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Archive for the category : Memory

December 14, 2014

Four days that changed Europe

Monday 13 December 1954 : An Anglo-Hungarian summit

Sixty years ago, on 13 December 1954, the English champion Wolverhampton Wanderers welcomed the great Honved Budapest for a friendly at Molineux stadium. For teams from Eastern Europe, such matches were an opportunity to generate some revenues (though as stressful one given they travelled back on train via London and Paris in order to be back on time for their next championship match). For their Western hosts, too, it was a lucrative affair: the fact that 55,000 spectators attended the match scheduled at 7:30 on a Monday evening gives an idea just how much awe the Hungarians inspired, especially since the consecutive 6-3 and 7-1 thrashings of England in November 1953 and May 1954 respectively.

According to some sources, the Molineux pitch was deliberately and excessively watered before the kick-off in order to handicap the technically superior Hungarians. If this rumour is true, the decision was no doubt inspired by the World Cup final in Bern five months earlier, where the German team had no doubt been favoured by the pouring rain – ‘Fritz-Walter-Wetter’, as they called it.

Wolves won 3-2, with exactly the same score as the Germans, after being two goals down just like the Germans had been. It seems to have been a rather outstanding match, and both teams had been up to the expectations. The fact that Gabriel Hanot from L’Equipe had bothered to travel all the way to Staffordshire in order to attend this Anglo-Hungarien summit gives ample evidence to their reputation and the interest such a highlight triggered elsewhere.

Tuesday 14 December 1954: A case of English hubris

In these days before Live-Tickers and sports channels, Hanot was not in a hurry. For the rotative presses of L’Equipe, the match had ended too late anyway, and his report was due only for the Wednesday edition. Which gave him time to have a look at how the English press reacted to the game.

The Daily Mirror’s jubilant praise of the Wolves’ performance, crowned by the claim they were now ‘Champions of the world’, raised his eyebrow. While he agreed that the victory of the home team had been more than deserved, he couldn’t help but consider the Mirror’s heading somewhat over the top. He decided to comment upon it in his article, coming to the conclusion that without at least a return game or, even better, a full-fledged European clubs competition including, for instance, Milan or Real Madrid, such claims could not be upheld. And he finished his report saying that such a competition would indeed deserve to be launched.

Wednesday 15 December 1954: An innovative French idea

His colleagues in Paris reacted with enthusiasm and published the article with an additional subtitle announcing ‘L’Equipe launches the idea of a European club championship which would be more innovative and more sensational than a European championship of national teams’. And without having the slightest clue on how exactly they were going to realise it, they were firmly determined to take their chance and start a campaign in favour of such a competition.

Thursday 16 December 1954: A European gamble

And they followed up right away: in their Thursday edition, an article signed Jacques de Ryswyck already presented a rather precise outline of the project.  There would be one club per federation, there would always be a home and an away leg, matches would be scheduled on mid-week evenings and everything would be broadcast by international television. If that does not sound like the Champions League, what does?

Nine months later, after a period of intensive lobbying with FIFA, the newly founded UEFA, and a range of clubs all across the continent who saw the potential of the idea, the Coupe des Clubs Champions Européens saw the light of day. A remarkable success story of entrepreneurial spirit that was simultaneously underpinned by the prospect of increasing mid-week sales on a highly competitive press market, by the shared conviction that the future of football was European rather than national, and the sheer excitement of creating the missing competition, the ultimate yardstick of European football.

If there’s one ‘invented tradition’ of truly European dimension, created bottom-up by ordinary people from civil society and producing, decade after decade genuinely European ‘lieux de mémoire’, it’s well the European Cup. In a book published in 1965, the German novelist and journalist Hans Blickensdörfer paid tribute to Gabriel Hanot’s ‘courage and willpower’ in creating ‘footballs common market’ before the launch of the European Economic Community. He added, ‘at the risk of being mocked by those who notoriously know better, I pretend that the European Cup has been an ice-breaker of political relevance’.

