Wednesday, November 30, 2011

30 November 1983 - Bilbao Bagged By Barça

On 30 November 1983, Barcelona won their first Supercopa de España, beating Athletic Bilbao 3-2 on aggregate. They have since gone on to become the competition's most successful club.

It was only the second Supercopa, which pits the previous season's Copa del Rey winner against the reigning La Liga title holder. But a similar competition, the Copa Eva Duarte, was played from 1947 to 1953m which Barcelona won three times, the most for any club (no other club won it more than once).

Bilbao had won the league the previous season, including two defeats of Barcelona along the way, while Barcelona had taken the honors in the Copa del Rey over Real Madrid. The two teams met Bilbao's Estadio San Mamés on 26 October for the first leg of the Supercopa, with Barcelona claiming a 1-3 victory.

In the second leg, played before a crowd of 18,000 at the Camp Nou, Bilbao forward Endika (pictured) scored in just the 2nd minute to set the stage for a comeback, but it proved to be the only goal of the match as the two defenses held firm and Barcelona took the silverware with an aggregate score of 3-2.

Barça have since won the Supercopa a total of 10 times, most recently in 2011, to become the competion's most successful club. Bilbao, meanwhile, went on to win a league and Copa del Rey double in 1984, making them that year's automatic Supercopa champions. Unfortunately for them, however, that remains their last major trophy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

29 November 1997 - So Close, And Yet So Far

On 29 November 1997, Iran qualified for their first World Cup in 20 years with a late goal against Australia in a playoff.

It was the second playoff of Iran's qualification campaign as, after finishing second in their Asian Football Confederation group, they lost a playoff after extra time to the other AFC group's second-place finisher, Japan. That loss sent them to the two-legged intercontinental playoff against Oceania champions Australia.

In the first leg, played at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran, Australia took a 19th-minute lead, but surrendered a goal in the 40th minute and the match ended as a 1-1 draw. They met at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the second leg one week later, where the match played out in similar fashion.

Australia went up 2-0 with goals from Harry Kewell (32') and Aurelio Vidmar (48') and appeared to have secured their place in the World Cup. But Iranian midfielder Karim Bagheri pulled one back in the 71st minute, then forward Khodadad Azizi got the equalizer four minutes later, beating goalkeeper Mark Bosnich. The match ended 2-2 and the aggregate score of 3-3 sent Iran to the World Cup on away goals.

There, they secured a dramatic 1-2 win over the United States, but were eliminated in the group stage with losses to Yugoslavia and Germany.

Monday, November 28, 2011

28 November 1885 - The First International International

On 28 November 1885, the United States hosted Canada in the first international match to be played outside the United Kingdom. Canada won, 0-1.

The match, played in New Jersey, predated the formation of both the Canadian and American football federations. Instead, Canada's Western Football Association arranged the contest with the unofficial governing body of US football, the American Football Association. As a result, both countries consider it an unofficial international.

According to the match report in the New York Times, the match was "played according to the American Association rules," but they conferred no advantage to the hosts, who went down 0-1 in the tenth minute. After that goal, a correspondent for the Globe of Toronto said "the balance of the game was simply an exhibition of reckless kicking and rough and tumble play." A fistfight broke out between a couple of players.

Canada's goalkeeper, J. N. McKendrick, was outstanding and repeatedly denied the Americans' attempts on goal as the match ended as a Canadian victory.

The match was such a success that a repeat was scheduled the following year on the same pitch, with the US winning 3-2.

(For more details on the match, visit Richard Whittal's excellent blog, A More Splendid Life.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

27 November 2010 - Another Bad Day To Be A Goalkeeper

On 27 November 2010, the Premier League saw its greatest ever goal tally for a single day as teams found the net a record 36 times.

Sixteen teams played that day and every one of them scored at least one goal. There were a handful of debuts as West Ham's Victor Obinna and Arsenal's Jack Wilshere got their first league goals (in wins over Wigan and Aston Villa, respectively), while Villa midfielder Ciaran Clark netted the first and second goals of his career.

But the day's best performance came from Dimitar Berbatov, who struck five times for Manchester United in a 7-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers. In doing so, the Bulgarian became only the fourth Premier League player to score five in one match, following Jermain Defoe, Alan Shearer, and Andy Cole.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

26 November 1996 - Del Piero Peels Bonano

On 26 November 1996, a late strike from Alessandro Del Piero secured a second Intercontinental Cup for Juventus.

Played at the National Stadium in Tokyo, the competition (known at the time as the Toyota Cup) pitted Juventus, the reigning Champions League winners, against the Copa Libertadores champions, River Plate. Both teams were looking for their second title--Juventus having won it in 1985 and River Plate in 1986.

