Saturday, January 31, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
It was not simple accident – it is still debated, and there are speculations that the accident was staged. No proof for that, but the story is dark even without conspiracy. Both players were unpleasant to the Communist government: they were too much loved by fans, and Asparukhov was the closest possible in Communist country to superstardom. Foreign clubs wanted him and the famous coach of Milan, Nereo Rocco, said ‘Asparukhov is my dream of centre-forward.’ Eusebio went to his grave to pay respect when visiting Sofia with Benfica later in 1971. Kotkov had huge fan base too. People, who hated the clubs Gundy and Kitten played for, loved the players. Asparukhov came to football late – almost 15 years old. He played volleyball before invited to join the junior team of Levski (Sofia). In the Bulgarian great divide, Levski is the ‘people’s club’, opposed to the ‘state team’ – the army club CSKA (Sofia). Unlike CSKA, Levski depended largely on players coming from their own junior team. But those players were not immune to obligatory military service – thus, Gundy played two seasons for Botev (Plovdiv), an army club then and satellite of CSKA (to the displeasure of Botev’s fans, for the club is old and founded before Communist rule). Thus, Gundy played for two clubs – Botev and Levski – 247 games in total, scoring 150 goals.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Standing, left to right: Ubirajara Alcantara, Aloisio, Fred, Reyes, Liminha, Paulo Henrique.
First row: Unnamed masseur, Rogerio, Samarone, Ze Eduardo, Zico, Rodrigues Neto.
The picture shows some discrepancies: Flamengo, the most popular Brazilian club, is the ‘poor man’ club. The fans tend to be from the ‘favela’, the slums, and, therefore, stereotypically, in mass imagination,black. The line up is suspiciously white, though. And Zico did not come from the slums. How much mythology is at play here? Garrincha, but not Pele, is associated with archetypical poverty – yet, both are black and coming from poverty. Yet, Garrincha was and is the ‘love of the people’, whether Pele is the King… recognized, respected, but not loved. Yet, neither Garincha, nor Pele played for Flamengo ( Garrincha, I think, did a little stunt with Fla shirt, but not in his best years). Yet, the search was for ‘new Pele’, not ‘new Garrincha’ (an interesting avenue to explore, but not now) – and the white and middle class Zico was one of the candidates. Not so strongly in 1971, but strong enough to stigmatize him somewhat. Zico was 18 years old in 1971 and played 15 games, scoring 2 goals, for the first team of Flamengo. And he was… dropped to the junior team for the next year. At 18 (or 17 years and 249 days old at the beginning of the tournament) Pele was World Champion in 1958. Pele added two more world titles to his bio, appearing in 4 World Cup championships in total. Zico was never champion of the world and his first World Cup was in 1978 – when he was 25. On the other hand, Zico was 33 years old when he played his last World Cup in 1986. Pele played for the last time in 1970 finals – 30 years old and, at least in Brazil, lamented as too old. Pele never went to play club football in Europe, but Zico did. Yet, for a kind of Pele, he went to unbecoming club – Udinese (Udine). Hardly a Pele… the King had to be declared ‘a national treasure’ by the Brazilian government in the 1960s to keep him in the country. If the state did not pay Santos this way, the King would have been snatched by the likes of Real, Barcelona, Milan, or Inter. Udinese did not come close, even by a stretch of imagination, to these clubs. Sure, the King disappointed during the 1966 World Cup, but it was collective disappointment of the whole team Brazil… the King was injured early, and, being the King, blame washed away quickly. As for Zico – he had his lame 1978 World Cup, but no matter how well he played in 1982 and 1986, Brazil did not win another World title. A pale shadow… of which the King himself said that Zico was the only player coming close to