December 2014: The remains of those days

Gabriel Hanot (1889-1968)

In December 2014, one cannot help but feel a little bit nostalgic: On the 60th anniversary of their legendary win over Honved, Wolves secured a last-minute 1-0 away win against Sheffield Wednesday which consolidates their place in the no-man’s land of the middle of the table of the English 2nd Division (now pompously called ‘Championship’). Honved, who are already in their winter break and would have been available for a historical re-enactment, will have to fight hard in spring to avoid relegation from Hungary’s top-flight, now called ‘OTP Bank Liga’. L’Equipe itself is fighting against the decline of the printed press. And while the game of 1954 is remembered in England, as several articles over the last days showed, just what football clubs in Europe owe to the visionary French journalist-entrepreneurs is all but forgotten.

What’s more: the likelihood of another Anglo-Hungarian summit of European football is not very high for the years to come. In September 1955, the first European Cup started with 16 teams from 16 different nations, including three from behind the Iron Curtain. One year later, there were five of them. Next spring, the Champions League will count exactly one club from Eastern Europe among its last sixteen. European football is more Western than ever, more money-dependent than ever, caught in a system that will perpetuate these two tendencies. Not exactly what its inventors had in mind.

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Competitions, Memory, Posts - No Comment

June 23, 2014

Thank you, guys

Fifteen years ago I had the privilege of living one of those adventures that remain with you for life. Back then I was quite far away from the academic world, working as a reporter in a Spanish sports newspaper. One day may boss decided, who knows why, that I was the best person to travel to Nigeria to cover the 1999 FIFA Youth World Cup. Little I knew then that I was going to have the opportunity to report on the first major triumph of a group of players which, defeated, bowed out of the 2014 World Cup yesterday after cruising to a meaningless 3-0 win over Australia. Certainly, I would have never thought when writing up a report on the final 4-0 crushing of Japan in a humid evening in Lagos, that some of the names in my text would feature eleven years later in other journalists’ reports of a World Cup final. It is perhaps because of this personal link that I cannot help to feel for this group of players who, as I argued in a post in this blog, made so many of us happy.

Brazil 2014 is certainly the end of a glorious generation of Spanish footballers that came to dominate the game in a fashion I could never have imagined. Not even when I first met Xavi, Iker Casillas or Carlos Marchena in the Spanish hotel in Calabar, a small city neat the Niger River, where Spain played two group-stage games of the 1999 Youth World Cup. The story of that month-long competition was one of coming out of age for a group of players and quite a privilege for me. Given the informality of the tournament, players and journalists shared hotels and many of the difficult moments in Nigeria. We were even able to forge some friendships that were maintained over time. It is also perhaps because of that more personal element that I have really struggled to see Xavi suffering because of his lack of fitness and his patellar tendons over the last couple of seasons. It has also been difficult to see the state of Casillas in the World Cup. The great captain who took us to heaven was a caricature of what he used to be.

Be that as it may, in this very sad and disappointing moment I can only have a word of gratitude for those who made this possible. It is of course necessary to start with Luis Aragonés, the scorer of Atlético de Madrid infamous goal in the 1974 European Cup final. Luis was a particular character, but he needs to be credited with giving a complete turnaround to the way Spain used to play and to feel on a pitch. He relayed of course on a bright group of players, later evolved by Vicente del Bosque to the work of art of Puyol’s header over Germany in South Africa, Casillas save on Robben or the team demolition of Italy in Kiev in Euro 2012.

This Brazil World Cup was perhaps one too many for some players. It is the moment to evolve the team, but it is not the moment to throw an idea of playing football in the bin. Some would say that Brazil changed and it does not play the attacking football of the Pele years. True. But it would be a real pity not to try to persevere in the idea of Luis Aragonés and Del Bosque that made many of us dream. In the meantime, in the moment to hand in our trophy of world champions, it is also the moment to say thanks. Thank you, guys. It was a very enjoyable journey.

Post by : Borja García in the category : Governance, History, Memory - No Comment

December 2, 2013

No Frenchman at PSG !