The 1996 edition was a dynamic end-to-end affair, with the majority of chances coming from Juventus. They would have won easily if not for the performance of River Plate keeper Roberto Bonano, who denied a handful of point-blank shots. But Del Piero eventually tipped the delicate balance in the 81st minute; a Juventus corner kick was met by Zinedine Zidane, who headed it down to Del Piero for the match-winning shot.

It was the last appearance for either team in the competition, which ended in 2004 and was replaced by the FIFA Club World Cup.

Friday, November 25, 2011

25 November 1970 - Shilton Starts His Record Run

On 25 November 1970, England beat East Germany 3-1 in a friendly at Wembley Stadium. It was the debut for goalkeeper Peter Shilton who went on to become England's all-time appearances leader.

The 21-year old Shilton was a star for Leicester City, where he had displaced England World Cup-winning keeper Gordon Banks three years earlier. His performances for Leicester impressed Sir Alf Ramsey, who called him up for the match against East Germany.

He delivered a strong performance, surrendering only a 27th-minute goal to Eberhard Vogel, the 1969 East German Player of the Year. England, meanwhile, got goals from Francis Lee (12'), Martin Peters (21'), and Allan Clarke (63') en route to a comfortable win.

Injuries from a car accident ended Banks' career in 1972, with Shilton battling Liverpool keeper Ray Clemence to become the new England number one. The two split time for the next decade, though Shilton got the lion's share of appearances. By the time he retired in 1990, he had accumulated a total of 125, blowing past the previous record of 108 set by Bobby Moore (Moore's record was since passed by David Beckham with 115).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

24 November 2008 - An Exercise In Delaying The Inevitable

On 24 November 2008, Arsenal made Cesc Fabregas their captain, replacing defender William Gallas.

Gallas, a center back who joined the Gunners from Chelsea in September 2006, had held the captaincy for just over a year, but it was a year shadowed by controversy. In particular, he drew fierce criticism from supporters and commentators alike for losing his composure in a 2-2 draw at Birmingham City in February 2008--the same match in which teammate Eduardo suffered a broken leg.

The situation grew dimmer for the French international in the 2008-09 season as, fourteen games into the season, Arsenal had lost three of their last four to drop into 5th place. After the third loss, a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Manchester City, manager Arsène Wenger announced that the 21-year old Fabregas would permanently replace Gallas.

The switch sparked rumors that Wenger had given the armband to Fabregas in attempt to keep him out of the clutches of Barcelona, who were engaged in a highly public pursuit of the Spanish international midfielder (who began his career in the Barça youth academy). Whatever the reason, it yielded immediate results as Arsenal beat Chelsea 1-2 in Fabregas' first match as captain.

Injuries limited Fabregas' time on the pitch, however, and Arsenal limped to a fourth-place finish in 2009 and a third-place finish in 2010. In the summer of 2011, Fabregas finally made the switch to his Barcelona for a transfer fee of £29 million plus incentives.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

23 November 1981 - Flamengo Strikes Against Cobreloa

On 23 November 1981, Flamengo survived a battle of attrition with Cobreloa to win the Copa Libertadores in a replay that had two goals and five red cards.

The two teams split the first two legs of the final, with each holding serve at home. The second match, won by Cobreloa 1-0 in Santiago, was a heated affair that drew blood from one Flamengo player and saw another get stepped on while lying on the ground.

That set the tone for the replay, contested at the neutral location of Montevideo's Estadio Centenario. There, Flamengo playmaker Zico--who had scored both goals in their 2-1 victory in the first leg--again rose to the occasion with another brace. He scored his first goal from close range in the 18th minute, then doubled the lead with a 20-yard free kick in the 84th minute. In between, three players were ejected, one from Flamengo and two from Cobreloa.

With the title firmly in hand after Zico's second goal, Flamengo manager Paulo César Carpegiani sent in towering striker José Anselmo as an 86th minute substitute. Three minutes later, Anselmo received a red card of his own after punching Cobreloa defender Mario Soto in the face in what appeared to be a retaliation for Soto's violent play in the second leg. The referee ejected Soto in the 90th minute, making a total of five expulsions on the day.

The win qualified Flamengo for the 1981 Intercontinental Cup against European Cup champions Liverpool, with the Brazilians emerging as 0-3 victors.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

22 November 2009 - That Must've Been One Heck Of A Half-Time Talk

On 22 November 2009, Tottenham Hotspur recorded their record Premier League victory, beating Wigan 9-1 with five goals from striker Jermain Defoe.

