Amidst the usual release of FIFA Rankings recently lay a statistic which only a keen-eyed observer would notice: the biggest drop in places had been awarded to the small nation of Guyana, a Caribbean country geographically located in South America and neighbour to one the most famous footballing nations of all: Brazil.
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In the United States, it is not uncommon to find a Bale or Ronaldo jersey at a local field any day of the week, stressing American's admiration of both players and Los Blancos.
North London, July 21, 1964. That first day of Spurs pre-season training was a casual, almost disorganised affair: team photos at White Hart Lane, Dave Mackay running up and down the terraces to rebuild his broken leg, the schoolboys and girls waiting outside the gates to grab a word with their heroes.
The demise of Hakoah Wien is just one tale amidst of the horror of the Nazis in Europe. But underneath the tragedy there is the story of a great pioneering club whose impact on football culture in the inter-war years was immeasurable.
The club was founded in 1909 by two prominent Jewish businessmen, Fritz Löhner-Beda, the famous librettist, and his friend Ignaz Herman Körner, a dentist. The duo had been inspired by the speeches of Zionist speaker Max Nordau, who had called for Jewish people to embrace sports and athletic pursuits in order to challenge the negative perception of Jews.
Nordau's philosophy was dubbed Muscular Judaism and it caused a mini-revolution in early 20th Century Jewish society. It was in homage to this philosophy that Fritz and Ignaz named their new club Hakoah – meaning 'strength' or 'power' in Hebrew – Wien.
Hakoah started out not solely as a football club, but as a place where Jewish people could partake in a range of sports from wrestling to fencing to swimming.
Early 20th Century Vienna was enjoying a huge cultural renaissance thanks to large-scale immigration into the area from Eastern Europe. At the time, Vienna’s Jewish community represented around ten percent of the city's population.
The city's interest in sport grew in tandem with the influx of people and numerous football and sports clubs sprung up. Amidst in the burgeoning sporting craze Hakoah stood out, becoming an integral part of Viennese Jewish culture. Even Franz Kafka was rumoured to be a fan.
On the football pitch Wien were flying. It took them just eleven years to climb from the fourth division to the first, and another four to claim a historic title in the 1924/25 season.
They won their first title in a rather dramatic fashion. Their goalkeeper, Alexander Fabian, was bundled over by an opposing player, breaking his arm. Rules at the time prevented substitutions and Fabian was keen to not leave his team at a disadvantage, so he put his arm in a sling and switched places with a striker. Seven minutes later the wounded Fabian found the back of the net; it won Hakoah the match and clinched them the Austrian championship.
Hakoah's success and unique atmosphere had made them the destination for the era's best Jewish footballers. Max Gold, Max Grünwald and József Eisenhoffer all played for the club and, in the 1925/26 season, Hakoah lifted their second successive title.
Following their domestic successes Hakoah embarked on a global odyssey, becoming the first football club to embark on a world tour. The team needed a lucrative trip in order to keep themselves in the Austrian league. Fundraising was not the sole purpose of the venture, however; because of the club's commitment to Muscular Judaism, the tour was also a chance to promote their sporting prowess and gave the club a chance to test themselves against some of the world's most formidable teams.
The team enjoyed a number of notable achievements on their travels. They became the first foreign side to beat an English team on home soil, the famous 5-1 victory over the mighty West Ham. The Austrian press neglected to mention in their reporting that it was essentially against the Hammers reserve side, but it was still a wonderful moment.
In May 1924 they bested the all-conquering Slavia Prague in their stadium, becoming the first team to beat them on home soil in a decade. They also have the singular glory of being the first Austrian team to play under artificial lights, during a friendly in Paris.
The notion of a global tour may have been unheard of for a football club, but not for Hakoah itself. Other teams within the organisation had already enjoyed successful globe-trotting adventures. Their athletics and swimming divisions had travelled widely, winning a large collection of medals.
Because of the rampant anti-Semitism the team faced they had devised an unorthodox method of protecting their players. The distinguished Hakoah wrestling team would travel with them, acting as personal – and very formidable - bodyguards.
Their adventure took them across Europe, South America, Africa and, of course, the United States of America. The USA tour would prove to be both the club's high point and its undoing.
A staggering 224,000 people turned out to watch the Europeans over the course of ten matches, the last audience being the record-breaking 46,000 who crammed into New York's Polo Grounds.
That record would stand for another 50 years and it took the arrival of Pelé at New York Cosmos to break it.
American audiences were enraptured by this novel experience; a visit from a foreign team was something of a curio in itself, but a team consisting only of Jewish players was unheard of.
The US crowds were enamoured by the Europeans style; their fast-paced, elegant passing game had not been seen before and received many plaudits. Even the cautious New York Times acquiesced that the Europeans had brought a novel style to their country:
"The manner in which the Hakoah players used their heads to bounce the ball to each other made it plain that soccer is no game for a bald man or one wearing a derby hat."
