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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Playing in the States, the early edition (Part One)

Of course, every soccer player, certainly if he had reached a certain age, was willing to earn some dollars in the North American Soccer League (NASL) And so the league was cramped with foreign players. Some of the best (Pelé, Johan Cruijff, Franz Beckenbauer and George Best), and a lot with far less claim to fame. Fifty years earlier in the American Soccer League, foreign players also were very keen on playing in the United States and earn a few dollars.

With the start of the American Soccer League in 1921, the United States had one of the first professional leagues in the world. England and Scotland were way ahead, Austria (1924), Czechoslovakia (1925) and Hungary (1926) came later. Of course, a professional league isn’t a quality league overnight. The best thing to do, to increase the level of play, was getting players from abroad to compete in the league, so that Americans could learn from them.
This article takes a countrywise approach, naming lots of foreign players that were responsible for the first heyday of American soccer. This first part covers players from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, England and Germany. In the second part players from Hungaria, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Sweden will be covered.

Austria

Hakoah Vienna in 1925
Johann Tandler
During the roaring twenties, Austrian soccer was among the best in Europe. One of the best teams in their league was SC Hakoah Vienna. It was a Jewish club for Jewish soccer players, who were not allowed to play for other soccer clubs. Anti-Semitism was already rising in central Europe in those days. Still, Hakoah Vienna managed to take the league title in 1925. One year later, they travelled to the New York area to play some friendly matches. They only lost once in seven matches. The players were pleasantly surprised by the lack of anti-Semitism during their tour and by the high wages, so nine players decided to stay in the States and play in the American Soccer League. In total even a few more travelled to the States from Austria, below I’ve collected some data on most of them. Most of the Austrian (and Hungarian) players went playing for New York Giants or Brooklyn Wanders, a few years later they nearly all played for their own club: Hakoah All-Stars. Although strong teams, neither of them ever won the league. Best performance is Hakoah All-Stars winning the National Challenge Cup in 1929, with  Leo Drucker, Moritz Hausler, Max Grünwald and Siegfried Wortmann in the line-up.

Player
Club(s) in ASL
ASL Performance
Achievements in Europe
Moritz Hausler
New York Giants, Hakoah All-Stars
178 matches (57 goals)
Caps: 7 (2 goals)
Austrian champion with Hakoah in 1925
Viktor Hierländer
New York Giants
21 matches (10 goals)
Caps: 5 (3 goals)
Austrian champion with FAC in 1918, with Amateure Vienna in 1924 and 1926.
Leo Drucker
Brooklyn Wanderers, Hakoah All-Stars
136 matches (0 goals)
Caps: 1 (0 goals)
Played also in France, Italy and Malta
Max Grünwald
New York Giants, Hakoah All-Stars
161 matches (72 goals)
Caps: 1 (2 goals)
Siegfried Wortmann
NewYork Nationals, Hakoah All-Stars
122 matches (40 goals)
Caps: 1 (1 goal)
Austrian champion with First Vienna in 1933
Max Gold
NewYork Giants, Hakoah All-Stars
46 ( 0 goals)
Caps: 2 (0 goals)
Johann Tandler
New York Giants
60 matches (1 goal)
Caps: 18 (3 goals)
Austrian champion with Amateure 1924 and 1926

Other Austrian players in the ASL include Rudy Kuntner, Josef Schoenfeld and Gustav Pollak.

Czechoslovakia

Frantisek Szedlacsek
Although Czechoslovakia started their own professional league in 1925, still some players were very keen on playing in the American Soccer League. Six times international Pavel Mahrer for example, who played for Brooklyn Wanders in the 1926-27 season (17 matches, no goals). After that he returned home, but came back to play another 93 matches (4 goals) in four seasons for Hakoah All Stars. Frantisek or Ferenc Szedlacsek (two caps for Czechoslovakia, one for Hungary) even had a better reputation when he accompanied Mahrer from DFC Prague to Brooklyn Wanders. He only managed to play in five matches, scoring three goals. After that, he went playing for Hungarian side Ferencvaros, winning the league in 1928 and 1932. Third and last Czechoslovakian player in the ASL was Samuel Schillinger, who was capped four times and also was a member of DFC Prague . He played for New York Giants, during the 1927-28 season (35 matches, no goals).


