Sunday, September 24, 2017

World Cup Stories-Part 3 (The Third World Cup 1938)-part b

Wordl Cup Qualifiers

Group 1
This Group appeared to be a formality for Germany and Sweden as two teams were guaranteed to qualify, with Finland and Estonia posing no threat.
The Germans and Swedes comfortably defeated Finland and Estonia ahead of their inconsequential clash on November 21st, 1937 in Hamburg.
In Germany’s win over Estonia (4-1) on August 29th, 1937, it has been reported that the Match Referee the Sudeten-German (Czechoslovakian), awarded Germany’s goal in the 51st minute after the corner kick hit the post and rebounded off the field. He also impeded the Estonian goalkeeper three times (with the Germans scoring each time).
The Germans demolished a below strength (7 debutants) Swedish squad (5-0) to win the Group and qualify with Sweden.

Photo From: Deutschlands Fussball Landerspiele, Eine Dokumentation von 1908-1989
(Germany squad, November 21, 1937, World Cup Qualifier, Germany 5-Sweden 0)

Group 2
Norway eliminated the Irish Free State after two hard fought matches that yielded many goals (3-2 in Oslo) and (3-3 in Dublin).
Norway used the backbone of the 1936 Olympics side that had finished third. Neither team had ever met one another before in International play.
In Oslo, Norway were dominant and felt the scoreline should have been wider.
The sports paper ‘Sportsmanden’ printed the following headline: '37 chances gave 3 Norwegian goals'.
In the match at Oslo, the Swedish FIFA observer, Anton Johanson, had protested that Ireland’s James Dunne might be ineligible on the grounds that he had played for the IFA, who were not members of FIFA. The Norwegian secretary was so confident of FIFA’s decision that he stated the return leg would rank only as a friendly.
The FAI Secretary Joe Wickham contacted FIFA and the selectors went ahead and chose Dunne for the game in Dublin before word came that Norway had decided to take no action on the protest that 'had been suggested to them'.
In the match at Dublin, for the first time in a FIFA competition the two teams used numbered shirts.

Photo From: IFFHS-Norge  (1908-1940), Suomi (1911-1940)-Essti (1920-1940)
(October 10, 1937, World Cup Qualifier, Norway 3-Irish Free State 2)

Group 3
Poland eliminated Yugoslavia in this Group. Poland had taken a comfortable (4-0) lead in the first leg on October 10, 1937 in Warszawa.
The return leg was nearly six months later on April 2nd, 1938 at Belgrade. Yugoslavia’s narrow (1-0) win was insufficient as Poland qualified for its First ever World Cup.

Photo From: (Magazine Source unknown) / Contribution From a blog viewer (special thanks to Christopher Lash) (@rightbankwarsaw)
(October 10, 1937, World Cup Qualifier, Poland 4-Yugoslavia 0)

Group 4
African representative Egypt were drawn against European representatives of Romania.
The home and away series were scheduled for December 1937 (or February 1938 in some sources).
However, Egypt withdrew in November 1937 and therefore Romania qualified for the World Cup without kicking a ball.

Group 5
Switzerland and Portugal were to play one another in a single play-off match just over a month before the World Cup on May 1st, 1938 at the neutral venue of Milan in Italy.
Switzerland defeated the Portugese (2-1) and qualified for the World Cup.
It was reported that the Milan crowd were hostile to Switzerland for political reasons.
The Portuguese under the Salazar regime made the Fascist salute to the Milan crowd, while the Swiss just yelled ‘hip, hip, hourrah, as tradition dictated at the time.
The crowd jeered them as a result.
Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler were both in the stands.

Photo From: L'Equipe de Suisse, Authors Guy Balibouse, Roger Felix, Pierre Tripod, 1993
(May 1, 1938, World Cup Qualifier, Switzerland 2-Portugal 1)

Group 6
Hungary were favorites in a Group along with Greece and Palestine. Greece had eliminated Palestine in home and away series.
The Greeks had to face Hungary in a play-off. Hungary demolished Greece (11-1) on March 25th, 1938 to qualify for the World Cup.

Group 7
Czechoslovakia faced Bulgaria for a spot in this Group. The first leg at Sofia ended as a (1-1) tie on November 7th, 1937.
The return leg was almost six months later on April 24th, 1938 at Prague. Czechoslovakia comfortably won (6-0) to qualify for the World Cup.

Photo From: III Fussballweltmeisterschaft 1938 Frankreich, Author Robert Franta
(April 24, 1938, World Cup Qualifier, Czechoslovakia 6-Bulgaria 0)

Group 8
The Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania had to face off and the winner was to face Austria for a play-off.
Latvia defeated Lithuania (4-2 at home) and (5-1 away).
On October 5th, 1937, Austria defeated Latvia (2-1) in Vienna to qualify for the World Cup.
However, after the ‘Anchluss’ on March 12th, 1938, Austria withdrew from the World Cup.
Latvia requested to be included in the World Cup, but FIFA denied this request.

Group 9
Neighboring Nations Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg were in a Group with two teams qualifying. It was a formality that Belgium and Holland would qualify.
Both Holland and Belgium defeated Luxembourg. The match-up between Belgium and Holland in Antwerp on April 3rd, 1938 was inconsequential and ended as a (1-1) tie.

