HISTORIC, OR ANOTHER OF THOSE OCCASIONAL SPIKES ON THE GRAPH?
March 2, 2012, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
| Tags: Juergen Klinsmann
, Copa America
, U.S. National Women's Team
, CONCACAF Gold Cup
, Tim Howard
, U.S. National Team
, FIFA Confederations Cup
, Clint Dempsey
, Gianluigi Buffon
, Italian National Team
, Stadio Luigi Ferraris
, Sebastian Giovinco
, Cesare Prandelli
, Serie A
, U.S. Cup
, Terrence Boyd
, Borrusia Dortmund
, Algarve Cup
, U.S. National Under-23 Team
The U.S. National Team upset Italy, 1-0, in a friendly at Genoa’s Stadio Luigi Ferraris to post its first victory over the Italians in 78 years. Clint Dempsey rolled a shot from the top of the penalty area past the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon in the 55th minute and the Americans, behind some stout defending, held on for their fourth consecutive win under new coach Juergen Klinsman. [February 29]
Comment I: The triumph was described in many quarters as historic, and given the fact that the U.S. went into the match with a 0-7-3 record against the Azzurri and had been out-scored, 32-4, over those 10 matches, the feat was indeed historic. Italian commentators no doubt shrugged it off as an aberration. Dempsey’s goal, they no doubt pointed out, came against the run of play–decidedly. Italy out-shot the U.S., 19-4, and would have had more had the pesky Sebastian Giovinco and mates not been flagged for offside nine times (to the USA’s zero), mostly on hopeful balls lofted over the U.S. back line. Italy also had the edge in corner kicks, 8-2, and Buffon was forced to make only one save to U.S. ‘keeper Tim Howard’s seven, which included a clutch kick-save in the fourth minute. This also wasn’t a full-strength Italian squad; neither could it be said of the U.S., but while the Americans remain sorely lacking in depth, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli could trot out a starting lineup heavy on players from Juventus, at the moment Serie A’s second-place club. Moreover, all would agree that a better look at reality came in the teams’ last meeting, at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa, a competitive match in which Italy took the U.S. to school in a 3-1 win that left the Americans’ hopes in that tournament on life support.
So was this upset truly meaningful? If so, the U.S. in recent years has enough such moments to fill a history book, starting with the 2-0 win over Mexico in the 1991 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals, and followed on a semi-regular basis by England 2-0 at U.S. Cup ’93, Colombia 2-1 at the 1994 World Cup, Argentina 3-0 at the 1995 Copa America, Brazil 1-0 at the 1998 Gold Cup semifinals, Germany 2-0 at the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup, Portugal 3-2 at the 2002 World Cup, and the biggest of all, World-Cup-champion-to-be Spain 2-0 at the 2009 Confederations Cup semifinals.
The best way to describe what happened in Genoa is to suggest that the U.S. further cemented its reputation as a team capable of anything at anytime, an erratic opponent who’s a no-win proposition for the world powers. Why should they relish facing an opponent they’re expected to beat when, on the odd day, they’ll fall victim to grit, fitness and just enough skill to get the job done? At the same time, this giant killer can’t get past the mid-level teams on a consistent basis, as it demonstrated in its 1-0 loss to Belgium in Brussels in September, Klinsmann’s third match in charge.
What may have been most noteworthy about Italy 0, U.S. 1 is that Klinsmann stuck his neck out and agreed to have the game scheduled at all. He rolled the dice in Genoa and won with a conservative 4-5-1. His 4-4-2 may come and go, depending on the opposition and the circumstances, but it’s clear that he intends, as he’s said, to pull the Americans out of their “comfort zone” and tap into the bravura and blue-collar characteristics that made the U.S. job so appealing to the German in the first place. In sum, Klinsmann with nothing to lose, the fellow hired to be the anti-Bob Bradley.
Comment II: Klinsmann’s boldness crossed a line when he substituted a spent Jozy Altidore with Terrence Boyd. a striker who has yet to work his way from the Borussia Dortmund reserves into the club’s first team. Boyd was clearly a fish out of water, and it can be gently said that he was lucky not to be shown a yellow card for a high foot a few minutes into his 11-minute cameo. A 21-year-old kid making his debut against Italy in a one-goal game? There are limits.
