Posts Tagged ‘ European Cup ’

Red or Dead

red-or-dead

Having enjoyed the Damned United so much, this book was on my to read list, and the focus of the Howler Book Club prompted me to pick up a copy.

As a fan of the game, I knew the name of Shankly and of the great Liverpool teams of the 70s adn 80s but not too much more than that. The book educated me on Liverpool in the 1960s, and how Shankly took over a team in the Second Division and built the foundation for the all-conquering side of Paisley. His tenets of hard work, pass and move and team spirit, as well as an intense connection with the fans from both himself and the players were strong elements of the book.

Red or Dead is quite long, coming in at over 700 pages. I got the book in hardcover and it’s pretty hefty. A relatively quick read, the narrator moves the reader through season after season, with short chapters covering pockets of time before the narrator moves on. The style is striking with the repetition of elements (line ups, household chores, pre-season, etc) used through the book. The choice of first person and these repetitive passages are interesting and consume the reader as Liverpool consumes the character of Shankly.

The manager works and works and works and then abruptly leaves. Not knowing the story, I was shocked as Shankly left the club on the verge of immortality. I actually enjoyed the post-Liverpool section more. I felt the narrator was more insightful, more reflective, more philosophical than the manager who was grinding every day, thinking about the next opponent, the next trophy. The continued involvement in the game and the community and the relationships with other clubs was another striking feature of the man’s legacy.

Not sure how to recommend this. If you’re a Liverpool fan, definitely read it. If you’re a soccer nerd, definitely read it. If you neither of those, you might enjoy another book better.

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Juventus: A History in Black and White

juve book

Juventus: A History in Black and White

Juventus is one of the most storied clubs in Italy and author Adam Digby does a wonderful job tracing the history of the club.

Starting with the early days of Italian football as it moved from regional leagues to a unified national league to the first period of success for Juvenuts during the 30’s, Digby recounts how the club rose again due to the emergence of the devastating strike force of Charles, Sivori and Boniperti and soared still further under the management of Trapattoni in the 70’s and 80’s. The 90’s saw another golden period which came to a crushing end due to Calciopoli before the Old Lady returned to the top with a new generation of players and the intensity of Conte.

Digby highlights the key protagonists in the club’s history, illustrating how their arrival, performance and demeanor helped shape the club. Things didn’t always go well for the club on the field or in the boardroom and Digby addresses these times. Whenever La Madama struggled a new hero would arise to help lead the team to success and maintain the Juventus spirit.

Digby is a lifelong Juventino and his passion comes through int he book, so it is not an absolutely objective account, but I consider it a strength and the book is a great introduction to the club and I recommend it if you want to learn about one of greats of world football and some critical moments in Italian football history.

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For a full list of my book reviews, please visit the Recommended Reading page. And reach out to me with your suggestions as well.

MatchDay Memory: Luis Suarez Then and Now Part I (Luis Suarez Miramontes)

Imagine a time in the distant future when a player named Luis Enrique joins FC Barcelona or a new Hughes is signed by Manchester United.  That player will inevitably be compared to their predecessor, with the shadow of former glory always hovering around the player.  For Luis Alberto Suárez Díaz, who joined FC Barcelona in the summer of 2014, not only was he not the first Luis Suarez to have played for the Blaugrana, but he will probably not be as successful in terms of trophies as his predecessor.  On top of this, he also comes with his own unique baggage.

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I had heard of FCB legends like Samitier and Kubala and Cruyff and Maradona but knew almost nothing about the original Luis Suarez.  In researching Luis Suarez Miramontes (referred to as Lusito), I was stunned to learn of his accomplishments.  He started at Deportivo La Coruna before moving to FC Barcelona in 1955.  The squad had all the elements to prosper, with talented players like Kubala, Kocsis, Czibor, Evaristo, and Ramallets, and the arrival of manager Helenio Herrera created a cycle of success for the Blaugrana.  While the legendary Real Madrid of the 1950’s was winning five European Cups in a row, FC Barcelona found domestic success winning the 1957 Copa del Rey (then called the Generalissimo Cup) and back to back league titles in 1959 (Domestic Double) and 1960.  At the same time, the club found success on the continent, winning the Fairs Cup in 1958 and 1960.  Victory in the league allowed for entry into the European Cup, and in the 1960 edition, Barca lost to the mighty Real Madrid in the Semis.  But the Blaugrana eliminated their eternal rival in the first round of the 1961 competition before losing to Benfica in the Final.

