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Month: May 2010

My Favourite Former Country: Yugoslavia

In the second of his pieces for us, William Abbs ponders whether having a second team at international level is a worthwhile endeavour. When Fulham’s improbable run to the Europa League final had writers in The Times and The Guardian trumpeting Roy Hodgson’s charges as everybody’s second favourite team, I asked myself the following question: how does having a second favourite team work at international level? In the case of Fulham, they earned the backing of British neutrals by virtue of being a Premier League club in a European final. The British love an unlikely hero; when Fulham defeated the best that Europe could throw at them (within the parameters of the continent’s second-ranked club competition anyhow), the London club’s place in the public’s affections was assured. With a few notable exceptions, any side in the country would have received such goodwill under the circumstances. For fans of clubs with nothing left to play for at the end of the season, supporting a British side in a major final is a harmless way to hitch a lift aboard another’s glory. But what about supporting another country? Developing an affection for a national side other than one’s own is, if anything, a more enduring affair. During a major tournament, with so many games being televised in such a short space of time, watching a group of players perform magnificently over...

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World Cup Tales: Boycott! When Africa & Asia Said “Enough”, 1966

In England at least, the 1966 World Cup finals have been mythologised. To an extent, they have started to become the footballing equivalent of Arthurian legend – a set of values of Englishness that we either subscribe to or not. This is a shame, because the 1966 World Cup was a fascinating tournament and some of the most notable stories have slipped under the collective radar because of the suffocating over-presence of that “Russian” linesman, Argentinians chasing the referee around the pitch and all the other micro-stories that make up the occasionally muddied and contradictory narrative of England’s eventual win in that tournament. Amongst these is the story of a dispute that didn’t only have a direct, tangible affect on the 1966 tournament itself, but would also go on to have long-term ramifications for the entire FIFA organisation. Egypt became the first African nation to attempt qualification for the World Cup, in 1934 and 1954. As the game’s appealed continued to grow, however, there was a growing clamour from African and Asian nations to be involved in the World Cup finals, and the Asian Football Confederation was founded in 1954, with the Confederation of African Football following in 1957. The early rules for African and Asian countries were stringent, to say the least. For the 1958 World Cup, twelve Asian and African teams entered, but a FIFA rule stating...

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The Monday Morning Links Emporium

After a week long hiatus, The Monday Links Emporium is back, and this morning we feature something that will probably make you spit coffee out of your nose, some bizarre goings on at Kettering, a potted history of the World Cup for beginners and The Football Club That Ate Essex™. Don’t forget, we are always interested in any links that you find for this “prestigious” column – if you find anything that you think we would be interested in, feel free to drop us a line by email or stick it in the comments section here. – The Sunderland forum “Ready To Go”, in the spirit of office time-wasters world-wide, started a thread on the subject of recreating great football moments using MS Paint. The results were simply tremendous, and now there is a video compilation on YouTube. Cracking stuff, which will make you snort coffee out of your nose. – In 1992, When Saturday Comes ran an article by someone that gave the newly-merged Dagenham & Redbridge “Five Years. And that’s being generous.” Eighteen years on, the Daggers were promoted into League One at the weekend. Regardless of concerns about how the club came into existence, it’s an achievement that can’t be denied. Kudos, also, to WSC for reprinting a prediction that turned out to be so hopelessly wrong. – We’re finally starting to find out a little...

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World Cup Tales: When The World Cup Legitimised A Dictatorship – Argentina, 1978

There have been, over the last eighty years or so, several questionable decisions made regarding the hosting of World Cup tournaments. None, however, have been met with quite the fury that met the hosting of the 1978 World Cup finals in Argentina. The decision made to award the 1978 finals to Argentina was made in July of 1966, but after a military coup in March 1976 left the country in the hands of a military dictatorship, there were calls for the tournament to be moved elsewhere in a clash of ideologies that pitted the liberal left of popular opinion in Western Europe against the more right-wing politics of FIFA. The previous few years had not been particularly kind to Argentinian football. Following the debacle of their defeat at Wembley in 1966 and, two years prior to that, their failed bid to host the 1970 tournament (ironically, primarily on account of concerns over altitude, they had the support of the Football Association), they had failed to qualify for the 1970 tournament altogether and four years later squeezed through the first group stage in West Germany at the expense of Italy, only to finish bottom in the second group stage of the tournament. The main prize, however, had already been won in the form of hosting the 1978 World Cup, although even this was thrown into turmoil after the events of...

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Heysel: Requiem For A Cup Final

There is no pleasure to be had in this evening’s second post, which is a BBC documentary of the story of the 1985 Heysel Stadium Disaster, which happened twenty-five years ago this evening. Even at a quarter of a century’s remove, and speaking as someone that watched the events of that appalling evening unfold live on the television, the capacity of the such events to shock remains undiminished. The crowning glory of years of English hooliganism laid bare in front of the whole world. “Heysel: Requiem For A Cup Final” is about as good a documentary on the subject as you could hope for. It has interviews with many people that were there that evening and treats the subject with rare sensitivity and grace.It may not seem like perfect Saturday night viewing, but if you are looking for an overview of a tragedy so stupefying that it continues to defy comprehension to this day, this is a very good place indeed to start looking. As ever with videos hosted on YouTube, it is divided into handy nine minute...

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