Manchester United 1968 – triumph before the fire went out

WE’VE ALL seen the footage of George Best rounding the keeper, of Bobby Charlton weeping, of Matt Busby embracing the players, remembering the fallen of Munich, and of Eusebio congratulating Alex Stepney on a superb save. It’s an episode in the history of the game that is as vivid as the unfamiliar blue shirts that Manchester United wore on May 29, 1968. Manchester United’s European … Continue reading Manchester United 1968 – triumph before the fire went out

The Eagles have landed again

ON SATURDAY May 18, hundreds of Portuguese expatriates gathered in south London to celebrate Benfica’s 37thPrimeira Liga title. The Wandsworth area has a large Portuguese community and there’s even a restaurant, Casa Benfica, that draws in the fans. Benfica clinched the title with a 4-1 victory against Santa Clara, meaning they finished two points ahead of reigning champions, and fierce rivals, Porto. A crowd of … Continue reading The Eagles have landed again

Stable gates, but study underlines systemic clubs

FOOTBALL’s principal emerging nations, the US and China, have almost arrived, with the top divisions of their leagues in the top 10 in terms of spectator interest. According to CIES Football Observatory’s latest report, China and the US are sixth and eighth respectively over the past five years by average crowds. The German Bundesliga has an average of 43,302 with the English Premier second-placed on … Continue reading Stable gates, but study underlines systemic clubs

Often overlooked – the Jewish influence on world football

THESE are troubled and uncertain times for Britain’s Jewish population. With accusations of anti-semitism aimed at the country’s biggest political party, the mere mention of which sends a shiver down the spine of anyone with knowledge of the Holocaust, there is an underlying fear that history could be repeating itself. From that dreadful period, the tale of a hugely influential football figure has emerged, written … Continue reading Often overlooked – the Jewish influence on world football

The clubs that became flag bearers

IF YOU asked 10 people in a room to name a German club, they would undoubtedly come up with “Bayern Munich”. Ask them the same question about Portugal, and they’d probably reply, “Benfica”. Have you noticed that wherever you are in Europe, if you bump into a Portuguese, ask them who they support and it will invariably be “Benfica”. In the town I live, I … Continue reading The clubs that became flag bearers

GOTP Notepad: United’s path to the last 16

MANCHESTER UNITED are arguably in the best place they’ve been since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. The instability that has characterised the club since his departure would appear to be over and in Jose Mourinho, they have the ideal “transactional” manager who might not be aligned to the club’s past and traditions, but he’s certainly moved the needle since his arrival. Let’s be clear, … Continue reading GOTP Notepad: United’s path to the last 16

Paradise lost…but we’ll never forget Cruyff, Eusebio and their pals

CLUBS like Ajax and Benfica once created some of the most exciting teams we have ever seen. Today, their names still carry enormous weight, but they have been pushed into the shadows by clubs gorging on TV broadcasting fees and the rewards of globalisation. Only 22 clubs have won the European Cup/Champions League, but of those clubs, only four or five could currently claim to … Continue reading Paradise lost…but we’ll never forget Cruyff, Eusebio and their pals

In 1968, these were Europe’s finest players…

LESLIE VERNON was football journalism’s European expert in the 1960s and early 1970s. Information on this gentleman is scarce, but for some reason I assumed he had some sort of link with Hungary. Somebody told me he had come to England in the mid-1950s during the Hungarian uprising. I had an image of this pencil-bearded academic schooled in the football wisdom of Ferenc Puskas, Willie … Continue reading In 1968, these were Europe’s finest players…

Emirates Cup: Sanogo’s your man, Arsene….or is he?

About 10 minutes before he scored Arsenal’s first goal, Yaya Sanogo didn’t look to have much to offer. A little clumsy, lacking pace and his first touch looked suspect. By the end of the Emirates Cup day one, he had bagged four goals as Arsenal beat Benfica 5-1. The Emirates Cup does not really provide much of a pointer to the way the season will … Continue reading Emirates Cup: Sanogo’s your man, Arsene….or is he?

Eusebio the great

It’s fashionable to liberally throw the word “legend” around, but very few footballers actually achieve that status in their lifetime, let alone when they pass from view and their legacy is grainy video footage or yellowing newspaper coverage. In Portugal this week, the government has declared three days of official mourning for the death of one genuine sporting icon – Eusebio da Silva Ferreira. Eusebio … Continue reading Eusebio the great

Europa Finalists, but Benfica are a long way off Eusebio’s heyday

There was a time when a meeting with Benfica would send shivers down the spine of any team in Europe. That was in the day of Eusebio, the rapier-like finisher from Mozambique with blistering pace and power like no other player. He was Europe’s answer to Pele – at least that’s what World Cup 1966, when he tore Brazil to pieces, suggested. Benfica were one … Continue reading Europa Finalists, but Benfica are a long way off Eusebio’s heyday