No review of the footballing year would be complete without paying tribute to the famous names who left an indelible mark on the game before their passing in 2006.
The death of Hungarian legend Ferenc Puskas in November was one of the most deeply felt losses on planet football last year. As talisman of the Magical Magyars - the great Hungarian side of the 1950's that won gold at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952 and the following year became the first team to defeat England at Wembley Stadium (3-6) - the 'Galloping Major' truly earned legendary status during his illustrious playing career.
A tally of 83 goals in 84 internationals and an incredible 324 strikes in 372 appearances for Real Madrid, where he formed an unforgettable strike partnership with Alfredo di Stefano, show just why Spanish fans dubbed him Cañoncito Pum (The little Booming Cannon).
Hungary also bade farewell to legends Lajos Baroti and Ferenc Bene, members of the gold medal-winning side at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, as well as Ferenc Szusza and Gabor Zavadszky.
Italian gladiators mourned
Just days before the passing of Puskas, Italy mourned the death of Pietro Rava who, at 90 years of age, was the last surviving member of the Azzurri's FIFA World Cup™-winning side of 1938. A powerful left-winger, he also won gold at the Berlin Olympics in 1936, as well as a Scudetto and an Italian Cup with Juventus. After hanging up his boots, Rava enjoyed spells coaching Padova, Sampdoria and Palermo among others.
Rava was not the only world champion to leave us last year. Former Uruguayan striker Oscar Omar Miguez died in August aged 78 from cardiac problems. Cotorra Miguez, as he was known, was a member of the victorious Celeste side that took part in the Maracanazo, the deciding game of the 1950 FIFA World Cup in which Uruguay famously beat Brazil on their home turf. Blessed with sublime technique, he was one of Uruguayan football's finest-ever goalscorers and the spearhead of the Penarol side that stayed undefeated during their 1948 league title-winning campaign. Furthermore, he is his country's leading scorer at the FIFA World Cup, having netted eight times in the two finals he played in (1950 and 1954).
Then in September, the world of football paid its last respects to Giacinto Facchetti , the former Inter Milan player and President. The revered defender played 634 times for the Nerazzurri between 1961 and 1978, winning four league titles and two European Cups (1964 and 1965). Considered by many to be a key figure in the emergence of catenaccio, he lined up 94 times for Italy, winning the 1968 UEFA European Championship and claiming a runners-up medal at the 1970 FIFA World Cup, and would go on to play at Germany 1974 and Argentina 1978. During last month's FIFA World Player Gala 2006 in Zurich, Facchetti was posthumously given the Presidential Award , with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter presenting the prize to his widow in an emotional ceremony.
Sadly, Italy have begun 2007 mourning the passing of another great in the shape of Sandro Salvadore . The defender won two league titles with AC Milan and three with Juventus during a glittering career Salvadore that also saw him collect 36 caps for Italy between 1960 and 1970, not to mention a 1968 UEFA European Championship medal.
Brazil's Tele Santana, who coached the Seleção at the FIFA World Cup in 1982 and 1986, was another big loss to the world of football after his passing last April. A thoroughbred right-winger, he spent 12 years at Fluminense, becoming the third highest scorer in the club's history with 165 goals in 556 games, as well as their third all-time appearance-leader. His greatest coaching achievements came not with the Auriverde, however, but instead with Sao Paulo FC, who he teamed up with in 1990 when they were languishing in the second tier of the Paulista state championship. Santana quickly assembled a formidable side and, after winning the state and national championships, lifted the 1992 Copa Libertadores and that year's Toyota Intercontinental Cup. In 1993 Tele's Sao Paulo would retain both their continental and club world titles, a feat that rightfully earned him a place among the all-time great Brazilian coaches as well as the nickname 'maestro'.
Tears and tributes
Poland also had cause to mourn in 2006 with the death of Kazimierz Gorski in May. The country's most successful national team coach, Gorski presided over Poland's triumph at the 1972 Munich Olympics and their third-place finish at the 1974 FIFA World Cup.
Elsewhere, Scotland bade an emotional farewell to one of its footballing greats, Jimmy Johnstone, who died last March at the age of 61 after a long battle with motor neurone disease. Scorer of 130 goals in 515 games for Celtic, 'Jinky' was a member of the great Celtic side that won nine consecutive league championships, four Scottish Cups and five Scottish League Cups. Most famously, the brilliant winger helped the Glasgow side lift the 1967 European Cup at the expense of Inter Milan in Lisbon, a feat that made them the first British side to claim Europe's top prize and earned them the nickname the 'Lisbon Lions'.
In February it was the turn of Spanish football to lament the loss of one of their legends: mythical striker Telmo Zarraonandia. 'Zarra', who was the Spanish league's top scorer on six occasions, wrote his place in the history books with his goal against England at the Maracana that secured Spain's berth in the quadrangular final group at the 1950 FIFA World Cup. Their fourth-place finish on that occasion remains La Furia's best-ever at the showpiece tournament.
Among the many other members of the football family who passed away in 2006 were: Henry YT Fok (member of the FIFA Executive Committee between 1978 and 1996); Johnny Tinsely Lulu (president of the Vanuatu Football Federation, vice-president of the OFC and member of FIFA's Refereeing and Futsal Committees); former English internationals Brian Labone and Peter Osgood, and former England coach and player Ron Greenwood; Elson Becerra (Colombian international assassinated in his homeland); Alberto Terry (ex Peruvian international); Joseph Ujlaki and Theodore Szkudlapski (former French internationals); Maurice Burlaz (former vice-president of the French Football Federation and FIFA Order of Merit holder); Werner Muller (former international referee); Damien Knabben (former coach of the Belgian futsal team); George Stuber and Leon Walker (ex Swiss internationals); Brazil's Paulo Godoy (member of the FIFA Legal Committee between 1976 and 1990); Switzerland's Lucien Schmidlin (former member of FIFA's Technical and Development Committee and UEFA's Executive Committee); his majesty King Taufa'Ahau Tupou IV (the patron of Tonga's Football Federation); Servaas Faas Wilkes (former Dutch international); Mohamed Abdelwahab (Egyptian international); Ole Bjornmose (ex Danish international); Miroslav Brozovic (captain of the Yugoslav silver medal-winning side at the 1948 London Olympics); Eugene Njo Lea (ex Cameroon international); Alberto Spencer (ex Ecuadorian international); Glenn Myernick (assistant to USA coach Bruce Arena at Germany 2006); Eric Worthington (former Australia coach); Jeanne Marie Ossey (a pioneer of women's football in Gabon); Botswana's Kuedza Ignatius Nchengwa (international referee between 1999 and 2005); Nabi Abi Chedid (member of the CBF and the CONMEBOL Executive Committee); Efstratios Papaefstratiou (former member of the UEFA Appeals Body and respected administrator in Greek football); Max Merkel (former Austrian international and accomplished coach).
We pay tribute to them and to all lovers of the beautiful game who passed away in 2006.