Monday, 10 November 2014

This Week In Football History (Nov 10-16)

Sepp Blatter denied on field racism, England beat Argentina in an incredible friendly. The first Manchester derby. Australia finally won a World Cup playoff. The Battle of Highbury. Angola kicked the shit out of Portugal and England got Zlatanned.   

12 November 1881 - Newton Heath FC 3-0 West Gorton (St Marks) FC, somewhere in Manchester: The first ever Manchester Derby 

Newly formed sides Newton Heath and St Marks FC arranged a friendly on the 12th November 1881. Little did either side know at the time what was about to come of this newly formed rivalry. 

Newton Heath FC later became Manchester United and St Marks became Manchester City. A derby that has gone on to be one of the fiercest in English football and a derby that has more importance than ever in today’s recent Premier League era of Manchester dominance. 

But in 1881 Newton Heath and St Marks FC were probably decent mates with each other, although I like to imagine the part-time players of each side were banging the wives’ of the opposing teammates and thus started a burning rivalry that lasted 130 years. Regardless of my possibly correct theories or the origins of City and United’s rivalries, The Ashton Reporter, a local paper that covered the game described the match as a “most pleasant game”, which is probably exactly how late 19th century football was. 

14 November, 1934 – England 3-2 Italy, Highbury, London: England beat world champions Italy in The Battle of Highbury  

Rarely has football and politics ever been as intertwined as it was in Italy during the mid 1930’s. Mussolini saw football as a key propaganda tool of fascism. For if Italy had the greatest and bravest football team on the planet, they must also surely have the greatest and bravest army on the planet, and the greatest and bravest leader on the planet, such was the ideology of fascism. And what better side than to test fascism’s presumed superiority against than the supposed greatest national team in the world - England.

Not that any of the players had a clue as the propagandist nature of the game they were about to take part it. To the Italians and the English this simply was the “Real World Cup final”. 

England had left FIFA in 1928 due to disagreements with Football’s growing governing body FIFA over payment of amateur players. (The English FA and FIFA don’t exactly have the best history of getting along with each other). Because of this England had not participated in the inaugural World Cup in 1930 or in the 1934 tournament. 

And never has a World Cup been as politically charged as the one hosted by Italy in 1934, just five years before the outbreak of the Second World War, and at a time when European fascism was at its peak. Much like the Berlin summer Olympics two years later this sporting event was massively used by a fiercly popularly, but ultimately insane leader in order to promote the supposed superiority of fascism.
And it worked. Italy beat Austria’s famed wunderteam 1-0 in the Semi-finals before beating Czechoslovakia 2-1 in the final.
It’s a definite shame that the 1934 World Cup is often remembered as a victory for Mussolini’s fascist propaganda rather than for an Italian side that has been heralded as one of the best teams of the 1930’s. 

During the 1930’s, as a national football team you could never really be the best until you challenged yourself against the self-proclaimed brilliance of the English. In 1932 Austria tried to dethrone England’s arrogance of “We invented the sport, therefore we are the best” at Stamford Bridge. They lost 4-3.  
Now it was Italy’s turn. A weakened England side had actually already been beaten by Hungary and Czechoslovakia during the summer of 1934 but Italy were the world champions and a another weakened England side would have no doubt be seen as an act of cowardice by the fans. England’s best players included a young Stanley Matthews and coincidentally seven Arsenal players who all played their club football at Highbury, the venue of the forthcoming game. And so the Italians went to London roared on by a fervor of nationalistic rhetoric from the Italian government and press. The game had already been billed as “The Battle of Highbury” and Italy’s leading sports journal La Gazetta dello Sport described was about to take place as a “Theatre of international war”. 

England went 3-0 up inside 12 minutes. Italy then lost their star midfielder Luis Monti to a broken foot. Down to ten men and facing a three-goal deficit a humiliation was on the cards for Italians and for Mussolini. The Italians seemingly blamed England player Ted Drake for the injury to Monti and one of the era’s most violent games saw England players Eddie Hapgood have his nose broken, Ray Bowden twist his ankle and Eric Brook break his arm.

Despite what has been described as an orgy of violence Italy didn’t concede another for the rest of the half. In the face of having to put up with a player deficit as substitutes hadn’t been invented yet Italy struck back through their star player, Giuseppe Meazza. Meazza scored in the 58th and 62nd minutes to bring Italy right back into the game and according to match reports from the time was denied an equalizer by the post in the dying moments. 

