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The International Soccer Hall of Fame of 1997

Manchester's failed attempt and the Pachuca museum

It has been said that Hall of Fames and primariy their inductions are hugely important for the growth of the sport they represent. Not only they serve to recognize the best of the best, but give young athletes a blueprint for success. Induction into the hall is widely considered the highest honor in most sports. But, not in soccer.

There is a good reason for this. FIFA, founded in 1904, never really established its own hall of fame. However, there had been a serious attempt (with FIFA’s blessing) in the late 90s. It was in 1997 when the ”International Football Hall of Fame” was about to be launched in Manchester. And there were plans for the construction of a soccer museum which finally opened four years later. But it would never serve as an International HoF. Instead, the museum housed the English Hall of Fame, established in 2002, with Manchester United’s ”bad boy” George Best being its first inductee.

The 1997 inductees

On November 20, 1997, it was announced that 5 soccer legends had been elected as the first inductees of the International Hall of Fame: Pelé from Brazil, Northern Irish George Best, Englishman Bobby Charlton, the ”flying” Dutchman Johan Cruyff and late Bobby Moore (passed away in 1993). The ”maginificent five” were voted for by 500,000 people in 110 countries over the Internet and also over other important figures of the sport (no active or recently retired players were eligible). 20 more out of a list of 50 were chosen, but via a different process which included voting by former players and sports journalists.

The list featured some big names of world soccer and those elected were: Gordon Banks, Duncan Edwards, Tom Finney, Stanley Matthews, Billy Wright (England), Marco van Basten (Holland), Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller (Germany), John Charles (Wales), Kenny Dalglish (Scotland), Eusebio (Mozambique-Portugal), Garrincha, Jairzinho, Roberto Rivelino, Zico (Brazil), Michel Platini (France), Ferenc Puskas (Hungary), Alfredo di Stefano (Argentina-Spain), Lev Yashin (Russia) and Dino Zoff (Italy).

The idea for the organisers was to induct 5 players each year. It was also announced that five more would hold the title of a “Future Hall of Famer” and secure a place in an upcoming class after retiring from soccer. And it was Diego Maradona, Alan Shearer, Ronaldo Lima, George Weah and David Beckham the ones who were already guaranteed a HoF spot by the 1997 voters.

Johan Cruyff was one of the first 5 players to enter Hall of Fame’s 1997 class. He retired in 1984 playing for Feyenord.
Criteria

There were a few strict criteria for eligibility and this is the reason why players like Maradona were not in the class of 1997 (he had just retired). The criteria were:

1) A player should have been retired for three years by June 30th of the year of election.
2) A player should have gained at least one full international cap. Nominations were then collected (via post, email, internet). The list of nominations would then go to a selection committee comprising an ex-player from each of the following countries: England; Germany; France; Switzerland; Sweden; Italy; Spain, Mexico; Uruguay; Chile, Argentina; Brazil; USA; Japan; Morocco; Australia.

The countries were chosen according to the following criteria:
1) They must have had either won or hosted a World Cup.
2) In addition,  a representative nation from continents not represented through this would also be selected. In Africa’s case it was Morocco, in Oceania’s it was Australia, while Japan represented Asia.

The selection committee narrowed the nominations down to 50. The list of 50 was then sent to a selected journalist from every FIFA registered country and the top five players each year would enter the Hall of Fame. In the first year the top five nominees gained initial entrance and then 20 out of the list of fifty were allowed in.

Absentees

At least a dozen of legendary soccer players did not make the Top25 in 1997. Many fans and journalists also argued over the selection of players like Billy Wright, John Charles, Duncan Edwards at the expense of stars from Argentina, Italy or Uruguay. There was arguably a noticeable bias in favour of the British over the South Americans.

Argentinians Sivori and Moreno, Uruguayans Schaiffino, Scarone and Andrade, Chilean Figueroa and Brazilians Leonidas, Socrates, Falcao and Didi maybe deserved a place on the list. Same could be said for pre-war stars Meazza and Sindelar and also Rummenigge, Fontaine, Luis Suarez, Gento, Bican, Masopust, Walter and Kopa. But, was the outcome that unfair?

Billy Wright recorded 105 caps with England’s jersey with 90 of them as captain! He was also the first player in history to reach a century of international games. John Charles was one of the most complete, all-round players of all time. He could easily play in defence, midfield and attack, starring for Juventus between 1957 and 1962. He finished his career with 370 goals in 715 matches and the result of the 1958 World Cup quartefinal between Brazil and Wales (1-0) might have been different if he was not sidelined due to injury. Real Madrid’s former coach John Toschack had stated in the past that to his opinion Charles was the best player in history.

