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Friday, September 27, 2013

One Hit Wonders: Limburgia, 1949-50 (Netherlands)

We all know that Dutch league soccer is dominated by Ajax, PSV and sometimes Feyenoord. Those three clubs have won 95% of all league titles since 1960, only two other clubs (AZ twice and FC Twente once) also managed to win the championship. From 1946 until 1959, it was the other way around. Fourteen championships were contested, and twelve different clubs won. Willem II from Tilburg and Ajax from Amsterdam both won two titles. Perhaps the most surprising title during this period is the one Limburgia claimed, back in 1949-50.


Short history 



Limburgia was the soccer club of Brunssum, a small town in the southern province of the Netherlands, Limburg, where the National Mine ‘Hendrik’ provided for most of the work. Nearly all their players were working in that coal mine. Limburgia was founded in 1920 as Rhenania. Seven years later, the name was changed into Sportvereniging Staatsmijn Hendrik (Sportsclub National Mine Hendrik), and in 1936 into Limburgia. In those days the first level in the Netherlands consisted of four, five or even six regional leagues. Yearly the winners of those leagues played each other home and away, to determine the national champion. Limburgia first played on the highest level in 1939, and won their southern region league for the first time in 1945-1946. During those play-offs, Limburgia managed only three wins, and came in last with six points from ten matches. HFC Haarlem was crowned champion that year.


The regular season


Three seasons passed until the 1949-50 season started. The Dutch league at the time was divided into six regions, with South and West both having two different leagues, North and East just one. These were the regional champions:
Ajax, with Rinus Michels front row, second from the left
-        East I:         Enschedese Boys, seven point ahead of Heracles from Almelo.
-        North I:      Heerenveen, thirteen points more than GVAV from Groningen
-        South II:     Maurits (Geleen) , three point ahead of BVV from Den Bosch.
-        West I:       Blauw Wit (Amsterdam), four point better than Hermes DVS from Schiedam
-        West II:      Ajax (Amsterdam), two points ahead of De Volewijkers, also from Amsterdam.

Limburgia during the 1949-50 season
(goalkeeper Sjra jacobs in the circle)
The region South I was the most exciting that year. After 18 matches, both PSV and Limburgia had 25 points, so a play-off match had to be played, in Venlo. The odds were slightly in favor of Limburgia, as they had beaten PSV twice 2-1 during the regular season. In a very exciting match history repeated itself, as Limburgia also won this third match 2-1. Piet Bruins and Frits de Graaf scored for Limburgia, only Harry van Elderen got on the scoresheet for PSV. Limburgia played as one would expect from mineworkers; enthousiastic, tough and powerful. PSV had the better players, the better technique and were tactically superior to Limburgia. But still, they lost.

The Play-Off Matches


Sjra Jacobs
Nobody really expected Limburgia to do well during the Champions Round. Ajax and Heerenveen (with the best Dutch players of these years, Abe Lenstra)  were the big favorites.
But Limburgia had a flying start, with a 4-3 win at home against Maurits. Oddly enough, Maurits was a team from neighboring town Geleen, with most of his players also being mineworkers – from another National Mine, Prins Maurits. One can imagine that this was a very rough match. After a 3-3 draw in Amsterdam against Blauw Wit, a 2-1 defeat against Maurits and a  4-1 victory over Enschedese Boys, Limburgia and three other clubs (Heerenveen, Maurits and Blauw Wit) all had five points. Ajax had four and Enschedese Boys just one. It was totally unclear where this was going. Limburgia still had to play both Heerenveen and Ajax twice, so their chances were considered slim. But somehow they got on a roll. Especially the forwards, Frits Cox and his brother Lei Cox, Frits de Graaf, Piet Bruist and Nelis van Lübeck started banging in the goals. And defensively, Sjra Jacobs, the finest goalkeeper ever to come from the province of Limburg, delivered some spectacular performances. He missed the first matches through sickness, and was guilty of three mistakes during the 3-3 against Blauw Wit. But now he was making his mark, denying great forwards as Rinus Michels (Ajax), Piet Koekebakker (Blauw Wit) and Abe Lenstra (Heerenveen). Sadly, a few years later, while playing for Rapid JC, Jacobs received a kick to the head in a match against PSV. As medical attention was slow, it caused major brain damage which ended his career – and ruined the rest of his life.
Blauw Wit 1949-50
Back to 1950: Limburgia won those matches, four in a row, while scoring lots of goals. A 6-2 victory at home against Blauw Wit (according to the newspapers Blauw Wit were the better team that afternoon!) put Limburgia three points ahead of them, with just two matches to go. So now, Limburgia were suddenly on top and needed just one more victory. The first attempt failed, as Limburgia lost 3-5 in Heerenveen to Abe Lenstra and his boys. Now it became necessary to win their final match, away to Ajax.
This match was played in a sold out Olympic Stadium. Two thousand Limburgia-supporters travelled with their team to Amsterdam, hoping to witness a historical moment. Ajax had little to play for: a victory against Limburgia would mean they would finish third. If not, they would come in fourth. Either way, a big disappointment. Most likely, their eyes were on their rivals from Amsterdam, Blauw Wit. If Ajax should win against Limburgia, Blauw Wit probably was the new champion.