Comment III: It’s been nearly 20 years since Nike took over for adidas as the national teams’ outfitter, and it still hasn’t gotten it right. The same company that has repeatedly ruined Brazil’s classic jersey–and those of the countless other national teams and prominent clubs it has come to sponsor–dressed the U.S. for its Italy match in something that could best be described as a bad version of Arsenal in navy blue. In fact, it simply looked like the Americans had their sleeves ripped off, revealing their white long underwear. Fortunately, the U.S. played better than it looked, sartorially speaking.
Comment IV: On one day, the U.S. National Women’s Team routed Denmark, 5-0, in Portugal in its Algarve Cup opener; the U.S. National Under-23 Team blanked Mexico’s U-23s, 2-0, in Dallas in an Olympic qualifying tune-up; and the U.S. National Team shocked Italy, 1-0, in a friendly in Genoa. Oh, and the Mexican National Team bowed to Colombia, 2-0, in a friendly in Miami.
It won’t take away the sting of a day like June 25 last year, when Mexico thumped the U.S., 4-2, at the CONCACAF Gold Cup final … but for American fans, it doesn’t hurt.
ONE OF LAST LINKS TO USA’S FINEST, UNLIKELY, HOUR AND A HALF
February 12, 2012, 11:37 pm
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| Tags: 191st Tank Battalion
, 1930 World Cup
, 1934 World Cup
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, 1950 World Cup
, 1966 World Cup
, 1969 Miracle Mets
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, 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball team
, Alf Ramsey
, American Soccer League
, Baer and Fuller
, Belo Horizonte
, Bert Williams
, Bill Jeffrey
, Bob Annis
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, Caribous of Colorado
, Charles Colombo
, Chris Bahr
, Columbia University
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, Dent McSkimming
, Dream Team
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, Dutch East Indies
, Ed McIlvenny
, Eddie Souza
, El Tricolores
, English Channel
, English Football Association
, English Saturday Post
, Fall River FC
, Florissant Valley College
, France '98
, Francis Wallace
, Frank Borghi
, Generoso Dattilo
, Geoffrey Douglas
, Germany '06
, Gino Pariani
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, Harry Keough
, Home International Championship
, Hungarian National Team
, Ilha do Retiro Stadium
, Italia '90
, Jack Buck
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, Jimmy Mullen
, Joe Gaetjens
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, John "Clarkie" Souza
, John Graydon
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, Ty Keough
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, U.S. National Open Cup
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, USA '94
, Walter Bahr
, Walter Winterbottom
, Wembley Stadium
, William "Chubby" Lyons
One of the most notable figures in the early history of American soccer, Harry Keough, died at his home in St. Louis. He was 84.
Keough was the broad-shouldered center back of the U.S. team that upset England, 1-0, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in the first round of the 1950 World Cup, a result considered by many perhaps the biggest upset ever in sports. England, inventors of the game with a side made up of First Division professionals, came to Brazil as tournament favorite while the Americans were a collection of semipros.
Keough, a postal carrier by trade, earned 17 caps in the late 1940s and ’50s. He also led St. Louis Kutis to the 1957 U.S. National Open Cup and six consecutive U.S. National Amateur Cups beginning in 1956. Keough went on to a long and successful career as a collegiate coach. After helping Missouri’s Florissant Valley become a junior college powerhouse, he took the helm at Saint Louis University and guided the Billikens to NCAA Division I championships in 1968 (shared with Michigan State), 1969, ’70, ’72 and ’73, compiling a 213-50-23 record from 1967 through ’82.
In 1976, Keough was inducted along with the rest of his 1950 U.S. teammates into the National Soccer Hall of Fame, and in 1990 he became, along with ex-teammate Walter Bahr, the go-to guy for media members looking for a quote regarding the significance of America’s first World Cup appearance in four decades. With Keough’s passing, only three members of that U.S. team remain: Bahr, John Souza and Frank Borghi. [February 6]
Comment: A fluke, a mistake, a month of Sundays in collision, but without the improbable heroics of Keough & Co. nearly 62 years ago, this country’s soccer’s history, at a glance, would’ve been a blank slate for 45 long years–from the USA’s two-win march to the semifinals at the first World Cup in 1930 to the arrival of Pele in 1975. And when it came to America’s feeble hurrah in the middle of an otherwise barren resume, it couldn’t have had a more gracious and humble spokesman than Keough.