Nobody would have predicted that score at half time. After going up 1-0 with a 9th-minute header from Peter Crouch, Spurs seemed to lose focus and created few other chances in the first half. As manager Harry Redknapp said later, "they needed reminding at the break."

Whatever he said to remind them must have worked, as the goals began to flow soon after the restart. Defoe netted his first of the day in the 51st minute, followed by his second just three minutes later, and his third just four minutes after that. Then, after a goal from Aaron Lennon (64'), Defoe added two more (69', 87'). Spurs finished the scoring with late goals from David Bentley (88') and Niko Kranjčar (94'). Meanwhile, Wigan's lone goal came from Paul Scharner in the 57th minute.

It was Tottenham's biggest margin of victory in a top-flight match and pushed them back into fourth place, behind Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal, which is how the final table appeared. Defoe's haul made him only the third player to score five in a Premier League match (after Alan Shearer and Andy Cole).

Monday, November 21, 2011

21 November 1990 - Reunited And It Feels So Good

On 21 November 1990, German football reunified when the former East German territories joined the DFB as a new regional association.

Founded in 1900, the Deutscher Fußball-Bund was disbanded after World War II, but reformed as Western Germany's governing body in 1950. Meanwhile, Eastern Germany formed their own association, the Deutscher Fußball-Verband der DDR (DFV). The two nations maintained two separate leagues and competed independently at the international level, with West Germany winning the 1954, 1974, and 1990 World Cups and East Germany taking the gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics.

The two German states reunited on 3 October 1990. On 20 November, the DFV formally disbanded, with the DFB assuming control of all German football. The DFB held a meeting the following day and agreed to accept the former DFV territories as a new regional association--the Northeast German Football Association. Clubs from the former East Germany joined the Bundesliga system, with two of them--Hansa Rostock and Dynamo Dresden--joining the top flight for the 1991-92 season.

Since the merger, however, only teams from the former West Germany have won the Bundesliga or the German Cup.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

20 November 1915 - Celtic's Got Some Symmetry

On 20 November 1915, a 2-0 win over Kilmarnock started an unbeaten run for Celtic that lasted a British record 62 matches.

Celtic, who had won the two previous league titles in 1914 and 1915, had gotten the new season of to a great start, jumping straight to the top of the table on the first day with a 3-1 victory over Motherwell. By mid-November, they were even on points at the top with Hearts and Rangers, but had lost three of the last four matches, with the most recent stumble coming against Hearts on 13 November.

One week later, they hosted Kilmarnock and won 2-0, thanks to goals from left back Joseph Dodds and center forward James McColl. They then proceeded to go unbeaten for the rest of the season, winning 23 and drawing three, to claim their third consecutive league title. They almost made it through the next season unbeaten as well, but finally fell to Kilmarnock at home, 0-2, on the penultimate day (though they still finished on top of the table for their fourth consecutive league title).

The 62-match unbeaten run (with 49 wins and only 13 draws) remains a British record.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

19 November 1967 - O'Connor's Quick 1-2-3

On 19 November 1967, 19-year old Shelbourne forward Jimmy O'Connor scored a hat-trick against Bohemians in the record time of 2 minutes and 13 seconds.

An inside right, O'Connor was in his third year with the Dublin club, having joined them for the 1965-66 season. And before he left in 1972, he scored a total of 26 goals in 109 league appearances, but none more memorable than the three he netted against Bohemians.

His first goal came in the 54th minute, as a seven-player build-up ended with O'Connor firing a right-footed shot past the opposing goalkeeper from a tight angle. One minute and 25 seconds later, O'Connor latched on to a cross from Mick Conroy and chipped the keeper for his second goal of the day. Then, only 49 seconds after that, he headed the ball into the net from a cross to complete his rapid-fire hat-trick. Shelbourne won the match, 3-2.

For a time, many believed O'Connor's hat-trick was a world record, but evidence later surfaced of an even faster one--Tommy Ross had scored three goals in a total of 90 seconds for Scottish club Ross County against Nairn County in 1964. But O'Connor's performance remains an Irish record and a tremendous accomplishment.

Friday, November 18, 2011

18 November 1934 - This Is Why We Now Have Penalty Shootouts

On 18 November 1934, Nacional and Peñarol finally decided the Uruguayan Championship for the previous season, six months after their first playoff.

The teams had finished the 1933 season tied for first in the table, so they met for a playoff on 27 May 1934 at the Estadio Centenario. In the 70th minute, with the match scoreless, a shot taken by a Peñarol player went out of bounds, but hit a medicine cabinet and rebounded back onto the pitch. The referee, Telésforo Rodríguez, failed to stop play and Nacional took possession, driving up the field and getting a goal from Héctor Castro. Peñarol immediately protested the goal and assaulted Rodríguez, resulting in his departure from the game due to injury and the ejection of three Peñarol players. The assistant referee then halted the match due to the lack of light.