Duncan Edwards who died at age 21 in the Munich aircrash was considered a world-class talent and had already featured for England 18 times (1955-58). According to those who saw him play, he was more talented than wizard George Best. As about Tom Finney? With 30 goals in 76 international games, some even said that he was even better than Stanley Matthews. Yes, that evergreen winger who won the Ballon d’or at 41 and was considered one of the very best ever until the 1960s.

On the other hand, Giuseppe Meazza and his nemesis Matthias Sindelar who dominated international football in the 1930s and 1940s, were undoubtedly the biggest names that did not make the class of 1997. And how could they? The majority of the 1990s internet users had not probably even heard about them and of course they never saw them in action.

Welsh John Charles was elected in the Top25 in 1997. He scored 108 goals in 155 league games for Juventus, playing either as a centre forward or centre back.
Pachuca’s World Hall of Fame

The city of Pachuca is considered “the birthplace of Mexican soccer”. So, it came as little surprise when the Mexican Federation chose Pachuca to build a soccer museum that would house its own national Hall of Fame. And, there is more to it as FIFA belatedly -but better late than never- sanctioned the World Hall of Fame which is also located in the Pachuca museum. Two greatly combined HoFs where the all-time greats like Pelé and Maradona are paid homage alongside Mexico’s most-beloved players like Hugo Sánchez, Chicharito and Quatemoc Blanco. The museum opened in July 2011 with the inductions taking place every summer ever since. Below are listed the classes of international inductees from 2011 until 2020.

CLASS OF 2011

Alfredo Di Stéfano (Argentina – FW)
Robert ‘Bobby’ Charlton (England – MF)
Eusébio da Silva Ferreira (Portugal – FW)
Franz Beckenbauer (Germany – DF)
Ferenc Puskas (Hungary -FW)
Gerd Müller (Germany -FW)
Francisco Dos Santos ‘Garrincha’ (Brazil-MF)
Johan Cruyff (Netherlands – MF)
Lothar Matthäus (Germany -MF)
Lev Yashin (Russia – GK)
Michel Platini (France -MF)
Mario Zagallo (Brazil – DF)
Diego Armando Maradona (Argentina – FW)
Edson Arantes ‘Pelé’ (Brazil – FW)
Zinedine Zidane (France –  MF)

CLASS OF 2012

Robert ‘Bobby’ Moore (England -DF)
Dino Zoff (Italy -GK)
Emilio Butragueño (Spain -FW)
Just Fontaine (France -FW)
Jules Rimet (France -Executive)
Mario Alberto Kempes (Argentina -FW)
Marco van Basten (Netherlands -FW)
Obdulio Varela (Uruguay -MF)
Rinus Michels (Netherlands -Coach)
Ricardo Zamora (Spain -GK)

CLASS OF 2013

Jorge ‘Mágico’ González (El Salvador -FW)
Franco Baresi (Italy – DF)
George Weah (Liberia – FW)
Paolo Maldini (Italy -DF)

CLASS OF 2014

Sir Alex Ferguson (Scotland -Coach)
Carlos Alberto Valderrama (Colombia -MF)
César Luis Menotti (Argentina -Coach)
Romario (Brazil -FW)

CLASS OF 2015

Daniel Pasarella (Argentina – DF)
Luis Figo (Portugal – MF)
Ruud Gullit (Netherlands – MF)
Vicente del Bosque (Spain – Coach)

CLASS OF 2016

Karl Heinz Rummenigge (Germany – FW)
Paolo Rossi (Italy – FW)
Ronaldo Luiz Nazario de Lima (Brazil – FW)
Arthur Antunes Coimbra ‘Zico’ (Brazil – MF)

CLASS OF 2017

Enzo Francescoli (Uruguay – MF)
Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria – FW)
Josep Guardiola (Spain – MF)
Jorge Valdano (Argentina – FW)

CLASS OF 2018

Carlos Bilardo (Argentina – Coach)
Marcos Evangelista ‘Cafú’ (Brazil – DF)
Roberto Baggio (Italy – FW)
Roberto Rivelino (Brazil –  MF)

CLASS OF 2019

Didier Deschamps (France – MF)
Gabriel Omar Batistuta (Argentina FW)
Arrigo Sachi (Italy – Coach)
Javier Zanetti (Argentina – DF)

CLASS OF 2020

Ronaldo de Assis “Ronaldinho” (Brazil – FW)
Fabio Cannavaro (Italy – DF)
Raúl González (Spain –  FW)
Roberto Carlos (Brazil – DF)

Emilio Butragueño starred for Spain in Mexico ’86 scoring 4 times. He entered the HoF’s class of 2012.