For those who aren’t inclined to read Geoffrey Douglas’ 1996 book ”The Game of Their Lives” (or sit through the disappointing 2005 motion picture of the same name that managed to paint English star forward Stan Mortensen as an arrogant villain, among other distortions and inaccuracies), here’s a condensed account of U.S. 1, England 0, from Soccer Stories: Anecdotes, Oddities, Lore and Amazing Feats:
THE GREATEST UPSET OF THEM ALL
In terms of sheer shock value, it’s bigger than the U.S. ice hockey team’s gold medal triumph at the 1980 Winter Olympics. It tops the 1969 Miracle Mets, Jets quarterback Joe Namath’s guaranteed win in Super Bowl III–all of them.
The U.S. National Team’s 1-0 victory over England at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil was the greatest upset in the history of sports. England, the birthplace of soccer, lost to the United States, a team of semipros–plus one amateur–representing a country that was considered at the time to be on a par with Antarctica on the international soccer totem pole. Imagine the 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball squad, the so-called Dream Team, tumbling to the Duchy of Grand Fenwick. So preposterous was the thought of England losing to the United States that many sports editors around the world, upon seeing the final score come over the wire from Belo Horizonte, concluded that it must have been a typographical error. Surely the actual score was England 10, United States 1.
England, at odds with FIFA from the late 1920s until just after World War II, had finally consented to play in a World Cup after skipping the first three, and it came to Brazil as a favorite. In the first round a routine victory over Chile and the expected hammering of the United States, plus a win–at worst a tie–against Spain, and the English would be through Group 2 and into the final pool for a four-team, round-robin playoff for the crown. From there England would cement its status as the game’s master.
The English indeed brushed aside Chile, 2-0, June 25 at the cavernous Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro in their first-ever World Cup match. The Americans, meanwhile, had opened the cup by falling bravely to Spain in Curitiba, 3-1, giving up all three goals after the 80th minute. Thus, the stage was set for the USA’s expected elimination at the hands of England at Belo Horizonte, a mining town some 300 miles north of Rio.
A crowd of 10,151 gathered at the intimate Mineiro Stadium on that cool, cloudy June 29, most of them curious Brazilians rooting for the United States to somehow upend England and perhaps help remove an obstacle to their own country’s championship hopes. The field was bumpy–an impediment to English skill–and the dressing rooms were so cramped and foul that England chose to change beforehand at its hotel. From the opening kickoff, England set up camp on the U.S. half of the field and, early on, sailed a shot just over the crossbar. The English were laughing and joking as they sauntered back for the ensuing goal kick. Surely the slaughter would begin soon.
But, amazingly, the game remained 0-0 beyond the first half hour, and in the 39th minute (or 37th or 38th, depending on the account), the United States scored the Goal. U.S. halfback Walter Bahr, one of eight native-born Americans in the lineup, latched onto a throw-in from the right by captain Ed McIlvenny, dribbled 10 yards down the wing, and rifled a 25-yard shot toward the far post. English goalkeeper Bert Williams appeared to have the situation under control, but U.S. center forward Joe Gaetjens swooped in and sent a flying header into the right corner of the net.
Several English newspaper reports claimed the ball struck the unwitting Gaetjens in the head before caroming into the goal. “Williams in the England goal positioned himself perfectly to gather in Bahr’s shot,” wrote John Graydon of the English Saturday Post, “but Gaetjens, the American leader, ruined everything for him. Gaetjens jumped in, failed to connect with his forehead but the ball accidentally hit the top of his head and was deflected into the England goal.” Surviving U.S. players later contended that Gaetjens was simply an unpredictable player who chose this moment to execute an unexpected diving header.