Approximately a month later, the league officially disallowed Castro's goal and instructed the two teams to play the last 20 minutes of the match behind closed doors on 25 August. But despite two extra-time periods, the match finished as a scoreless draw.

They met for a second playoff on 2 September, but again neither team managed to score. That forced a third playoff, played on 18 November, when they finally managed to find the net. Peñarol were leading 1-0 at the break after a goal from Braulio Castro (42'), but Héctor Castro's second-half hat-trick (53', 61', 77') proved decisive and the match finished as a 2-3 Nacional victory (Peñarol's other goal came from Juan Pedro Arremón in the 58th minute).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

17 November 1904 - Canada Takes The Gold. Kind Of.

On 17 November 1904, Canada won the Olympic gold medal in football. Except there wasn't really a gold medal. And it wasn't really Canada.

The 1904 Olympiad in Saint Louis, Missouri--held to coincide with the St. Louis World's Fair--was the second one to include football, but even then, it wasn't officially a medal sport. And the competing teams weren't there as national teams, but were instead amateur club sides. Only three teams participated--Christian Brothers College and St. Rose Parish, both from local St. Louis amateur leagues, and Galt FC, from the Western Football Association of Ontario. They played a round-robin, with the winner of the tournament being the team with the best record.

Galt were an experienced side, having been founded in either 1881 or 1882 (the records aren't precise). They were also three-time winners of the Ontario Cup from 1901 to 1903. Their quality was too great for the American sides; in the first match, on 16 November, Galt rolled over Christian Brothers, 7-0, with a hat-trick from Alexander Hall, a brace from Gordon McDonald, and a goal each from Frederick Steep and Thomas Taylor. St. Rose fared slightly better, losing 4-0 in the second match on 17 November (Taylor scored twice, while the other two scores came from Albert Hendersen and William Twaits).

That was enough to declare Galt the champions, even though Christian Brothers and St. Rose had yet to play against each other (which they did three times, after two scoreless draws). The St. Louis World's Fair Department of Physical Culture awarded gold medals--but not official Olympic gold medals--to the Galt players.

The International Olympic Committee later upgraded the 1904 tournament to official status and retroactively awarded the gold medal to Canada.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

16 November 2005 - That's What He Gets For Trying The Stutter-Step

On 16 November 2005, Australia advanced to the World Cup with a playoff win over Uruguay in a penalty shootout.

FIFA required the two-legged playoff to give a World Cup spot to the winner of the Oceania qualification tournament, Australia, or the fifth-place team from South America, Uruguay. The teams met in Montevideo on 12 November for the first leg, which the hosts won 1-0 with a 37th-minute goal from left back Darío Rodríguez. The rematch in Sydney four days later was oddly similar, as Socceroo midfielder Mark Bresciano found the back of the net in the 35th minute. It was the only goal of the match through regulation and extra time, so the 1-1 aggregate score set up the penalty shootout.

Australia were up 1-0 when Rodríguez attempted Uruguay's first kick. He tried a stutter-step approach to draw Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer off his line, but the keeper held firm, then guessed correctly and dove to his left to block the shot.

After two more shots each, Australia were leading 3-2, but captain Mark Viduka sent his attempt wide. Striker Marcelo Zalayeta then had a chance to draw Uruguay level, but again Schwarzer guessed correctly and palmed the ball away.

Striker John Aloisi then stepped up to the spot, knowing that a successful shot would send Australia to Germany. Uruguay keeper Fabián Carini dove to the correct side, but could not get a hand on the ball, as Aloisi buried it in the top corner.

It was Australia's second trip to the World Cup, and their first since 1974, but they made it count by advancing to the Round of 16 before their 1-0 elimination at the hands of eventual champions Italy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

15 November 1913 - Chelsea Gets Some International Flavor

On 15 November 1913, Denmark's Nils Middelboe became the first non-British player to make an appearance for Chelsea.

It wasn't the first "first" for Middelboe, who scored Denmark's first-ever goal in the opening match of the 1908 Summer Olympics. He helped Denmark to the silver medal that year, then again in 1912. By the latter, he had become the captain of the national team.

In 1913, he moved to Chelsea from Kjøbenhavns Boldklub, where he had spent the previous ten years. Reportedly, he originally intended to sign with Newcastle, but switched to Chelsea at the last minute. Upon arriving at Stamford Bridge, he received the captain's armband and led the team to a 2-1 victory over Derby County in his first match.