Egypt

Just after the First World War, Egypt had a decent national team, and competed in the Olympics in 1920. One of the players that stood out was Tewfik Abdallah. To study engineering, he moved to  England. But he was picke dup by Derby County, where he made his debut scoring a goal in a win against Manchester City. After this fine start things got mediocre. He moved from club to club, to finally pack his bags and started a new career in the American Soccer League. His main club in the States was Providence Clamdiggers (three seasons, 62 matches and 24 goals), but he also had stints with Fall River Marksmen, Hartford Americans and the New York Nationals.

England

Harold Brittan
While it is impossible to count the Scottish players that were lured to the American Soccer League, English players were far more reluctant. Of course, one of the reasons being that wages in the United States were better than in Scotland, but not as good as in England. Still, it could be fifty players or even more, that eventually did try the American dream. I’ll just name five that were instrumental.
Harold Brittan should be the first to mention. He was not a big success with Chelsea, where he played from 1913 until 1915, or even after the war in the 1919-20 season. As most of family already lived in the United States, he decided to go there as well. He started playing for Bethlehem Steel, and after a year changed to Philadelphia Field Club, That was the first season of the American Soccer league, 1921-22, and Brittan immediately took the title and was crowned top goalscorer with 27 goals in 17 matches. He kept on scoring goals(his total in the ASL is 135) and collected another three titles with Fall River Marksmen in 1923-24, 1924-25 and 1925-26.


Veterans

After sixteen years in the blue and white of Everton, Sam Chedgzoy also decided to cross the ocean. Chedgzoy was an English international player (8 caps) and very experienced. Although already 36 years at the start of his adventure, he still managed to play 164 league-matches during four seasons in the ASL. Billy Hibbert was even older, as he was born in 1884. He played for Bury and Newcastle, and earned an English cap in 1910 against Scotland. He mainly played for Pawtucket Rangers (four matches, one goal for Fall River Marksmen) and collected sixty ASL-matches, scoring 25 times. Sam Fletcher wasn’t really a star of the ASL, his best days in US soccer were in the years before. Fletcher tried his luck in the United States as a twenty-year old, in 1910. He soon starts to play for Bethlehem Steel, in the Allied Ameican Football League. Fletchers trophyroom is huge. In seven seasons he collects six titles, four National Challenge Cups and four American Cups. He plays for Erie AA, Newark Skeeters and Providence Clamdiggers until he is 39 years old, still collecting 90 ASL-matches.


George Moorhouse

National team

George Moorhouse failed to make an impression with Leeds United and only made two appearances for Tranmere Rovers, when he was just twenty years old. That all changed when he emigrated to Canada in 1923. Only a few months later, he played three matches for the Brooklyn Wanderers, before being transferred to the New York Giants. A total of 241 ASL-matches and 46 goals is impressive, but his biggest accomplishment is playing for the national team of the USA, starting with a 6-1 victory over Canada in 1926. He topped that when he was on the pitch on July 13, 1930 to play Belgium in the World Cup in Montevideo. His three appearances in Uruguay made Moorhouse the first English-born player to compete at the World Cup ever.



Germany

While Germany is a household name in soccer for decades, that wasn’t the case during the roaring twenties. With no national league, the standard of play was low as big clubs had it far too easy winning their matches. So just a few German players got the chance to play in the ASL. Herman Bleich wasn’t a regular for his teams and only managed 48 ASL-matches in five seasons, Max Soehl only played seven maches for Fall River in 1930. Josef Grünfeld is in fact the only German with some kind of career in the ASL. As a youngster he was a member of the Hakoah Vienna team in 1919-20, and again in the 1929-30. Inbetween he played for German side  Stuttgarter Kickers and others. He spent two years in the ASL playing for Hakoah All-Stars and collecting 63 matches in which he scored 23 goals.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Legendary farewell matches

After ending their career great soccer players usually are offered a farewell match. From their club, their former club or from the national team they used to play for. Only once in a while those matches actually become legendary, more often it gets emotional or even funny. Or it goes terribly wrong. A trip down memory lane.

Since the sixties, it has become a tradition that a famous soccer player, surrounded by his soccer friends, says goodbye to his sporting life by playing a farewell match. One of the first was Sir Stanley Matthews. On April 28, 1965, he played a match with ‘Great Britain’ (with Johnny Haynes and Jimmy Greaves in their ranks) against ‘The rest of Europe’. This team had Lev Jashin in goal, and Alfredo di Stefano, Josef Masopust and Ferenc Puskas on the pitch. ‘Europe’ won 6-4.

