Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Sunday, December 25, 2016

World Cup Qualifications:

Saturday, December 24, 2016

European Player of the Year:

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Iceland was 32nd and last in the European club ranking, but there was one more country recognized by UEFA, which was not in the ranking table at all: Wales. The reason was that Wales had no official championship, but only a Cup tournament. And a strange one at that: not only the strongest Welsh clubs played in the English leagues, but English clubs traditionally participated in the Welsh Cup, often winning it too. This complicated participation in the Cup Winners Cup – if the winner was English team, it was not allowed to play, replaced by the losing finalist. If it was a Welsh club... Professional teams were almost always stronger than the genuine Welsh teams and this year was no exception: Swansea City (Welsh, playing in the Second English Division) versus Hereford United (English, 4th Division). It was weird final to the continental eye, but not so on the British Isles: the final was competitive and tough. Swansea won the first leg 1-0 and managed a 1-1 tie in the second leg.  
 Hereford United came very close to winning the Welsh Cup – which was a great achievement, considering who they played against. In a sense, too bad they lost, although they had no chance for playing in the Cup Winners Cup. 
'The Swans' were no strangers to Cup winning, but this year was special: the club was rapidly climbing up the leagues and under John Toshack as playing manager, they won promotion to First Division for the first time in their history. Although winning the Cup proved to be difficult, they still won it, thus completing their best season to date. Looking back, it was arguably the best period in the club's history and not finished yet, largely due to the Liverpool connection: Toshack at the helm and also playing, Phil Boersma coaching, and Ian Callaghan. A few good players were already making the team dangerous – Leighton James, Leighton Phillips, and Tommy Craig. And very soon reinforcements were added: Jimmy Rimer, just winning the European Champions Cup with Aston Villa, two Yugoslavian national team players  – Dzemal Hadziabdic and Ante Rajkovic, and Bob Latchford from Everton. But those were still to come and play the next season. For the moment, Swansea City was gloriously swimming ahead. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

In another country it would have been a big scandal, remembered and discussed to this very day and widely covered by foreign press as well, but Turkey was still a football pariah – ranked 24th in Europe – to attract outside scrutiny. As for domestic rattles, the circumstances effectively prevented loud outcry. For it was not the typical scandal of bribing, match mixing, and money shoveled under the table – it was a case based on nationalism, orchestrated from the very top of the government and it was not a democratic government, to say the least. In short, it was the 100th year from the birth of founding father Kemal Ataturk, and the capital – which he made – had no strong first division team and arguably the biggest club of the city was in second division. But what could have been more appropriate celebration of Ataturk than a victory of a club hailing from Ankara? A title was out of question, so the Cup... Ankara got the Cup and something else additionally, so was ordered. Perhaps it helped that the big three Istanbul-based clubs happened to be weak at the moment. What helped more was the Army watching closely on one hand, and also the mighty topic: it was exactly convenient for anyone from secular quarters to cry foul when celebration of secular founding father had to stay out of blemish. Everybody pretended – and pretends today – all was normal. But it was not.
Second Division ended with its usual three winners promoted – Diyarbakirspor, Goztepe (Izmir), and Sakaryaspor.
Happy winners Sakaryaspor – going up and rightly so. Good for the other two as well, especially for the fans of Goztepe, who, by now, were not satisfied, since their beloved club lost its leading position a long time ago and climbing back to the top division was the only hope. Anyhow, nobody objected the rightfully promoted clubs, but one other well known name was missing: Ankaragucu (Ankara).

A reason was found to promote Ankaragucu as well – it was really a presidential gift, generously given to the Cup winners. The top league was extended to 17 teams for the next year to make room for the newcomers by fiat. Everybody happy? Better be.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Whatever the championship was, the Cup tournament brought everything to what was associated with Swedish football: equal teams, no favourites. Kalmar FF and IF Elfsborg reached the final, the teams almost relegated this year. The final was played in Stockholm in front of only 2.245 – the lowest attendance in recent years and perhaps one of the lowest ever gathering at the cup final. Kalmar FF, which ended bellow its opponent in the league, simply destroyed Elfsborg – 4-0.
A heroic effort, reaching the final, but IF Elsfborg was hardly a winning team. But all depends on size – for a club like Elfsborg playing at the Cup final and keeping a place in the top division amounted to excellent season.
Of course, winning the Cup was a success – and Kalmar FF was rarely successful. In fact, this was their very real success – the first trophy they ever won. The heroes were largely unknown and remained unknown – save for Benno Magnusson, now in his last playing years. At the end of the year Kalmar FF was happy again, after winning the promotion/relegation play-off against IFK Eskilstuna and preserving first division place.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Monday, October 17, 2016

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Scottish cups presented familiar finalists – Rangers and Dundee United played at the previous year finals. Now they clashed at the Scottish FA Cup final and were unable to overcome each other – 0-0. The replay was another story: Rangers destroyed Dundee United 4-1.
Rangers may not have been at its best, but still it was Rangers – plenty of experience and ambition. If anything, they saved the season by winning the FA Cup. At the end, it was great, for they lost the same final a year ago.
The Scottish League Cup final was a Dundee clash: reigning cup holders Dundee United vs second-division city rivals Dundee. Of course, both teams wanted to win. But no matter how ambitious and good Dundee were, they were not match to one of most talented and improving Scottish sides at the moment – Dundee United simply won the final 3-0.
Good season for Dundee, but let face it: they were a second-division team, and although going up, they were not spectacular. Well done, but truly they were second-best this season.
Strong season for Dundee United, crowned with the League Cup. Two League Cups in a row was wonderful, confirming the real class of the team and also warning the others that this team was going to stay, perhaps getting ready for even stronger performances.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Saturday, September 17, 2016