, the mercurial French talisman Eric Cantona moved to Old Trafford today in 1992 for a bargain £1.2m.

When Cantona arrived at Elland Road in February 1992 he had been through seven clubs in a nomadic eight year period and had a reputation for being a tad ‘difficult’. Leeds’ manager Howard Wilkinson was a renowned disciplinarian and believed he could tame Cantona. For the first six months it was all fun and games, as Leeds won the title and made an encouraging start to the new season. Cantona in particular was in form, scoring a hat-trick in a 4-3 win over Liverpool in the Charity Shield and two weeks later he bagged the first ever treble in the newly formed Premier League as the champions cruised to a 5-0 win over Spurs.

When Sergeant Wilko dropped him for a game at QPR following a lacklustre performance in the European Cup the Frenchman was not impressed and emerged from a blazing row with Wilkinson with a transfer request in hand. There were also rumours flying around that Eric had been getting it on with strike-partner Lee Chapman’s wife, Leslie Ash, but these have been denied by those involved.

A few days later Leeds Chairman Bill Fotherby rang his Manchester United counterpart Martin Edwards to ask about the availability of Paul Parker. At the end of the conversation Edwards jokingly asked if they could take Cantona off their hands, and a £1.2m deal quickly went through.

When the word got out about the transfer Leeds fans were not impressed. Their team slumped to a seventeenth place finish and Cantona became the first player to win back-to-back titles with different clubs. Four titles in five years followed with Cantona as the catalyst for the most successful period in the club’s history, as Alex Ferguson kept his ego and temperament in check, with the exception of a bit of kung fu and some nonsense about seagulls and trawlers.

Leeds meanwhile, had to make do with signing Tomas Brolin and watching their biggest rivals hoover up trophies all over the place, with only themselves to blame. Check out some Gallic flair below and come back tomorrow for a fresh dose of footy history.

November 25 – England Stunned

IN the current climate of doom surrounding the England national team, we’d like nothing more than to raise you spirits with a tale of English heroics on the pitch, or talk about something else altogether.

However, we would be seriously neglecting our duties if we did not mark today’s subject properly.

It was on this very day in 1953 that one the most important matches ever was played at Wembley stadium.

England, the inventors and self-appointed masters of the game took on the apprentices of Hungary, expecting to hit them for six, or at least three or four.

Instead the Mighty Magyars of Hungary dished out the spanking, beating England 6-3 in their own back yard. It was the first time England had lost a home match to any team from outside the British Isles.

The Hungarian team were the Olympic champions at the time and contained players such as Puskas and Sándor Kocsis while England lined up with a considerable number of big-hitters such as Stanley Matthews, Billy Wright, Alf Ramsey and Stan Mortensen.

In those days the phrase ‘there are no easy international games’ had not been invented because, well, there were easy international games, and this was supposed to to be one of them.

The English were totally unprepared for what the Hungarians would throw at them, as the Magyars bamboozled their hosts with a new formation which tore them to shreds.

They were also perfectly comfortable swapping positions fluidly in a style of play similar to the Dutch total football system which would be made famous years later.

Playing an unfamiliar formation, and wearing confuising numbers on their shirts, the England defence had no idea who to mark, resulting in the Hungarians taking the lead after just 90 seconds. They added three more before half time, while England managed two in response to go in 4-2.

Any hope of England coming back to salvage some pride against the upstarts was soon lost as Bozsik scored and Nándor Hidegkuti popped up to complete his hattrick. Alf Ramsey scored a penalty late on to make the score 6-3 to the visitors and mark a seismic shift in the football hierarchy.

Sportingly the England fans applauded their conquerers off the pitch as their humbled team began the post mortem on what had been the most shocking match of their careers.

One man who was watching the match was future England manager Sir Bobby Robson, and he summed up the game’s impact at the time: “We saw a style of play, a system of play that we had never seen before. None of these players meant anything to us. We didn’t know about Puskás. All these fantastic players, they were men from Mars as far as we were concerned.

