How One Match Dissolved a Country

Much of the language of football is derived from warfare: an ‘aerial bombardment’ in the last few minutes, a quick burst of goals being described as a ‘blitz’, or bringing the ‘big guns’ or ‘cavalry’ on from the bench.

Very rarely though do the two worlds overlap. Football tries its best to steer clear of external politics, while war has more prevalent worries than a mere game.

Sometimes though it is impossible to keep the two separate: we all know about El Salvador and Honduras’s ‘Football War‘, or Uday Hussein‘s misuse of the Iraqi national side.

However, while these examples made some minor waves in the international arena, there is one recent example that led to revolution, and the dissolution of an entire country. And it’s much closer to home.

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The Original Football Doping Scandal

So far, I’ve written at length about foreign footballing people who have had a big impact on the game across the world, ones who are all but forgotten within our borders in the United Kingdom.

It may seem that England, the great originators of the game, were arrogantly standing still while the rest of Europe progressed and advanced ‘our’ sport. That is broadly true: the authorities in England didn’t really embrace the need for change until that fateful day in 1953 when the Magical Magyars destroyed 90 years of misplaced confidence.

However, there were several individuals who were far ahead of their time working in football throughout the formative years of the game. One such character was responsible for many of the advancements off the pitch we see today: including the introduction of what could be termed the original footballing doping programme.

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The Inventor of Modern Football

“We must free our soccer youth from the shackles of playing to order, along rails as it were. We must give them ideas and encourage them to develop their own.”

That could be the words of any number of observers in the United Kingdom over the last few years, while watching the fluidity of movement of the Spanish or German national sides with envy.

Far from it being a frustrated English youth coach bemoaning the state of football in its home country, these were the thoughts of an Austrian journalist reflecting on one of the greatest teams ever to play the game.

His name was Willy Meisl, and he was writing over half a century ago, in 1955.

The team he was describing, that allowed their players such freedom of expression, was actually coached by his brother: a man who could be described as the father of modern football. Continue reading

The best goal ever scored?

This is a question that is trotted out on an all-too-regular basis.

The usual suspects are always brought up: Maradona’s scurrying embarrasment of England in 1986, van Basten’s physics-bending volley past the USSR in 1988 or Carlos Alberto’s ode to teamwork against Italy in 1970.

They’re all excellent goals, certainly showcasing some of the most talented players ever to play the game.

However, none of them can top the sheer ingenuity of what I think is often unfairly overlooked in these debates.

While all of the goals mentioned above are technically brilliant, or down to wonderful intricate football, they are all a bit…old-fashioned.

This is my problem: they’ve all been seen before.

Countless footballers have hammered in volleys like van Basten, been at the end of a multiple-pass team move or even slalomed round an entire team to score.

My personal favourite is a goal that absolutely nobody had ever seen before. And it won a major trophy for his country.

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Hello world.

The world of football is littered with stories that rarely get told.

Sometimes, these forgotten tales are far more interesting that those that are regularly trotted out in the press.

There can’t be many people left who don’t know that Lionel Messi was signed to Barcelona with a contract written on the back of a napkin, or the Danish national side were all on holiday when they were drafted into Euro 92.

These stories used to have that quirky, interesting quality that is sometimes missing from the media-saturated world of modern football.

Given how often they’re trotted out by columnists, co-commentators and aspiring bloggers, much of this impact has been lost.

Hopefully, this is where I come in.

There are so many other people, events and places that deserve the spotlight on them, and they’re often far more amusing than the established canon.

I’ll try to bring some of these anecdotes to the public eye, and hopefully spread the word of the forgotten side of football.

Coming soon will be the tale of the greatest manager you’ve never heard of, the coach who could have revolutionised British football and profile the real rising power of European football.

So have a read, spread the word and if you want to suggest a topic for the blog tweet me @djamieson91.