Picture from, yesterday, Paris Saint-Germain started their game against Olympique Lyonnais without a single French player? And this attracted a great lot of attention. This is hardly surprising since the number of foreign players in club teams is a staple of the media. It is more surprising the topic is still attracting media & public attention, since this is hardly the first time. English club Chelsea first did it on Boxing Day 1999. In France, OM did it on 8 August 2003 & Arsenal played with an all-foreign squad (11 players who start the game plus all the potential substitutes) on Valentine Day 2005. It is also surprising, since after a few years of researching the issue for a PhD at the University of Cambridge (Trinity Hall & Centre of International Studies), it appeared very clearly to me that the presence of foreign players in a team is actually a non-issue for the supporters of the club.

To sum up quickly the results presented in my book Foreign Supporters and Football Players: The Old Firm, Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain (an abridged version of my PhD published upon joining ESSCA), supporters are on the whole very happy with foreign players because:

(a) The identity of club is rarely national : it is above all local – this may come as a shocking surprise to some but a player from Manchester is as ‘foreign’ to an Arsenal supporter as a player from France or Sénégal ; & in some case it is even worse to come from the territory of a team seen as an ‘enemy’ than from abroad. Ask a PSG supporter whether they’d rather have a Marseilles-through-and-through player or a player of equal sporting value from Germany? Of course, players which have similar roots as the supporters are on the whole more supported: this why Ashley Cole’s leaving for Chelsea was seen as a betrayal for a majority of Arsenal fans. For an Arsenal, he was ‘one of us who made it, who accomplished our dream’. For that reason, there is little doubt that Mamadou Sakho or Adrien Rabiot attract more support from PSG fans than some other players with no link with PSG, Paris or its suburbs.

Post by : Dàvid RANC in the category : Governance, Identities, Memory, Public Sphere - 1 comment

October 17, 2013

They made the (Spanish) people happy

Spain, the winners of Euro 2012, by (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Believe it or not, there are people in Spain who criticise, and quite severely, our national football team. ‘It is just plain boring to watch them play, I fall asleep’, say some. ‘Del Bosque has no idea at all, he inherited a team from Luis Aragonés and he is just a lucky guy’, say others. ‘They only play their friends, it is always Xavi, Casillas and Iniesta even if they are limping’, can also be read in the social networks. Invariably, more often than not, there is a common denominator amongst these severe critics: They are young. Too young, I may add. Young enough not to remember a time when Spain was ‘the constant underachiever’, as I read many times on the BBC website for a long time.

At the risk of sounding like my late grand father, there are many now in Spain who simply did not have to suffer going out on penalties in Mexico 86. Or the simple and plain ridiculous performance in our own World Cup in 1982. Not even the referees could help Spain out of our misery. There are of course more recent examples, such as losing to South Korea in 2002 or to France in 2006. Not least watching Zubizarreta to score an own goal against Nigeria in France 1998, where Spain did not make it through the group stages.

Post by : Borja García in the category : Identities, Memory, Posts - No Comment

September 9, 2013

Morrissey’s « We’ll Let You Know » – the greatest song on football?

Recently in an informal discussion at Manchester’s National Football Museum a very important question was asked: what is the greatest song on football ever? Of course, our answers are limited by the number of languages we speak and the national pop cultures we have access to. There are few French songs on football worthy of note. My favourite one might be: Miossec’s « Évoluer en 3e division », a vivid account of what goes through our minds when we are confronted with our mediocrity in football. In Portuguese, Chico Buarque wrote excellent songs on football too in particular « O Futebol », but I am not a connoisseur enough of Brazilian music to pick one of them.

Morrissey wearing Cantona tee shirt Picture from

Picture from

This would limit my research to the English-speaking domain. As we know, and without being biased at all of course (!), the best of British music has always come from second generation Irish migrants in Manchester – some would also Manchester’s distant suburb, Liverpool and Irishmen like the Beatles too, I guess. So the song has to be Mancunian.