Hakoah maintained their impressive performances on the road. In total they won six, drew two and lost two, but it was to be the end of a glorious era. The Wien players became loved America. Free of the anti-Semitism they endured in Europe, nine first teamers transferred to American league sides, including the famous defender Béla Guttmann and the hugely popular Sándor Nemes.
Because of this, Hakoah have also been held up as key figures in the rejuvenation of American soccer. The players that remained in the US were treated as heroes and their exotic European style brought soccer many new admirers. Following the American exodus the club never again achieved the heady heights of the mid-1920s. Back in Austria they fluctuated between the first and second divisions, no longer able to challenge their giant city rivals, Rapid and Austria Wien.
The Nazis were quick to clamp down on Hakoah following the Anschluß. At first the team was suspended before ultimately being shut down, its ground and assets being appropriated by the Reich in 1938.
Seven Hakoah players did not survive the war. Max Scheuer, Hakoah's legendary captain, fled to France and joined Olympique de Marseille where he was reunited with team-mate Friedrich Donnenfeld. Following the occupation, Donnenfeld evaded capture and joined the Resistance. Scheuer was less fortunate; he was apprehended while trying to flee to Switzerland and executed.
Oskar Grasgrün, Ernst Horowitz, Josef Kolisch, Erwin, Oskar Pollak, and Ali Schönfeld were also murdered by the Nazis. Co-founder Fritz Löhner-Beda died in Auschwitz in 1942; stricken with illness he was beaten to death by a guard for not working hard enough.
Post-war Vienna's Jewish population had been all but wiped out and the club was in tatters. Hakoah struggled on for four more years before voluntarily closing its doors in 1949, seemingly for the last time.
At the turn of the new millennium the Jewish community in Vienna managed to obtain the lease for the club's old grounds thanks to US pressure on the Austrian government. Five years later bought the land outright for €10 million.
A day shy of the 70th anniversary of the Nazi takeover the club re-opened its doors under the name Maccabi Wien. Still sporting their traditional blue and white and bearing the Star of David, they are yet to reach the heights of their predecessors and currently play on the fringes of the Austrian lower leagues.
After a tour of Germany in the early 1920s a prominent newspaper commented that, "Hakoah had helped to do away with the fairy tale about the physical inferiority of Jews." Its founders had set out with a vision and they had achieved it. Not only that, they had forever changed the way football clubs marketed themselves internationally.
In 1927 - the year after Hakoah had set off on their world tour - teams from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Uruguay, Palestine, Canada and Ireland all embarked on their own global travels, inspired by the unique vision of Hakoah Wien.
You can follow Alex on Twitter @alex3jp
Vienna Jewish Monument image by Antonio Morales Garcia via Flickr.
While not always the colourful, quinto-continental spectacle it is today, since its inception in 1963, the Bundesliga has always had its fair share of gifted foreign players.
Omar Larossa played over 400 times for Boca and Argentinos Juniors, Huracan and Independiente, winning four domestic titles and the 1978 FIFA World Cup.
Zé Carlos knew he didn't belong here. He stood out like a sore thumb.
He looked across the training field at his squad mates: the laughing and joking duo of Roberto Carlos and Denílson, the lantern jawed Claudio Taffarel and Dunga both brimming with experience, the mercurial Ronaldo with the world at his feet. And Cafu, the legendary full-back who he was assigned to replace; whatever planet this was it wasn't his.
The feeling wasn't helped by the 800 or so journalists and photographers who had assembled to watch Brazil train. They weren't looking at Ronaldo, nor Rivaldo or even wise old Bebeto – their eyes were trained on him. He was as foreign to them as they were to him.
In truth this was an alien situation. Brazil's previous game – the 1998 World Cup quarter final versus Denmark - hadn't gone entirely to plan. On a sticky night in Nantes the Danes had refused to lie down, taking the lead early and then equalising once Brazil had finally awoken. But eventually the win was Brazil's and Canarinho had made it through unscathed. Almost.
In the 80th minute Cafu had broken down the right and, using his own ingenuity, had won a free kick deep inside the opposition half, the perfect tonic to the pressure the Danes had been exerting. But, in his haste to preserve his team's lead, Cafu delayed taking the free kick, firstly by resetting the ball and then fiddling with some imaginary boot issue.
The referee's patience broke and as he strode towards the Brazilian, yellow card raised, Cafu turned away, barely hiding his self-loathing at such a nonsensical error. He knew that meant he would miss the semi-final.
"He wouldn't be here if he wasn't good enough," Mário Zagallo responded flatly. But the question was a legitimate one. Cafu – a man with 71 caps to his name – was to be replaced by a player with zero caps – nada, zilch, nada. Zé Carlos had first been drafted into a Seleção two months prior to the tournament.
Cafu had just completed his first season with AS Roma whereas just a year previously his replacement had been making such little money playing for Matonense in São Paulo’s second tier that he had to supplement his income by selling watermelons.