Playing a world XI or continent XI

That match was something of a blueprint for matches to follow: everybody is having a laugh, and there are many goals to celebrate on both sides. On this occasion, Matthews failed to score a goal himself. Normally, the player involved scores one or two goals. As did Uwe Seeler in 1972, playing with his club Hamburger SV against ‘Europe’. Seeler made two goals, but lost 3-7.
The following players all got similar farewell matches in which a European, South American or world selection of soccer friends showed up to play: Lev Jashin (Soviet Union), Mario Coluna (Portugal), Garrincha and Zico (Brazil), Willy Schultz and Paul Breitner (West-Germany), Paul van Himst (Belgium), Teofilo Cubillas (Peru), Michel Platini and Eric Cantona (France), Franco Baresi (Italy) and Gheorghe Hagi (Rumania).

Pelé and Maradona

On other occasions, players are likely to organize a match between two clubs they’d play for. So, on October 1, 1977, nearly 37 year old Pelé, celebrates his career with a match between Santos and New York Cosmos, playing 45 minutes for each team. New Cosmos won 2-1, Pelé scored one of the goals for the New Yorkers.
Diego Maradona was even 41 years old, when he played his farewell match, at his beloved Bombonera stadium in Buenos Aires, home of Boca Juniors. He played with the national team of Argentina against a selection of soccer friends. Friends like René Higuita and Carlos Valderrama, Enzo Francescoli, Hristo Stoichkov, Hugo Gatti and Juan Sebastian Veron. It got very emotional, nearly everybody was crying and kissing each other. Maradona converts two penalties, but loses 5-3 to his friends.

Foul play

Kevin Keegan wasn’t so lucky. In 1984 he played with his club Newcastle United against his old club Liverpool. Keegan, still in very good shape at 33, scored a penalty in a match that ended 2-2. Liverpool’s Mark Lawrenson nearly spoiled all the fun with a ferocious tackle on Keegan, which could have ended his playing days an hour earlier. When Dennis Irwin was awarded a testimonial match against Manchester City in 2000 for ten years at Manchester United, City’s George Weah injured him badly in the 37th minute of the match. Irwin had to be substituted, and missed out on the first five weeks of the upcoming season. And when Julian Dick got his testimonial between his club West Ham United and Atletico Bilbao in the same year, it ended in a fight between 17 of the 22 players, with especially Paulo di Canio, Nigel Winterburn and Joseba Etxeberria behaving badly.
It can even go wrong before a match. In 2008 Jaap Stam wanted his farewell game (Ajax against an All Star team) to be played in his hometown Zwolle. Ninety hooligans from Amsterdam terrorized the city centre of Zwolle before the match. After that, the match itself was interrupted by a heavy cloudburst. So it really wasn't a happy day for Stam.

Johan Cruijff and Bayern Munich


Perhaps the worst farewell match of all came down upon Johan Cruijff in November 1978. As the obvious choice Barcelona wasn’t able to participate in the match, Ajax decided to ask Bayern Munich instead. For a moment of total stupidity forgetting the old rivalry between the two clubs. Cruijff and Ajax humiliated Bayern Munich twice in the early seventies in the European Cup. And the World Cup final in 1974 didn’t help relations between the Dutch and the Germans either. It all went wrong when the Germans thought they were mistreated before the game. No Ajax delegation was present at the Schiphol airport, the hotel looked cheap and during the warm-up not even one Ajax-player came up to the Germans to say hello. And when the verbal abuse roared from the stands, Bayern Munich had enough. Goalie Sepp Maier did put on a silly hat just before the kick-off, but after the whistle had blown they were dead serious. At half-time Bayern had a 2-0 lead, and they scored another six goals in the second half to end the match 8-0. The goals were scored by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (3), Paul Breitner (3) and Gerd Müller (2). Cruijff played a decent game himself, but most of his teammates - Ajax wasn't a strong team at the time - were a downright disaster. Twenty five years later Bayern Munich apologized for winning 8-0. And of course Cruijff played soccer for another six years or so, so it really wasn’t his farewell match after all.