“They were coming to England, England had never been beaten at Wembley – this would be a 3-0, 4-0 maybe even 5-0 demolition of a small country who were just coming into European football. They called Puskás the ‘Galloping Major’ because he was in the army – how could this guy serving for the Hungarian army come to Wembley and rifle us to defeat? But the way they played, their technical brilliance and expertise – our WM formation was kyboshed in 90 minutes of football.

“The game had a profound effect, not just on myself but on all of us. That one game alone changed our thinking. We thought we would demolish this team – England at Wembley, we are the masters, they are the pupils. It was absolutely the other way.”

You can watch some highlights of the match below and come back tomorrow to take your mind off English failures by reading about a man who tried to copyright a chant.

November 23 – Ali the Saint

TODAY we are remembering one of those events that has passed into football folklore.

It was on this day in 1996 that Ali Dia, easily the worst player to have ever graced the Premiership made his first, and last, top-flight appearance for Southampton.

The story of Dia’s short-lived Premier League career is as unlikely as it is funny. Graeme Souness was managing the Saints at the time and legend has it that big Graeme took a call one day from somebody purporting to be former world player of the year George Weah, who told him to have a look at his ‘cousin’ Ali Dia.

‘Weah’ told Souness that Dia had played for Paris Saint-Germain and had represented his country 13 times.

This was a load of old cobblers and Dia was just an amatuer player, and the man on the phone was not Weah but Dia’s agent doing his best Liberian accent.

Always on the look out for a bargain to bolster his cash-strapped squad, Souness signed Dia up on a one month contract without bothering to check any of the tedious little details ‘Weah’ had told him.

So old Graeme had been hoodwinked by Dia’s agent on the phone, but surely he would be found out as soon as he played a reserve game? Alas (for Souness) no, for a waterlogged pitch scuppered Saints next scheduled ressies match with Arsenal.

Saints next match was at home to Leeds and Souness took one hell of a punt by naming Dia on the bench. Half an hour into the game Matt le Tissier had to come off injured and Souness threw on the man he had never ever seen play to replace him.

Instantly it was obvious Dia was hopelessly out of his depth as he ran around the pitch pointlessly. Realising he had been had, Souness must have been hoping Dia would take off his mask, whip a microphone from under his shirt and reveal himself to be Jeremy Beadle.

However, Beadle was not about and Souness was forced to haul Dia off after 50 minutes of play and admit he had been done up like a kipper.

Dia’s contract was torn up and he played briefly for non-league Gateshead before disappearing entirely into the annals of football history. He couldn’t play for toffee but he made Souness look like a right berk so he can’t be all bad.

Here’s genuine Saints legend Matt le Tissier recalling the whole saga, an come back tomorrow for more football fun and games.

November 22 – The Future’s Bright, The Chairman’s Orange

IT’S hard to believe that before the lure of 15,000 crowds and the Wigan Pier Experience came calling, Steve Bruce was the Premiership’s third longest serving manager. Today we’re taking you back to the last time he upped sticks, but that time it wasn’t as easy. But then again, when Simon Jordan’s involved, things rarely are. Crystal Palace’s infamous perma-tanned chairman saw fit to take Bruce and his prospective employers to the High Court today in 2001 to slam the brakes on his move to Birmingham City.

Back around the turn of the century Bruce was going racking up jobs quicker than he did broken noses but this didn’t stop Birmingham head honchos David Gold and David Sullivan giving him the eye. In the three years after retiring he’d taken the top job at (deep breath) Sheffield United, Huddersfield, Wigan and Crystal Palace before deciding that St. Andrews was for him.

In a fitting piece of symmetry Simon Jordan was halfway through a four year period that saw five managers at Selhurst Park. That didn’t mean that he was willing to let his gaffer go easily. The case at the High Court saw the judge rule that Bruce had to stay on at Palace until at least January 14th when the case would go back to court, after Jordan had refused his resignation in early November. Legal jargon flew around, the lawyers got stuck in and Birmingham finally got their man on December 12th.