The Final Match


The team that beat Ajax 6-0
The game started with Ajax mostly in possession, trying to score the first goal. They failed, not only because they were not determined enough, but mainly because goalkeeper Jacobs simply was unbeatable. After thirteen minutes Limburgia suddenly took the lead, Frits Cox making an easy goal. Two minutes later, Limburgia’s best player, Frits de Graaf, made it 0-2. After that, Limburgia were in control. They were no longer intimitedated by the skills of their opponents, their confidence rose as the game progressed.
During the second half Ajax were completely outplayed – only midfielder Joop Stoffelen kept his ground. On the other hand, defender Cor van der Hart - a player with a big reputation - had one of the worst matches of his life. Limburgia wasn’t satisfied with 2-0 and goals by De Graaf, Lei Cox (two) and Cobben made it 0-6.
After the final whistle, not only the Limburgia-supporters were in seventh heaven. Most of the 50,000 spectators at the Olympic stadium cheered for them – at the same time knowing that Blauw Wit was beaten for the title.

Slowly downhill


Limburgia was crowned champion of the Netherland. That was a first, as no other club from the province Limburg had accomplished such a feat before. 
These were the players of that legendary team: Sjra Jacobs, Jan van Huizen, Willy Groen, Hens van Lübeck, Hub Welzen, Mathieu Spanjer, Piet Bruist, Frits Cox, Lei Cox, Frits de Graaf and Nelis van Lübeck. Also reserve-goalie Jonker and the attackers Jan Eggels en Lei Cobben were involved.
Overall Limburgia had a decent team, but not a great one. They had played together for years, which obviously strengthens a team. Just one player, right winger Frits de Graaf, made such an impact that he was picked for the national team four months later. De Graaf was extremely fast and had a thundering shot. He collected three caps, against Switserland, Belgium and France in late 1950, losing all three of them (5-7, 2-7 and 2-5). Still, he managed to score two goals. Or even three, as De Graaf has always claimed an own goal by Swiss player Roger Bocquet to be his. After 1950, Limburgia slowly disappeared from the scene. A third place in the regional league in 1951 was followed by a fith place a year later, and a seventh place in 1953. After the introduction of professional soccer in the Netherlands in 1954, Limburgia didn't make the cut for the start of the 'Eredivisie', and had to play in the second division. In 1963 they dropped another level, until the club decided to leave professional soccer and went back to being an amateur club in 1971.

Matches of Limburgia during the Champions Round in 1950, with goalscorers

April 10
Limburgia - Maurits
4-3
Piet Bruist**, Lei Cox**
April 23
Blauw Wit - Limburgia
3-3
Piet Bruist***
April 30
Maurits - Limburgia
2-1
Lei Cox*
May 7
Limburgia – Enschedese Boys
4-1
Frits Cox*, Nelis van Lübeck**, Piet Bruist*
May 14
Limburgia - Ajax
3-2
Frits de Graaf**, Frits Cox *
May 21
Limburgia - Heerenveen
7-0
Lei Cox***, Cobben**, Frits Cox*, own goal*
May 29
Enschedese Boys - Limburgia
0-2
Nelis van Lübeck*, Frits Cox*
June 4
Limburgia – Blauw Wit
6-2
Frits de Graaf***, Nelis van Lübeck***
June 17
Heerenveen - Limburgia
5-3
Frits de Graaf*, Frits Cox*, Nelis van Lübeck*
June 24
Ajax - Limburgia
0-6
Frits de Graaf**, Lei Cox **, Frits Cox*, Cobben*

Final Standings Champions Round

Ranking
Club
Played
Won
Drawn
Lost
Points
Goals
1
Limburgia
10
7
1
2
15-5
39-18
2
Blauw Wit
10
6
2
2
14-6
36-23
3
Maurits
10
4
2
4
10-10
16-22
4
Ajax
10
4
0
6
8-12
21-22
5
Heerenveen
10
3
2
5
8-12
22-34
6
Enschedese Boys
10
2
1
7
5-15
10-25



Friday, September 20, 2013

Soccer Pioneers: the first players to reach 50 international caps (countrywise)

Today, September 20, 2013, Egyptian Ahmed Hassan holds the world record for international caps with an amazing 184. Nowadays nearly three hundred players collected 100 international appearances or more, before the Second World War playing 50 caps was a remarkable achievement. Here are the ten players that were the first for their country to play 50 international matches.