Luisito-fcb

After the disappointment of the European Cup Final, Lusito was sold for a record transfer fee at the time to Inter, where he was reunited with Herrera and helped to create La Grande Inter.  At the new club, Il Mago changed Suarez’s role from goal scoring forward to deep-lying midfielder, and the Nerazzurri emerged from the shadow of their city rivals, winning three league titles, two European Cups and two Intercontinental Cups in an astonishing period from 1962-1966.  Suarez left Inter in 1970 and finished his career at Sampdoria, retiring in 1973.

Luis_Suarez_Miramontes_inter

On the International front, Suarez appeared for Spain at the 1962 and 1966 World Cups, but La Roja did not progress out of the group in either competition. However La Selección won the 1964 European Championship on home soil, with Luisito a key component.  After defeating Hungary in the Semis, Spain faced off against the Soviet Union in the Final.  Kishen Patel summarized Lusito’s impact on the match:

Spain faced previous winners USSR in the final and once again Luis Suarez didn’t disappoint with his performance. A wise head among young players, Suarez was the eldest member of the Spanish squad. A sublime pass from Luisito found Jose Maria Pereda whose skillful finish left the “Black Spider” Yashin helpless. Spain were in the lead in the 6th minute in front of 100,000 spectators at the Bernabeu with General Francisco Franco among them. However, the Russian side equalised within two minutes of conceding and it took some heroics from Spanish goalkeeper Jose Angel Iribar to keep the scores level. Luis Suarez’s calming presence made the difference when he spread the play to the right and the ball was crossed in from there to find Marcelino Martinez who beat Yashin for the second time in the game with a headed effort. Spain clinched their first European Nation’s Cup on their home soil. Luis Suarez Miramontes’ ability to dictate play and orchestrate attacks highlighted him as the mastermind behind Spain’s victory.

Luisito-spain

In addition to his medals for club and country, Suarez won the 1960 Ballon d’Or, putting him in the pantheon of the great players in the 50’s and 60’s.  Gemma Simolo wrote for Inside Spanish Football that Suárez had exquisite technique, possessed extraordinary footwork, unrivalled when it came to his inch-perfect passing, thrived with creativity, and scored impressive goals.

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A profile of the current Luis Suarez and a comparison of the two players will follow later this week.

MatchDay Memory–1974: Part 3 (1973/74 European Cup)

Forty years ago I came into the world and while I may not have made an impact on the game of soccer, it has surely made an impact on me.  Playing the game from a very early age, I didn’t start following the game until my early 20’s.  Starting with Manchester United, I eventually started reading everything I could get my hands on and watching whatever game was on, learning about the rich and complex history of the game.  My MatchDay Memory posts over the next few weeks will focus on events in world soccer during the year of my birth, 1974.  It is in no way a comprehensive summation but rather an examination of teams and incidents that I was drawn to in my research.

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Bayern Munich were on the rise in the late 60’s, winning their first German title in 1969 with a group of players that would find club and international success.  1974 brought Bayern their first European Cup.  In reviewing results I was shocked to see that Die Roten were almost knocked out at the first hurdle.  A relatively straightforward victory against Atvidaberg in Munich was quickly overturned back in Sweden with the Swedish club scoring two goals in the opening 15 minutes to level matters.  A third goal with 20 minutes remaining had the Germans crashing out before Hoeness pulled one back to force penalties, which the Bavarians won.  A quick look at aggregate scores through the rounds revealed tons of goals scored and conceded: 4-4, 7-6, 5-3, 4-1.

In the final Bayern met Atletico Madrid.  The Red and Whites were in the middle of one of their most successful periods, winning La Liga in 1970 and 1973 and securing the Copa del Rey in 1972.  No goals in the 90 minutes of regular time led to extra time, where Los Colchoneros scored with only minutes remaining.  Schwarzenbeck equalized at the death to force a replay, in which the Germans defeated the Spanish club 4-0. Watching the extended highlights, Atleti had several chances in the first half but couldn’t convert. Bayern, up 1-0 at the half, scored two goals early in the second half and cruised from there.  Reading about the games, I noticed that Bayern’s players played the entire final with one sub and the same starting 11 played the entire replay two days later.  What fitness.  The core group of German players, already winners of the 1972 European Championships, would go on to win the 1974 World Cup later that summer and two more European Cups in succession.  The club became the dominant team in Germany.
Atleti’s glory would be on the wane with only one league title occasional Copa wins until the double of 1995/96.

Franz Beckenbauer

During my research I came across several interesting names of clubs competing in the 73/74 edition of the European Cup.