Photo From: IFFHS-Belgique-Belgie (1904-1940)
(Team captains, April 3, 1938, World Cup Qualifier, Belgium 1-Holland 1)

Group 10
Initially Four nations from the Americas were to qualify.
Peru had withdrawn in protest stemming back from the 1936 Olympics. On October 2nd, 1937, the Peruvian Football Federation resigned its FIFA affiliation, three months before the registration term for the 1938 World Cup expired.
The South American qualifying campaign winner would directly qualify. The other three would have to play pre-qualification games in French venues. Thus, the winner of the North-American zone would decide a vacancy against the winner of the Asian group and the winner from the Central American zone would play against the second place in South America.
Uruguay had withdrawn a year prior to the World and other Nations would follow suit.
Only two Nations sent their registration forms before the deadline; Brazil and Colombia. Somehow, FIFA officials decided that Colombia would play in Group 11 (Central American Zone, in a Group with El Salvador, Mexico, Cuba and Dutch Guyana.).
Colombia eventually withdrew due to lack of funds.
The Bolivia and Argentina Federations requested FIFA to extend the registration date. The suit was accepted, but a week before the new deadline expired the Bolivians withdrew.
Argentina had originally withdrawn on April 3rd, 1937, after not getting the hosting rights. They reconsidered and on October 27th, 1937 registered for the World Cup, provided they did not have to play in qualification matches.
On November 7th, 1937, FIFA accepted their registration.
They later re-entered in January 1938.
On March 5, 1938, the day of the draw for the finals in France, FIFA considered Brazil as a ranked team and determined that Argentina would have to play a pre-qualification game against Cuba, winner of the Central American zone in Bordeaux on May 29th, 1938.
In some sources it is stated that on January 9th, 1938, the Organizing Committee decided that Paris would be the match's venue on May 31st.
Argentina appeared to accept the decision. On March 9th, 1938, Argentina’s First Division clubs asked the Association Council, to withdraw from participating in the World Cup. On March 15th, the Council insisted upon playing the tournament. On March 22nd, Argentina ultimately withdrew from the World Cup.
Finally, on April 10, the Argentina sent a telegram to FIFA saying they were out of the World Cup. The motive given was ‘solidarity with Uruguay over the Europeans' boycott of the 1930 World Cup’.
Note: Some sources state that had Argentina won their qualifying match, they would play against Romania in a play-off. 
FIFA assigned the South American berth to Brazil, the only Nation from the continent eager to participate.

Group 11
Mexico were to play Cuba, however, due to a dispute over funds withdrew. It was also stated that Mexico might have withdrawn as a show of solidarity with Uruguay and Argentina
USA scheduled to play Dutch East Indies on May 26th, 1938 in Rotterdam but withdrew in April 1938.
A tournament was scheduled in April 1938 between Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica and El Salvador, with each tie decided over three legs. 
Surinam (Dutch Guyana) were expelled on April 9th, 1938 for allegedly having not replied to correspondence from the organizers (they would protest this decision).
Later in April 1938, Colombia and El Salvador withdrew, leaving Cuba, Costa Rica and Surinam.
Surinam withdrew for lack of funds. They requested to play the match against the Dutch East Indies that USA had withdrawn from. This request was refused by the FIFA.
Costa Rica would in turn withdraw.
Cuba had a walkover, as Argentina also withdrew.
Cuba became the first country from Central America to qualify for a World Cup.

Group 12
The Dutch East Indies were to face Japan for a spot in this Group. The place was to be decided over one match in Saigon on January 1938.
Japan withdrew leaving the Dutch East Indies to face off against USA in a play-off scheduled for May 26th, 1938 in Rotterdam.
However, USA withdrew as well in April 1938 for Financial motives and the Dutch East Indies qualified without kicking a ball
They became the first Nation from Asia to qualify for the World Cup.
The Americans had been hoping to raise funds with the receipts of a match against an English club. However, the English cancelled the match refusing
to play on a Sunday.

World Cup Stories-Part 3 (The Third World Cup 1938)-part a

-FIFA’s French President Jules Rimet was the driving force for France becoming the 1938 World Cup hosts.
Initially there were some doubts within FIFA’s hierarchy whether France was capable of hosting the event.
FIFA wanted Rimet to guarantee the same successful conditions as the previous hosts Uruguay and Italy.
He seemed hesitant and suggested to co-host along with Belgium and Holland. FIFA members refused this idea.
However, after he received guarantees that the attendance of Stade Colombes would be increased to 65,000, Rimet guaranteed France’s commitment to host.
Jules Rimet had wanted to have the World Cup in France to follow the World Fair at Paris of 1937.
The ‘International Exposition of Art and Technology in Modern Life’ was to be held from May 25th, 1937 to November 25th, 1937. 

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 55, August 1993
(Official World Cup poster)

Rimet believed having the two events in close proximity would fill up the stadiums.
In some sources it is alleged that Rimet was pushing for the World Cup to be held in 1937 to achieve this goal.
The consensus among the FIFA members appeared to be that as a token of appreciation for Rimet’s service, they should endorse his proposal.
On August 13 (or 15), 1936, during the Berlin Olympics, FIFA members gathered at the Kroll Opera to decide the venue for the next World Cup. Although FIFA had 51 affiliated members, only 23 members voted.
The French Delegation plead its case by reminding all of the efforts of Henri Delaunay and Jules Rimet for the growth of the game.
Rimet and Delaunay were at the meeting, which may have contributed to the ultimate choice.
France received 19 votes, Argentina received 3 and Germany got one.

Photo From: Coupe Du Monde 1938-La Coupe du Monde Oubliee, Author Victor Sinet
(Jules Rimet with other FIFA members during the 1936 FIFA Congress in Berlin)

France became the second European hosts after Italy in 1934 and third overall.
The Argentina delegation left the Congress in protest.
Argentina had lobbied for the hosting rights and advanced the idea that the tournament should be hosted alternatively in Europe and South America.
After their request was rejected, the Argentineans pressured the other Nations in the Americas to boycott the World Cup.
Uruguay were already snubbing the World Cup in Europe as they had in 1934 as protest for the refusals of the many European Nations during the 1930 Edition at Montevideo.
Even though the alternating venue location was not written down it was assumed to be the case. Argentina had withdrawn their candidacy in 1930 and supported Uruguay with the belief that the next World Cup in 1938 would be in South America and Argentina.
Brazil would be the only South American Nation to participate.

Photo From: Azzurri, Storia della Nazionale di calcio tre volte campioni del Mondo, 1910-1983
(Art Cover by Joe Bridge)

-England and the other British Nations were still boycotting FIFA and did not participate in the qualifiers.
The British Nations were still out of FIFA and would miss out on all the World Cups of the 1930s.

