Posts Tagged ‘ La Liga ’

FC Barcelona Home 2007/08

FC-Barcelona-2007-2008

In retrospect, the 2007/08 season was the transition from one era to another. Moving on from the European Double in 2006, the Blaugrana phased out old soldiers (van Bronckhorst, Giuly, Belletti and Thiago Motta) and brought in key players for the upcoming cycle of success (Henry, Yaya Toure, Abidal, Milito, and Pinto).

ronny

After losing out to Real Madrid for the La Liga title the previous season on head to head results, Barca started the campaign strongly but too many draws and only four away wins saw the Blaugrana finish third behind Real Madrid and Villarreal. Glory was not to be found in the Copa del Ray either, as Valencia knocked FC Barcelona out in the Semis with a 4-2 aggregate win.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 29: Thierry Henry (R) of Barcelona controls the ball next to Pele of Inter Milan during the Gamper Trophy match between Barcelona and Inter Milan at the Nou Camp Stadium on August 29, 2007 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Thierry Henry;Pele

In Europe, Barca had a comfortable Group Stage and then faced Celtic in the Round of 16. A 3-2 win at Celtic Park saw them progress to the Quarters, where the Blaugrana secured a pair of 1-0 victories over Schalke. The result was a Semi-Final match up against Manchester United, resulting in a tense pair of matches, with Scholes’ worldy at Old Trafford being the difference for the eventual champs.

Trophyless, everything would change that summer as Pep Guardiola was named manager ahead of the 2008/09 season.

esp_barcelona_1_0708

(image courtesy of Colours of Football)

The home jersey for the 2007/08 campaign was straightforward, with thick blue and red vertical bands, very reminiscent of the shirt used in the 1980’s except without the collar. Together with blue shorts and hooped socks, this made for a stylish, traditional FCB kit. This was the second season of the club’s association with UNICEF, with the charity across the front of the shirt and a contribution made from the club.

640x360_camp_nou.v1353400161

(image courtesy of FC Barcelona)

The highlight of the shirt was a circle of text noting the 50th anniversary of the Camp Nou. Opened in 1957 after three years of construction, it is the largest venue in Europe and has hosted games for the 1982 World Cup and 1992 Olympics and several European Cup Finals, including that magical night in 1999. (For more info on the venue, check out Chris Clements’ post at Estadios de Espana.)

I really like this shirt but rarely wear it. Partly because I don’t want to ruin it and partly because I don’t follow Barca as faithfully anymore. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

——
Read the rest of my Strip Club posts here and follow me on twitter @austinlong1974.

Advertisements

Top Five Matches

I came across a post on reddit asking Which five matches changed your life?Loved the question and after thinking about it for a bit, here’s what I came up with:

1996       England v Germany Euro 96

download (2)

This game created the template for watching soccer while working. ESPN picked up the rights to this tournament and I fell in love with Croatia, saw Gazza’s wonder goal against Scotland, and the Czech Republic’s heartbreak in the Final against Germany. In the previous round, England played Germany in a rematch of the 1990 World Cup Semi. I was working as a summer intern at the FBI and snuck up to a conference room to watch the second half and penalties. England were so close but after 11 perfect spot kicks, Southgate’s miss condemned the Three Lions to defeat.

1999       Bayern Munich v Manchester United   Champions League Final

99 ucl

As my love for the Red Devils continued to grow, the Treble season reached its dramatic conclusion in Barcelona. With no Keane or Scholes, United was up against it and when Basler scored in the opening minutes, I didn’t believe. Negative by nature I just waited for Bayern to seal the game and accept defeat. But when Sheringham poked home from close range I screamed with excitement. And when Solskjaer put the ball in the Germans net, I ran around the house in sheer joy.

2002       USA v Portugal   World Cup 2002 Group Stage

05mat1

In the days leading up to the game, I had a dream that the US crushed Portugal like 6-0 but I had missed it by sleeping in. Due to the time difference, the game kicked off at 4am ET. On the morning of the game, I drove frantically to a friend’s house who was hosting people. After the early US blitz I thought maybe I had had some sort of premonition but alas, Portugal fought back and made for a nervous last couple of minutes. That tournament was amazing and I got up at all hours to watch the matches.

