Pinochet and the King of the square metre

Caszely

Damiano Benzoni

On July 5th, 1950, Carlos Caszely was born in Santiago. A Chilean forward of Hungarian descent, he would win five league titles and three cups of Chile with Colo-Colo between 1970 and 1985. His ability in the box would gain him the nickname el Rey del metro cuadrado, the King of the square metre. In 1973 he played the Copa Libertadores final against Independiente: after two draws in Avellaneda and Santiago, the match was solved in a desempate in Montevideo. Independiente won 2-1, scoring the decider in extra-time, but Caszely had scored his side’s equaliser in the first half and became the competition’s top-scorer. He would play 49 times for the national team, scoring 29 goals. He was voted best player in the 1979 Copa América, when Chile lost in the final against Eugenio Morel and Julio César Romero’s Paraguay. At the 1974 World Cup, in the opening match against the hosting nation, West Germany, he became the first ever player to receive a red card, as the card system had just been introduced by FIFA. Continue reading

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KOSOVO’S COMPLICATED RELATIONSHIP WITH INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL

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This article was written in English for the Kosovar web-magazine Kosovo 2.0. You can find it translated in Albanian and Serbian on the Kosovo 2.0 website, and can also find the Italian translation on Dinamo Babel.

Damiano Benzoni

The flag of Kosovo was waving next to the Champions League trophy in the Wembley Stadium. Bayern Munich had just beaten Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the London final to claim the title and one of its players, the Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri, celebrated by flying next to the cup a double flag, bearing the colours of Switzerland and of the country he was born in, Kosovo.

[Keep reading on Kosovo 2.0]

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Benghazi clashes, match moved to Tripoli

Photo: Michael Aron

Damiano Benzoni

Football normalisation in Libya encounters its first halt after the National team played its first International in two years on home soil on June 7th. The match against Togo scheduled at the Martyrs of February stadium in Benina, in the Benghazi region, on June 14th will be played in Tripoli instead after a protest against armed militias in the city of Benghazi turned into a clash between protesters and militias which took a death toll of 31. Similar protests took place, without incidents, in the rest of the country, under the slogan “Elections create legitimisation, arms create a dictatorship”. According to a Benghazian interviewed by William Wheeler of the Global Post, “what happened was tragic, but necessary—the only thing […] that [will] finally strip the mask off the militias masquerading as legitimate authorities”. Continue reading

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Libya’s coming home

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Damiano Benzoni

Football’s coming home: after two years of absence caused by the civil war that brought down the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi, this week Libya will be back to play official football matches on home soil. Libya, which was allowed by FIFA to host matches again in March, will play its first post-war home internationals on June 7th and 14th, in two qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup. Halfway through Group I, Libya is still unbeaten and is second in the table, one point behind Cameroon. In the first match, the Libyans will take on DR Congo at the June 11th Stadium in Tripoli, while a week later they will face Togo in the stadium of Benina, previously entitled to the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavéz and now devoted to the memory of the Martyrs of February, the victims of the Libyan civil war. Continue reading

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Gibraltar, UEFA’s Team #54

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Damiano Benzoni

Gibraltar is the 54th full UEFA member. The British colony had obtained provisional member status and admittance to youth international competitions last October. Its full membership was voted today during the XXXVII Congress of the European football confederation in London. According to reports, the vote had a large majority.

Gibraltar’s quest for UEFA and FIFA membership began in 1997 and was freezed in 2004 by the renewal of the FIFA statute. The new rules of eligibility for new FAs mirrored FIFA’s programme of admitting only nations recognised by the UN – even though in the past a number of exceptions were made, notably in the cases of the Faroe Islands and of the Home Unions, who are granted separate membership by the statute itself.

Gibraltar’s main opponent in its path to membership was Spain, still claiming its right to sovereignity on the Rock. Gibraltar, conquered by the British Navy in 1704, retained its status as a colony through referenda in 1967 and 2002 and established self-government with the 2006 Constitution. Spain threatened repeatedly to withdraw its teams from UEFA competitions in case the colony was admitted, forcing the GFA to bring the case in front of the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2007 and to consider requesting membership to the African confederation instead of the European one.

In order to avoid further tensions, Spain and Gibraltar will be kept apart in competition draws, as happens for Russia and Georgia (because of the 2008 war in Abkhazia and South Ossetia) and for Azerbaijan and Armenia (divided on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue). Now the GFA is planning a new stadium at Europa Point. A necessity, as the Rock’s only field – the Victoria Stadium – lies on the isthmus dividing Gibraltar and Spain, which is the reason of a further dispute between the two nations.

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Paradise Lost: Football and the Vatican

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Damiano Benzoni

All pictures must be credited to Damiano Benzoni – dinamobabel.wordpress.com. Further material can be found at this link.