-On December 18th, 1936, a commission was set up headed by Rene Chevalier along with Henri Delaunay, Dr. Ivo Schricker (General Secretary of FFA), the Italian Ottorino Barassi and Frenchman J. Caudron.
On March 14th, 1937 at Paris, FIFA’s executive committee listened to the recommendations of this commission in setting up the Qualification Groups and the Preliminary matches.

Photo From: Coupe Du Monde 1938-La Coupe du Monde Oubliee, Author Victor Sinet
(The Organization committee for the 1938 World Cup in France)

Photo From: Mondial, New Series, Hors Serie 14, 1982, La Glorieuse Epopee De la Coupe Du Monde
(The Organization committee for the 1938 World Cup in France)

An Organization commission was also set up that included Hungary’s Maurice Fischer, Holland’s Dirk Lotsy as well as Dr. Schricker and Henri Delaunay.
One of the decisions made was concerning the Final match. It was agreed that if after a replay the match was still tied the two teams would be considered co-winners and each team would hold onto the World Cup for two years each.
Ten other sub-committees were also formed that day for the other administrative issues concerning the World Cup.

Photo From: III Fussballweltmeisterschaft 1938 Frankreich, Author Robert Franta
(Sketch illustration of FIFA members)

-Since the last World Cup, the political climate of Europe had worsened and the continent was on the brink of what many believed would be an inevitable War.
Italy was still under Fascist Dictator Benito Mussolini.
At the time of 1934, Hitler’s Nazi Regime had taken over just the year before, but by now their intents were becoming clearer and many believed War and conflict was just around the corner.

-Spain had been in the midst of a Civil War and did not participate internationally and therefore did not play in the qualifiers.

-The 1936 Olympics in Berlin had been marred with Political overtones, as the Nazis had used the event to advance their propaganda.

-Initially 33 Nations (36-37 in some sources) wanted to compete to take. Some withdrew for various reasons and it was left to 24 Nations (26-27-28 Nations in other sources) to compete for the remaining 14 spots.
France as hosts and Italy as defending Champions had automatically qualified.
The deadline for entries was February 15th, 1937.  The Qualification draw was made on March 14th, 1937 in Paris.
The actual FIFA membership at this time was 51.

-This would be the first World Cup, where the defending Champion was guaranteed to participate in the following Tournament. This tradition would remain in place until the 2006 World Cup qualifiers (Brazil as 2002 World Cup Champions participated in the Qualifiers, as did all Champions onwards).
Likewise, from this World Cup onwards the host Nation was also guaranteed an automatic spot.
Italy in 1934 would be the only time when the host Nation would have to qualify on the field.

Photo From: L'Auto, Issue 13681, June 5, 1938
(Map of Stade Colombes with its surroundings)

-Austria was annexed by Hitler’s Germany on March 12, 1938 (Anschluss).  Austria would withdraw from the World Cup and as a result, fifteen teams took part in the World Cup instead of sixteen.
England had been invited to replace Austria but refused.

-The qualified Nations were as follows:
Europe:  France (Host Nation), Italy (Defending Champions), Germany, Sweden, Norway, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Netherlands, and Belgium.
Note: Austria had qualified, but were withdrawn after the ‘Anschluss’.
South America: Brazil
North/Central America:  Cuba

Asia:  Dutch East Indies

Photo From: Coupe Du Monde 1938-La Coupe du Monde Oubliee, Author Victor Sinet
(FIFA Congress June 3, 1938)

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Beautiful Game on Celluloid, Part Seven

Spoiler Alert: I assume most people have already seen these films; as a result I discuss the plot as much as I can. I will not try to go into every detail but generalize as much as possible.

Film:   Mean Machine  (2001)

In the beginning of ‘Mean Machine’ we see Danny ‘Mean Machine’ Meehan in an ‘Umbro’ Commercial in a spoof of a James Bond like character.
We then see the slightly aged Danny Meehan sitting in a room full of Football Memorabilia from his playing days in a drunken stupor watching the commercial with liquor in his hand with self-loathing.
‘Mean Machine’ is the British remake of the 1974 Hollywood film ‘The Longest Yard.’ In that film, Burt Reynolds portrayed a former NFL star who is sent to prison after a run-in with the law.
This UK version (2001) was produced by Guy Ritchie, shortly after his successful films ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ and ‘Snatch’. In fact many of the actors who appeared in these two films appeared in this one.
One of those actors, Vinnie Jones, the former Football star and Wimbledon Hard-Man, portrays Meehan (a former English International and Captain) who is sent to Prison after giving chase to two police officers while driving drunk as well as getting into a physical confrontation with the same police officers.
This assault leads him to be sentenced to three years in Prison (to be spent at the ‘Longmarsh’ High Security Prison).

