Football is a “beautiful game” wherever it is played: on the beach, on the street, on a dirt patch, in a stadium, on TV and most of all in person. Football as the most popular global sport is steeped with history. Historic matches, events, disasters, scandals, goals, players and even wars. Here is a collection!
Match of the Century
(1953 England v Hungary football match)
On 25 November 1953, an international football match was played between Hungary—then the world’s number one ranked team, the Olympic champions and on a run of 24 unbeaten games, and England, that became known as the Match of the Century. Hungary won 6–3; the English were shown to be technically and tactically inferior to the Hungarian side, known as the Mighty Magyars, in every way. The result led to a review of the antiquated training and tactics used by the England team, and the subsequent adoption of continental practices at an international and club level in the English game.
England and the English fans were stunned. Mighty England the (modern) birth place of Football and a power house by any measure on its home turf Wembley stadium was humiliated by a Hungarian team featuring the great Puskas, Hidgekuti and the goalkeeper Groscics.
Scandals, Disasters, Wars
1949: The Superga Hill Disaster
The plane carrying Italian club side Torino back from a match against Benfica in Lisbon crashed into the Superga hill during its approach to Turin airport. All 31 on board were killed including the 18-strong squad, devastating the finest team in the club’s history.Shortly afterwards, Torino went on to win a fifth Serie A title in a row, although they have only it once since then, in 1975/76.
1958: The Munich Disaster – Basby Babes
Eight Manchester United players were among 23 people killed when their plane crashed on takeoff from Munich following a technical stop. The flight was taking them back to Manchester from a European Cup match in Belgrade. The 21 survivors included Bobby Charlton who was 20 at the time and went on to become one of England’s finest players, winning the World Cup in 1966.
1961: Green Cross Plane Disaster
A plane crash in the Las Lastimas mountains in Chile accounted for 24 players from the Green Cross team of Santiago. Four years later the club, which was founded in 1916, merged with Deportes Temuco and was renamed Green Cross Temuco.
1962: Battle of Santiago
England’s Ken Aston was the referee for this unsavoury encounter between World Cup hosts Chile and Italy. The first foul, and subsequent booking, came after just 12 seconds. Eight minutes later the culprit, Giorgio Ferrini of Italy, had been sent off. Chile’s Leonel Sanchez then produced a left hook to floor Italy’s Humberto Maschio, but amazingly he stayed on the pitch. However, he got his come-uppance a few minutes later when his neck met Mario David’s studs. The Italian was instantly dismissed and so it went on, until Chile eventually won 2-0 against nine-man Italy.
1964: Riot in Lima
More than 300 supporters were killed and another 500 injured following the decision by the referee to disallow a Peru goal with only a few minutes left to play in their Olympic Games qualifier against Argentina. The enraged home fans went crazy at the decision and many people were trampled on in the ensuing stampede. The lack of security and poor crowd control seemed to escalate the trouble. It is one of the worst disasters the game has witnessed.
Egypt – Port Said Riots