This Month in Football History – January

We look back at the most memorable happenings in the month of January in world of Football

January 01, 1990 – Andreas Thom Crosses the Divide

On 1st January 1990, Andreas Thom became the first East German Oberliga player to sign freely for a West German club.

When Germany was divided after World War II, a group of West German clubs re-established the pre-war German football association, the DFB. Meanwhile, East Germany established its own association, the DDR-Oberliga. Barring the occasional meeting between the East and West German national teams in international competitions, the two were kept largely separate until November 1989, when growing support for reunification led both associations to allow unrestricted competition across the two leagues.

Towards the end of 1989, Thom received permission from the DDR-Oberliga to move across the border, the first East German player to do so (though there had been defections, including three footballers from the East German national team earlier that year). He struck a deal with Bayer Leverkusen and joined them on this day.

January 02, 1921 – The Birth of Cruzeiro

On 2nd January 1921, a group of Italian immigrants in Brazil founded the Sociedade Esportiva Palestra Itália in Belo Horizonte. Now known as Cruzeiro, it has since become one of Brazil’s most successful clubs.

The club identified strongly with Italy, originally open only to Italians and even adopting their colours from the Italian flag. But after Brazil entered World War II in 1942, the government prohibited club names from including references to the Axis nations. So, after a couple of interim iterations, Palestra Itália became Cruzeiro Esporte Clube, using the Spanish name for the Southern Cross constellation. They also abandoned the Italian tricolour for blue and white.

January 04, 1909 – Bienvenido[1], España

On 4 January 1909, representatives of several clubs met in Madrid to form the Spanish football federation. The meeting was held at the offices of Real Madrid, with club president Adolfo Meléndez serving as the federation’s first secretary.

Originally named the Federación Española de Clubs de Football, the new organization followed the model of England’s FA, with the express purpose of creating a Spanish national team. After 11 years, they finally accomplished that mission when Spain played their first full international, a 1-0 win over Denmark in the 1920 Summer Olympics, where they took the silver medal.

January 08, 2010 – Togo Attacked

On 8th January 2010, gunmen fired upon two Togo team buses, killing 3 people and wounding 7 others.

The buses – one containing the national team and the other holding their luggage – were travelling through the Angolan province of Cabinda, where Togo were scheduled to begin their Africa Cup of Nations campaign three days later. Although part of Angola, Cabinda is an exclave, separated by the rest of the nation by the Republic of the Congo. Shortly after the team crossed the border separating the two, a group of Cabindan separatists ambushed the travelling party in a machine gun attack that lasted approximately 30 minutes.

Two different rebel groups later claimed responsibility for the attack, though one claimed that it was not directed at Togo, but instead at the Angolan security forces guarding them. The gunmen fired multiple shots into both buses, however, killing three people – assistant coach Amelete Abalo, press officer Stan Ocloo, and driver Mário Adjoua. The list of wounded included 5 players as well as the team doctor and physiotherapist.

January 18, 1961- Sky’s the Limit

On 18th January 1961, England finally lifted the wage restriction for footballers that had previously capped their earnings at £20 per week (£17 in the close season).

The wage limit was one of two concerns for players of the time. The other was the retain-and-transfer system, which gave the clubs complete authority regarding player movement from one club to another. Together, the two matters nearly prompted a player strike in January 1961, backed by the Professional Footballers’ Association and their chairman, Jimmy Hill.

Hill, who played for Brentford from 1949-52, then for Fulham from 1952-61, became the PFA chairman in 1957 and continued the organization’s longstanding opposition to the wage restriction. The Football Association and the Football League, however, argued that the £20 weekly wage was a fair one, being 25% higher than the average industrial wage at the time. But at a PFA meeting earlier that January, Bolton’s Tommy Banks generated support for a challenge, pointing out that anyone could take a crack at being a miner, but few miners could play football in front of 30,000 spectators every week.