While he is being transported to Prison, we hear Radio broadcasts revealing that his career had derailed some time before after his involvement in a match fixing scandal.
Upon his arrival at Longmarsh, we are introduced to Ratchett (played by Geoff Bell, another Guy Ritchie collaborator, recently seen in ‘King Arthur’). Ratchett is the archetypal sadistic Prison Guard who takes pleasure in treating the inmates in a demeaning way.
We are then introduced to the Prison Chief Burton (played by Ralph Brown). He is a stern no nonsense man, who immediately lays down the law to Meehan.
In addition, he informs him that Meehan is about offered the Managership of the Prison Football Team from the Prison Governor and that he should refuse this offer (as he himself is the current Manager of the Team).
He is then sent on his way to his cell, where we meet his cellmates Trojan (played by Robbie Gee) and Raj (played by Comedian of Iranian Origin, Omid Djalili).
Next we see Meehan with an old mild-mannered prisoner called Doc (played by David Kelly, famous from ‘Waking Ned Devine’) for his Prison work detail and the pair quickly establish a friendship.
Doc is the elder statesman of the Prisoners who has a lot of wise advice for Meehan and appears to be the sanest person in the Prison.
He is then taken to see Charlie Sykes (played by John Forgeham). Sykes is the de-facto head boss of the Prisoners. He is a well-known gangster and runs Drugs and Gambling operations within the prison. His two lieutenants are the brawny ‘Kat’ (played by Andrew Grainger) and the Scottish ‘Chiv’ (played by Jamie Sives, who is a fine Football player, we shall get to that…)
Sykes signals his antagonism to Meehan by informing that he once lost a lot of money betting in an England-Germany match. It is alluded that this was the match that Meehan gave away a penalty kick (the fixed match in question).
The scenery changes to the Prison Mess Hall, where we are introduced to new characters. A young prisoner named Nitro (played by Stephen Walters) immediately offers his services to Meehan. Nitro appears to be mentally unstable and prone to outbursts. In one such outburst, he reveals that he is in Prison for series of bombings.
Afterwards, another Prisoner named ‘Massive’ (played by Vas Blackwood) befriends Meehan and will also be along with Doc, Meehan’s closest friend in the Prison.
We are then introduced to a new character, ‘Broadhurst Monk’. He is held in solitary and isolation from the rest of the prisoners and held in handcuffs in his cell. We are told that he is very dangerous and completely unpredictable and has killed as many as 23 men.
He is played by none other than action star Jason Statham, who was on the verge of Hollywood stardom (another Guy Ritchie connection).
Finally, Meehan is led to his meeting with the Governor of the Prison. He is played by David Hemmings (famous from starring in Michelangelo Antonioni’s ‘Blow-Up’).
The Governor formally offers him the post of Manager of his Amateur Prison Guards Team. He is eyeing promotion from the Southern Division (Semi pros) and sees Meehan as the ideal man for that aim.
However, Meehan refuses saying he has not played for many years and is out of condition (not to mention he had been warned by Chief Burton (Captain/Manager of the Prison Guards Team)).
The mutual dislike of the Governor and Chief Burton is also revealed as he berates the latter for the lack of results by reminding him that he has spent a lot of money on the team with nothing to show for.
We are also introduced to Tracey, a female secretary working in the Prison, (played by Sally Phillips...we shall get to later) (Note: Bernadette Peters played this role in the 1974 Original).
Later, Meehan is involved in a fight in the Mess Hall that eventually engulfs the entire room and is thrown into solitary confinement.
It is then implied that the Governor had engineered the fight. This way he now held leverage over Meehan with the parole board, as this incident would hinder any chance of early a parole.
It is at this point that ‘Massive’ suggests of a way out of the predicament. His idea is for a match between the Guards and the Inmates with Meehan as the Captain of the Prisoners.
Meehan proposes the idea to the Governor and Chief Burton with two conditions: 1) Meehan himself has to pick his team, 2) ‘What goes on the pitch stays on the pitch’.
The match is quickly promoted as ‘Cons vs. Guards’.
At various stages during the film, we see that the Governor has large gambling debts to criminal elements. It is also revealed that he received most of his gambling tips through Sykes. The Governor is all too eager for this match, as he may be able to purge his gambling debts.
The tryouts start with Meehan in charge and ‘Massive’ acting as Manager.
Needless to say most of the prisoners willing to participate are out of shape. ‘Chiv’, from Sykes’ group appears talented, but Meehan is told that Sykes would never authorize the involvement of anyone from his crew.
At this point, Nitro is angling a way to leave the prison to go to a minimum-security prison. He offers his services to Ratchett to act as an informant.
Some time later, Ratchett and other prison guards savagely beat ‘Massive’, while most prisoners just stand by watching. Meehan is the only one to try to stop the beating and gets beaten in the process and is thrown in solitary again.
An unseen prisoner sneaks in a small ball in his solitary cell and we see Meehan starting training with upbeat music suggesting that he is getting his groove and sense of purpose back.
In a scene reminiscent of Steve McQueen in ‘The Great Escape’, we see Meehan bounce the ball at the wall while sitting and catching the rebound with his hand.
Upon his release, he has earned the respect of the majority of prisoners for trying to defend ‘Massive’ against the guards.
Only Sykes’ crew is still hostile to Meehan. The trainings resume with Meehan more determined than ever.
Against the wishes of ‘Massive’, Meehan includes in his squad, ‘Billy the limpet’ (played by Danny Dyer). He is a dim-witted prisoner, and generally acts as comic relief.

Meehan and Billy the Limpet

Nitro enters the fray to endear himself to Ratchett. He tips off the guards on one of Sykes’ Drug Operations within the prison and then lies to ‘Kat’ by laying the blame on Meehan.
Later that day ‘Chiv’ and ‘Kat’ ambush Meehan in the shower. ‘Chiv’ is about to stab him in the eye, when Meehan overpowers them. At this time, Chief Burton and guards enter the showers. Meehan quickly covers the knife with his towel thereby saving ‘Chiv’ from further trouble.
This act earns their respect and ‘Chiv’ is eager to join the team but needs Meehan to ask permission from Sykes. Meehan formally asks Sykes for the involvement of his lads. As an inducement, Meehan suggests that Sykes can bet on the result.
Sykes agrees but his condition is that Meehan has to fight one of his guys, which turns out to be ‘Kat’.
The fight in question involves the two men to be sitting down and lock their hands in an arm wrestling position. They then take turns in punching the other followed by a shot of cognac.
After taking a heavy beating Meehan finally gets the upper hand and wins and gets Sykes’ boys in his squad.