In college I played for the Great Lakes Christian College Crusaders and during the 73/74 competition a team called Crusaders FC participated.  Champions of Northern Ireland, the team qualified for the European Cup and were promptly smashed 12-0 on aggregate by Dinamo Bucharest.  The 11-0 second leg scoreline was something I was very familiar with during my time at the school, both as a player and coach.

CSKA September Flag survived the first round and then took out three time defending champion Ajax before falling to Bayern Munich in the quarters.  A truly unique name, the evolution of the name of this Bulgarian club is quite complicated.  Summing up the post on Wikipedia, two clubs in Sofia, Athletic Sofia and Slava, merged in October 1923 to form AS-23.  From there a series of further mergers and name changes led to the formation of CSKA September Flag, which was the club’s name from 1968 to 1985.  Currently known as CSKA Sofia, this club would later produce Hristo Stoichkov and Dimitar Berbatov.

Skimming the results, the name TPS jumped out at me, of course referencing the TPS Reports from Office Space.  Turns out TPS is a Finnish club and the letters are short for Turun Palloseura.  During the early 70’s, the club won three league titles in five years, with the last coming in 1975.  Tepsi has not won a title since.

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I chose 1974 simply because it was the year I was born, yet in reviewing the events of those 12 months it was interesting to see how many precursors and foundations and glimpses into the future were present.  The eternal battle between disciplined defenses against attack minded opponents; players and clubs searching for the next dollar/euro/monetary unit; shock results;  the constant emergence of new and dynamic talent from all around the world.  In 1974 I imagine that there were unknown pockets of activity around the world, complete with rich storylines and regional influence, and stories these days are now part of the worldwide narrative thanks to the internet and globalization.  Teams, players, coaches and cultures are more familiar and are part of a global fabric, with the game belonging to the world and being shared with the world.  Part of the sharing is this project, which was hard work, but informative and enlightening, and I hope you have enjoyed this look back into footballing history.

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Bibliography

MatchDay Memory–1974: Part 1 (Johan Cruyff)

Forty years ago I came into the world and while I may not have made an impact on the game of soccer, it has surely made an impact on me.  Playing the game from a very early age, I didn’t start following the game until my early 20’s.  Starting with Manchester United, I eventually started reading everything I could get my hands on and watching whatever game was on, learning about the rich and complex history of the game.  My MatchDay Memory posts over the next few weeks will focus on events in world soccer during the year of my birth, 1974.  It is in no way a comprehensive summation but rather an examination of teams and incidents that I was drawn to in my research.

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Starting my journey in Europe, the 1970’s saw the emergence of Total Football.  A post at Football Bible traces the path of footballing principles from England to Holland, focusing on Jimmy Hogan in the early 1900’s to Jack Reynolds at Ajax.  Former player turned manager Rinus Michaels laid the foundations at the Dutch club for unprecedented levels of success, and this style of play changed the game in terms of pressure, possession and spacing and continues to impact the game today.

David Winner spends a chapter diving into Total Football in his wonderful book Brilliant Orange.  Based on his interviews with many members of the Ajax and Dutch teams of the era, the system developed as a way to have a team instinctively know how and where to move to create space and press the ball in order to dominate matches.  The chapter makes the case that it was a collaborative effort between coaches and players and the more everyone engaged the system, the better it got.

CRuyff-standing

The post at Football Bible also identified an intelligent midfielder as key to making the system work.  For Ajax and the Netherlands, that player was Johan Cruyff.  After three consecutive European Cups (1971-73) with Ajax, Cruyff was transferred to Barcelona in August of 1973.  In reading Chris Clement’s recap of the season for Estadios de Futbol en Espana, I was stunned to read the following passage:

Faced with a veritable can of worms, the Federation relented and allowed clubs to sign two overseas players from the start of the 1973-74 season. Anticipating the change, Real Madrid reached an agreement with Ajax for Johan Cruyff, but the world’s best player would have nothing to do with the deal that had been agreed behind his back. Sensing an opportunity, Barcelona moved in and on 13 August 1973, Cruyff signed for the Catalan giants. As news of the agreement of Real Madrid and Ajax’s deal surfaced, the RFEF refused to sanction the deal and memories of the controversial Di Stéfano transfer resurfaced. However, Barcelona and Cruyff stood firm and eventually, eight weeks into the season, Barça got their man.

To think how close Cruyff was to wearing white instead of the blaugrana.  Reading Barca: A People’s Passion by Jimmy Burns, I was struck by how Cruyff’s signing was not only a sporting coup, but was, maybe even more importantly, a political statement.  The transfer had been in the works for a couple of years and the amendment by the Spanish Football Federation finally allowed the move to take place.  In October 1973, the Dutchman appeared in the blaugrana colors for an official match, and FCB President Montal had his signature signing, and the fans could now cheer for one of the best players in the world at Camp Nou.

