Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Obscure Football Legends: Emmanuel Sanon

We here at UF pride ourselves on knowing quite a bit about the beautiful game, and therefore we think that it is our responsibility to impart our knowledge to the rest of the world (or at least the 26 of you that read this blog). Today we introduce a new series: Obscure Football Legends.Join me after the jump for the first in the series: Emmanuel Sanon.

Don't know who Emmanuel Sanon is? Well, that's the point. Emmanuel Sanon, known as "Manno" was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and played for the Haitian national team. He passed away of pancreatic cancer on Thursday, February 21, 2008 at the age of 56, leading the Haitian prime minister to call for a moment of silence on Friday, February 22, 2008. Why was "Manno" such an important player in the history of Haitian football?

In 1974, Haiti became the first Caribbean team to qualify for the World Cup, particularly impressive at a time when only 16 teams qualified. After knocking off Puerto Rico in a play-off in order to qualify, Haiti was placed into a group with Italy, Argentina, and Poland.

Haiti's first game was against Italy, whose keeper, Dino Zoff, was working on a record 1,142 minutes over 2 years with a clean sheet. In a monumental shocker, "Manno" broke free of the Italian defense and came in one-on-one with Zoff. One fake to the left and low, hard shot to the right later, "Manno" had made history by scoring the first goal ever for Haiti in World Cup competition.

Video of Emmanuel Sanon's goal against Italy.

Haiti went on to lose the match 3-1, lost to Poland 7-0, and lost their final game to Argentina 4-1 (with "Manno" scoring again), and were eliminated from the World Cup.

"Manno" scoring against Argentina (dig the commentary in Kreyol)

Following the 1974 World Cup, "Manno" played for Beerschot (a Belgian power at the time), and over the next four years scored 47 of the 106 goals scored by the Haitian national team. He eventually went on to help coach the national team in the 1990s. Despite being the first Caribbean team to ever qualify for the World Cup, Haiti has never again qualified, although they won the Caribbean Cup in 2007. However, with his first goal in the 1974 World Cup, Emmanuel Sanon cemented his status as a football legend, obscure though he may be.

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