In the team Meehan will take the center Midfield position. The position of goalkeeper is vacant. ‘Chiv’ suggests the inclusion of Monk (Jason Statham).  Despite his status as a dangerous inmate, Sykes is able to pull strings and have him join the squad.
The respective teams step up their preparations. The Guards (with Burton in charge) appear orderly and professional like, while Meehan’s crew is still adjusting.
To further place pressure (and threat) on Meehan, Sykes informs that he has bet on them to win.
Meehan is able to analyze the opposition tactics by getting hold of videos of Guards recent games from Tracey, the female secretary, and the pair engage in a ‘quickie’.
This is followed by a strategy meeting in Sykes’ cell, whereby Meehan is finally asked and reveals the reasons for being involved in match fixing (fame too soon, gambling debts, etc..)
Ratchett has a plan to remove Meehan from the squad, by assigning Nitro to place a bomb in Meehan’s locker.
However, the Locker is opened by Doc and not the intended target Meehan and Doc gets killed.
For this Nitro gets transferred to a Prison that is more of a mental asylum.
Onto the matchday and we hear clichéd pep talks from the respective sides’ managers (Burton and Meehan).
The radio commentary for the Prisoners is done by two inmates (played by Jake Abraham and Jason Flemyng (another Guy Ritchie connection)).
The pair report on the match in a humorous way with much banter.
The Prisoners squad is called ‘Mean Machine’, wearing Black shirts while the Guards wear Red/white Horizontal striped shirts.
Needless to say, there is a lot of kicking and foul play as each side tries to intimidate the other.
In a funny exchange, Meehan takes two free kicks in succession directed at Ratchett’s crotch.
Chances go begging from each side, as neither side is able to make a breakthrough.
There is a running gag of Monk coming out of his line and putting his team in danger (along with Monk imagining in black and white committing violent acts on the guards), but all his teammates are afraid of telling him to do otherwise.
Finally the Prisoners take the lead as Meehan volleys in the opener. Shortly afterwards Ratchett instigates a general fight that involves everyone. The halftime whistle ends this and the teams go to their locker rooms.
The Governor, having bet on the Guards, senses defeat and worse (given his gambling debts). He enters the Guards locker room and threatens the entire squad with their jobs.
He then has a private meeting with Meehan, instructing him to throw the game. He blackmails Meehan by claiming that he has a written confession from Nitro, which specifies that it was Meehan who had sent Doc to his locker to have him killed.
This could potentially get him up to 20 years.
A distraught Meehan goes back onto the field but he is out of sorts and makes virtually no effort. The Prisoners are handicapped further when Raj gets sent off, leaving them one man short. Despite this, The Cons manage to score a second goal.
It is at this point that Monk’s antics cost the team. He tries to dribble his way out of his box (a la Rene Higuita) and gets dispossessed and the guards pull one goal back.
Meehan feigns and injury to get off, much to the dismay of ‘Massive’ who senses the obvious.
Afterwards Ratchett scores a goal to level the match at (2-2). Slowly Meehan’s pride and anger takes over and gets back on the field determined to win.
Despite the initial mistrust of his own teammates, he starts to make inroads and wins balls and creates chances.
It all seems for naught as the Guards are awarded a free kick in the last minute. Monk heroically saves the effort and in the ensuing counterattack Meehan races part everyone and is alone with the open goal at his mercy. After some moment of close-ups on the protagonists, he does not score and instead lays a pass across for ‘Billy the Limpet’ to score the winner with the last kick of the match.
At the end of the match, the Governor threatens Meehan but Burton steps in and fights back with the Governor. Burton honorably congratulates Meehan for a good game. 
Meehan walks away smiling and celebrating with ‘Massive’, with his pride intact.
This film was essentially a vehicle for former Professional Vinnie Jones, who had recently turned to acting.
Ironically Jones plays a fairly level headed character, which was in contrast to his fiery and controversial character of his playing days.
In addition, Vinnie Jones’ character is an English National team player, whereas in reality Jones was a prospective Irish National Team player who earned International caps for Wales.
‘Mean machine’ is fairly predictable, irrespective of whether anyone has seen the original ‘The Longest Yard’. It follows the general narrative of a fallen hero earning redemption to claw his way back to respectability. Although, it is not necessarily a comedy, it does have a lighter tone.

1-A remake of the Original  ‘The Longest Yard’ was also made in 2005 starring Adam Sandler in the Burt Reynolds role.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Soccernostalgia Podcast-Episode 1 (part 3)

The third and final part of the podcast interview with  Dean Lockyer, the author of

This is part three of a three part interview, where we discuss the stories surrounding the 1930 World Cup.

Photo From: Гольдес И.- История чемпионатов мира 1930-1962+
(Uruguay’s Wordl Cup winning squad)

Monday, August 28, 2017

Soccer Memories-Part 35 (Those Magical European Nights (European competitions B C. (Before the Champions League))

It is almost impossible for any soccer fan born in the past two decades to envision European Football Competitions predating the Champions League.
Today’s fan has been accustomed to a steady diet of the Top teams on the continent battling it out week in and week out for virtually the entire year.
The Champions League, in its current format, is an unstoppable money-spinning machine.
Despite its Olympian heights of today, many older fans still bemoan the not too recent past, where European Competition was a bonus to be savored.
They miss the Magical Nights when playing in midweek European matches was a special event that brought with it a special atmosphere and frenzy.
Fans of more modest teams might be nostalgic of the days when their small team was drawn against one of the bigger teams and this gave them the opportunity to witness some of the Legends of the game on their home soil.
Today’s young fan is probably unaware of terms such as the ‘UEFA Cup’, the ‘Fairs Cup’ or much less the ‘Cup Winners Cup’.

Photo From: World Soccer, March 1993
(The Champions Cup, Cup Winners Cup and UEFA Cup)

In a world before Social Media and Cable Television, these European Competitions would revolutionize the game and change the landscape of Football forever.
To get a full appreciation of this phenomenon one must go back to its early beginnings.
Many have traced the roots of these competitions to the 'Mitropa Cup'. This was a competition that started in the 1920s and featured Central European clubs.
By the 1950s, the World Cup was already established as the Premier Tournament of World Football. However an equivalent Tournament for European clubs was still non-existent.
The main contact between clubs from different Nations was restricted to mostly friendly exhibition matches.
It is difficult to imagine that the spark that gave rise to all of this was due to a simple friendly match between two clubs.
The Friendly match in question was between English club Wolverhampton Wanderers and Hungary’s Honved Budapest (featuring Ferenc Puskas and Sandor Koscis among others) on December 13, 1954, that Wolves 3 to 2.
The English Press hyped the victory by declaring Wolves as the best team in Europe.
This led Former French International and now journalist Gabriel Hanot writing in ‘L’Equipe’ to propose the idea of a European Cup where champions from each country would compete and thus the Champions Cup was created.