England had won, but only just. This was perhaps the greatest test of English footballing arrogance of inter-war football. This arrogance was to be shattered after the war by an amateur USA side and the mighty Hungarians but in 1934 England could still claim to the best at football, if only by a tiny margin. 

Back in Italy, a moral victory had been won. The Italian media described the team as  “athletes of Fascism who emanated the class, the style, the technique and the skill to play like a platoon of Gladiators”. Mussolini was to see his national football team win another World Cup four years later but by 1938 the Italian military was heavily involved on the lands of Ethiopia. Mussolini must have hoped that footballing achievement would mirror military achievement but by the mid 1940’s he knew he was fighting a losing battle as with every Allied advancement through Italy the Italian people slowly began to realize the madman for what he was.  

13 November, 1945 – Chelsea 3-3 Dynamo Moscow, Stamford Bridge: Post War football begins with a cracker of a game between Chelsea and a visitng Moscow side.   

I thought about rambling on about the state of football in the USSR and England in post war environments but I was tired so I’ll leave you with the story linked above, an interesting piece from Chelsea Wiki about this famous friendly and Dynamo’s successful tour of England in 1945. 

**14 November, 2001 – Portugal 5-1 Angola, Alvalade stadium, Lisbon: Four players sent off and one injured = Match abandoned**  

Angola was a Portuguese colony until 1975. From 1975 to 2002 an intermittent but terribly brutal Civil War raged within the South Western African nation. Angola’s post-colonial history is one of many bloody and brutal examples throughout post-war Africa of a nations’ struggle to fill what was essentially a power vacuum after the Europeans left. It has been estimated that around half-a-million civilians died as a result of the Angolan Civil War whilst the toll for those who died due to famine and extreme poverty is unverifiable, as such is often the case with this frankly horrible era of African history. The last five years of the Angolan Civil War took place during the neighboring Congo’s own Civil War, The Second Congo War, which remains deadliest war in recent African history and the second deadliest war since World War Two. And whilst Angola and especially The Congo remain two of the world’s most underdeveloped nations Angola’s national football team was making impressive strides at the turn of the millennium. 

Not that their game against Portugal in Lisbon in November 2001 was exactly an example of the positive strides they had made. In perhaps one of the most bizarre and violent “Friendlies” ever played Angola only managed to play 68 out of the normal 90 minutes of the game. Thankfully no-one was seriously hurt at this match which makes this one of the more morbidly funny games of football to have taken place in the last twenty years. *(The Angolan fans seemed pretty riled up, I was unable to find any sources on potential crowd trouble but wouldn’t be surprised if there was some). 

Amazingly, Angola scored after 30 seconds.  Then came a brush between Angolan player Yamba Asha and Pauleta which saw some pretty pathetic face-clutching from the Angolan despite Pauleta’s over-reaction. Four minutes later Asha was sent off for this. Moments later Portugal won a penalty and Angolan Estrela Wilson, who more resembled a mid-level Bulgarian mafia hit-man...

...than an Angolan footballer was given a second yellow for dissent. Figo scored the penalty and Portugal were soon 2-1 up. On the 26th minute mark the game devolved further into a orgy of Angolan inflicted violence when Franklim Manuel lunged at Joao Pinto with a challenge that had it connected fully with its target would have seen one fucking awful leg break. Portugal took advantage of being three players up and scored twice before the break and twice shortly after. Angola at this point had resorted to what is my FIFA 15 tactic of “Well if I’m gonna lose, I might as well lose by getting the match abandoned”. Defender Antonio Neto brutally smashed Joao Tomas in the face with his forearm to get his teams’ fourth red and then Vicente collapsed complaining of a groin injury. No substitutes remained for the Angolans and the referee, the poor bloke, was forced to call the game off. Why the organizers thought such a friendly would be a good idea I don’t know but thankfully no Portuguese player was seriously hurt (at least I hope not) which leaves this game as one of football’s better dark humor moments. I really hope no-one was seriously hurt because I’ll feel like a huge dick otherwise for laughing at the whole scenario. 