This was England’s wake-up call, and the red-faced favorites–frustrated by an underdog listed at 500-1–responded with a second-half barrage that increased in intensity as the final whistle approached. But goalkeeper Frank Borghi and his back line held firm, the English marksmen were off-target, and there would be no equalizer.
At one point English defender Alf Ramsey’s free kick was headed on by forward Jimmy Mullen and seemingly bound for the U.S. goal, but Borghi made a sprawling save.
England’s best chance to draw level came with five minutes remaining. Inside forward Stanley Mortensen split the U.S. defense, only to be brought down just beyond the penalty area with a desperate gridiron football-style tackle by U.S. center back Charles Colombo, the team’s hard man who, perhaps for reasons of intimidation, always wore boxer’s training gloves when he played. So vicious was the hit that their momentum carried Mortenson and Colombo to the penalty spot. Italian referee Generoso Dattilo, however, did not point to the spot to give England a penalty kick and he did not eject Colombo. True to his given name, he shook his finger at Colombo yet said, “Bono, bono, bono!” (in this instance, “Good job!” or “Way to go!”) and awarded only a free kick that England subsequently sent sailing over the bar.
Moments later, Ramsey booted a free kick into the penalty area, where Mullen’s downward header got behind Borghi, but the U.S. ‘keeper recovered and palmed the ball away for right back Harry Keough to clear. Dattilo rejected English claims that the ball had crossed the goal line.
Through it all, the Americans kept their cool. Late in the match, with the partisan crowd chanting Mais um! (“One more!”), the balding inside forward John “Clarkie” Souza dribbled around a half-dozen Englishmen to kill several seconds off the clock.
At the final whistle, Gaetjens, Borghi, and other U.S. players were paraded around the field on the shoulders of jubilant Brazilian fans, and others set newspapers ablaze in the stands in celebration. U.S. coach Bill Jeffrey, a Scotsman, danced a jig on the sidelines.
While the rest of the world buzzed, this monumental upset caused less than a ripple in the United States. Only one American reporter, Dent McSkimming, was on hand for the game, and that was only because he was on vacation and taking in the game as a tourist; his paper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, ran not a McSkimming report of the game but a wire service account. The disinterest shown the remarkable feat by the American public spoke volumes of the state of soccer in the United States in the 1950s; likewise, the shock and amazement in most quarters that greeted news of the upset said plenty about what the world thought of both English and American soccer.
* * *
Before the upset the U.S. Soccer Federation, then known as the U.S. Football Association (USFA), all but shut down its national team program following a humiliating 7-1 loss to host Italy in its only 1934 World Cup match and a respectable 1-0 loss to the eventual gold medal-winning Italians in its lone appearance at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The United States entered the 1938 World Cup in France but withdrew after FIFA pitted the Americans against the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) in a qualifying playoff. (Perhaps the USFA was influenced by a September 1937 trip to Mexico City during which the national team bowed to El Tricolores, 7-2, 7-3, and 5-1 over two weeks.
Thanks in part to World War II, the USFA (since renamed the U.S. Soccer Football Association) didn’t send a selection out onto the field until the 1947 North American Championship in Havana, where Cuba and Mexico flattened the Americans by a combined 10-2. That was followed by the 1948 London Olympics, where the Americans–featuring future World Cup team members Bahr, Colombo, Gino Parini, Eddie Souza, and John Souza (no relation)–were humbled by Italy, 9-0, in their only match. Four days later, the squad, now appearing as the national team, was humiliated by Norway, 11-0, in Oslo, and five days after that it tumbled to Northern Ireland, 5-0, in Belfast.
Obviously, the world had changed. The United States had beaten Belgium and Paraguay to reach the 1930 World Cup semifinals with a collection of rugged characters, a smattering with pro experience from Britain but most from the hardscrabble ethnic semipro leagues of the urban United States. But over the next two decades professionalism spread to Brazil, Spain, and other soccer hotbeds, while elsewhere, from the amateurs of Scandinavia to the minnows of Central America, the game only got stronger–stronger than the likes of the Fall River FC of Massachusetts, Kearny Scots of New Jersey, Stix, Baer and Fuller of St. Louis, and other domestic powers of the era. Before long, the butchers, bakers and candlestick makers playing in the American Soccer League and/or U.S. National Open Cup were hopelessly behind, a gap that would persist for a half century.
