Stampede kills 84 at World Cup match

Year
1996
Month Day
October 16

A stampede of soccer fans before a World Cup qualifying match in Guatemala City kills 84 people and seriously injures more than 100 on October 16, 1996.

The Guatemala national team was set to face off against Costa Rica on a Wednesday night in Guatemala City. Approximately 60,000 fans, most dressed in blue and white, the country’s traditional colors, came to the stadium, which has a capacity of only 45,000. Apparently, counterfeiters had sold thousands of fake tickets to the event.

Although the stadium was already full to capacity about an hour before the match was scheduled to begin, fans continued to push their way into the venue through a narrow passage. As those in front of them had nowhere to go, people began to be crushed and suffocated. Fist fights that broke out in the crowd exacerbated the situation, which ended in a panicked stampede.

Guatemala’s President Alvara Arzu witnessed the chaos from a box seat and called off the match. However, it was too late for 83 people, including many children. The bodies of the victims, some with their clothes torn off, lined the grounds of the stadium afterward as scores of injured received medical treatment.

Pope John Paul II sent a message of condolence to the relatives of the victims. President Arzu declared three days of national mourning. “What does football matter now?” said Guatemala’s head coach, Horacio Cordero.

The Guatemala City stampede was not unique; there were at least four stampedes at soccer matches that killed more than 40 people in the 1980s and 1990s.

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Riot erupts at Lima, Peru soccer match, killing hundreds

Year
1964
Month Day
May 24

A referee’s call in a soccer match between Peru and Argentina sparks a riot on May 24, 1964. More than 300 fans were killed and another 500 people were injured in the violent melee that followed at National Stadium in Lima, Peru.

The match was a qualifier for the 1964 Olympics and the Peruvian fans were fiercely cheering on their team with only a few minutes left in a close game. When the referee disallowed an apparent goal for Peru, the stadium went wild. The resulting panic and crowd-control measures taken caused stampedes in which people were crushed and killed.

The extent of this disaster has only been surpassed once. In 1982, 340 people died at a match in Moscow when a late goal caused fans who had exited the game to attempt to return suddenly. Meanwhile, police were forcing people to exit; those caught in the middle were crushed.

Large-scale soccer disasters date back to 1946 when 33 fans were crushed to death in Bolton, England, when overcrowded conditions caused a barrier to collapse onto fans.

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U.S. World Cup team wins unlikely victory over England

Year
1950
Month Day
June 25

On June 25, 1950, an American team composed largely of amateurs defeated its more polished English opponents at the World Cup, held in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Dubbed the “Miracle on Green,” the game is considered one of the greatest soccer upsets of all time.

The English team at the time, known as the “Kings of Football,” boasted a record of 23 victories, four losses and three draws in the years since World War II ended. Its members were professional footballers culled from England’s domestic leagues. The Americans, by contrast, had lost their last seven international matches. Hastily assembled just days before the match against England, the U.S. team included a dishwasher, two mailmen, a teacher and a mill worker. The Belfast Telegram described them as “a band of no-hopers drawn from many lands,” ostensibly because some of the men were recent immigrants to the United States.

By the time the two teams squared off at Belo Horizonte, bookies had given the Brits 3-1 odds to take the World Cup, compared to 500-1 for the Americans. The newly appointed American coach, Bill Jeffrey, apparently agreed with them, telling a British reporter, “We have no chance.”

The game began with the Americans on the defense as the English assailed them with one clear shot on goal after another. The goalkeeper, Frank Borghi, a former minor league catcher who now drove a hearse in St. Louis, managed to tip each one. Finally, with less than 10 minutes to go in the first half, U.S. midfielder Walter Bahr centered a ball from 25 yards out, and Haitian-born forward Joe Gaetjens scored with a diving header. England lashed back with a battery of shots throughout the second half, but nothing got past Borghi. The no-hopers had defeated the Kings of Football with a single goal. The 30,000 Brazilians in the stands went wild, knowing that a British loss could help their own team fare better in the tournament. Gaetjens, who would later return to Haiti and disappear during François Duvalier’s repressive regime, was carried off the field in celebration.

Appalled English fans could not fathom that the Americans had beaten them at their own game. In the United States, meanwhile, the improbable win barely made a ripple. Only one American journalist had traveled to Brazil for the World Cup in the first place: Dent McSkimming of the St. Louis Dispatch, who paid his own way when his newspaper would not send him. He later said that the American victory was “as if Oxford University sent a baseball team over here and it beat the Yankees.”