Imre Schlosser


1 Imre Schlosser (Hungary, 1889-1959)

Schlosser made his debut for the Hungarian national team in 1906, in a draw with Bohemia (4-4). In total he played 68 matches for his country, of which the match against Austria (3-3 on November 5, 1916), was his 50th cap. Schlosser became the first ever international player to do so, before him the record holder was Welshman Billy Meredith. Schlosser played another eleven years for his country after that, but only managed 18 more caps. He also held the world record for most international goals (59)scored, until Ferenc Puskas broke that record in 1954.

2 Cayetano Saporiti (Uruguay, 1887-1954)

Saporiti isn’t a household name in international soccer, except in his home country Uruguay and in Argentina. He managed to collect his 50th and last cap on May 25, 1919. With the national team goalkeeper Saporiti won the Copa America in 1916 and 1917. Of his 50 caps, no less than 42 were against neigbour Argentina.

Armand Swartenbroeks

3  Armand Swartenbroeks (Belgium, 1892-1980)

For eight years, Schlosser and Saporiti were in a league of their own. Then Belgian defender Armand Swartenbroeks collected his 50th cap on September 4, 1927. Unfortunately, Belgium lost that match in Stockholm 7-0 to Sweden. Swartenbroeks was a member of the Belgium team that won the Olympic title in 1920 in Antwerp. He had the misfortune of not playing any matches for Belgium for five years, due to the First World War. Otherwise, he probably would have been the most capped player before the Second World War.

4 Harry Dénis (Netherlands, 1896-1971)

With a Belgian player at number 3, the Netherlands can’t stay far behind. Harry Dénis was a right back defender, and played in three Olympics (1920, 1924 and 1928). He had the special honour of taking the Olympic oath on behalf of all the athletes in 1928. Dénis played his 50th cap on June 5, 1928 a 3-1 victory over Belgium at the Olympic Consolations Tournament. His biggest disappointment occured a few days earlier, as the Dutch lost against 0-2 Uruguay in the first round of the Olympics. Dénis was captain of his team in 37 of his 56 international matches.

Umberto Caligaris as a
Juventus-player  

5 Umberto Caligaris (Italy, 1901-1940)

Just like Dénis, Umberto Caligaris played as a right back and also took part at the 1928 Olympics (as he did in 1924). He was more succesfull, as Italy managed to win a bronze medal. Caligaris collected his 50th cap in an away match against Switserland (1-1) on March 29, 1931.
Caligaris played his 59th and last match for Italy in February 1934, just a few months before Italy won the World Cup. He was a squad member, but sat on the bench the whole tournament. He was 32 years old at the time. After playing only a few minutes of  a veteran soccer game on October 19, 1940, he was taken to the hospital and died of a aneurysma.

6 Josef Blum (Austria, 1898-1956)

The Austrian Wunderteam (1931-1932) had many outstanding players, like Matthias Sindelar, Fritz Geschweidl, Anton Schall and goalkeeper Rudolf Hiden. Defender (again!) Josef Blum was in the line-up of what was considered the birth of this Wunderteam, a 5-0 victory over Scotland. In the one and a half year after that, Austria won for example 6-0 and 5-0 against Germany, 8-1 against Switserland and 8-2 against Hungary. Blum was one of the oldest players on the team, the match mentioned  against Hungary was his 51th and last one. One month before, he played his 50th match on March 20, 1932, a 2-1 victory over Italy. Blum’s record of 51 caps lasted until 1954, when Ernst Ocwirk took over.

7 Max Abegglen (Switserland, 1902-1970)

Max, or ‘Xam’ Abegglen is one of three soccer playing brothers (Jean (1899) and Andre ‘Trello’ (1909) are the others), who all played for the Swiss national team. Max was a prolific goalscorer for Switserland, it wasn’t until 2001 that his record of 34 international goals was matched by Kubilay Turkyilmaz (and later surpassed by Alexander Frei). His biggest moment probably were the 1924 Olympics in Paris, where Swisterland reached the final but was beaten by Uruguay. Abegglen played his 50th cap on April 2, 1933, losing 0-3 to Italy. Abegglen is one of the few players who has a professional soccer club named after him: Xamax Neuchatel, in 2012 demoted to the Swiss Amateur league because of financial problems.