U.S. failure was supposed to have continued in September 1949 with World Cup qualifiers in Mexico City, but North America was generously awarded two slots in Brazil, and the United States team, despite being beaten by Mexico, 6-0 and 6-2, punched their ticket at the expense of the Cubans, 1-1 and 5-2. Nevertheless, it was hardly a bold run-up to Brasil ’50.
The venerable Home International Championship, the world’s oldest international team competition (born 1883, died 1989 due to fan violence), was the annual battle for soccer supremacy among England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In 1949-50, it doubled as a European qualifying group for the fourth World Cup, and the English finished first by two points with a 1-0 victory over Scotland in Glasgow in their final match. A World Cup spot was reserved for the Home’s second-placed team, but the Scots deemed themselves unworthy as a runner-up and stayed home.
U.S. coach Jeffrey made his final World Cup squad selections after an April 1950 match in St. Louis between hopefuls from the East and West, which ended in a 3-3 tie. Only seven players survived from the qualifiers in Mexico City: Bahr, Borghi, Colombo, forward Nicholas DiOrio, defender Keough, John Souza, and forward Francis Wallace. Jeffrey’s final selection then was thumped, 5-0, by the touring Turkish club Besiktas in St. Louis; a loss to an English B team, 1-0, at New York’s Randall’s Island, followed, and the United States was off to Brazil.
That English B team, playing as the English F.A. XI, would become part of England’s World Cup squad. It tuned up for what would be, for some players, a trip to Brazil by winning all nine of its friendlies during a tour of Canada, outscoring the opposition 66-13, including the victory over the United States.
After the U.S.-England friendly, at a banquet at the Waldorf-Astoria, English Football Association president Stanley Rous, later elected head of FIFA, was gracious in his remarks regarding the U.S. team, but suggested his side was weary from the extensive travel in North America. In conclusion, he said, “When you go to Brazil and play the English National Team, then you will find out what football is all about.”
* * *
After the incredible upset over England, the United States was unable to ride the victory into the tournament’s final pool. The Americans lost to Chile, 5-2, three days later at Ilha do Retiro Stadium in Recife and were eliminated. Like the Spain match, the defense collapsed in the second half. After rebounding from a 2-0 deficit to tie on goals by Gino Pariani in the 47th minute and Ed Souza from the penalty spot in the 48th (or by Frank Wallace and Joe Maca, or by Wallace and John Souza, depending on the account), the team melted in the 110-degree heat and conceded three goals beginning in the 54th.
Nevertheless, the United States, whose squad included a postman, a school teacher, a factory worker, a knitting machine mechanic, and a hearse driver, went home tied for second in Group 2 with England and Chile, all at 1-2-0. Spain (3-0-0) took first but eventually finished last in the final pool, behind champion Uruguay, host Brazil, and third-place Sweden.
Despite disbelief over the England defeat, the United States left Brazil with a respectable all-time World Cup record of 3-4-0. Without a strong national league or public interest, however, the Americans’ immediate future in international soccer was bleak, and they wouldn’t make another World Cup appearance until Italia ’90, where an inexperienced squad of current and former college standouts, average age 23, lost all three of its games. Following USA ’94 (1-2-1), France ’98 (0-3-0), the Americans’ encouraging quarterfinal showing at Japan/Korea ’02 (2-2-1) and Germany ’06 (0-2-1), the United States’ all-time record in World Cup competition stood at 6-16-3.
Coach Walter Winterbottom, who had kept Stanley Matthews out of England’s first two games, played the legendary winger in his team’s final Group 2 match, but the English lost, 1-0, to Spain before 70,000 at the Maracana and trudged home. The English tumbled completely off their pedestal in 1953 when the “Magic Magyars,” the invincible Hungarian National Team, routed them, 6-3, at Wembley Stadium and 7-1 six months later in Budapest.
England, of course, did not curl up and die after the losses to the United States and Hungary. Alf Ramsey, the man who played against the Yanks, was appointed coach, replaced Winterbottom, after England lost in the 1962 World Cup quarterfinals to eventual champion Brazil. The Ramsey-led English won the 1966 World Cup.