Why didn’t this David-and-Goliath story make American headlines? For one thing, soccer had never captured the same U.S. fan base as football, baseball or basketball. Newspapers also had a more alarming matter to cover: On June 29, four days before the game, North Korea had crossed the 38th parallel into South Korea, and President Truman had already ordered U.S. forces to intervene. Just six years after World War II, the country was once again on the brink of war.

After the upset, both teams were quickly eliminated and returned to their respective sides of the Atlantic–the Brits chastened, the Americans essentially ignored. It would be 16 years before England won its first and only World Cup title. The United States, meanwhile, would not even appear in the tournament again until 1990. On June 12, 2010, the teams met again at the World Cup in Rustenburg, South Africa, and again England was the favorite. That match, which was the fifth most-watched soccer game in U.S. history, ended in a draw.

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Soccer legend Pelé scores 1,000th goal

Year
1969
Month Day
November 19

Brazilian soccer great Pelé scores his 1,000th professional goal in a game, against Vasco da Gama in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium. It was a major milestone in an illustrious career that included three World Cup championships.

Pelé, considered one of the greatest soccer players ever to take the field, was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in Tres Coracos, Brazil, in 1940. He acquired the nickname Pelé during his childhood though the name has no meaning in his native Portuguese. When he was a teenager, he played for a minor league soccer club in Bauru in Sao Paulo state and in 1956 joined the major league Santos Football Club in the city of Sao Paulo, playing inside left forward. Two years later, he led the Brazilian national team to victory in the World Cup. Pelé, who was only 17 years old, scored two goals to defeat Sweden in the final.

Pelé was blessed with speed, balance, control, power, and an uncanny ability to anticipate the movements of his opponents and teammates. Although just five feet eight inches tall, he was a giant on the field, leading Santos to three national club championships, two South American championships, and the world club title in 1963. Under Pelé’s leadership, Brazil won the World Cup in 1958, 1962, and 1970. In 1970, Brazil was granted permanent possession of the World Cup’s Jules Rimet Trophy as a tribute to its dominance. On November 19, 1969, Pelé scored his 1,000th goal on a penalty kick against Vasco da Gama. Eighty thousand adoring fans in Maracana stadium cheered him wildly, even though Santos was the opposing team.

Pelé announced his retirement in 1974 but in 1975 accepted a $7 million contract to play with the New York Cosmos. He led the Cosmos to a league championship in 1977 and did much to promote soccer in the United States. On October 1, 1977, in Giants Stadium, he played his last professional game in a Cosmos match against his old team Santos.

During his long career, Pelé scored 1,282 goals in 1,363 games. In 1978, Pelé was given the International Peace Award and in 1993 he was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame. Since retiring, he has acted as an international ambassador for his sport and has worked with the United Nations and UNICEF to promote peace and international reconciliation through friendly athletic competition.

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Real Madrid founded


Year
1902
Month Day
March 06

On March 6, 1902, the Madrid Foot Ball Club is founded by a group of fans in Madrid, Spain. Later known as Real Madrid, the club would become the most successful European football (soccer) franchise of the 20th century.

With its trademark blue-and-white uniforms (originally inspired by those of an English team), Madrid began to make a name for itself in Spain almost right away. From 1905 to 1907, under their first coach, Englishman Arthur Johnson, the team won three titles in a row in the Spanish League, known as La Liga. These were just the first of 29 La Liga championships through 2006 for Real Madrid, including an impressive five consecutive La Liga titles from 1986 to 1990.

Real Madrid’s legendary status internationally was solidified under the leadership of Santiago Bernabeu Yeste, who played for the team from 1912 to 1927 and served as club president from 1943 to 1978. In 1953, Bernabeu began to stock his roster with the best players he could find from around the world, instead of just the best in Spain, beginning with Madrid’s most famous soccer icon, Argentine star Alfredo Di Stefano. The resulting team won the European Cup, Europe’s football championship, an unprecedented five times in a row, from 1956 through 1960. Bernabeu then switched course in the 1960s and built a team entirely of Spanish players. In 1966, Real Madrid won its sixth European cup with a team of Spanish “hippies” who rivaled the Beatles in popularity on the European continent.