A move to the São Paulo FC reserve team meant financial security, something the 29-year-old journeyman had never enjoyed before. He bought a house and set a date for his wedding: June 1998. But Zagallo had made a mental note of the diligent right back after observing him in a league game.
Then came the news that midfielder Flávio Conceição, who had played in the country's Copa America victory the year before, was not fit. Zé Carlos' phone rang and the wedding day was postponed.
"I'm privileged," Zé Carlos said. "God accompanies me and illuminates my steps. I've nothing to complain about." He may have tried to put a brave face on it, but within the Brazil camp there were plenty of complaints.
In a training game prior to the semi-final the uncapped right back was singled out as at fault for all three goals as the first eleven drew with the reserves. A further tension in a squad already burdened with it. Roberto Carlos was feuding with Dunga over free kick taking responsibilities' Ronaldo and Bebeto barely spoke.
Feeling the strain of being the new guy perhaps mixed with a misplaced notion that it was he who must fit in, Zé Carlos felt he had to act. "Cluck, cluck, cluck..BUKARK!" All heads in the leisure room turned in unison to the right back and then broke out in raucous laughter. Next came the impression of a cat, dog and then parrot. The ice had been broken in the most surreal way.
At the pre-game press conference Zagallo fielded the same questions over Zé Carlos. This time the coach responded more whimsically. "I told Zé Carlos that since he can imitate dogs, parrots and owls, now he'll imitate Cafu."
Zé Carlos knew he would not participate in the final - he'd admitted as much to the press days earlier - but there was still the matter of overcoming a Dutch side riding high after Dennis Bergkamp's audacious genius had slain Argentina at the last in Marseille. As the Brazilians exited the tunnel, hand in hand, Zé Carlos' eyes were fixed on the ground, as if at any moment the ruse would be discovered.
During the opening passages of the game the Dutch had started their own investigation. Phillip Cocu, who was filling in at right back, sent probing passes down the wing toward a spritely Boudewijn Zenden. As an acid test the first ten minutes did not bode well for 'the peasant', as time after time he was second to the ball, relying on Aldair or even Dunga to cover.
The first thirty minutes of Zé Carlos' international debut were, somewhat understandably, a nervous affair. Not once did he look to either receive the ball from his teammates or venture beyond the confines of his half. But slowly, with each neatly timed interception, his confidence grew, although his forward runs still did not match the adventure of those of Roberto Carlos on the opposite side.
The second half began with all the decisiveness its recently expired predecessor lacked. 22 seconds after kick-off Ronaldo scored one of the great forgotten goals of career. As Il Fenomeno wheeled away, arms outstretched, it seemed on first viewing that it was a simple finish. Only on closer inspection did the movement, pace, strength and skill utilised become apparent. As Aldair, Roberto Carlos and Júnior Baiano all joined in the celebrations near the Dutch goal, Zé Carlos returned back to his position. If God has blessed you, do not mock him with arrogance.
The Dutch pressed, particularly on the left wing, believing that at some point industry would give way to experience and ability. But Zé Carlos stood firm, scrambling to his feet after every interception, reset and ready to go again.
In a twist the Netherlands equalised from the right hand side with Roberto Carlos tucked in far too deep, allowing Ronald de Boer time and space to deliver. Patrick Kluivert, who up to that point had found little reward for his efforts, rose above Brazilian heads and contorted himself in the air to drive the ball back down past Taffarel.
Extra time raced by in what seemed like a matter of seconds, both teams playing with the brakes off, showcasing differing ideas of how to win a football match. Brazil encouraged their number nine to attack the defence from deep while the Dutch pinged long balls into the opposition area in attempt to exploit the aerial threat.
Zé Carlos’ body, having never experienced such intensity for such an extended length of time, periodically broke down. Bouts of cramp forced him to sit even more deeply than before, lest he become stranded up-field. His mind stayed alert, almost nullifying the threat from the left flank. Zagallo's assertion that the debutant could perform in the same way as Cafu was misguided; he was never going to be Cafu, but he had done his job, his way.
Brazil scored four of their penalties and the Netherlands didn't. Taffarel was mobbed, Zagallo was in tears, the De Boer brothers fought and Dunga hugged Ronaldo. As Júnior Baiano jogged towards the Brazil supporters he turned and beckoned a teammate: number 13. The defender throws his arm around the debutant. Zé Carlos affords himself one moment of self-indulgence and smiles.
Zé Carlos never played for Brazil again and retired from football in 2005. Since then he has opened a school in Mato Grosso for under-privileged children and plans to open more. He still lives in São Paulo, where now only his close friends enjoy his farm yard impressions.
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Image by Katie Brady via Flickr
“Eversheds Saladžius, in cooperation with the Lithuania Football Federation, applied to the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania in order to initiate the consideration of the issue of supplement of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Lithuania.”
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Luis Suarez. Robin van Persie. Deon McCaulay. The three forwards each scored 11 goals during FIFA World Cup qualification, tying for the mythical qualification Golden Boot.