him. The White Pele. Unlucky star? Not negative must be white.) Most likely the impossibility of satisfying unreasonable expectations – ‘new Pele’, what the hell is that? A player called Leivinha was also among the endless ‘new Peles’ and he played for Brazil in 1974 World Cup – four years before Zico. Now, who remembers Leivinha? Or may be one should remember him: after all, Pele never won Brazilian championship and Zico did it in 1980 for the first time. Leivinha was Brazilian champion twice with Palmeiras by 1974, and unlike the King and the Negative, he went to play for Atletico Madrid for five years (1974-1979), not for Italian ‘also run’ club or the ‘pensioners’ US league. Football is funny in a way, but in 1971 Zico, one of the brightest players of the 1970s debuted. The closest to Pele. In England, 1971 was the year Trevor Francis was noticed. Not the same expectations as in Brazil – Francis was hope for change, not hope for duplicating insanely high level. The World champions of 1966 were getting old, and youngsters were just the hope of replacing aging stars with new ones. Hence, England was ensured to stay a world football power and may be a champion again. Nobody tried to match 16 years old Trevor Francis to Bobby Charlton (in terms of stardom and high standards, that is, for Francis was centre forward, not playmaker. Then, Zico, a midfielder, was expected to be Pele, an attacker. Go figure.) And England been England in 1971… Francis, unlike Zico, was not a member of top club.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Which I think I heard of in 1971 for the first time. Back then it was even attractive idea – at least for a kid, who dreams to see big games opposing big clubs. In 1971 it sounded new, just like in the 1990s it sounded new to many fans. Yet, it was old idea in 1971 – recently I was leafing old magazines and there it was:
The real question is who are the big clubs. What is the criteria for ‘a big club’? Revenue? Success on the pitch? The number of fans? Combination of the three? Or the reputation of a country in football terms? Some culprits are obvious: Real Madrid, Juventus Turin, Milan and Inter from Milan, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid – they have been active promoters of the idea since the 1950s. Successful, rich, popular. Italy, France, and England negotiated in 1959, but the basis here was and is shaky: well established professional championships, but no French club was really rich, popular, or successful. And today is the same. In the same time successful Italian and English clubs from the 1950s went down later and were replaced by others moving up. Germans would have been included certainly, but which German clubs exactly? Bayern were obscure club back then. There was no really strong German club. Benfica Lisbon certainly would have been invited in the 1960s, but they are hardly among the big guys today. Well, who else? Such a league has to be somewhat vaster, not only combining clubs of three or four countries.
On the other hand, 18 clubs is classic football league format. Get those 18 of 2002 and it will be more than decent championship. May be.
In 1971 it looked more interesting than it is today – the revenue was still primarily from the gates. At least for the kid I was then, such a league was attractive. Imagine the thrill of Manchester United playing Real Madrid. Then! The thought of watching game after game between ManUnited and Real horrifies me in 2008. When this happens, don’t count on me paying any attention. Actually, I feel fans have been robbed after 1990 – and I am not alone in that: tournaments became boring business instead of fun and passion. The old news I recall as important moment of 1971 is tremendously sad news. Futile too.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Looks equal quality? Well… two players born in 1951.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Second row, left to right: G. Kamensky, M. Gaydarsky, D. Zhechev, Al. Kostov, G. Asparukhov, R. Vitlacil (Czechoslovakia) – coach, Iv. Zdravkov, St. Peshev, R. Goranov.
