Saturday, November 18, 2017

18 November 2011 - An Apology Is Better Than Nothing (But Not By Much)

On 18 November 2011, Sepp Blatter apologized for remarks he made earlier in the week about racism in football. It was the latest in a series of events over the course of a difficult year for the FIFA president.

No stranger to controversy, Blatter had previously provoked strong reactions for several statements, including his opinion that women's football would be more popular if the players wore tight shorts and his description of Cristiano Ronaldo's contract situation as a form of slavery. During his 2010 campaign for re-election to his FIFA post, he fell under intense scrutiny for allegations of corruption throughout the organization.

Then, in mid-November 2011, he addressed the problem of racism in football by suggesting that the players resolve any on-field incidents with a post-match handshake. The comment immediately drew harsh criticism from a wide variety of sources, most notably from Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, who called the comment "so condescending it's almost laughable." Many people called for Blatter's resignation.

The pressure led to his eventual apology. He did not deliver it in person, however, but instead submitted a written statement that was read by FIFA official Tokyo Sexwale. The statement read: "When you have done something which was not totally correct, I can only say I am sorry for all those people affected by my declarations. It hurts and I am still hurting because I couldn't envisage such a reaction."

Despite continued calls for his resignation, Blatter refused, saying that such a step was "not compatible with [his] fighting spirit." He finally resigned in 2015 after a widespread corruption scandal and is currently serving a six-year FIFA suspension that will last until 2022.

Friday, November 17, 2017

17 November 1993 - A Bulgarian Brace Beats Les Bleus

On 17 November 1993, a very late goal helped Bulgaria upset France in a World Cup qualifier in Paris to earn their place in the tournament and eliminate the hosts.

It was the last match of their qualification group. Sweden had already secured the top spot, leaving only one more ticket to the World Cup up for grabs. France started the day in second, one point ahead of third-place Bulgaria, and needed only a draw to advance.

Even though Bulgaria won the first meeting in Sofia, 2-0, Les Bleus looked like the more likely team to get the needed result, especially once they took a 1-0 lead with a 31st-minute goal from Eric Cantona. The visitors quickly answered with a strike from Emil Kostadinov (pictured) six minutes later, but the match remained level at 1-1 until deep in the second half.

Then, in the last few seconds of the 90th minute, Kostadinov struck again, blasting the ball into the roof of the net from close range. The final score of 1-2 switched the two teams in the table, putting Bulgaria in the World Cup and leaving France out.

The Bulgarians went on to make their best-ever World Cup showing, reaching the semifinals before falling to Italy, then finishing fourth after a loss to Sweden in the third-place match.



Thursday, November 16, 2017

16 November 1974 - All Hail The Ginger Prince

On 16 November 1974, former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes was born in Salford. He went on to make over 700 appearances for the club.

He joined United as a youth player in 1991, then joined the first team for the 1993-94 season, but did not appear in a competitive match until the following season. By September 1995, he had become a regular fixture in the starting XI, helping them to a league and FA Cup Double.

More honors followed, including a staggering nine additional league titles, two more FA Cups, and two Champions League trophies. Along the way, he built a reputation as one of the best midfielders of his generation, earning plaudits from opposing players and coaches such as Barcelona midfielder Xavi, who has called Scholes the best midfielder he's seen in the past 20 years.

Scholes earned his first cap for England in 1997 and made a total of 66 appearances before his international retirement in 2004.

He retired from United in May 2011 and took up a coaching role with the club, but was later convinced to change his mind at the urging of manager Alex Ferguson and returned to the pitch in January 2012. He retired for good in 2013 with a career total of 718 appearances across all competitions.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

15 November 2009 - In His Defense, He Never Actually Said What "It" Was

On 15 November 2009, FIFA issued a two-month ban to Diego Maradona and fined him £15,000 as the result of a press conference he gave the previous month.

After taking over as manager of the Argentinian national team in 2008, the former star midfielder guided them through a difficult qualification campaign for the 2010 World Cup that included a 6-1 defeat to Bolivia as well as losses to Ecuador, Brazil, and Paraguay. With two matches remaining, Argentina were in fifth place and in danger of missing the World Cup.

But they won those last two matches, over Peru and Uruguay, to claim the last guaranteed CONCACAF spot. After the second one, Maradona held a live televised press conference in which he railed against the Argentinian press for the criticism they had delivered during the campaign. The most memorable part of his rant was when he said the journalists "can suck it and keep on sucking it," which prompted FIFA's action.

The ban expired on 15 January 2010. Maradona led Argentina to the World Cup quarterfinals, then fell out with the Argentina Football Federation, who decided later that summer not to renew his contract.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

14 November 1990 - It Didn't Get Much Better From There

On 14 November 1990, San Marino played their first FIFA-sanctioned international, losing 0-4 to Switzerland in a European qualifier.

San Marino's national team dates back to 1986, but they did not join FIFA until four years later, just in time to participate in qualification for Euro 1992. They hosted their first qualifier at the Stadio Olimpico in Serravale against the Swiss, who had already played twice (a 2-0 win over Bulgaria and a 1-1 loss to Scotland).

That additional preparation undoubtedly helped Switzerland, who were up 0-3 at the end of the first half, then scored once more in the 87th minute to cap the 0-4 victory.

San Marino played another seven qualifiers and lost them all, conceding a total of 32 goals and scoring only once (a penalty). In fact, they lost all of their games until a draw with Turkey in March 1993 and did not win a match until beating Liechtenstein in April 2004.


Monday, November 13, 2017

13 November 1982 - Being First Isn't Always Best

On 13 November 1982, Real Madrid won the first Supercopa de España match, beating Real Sociedad 1-0. Unfortunately for them, it was only the first of two legs.

The winners of the league and Copa del Rey had met in previous competitions over the years, most notably the Copa Eva Duarte, which had been played from 1947 to 1953. But that was the last time until the establishment of the Supercopa in 1982.

Real Madrid, the previous season's Copa del Rey winners, hosted the first match against Sociedad, the reigning league champions. With a crowd of 45,000 looking on, Madrid defender John Metgod (pictured at bottom left) scored the match's only goal in the 44th minute to give the hosts the win.

The teams didn't meet for the second leg until 28 December, when Sociedad got three extra-time goals to win the match 4-0, taking the cup 4-1 on aggregate.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

12 November 1939 - A Fitting Mark For The Occasion

On 12 November 1939, forward Josef Bican commemorated his appearance for a third national team by scoring a hat-trick.

Bican, who was born in Vienna in 1913, made his first national team appearance for Austria in 1933. He went on to play for them a total of nineteen times--and scoring a total of nineteen goals--through 1936. The following year, he left Austria to play for Slavia Prague where he spent the majority of his career, scoring 395 goals in 217 matches between 1937 and 1948.

After moving to Prague, he switched his national team allegiance to Czechoslovakia. But after only three games (and eight goals), Czechoslovakia fell to the Nazis, who disbanded the team. They attempted to persuade Bican to turn out for Germany, but he declined, choosing instead to play for the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia which, while Nazi-controlled, remained ethnically Czech.

In his lone appearance for the Protectorate, Bican provided three goals in what turned out to be a 4-4 draw with Germany.

He rejoined the Czechoslovakian national team when they resumed play in 1946, making another eleven appearances for them until retiring from international football in 1949.