After careful consideration, it appears to me that Morrissey’s « We’ll Let You Know » may be the strongest candidate for the « greatest song on football » title. There is no shortage of football references in Morrissey’s work, who was photographed wearing a Cantona tee-shirt, West Ham, Millwall or CD Chivas jerseys & wrote songs on the « Munich Air Disaster 1958 »_ that killed the Busby Babes, or the hilarious « Roy’s Keen ». Why single out « We’ll Let You Know », then?

Post by : Dàvid RANC in the category : Identities, Memory, Posts, Public Sphere - No Comment

March 15, 2013

Oblivion, remembrance, commemoration

Guest contribution by Markwart Herzog, director of the the Schwabenakademie Irsee in Southern Germany, and editor of a recent book on memorial culture in football (1), which he has kindly accepted to present in this blogpost.
(contact: markwart.herzog [a]

‘Sport organises the here and now, it plans for the future and – one is tempted to add with a certain resignation – it forgets its own past.’ This is the regretful statement formulated by German sports historian Hans Joachim Teichler in a book chapter in 2012.

German sports history has produced only very few scholarly contributions whose understanding of collective memory is not limited to a mere political analysis – mainly in the context of the formulation of political injustice under the two German dictatorships – but also includes themes and issues of cultural history, such as for instance the important field of a rich and diverse sepulchral culture in football.

In the UK, to the contrary, several scientific studies have recently been published; among them contributions by Anne Eyre, Liam Foster, Neville Gabie, Gary Osmond, Murray Phillips, Maureen Smith, John Williams, Jason Wood, Kate Woodthorpe, and in particular the work of Mike Huggins (University of Cumbria), who is well-known as the author of several studies in the field of cultural history particularly rich in source material. Huggins moreover explored the commercialisation of the funerary culture in British sport during the nineteenth century. We also owe much to Dave Russell (Leeds Metropolitan University) for his study which contains rich material regarding the culture of memory in British football of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century.

Post by : GUEST in the category : History, Identities, Memory, Posts - No Comment

March 11, 2013

« Our story will become legend » : history & memory at Paris Saint-Germain

By Pymouss44 (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsLast week, one of this year’s star players at Paris Saint-Germain, Zlatan Ibrahimović expressed his surprise that he & his team received booing from the audience at the Parc des Princes at half-time. Mr Ibrahimović’s comments were along the lines of ‘this is odd, because before this year, the audience had nothing’.

Mr Ibrahimović’s surprise is itself a surprise. PSG was top of the League & Nancy was bottom. PSG was playing at home, in front of its supporters. It is fair to say that the crowd could be expected to feel, and perhaps express, some disappointment in view of such a mediocre result at half-time. (However, PSG went on to win the game, as expected, stayed on top, & the crowd seemed more pleased by the end result)
Mr Ibrahimović’s psychology might partly explain his comments. He is a very talented player, & thinks very highly of his own talent, too, as evidenced in his ‘autobiography’ _I am Zlatan_ (written by David Lagercrantz) & in numerous interviews. Conversely, he often seems to underestimate the talent of other players.

Post by : Dàvid RANC in the category : Competitions, History, Identities, Memory - No Comment

March 8, 2013

Memory, collective memory and football today

Guest contribution by Geoff Hare (Newcastle University, retired, now living in Edinburgh – geoff.hare[à] Geoff is the author of Football in France. A Cultural History (2003) and France and the 1998 World Cup (1998, co-authored with Hugh Dauncey).

When Professor Wolfram Pyta spoke to me in Besançon about the FREE conference on collective memory and European football to be held in Stuttgart, I immediately thought of the first European Cup Final I had seen, live on TV in full, in 1960. Real Madrid had beaten Eintracht Frankfurt by 7 goals to 3, a remarkable score by current standards. In my own memory it was a remarkable match and had an important effect in Britain at the time. Was this a false memory in view of the subsequent, and indeed still current status of Real as one of the great clubs of European football? I decided to investigate further before replying to the call for papers.