First row: St. Aladzov, Tz. Vesselinov, Sl. Stoilov, P. Kirilov, B. Mikhailov, P. Panov, N. Kotkov, V. Mitkov, St. Pavlov, Y. Kirilov.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Monday, January 12, 2009
First row: Zimmermann, Laumen, Le Fevre (Denmark), Sieloff, Schaefer, Dietrich, Kaiser, Koeppel.These were up and coming people – future European and World Champions, national players of smaller caliber, a coach which will be considered one of the best in the world during the 1970s. Berti Fogts is missing in the photo, but he was in the team anyway. The elegant Dane Ulrik Le Fevre played at the left wing, and probably was underrated even in 1970 – under Danish rules no professional was permitted to play for the national team, and Le Fevre played his last game for Denmark in 1969, before joining Borussia. Next year Borussia were champions again – this time with Jupp Heynckes and Rainer Bonhof in the squad as well. Unlike other ‘new’ champions, Borussia did not lose top players, but increased them. It was also young team, its best years still to come. The core of stars were already making their way into the West German national team and Fogts, Heynckes, Wimmer, Bonhof, Kleff soon became European and World champions. As for Gunther Netzer – he was just the superstar. He did not play much for the national team, largely because of constant disagreements with Helmut Schoen, but was regarded as ‘world class’ player nevertheless – on the same level as Beckenbauer. No wonder he was the first foreign player Real (Madrid) bought when Spain lifted the ban on imported footballers in 1973. Borussia quickly became one of the best teams in the 1970s both in West Germany and Europe. The players were among the biggest stars of the decade, and the rise of Borussia went along with the great years of the national team – West German football on every level was becoming high class, and at least until 1975 – promoter of the ‘total football’. In the second half of the decade the Bundesliga became the top championship in Europe, the dream for a footballer. Even Kevin Keegan went to play in West Germany. The new German champion of 1970 was a sign of positive change, unlike the rest of the ‘new’ champions.
And… look again at Everton. Changes are changes, but something remained – clubs remained ‘traditional’ in structuring the squads: few stars, one or two classy foreigners, and the rest – sturdy professionals. Every team above follows this formula.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
First row: Zignoli, Martiradonna, Mancin, Cera, Gori, Brugnera, Greatti, Reginato.
Five players of this team went to Mexico’70: Enrico Albertosi, Pierluigi Cera, Comunardo Niccolai, Luigi Riva, Angelo Domenghini, and Sergio Gori. If the central defenseman Niccolai was disputable player – he was mostly reliable, but in the habit of making one fatal mistake per match, and even his Cagliari coach Manlio Scorpigno was more than reserved: ‘I expect everything from life, but not Niccolai playing for the Azzuri’ – the rest were not so. Cera and Gori were classy players, but Domenghini and Albertosi were stars. As for Gigi Riva – he was a superstar. Not for nothing fans nicknamed him ‘Rombo di Tuono’ (the Thunder). Albertosi was considered better keeper than his great rival Dino Zoff. Domenghini did not need much introduction either. And finally – Nene. Olinho Claudio de Carvalho is hardly known today. He transferred from Santos to Juventus in 1963 and the next year moved to Cagliari. There he played to the end of his career in 1976, and is the player with most appearances in Serie A for Cagliari – 311. A good attacker, he was somewhat overlooked: never a Brazilian national player and moving to Italy too young, he is hardly known in Brazil. Italy had the most famous stars during the 1960s – Nene was always behind the likes of Riva, Rivera, Mazzola, Sivori, Altafini, and so on. Because he was already playing in Italy, the ban on imported players, imposed in 1966 by the Italian Federation did not affect him and by the end of the 1960s he was among handful of foreign veterans playing for Italian clubs. Nene was good, but Gigi Riva was great… it is somewhat strange that the biggest Italian stars were attackers: the 1960s were the years of the ultra-defensive ‘catenaccio’ system. The Italian stars were either inflated, or… were really great: after all, to beat alone a wall of ten murderers and score a goal needs enormous skill and courage. No matter how good Cagliari were in 1969-70, they never repeated this season, thus, suggesting accidental victory. In a long run, ‘catenaccio’ stagnated Italian football – it was one thing to play against European clubs, but entirely different when facing same tactic week after week in Italy. Most games ending 0-0, even top teams relied mostly on few odd victories to stay on top. Perhaps the ban on foreign players had negative role too – by 1970 there were signs of decline. The stars were getting on years, but no new exciting players were coming. Italian clubs gradually lost their dominance in Europe. To a point, Cagliari’s title was similar to Atletico’s title – not that much great team, but weak opposition. Italy entered terrible years and almost to the end of the 1970s struggled.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Aragones posing with jinxed shirt and in action. Now… do we remember the player, or we know the coach leading Spain to the European title in 2008?