While at Chelsea, he maintained his amateur status, keeping another job at a London bank. In order to accommodate his other career, Chelsea did not require him to travel for away matches.

Middelboe remained with Chelsea for ten years (but only five seasons, thanks to the suspension of league play for World War I) and made a total of 46 appearances in all competitions. Afterward, he played for a couple of amateur sides, then became a director of Clapham Orient in 1929. In 1936, he returned to Denmark as coach of Kjøbenhavns Boldklub.

Monday, November 14, 2011

14 November 2009 - Martins Flips The Switch For Nigeria

On 14 November 2009, an 81st-minute goal from Obafemi Martins sent Nigeria to the 2010 World Cup.

It was the last day of qualification in Africa's Group B, which opened with Nigeria trailing Tunisia by two points for the group's sole spot in the tournament. Tunisia were away at Mozambique, while Nigeria traveled to Kenya.

The half-time scores favored Tunisia, who were holding Mozambique to a scoreless draw while Nigeria had fallen behind in their match, 1-0. Quick second-half goals from Martins (60') and his teammate Yakubu Ayegbeni (64'), put the Super Eagles in the driver's seat, but Kenyan striker Allan Wanga brought the hosts level in the 77th minute, which shifted the advantage back to Tunisia.

But Martins' second strike of the day again switched the positions at the top of the Group B table, a result secured with an 83rd-minute goal from Mozambique striker Dário Monteiro. With Nigeria's 2-3 victory and Tunisia's 1-0 loss, the Super Eagles finished one point ahead in the standings and advanced to the World Cup.

Unfortunately, their good fortune ended there and they were eliminated in the tournament's first round with losses to Argentina (1-0) and Greece (2-1) and a 2-2 draw with South Korea.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

13 November 2010 - The Other Poppy Controversy

In the wake of this past week's debate over whether FIFA would allow England to wear poppies on their shirts for their friendly against Spain, we look back at another poppy-related controversy from last year.

On 13 November 2010, Airdrie United printed a special prematch program in honor of Remembrance Day. But made a pretty embarrassing mistake.

The club sold the program before a Scottish Division Two match against Livingston. As a nod to match sponsors Network Rail, Airdrie selected a cover photo of soldiers on a train, accompanied by the words "Lest We Forget" and the logo of veterans' charity PoppyScotland, which included the legend "Supporting Our Heroes."

Unfortunately for Airdrie, the soldiers in the photo weren't who the club thought they were. Instead, the picture showed a group of Nazi soldiers. After a supporter brought that fact to the club's attention, chairman Jim Ballantyne quickly apologized for the error. Club secretary Ann Marie Ballantyne added "It certainly was not deliberate. We were told the soldiers were Australian." She further explained that they had received the photo from PoppyScotland, but the charity denied the claim, calling the program gaffe "unfortunate."

It wasn't the day's only disappointment for Airdrie, as Network Rail--whose sponsorship prompted the use of the photo--withdrew prior to the match. And Airdrie lost, 0-1.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

12 November 1944 - Gunnar Shoots. And Scores. Seven Times.

On 12 November 1944, striker Gunnar Nordahl matched a Swedish league record by scoring seven goals in one match. And nobody else has done it since.

From the beginning of his professional career, Nordahl was a prolific scorer, with 124 goals in 118 league appearances for with Hörnefors IF (1937-40) and Degerfors IF (1940-44). In 1944, he moved to IFK Norrköping where he proceeded to win four consecutive Allsvenskan titles. En route to the first one, he delivered his record-matching performance against Landskrona BoIS.

The day's first score fell to Eric Holmqvist, who put Norrköping up 1-0 in the 5th minute. Five minutes later, Nordahl started his run, scoring seven straight goals in the 10th, 21st, 24th, 27th, 41st, 46th, and 79th minutes. His brother Knut Nordahl added one in the 89th minute before Landskrona's Gunnar Anderberg took meager consolation with a goal in the 90th minute.

Nordahl's haul matched that of Arne Hjertsson, who had just set the mark in June of the previous year in a match for Malmö FF against Halmstads BK. Since Nordahl, however, nobody else has managed to repeat the feat.

Nordahl eventually moved to AC Milan in 1949 and scored 210 goals from the Rossoneri in 257 league appearances. He scored an additional 15 goals for Roma (1956-58) and is still Serie A's second-top goalscorer of all time, behind Silvio Piola.

Friday, November 11, 2011

11 November 2007 - Zenit Live Up To Their Name

On 11 November 2007, Zenit St. Petersburg won their first Russian Premier League title with a win over Saturn Moscow Oblast on the last matchday of the season.