Photo From: Coupe Du Monde 1938-La Coupe du Monde Oubliee, Author Victor Sinet
(Gabriel Hanot)

Many teams and players would become legends of the game because of their success in these Continental Competitions in the ensuing decades.
This was also the era where the Television age came to prominence further highlighting the exploits.
Starting the Fall of 1955, the Champions Cup was created, whereby League Champions from the various European Nations faced one another in a knock-out elimination series (home and away).
Real Madrid were the primary beneficiaries of this new Competition and cemented their legendary status (to date) after winning the first five competitions.
Alfredo Di Stefano became a legend of the game primarily because of Real Madrid’s domination, as did others in the team such as Francisco Gento.

Photo From: Miroir du Football , Issue 21, September 1961
(Alfredo Di Stefano)

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 30, July 1991
(Alfredo Di Stefano)

It is worth noting that Chelsea, the English League Champions in 1955, had snubbed the Inaugural Champions Cup due to the urgings of the English FA.
Manchester United would ignore this request and create their own legend in this new competition.
At first, they faced tragedy as Munich Air Disaster on February 6, 1958, took the lives of many players (as the team was returning from a Champions Cup match in Belgrade).
An undeterred Manchester United, under the guidance of Matt Busby, and Bobby Charlton (one of the survivors) would claw their way back and themselves earned their iconic status by becoming the First English club to win the Champions Cup in 1968 (ten years after the Munich Tragedy).

Photo From: World Soccer, May 1997
(Nobby Stiles, May 29, 1968, Champions Cup, Manchester United 4-Benfica 1)

Benfica put Portuguese Football on the map for its successes and also helped to introduce Eusebio to the continental public.
Dynasties were built on the strength of success in Europe.

Photo from: World  Soccer, August 1963
(Eusebio on the cover of World Soccer Magazine with Giovanni Trapattoni, May 22, 1963, Champions Cup, AC Milan 2-Benfica 1)

Internazionale Milano owes its status to its victories (despite the negative Catenaccio) in the Champions Cup of 1964 and 1965. This is how they became ‘Grande Inter’.
Giacinto Facchetti and many others such as their Spanish star Luis Suarez’s memories are tied to these victories.

Photo From: Guerin Sportivo, April 120-27, 1983
(Internazionale Milano squad 1964/65)

These victories even made Legends of Managers such as Inter Manager Helenio Herrera and his counter part at AC Milan, Nereo Rocco, not to mention Bela Guttmann at Benfica.
Ajax Amsterdam and Bayern Munich’s successes in the 70s also marked their era in history.

Photo From: Azzurri, Storia della Nazionale di calcio tre volte campioni del Mondo, 1910-1983
(1960s AC Milan Manager Nereo Rocco and Internazionale’s Helenio Herrera)

Ajax’s Johann Cruyff was launched on the International scene due to Ajax’s victories.
These European Competitions also enabled the entire continent to witness the birth of new tactical movements.
In terms of Inter’s Catenaccio it was negative, but in the case of Ajax and Bayern Munich it was ‘Total Football’ that captivated the continent in a positive way to signal a rebirth.

Photo From: LIBRO DEL FUTBOL, Fasciculo 12, 1974
(Johann Cruyff)

Photo From: (Magazine Source unknown) / Contribution From a blog viewer
(Ajax Amsterdam squad, Top, left to right: Barry Hulshoff, Heinz Stuy, Wim Suurbier, Gerrie Muhren, Dick van Dijk,  , Bottom, left to right: Piet Keizer, Sjaak Swart, Nico Rijnders, Velibor Vasovic, Johann Cruyff, Johann Neeskens , June 2, 1971, Champions Cup, Ajax Amsterdam 2-Panathinaikos 0)

Photo From: World Soccer, April 1995
(May 17, 1974, Champions Cup, Bayern Munich 4-Atletico Madrid 0)

Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan is also not only remembered for its victories but for signaling a new tactical innovation in introducing a pressing attacking style that is remembered to this day.

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 26, March 1991
(Arrigo Sacchi)

After a few years it was obvious that these competitions were just too attractive (and lucrative) to be just restricted to League Champions.
The ‘Inter-Cities Fairs Cup’ was established in the 1950s as well. This was a competition where clubs were invited from cities holding trade fairs. This morphed into the current ‘UEFA Cup’ at the start of (1971/72) season, whereby the top finishers in their respective Leagues qualified.
Starting 1960, the domestic Cup winners also got their own competition, the ‘Cup Winners Cup’. This competition would always stand out as the weakest of the three, but was a nevertheless an extra source of competition and revenue for clubs.
It was not only the winners that have benefited from these competitions.
Even teams that failed to win trophies lived in the Public’s memory because of these competitions.
French club Stade de Reims is remembered for the early days of this competition in the 50s, when they reached the Final twice (both times losing to Real Madrid).
Another French Club Saint Etienne won the hearts of the French through its European Cup Adventures during the period of 1974-1977.
Another less fashionable French Club Bastia is remembered for its UEFA Cup adventure during the (1977/78) season where they reached the Final (losing to PSV Eindhoven).
Many fans remember Scottish side Dundee United’s UEFA Cup adventure of 1987 where they reached the Final by eliminating the likes of Barcelona and Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Photo From: Onze, Issue 29, May 1978
(Bastia squad, 1977/78)

Photo From: Guerin Sportivo, Issue 640 (Number 18), April 29-May 5, 1987
(Dundee United squad, 1986/87)

Hungarian side Videoton had its moment of glory by reaching the Final of the 1985 UEFA Cup succumbing only to Real Madrid.
Swedish club Malmo is remembered for reaching the Champions Cup Final in 1979.
In the not too distant past, small Spanish club Alaves reached the UEFA Cup final in 2001.
The European Competitions coincided with the advent of France Football’s ‘Ballon d’Or’ award and many players owed their award due to their performances in Europe. These include Alfredo Di Stefano, George Best, Gianni Rivera, Johann Cruyff, Oleg Blokhin and Allan Simonsen just to name a few.
Lesser-known players are also remembered for their exploits in Europe. In France, Paris St. Germain’s Antoine Kombouare is largely remembered for his last minute header that eliminated Real Madrid from the UEFA Cup in 1993.
1970s Liverpool player David Fairclough is remembered as a super-sub after many efficient match winning appearances after coming on as a substitute during Liverpool’s European matches in the 1970s.
The Algerian Rabah Madjer will always be remembered for his back heel goal for Porto against Bayern Munich in 1987.