2009       Real Madrid v FC Barcelona     La Liga

article-0-04C9515F000005DC-308_634x379

In the late 90s and early 2000s I start following FC Barcelona and watched a dramatic 2006 Champions League Final against Arsenal. In the years following, that magic team was broken up and rebuilt and taken over by Pep Guardiola who drove the Blaugrana to an unprecedented, at the time, Treble. Real Madrid hunted Barca down in the league and set up a crucial meeting at the Bernabeu, and when Los Merengues scored first, a sick feeling came over me. And then magic happened with Henry and Messi tearing apart the hosts, each scoring twice, and also getting goals from Puyol and Piqué. It was breathtaking and set the stage for Iniesta’s moment of magic at Stamford Bridge and an amazing finish to the season.

2012       Manchester City v QPR     English Premier  League

Aguero0_4_3099831b

The dramatic end to the 1988-89 season was before my time, so when United came back from 0-1 against Spurs in the final league game of 1999 to clinch the title, I didn’t think it could get much better than that. I was wrong. A bunch of fellow fans gathered at Buffalo Wild Wings for Fox’s Survival Sunday, with all ten games on an array of channels. With fans from several different teams present, cheers and groans were constant depending on the action. Eventually we started calling out the TV numbers to keep track of the events. United secured victory at Sunderland and with City down 1-2 against QPR, another league title looked secure. But the fickle finger of fate intervened and Dzeko equalized, setting up Aguero’s moment of glory. Stunned I drank several shots as I watched the celebrations at Etihad. Gutted by the result, it was still one of the greatest soccer community events I have ever experienced.

Let me know what games impacted your soccer support in the comments below.

——

Check out more posts on my trips, research and memories on the MatchDay Memories page.

Fear and Loathing in La Liga

fear loathing la liga

Fear and Loathing in La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid, and the World’s Greatest Sports Rivalry, Sid Lowe

When I covered and watched La Liga extensively, Sid Lowe’s Monday La Liga column for the Guardian was a must read. Plus his appearances on Football Weekly and other podcasts brought me up to speed on the league and also gave greater depth.

His book on the these eternal rivals is a fantastic read. A book on either one would be a big enough task but to take both of them head on must have seemed overwhelming. Lowe does a wonderful job guiding the reader through the years, usually taking a particular person or moment to build up the era for the clubs. There is extensive research and discussion into the Di Stefano signing, and I also appreciated the time taken to explain the impact of the Civil War on each city and club, something that’s too often categorized as good/bad, impact/no impact. Everyone in the country was affected and Lowe explains how this moment in Spanish history rippled throughout the following decades.

I really enjoyed this read and further readings will continue to fill in the history of these two historic clubs.

Strip Club–Half and Half Edition (Long Version)

In the summer of 1997, Dutchman Louis van Gaal took over at FC Barcelona from Bobby Robson, with the team coming off a relatively successful season—second in the league, Copa del Rey winners and Cup Winners’ Cup winners.  In the off season Ronaldo had moved to Inter after one amazing campaign with the Blaugrana, but not to worry as the lineup was chock full of stars, including Vítor Baía, Ferrer, Fernández, Guardiola, Couto, Óscar García, Luís Figo, Hristo Stoichkov, Sonny Anderson, Giovanni, Rivaldo, Sergi Barjuán, Guillermo Amor, Pizzi, Nadal, Luis Enrique, Reiziger, and Iván de la Peña.

luis enrique

After falling to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup at the beginning of the season, this assembly of talent went on to win the Spanish Double.  The team got off to a fast start and led the league nearly the entire season, eventually securing the title by nine points over Athletic Bilbao, who had a made a late surge up the table.  Watching the league goals from that season, Luis Enrique was a machine, it was a reminder of how good Rivaldo was, and there were some fantastic goals against Real Madrid.  One other thing I noticed. . . either FCB wore their home kit almost every match or they could only score in the home strip.