Founded in 1925, Zenit had won only one other league title in their history--the 1984 Soviet Top League. After the advent of the Russian Premier League in 1992, they were relegated after that first season, then returned to the top flight in 1996. A handful of top-10 finishes followed, as well as one season in which they finished third (2001) and one in second (2003).

The 2007 season was their first full one under new manager Dick Advocaat, who had taken over in July 2006. Despite losing both of their league meetings against Spartak Moscow, Zenit entered the last matchday two points clear of their rivals from the capital, knowing that a win would secure the title. But to get it, they needed an away victory over Saturn, with whom they had drawn 1-1 at home in the first week of the season.

Playing before a crowd of 16,500, Zenit looked to rely on their top goalscorers, forwards Andrey Arshavin and Pavel Pogrebnyak, with respective league totals that season of 10 and 11 goals, respectively. But they received a spark from a less likely source, as a 14th-minute shot from Zenit midfielder Radek Šírl deflected past Saturn goalkeeper Antonin Kinsky. It was the only goal of the match.

The win made Zenit the first team outside of Moscow to win the title since 1995. It also launched them into European competition that ended with them lifting both the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup in 2008.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

10 November 2009 - The Death Of Robert Enke

On 10 November 2009, after years of battling with depression, German goalkeeper Robert Enke committed suicide. He was 32 years old.

Enke started his professional career in 1995 with his hometown club, Carl Zeiss Jena, and later spent time with Borussia Mönchengladbach (1996-99), Benfica (1999-2002), and Barcelona (2002-04, including loan spells with Fenerbahçe and Tenerife), before joining Hannover 96 in 2004.

He made his first appearance for the German national team in 1997, but spent most of his international career behind Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehmann. When Lehmann retired in 2008, Enke became Germany's starting keeper, but was sidelined by injuries, including a bacterial infection that forced him to miss matches in September and October 2009. Nevertheless, before his death that November, he was the leading candidate to start for Germany in the 2010 World Cup.

Enke killed himself by standing in front of a train on a ground level crossing. He left a note, though the contents have never been disclosed publicly. Afterward, it was revealed that he had suffered from depression for many years, prompted in part by the death of his 2-year old daughter in 2006. He was survived by his wife Teresa and adopted daughter Leila.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

9 November 1996 - Just When You Think It Can't Get Any Worse, It Does

On 9 November 1996, Liechtenstein hosted Macedonia in a World Cup qualifier that ended up setting a record for both teams.

It was the fourth match of the campaign for both of them, including a previous meeting that resulted in a 3-0 win for Macedonia in Skopje. But a 1-1 draw with Iceland and a 3-0 loss to Ireland left Macedonia struggling for points, while Liechtenstein had lost their other two matches to Ireland (0-5) and Lithuania (2-1).

Playing before a crowd of 2,700 at the Sportpark Eschen-Mauren, it took only eight minutes for Macedonia to open the scoring with a goal from forward Dejvi Glavevski (pictured). He doubled the lead four minutes later and by the break, the visitors were up by six. They stretched the lead to nine (including a third goal from Glavevski) before Liechtenstein finally got a goal from midfielder Franz Schädler in the 78th minute, then Macedonia added two more in the 87th and 90th minutes. The final scoreline of 1-11 remains Macedonia's record victory and Liechtenstein's record defeat.

Liechtenstein went on to lose all 10 of their qualification matches, finishing at the bottom of the group with no points and a goal differential of -49. Macedonia fared slightly better, with a record of four wins, one draw, and five losses, but also failed to qualify for the World Cup.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

8 November 2007 - Ruud Rules The Galaxy

On 8 November 2007, Ruud Gullit took over as head coach of the LA Galaxy, becoming the highest-paid manager in MLS history. But his tenure lasted just over nine months.

Gullit, the 1987 Ballon d'Or winner who starred as a player for PSV Eindhoven and AC Milan, had a checkered past as a manager, with short spells at Chelsea (1996-98), Newcastle (1998-99), and Feyenoord (2004-05) all ending in disappointment. He had been out of football for two years before joining the Galaxy, noting in his initial press conference that "Just a week ago I was on holiday in the Dominican Republic when I was asked if I would like this job, so it's happened very quickly." Nevertheless, LA signed him to a 3-year contract worth $2 million per year, the highest salary of any MLS manager up to that point.

It was later revealed that the decision to hire Gullit originated from the camp of newly-signed David Beckham, via his personal manager Terry Byrne and his management company, 19 Entertainment, bypassing the club's general manager, Alexi Lalas.