The threat of the impending strike forced the authorities to capitulate and lift the wage. While many players saw their wages doubled as a result, Hill’s Fulham teammate Johnny Haynes was the greatest beneficiary, becoming England’s first £100-a-week player.

January 25, 1995 – Kung Fu Cantona

On 25th January 1995, Manchester United drew 1-1 with hosts Crystal Palace in a match that proved to be very costly for United and their star French forward, Eric Cantona.

Since arriving at Old Trafford from Leeds in November 1992, Cantona had become a United favourite, helping them to the League title in his first two seasons, as well as being named the 1994 PFA Footballer of the Year. Unfortunately, he had also displayed a quick temper, once receiving two red cards in two successive matches.

In that match against Palace, both teams were scoreless early in the second half when Cantona was sent off in the 48th minute for kicking Palace defender Richard Shaw. As he was being escorted off the pitch, he suddenly turned and launched himself feet-first over the advertising hoardings into Palace supporter Matthew Simmons, who had been heaping verbal abuse on the Frenchman. Down to 10 men, United managed to take a 1-0 lead six minutes later, but could not prevent Palace from equalizing in the 79th minute to earn the draw.

Cantona was suspended for the rest of the season, sentenced to 120 hours of community service, and fined £10,000. Without him, United fell just short of winning another title, finishing one point behind League champions Blackburn Rovers.

January 26, 1884 – The Great British Tradition

On 26th January 1884, Ireland hosted the very first British Home Championship match, losing 0-5 to eventual winners Scotland.

The previous year, the football associations of the four British Home Nations -England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales – agreed to formalize their regular internationals in an annual tournament. They decided that each of the four members would play single matches against the other three, earning two points for a win and one point for a draw, with the champions being the team with the most points at the end.

[1] Welcome

This Month in Football History – December

We look back at the most memorable happenings in the month of December in world of Football

December 3, 1906 – The Rise and Fall of an Italian Super Club

 On December 3, 1906, a contingency that included a group of former Juventus players and future Italian manager, Vittorio Pozzo founded AC Torino. It became one of the most successful and tragic clubs in Italian Football history.

Torino won their first league title in 1928, but became Italy’s dominant team in the 1940s with a team known as Il Grande Torino. They won five Scudettos in the decade, including four straight from 1946 to 1949. Their run of incredible success ended in tragedy, as a plane crash in May 1949 killed 18 players and several club officials, journalists and members of the crew.

The crash sent Torino into a decline and they have spent the majority of the intervening years moving between Serie A and Serie B, though they did win another league title in 1976. In 2005, the Italian football association expelled Torino from the league for financial reasons, but they returned later that year as Torino FC.

December 4, 1933 – Arsenal beats the The Wunderteam


On this day, Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal did, what at that time was close to unthinkable – beat the Austrian Wunderteam with a scoreline reading 4-2.

Guided by manager Hugo Meisl and Captain Matthias Sindelar (pictured), Austria were one of Europe’s most dominant teams of the 1930s, earning the nickname “Wunderteam.” They rattled off a 14-game unbeaten streak in 1931-32, including Scotland (5-0), Germany (6-0, 5-0), and Hungary (8-2). They also won the 1932 Central European International Cup with a 4-2 victory over Italy in the final.

Meanwhile, Arsenal was enjoying a good spell in the English domestic scene, having recently won the 1930 FA Cup and the 1931 and 1933 league titles.

Chapman was friends with Meisl, prompting the ‘friendly’. But the Football Association rules prohibited English clubs from playing international sides, so Austria arrived at Highbury for the match, thinly disguised as FC Vienna. The Times called it a “thrilling match,” with Arsenal taking a 3-1 lead before the teams swapped late goals to finish the day 4-2.


December 6, 1930 – Something was wrong at Thames


 On December 6, 1930, Thames AFC set a Football League record when only 469 people showed up for their Third Division South match against visiting Luton Town.