“If this goes in, the score is even”, the referee tells the goalie Javier Ángulo Coyotzi. From the stands, an acordeón eerily plays the beginning of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor as PSG’s José Ignacio Tola Claux approaches the penalty spot. Regular time ended in a 2-2 draw – the Mexicans scoring through a brace by their new signing João Kalevski, a Brazilian of Ukrainian descent. Two early mistakes from the spot almost killed any hope for the French, but after a spectacular save by their keeper on the third Mexican penalty, Tola Claux now has the chance to get his team back in the game. He kicks it to the keeper’s right, Coyotzi dives and deflects it on the post. The ball sidespins all along the goal-line, clips on the other post and finally stops without crossing the line. The Mexicans erupt, Coyotzi is brought to triumph before the stands, where the acordeón is now playing Cielito Lindo. PSG also salute their supporters, then both teams join in a circle at midfield. Under the shade of the Saint Peter’s Cupola, they pray together: “Our Father, who art in heaven…”. Then the Mexican captain thanks God on behalf of everyone and pays homage to the other team: “They were our opponents today on the pitch, but in everyday’s battle for our faith, they are our brothers”. Continue reading

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A Spring final

Damiano Benzoni

With two minutes remaining, Ahmed Fathi finds el-Sayed Hamdi in the box and serves him. Hamdi kicks low, in the angle goalie Chrifia can’t reach. Al-Ahly has just evened scores with Espérance, whose Walid Hichri had scored the opener from a corner, in the first minutes of the second half. The match is the first leg of the African Champions League final, played the other night and finished in a 1-1 draw at the Borg el-Arab Stadium in Alexandria. Al-Ahly can be pleased at avoiding a loss in the finishing minutes, while Espérance can tame its disappointment with the comfort of having scored an away goal. The return leg will be played in two weeks at the Stade Olympique de Radès, in Tunisia. Al-Ahly and Espérance Sportive de Tunis are the most titled teams of their respective countries, as the former won thirty-six Egyptian league titles and thirty-five cup titles, while the latter won twenty-four Tunisian league titles and fourteen cup titles. Al-Ahly is also the most titled team in the continent as regards the CAF Champions League, a trophy the team has won six times between 1982 and 2008. Espérance, the winner in the past edition, had previously won the tournament only once, in 1994. Continue reading

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Step’anakert is well worth a match

The Step’anakert Stadium – Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/blackwych/

Damiano Benzoni

The two teams enter the field, their flags ahead of them. On the right the home teams’ red, blue and orange tricolour with a white zig-zag chevron, on the left the seven alternate green and white stripes with a red canton depicting a white hand and seven stars, the flag of the guests. Then, the teams align themselves for the national anthems. The green jerseys of Abkhazia sing Aiaaira, “Victory”, while the red jerseys of the hosts Nagorno-Karabakh sing Azat ow ankax Arc’ax, “Free and Independent Arc’ax (or Artsakh)”, referring to the ancient name of their nation when – between 189 b.C. and 387 A.D. – it used to be a province of the Kingdom of Armenia. On the terrace, some supporters hold a banner: UEFA, we also want to play football. The two squads are the national teams of two de facto independent unrecognised countries. Two countries fighting to have their sovereignty recognised by the international community. Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh mutually recognise each other and have such agreement with two other post-Soviet breakaway republics, South Ossetia and Transnistria. While Abkhazia is also recognised by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, Nagorno-Karakakh isn’t recognised by any UN member. Continue reading

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Tajikistan: All the president’s son’s men

Photo: Футбол Тоҷикистон http://footballtj.wordpress.com

Damiano Benzoni

Rustam Èmomalī used to be a striker for two-time Tajik champions Istiķlol Dušanbe, a team of which he has been captain, president, owner and founder. In November 2010 he was named vice-president of the Tajik FA and later was unanimously voted president. He is part of the FIFA Committee for Development and is the representative of Tajikistan at the Asian Olympic Council. In 2011 he left his political party in order to take up a post as the head of the state customs agency department responsible for fighting smuggling and custom violations: a huge responsibility since Tajikistan is crossed by traffic of heroin and opiates coming from bordering Afghanistan. In the past he was a member of the Dušanbe city council, a counsellor for the State Committee on Investments and State Property, a member of the executive committee of the ruling party and a deputy chairman of the Youth Union – the organisation which took the place of the Soviet Komsomol. Rustam Èmomalī is the son of Èmomalī Rahmon, the authoritarian president of Tajikistan. According to some observers, he’s his designed heir. Continue reading

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Gibraltar, a colony in UEFA

Damiano Benzoni

“The Gibraltar FA is pleased to announce that it has today been granted provisional membership of UEFA at a meeting of the European football governing body’s Executive Committee in St.Petersburg, Russia. The vote on the Gibraltar FA’s full membership of UEFA will take place on the 24th May 2013 during the XXXVII Congress to be held in London, England”. Alea iacta est: this is how the Gibraltar FA announced – through a press release – the reaching of one of its goals, the status of provisional UEFA member. The territory which, facing the Moroccan coast, controls the choke point governing access to the Mediterranean Sea still preserves the status of British colony, since the Royal Navy conquered it in 1704. The status was confirmed through two referendums in 1967 and 2002. Since 2006 the colony enjoys home rule and refers defence and foreign affairs matters to the United Kingdom, but already in 1997 the GFA, which was founded in 1895 as an FA affiliate, asked admission to FIFA. Continue reading

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