As for Belo Horizonte, England avenged that defeat four times over by humiliating the United States, 6-3, in 1953 in New York; 8-1 in 1959 in Los Angeles; 10-0 in 1964 in New York; and 5-0 in 1985 in Los Angeles. The United States came back to surprise the English, 2-0, in U.S. Cup ’93 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. For now, England’s advantage stands at 7-2-1, that tie coming at the 2010 World Cup.
As for Jeffrey, his tenure as U.S. coach consisted of those three games in Brazil and he returned to his day job as soccer coach at Penn State. In 1951, with the national team temporarily in mothballs, Jeffrey led his Nittany Lions on a three-game tour of Iran. The following year he closed out a successful 24-year career as Penn State coach, compiling a 134-21-27 record.
McIlvenny, who like Jeffrey was born in Scotland, played for Wrexham of Wales. He moved to the United States in 1949 and played for the Philadelphia Americans, then in the midst of winning five American Soccer League titles over 10 years. After the World Cup he returned to Britain and played two games with Manchester United, then ended his career with teams in Ireland, Germany, and once again, England. Fellow defender Maca returned to his native Belgium, where he resumed his playing career as the hero who helped vanquish mighty England.
Left back Bahr followed Jeffrey to Penn State and guided the Nittany Lions to a 185-66-22 mark from 1974 to 1987. Two of Bahr’s sons cut short promising professional soccer careers to pursue fame and fortune as place-kickers in the NFL. Chris, a midfielder, switched sports after scoring 11 goals and winning the 1975 NASL Rookie of the Year award with the Philadelphia Atoms. Matt, a defender, split the 1978 NASL season between the Caribous of Colorado and Tulsa Roughnecks before making the jump.
Defender Keough, later a successful coach at Saint Louis University (five NCAA titles in 16 seasons), is the father of TV soccer commentator Ty Keough, whose playing career spanned eight appearances for the United States–nine fewer than his father–and four seasons in the NASL.
Keough, Borghi, Colombo, Wallace, and Pariani were all products of St. Louis, the latter four from the southside Italian neighborhood known as “Dago Hill.” A reserve, Bob Annis, and Jeffrey’s assistant, William “Chubby” Lyons, also were from St. Louis. As a teen, Borghi, the hearse driver who would one day become his funeral home’s director, was a U.S. Army field medic in World War II. He crossed the English Channel the day after D-Day, and among the men he treated in Germany was the future voice of the St. Louis Cardinals, Jack Buck. Another army veteran, Wallace, nicknamed “Pee Wee,” served in the 191st Tank Battalion and saw action on the beach at Anzio, eventually earning four Battle Stars and a Purple Heart; he was captured by the Germans and spend 15 months in a POW camp.
Five Americans on the field at Mineiro Stadium that day were added by Jeffrey after the qualifiers in Mexico City. Of them, McIlvenney, Maca, and Gaetjens were not U.S. citizens but were allowed to play under the more lenient rules of the time. To the USSF, a player who declared his intent to become a U.S. citizen was eligible to play for the national team. Questions were raised after the upset, but later that year FIFA declared that the United States had done nothing wrong. Of the three, however, only Maca would go on to obtain U.S. citizenship.
Before scoring the Goal, Gaetjens, the son of a Haitian mother and Belgian father, was a dishwasher in a New York restaurant, working his way through Columbia University with the help of a Haitian government scholarship. Previously his greatest claim to fame as a player had come in 1949-50 when he led the American Soccer League in scoring with 18 goals for the last-place Brook-Hattan Galicia. After Brazil he played three years in France for Racing Club de Paris and Troyes, then returned to his native Haiti, where the rules of the day allowed him to play for the Haitians in 1953 in a World Cup qualifier against Mexico (a 4-0 loss).
Gaetjens later became a spokesman for Proctor & Gamble and owner of a string of dry-cleaning stores. Gaetjens was apolitical, but apparently some of his relatives were not, and in July 1964 he was hauled out of one of his Port-au-Prince dry-cleaning shops and taken away by “Papa Doc” Duvalier’s dreaded Ton Ton Macoute secret police. Efforts to determine his whereabouts have been unsuccessful, but it is believed he died in prison in 1970, six years before he and his 16 U.S. teammates were inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Ironically, the Haitian government issued a commemorative stamp in Gaetjen’s honor in 2000.