Monday, January 5, 2009
Unfortunately, I have no names for this photo, but these are the players winning the cup: B. Turlak, M. Lupol, I. Gereg,
R. Potochnyak, V. Sirov, P. Danilchuk, Yu. Bondarenko, M. Sarabin, I. Kulchitzky, L. Brovarsky, V. Bulgakov, R. Pokora,
V. Danilyuk, Ya. Gabovda, G. Lihachov, Yu. Basalik, B. Greshak. Coach – E. Yust.
Not a single famous name, as befitting second division nobodies. But during 1960s a shift started in Soviet football from north to south, from Moscow to Ukraine. No longer Moscow clubs ruled – Dinamo (Kiev) was establishing itself as the Soviet powerhouse. But it was not only Dinamo – Shakhter (Donetzk), Zarya (Lugansk), Chernomoretz (Odessa), the new boys Karpaty established themselves in the First Division, followed by Dnepr (Dnepropetrovsk) and Metalist (Harkov). Add to them another two successful Southern clubs in the 1970s: Ararat (Erevan, today Armenia) and Dinamo (Tbillisi, today Georgia). It was a major shift – Moscow clubs not only declined, but faced even relegation – Spartak (Moscow) and CSCA (Moscow) eventually enjoyed Second Division football. In the same time the 70s were perhaps the worst decade of the Soviet national team – Soviet football was in a crisis, recognized eventually. Yet, how to measure? Soviet clubs achieved their first European successes during 1970s. Ukrainian players became the backbone of the national team, which missed two World Cups and two European Championships.
Here is a version of the Soviet squad for Mexico 1970:
First row, left to right: Victor Serebryannikov, Mikhail Gershkovich, Yevgeny Lovchev, Givi Nodia, Revaz Dzodzuashvili, Anatoly Puzach, Nikolay Kislov, Anzor Kavazashvili.
Second row: Oleg Sokolov (masseur), Gavrail Kachalin (head coach), Albert Shesternyov, Oleg Belokovsky (team doctor), Vladimir Kaplichny, Kakhi Asatiani, Vitaly Khmelnitzky, Genady Logofet, Vladimir Muntyan, Valentin Afonin, Murtaz Khurtzilava, Yevgeny Rudakov, Anatoly Bishovetz, Vladimir Shmelev (masseur).
Some of the above did not make the final selection, but more or less this is the bulk of Soviet players for the World Cup finals. The final selection included 6 players from Dinamo (Kiev), 5 from Dinamo (Tbillisi), 4 from each Spartak and CSCA (both Moscow), 3 from Dinamo (Moscow). The leaders (CSCA was not yet champion in the summer – Soviet championship run in one year, spring-fall calendar, ending by the end of the year) provided 4 players – three veterans (Afonin, Shesternyov, and Kaplichny) and the third goalie – one Shmutz, who did not play at all in Mexico and soon disappeared altogether from sight. CSCA (abbreviation of Central Sports Club of the Army – that is why I use CSCA, not the more familiar today CSKA) had two or three more worthy players (including better goalie than Shmutz), but they were not enough to sustain continuation of success when the veterans quit playing or moved to other clubs. Meantime the two Moscow powerhouses – Dinamo and Spartak – were declining and some of the southern national players were aging. To a large degree the Soviet national team was outdated in 1970 and at its last legs.
First row, left to right: Vladimir Fedotov, Vladimir Dudarenko, Yuri Istomin, Valentin Utkin, Nikolay Dolgov
Second row: Valentin Nikolayev – coach, Boris Kopeykin, Albert Shesternyov, Vladimir Polikarpov, Leonid Shmutz, Alexander Kuznetzov, Vladimir Kaplichny
CSCA – champions in 1970, but one time wonder. Moscow no longer ruled. Soon the Ukrainian invasion would even bribe its way to the title – Zarya (Lugansk) (see earlier posting) – and the Soviets were entering very bad decade.
(Note: I prefer this spelling of the club, as well as the Bulgarian club with same name - but will use the more familiar CSKA from now on. The accepted abbreviation is nonsensical - I have no idea how it was made from Central Sports Club of the Army, the full name - but is the more or less familiar transliteration in English.
And thanks to Igor Nedbaylo for the team photo!)