In 2000, soccer’s international governing body, FIFA, selected Real Madrid the best football team of the 20th century. Two years later, the club celebrated its 100-year anniversary. 

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Pelé leads Brazil to first World Cup title

Year
1958
Month Day
June 29

On June 29, 1958, Brazil defeats host nation Sweden 5-2 to win its first World Cup. Brazil came into the tournament as a favorite, and did not disappoint, thrilling the world with their spectacular play, which was often referred to as the “beautiful game.”

The star of the tournament was an undersized midfielder named Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known the world over as Pelé. Edson, the son of a professional footballer called Dodhino, was named for the American inventor, Thomas Edison. His mother, having watched her husband struggle to earn money in the game, discouraged Pelé from playing football. Pelé’s will won out, and at 14 he was discovered by de Brito, a former Brazilian team member, who took the young scorer under his wing. Pelé earned his first cap with the national team at 16, and made his debut on the international stage at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden at 17 years old.

In that year’s Cup, Pelé did not make an appearance until Brazil’s third group play match against the Soviet Union, in which he set up a goal for Vava. His first goal came in the quarterfinal against Wales; it was the only goal Brazil scored in a 1-0 win. It was in the semifinal against France, though, that Pelé truly came into his own. As the crowd at Rasunda Stadium listened to the Sweden-West Germany game on their radios, Pelé put on a show of offensive brilliance against the second best team in the tournament. He scored three goals from his left side, and left the French team dumbfounded at their inability to contain a 17 year old. Pelé and Vava scored two goals each in the final. Upon receiving the Jules Rimet Cup as the best team in the world, the entire team wept.

Brazil went on to win the World Cup again in 1962 and 1970, which gave them the right to retain the Jules Rimet Cup permanently as the first country to win three World Cups. In 1999, the International Olympic Committee honored Pelé along with 10 others as one of the best athletes of the century.

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First World Cup

Year
1930
Month Day
July 13

On July 13, 1930, France defeats Mexico 4-1 and the United States defeats Belgium 3-0 in the first-ever World Cup football matches, played simultaneously in host city Montevideo, Uruguay. The World Cup has since become the world’s most watched sporting event.

After football (soccer, to Americans) was dropped from the program for the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, FIFA President Jules Rimet helped to organize an international tournament in 1930. Much to the dismay of European footballers, Uruguay, winner of back-to-back gold medals at the 1924 Paris Olympics and 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, was chosen to host the inaugural World Cup.

Due to depression in Europe, many European players, afraid their day jobs would not exist when they returned, were either unable or unwilling to attend the tournament. As a result, some of the most accomplished European teams, including three-time Olympic gold medalist England and football enthusiasts Italy, Spain, Germany and Holland did not make an appearance at the first World Cup. However, when Uruguay agreed to help pay traveling expenses, Rimet was able to convince Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia to make the trip. In Romania, King Carol selected the team members himself, gave them a three-month vacation from their jobs and guaranteed the players would be employed when they returned.

Going into the tournament, Uruguay and Argentina were the overwhelming favorites, while France and the United States also fielded competitive sides. In the first round, France’s Lucien Laurent scored the first-ever World Cup goal. In its second game, France lost to Argentina 1-0 amid controversy over the referees ending the game six minutes early. Once the problem was discovered, the referees had to bring the Argentine players back onto the field to play the final minutes. After beating Belgium, the United States beat Paraguay to set up a semi-final match with Argentina, which they lost 6-1. Still, the semi-final placement was the best U.S. World Cup finish to date.

In the first World Cup final, held on July 30, 1930, 93,000 spectators looked on as Uruguay defeated Argentina 4–2 in a rematch of the 1928 Olympic gold medal game. Uruguay went on to win its second World Cup in 1950 with a 2-1 win over Brazil in Rio de Janeiro.

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English football clubs banned from Europe

Year
1985
Month Day
June 02

On June 2, 1985, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) bans English football (soccer) clubs from competing in Europe. The ban followed the death of 39 Italian and Belgian football fans at Brussels’ Heysel Stadium in a riot caused by English football hooligans at that year’s European Cup final.