rivaldo

In the Spanish Cup, FCB joined the competition in the Round of 16 and hammered Valencia, Merida and Real Zaragoza on their way to the Final, where they met Real Mallorca in Valencia.  An early goal from Mallorca had Barca on the ropes but Rivaldo, the tournament’s leading scorer, equalized midway through the second half.  Despite Mallorca having two men sent off before extra time started, FCB could not find a winner, having to win on penalties, with each team sending eight kickers to the spot.

In Europe the Blaugrana beat Borussia Dortmund to win the UEFA Super Cup but failed to progress in the Champions League.  Latvian champions Skonto were their opponents in the second qualifying round, and after a tough match at the Nou Camp, a 3-2 win, FCB travelled away and won 1-0 to move on to a group that included Newcastle United, PSV and Dynamo Kyiv.  Barca finished dead last in their group and were hammered 7-0 over two games with Kyiv.  I vaguely remember watching Tino Asprilla’s performance against the Spanish team at St. James Park in which he scored a hat trick (and even found the ESPN highlights with JP and Tommy Smyth).  Watching the highlights again, I was stunned by how Keith Gillespie tortured Sergi on the Newcastle left.

barcelona-97-home-use

This was one of the first jerseys I ever bought.  I can’t even remember if I ordered it from a catalog or found it at a store.  This was the last Kappa strip (who took over for the 1992/93 season) before the switch to Nike, and the Kappa color scheme tended to be more royal blue and bright red rather than the historic blue and claret.  One item I came upon in my research was that during the formation of the club, half the shirt was blue and the other claret, the sleeves were opposite colours and the shorts were white. One of the many theories explaining the origin of the kit colours — blue and scarlet — is that Gamper used the same colours as the Basel team, where he had played before coming to Catalonia. (Courtesey of FC Barcelona).  That season the club also had a European strip, which was an altered version of the home strip.

n_f_c_barcelona_1997_98-939735

The ring collar was a major design change after over 15 years of a standard collar, and the shirt also featured typical Kappa design features for FCB shirts, which included sublimated Barca and Kappa logos throughout the shirt and the Kappa logo down the sleeves.  The shirt is light but the collar is a little itchy so I always have to wear some sort of undershirt.  Blue shorts with the Kappa logo down the sides and blue and red hooped socks complete the strip.

FCB 97 98 strip

Of all of my FCB shirts, this is my least favorite although I like them all.  Nice piece of history though.

Strip Club–Half and Half Edition

 

barcelona-97-home-use

This was one of the first jerseys I ever bought.  I can’t even remember if I ordered it from a catalog or found it at a store.  This was the last Kappa strip (who took over for the 1992/93 season) before the switch to Nike, and the Kappa color scheme tended to be more royal blue and bright red rather than the historic blue and claret.  One item I came upon in my research was that during the formation of the club, half the shirt was blue and the other claret, the sleeves were opposite colours and the shorts were white. One of the many theories explaining the origin of the kit colours — blue and scarlet — is that Gamper used the same colours as the Basel team, where he had played before coming to Catalonia. (Courtesey of FC Barcelona).  That season the club also had a European strip, which was an altered version of the home strip.

n_f_c_barcelona_1997_98-939735

The ring collar was a major design change after over 15 years of a standard collar, and the shirt also featured typical Kappa design features for FCB shirts, which included sublimated Barca and Kappa logos throughout the shirt and the Kappa logo down the sleeves.  The shirt is light but the collar is a little itchy so I always have to wear some sort of undershirt.  Blue shorts with the Kappa logo down the sides and blue and red hooped socks complete the strip.

FCB 97 98 strip

Of all of my FCB shirts, this is my least favorite although I like them all.  Nice piece of history though.

——

For more information on this season, visit the longer version of this post here.

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.

——

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.

—–

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

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.

——

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.

——

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