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Footballers’ Day: 61 Years of Argentina vs England Rivalry

There are few matches on the international football that generates as much as passion and concern. Argentina vs England match is one of that kind. Games between the two teams, even those that are only friendly matches, are often marked by notable and sometimes controversial incidents

Most of the people remember the ‘Hand of God’ in 1986, but few know that today Argentina celebrates the 61st anniversary of beating England for the first time, a triumph that t led to 14th May being labelled ‘Footballers’ Day’ in Argentina ever since.

Over the past six decades rivalry between them increased by different incidence;

  • The Falklands/Malvinas war which took place in 1982
  • The rivalry took on a bitter edge at the 1966 World Cup, where the Argentine side – later labelled ‘animals’ by England coach Alf Ramsey. Argentina calling this match the “Robbery of the century” as Argentina’s captain, the Boca Juniors legend Antonio “La Rata” Rattín, was sent off from the match suddenly in the 25th minute, being the first player ever to be sent-off in a World Cup (red cards had not been introduced yet).

20 years later, Argentines gained revenge in the 1986 World Cup quarter final in México, the first game played between the two sides after the Falklands/Malvinas War, when Diego Maradona’s both ‘Hand of God’ and ‘Goal of the Century set his side on the road to ultimate tournament victory.


Footballers’ Day -History

The clásico between Argentina and England was born in 1951 when Argentina were invited to play England at Wembley as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations, the first non-European side to do so. After taking the lead with Mario Boyé’s goal, the hosts came back to win 2-1, but the defining performance came from Argentina’s goalkeeper, Miguel Ángel Rugilo, whose all-action, acrobatic display earned him a standing ovation from the Wembley crowd as well as the nickname, ‘The Lion of Wembley’. England made a reciprocal visit to Argentina two years later, playing two games as part of a wider tour of the Americas.

The first of the two games was played on 14th May 1953 in River Plate’s Estadio Monumental in front of 120,000 people.

England went ahead through Tommy Taylor’s header, before Grillo equalised a minute later from a seemingly unfeasible angle that has lived long in Argentine football as ‘The Impossible Goal’.

Argentina then pressed home with another goal from Grillo and one from Micheli to a 3-1 victory and sending the home crowd into raptures..

The president of the Argentine Football Association, Valentín Suárez, showered praise on his team, saying:

“We’ve beaten one of the most powerful sides in the world. I’m full of pride. Our young lads played with great heart and deserved the tremendous ovation they received when leaving the field.”

Even the English press were forced to acknowledge that Argentina were the better team, with the Daily Mail’s Roy Peskett claiming that England’s players were like “carthorses chasing ballet dancers.”

The watching President Juan Domingo Perón was also so impressed by the performance that he declared that henceforth 14thMay would be known asFootballers’ Day’ in honour of the team, to be commemorated annually.

For the second match on the following Sunday, 91,397 spectators crammed into the Monumental to see whether wounded England could do something better but only to disappoint as thunderstorm forced the game to be abandoned after just 23 minutes with the score 0-0.


By the way, Happy Footballer’s Day!! 🙂

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