Photo From: France Football, Issue 2450, March 23, 1993
(Antoine Kombouare after scoring, March 18, 1993, UEFA Cup, Paris Saint-Germain 4-Real Madrid 1)

Photo From: Onze, Issue 138, June 1987
(Rabah Madjer scoring with a backheel, May 27, 1987, Champions Cup, Porto 2-Bayern Munich 1)

In time, the Competitions would also expose some of the rising African talent to the continent. Players such as Salif Keita, Abedi Pele and George Weah would be introduced to a larger audience via their performances in European competitions.
The early Home and away format of the competition made the matches more exciting as teams would go all out to achieve results. This also led to remarkable comeback stories of overturning deficits.
Many remember small French club FC Metz overturning a (2-4) deficit to eliminate the mighty Barcelona at Camp Nou in 1984.

Photo From: Onze, Hors serie 23, 1985
(Metz’s Toni Kurbos, who scored a hat trick in this match vs. Barcelona, October 3, 1984, Cup Winners Cup, Barcelona 1-Metz 4)

In 1996, a struggling Bordeaux side eliminated AC Milan (3-0), overturning a (0-2) deficit. This match-up launched Zinedine Zidane on the European stage.
West German Club Bayer Leverkusen overcame a (0-3) deficit against Spanish club RCD Espanol to level the match (3-0) and win on a penalty kick shoot-out in the Second Leg Final of the 1988 UEFA Cup.
English club Queens Park Rangers had appeared to have all but settled the tie after defeating Yugoslavia’s Partizan Belgrade (6-2) in the (1984/85) UEFA Cup, but Partizan stormed back to win (4-0) in the return leg and qualify with the away goals rule.
Real Madrid in the 1980s made a specialty of overturning seemingly lost deficits to further highlight the importance of a home crowd atmosphere to galvanize teams.
In just a few years, the European Competitions had been so successful, that many players would pick their future destinations based upon the prospect of playing in Europe for the upcoming season. Playing under the ‘lights’ in Europe in midweek had become an ambition that players strived for.
European Qualification was in some cases the minimum objective set by the owners when hiring Managers. Many Managers were sacked for “failing to qualify for Europe.”
The barometer to measure a team’s true worth would be based upon their success in Europe.
This was also extended to certain players. Some players would be criticized for being good at the domestic club level, but ‘too fragile’ for the tough away European battles in far off places.
The majority of European matches were battles (physically and mentally). Certain atmospheres at away matches would freeze certain teams and players.
These early decades were during the height of the ‘Cold war’ and European encounters between East and West were at times used as Propaganda tools to incite the fans.
In fact at times these were the only opportunities that some teams from East and West would actually have any contact.
This was not only important in a cultural sense, but the teams would be exposed to foreign styles of play that would have bearing on the evolution of tactics.
In those days, even the best Western European teams could never take for granted any tie in Eastern Europe.
There were trepidations about visits to Belgrade to face Red Star or Sofia to face CSKA, not to mention a trip to Kiev to take on Dinamo Kiev.
It was not just the difficult opponents that the top teams took no delight from, but it was also trips to unfancied venues such as small stadiums in Cyprus and Luxembourg.
After retirement, Michel Platini would often lament the then current format of the Champions League by pointing out that someone of his caliber had to play in places like Luxembourg and Malta, but that was no longer the case and unfair to smaller nations.
It is hard to imagine Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo having ever played in venues in Cyprus or Faroe Islands.
The European Competitions also exposed England’s growing fan violence onto the rest of the continent. The problems started in the 70s with and ended with the Tragedy of Heysel in 1985. This led to the ban of English Teams for five years.
These five years were detrimental for English teams as not only were they punished financially, but also were cut off from exposure to other playing styles/Football cultures, etc.
It would take some time for some of the English teams to have an impact in Europe.
Success in the Champions Cup was also a motivator in the rise of ambitions Club Presidents. Olympique Marseille’s Bernard Tapie took over Marseille with the intent of winning the Champions Cup. He would call it the Cup with ‘Big Ears’. Vast sums of money on players would be spent to achieve this goal and many memorable ‘European Nights’ would follow.
By the mid-to-late 1980s many questions were already being raised about the uncertain nature of the competitions due to its home and away elimination format.
Some of the best teams could potentially be eliminated after only one round.
Given the sums invested many clubs felt more revenue could be generated with more matches.
The first step in ‘protecting’ the bigger clubs was seeding the top teams in the first round of the (1989/90) edition of the Champions Cup.
However, this was not enough to quench the ambitions of the bigger clubs who were eyeing an even more financially satisfying system.
AC Milan President Silvio Berlusconi was one of the vocal proponents of a Champions Cup to be played in a League format.
The idea would take hold and eventually give rise to a mini-League format for the (1991/92) edition of the Champions Cup.
This consisted of two early rounds (knockout home and away series) just like before. Afterwards the surviving eight teams would be placed in two groups and would play one another in a round robin format. This guaranteed an extra three home matches and extra revenue. Afterwards only the winners of these Groups would play one another in the Final.
In the next season (1992/93), the competition would be officially named the ‘Champions League’ with its won logo and ultimately even its pre-match music.