* * *
So, just how big was this biggest of all sports upsets?
It changed nothing in the United States, and it did nothing to change English soccer’s opinion of itself, nor did the rest of the world think less of England’s game. An anomaly, at best.
Keough, one of the St. Louis boys, probably put it best. Years later, he told his hometown Post-Dispatch: “Obviously, there was no television back then and, honestly, the World Cup wasn’t nearly as big a deal as it is now. We knew what we’d accomplished was something very special, but I don’t think most people back home, even soccer people, had any idea how major an upset it was.
“Was it the greatest upset in history? I think so. In the  World Cup, when Senegal beat defending champion France, almost all of the players for Senegal were first-division players from top leagues all over the world. We had a team of nobodies.
“I’d say the [USA] hockey team’s win [over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics] was probably more significant because they went on to win that tournament. But there’s no way anybody, including us, expected the U.S. to beat England in 1950.”
DON’T JUST FOLLOW THE MONEY
December 3, 2010, 3:26 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
| Tags: 1991 FIFA Under-17 World Championship
, 2007 Asian Cup
, 2018 World Cup
, 2022 World Cup
, Albert Speer
, Asian Football Confederation
, FIFA Executive Committee
, Mohamed bin Hammam
, Persian Gulf
, Qatari Stars League
, Saudi Arabia
, Sheika Moza bint Nasser al-Missned
, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani
, South Korea
, United Arab Emirates
, West Germany
Qatar beat out a strong bid by the U.S. to win the right to host the 2022 World Cup while Russia was awarded the 2018 tournament in balloting by the FIFA Executive Committee in Zurich.
With 22 members taking part, 12 votes were needed to win. The last-place finisher in each round was eliminated.
The 2022 vote:
First Round — Qatar 11, U.S. 3, South Korea 4, Japan 3, Australia 1.
Second Round — Qater 10, U.S. 5, South Korea 5, Japan 2.
Third Round — Qatar 11, U.S. 6, South Korea 5.
Fourth Round — Qatar 14, U.S. 8.
The 2018 vote:
First round — Russia 9, Spain/Portugal 7, Holland/Belgium 4, England 2.
Second Round — Russia 13, Spain/Portugal 7, Holland/Belgium 2. [December 2]
Comment: So how did Qatar do it? How did this nation of 1.7 million people perched on a tiny Persian Gulf peninsula, a country that has never even qualified for a World Cup, win the prize at the expense of the United States, a nation whose bid was the only one among the nine 2018/22 hopefuls to be given a 100 percent score by FIFA?
To many, the immediate answer was, “Follow the petrodollars.” That, however, may be too easy. The U.S. bid, after all, promised record broadcast rights fees and ticket revenues from a land that is home to many of FIFA’s major sponsors.
However, there’s the usual horse trading of votes. In fact, the trading season might have begun not during the bidders’ presentations in Zurich but back in August, when Asian Football Confederation chief Mohamed bin Hammam announced that he would not run for the FIFA presidency in 2011 and instead devote his efforts to ensuring that his native land–Qatar–wins the 2022 World Cup sweepstakes, thus clearing the way for Sepp Blatter to win a fourth four-year term as FIFA supremo next year. And beyond the horse trading, there was the geopolitical factor.
Qatar’s bid borders on the fantastic: Build seven stadiums and enlarge five others and air-condition them to beat July heat that can reach 115 degrees, then dismantle most and reassemble them in needy nations. That grabbed the attention. But two emotional appeals at the end of its slick bid presentation the day before the vote were telling. One young man whose affiliation was listed as Qatar Foundation, a non-profit founded by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, told of losing family members in fighting in his native Iraq, then recounted Iraq’s triumph at the 2007 Asian Cup, a feat that united–briefly–that country’s Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and Christians. The point, though a pipe dream, is that a Qatari World Cup could bring together the Middle East. The emir’s wife, Sheika Moza bint Nasser al-Missned, then addressed committee members, pointedly, dramatically, asking them, “When? When will the World Cup come to the Middle East?”