Did Jordan hold a grudge? “If I see another David Gold interview on the poor East End Jewish boy done good I’ll impale myself on one of his dildos,” he would later claim, making reference to Gold’s nefarious money-making ways. Five years later he was issuing writs again, as his solicitor burst into Charlton’s press conference where Ian Dowie was being unveiled, claiming Dowie had lied about his reasons for leaving Palace.

Check out Jordan talking about the subjects he loves – himself and sacking managers – and come back tomorrow for the greatest blag in Premiership history.

November 21 – Pilgrims Show Gunners How It’s Done

WHEN Robert Pires and Thierry Henry attempted a two-man penalty in a Premiership clash at Highbury against Manchester City in 2005 they got it all wrong.

Pires scuffed his attempted pass so Henry never got to it and they ended up conceeding a free kick and became the laughing stock of the game.

The two French Gunners were trying to emulate Dutch legend Johan Cruyff and his Ajax teammate Jesper Olsen when they pulled off the feat in a match in 1982.

But Cruyff was not the first to score a penalty in such a cheeky manner. It was on this day in 1964, nearly 20 years before Cruyff, that Mike Trebilcock scored from a pass from his Plymouth Argyle teammate Johnny Newman direct from a penalty kick.

Oddly enough, just as they would 41 years later against Arsenal’s Pires and Henry, Man City provided the opposition for Argyle that day and their players remonstrated wildly with the referee after the bizarre goal was scored.

However the goal was perfectly legal and was allowed to stand, giving Plymouth a 3-2 win to send their 20,000 fans away happy, if a little bemused.

There is a match report, including details and footage of the penalty at this link:

http://www.greensonscreen.co.uk/mancity64H.asp and see below for Pires’ cack-footed attempt.

Tomorrow the future’s bright, the chaiman’s orange.

November 20 – Argentineans Go Spot Kick Mad

THERE’S a few sights that England fans hate. Steve McLaren’s smarmy, toothy grin, the sight of Stewart Downing warming up on the sideline and Michael Owen pulling up, shaking his head at the bench and limping to the sideline are just a few that we’ve seen over the last couple of years. But if you really want to strike fear into the hearts of the English just say the following words – Penalty Shoot Out. Messrs Terry and co had better look away now as today’s cautionary tale is all about a record shoot out from 1988 that saw no less than 44 penalties as Argentinos Juniors took on Racing Club.

In a move that would excite the likes of Sepp Blatter and his thrill-seeking cronies, the Argentinean Primera Division was experimenting with the using a penalty shoot-out to determine a winner when games finished level after 90 minutes. When the crowd at La Paternal saw Argentinos and Racing play out a 2-2 draw they probably thought they’d be home eating their tea in ten minutes after a quick shoot-out.

This wasn’t to be, as a mixture of saves, misses and downright coincidence meant that Argentinos were made to graft for their 20-19 win and extra league point that this brought. This was to remain the world record for a penalty shoot-out for seventeen years until a Namibian Cup first round tie where KK Palace held their nerve to beat civics 17-16 after 48 spot kicks.

If you’ve ever wondered who’s idea it was to devise a fool-proof system to ensure that England never again win another trophy then you won’t be surprised to find out that it’s a German. Cheers for that, Karl Wald. Still, it’s more exciting than the coin toss that used to hold sway over such events as the 1968 European Championship semi-final. Contrary to popular belief, tales does sometimes fail – and in this case it meant that Italy pipped the USSR to the final in football’s biggest toss of a coin.

There’s no footage of the Argentinean record breakers, so here’s an epic from earlier this year for you, where despite England managing to score twelve they still came up short. There’s even more spot kick nonsense tomorrow, so unlike Anton Ferdinand below, don’t miss it.