The 1985 European Cup final pitted two of the most successful and storied clubs in Europe against each other: Juventus from Turin, Italy, and Liverpool, an English team that was the defending European champion. At 7 p.m., right before the start of the match, a group of Liverpool fans, drunk from a day spent at the bars in Brussels, charged after a group of Juventus fans. In the melee, a stadium wall collapsed, crushing some spectators. Others were trampled in the ensuing rush to flee the stadium. In all, 32 Juventus fans were killed, as well as seven bystanders. Hundreds of other people were injured. To avoid further rioting from the unruly crowd, the game went on as scheduled. Juventus won 1–0.

In the aftermath, all English clubs were banned for five years from competing in Champions League and UEFA Cup play. Liverpool’s ban, at first indefinite, was eventually set at 10 years and then later reduced to six. From 1977 to 1984, English clubs had captured seven of eight European Cups, and their banishment from play was a blow to the country and the sport as a whole. Still, when the ban was announced, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher gave it her full support: “We have to get the game cleaned up from this hooliganism at home and then perhaps we shall be able to go overseas again.” The consequences did not end with the ban. Liverpool saw 14 of its fans found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in Belgium in 1989 after a five-month trial. The fans were given three-year jail sentences, with half of the terms suspended.

English teams were finally readmitted to the UEFA after the 1990 World Cup. Fifteen years later, on April 5, 2005, Liverpool beat Juventus 2-1 in the first leg of the European Champions League quarterfinals. It was the first match the two clubs had played since the Heysel Stadium disaster. Fans stood still for a moment of silence at the beginning of the game, remembering the 39 dead from the 1985 tragedy. A rematch was played nine days later on April 14, 2005, in Turin, where Liverpool played Juventus to a 0-0 tie, putting Liverpool in the European championship semifinal game. They went on to win their fifth European championship.

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President George H.W. Bush honors Women’s World Cup champions


Year
1992
Month Day
January 23

On January 23, 1992, President George H.W. Bush hosts a White House reception for the U.S. women’s soccer team in honor of their recent World Cup win.

On this occasion, President Bush displayed the wry, folksy sense of humor that endeared him to his supporters. He began by welcoming the crowd who gathered to support a team that he said reflected a favorite American pastime; it’s known as winning. He emphasized the importance of an American team finally achieving first-class status in a global sport that had previously been dominated by teams from other parts of the world. The 1992 U.S. women’s soccer team not only won the first FIFA women’s championship, but the first-ever soccer championship for the U.S. At the reception, Bush repeated a quote that sport was the first great separator of the sexes. Referring to the less-than-successful record of the U.S. men’s soccer team he quipped, “For the sake of the male ego, I hope the men start catching up.”

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Man United players among victims of plane crash


Year
1958
Month Day
February 06

A British European Airways flight crashes just after takeoff from the Munich Airport. Twenty-three people died in the crash, including eight players from the Manchester United soccer team, which had just qualified for the semifinals of the European Cup.

The Manchester United team was returning from Belgrade, where they had played the Red Star team. Manchester was led by Coach Matt Busby; his young players were known as the “Busby Babes.” A 3-3 tie with Red Star meant that Manchester United moved on to the semi-finals of the European Cup.

The team’s flight back to Manchester was delayed an hour because one of the players forgot his passport. The Airspeed Ambassador G-ALZU charter then stopped at Munich-Riem Airport to re-fuel. Munich had just had a snowstorm and conditions were not ideal for flying. Pilot James Thain had to abort his first two attempts at take-off because of engine trouble. On the third attempt, just after 3 p.m., the plane was unable to get enough lift and crashed into a fence at the end of the runway. It then plowed into an empty house.

Twenty-two of the 43 people on board died in the crash. Seven players were among the dead and an eighth, Duncan Edwards, died from his injuries two weeks later, bringing the total death toll to 23. Coach Busby suffered severe injuries and was in critical condition for weeks. The plane’s captain survived the crash and was later charged with criminal negligence after photos appeared to show that he had ignored an icy buildup on the wings.

A subsequent investigation revealed that there was little ice on the wings but that slush at the end of the runway had slowed the plane at a critical point in the takeoff, making it impossible to achieve proper lift. Still, German prosecutors did not clear the captain until 1968. That same year, Coach Busby led Manchester United to their first European Cup title. The team included two players who had survived the crash.

Singer Morrissey (formerly of the band The Smiths) immortalized the crash with his 2004 song “Munich Air Disaster 1958.”

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