"Dad, what is the Champions League?"
"Ask your uncle in Lodz"
"Dad, what is the Champions League?"
"Ask your uncle in Lodz"
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.
Last weekend, England faced Honduras in their final friendly match before the start of this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
In many regards the 1954 World Cup can be looked back on as the greatest ever. It was the first time that matches were shown live on television, it boasted more goals per game than any other edition in history, and it had a final that was truly memorable with a late twist in the tale.
The south-west London district of Tooting sometimes seems to have a character all of its own. Often externally derided, this pulsating hub instills within its residents a disproportionate sense of pride that lingers in their being long after they're drawn away from its rough-hewn charm. It's a muddle of old and new, of lifelong locals, student nurses and affluent newcomers, but it's never anything more or anything less than Tooting.
If Tooting's chief icon is a fictional revolutionary played by a man now in his mid-60s, its hidden gem is very much a work of the real world, albeit a part of the real world that isn't exactly in Tooting. Tooting & Mitcham United Football Club, now based a short bus ride from Tooting Broadway in the less lively environs of Morden's Bishopsford Road, was formed by a merger of clubs in 1932 and has rarely achieved anything beyond local renown.
But when Welsh striker Craig Bellamy found the net against Senegal at Old Trafford during the 2012 London Olympic Games, it was Great Britain's first Olympics goal since a Tooting & Mitcham man scored against Taiwan at the Stadio Olimpico Comunale in Grosseto in 1960. Paddy Hasty's eventual winner came with five minutes to go but it wasn't enough to keep his team in Italy into the latter stages of the competition.
Terrors striker Hasty had already scored in the Games, equalising against Italy in Great Britain's second outing, and also played in their opening match in Livorno against Brazil, a 4-3 loss that proved too much to overcome in the remaining matches. Jim Lewis, a serial Olympics goalscorer, also scored twice in 1960, and Barnet's Bobby Brown scored four.
The British team in 1960 was, like those before it, built around the English amateur football team, but Hasty was one of the representatives from Britain's other constituent parts. Born in Belfast less than two years after the formation of the club where he would make his name, he moved with his family to Hampshire at a young age and went on to become a highly regarded contributor to the amateur game.
Due to their failure to qualify for several tournaments consecutively after 1960, and with English football's professional/amateur distinction soon removed, Great Britain's participation in the final tournaments of Olympic Games football ended with Hasty's goal in Grosseto, returning only when London hosted the event in 2012 and provided the incentive to overcome the reluctance of at least some of the respective Football Associations to throw in their lot under a British banner.
Hasty also won five amateur caps for Northern Ireland and had played a vital role in the British team's 3-2 qualifying victory over the Republic of Ireland in November 1959, scoring all three goals at the Goldstone Ground.
He was the only Northern Irishman on the pitch against the south, starring in a team that featured eight colleagues from England, but it was one of the last times such a team would be assembled. Ian King of twohundredpercent wrote in 2009 that the end of amateurism's golden age coincided with the height of Tooting & Mitcham's powers, and Hasty was the inspiration for that side as well as a reliable goalscorer at amateur international level.
Diminutive but good in the air, slight but lethal, Hasty is said to be the Terrors' greatest ever player. Bedecked in their famous black and white stripes at the Sandy Lane ground that they departed in 2002 - a move that plunged the club into a complicated ownership arrangement that arguably still holds it back to this day - Hasty's Tooting soon got used to winning, thanks in no small part to his 113 goals in 142 matches.
He joined the club in 1954 and became an Athenian League champion in 1955. Although he also played as an amateur for Leyton Orient and Queens Park Rangers towards the end of the 1950s, he was part of the Tooting team that went one better and won the Isthmian League in 1958. The London Senior Cup followed in 1959 and then, to cap off the proudest run in the history of the club, they won both in 1960.
In amongst it all the club's most famous achievement brought with it no trophy. While Wimbledon succeeded in splitting Tooting's pair of titles by winning the Isthmian League in 1959, the Terrors were otherwise engaged by a headline-grabbing FA Cup campaign.
They beat Bromley 5-1 at the second time of asking in the First Qualifying Round before defeating Redhill (7-1), Sutton United (8-1) and Horsham (4-0) on their way to the First Round Proper. There, a 3-1 win over Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic - now better known as AFC Bournemouth - set up a Second Round tie against Northampton Town. Tooting won 2-1 on December 6th 1958 thanks to a Hasty winner and Nottingham Forest were waiting for them in the Third Round.
What followed was remarkable. On January 10th 1959, Tooting took a 2-0 lead at a frozen Sandy Lane only to be pegged back by an own goal and then find themselves on the end of the highly contentious penalty that is still referred to at their new digs as the robbery of 1959. Forest scored, eased past Tooting in the replay and went on to win the competition. Nevertheless, Hasty and his colleagues have gone down in history for their incredible FA Cup success.
Having declined several opportunities to turn professional before the Olympics, Hasty finally did so when he joined Aldershot soon after Jimmy Hill and the players' union had brought about the abolition the maximum wage, which for many made turning professional a costly choice, early in 1961. He died the all-time Tooting & Mitcham hero, and still Great Britain's last Olympics goalscorer, in the summer of 2000.