After a successful period during the 1950’s, Barca had suffered during the 1960’s, winning only one league title during the decade.  After a slow start to the 73/74 campaign, FCB climbed up the table, winning 20 of their last 28 matches, including a 5-0 demolition of Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, to claim the championship.  A post from Alex Mott for Football Espana recaps an amazing period in which Cruyff won a European Cup with Ajax, led FC Barcelona to the title and appeared in the World Cup Final with a series of dazzling displays.

However, after delivering La Liga in 1974, further success did not follow.  A combination of a poor coaching relationship, a fractured locker room and the absence of players able to perform Total Football saw Barca return to trophyless seasons and Cruyff left in 1978.  Burns ends his chapter entitled the Flying Dutchman with these quotes from Cruyff:

It is a challenge but you know when people cheer you on a Sunday when you do well and you win, it means more to them than simply the pleasure of winning.  It’s not just a game, football; it’s not just about the people on the terraces.  But you know what struck me most when we won the championship?  They didn’t say, “Congratulations.”  They said, “Thank you” That made a very deep impression.

Cruyff playing at Barca still impacts the club.  He later coached the team in the early 90’s, overseeing the Dream Team that won four straight La Liga titles in the early 90’s and the European Cup at Wembley in 1992.  A key player on that team was Pep Guardiola, who as manager would deliver another amazing cycle of success in the 2000’s. The Dutchman continues to wield power at the club, influencing decisions and offering his opinions.  A polarizing figure, it’s hard to argue his contribution to the Spanish giants.

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I chose 1974 simply because it was the year I was born, yet in reviewing the events of those 12 months it was interesting to see how many precursors and foundations and glimpses into the future were present.  The eternal battle between disciplined defenses against attack minded opponents; players and clubs searching for the next dollar/euro/monetary unit; shock results;  the constant emergence of new and dynamic talent from all around the world.  In 1974 I imagine that there were unknown pockets of activity around the world, complete with rich storylines and regional influence, and stories these days are now part of the worldwide narrative thanks to the internet and globalization.  Teams, players, coaches and cultures are more familiar and are part of a global fabric, with the game belonging to the world and being shared with the world.  Part of the sharing is this project, which was hard work, but informative and enlightening, and I hope you have enjoyed this look back into footballing history.

——

Bibliography

Manchester United: The Biography

man utd bio pic

Manchester United: The Biography: The Complete Story of the World’s Greatest Football Club, Jim White

Jim White’s book tells the story of one of the world’s great football clubs.  As a Manchester United fan of almost 20 years, I am pretty familiar with the Fergie era and admit that anything before 1994 was a vague knowledge of the Munich Air Disaster, the 68 European Cup win and the relegation of 1974.  Starting with the early days around Newton Heath, White retells the days of near bankruptcy (twice), early successes and failures, the rise of the Busby Babes, the lean years of the 70’s and 80’s and finally, the emergence of Alex Ferguson and nearly 25 years of success at every level.

White’s stories added depth to incidents that I was familiar with—Fergie in 1990, why Ruud and Keano left, the Glazer takeover— and the comments on Sir Alex at the end of the book were especially poignant, considering I read them right after the great man retired, for real this time.  One disappointment was that the lean years were glossed over, and while I agree that it would not have been great reading, it would have given context and contrast to the great times.

If you’re not a United fan, not sure what the book offers you.  A glimpse into a great side, a sense of history.  If you are a United fan, it’s well worth the read.  Biased, not keen to show too many warts, but re-living those moments of glory throughout the years is a treat.  This is a book I can return to time and time again as I continue to learn more about the club.

MatchDay Memory–The Big Two Part 1 (History)

In my ongoing quest to learn more about La Liga, I spent some time before and after the last Clasico researching the two biggest teams in Spain.  This is not going to be a post on the battles between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid through the years or a dissection of the political and social ramifications of the matches, rather a summation of their accomplishments and trends and story lines and how I have interacted with these clashes.

Of the two clubs, I follow FC Barcelona (watch games, try to stay on top of transfer rumors, keep track of player news, follow club politics to a certain extent, etc.), but I don’t live and die with every result. Over time my fandom of all sports and teams has been tempered by a realization that these are just games and should have no influence on how I feel about myself, how I treat others or how it impacts my day.