Thames had been founded just 2 years back and had a big ground, The West Ham Stadium with a capacity of 120,000. The problem with the club was that it had to compete for a fan-base against more established London clubs like including West Ham United, Millwall, Charlton, and Orient.

Despite poor support, Thames fared well, finishing in third place in the Southern League Eastern Division in 1930 to earn election to the Third Division South. There however, they struggled, winning only three matches and drawing two out of their first 16 to sit dead last in the table when Luton came to town.

Although only 469 people attended, they witnessed a rare sight as Thames eked out a 1-0 victory. 

December 10, 1997 – Pauper in the League of Champions 

On December 10, 1997, MFK Košice lost 0-1 to Feyenoord, thus becoming the first ever team to bow out of the Champions League with zero points.

sReigning champions of Slovakia’s top flight, Košice reached the group stage by beating Icelandic club ÍA 4-0 on aggregate in the first qualifying round, then defeating Spartak Moscow 2-1 on aggregate in the second qualifying round. In doing so, they were the first Slovakian club to make it to the group stage.

That is where the fairytale ends. They failed to even score in the first legs opening the tournament with a 3-goal loss to Manchester United, followed by a 2-0 loss to Feyenoord, then a 1-goal loss to eventual finalists, Juventus. They improved in the rematch with Juve, but still fell 3-2, then lost again to Manchester United 3-0. They were already guaranteed to finish at the bottom of the group regardless of the results in their last match against Feyenoord, who were also mathematically eliminated from the competition.


December 16, 1989 – Impact Sub

 On December 16, 1989, Barnsley substitute Ian Banks received a red card. Problem was he was just getting ready to get on the pitch, when he received the card.

As the midfielder warmed up on the touchline waiting to be waved on, he berated the nearby linesman for not raising his flag on the Bournemouth goal. No one actually knows what he uttered, but they were strong enough to earn him a straight red card. It was the quickest ejection for a substitute in Football League history.


December 19, 2009 – Barcelona on cloud number 6


On December 19, 2009, Barcelona won a record sixth trophy for the calendar year, using an extra-time goal to beat Estudiantes in the FIFA Club World Cup.

That year, Barcelona had already won La Liga, the Copa del Rey, the Supercopa de España, the UEFA Super Cup and the UEFA Champions League, matching Liverpool’s haul of 5 trophies in 2001. The Champions League victory qualified them for the Club World Cup, which included the champions of 5 other confederations and UAE’s Al-Ahli, who qualified as hosts.

 December 27, 1915 – Manchester United and Liverpool unite

On December 27, 1915, the FA issued lifetime bans against seven Manchester United and Liverpool players for participating in a match-fixing scheme the previous season.

The match in question was played on April 2, 1915, near the end of the season. United were in 18th place, only one point clear of relegation, while Liverpool were sitting comfortably in 13th, not in danger of relegation but out of contention for any silverware. United won 2-0, thanks in part to a missed Liverpool penalty.

Rumours started immediately about a fix, prompting the FA to investigate. They determined that seven players – Sandy Turnbull, Arthur Whalley and Enoch West from United; Jackie Sheldon, Tom Miller, Bob Pursell and Thomas Fairfoul from Liverpool – had combined to determine the outcome. The motivation was financial, with all seven players placing bets on United to win. But the two points helped United’s survival, as they finished 1 point above the relegation zone. West vehemently denied any involvement, even suing the FA, unsuccessfully, for libel.

December 30, 2009 – No country for Englishmen


 Asmir Begović

On December 30, 2009, Arsenal won at Portsmouth 1-4, in a match where neither side’s starting XI included an Englishman. It was the first time that had happened in the English top flight.

While not necessarily uncommon for Arsenal at the time, it was an unusual development for Pompey, who were forced by injury to start Bosnian keeper Asmir Begović in place of their regular keeper, England’s David James. The most represented nation on the pitch that day was France, with a total of 7 (5 for Arsenal and 2 for Portsmouth). Two more players – Portsmouth’s Hassan Yebda and Nadir Belhadj – were born in France, though both play internationally for Algeria. The remaining players were from Bosnia, Iceland, the Republic of Ireland, Israel, South Africa, Scotland, Ghana, Spain, Belgium, Wales, Cameroon, Russia and Croatia.

