Saturday, 15 November 2014

Mighty Mouse and the Dinosaur: Kevin Keegan at Hamburg

In August 1960 a promising but amateurish young band travelled to Hamburg in the back of an Austin minivan. They had come to seek fortune in the vibrant underground music scene emerging from the city’s crumbling docklands. It was hard work for these young men in the viceland of the Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s bristling red-light district.

They gigged almost every night, hostage to the whims of their employers: “Mach schau…mach schau (make a show),” was the mantra dictated to them by the owner of the Kaiserkeller, one of the nightclubs in which they played. And though at first they earned little and slept in a dingy room beside the ladies’ toilets of the Bambi Kino, a seedy movie theatre, they would go on to become megastars.

The band’s name was, of course, the Beatles, and they had come to Hamburg from another great seafaring town, Liverpool. Seventeen years later, with the group dissolved and Beatlemania just opened on Broadway, a footballer named Kevin Keegan made the exact same trip, albeit in rather more glamorous circumstances.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Felix Magath and controlling the centre

Wolfgang-Felix Magath wasn’t always the sadistic, cheese-toting crank he’s now portrayed as being. A long time ago, before Fulham, Hangeland and the Quarkwickel, he was a footballer.

And a very good one at that: for parts of the seventies and eighties, he was considered Germany’s finest playmaker, a cerebral presence at the heart of one of Europe’s best domestic sides. This was Hamburg-era Magath: subtle, creative and intelligent, a man the great Ernst Happel labelled “a monastery student”.

Yet this unlikely image of Bruder Felix, a benign and thoughtful football monk, flies in the face of the current perception of him as some sort of autocratic OAP with a hatred for lethargy. For when it comes to Magath, a gloomy present masks an illuminated past.

Friday, 7 November 2014

The Elusive Trophy

Thirty years ago, Joe Fagan’s Liverpool took on Argentinian club Independiente for the honour of becoming “World Club Champion”. It was the only title that had eluded the Merseysiders, but in order to win it they would have to overcome one of South America’s finest cup teams and a miserable English record in the competition…

In December 1984, near the midpoint of the English domestic season, the players and coaching staff of Liverpool F.C. took some time off from the First Division grind and travelled by plane to Tokyo. They had flown halfway round the globe not as part of a drive for the introduction of a winter break, but in order to contest the wonderful, wild and often dangerous Intercontinental Cup.

Opposing them in their efforts to become the de facto best team in the world would be Independiente, Argentina’s “El Rey de Copas”, the undisputed kings of the Copa Libertadores. It was to be a clash of the world’s two most prolific continental sides of the previous 20 years; between them, Liverpool and Independiente had won 11 European Cups and Copas Libertadores from 1964 to 1984. As it turned out, the match would also be a curtain call for both teams as masters of their continents.