Also, the away Angolan support got pretty pissed off during the game. Here is a mass exodus, [here is some bloke ripping out one of the seats, and here is an angry man with a stick

12 November, 2005 – [England 3-2 Argentina, Stade de Geneve, Geneva]( One of the best games I’ve ever seen.   

This game had no great importance on the footballing world, but Christ it was one hell of a match, by far the best friendly I can remember watching in recent years. Although I do remember the media reaction in England after this game was something along the lines of “Cocks out everyone! Sven is leading this great nation to victory in six months time!!”. Although a Rooney stamp and a winking Cristiano Ronaldo put that fleeting idea to bed. *Alan Shearer and Ian Wright are pretty cringy in this video.  

12 & 16 November, 2005 – Aggregate scoreline : [Australia 1-1 Uruguay, (Australia win 4-2 on Penalties)](, Estadio Centenario, Montevideo and Telstra Stadium, Sydney: Fifth times a charm for the Aussies. 

*Skip to 7:30 for Jon Aloisi’s winning penalty and Aussie commentators going nuts 

In 1974 Australia made their first appearance at a World Cup. They finished last in their group after defeats to East and West Germany and a draw to Chile. The Aussies failed to score a single goal, which considering in 74’ they were a team of mostly amateurs was fair enough. 
Apart from their solitary appearance in West Germany in 74’ the Aussies World Cup qualifying record was that of so close, yet so far until 2006.  They lost inter-continental playoffs in 1966 (North Korea), 1970 (Israel), 1986 (Scotland), 1994 (Argentina), 1998 (Iran) and 2002 (Uruguay). The Aussie’s had lost four out of four playoffs since 1974 and on the 12th November 2005 it would appear as though that record would stretch to five out of five.    

In early 2005 the Football Federation of Australia joined with the Asian Football Confederation and finally left the Oceania qualifying zone as they saw no way to improve as a football side against such weak opposition. However, they still had to play an intercontinental qualifier against Uruguay once again in November 2005. 

Uruguay beat Australia in the first leg of the CONMEBOL-OFC 2005 playoff in Montevideo on the 12th November. Four days later in Sydney Australia would finally end 31-years of playoff heartbreak thanks to a Mark Bresciano goal in the first half, a fantastic defensive performance in extra-time and a 4-2 penalty shootout victory. Linked above is the second leg highlights which include Bresciano’s goal and the penalty shootout. The commentators get suitably excited when Jon Aloisi scores the winning penalty. 

Australia would go on to face Japan, Brazil and Croatia in the group stages in Germany seven months later. A Tim Cahill inspired performance saw them overcome Japan before a 2-0 loss against Brazil left Australia in need of a point against Croatia in their last game. In one of the most dramatic and craziest games of the tournament Harry Kewell smashed in a late equalizer before Croat Josep Simunic would be shown three yellow cards by hapless English referee Graham Poll. Australia were knocked out in the Round of 16 by Italy thanks to a very controversial penalty won by Grosso and scored by Totti in the last seconds of stoppage time. 

But after 31 years Australia had properly announced themselves to the footballing world. They were no longer the “nearly men” from Oceania, Australia had taken their first step to becoming an Asian soccer powerhouse. 

16 November, 2011 – TV interview, Zurich, Switzerland: “On the field of play I would deny there is racsim”. Jesus Sepp, you really make saying the wrong thing at the wrong time an art form.  

I don’t really have much to say about this to be honest. I could go off on a whole rant about Sepp and the history of FIFA but we all know how much of a dinosaur Mr Blatter is when it comes to his global football policy. For a quick historical overview of FIFA and my brief opinion on FIFA see this post. As far as the Blatter hate goes I don’t hate the old bastard as much as most. He’s a saint compared to his predecessor Joao Havelange, but it just pisses me off that the head of football’s governing body isn’t smart enough when making a media appearance to know that he shouldn’t accidentally or perhaps purposefully excuse racism on the field of play. (This is amongst the many other things FIFA do/have done to piss me off). 

November 14, 2012 – Sweden 4-2 England, Friends Arena, Stockholm: His other three goals weren’t too bad either.    

We all remember this don’t we? I doubt I need to set the scene and write a short description of what happened on this night two years. Just watch the dam bicycle kick again if you haven’t already. Fuck me, what a goal this was. Here are full highlights of the game including his brilliant 35 yard blooter of a free-kick. 

Next Week – Eleven stories, including one massive one. Jermaine Defoe, Roberto Mancini, Lothar Mattheus, Socrates, and Luis Figo all feature also