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.