It did not take long for things to start falling apart. In January 2008, on Gullit's personal recommendation, the Galaxy signed Newcastle left back Celestine Babayaro to a 3-year deal. But the club waived him two months later after the Nigerian international proved unable or unwilling to adapt to his new surroundings. He had made only one appearance for the Galaxy, a preseason friendly against FC Seoul in which he conceded a penalty and received a yellow card in only 45 minutes of playing time. Gullit's relationship with other players--including Abel Xavier, Peter Vagenas, and star Landon Donovan--soured and the club's performances began to suffer as well. They endured a seven-match winless streak that culminated with Gullit's resignation on 11 August 2008.

In January 2011, Gullit returned to management, signing a 1.5-year contract with Russian Premier League club Terek Grozny, but was sacked just six months later after winning only three matches.

Monday, November 7, 2011

7 November 2009 - The FAI Might Have Had An Ulterior Motive Here

On 7 November 2009, the Football Association of Ireland expelled Derry City from the league. But their ban lasted less than a week.

The FAI action came one day after the club's last match of the season, a 2-1 win over Dundalk that secured fourth place in the Premier Division table, but it had nothing to do with Derry's performance on the pitch. Instead, the FAI had found the club guilty of breaking the league's financial rules by agreeing to illegal "secondary contracts" with several players.

While the club argued that the contracts merely replaced earlier, temporary agreements, the FAI discovered that Derry's secondary contracts avoided the league's wage restrictions and paid 22 players a total amount of €337,000 over the legal limits.In announcing the club's expulsion, FAI Chief Executive John Delaney said "[t]hat is why Derry City’s contract to play in the league has been terminated. Because [what they did is] unfair to the Brays and Galways and Droghedas who have gone about their business properly."

The ban also meant that Derry lost their claim to the €60,000 FAI bounty they had won with their fourth-place finish. When asked about it, Delaney stated "They can forget about it. That’s not on, absolutely not on."

Nevertheless, despite the speed and severity of the FAI's action, they five days later invited Derry City to reapply to the League of Ireland, albeit one division lower. They won the First Division the following season and returned to the Premier Division in 2011, where they qualified for European competition with a third-place finish.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

6 November 1966 - The Oranje's First Red

On 6 November 1966, Johan Cruyff earned one of his earliest distinctions, becoming the first player to be sent off in a match for the Dutch national team.

It was only the second national team appearance for Cruyff, who was then just 19 years old and in his third season with Ajax. He had scored in his Netherlands debut, a 2-2 draw with Hungary a month earlier in a European Championship qualifier.

His follow-up was a friendly against Czechoslovakia, played before a crowd of 52,000 at the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam. The Czechs struck first, going up 0-1 with a 27th-minute goal from midfielder Ján Geleta. Dutch forward Sjaak Swart equalized for the hosts in the 51st minute, but they remained level for only three minutes, as midfielder Ivan Hrdlička restored the visitors' lead in the 54th minute.

In the 76th minute, with the Netherlands struggling to maintain possession, Cruyff committed a foul that drew the historic ejection from referee Rudi Glöckner. Czechoslovakia held on to win 1-2, while Cruyff's punishment continued far beyond the next match--the KNVB suspended him from international play for almost a year, so that he did not receive his next cap until 13 September 1967.

It was a costly suspension. Despite a storied career that included three European Footballer of the Year Awards (1971, 1973, 1974) he made only 48 national team appearances. But he still managed to score 33 goals for the Netherlands, a tally that ties him for fifth on their current all-time list.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

5 November 2001 - Manager Of The Year Would've Made Sense, But Personality?

On 5 November 2001, new England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson was named Swedish football's Personality of the Year, beating joint Swedish national team managers Tommy Söderberg and Lars Lagerbäck.

The award was an acknowledgement of Eriksson's job improving the fortunes of England's World Cup qualification campaign. Prior to his appointment in January 2001, the Three Lions had gotten off to a rough start with a loss to Germany and a scoreless draw with Finland. Under Eriksson, England rattled off five straight wins, including a dominating 5-1 win over Germany in Munich.

A 1-1 home draw with Greece secured their qualification on 6 October, thanks to a 93rd-minute equalizer from David Beckham. Eriksson duly thanked Beckham when accepting the Personality of the Year award at the Swedish Football Gala in Stockholm and also thanked Tord Grip, his assistant at Lazio and England.

After quarterfinal exits in the 2002 World Cup, Euro 2004, and the 2006 World Cup, the FA replaced Ericsson with his assistant, Steve McClaren. Eriksson moved on to manage Manchester City (2007-08), Mexico (2008-09), Côte d'Ivoire (2010), and Leicester City (2010-11).