The United States is not loved in the Arab world. The young Iraqi did not elaborate on the “fighting” that claimed his family members, but most U.S. bid members must have felt their ears burning, at least for a moment. For Executive Committee members with sympathies toward, or obligations to, the Middle East, Her Highness’ question–”When?”–could be regarded as a firm prod, if not an effective bit of guilt tripping. And what would be more delicious to those leaning in that direction than to award a World Cup to a Middle Eastern state at the expense of the Western nation that looms menacingly over the region, from Israel to Iraq to Afghanistan?
At the same time, the vote may have been FIFA’s way of putting the U.S. in its place.
The U.S. bid, on its face, hit all the high notes: stadiums, infrastructure, profits, experience, diversity, and what could be summed up as “give us the World Cup and we’ll finish what was begun in 1994.” However, it could be that FIFA likes the United States exactly where it is, a giant who has, in soccer terms, struggled from a prone position to rise up on one knee. Perhaps that’s the way FIFA wants things for the time being: a United States that is a cash cow of Coca-Colas and Visas, a credible competitor on the international stage but not a perennial champion, a people whose interest in the game is encouraging but not overwhelming.
No country on earth has the soccer potential of the United States. If realized, America could very well become the tail that wags the dog (see U.S. television rights, International Olympic Committee). And what FIFA doesn’t need is another one of its 208 member-nations treating it with disdain. Like England.
o Five of the new stadiums promised by Qatar have been designed by Albert Speer and Partners. Yes, that Albert Speer–Albert Speer Jr., son of Hitler’s most favored architect and ultimately the Nazis’ munitions minister during World War II.
o Russia’s current place in the FIFA World Rankings–No. 10–is a bit flattering. That’s six places above four-time world champion Italy. Qatar’s place–No. 109, one place ahead of Iceland–is not.
Qatar has been trying to reach a World Cup since 1978, and despite a string of Brazilian and French coaches it has failed all nine times. Its greatest international feat remains its loss to West Germany in the final of the 1981 FIFA World Youth (U-20) Championship, followed by a fourth-place finish at the 1991 FIFA Under-17 World Championship. The hardware in the dusty Qatari trophy case: Winners of the 1992 and 2004 Gulf Cups, both times as host. Qatar also pocketed runners-up medals at the 1998 Arab Nations Cup, an event it hosted. In one of its most recent friendlies, the ultra-rich Qatar lost to the desperately poor Haiti, 1-0, in Doha before a throng of 5,000. According to the FIFA rankings, No. 109 loses to No. 128–at home. Had the U.S. been eliminated in the first round of its 1994 World Cup, it would have been a horror. Then South Africa failed to reach the second round of its 2010 World Cup, and FIFA apparently concluded that losing a host nation after three matches doesn’t signal the end of the world. So it’s on to Qatar.
Meanwhile, don’t look to the Qatari Stars League–a circuit of 12 first division teams and six in the second–to serve as a springboard to international glory. Since its launch in 1963, it has won zero honors in Asian club play. Its most decorated club, at 12 national championships and six second-place finishes, is the aptly named Al-Sadd.
o It remains to be seen what Qatar ’22 will do to grow the game in the Middle East. Soccer is already the region’s passion, so if the event cannot further rachet up the game’s popularity, then FIFA’s aim, surely, is to lift the level of play there. However . . .
Arab nations, despite considerable capital investment, have combined to make 20 World Cup appearances dating back to Argentina ’78. The result is a record of 7-38-15. Tunisia has crashed in the opening round four times, followed by Algeria, three; Egypt, two; and Kuwait, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, one each. Morocco and Saudi Arabia have both qualified four times, and they lead the parade with one second-round appearance apiece, in 1986 and 1994, respectively.
Because of a reluctance on the part of Westerners to travel to Qatar for the ’22 World Cup, the in-stadium audience for the tournament could very well be overwhelmingly Middle Eastern. And if so, a wave of passion could see the world’s 109th-best team into the Round of 16, the realm of respectability. But don’t count on it.