This Month in Football History – August

We look back at the most memorable happenings in the month of August in world of Football

August 1, 1920 

East Bengal, one of the pioneering clubs in Indian football, was established.

August 4, 1995 

An 18-year old made his professional debut for Bundesliga 2 side Chemnitzer FC. He would go on to win his first Bundesliga title in 1997 along with league and cup doubles in 2003, 2005 and 2006 with Bayern Munich. He won the fourth cup double of his career with Chelsea in 2010. He had already won the prestigious FA cup twice in 2006 and 2008, though. Guess who? Correct, Michael Ballack!

August 7, 1999 

 Defending Belgian champions KRC Genk entered the record books for playing out the highest scoring draw in the history of professional football away at Westerlo on this season opener. The match also saw 5 penalty kicks being awarded along with 4 red cards – equally shared by the teams.

August 14, 2001 

First qualifying match was played for the Women’s Cup, established by UEFA in response to the growing interest in women’s football across Europe. It is till date the only major European women’s club competition and was rebranded as the UEFA Women’s Champions League in 2010, to better parallel the equivalent men’s tournament.

August 15, 2009

37-year old Burnley defensive midfielder Graham Alexander became the oldest debutant in Premier League history when he started against Stoke City on the season’s opening day.

 August 17, 1977 

Thierry Henry was born in the Paris suburb of Les Ulis, Essonne. He would go on to be named a five-time French Player of the Year while also becoming the French national team’s greatest goal scorer.

August 19, 1995

It should be very awkward when your predictions get broadcast to millions of football viewers and that haunt you forever. What do you say Mr. Alan Hansen? He famously (!!!) announced on Match of the Day that “You’ll never win anything with kids” after a young Manchester United side lost the season opener to Aston Villa 3-1. Fergie’s team of youngsters including David Beckham, the Neville brothers, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt were able to wrestle the title back from Blackburn Rovers, and also win the FA Cup, securing the first of what was to be two consecutive double-winning seasons, a feat never before seen in English football.

August 24, 1949 

Manchester United returned to Old Trafford, playing a League fixture there for the first time in over ten years. Old Trafford, nicknamed the “Theatre of Dreams,” had served as United’s home ground since 1910. But matches were suspended there due to World War II and construction work since 1939. By the start of the 1949-50 season, the stadium was not fully ready, but hosted 41,748 spectators to enjoy United beat Bolton 3-0.

August 27, 2001 

Dutch center back Jakob “Jaap” Stam had helped the Red Devils win three Premier League titles, an FA Cup, and the UEFA Champions League and was included in the Team of the Year in all 3 seasons by England’s Professional Footballers’ Association. On this day he was shockingly transferred from Manchester United to Lazio for a then United-record £16.5 million. In his upcoming autobiography Head to Head Jaap had reportedly criticized the gaffer and had to pay the price. Later In 2009, Ferguson admitted that Stam’s transfer was one of his greatest mistakes, noting that the defender continued to play a top level for several years afterward.

August 28, 1994 

It took Robbie Fowler just four minutes and thirty-three seconds to score the fastest ever Premiership hat-trick till date for Liverpool against Arsenal.

August 31, 2005 

Tunbridge Wells FC and Littlehampton Town FC set an English record by taking an FA Cup penalty shootout to 40 kicks in the Preliminary Round of the FA Cup replay at the Wells’ Culverden Stadium having drawn 1-1 earlier in the week at Littlehampton. They battled to a 2-2 draw (including two penalty kicks) through the end of extra time, and then advanced to the shootout to took 20 shots each before Tunbridge Wells emerged as winners by the margin of 16 to 15.