Tooting have rarely come close to matching what they did in 1958/59. They reached the FA Cup Fourth Round in 1976, the best in a run of consecutive seasons in which the Terrors made it to the First Round, and one of the defenders in that side was Billy Smith. He fired in a screamer against Northampton in the First Round the following season, the last player to score for the club in the competition proper despite his own efforts as a manager.
In 2009 his Tooting team reached the First Round the hard way, dealing with replays, late goals and sensational comebacks - both in their favour and against them - to set up a trip to Stockport County. They were beaten 5-0 and Smith left the club at the end of the season, but he, like Hasty, is a genuine Terrors legend.
The Irishman's legacy has now stretched over more than half a century but supporters still consider his name to be synonymous with the club's peak. References to 1959 are unavoidable of a matchday and barely a Saturday afternoon goes by without mention of Hasty, by memory or reputation, by the club's older supporters.
They haven't had much to cheer about lately and the high points of the last decade were provided by Smith's fondly remembered team. The club's young manager, Craig Tanner, looks to have steadied a ship dangerously listing in the wake of Smith's departure, but he'll do well to match what he achieved. Hasty's legend, meanwhile, is a relic. What he did for club and country in 1959 and 1960 will remain untouched, his shadow looming large over a club whose history he shaped like nobody before or since.
Chris Nee is an IBWM content editor and hosts the Aston Villa Review podcast. He is also a former editor of the Tooting & Mitcham United matchday programme.
Stadium image by James Boyes via Flickr.
Bank Robber. Asassin. War Criminal. Football club owner.
First of all, my sincerest congratulations are in order.
In 2012, U.S. sportswriter Wright Thompson travelled to Rosario, Lionel Messi’s hometown, to learn more about the city’s most famous son since Che Guevara.
If you were asked to name football’s first world champions, what would be your response? Uruguay? You would not be mistaken, of course, if you held that view; they won the first FIFA-organised tournament of nations in 1930 after all.
Born in Itubano on 12th July 1953, the Baiano Perivaldo played for Itubano, Bahia and Botafogo.
A man kneels by a gravestone, hands clasped together he implores the heavens. Tears roll down his face and into the Austrian soil where his great mentor now rests. But this visit is not a chance to pay respects to an old friend; it is a heartfelt plea for mercy.
Josip Skoblar, often remembered by Olympique Marseille fans simply as Monsieur Goal, played for L'OM in the 1960's and 70's.
Hovering just above, using satellite view, on Google maps there appears to be little remarkable about the modest football ground on the Southern edge of Caen: a small clubhouse, a white rail around the perimeter and two dugouts.
Nezahualcóyotl was the monarch of Tetzcuco before the Spanish conquest in 1492. Poet, architect, warrior and philosopher, he is one of the most notable rulers of Mexican history.
Nezahualcóyotl was the monarch of Tetzcuco before the Spanish conquest in 1492. Poet, architect, warrior and philosopher, he is one of the most notable rulers of Mexican history. His face can even be found on 100 pesos bills, alongside one of his poems.
The municipality of Neza, or City of Neza, as its name states, was born in the 1960’s as part of the independence of some of the districts around the Lake of Texcoco. It took years of discussions and compromises, but as of 1963, the City of Nezahualcóyotl got its recognition and started to grow. Hospitals, parks, schools, and houses were built and the population increased.
Fans of the Premier League, cast your minds back to April 12th, 2008. It was the day that Mauro Zárate truly caught the attention of English fans, following up goals in March against Reading and Manchester City, with a sumptuous free kick to equalise late on against Everton for relegation threatened Birmingham. Zárate’s brief cameo in England’s second city was just one of several unusual stops in what has been an intriguing, frustrating and often perplexing career.
Throughout his tender, yet turbulent, career, the boy they simply call "Savio" has veered off-the-grid towards the lonely space of forgotten capability. But if you squint, you’ll notice that the former West Ham United teenager is still there, still cutting in from the left, looking for space to shoot.
Savio Nsereko was born in war-ridden Kampala, Uganda in 1989, before fleeing for Germany with his family when he was just a baby. His father died when he was only two years old, leaving his mother a single parent struggling to raise five kids. As with so many impoverished children throughout the world, Savio found relief on the football pitch. At 15 he entered 1860 Munich's youth academy, from which he attracted the attention of Brescia's sporting director, Gianluca Nani, who had famously been behind the developmental progress of Andrea Pirlo and Luca Toni. Savio signed with the Serie B club in 2005.
The next four years saw Savio's football flourish. He swiftly gained a reputation as a lightning-quick winger who could cross with precision as well as score goals. In addition to making 23 appearances for Brescia, he would also begin an international youth career for his adopted country, Germany, in 2007. A high-point for Savio was taking Player of the Tournament honors for Die Mannschaft at the 2008 UEFA U-19 European Championships as part of the winning side that included future senior players Lars and Sven Bender, Stefan Reinartz and Ron-Robert Zieler. He would go on to represent Germany at the U-20 level too.