8 Eugen Einman (Estonia, 1905-1963)

The most unexpected name in this top ten is without a doubt Eugen Einman form Estonia. This small country was independent between the two world wars, but hardly made any headlines during this period on the soccer field. Mostly Estonia played Lithuania, Latvia, Sweden or Finland. They failed to qualify for the World Cup in 1934 and 1938. But still, midfielder/defender Eugen Einman was a member of the Estonian team from 1923 until 1935, and collected 65 caps during these years. As the first of country he gained his 50th cap on August 9, 1933 against  Latvia (2-1 for Estonia).

9 Josef Silný (Czechoslovakia, 1902-1981)

Although Czechoslovakia was a mighty force on the European continent, Josef Silný managed to collect 50 caps, with nearly all of them being friendlies and matches for the Svehla Cup (tournament between Italy, Austria, Hungary and Switserland). Silný was vital in winning the bronze medal in the 1927-1930 edition, scoring four goals. He made his debut one year after the 1924 Olympics, and after that Czechoslovakia didn’t enter the 1928 Olympics and the 1930 World Cup. At last, his 50th cap was for real as it was the first round of the World Cup, May 27, 1934. Czechoslovakia beat Romania 2-1, but Silny was left out of the team during the rest of the tournament, giving him a silver medal for only playing one of four matches. Still, 50 caps (and 28 goals) is a big achievement.

10 Max Viinioksa (Finland, 1905-1977)

The second dark horse of this top ten ends this list. Finland’s Max Viinioksa made his debut for Finland in 1926, and was a regular for the team for nine years. Actually, Viinioksa favored (ice)hockey (he did play a few matches in the 1933-34 hockeyleague) but in those days the level of play in Finland was low. So, strongly build Viinioksa decided to be a soccer player. He was famous in his own country, but not outside as Finland did not enter the Olympics in 1928, nor tried to qualify for the World Cup of 1930 and 1934. Defender Viinioksa wasn’t in the team anymore when his country played in the 1936 Olympics, losing 3-7 to Peru in the first round. Viinioksa  50th and last match Viinioksa played on September 8, 1935 against Denmark. It ended 5-1 in favor of the Danes.


Frantisek Planicka (on the right)
Before the Second World War, a total of 32 players were capped 50 times or more for their country. Legendary Czechoslovakian goalkeeper Frantisek Planicka had the world record at that moment, number four placed Severino Minello would be the next record holder. Minello’s 80 caps (last match June 14, 19430 were beaten by Ferenc Puskas (84) and then England’s Billy Wright, who was the first player ever to reach a total (more than) hundred caps in 1959)







Most capped players before the Second World War (31-08-1939)


Frantisek Planicka
Czechoslovakia
1926-1938
73
Angel Romano
Uruguay
1911-1927
69
Imre Schlosser
Hungary
1906-1927
68
Severino Minello*
Switserland
1930-1939
68
Evald Tipner
Estonia
1924-1939
67
Eugen Einman
Estonia
1923-1935
65
Puck van Heel
Netherlands
1925-1938
64
Eriks Petersons*
Latvia
1929-1939
61
Antonin Puc
Czechoslovakia
1926-1938
60
Rudolf Ramseyer
Switserland
1920-1931
59
Umberto Caligaris
Italy
1922-1934
59
Bernard Voorhoof*
Belgium
1928-1939
59
Eduard Ellman-Eelma
Estonia
1921-1935
58
Harry Dénis
Netherlands
1919-1930
56
Jaroslav Burgr
Czechoslovakia
1929-1938
55
Gejus van der Meulen
Netherlands
1924-1934
54
Raymond Braine
Belgium
1925-1939
54
Alberts Seibelis
Latvia
1925-1939
54
Frans Karjagin*
Finland
1929-1939
54
Armand Swartenbroeks
Belgium
1913-1928
53
Guiseppe Meazza
Italy
1930-1939
53
Hector Scarone
Uruguay
1917-1930
52
Virginio Rosetta
Italy
1920-1934
52
Karl-Rudolph Sillberg-Sillak
Estonia
1929-1938
52
Josef Blum
Austria
1920-1932
51
Karoly Fogl II
Hungary
1918-1929
51
Gyorgy Sarosi*
Hungary
1931-1939
51
Cayetano Saporiti
Uruguay
1905-1919
50
Max Viinioska
Finland
1926-1935
50
Josef Silný
Czechoslovakia
1925-1934
50
William Kanerva
Finland
1922-1938
50
Janis Lidmanis*
Latvia
1931-1939
50

*Still active at that time