This past year has been full of landmark moments for players, clubs and national sides, and all the signs point to 2012 being just as action-packed. During the course of the year, FIFA.com revisited some of the most exciting moments in football history in our Classic Football section, an area of the site that has grown ever more comprehensive.
Here we take a look back at some of the most iconic texts we have published this year.
Everything starts and finishes with them; the star performers who win the hearts and minds of supporters thanks to their creativity, determination, skill or sheer hard work. Few players are able to boast all of these much-prized qualities, yet there is no shortage of such individuals on FIFA.com’s list of Classic Players.
The ranks have been further strengthened this year by the likes of attacking legends Giuseppe Meazza, Leonidas da Silva, Romario, Sandor Kocsis and George Best, as well as midfield genius aplenty in the shape of Zinedine Zidane, Didi, Michael Laudrup, Ruud Gullit and Josef Masopust. Keeping things tight at the back were Franco Baresi, Paul Breitner and Daniel Passarella, while offering safe hands between the sticks were Gordon Banks, Sepp Maier and Ricardo Zamora.
With these iconic figures just some of the big names to join our hallowed list, which superstars would make the cut for your dream XI?
These great players would not have carved out such a niche in the annals of football had it not been for the talents of their team-mates on the pitch, or the sound infrastructure their clubs provided off it. And though the players are the ones who get supporters off their seats, it is their clubs which strengthen their image, help create a bond with fans and cross generational boundaries. All of which means that they deserve a section of their own on our site.
No fewer than five of the 15 clubs we examined in 2011 proved that they remain equally strong in the present day. Partizan Belgrade, Olympiacos, Atletico Nacional Medellin, Universidad de Chile and Esperance Sportive de Tunis all won major trophies over the course of this calendar year, while we also made room for other sides that have never lost their lustre. These included such luminaries as Turkish giants Galatasaray, English cup kings Tottenham Hotspur, Nordic heavyweights Rosenborg BK and IFK Goteborg, and Basque outfit Real Sociedad, who boast a weighty tradition of supplying players for the Spanish national team.
Also coming under the microscope were Liaoning Whowin, a pioneering club in Chinese football, Asante Kotoko, one of the finest African teams of the 20th century, and Côte d’Ivoire outfit ASEC Mimosas, who continue to grow in stature thanks to their renowned and prolific youth system.
Such is the nature of sport, right from the moment clubs such as those mentioned above began growing in status and renown, so sprang up rival outfits to test their mettle. The fact these opponents were often made up of close neighbours or even disaffected former players only added to the spice and tension. In many cases too, these clubs cannot seem to live without each other, with the fortunes of one inextricably linked with those of their arch-rivals.
These Classic Rivalries also enjoy a well-earned niche on FIFA.com, and in 2011 we added the fierce clash between Italian powerhouses AC Milan and AS Roma, as well as the equally passionate meeting of Sicilian duo Catania and Palermo. Turning to Brazil, joining the list were Corinthians versus Santos and Bahia against Vitoria, while the tussle between the two heavyweights of the Portuguese capital Lisbon – Benfica and Sporting – also earned its place.
Not that we restricted our search only to the world’s major football nations. Coming under the spotlight was the highlight of the Ghanaian league season, Asante Kotoko versus Hearts of Oak, the huge Indian clash between East Benghal and Mohun Bagan – often witnessed by some 100,000 spectators – and Bulgaria’s ‘Eternal Derby’ where CSKA Sofia and Levski Sofia go head-to-head.
Given the furore, tension and often ferocity that surround these encounters, what better opportunity for players to cement their true worth, win a permanent place in supporters’ lore and ensure their clubs enjoy bragging rights in the weeks that follow?