In January 2009 Savio drew interest from West Ham in the Premier League. At the time, the Hammers were undergoing a significant image rebranding after the fallout from the Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano transfer fiasco. By the time Nani stepped on-board at Upton Park as sporting director in March 2008 there was renewed optimism around the club that clearer, and cleaner, heads would prevail. Alongside chief executive Scott Duxbury and new boss Gianfranco Zola, Nani would attempt to revitalise the disgraced Hammers, starting with a talented winger he knew from Brescia.
West Ham signed Savio on January 26th 2009 for a club record £9 million. The signing was meant to ease supporters' worries over the departure of Craig Bellamy to Manchester City but Nsereko would spend approximately seven months in England, making only ten appearances for West Ham, all as a substitute. The sanitation of the club proved hapless, and the dealings remained toxic.
The following January former Birmingham City owners David Sullivan and David Gold completed a joint takeover of the London club and immediately began cleaning house. Duxbury was the first to go, followed by Nani in February, and finally Zola in May. Not only was Savio a distant memory, but everyone who'd ever been associated with that 2008-2010 period of the club was given to the dust.
Everything surrounding Savio’s West Ham stint seemed rather vague. From the asinine transfer fee to the abysmal performances on the pitch, nothing added up to the hype the Upton Park faithful were fed by their leaders. By the time Sullivan and Gold gave Nsereko to Fiorentina in exchange for Portuguese centre-half Manuel Da Costa, the young German was well on his way to the land of erased footballers.
The debt of the Savio disaster did not stop there for West Ham. In November 2012, club managing director Karren Brady stated in her column for The Sun, "Just before this board took over, the club paid a huge amount to Brescia for the German U-21 who took part in a handful of matches and then departed for Fiorentina for a fraction of the price."
"The deal is something that I'm investigating."
Following the controversy surrounding West Ham's sale of Alessandro Diamanti to Brescia in 2010, in which the Italian club allegedly failed to make sufficient payments to the Londoners, it's justifiable that Brady would feel inclined to look deeper into the transfer. As of now, West Ham have not shared any info regarding that investigation.
Since 2010 Savio has journeyed throughout Europe and Asia looking for another place to call home. After a failed loan spell at Bologna, where he made only two appearances, Nsereko returned to the club of his youth, 1860 Munich. But even that loan term flopped. Additional missteps at Bulgaria's Chernomorets Burgas, Italy's Juve Stabia and Romania's Vaslui ultimately led to Fiorentina selling Nsereko to a lower division side in his hometown of Munich, SpVgg Unterhaching. Savio was released after only three months with the Bavarian club, leading him to Viktoria Koln and Israeli side Hapoel Ironi Akko, making just a handful of appearances for each team.
Over these unstable years of Savio's career, the most bizarre feature of his personality has been his elusive behaviour. During his second spell at 1860 the winger went missing from training without any word. Upon discovering him at his sister's apartment a week later, 1860 terminated his contract with the club. Then, while at Juve Stabia, Savio went missing again during a vacation in Thailand. Upon receiving a ransom note from kidnappers demanding €3,000 for his safety, his mother issued a complaint with Interpol. Reportedly, he was later arrested and accused of faking his own abduction. Savio denies the whole incident was anything more than a misunderstanding.
In the past we've seen despairing cases like that of former Manchester City youth Michael Johnson, whose promising career was prematurely, and consciously, cut short due to years of battling mental illness. Nsereko's psychological well-being has understandably been questioned in the past, but the refreshing news is that he is only 24 years old and intends to continue his footballing career with restored optimism.
In December of last year Savio signed for FC Atyrau of the Kazakhstan Premier League. He made his debut on March 15th, scoring the winning goal in a 1-0 victory against FC Kairat.
Speaking to Bild in 2013 about his ill-fated time with West Ham, Savio said, "I made a lot of mistakes. In fact, I did everything wrong that I could."
Referring to the recklessness over his career, he disclosed that, "Twice I flew with my friends and girlfriends to Florida for my birthday. The private jet that took me there and back cost €160,000."
"I lost grip with reality," he admitted.
Thankfully for Savio, there's still still time to reclaim the potential he once so plainly possessed. It's unlikely that he'll regain the spotlight of top-flight European football again, especially with the red flags decorating his resume, but when the regrets weigh as ponderously as they likely do with Savio, any small victory should be treated as a triumph.
Perhaps now is the time for him to enjoy the game as he once did when he was a child, when it served as a reprieve, and a saviour, rather than a millstone.
You can follow Matt Ramirez on Twitter @mattramirez37
Kampala image via Todd Huffman on Flickr
Alongside afternoon tea and a vast quantity of incongruous place names (Hurlingham, Banfield, City Bell), perhaps the biggest legacy of Great Britain’s century-long economic intervention in Argentina was the rail network left behind by traders and industrialists.
In recent times there hasn’t been much to shout about on the island of Tenerife when it comes to the football team.