Friday, November 4, 2011

4 November 1933 - Don't These Things Usually Go In The Other Direction?

On 4 November 1933, winger Alf Day earned his first (and last) cap for Wales, despite never having made a league appearance for his club.

Born in the Welsh town of Ebbw Vale in 1907, Day began his career with non-league sides Cheshunt and Northfleet United before moving to Tottenham in 1931. By 1933, he was toiling in the Spurs reserves when the club's secretary, Arthur Turner, received a call from Ted Robbins, his counterpart at the Football Association of Wales. Robbins asked Turner if he could recommend anyone to help fill out a depleted Welsh side for an upcoming match against Northern Ireland.

Turner recommended Day despite the fact that the 26-year old had yet to break into the Spurs first team. His word was good enough for Robbins, though, and he called Day up as a starter for the match. It ended as a 1-1 draw.

Day remained with Spurs until 1936, then spent time with Millwall, Southampton, Tranmere Rovers, and Swindon Town before World War II interrupted his career in 1940. He continued to play unofficially for Swindon during the war, but retired before league play resumed.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

3 November 2001 - Ford Gets Good Mileage

On 3 November 2001, Rochdale midfielder Tony Ford played his 931st Football League match, a record for an outfield player.

The first step of that lengthy journey came in 1975, when, at 16 years old, Ford made his first-team debut with Third Division Grimsby Town. He stayed there until 1986, making a total of 355 league appearances. He then spent time with Sunderland (1986), Stoke City (1986-89), and West Brom (1989-1991) before returning to Grimsby for three more seasons (including a short loan spell with Bradford City).

In 1994, he moved to Scunthorpe, but was released in the summer of 1996. At the time, he had made 739 league appearances and it appeared that would be the end of his run. He moved to non-league side Barrow, but returned to the Football League later that year when new Mansfield Town boss Steve Parkin made him an assistant coach. He took advantage of the opportunity by making another 103 league appearances.

In 1999, Parkin moved to Rochdale and brought Ford along with him, continuing in his role as assistant coach. He made another 89 league appearances there, with the last coming in a 2-0 win over Torquay. He was 42. Three days later, he moved again with Parkin, who had taken over as manager of Barnsley. But from that point on, Ford limited his own role to coaching and retired from playing.

His total of 931 league appearances remains a Football League record for an outfield player, second only to goalkeeper Peter Shilton's all-time record of 1,005.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

2 November 1929 - The Blue Side Of Busby

On 2 November 1929, 20-year old inside left forward Matt Busby made his professional debut. For Manchester City.

Despite being best known as the manager who raised Manchester United to glorious heights, including five First Division titles and the European Cup, Busby began his career on the blue side of town, signing with City in February 1928 at the age of 17. His first contract was worth £5 per week and included a clause that allowed him to leave after a year if he chose to rejoin his mother, who had emigrated to the United States.

But despite not getting a first-team appearance in that first year, he decided to stick it out with City and eventually got his debut at home against Middlesbrough. City won 3-1.

Busby stayed with City for eight seasons, making a total of 229 appearances and winning the 1934 FA Cup. In 1936, he moved to Liverpool where he played for four more seasons before World War II interrupted league play in 1939.

During the war, Busby got his first taste of management, taking charge of an Army side. When the war ended, he was preparing to return to Liverpool in a coaching role, but the move was interrupted by Manchester United, who offered him the job as manager. He accepted and proceeded to establish United as one of Europe's dominant sides.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

1 November 1988 - France's Favorite Son Returns (Briefly)

On 1 November 1988, former French captain and three-time Ballon d'Or winner Michel Platini returned to the national team, this time as manager.

Platini, who won three consecutive Ballons d'Or with Juventus in 1984, 1985, and 1986, made 72 appearances for Les Bleus from 1976 to 1987, skippering them to the 1984 European Championship and a third-place finish in the 1986 World Cup under manager Henri Michel (although Platini did not play in the latter match).

After Platini's international retirement, France failed to qualify for the 1988 European Championship, then suffered an embarrassing 1-1 draw with Cyprus on 22 October in the second match of their qualification campaign for the 1990 World Cup. France responded by sacking manager Henri Michel and bringing Platini in as his replacement. He was unable to correct the course, however, starting his tenure with losses to Yugoslavia and Scotland.

France did not qualify for the World Cup, but appeared to be resurgent in their efforts to reach the 1992 European Championship, topping their qualification group with eight wins in eight matches. Once in the tournament, however, they again struggled, drawing twice and losing once as they exited in the first round. Platini stepped down soon afterward and moved into administration. He is currently the president of UEFA and has been tapped as the successor to FIFA President Sepp Blatter.