I was about to move to Edinburgh and the match had been played in nearby Glasgow, I soon re-discovered. I had forgotten that. I headed for the National Library of Scotland. The librarian dealing with my request for newspapers of the 1960s recalled his father telling him, as part of Scottish football’s folk memory, about the exceptional match he had seen at Hampden long before, far better than the football of the 1980s that the son had been brought up on.

Post by : FREE-TEAM in the category : Competitions, History, Memory - No Comment

January 29, 2013

The birth of the Panenka

Guest contribution by Didier Braun, the living memory of France’s great sports daily L’Equipe. Didier is the author of the daily column La lucarne’ and, more recently, of the wonderful book Mon armoire à maillots (‘My Cupboard full with Football Jerseys’), which will be worth a blog post in its own right. During Euro 2012 he wrote a memory piece about each of the 16 participating teams. The article below, published in the 12 June issue, was one of them. It echoes Borja García’s ‘deconstruction’ blogpost of April, completing it in a nice way.

1976, BELGRADE. – Like all legends, the legend of football is often written and embellished long after the facts. Today, the ‘panenka’ is part of the legendary narrative of the European Championship.

What is it? It is this cheeky, impertinent way of shooting a penalty whose finest technical description was given by Jean-Philippe Réthacker in France Football, on the day after a Euro 1980 qualifier between Czechoslovakia and France (2-0, on 4 April 1979), where Antonín Panenka fooled Dominique Dropsy this way that consists in

‘darting very quickly towards the ball, letting people expect a strong shot, stopping brutally when transferring weight onto the back foot, hooking the ball with a spoon-like shot, and using a sort of lob, whose slow, swirling trajectory completely fools the opposite goalkeeper’.

In this article, Réthacker was not referring to a ‘panenka’, but to a ‘dead leave’, an old stock phrase formerly used to illustrate the free kicks of Brasilian Didi and, further back in time, the French international player of Austrian descent, Henri Hiltl.

Belgrade, 20 June 1976. Sepp Maier has not forgotten.

It is in this way that Panenka, in the Belgrade final of the 1976 European Championship gave Czechoslovakia the title against the great team of the Federal Republic of Germany, master of the world since 1974 and holder of the European title since 1972. This was the first time that a major international victory was won on penalty shoot-outs (2-2, 5-3 on shootouts). Panenka was also the last player to take a shot. The great Sepp Maier has not forgotten.

But very few people talked about this novel technique on the spot. This was 1976, not 2012, when any prank is looped on TV, echoed by millions of clicks on the web, copied, pasted, tweeted, ‘youTubed’.

Post by : GUEST in the category : Competitions, History, Memory, Posts, Public Sphere - No Comment

January 21, 2013

Thirty years of hurt

Second part of our French-German blogpost trilogy on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty.

On 8 July 2012, the French evening news commemorated two major events in the nation’s recent history.

First it reported on the meeting of François Hollande and Angela Merkel in Reims Cathedral, 50 years after de Gaulle and Adenauer whose solemn celebration of reconciliation paved the way for the Elysée Treaty signed half a year later. Would they have spoken about it if the two governments had not decided to highlight the anniversary of an event that – unlike the milestone Treaty itself – is hardly remembered?

An entire special issue on one single match from 30 years ago.

Then it looked back with nostalgia at another French-German lieu de mémoire, probably much more present in the memory of its viewers: the ‘Night of Sevilla’ of 8 July 1982, when Platini’s wonderful team lost a truly memorable semi-final in the first ever penalty shoot-out at a World Cup.This match, which Platini does not get tired of describing as the greatest experience of his entire career, deserves to be remembered for several reasons.

First, for the sheer class of the game and the players. You’d expect that watching it today, after three decades, seven World Cups, the introduction of the Champions League and several seasons of Spanish delight, everything would seem slow, disorderly and hopelessly outpaced. Wrong. Even from today’s perspective, this is brilliant football (full match here, highlights here).

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : History, Memory, Posts - No Comment

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