Raising money for charity

Claus Lundekvam (Sothampton)
As even common players since the eighties got to earn loads of money during their career, they more and more lean towards using their farewell match to raise money for the less privileged. Niall Quinn supported children’s hospitals in Ireland and India, Ulf Kirsten donated his money to youth soccer in the Dresden region. Alan Shearer collected no less than two million for his farewell, and picked fourteen foundations to send money to. In his second attempt (the money from his first testimonial was all spent on drinking), Tony Adams donated five hundred thousand pound to The Sporting Clinic, an organization that helps athletes to recover from drinking, drugs and gambling.
Norwegian Claus Lundekvam had his farewell match Southampton against Celtic planned just days after a Bon Jovi gig. Rock fans totally ruined the pitch, and as Celtic was unable to reschedule, Lundekvam himself paid for a new pitch. No less than twenty thousand supporters visited the match, making up for his investment.

Two hundred school kids


Joseba Etxeberria, already mentioned earlier, had a new idea. In May 2010 he invited two hundred school kids to face his Atletic Bilbao. The idea was that hundred would play the first half, substituted by the other hundred for the second half. But as Bilbao was leading the match at halftime, it was decided that all two hundred would play the next 45 minutes. Still, Bilbao managed to win 5-3.

To end on a friendly note, Samuel Kuffour from Ghana had his farewell match planned on December 23, 2011. He invited, among others, George Weah, Lothar Matthäus, Daniel Amokachi, Andy Cole and Jay-Jay Okocha to this game, which took place in Kumasi. The game even got two former presidents from Ghana burying the hatchet. JJ Rawlings and John Agyekum Kuffour had been on each other’s throath for a while, but ended their fight on that day. The match ended 6-5 and of course Sammy Kuffour was allowed to score from the penalty spot.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Standing in the shadow: the less talented brothers of soccer super stars

Some of the greatest soccer players in the world have brothers who play soccer too. Sometimes both are extraordinary players, like Bobby and Jack Charlton, Michael and Brian Laudrup, Socrates and Rai or Frank and Ronald de Boer. But it’s a different story involving the brothers of Roberto Baggio, Eric Cantona, Zico, Diego Maradona, Jean-Marie Pfaff, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uwe Seeler. They certainly pulled the short straw.

Eddy Baggio (Italy, 13-08-1973)

Eddy Baggio
Seven years older brother: Roberto Baggio (three World Cups, 56 caps with 27 goals)
His father named him Eddy after the famous Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx, but of course he wante to play soccer. Already at a very young age he was considered a big talent, just like his brother Roberto. At 16 years old he played in the youth team of Fiorentina. After that, Eddy had a string of mediocre clubteams, trying to get his big break. But all his scoring for clubs like Ancona or Ascoli never was convincing enough for top clubs to contract him. Still, mainly because of his famous last name, clubs like Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal were mentioned, but they never made an offer. So Eddy Baggio spent his soccer days playing for Catania, Salernitana, Vicenza, Spezia, Pisa, Portogruarosummaga and Sangiovannese.
By the way, Dino Baggio isn’t related to Eddy and Roberto.

Joël Cantona (France, 28-10-1967)

One year older brother: Eric Cantona (45 caps with 20 goals), cult hero at Manchester United.
There’s not much to say about the soccer player Joël Cantona. He was a defender and had far less talent than his brother. He also was less controversial than Eric was – but then again, who isn’t? Played most of his career at Olympique Marseille, but was never an automatic choice for the starting eleven. At Stade Rennes and Angers he performed a bit better. Joël also spent one year in Hungary, with Ujpest Dosza. After his professional career, Joël went on to play beach soccer. Together with his brother and some friends from Marseille, they represented France in international beach soccer tournaments. Once in a while, he also likes to act. Joël has played in a few movies, most of the times with Eric. In the movie Astérix et Obélix: Mission Cleopatra and Cleopatra (2002) he played a Roman centurion.

Eduardo Antunes Coimbra ‘Edu’ (Brazil, 5-2-1947)

Six years younger brother: Artur Antunes Coimbra ‘Zico’ (three World Cups, 88 caps with 66 goals).
If Edu didn’t have a brother Zico, he would go down in history as a very talented number 10. Unfortunately, Brazil in those days had Pelé, Roberto Rivelino and Paulo Cesar Lima for that position. Still, Edu collected three caps for Brazil in 1967. For his club America he is still the second best goal scorer of all time. After his playing career, he took up coaching. He even coached the national team of Brazil for three matches in 1984, and top clubs like Vasco da Gama, Botafogo and Fluminense. When Zico played in Japan, Edu took up coaching in the same country. In the last ten years he travels the world (Turkey, Uzbekistan, Russia, Greece, Iraq) as an assistent coach, always with Zico as the head coach.



