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.
The progression from futsal to football is a well-trodden pathway. Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Andres Iniesta, Neymar and Lionel Messi are just handful of the players who have credited the small-sided game as a key part of their early development.
Lewis Emanuel: Talent, Torment & Armed Robbery
Juventus President Giampiero Boniperti thought he finally had his man. “Every time he played in the north of Italy I would ring him up,” he would later say. Desperate to land Luigi Riva, it was said six Juventus players were to be exchanged for just one. But what a player.
2010 was shaping up to be a tough year for Iranian football. The national team had embarrassingly failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa under the tutelage of the legendary Ali Daei – sacked after an unthinkable 2-1 home defeat to perennial rivals Saudi Arabia.
As the ink dried on his Anfield contract in August 1977 and another record-breaking cheque was inevitably cashed by the Parkhead powerbrokers, the departure of Kenny Dalglish signalled the end of a golden era at Celtic Park.
Few sports teams can lay claim to having been all-conquering right off the bat. DC United's beginnings might have been at a modest standard of football compared to the true global icons of the game, but they quickly established themselves as the leading team in the new Major League Soccer in the United States of America by taking on all comers - and winning - right from the start. For a while, at least.
Bolivia's Marco Etcheverry was a crucial factor. Listed as his honours in MLS are three MLS Cup winners' medals, a US Open Cup medal and a CONCACAF Champions Cup medal. They were all awarded, polished and locked away for safekeeping by the end of 1999, the fourth season of the fledgling league's existence. United's league and cup double in 1996 had set the tone and was followed by a flurry of trophies that also included the last ever Copa Interamericana, a title of which Etcheverry remains proud despite its long forgotten prestige.
For a South American player to beat Vasco da Gama over two legs despite being a goal down after the first was a worthwhile achievement in any circumstances; to do it as part of a team from Washington, DC in its third year would have been quite something for a player from Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
For everything he achieved in the USA Etcheverry is regarded by DC United supporters as a true icon of the best time in their history. Trophies are all well and good, but Etcheverry's football is what really etched him into the American soccer consciousness in the second half of the 1990s.
'El Diablo' was the player who was loved by his own supporters and loathed by those on the other side. His fiery temper rubbed opposition fans up the wrong way, perhaps most notably in MLS those of Chicago Fire. He liked to chip away at opponents while referees looked the other way, not that it seemed to bother him too much if they saw. Etcheverry, classy and elegant on the ball and blessed with tremendous vision, was equally adept at complaining about officials both to their faces and to the media.
But his famously dangerous left foot outweighed all of that for those supporters in a position to adore him. His friendship with compatriot Jaime Moreno, a genuine DC United and MLS legend in his own right, blossomed into a beautiful and deadly partnership on the fields of Major League Soccer and the silverware flowed to the capital.
As well as winning multiple championships in North and South America, Etcheverry had an impressive international career that spanned fourteen years. He made his name with 13 goals in 71 caps and was part of a team that took Bolivia as far as any other.
Their qualification for USA '94 demonstrated both the importance of Etcheverry and the distinct advantage, now lore, of playing home games in La Paz. The effects of playing at over 3,500 metres above sea level do nothing for the performances of away teams and La Paz was a crucial factor in World Cup 1994 qualification as Bolivia finished second behind Brazil in CONMEBOL's Group 2.
They began away from home, however, and dismantled a poor Venezuela side to the tune of 7-1 before Etcheverry began to write his World Cup story by scoring the opening goal against Brazil in La Paz in July 1993. Bolivia won 2-0 and condemned Brazil to their first ever defeat in World Cup qualifying at the 32nd time of asking. A 6-0 loss in Recife the following month highlights the severe impact of altitude as well as shortness of breath ever could.
Etcheverry scored the second goal in a 3-1 win over Uruguay and twice in another demolition of Venezuela, taking his total to four as La Verde made that home advantage count. They lost in Uruguay and drew in Ecuador, qualifying automatically behind the Brazilian side that went on to win the main event in the United States. It was the first time Bolivia had won a World Cup place outright by way of a qualifying campaign.
But, with the qualifying round in the books and the summer tournament on the horizon, Etcheverry found himself with another battle to fight in between. A serious knee injury sustained in November forced the Colo Colo playmaker into surgery and a seven-month period of rehabilitation that had his World Cup participation doubtful right up to the wire.
Indeed, his injury and a lack of match fitness kept him on the bench for his return match, the small matter of the opening game of World Cup USA '94, in which Bolivia faced reigning world champions Germany at Chicago's Soldier Field.
Bolivia coach Xabier Azkargorta held Etcheverry back until the last eleven minutes, hoping to capitalise on tired German legs and El Diablo's natural ability to make something, anything, happen for his side. Sure enough the headlines went Etcheverry's way, but they weren't the headlines he and Azkargorta had been hoping for.
Four minutes after replacing Oriente Petrolero's William Ramallo, Etcheverry clashed with Lothar Matthäus. He kicked out as the two squared up and was sent off by referee Arturo Brizio Carter. The kick was risky and petulant but not dangerous, and it had no possibility of doing the German any damage if indeed any contact was made at all. It was a devastating conclusion to a long recovery.
Etcheverry was remorseful and conciliatory after the match but the German was no innocent party. His flailing arm had instigated the incident, not for the first time or the last. Matthäus had a Major League Soccer spell of his own in 2000 and is remembered by fans of the league with the kind of fondness that might be reserved for the discovery of chewing gum, or worse, on the bottom of one's shoe.
El Diablo, on the other hand, went on to great success in the United States but never again played in a World Cup; Bolivia have not participated in the finals since their ill-fated dalliance in 1994. So, Etcheverry's total World Cup finals contribution consists of four minutes, two touches and a badly chosen retaliation that became little more than a pub quiz question. As supporters of the Black-and-Red will tell you, that incident tells barely a fraction of the Etcheverry story.
La Paz image courtesy of Manumenal on Flickr.
As the world of football continues to evolve rapidly, one of its traditional superpowers might be left behind.
It was like a scene out of a Robert Redford movie, five co-conspirators gathered in a smoke-filled Córdoba hotel lobby under a blanket of secrecy.
When Miguel Rosa and Filipe Ferreira scored the two goals that enabled CFF Belenenses to beat Sporting Braga 2-1 in January, an audible sigh could be heard amongst the scattered faithful in Estádio do Restelo. Since a 2-0 win over Olhanense on 5th October last year, the dark blues had not tasted victory in the league. A real sense of drama and foreboding had begun to fall over the club that hauled itself so impressively back into the Portuguese top flight last season, after a brief three year spell in the wilderness of the Portuguese second tier, the sparsely populated and little followed Liga da Honra. That Alan brought Braga back into the game with a sumptuous goal worth taking a long and repeated look at (Youtube clip?) only heightened the tension, but the home side held out for the much needed tonic of three points and a widening gap with the Superliga's bottom two, Olhanense and Paços de Ferreira. Since then, the fires of passionate belief have once again been snuffed by defeat on Madeira
The 23rd of January 2014 could well be the most significant day in the Hyundai A-League’s short history as news broke that Premier League giants Manchester City were part of a consortium to buy Melbourne Heart.
Rabbi Howell was a much more significant figure in footballing terms, and yet he has been largely ignored and forgotten.
As Mexican defender Rafael Marquez prepares for his fourth World Cup, Tri fans recall fondly his earlier appearances.