January 20 – This Day in Soccer

GarrinchaThe Little Bird Dies

The football world lost one of its best players when Garrincha, the Little Bird, died in 1983 on this day in soccer history.  While many younger fans have not heard of Garrincha, he is considered second only to Pele, some even consider the two stars equal.

Known by many nicknames, including ‘Joy of the People’ and ‘Angel with Bent Legs,’ Garrincha helped the Brazil national soccer team win the 1958 and 1962 World Cups and was a started in the 1966 World Cup, where Brazil lost to Hungary.  The loss to Hungary was the only time Brazil lost a match while Garrincha was on the pitch.  The team NEVER lost when he and Pele were both on the soccer pitch.

Garrincha’s dribbling talents were legendary.  One of his most memorable dribbling moments came in the lead up to the 1958 against Florentina FC in Italy.  The Brazilian beat 4 defenders and the goalkeeper but before knocking in to an open net Garrincha waited for another defender to get back.  He then beat the retreating defender and scored.

While a great story the move resulted (some say) in the forward being left out of the lineup for Brazil’s first two matches at the 1958 FIFA World Cup.

Hooligan Crackdown

With violence tarnishing English football, police began the crackdown and arrests of hooligans, Operation Fulltime, in 1987 on this day in soccer history.  While the final arrests were very public, most of the five month investigation into people associated with soccer violence was quietly carried out.

The result was 26 people arrested when the synchronized raids started at 6 a.m. GMT.

Scotland Yard used ‘closed-circuit TV footage and, in some cases, surveillance film taken from a police helicopter, or “heli telly”, to identify the suspects.’

The crackdown was in response to the increasing violence over the past decade marked by the tragedies the Heysel stadium where 39 Italian fans died before the European Cup (now known as the UEFA Champions League) final in 1985 and the Hillsborough stadium disaster in 1989, in which 96 people were crushed to death in overcrowded terraces.

On a lighter note, it was on this day in soccer history that Score begins selling international soccer cards.

Soccer Birthdays

1921 – Telmo Zarraonaindía, Spanish footballer (d. 2006)
1965 – Colin Calderwood, Scottish footballer
1965 – Anton Weissenbacher, Romanian footballer
1974 – David Dei, Italian footballer
1978 – Allan Søgaard, Danish footballer
1981 – Owen Hargreaves, English footballer

Soccer Deaths

1983 – Garrincha, Brazilian footballer (b. 1933)
1994 – Sir Matt Busby, Scottish football player and coach (b. 1909)

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