This week, Messi breaks more records, Juventus breaks Milan’s dominance, and Rashidi Yekini breaks our hearts…
Messi sets another record! Barcelona’s local derby between Espanyol and Barcelona used to be a somewhat competitive affair…not so much in recent times. The latest edition this past Saturday ended 4-0 in favor of Barcelona, but that wasn’t the ultimate highlight. After scoring all four goals in the match, the little Argentine Lionel Messi reached 50 La Liga goals and 72 in all European competitions! The latter statistic broke a 70-goal record set by Archie Stark, playing for Bethlehem Steel, in the 1924/25 season. Words no longer do justice to Messi’s abilities but the numbers still speak volumes, and with one match in the league and the Copa del Rey final still to come, La Pulga has yet to sign off on his latest record…as if 72 goals weren’t enough. Below is the moment when Messi set his latest record…
The Old Lady sings again. It’s been an arduous six years for Juventus ever since the Calciopoli scandal occurred. As punishment for match fixing, the Bianconeri were relegated to Serie B and stripped of two Scudetti at the start of the 2006/07 season. They returned to Serie A the following season but the mass exodus of top players that had taken place coupled with the lack of revenue from Champions League football were two blows still felt until this season. The 2011/12 season, however, was nothing short of stellar for Juventus. This past Sunday, the Turin side claimed their first league title since 2003 with one match to spare, and they managed this by going unbeaten all season. The return of former captain Antonio Conte as manager, and two key signings in Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal helped take the title away from Milan and back to Turin for the 28th time. Congratulations to La Vecchia Signora!
Anderlecht’s title victory. Belgium’s most successful club won their record 31st league title yesterday after drawing 1-1 with FC Brugge, thanks to a last-minute penalty. It’s their second title in three years, largely due to the efforts of former Belgian footballer and current manager Ariel Jacobs, as well as a side of predominately North and South American players, including Argentinian midfielder and club captain Lucas Biglia, flashy and undisciplined Brazilian forward “Kanu,” and even US midfielder Sasha Kljestan, who has made 38 appearances for the club this season.
Aston Villa’s small brawl. Just five days before yesterday’s clash with Tottenham, three Aston Villa midfielders were involved in a “brawl” with bouncers at a nightclub in Birmingham. Fabian Delph, Chris Herd, and James Collins went out for a night of drinking, accompanied by their respective wives and girlfriends, immediately following an end-of-season awards ceremony at Villa Park. All three players, who were caught on video, issued public apologies to the club, the manager, and the fans. At least the incident hasn’t hurt their team’s performance any–Villa earned a 1-1 draw against Tottenham yesterday to move three points clear of the relegation zone.
Bugatto’s Killing. Another day, another tragedy. Lautaro Bugatto, a twenty year-old Argentinian defender owned by Banfield, but was on loan to third division side Tristan Suarez, died in the crossfire of a shootout between Argentinian police and armed robbers in Buenos Aires yesterday. He was an innocent bystander who now leaves behind a two year-old daughter. Tragic.
Nigerian football loses a legend. This past Friday was a sad day for Nigerian football as it marked the death of Rashidi Yekini, arguably the best striker to ever play for Nigeria. His towering frame, strength, ability on the ball, and speed made him a lethal attacker who scored an amazing 37 goals in 58 appearances for his country. Yekini, the first Nigerian to score in a World Cup (USA ’94), also had an equally memorable celebration for that historic goal (see below). Those of us growing up in Nigeria during that time wanted to be him, and we all imitated his famous “scream through the net” celebration at some point as kids. Yekini would later play for clubs in Ivory Coast, Greece, Switzerland, and Saudi Arabia, but his most successful stint came in Portugal at Vitoria Setubal, where he was the top goal scorer in the 1993/94 season with 32 goals in 34 matches and won an African Footballer of the Year title. That season also saw him lead the Super Eagles to victory in the African Cup of Nations. The cause of death has yet to be determined but he was said to be in poor health for some time. He contributed greatly to the growth of the sport in Nigeria and his memory will surely live on. RIP Rashidi Yekini (1963-2012).