So FCB’s eternal rivals are Real Madrid and logically I should hate Los Merengues, but I don’t.  What? I respect the club but don’t hate the club. I respect their heritage and talent and I’m not going to spit on them.  I really enjoyed Phil Ball’s book White Storm, which summarized the history of the club quite well.  Had I started following Real Madrid during the first Galactico era (Figo, Zidane, Becks, El Fenómeno, etc), the Evil Empire (a loving tribute) may have been my preferred Spanish team. Instead I started watching the Blaugrana during the days of Rivaldo, Figo, Luis Enrique, and the Dutch contingent, and loved to watch their brand of football.  I say all this to explain why I have the 2003/04 Real Madrid Home and Away kits in addition to all of the FCB jerseys in my collection.

I’m not a Spanish football historian, but in my reading and research—which is merely a hobby that takes time from other things I could and should be doing—it is clear that cycles exist between the two clubs, with one typically in the ascendency pushing the other to the fringes.  However, recently both teams are leading the way at home and on the continent as the two clubs push each other for honors and their place in sporting history. Always has been, always will be.

After World War II, Barca’s Golden Age from 1947/48 to 1959/60 was overshadowed by Real Madrid’s rise to domestic and European dominance.  The Blaugrana won six titles, had three second place finishes and won five Spanish Cups, but Los Blancos reigned supreme starting with the 1953/54 season.  During an amazing 16 year period, Real won twelve league titles, never finishing lower than third, and added six European Cups.

While the team from the capital ruled at home and abroad, FCB never fell out of the top six from 1960 until 1973 but failed to win the league, finishing second six times.  They did add three Spanish Cups to the trophy cabinet, yet the league title eluded them until the arrival of Johan Cruyff in the 73/74 season.  Another barren period in the league commenced, and the club only won the Primera once until 1990.  This was in 84/85 season, which came after an interval of Basque dominance.  There was success in the Spanish Cup (four titles), leading to three Cup Winners Cup wins.  Real Madrid started another cycle in the 1971/72 season, which saw them claim six titles in nine years, while adding three Spanish Cups, but success did not come on the European Stage this time.

Cruyff’s Dream Team of the early 90’s was preceded by Madrid’s La Quinta del Buitre, a squad that won five league titles in a row.  In addition Los Blancos won the 1985/86 UEFA Cup and one Copa del Rey and made the semi-finals of the European Cup three years running.  But it was the Blaugrana who would return Europe’s biggest prize to Spain, with a historic win at Wembley in 1992 before the cycle ended at the hands of Milan in the 1994 European Cup Final.

The rest of the 90’s saw Real take over briefly before a Barca team led by van Gaal reclaimed the throne, with Atleti’s double in 1996 breaking up the dominance.  The first decade of the new century saw the emergence of other clubs in the Primera—Depor and Valencia in particular—who temporarily broke up the stranglehold of the Big Two.  Barca faded in all competitions, not winning a trophy for five years. A transfer of presidency, lack of stability in the manager position, and the transition in the squad were contributing factors.  On the other hand, Real finally got their hands on the trophy with the big ears, winning it in 1998, 2000 and 2002, adding two league titles in the years they did not win in Europe.

Frank Rijkaard came on to the scene for FC Barcelona in 2003 and set the stage for Barca’s Second Golden Age.  (Tangent: I am working on an argument that FCB are currently in epoch that began in 1990.  Starting with Cruyff’s hire and first title, the club has been a dominant force but home and abroad, similar to the winning cycle of AC Milan from 1986 (purchase by Berlusconi) to the 2007 Champions League win.  I hope to put something together in the near future.) A league title win in 04/05 sent the Blaugrana on their way, winning the European Double the following season.  Capello was able to stop the run as the Barca players, led by an irresistible Ronaldinho on the field and a disco loving Ronny off it, lost the plot, eventually losing their grip on their titles and sending the Dutch coach packing.

Enter Pep Guardiola.  The former Dream Teamer oversaw a run of dominance that challenged the great teams of of FCB, Real Madrid and European football.  The Treble of 08/09, which led to the calendar year sextuple of 2009, two more league titles, and another European Final win in 2011. During his tenure, the Blaugrana participated in 19 competitions and won 14 of them, probably the closest to all conquering as we may ever see. Manchester United, Shaktar Donetsk, Estudiantes, Porto and Santos were just some of the clubs who fell to Pep’s juggernaut.  Their rivals responded by bringing in the Special One, who started slowly (reference the manita of November 2010) but eventually formed a team able to stand up to Pep’s team, winning the 2011 Copa del Rey and wresting the title away from Barca with a stunning win at the Nou Camp in the spring of 2012.

Tomorrow’s comments will look at my memories of recent El Clasicos and tactical innovations presented by the last couple of managers.

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