Photo From: World Soccer, March 1993
(The Champions League Logo, 1992/93)

The next edition (1993/94) would feature one more twist. The Group winners  would face the opposing Group’s runner-ups for an extra semifinal round.
The next season (1994/95), the competition would be reformatted. The two first rounds would be eliminated and the competition would start with Group phases.
After a preliminary round, the 16 teams would be placed in four groups of four teams, followed by the springtime quarterfinals and onwards.
This system stayed in place until the (1997/98) season where a new modification was put in place that essentially was the biggest break from tradition. Starting that edition, League Runner-ups were also now invited to the Champions League.
This new expanded Champions League would now consist of a first round Group phase of six groups of four with the top teams and two of the best runner-ups qualifying.
In 1999, Manchester United became the first League runner-up from a previous season to triumph in the Champions League.
In that Fall of 1999, the Champions League was once again reformatted and resembled closer to what the early proponents had envisioned.
From that season (1999/2000) not only the runner-ups were invited but even third and fourth place finishers (the number of participants varied from Nation to Nation according to different factors).
This necessitated two Group phases (First phase of 8 groups and the second phase of 4 groups) followed by the quarterfinals, Semis and the Final.
The two teams that reached the Final would have played 17 matches during the season. This was virtually half of a regular domestic League campaign.
Meanwhile the gradual expansions had weakened the two other Competitions. The ‘Cup Winners Cup’ was altogether scrapped in 1999. The ‘UEFA Cup’ lingered on but it was not as highly rated, as before as now the Champions League was the most enticing prospect of any club.
This Champions League was now restricted to Europe’s elite and teams from ‘smaller’ nations were locked out.
This new format of the Champions League stayed in place until 2003. As teams felt two group phases was overkill and detrimental to the physical fitness of the players. It was decided to scrap the second Group phase, to be replaced with an extra round of Home and Away series for the Final 16.
This system has largely remained in place since and appears to be the long-term ‘permanent’ format.
At the same time the weakening UEFA Cup, tried to rebrand itself by calling itself the ‘Europa League’ in 2008. However, it was viewed as just that, a name change, the quality was still draining and dwarfed by the Champions League.
The ‘Europa League’ has slowly devolved into a state of insignificance. Whereas, decades ago a Manchester United-Ajax matchup would have been enticing, by this year (2017) it was viewed with disinterest.
The Champions League may have strengthened the top leagues, however, it has had a negative effect on some of the other mid-level Leagues.
The ‘Bosman Ruling’ in 1996 strengthened the Top teams competing in the Champions League and they started buying in larger quantities further weakening these mid-level Leagues.

Photo From: Goal, Issue 16, January 1997
(Jean-Marc Bosman)

Once upon a time, Anderlecht, Celtic Glasgow, Ajax and Benfica could not only compete with the teams from the top leagues but could actually from time to time win trophies on the continental level.
This has become nearly impossible in the Champions League of the post-Bosman era.
Once teams like Ajax could build teams and nurture players until they were ready to be sold once they were the finished article.
But nowadays, the young prospects get largely bypassed at this level as the top teams are buying them at a younger age.
A team like PSV Eindhoven could buy efficiently over a number of years and build a team good enough to win the Champions Cup (1988).

Photo From: Mondial, new series, Issue 106, January 1989
(PSV Eindhoven squad, Top, left to right: Hans van Breukelen, Wim Kieft, Hans Gillhaus, Jan Heintze, Ivan Nielsen, Edward Linskens,  Soren Lerby, Ronald Koeman, Gerald Vanenburg, Berry van Aerle, Eric Gerets  , May 25, 1988, Champions Cup, PSV Eindhoven 0-Benfica 0)

Ajax’s victory in the 1995 Champions League was a rare event for its day, but today it would be virtually impossible to build a relatively homegrown team to triumph in Europe.
Similarly, a modest team like Nottingham Forest would not be able to build a team and win two Champions Cup as it once did, nor the likes of Aston Villa (1982 Champions Cup), Aberdeen (Cup Winners Cup 1983) and East Germany’s Magdeburg (Cup Winners Cup 1974).

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 77, June 1995
(May 24, 1995, Champions League, Ajax Amsterdam 1-AC Milan 0)

There was a time that ‘Cup Winners Cup’ and the ‘UEFA Cup’ were seen as beneficial tournaments. Not only in generating revenue, but at times they acted as a stepping stone for teams to later compete in the Champions Cup.
Liverpool and Borussia Moenchengladbach had their dry runs in the early to mid 1970s in the UEFA Cup before facing one another in the 1977 Final of the Champions Cup.
Former 1980s Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson actually felt that facing teams in the UEFA Cup was sometimes more difficult as the teams in the UEFA Cup were on their growing phase and stronger and by the time they reached the Champions Cup, they were already on the downward scale.
Barcelona and Sampdoria faced one another in the 1989 Final of the Cup Winners Cup before facing each other in the Final of the Champions Cup in 1992.
Manchester United built up on its 1991 Cup Winners Cup success to claw its way to the European elite.
The Champions Cup and now the Champions League have impacted the game like no other club competition in history.
The strength of the competition has created a small elite of clubs that can afford to spend vast sums of money to build super teams to have a tilt at this prestigious award.
Surprises are far and few in between as the same teams have any realistic chance of winning. Every few seasons, a team outside of this elite confounds the critics and does surprisingly well (ex. Porto, Monaco 2004, PSV Eindhoven 2005), however, at the offseason all their precious assets are sold off to the highest bidders and they are back to square one and back to rebuilding.
Much has changed in this competition in sixty years. New generations of fans have grown up watching men enter the field holding a child’s hand and listening to the Champions League Music prior to kickoffs.
They have witnessed Football at the top level involving the best of the best.
However, these fans perhaps have never experienced the frenzied atmospheres of the European Nights of the not too distant past.
Experiencing exciting overturning deficits are much rare nowadays as the bulk of the competition takes place in the Group phase.
Barcelona’s ‘Remontada’ against Paris St. Germain this past season was an anomaly.
Fans do not get to wait in anticipation for the month of March when the Euro competitions would resume at the Quarterfinal phase.
These days, European Competition starts a month sooner due to fixture congestion.
In another break with Tradition, the Final (since 2010) has been switched from the midweek to Saturday to accommodate younger fans.
While, it is natural to be nostalgic of the Football of one’s youth, nevertheless, one must accept that the game evolves through the decades and perhaps today’s younger fans in two decades will look back at these days as ‘the best era ever.’