Raul ‘Lalo’ Maradona (Argentina, 29-11-1966)

Raul 'Lalo' Maradona
Six years older brother: Diego Maradona (four World Cups, World Champion 1986, 91 caps with 34 goals)
For a little while, Lalo Maradona was a decent soccer player at Boca Juniors. But soon his career went down the hill. A few years later he turned up in Canada, playing indoor soccer. At that level, Lalo was king. Although he’s only Diego’s brother, he lived the life of a celebrity. Olympic athlete Ben Johnson is his friend, and he also coached the soccer playing son of Libyan dictator Mouammar Kadhafi. In 2005, Lalo appeared in the Argentinian version of the television program Big Brother. He also did a very funny commercial for newspaper Clarin in which he played a really terrible soccer player who even gets substituted for a dog.

Hugo Maradona

Hugo Maradona (Argentina, 9-5-1969)

Nine years older brother: Diego Maradona
Hugo, nicknamed ‘El Turco’ because of his dark appearance, was a very promising young player until the age of twenty. He tried his luck in different European countries (Italy, Spain, Austria) and finally settled in Japan. In Asia he had his best seasons, leading both Fukuoka Bolux and Consadole Sapporo to the title of the second division, while scoring lots of goals. Playing in the J-League, that role was too much to ask for. Thirty years old, Hugo ended his career at Almirante Brown, in the second division of his home country.




The Pfaff family (Belgium)

Brother: goalkeeper Jean-Marie Pfaff (born 1953, two World Cups, 64 caps)
The famous Jean-Marie Pfaff had eleven brothers and sisters, their parents being travelling carpet dealers. No less than three of Jean-Marie’s brothers also played soccer at the highest level in Belgium. The first one was Jean-Baptist (born 1944). With his club Beveren he climbed from the third division to the highest level in two seasons. That first year at the top wasn’t a big success: Jean-Baptist only played eight matches and ended his career one year later, just 25 years old. After him, Antoine took over. Antoine was born in 1952 and played for Beveren from 1970 until 1980, with the exception of a short period at St. Niklaas. He managed to collect 99 matches at the highest level with Beveren. The youngest brother was Danny (born 1958). He was a good defender and enjoyed some great successes at Beveren. He won the Belgian cup in 1983 and was crowned champion in 1984. Jean-Marie, who won the title with Beveren in 1979, had already left for Bayern Munich in those years. In 1985, Danny was voted Player of the Year at Beveren.

Michael Rummenigge (West Germany, 3-2-1964)

Michael Rummenigge
Eight years older brother: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (three World Cups, two times runner-up, 95 caps with 45 goals).
After a flying start as a youngster (already a German international at 19 years old), Michael seemed unable to cope with expectations at his club Bayern Munich. It wasn’t until his mid twenties, at Borussia Dortmund, that he snapped out of it. In Dortmund he became the crowd’s favorite as a hard working midfielder with a great mentality. An adventure in Japan wasn’t successful and a major injury forced him to quit the game at the age of thirty. After that Michale became a businessman and, among other businesses founded the Fussballschule Michael Rummenigge.





Dieter Seeler (West Germany, 15-12-1931)

Dieter Seeler
Five years younger brother: Uwe Seeler (four World Cups, one time runner-up, 72 caps with 43 goals)
If you look at the soccer career of Dieter Seeler it’s fair to say that he was terribly unlucky. After years of good performances for his club Hamburger SV, he was about to make his debut for the  German national team against Yugoslavia late 1959, when he broke his arm. He never got a second chance. He did manage to win the German title as captain of Hamburger SV in 1960, and also won the Cup in 1963. In between, HSV played the semi-final of the European Cup 1961, against Barcelona. After the first match, Dieter broke his shin in an Oberliga-match three days later, thereby missing the second match, and the play-off match. With Dieter, HSV would have won, Uwe always said. Dieter passed away in 1979, only 47 years old.