Tribute for a last title

spartacus-schoolnet-co-uk1 Sunderland is a respectable team in England. In recent days their performance are quite weak, which mean only rare and insignificant appearances in the Premier League. But the same club, founded in 1979, just a year after Manchester United, holds in its trophy room six first league titles which place them on the sixth spot in the all time table. After Manchester United, FC Liverpool, Arsenal London, Everton and Aston Villa! Their last success came only at the end of 1935-1936 season but still, the amount of champion medals that they gathered keep them in front of huge names, or at least bigger then Sunderland is, such are Chelsea London, Manchester City, Newcastle United, Leeds United or the former double European Champion, Nottingham Forest.


Sunderland won the 1935 – 1936 title but which had to be a great celebration and huge party was only half so. Why? Because a terrible incident happened that season, an incident that even forced the international football board to fix a golden rule once and for all, which is still followed in our days! Nearly eight decades ago, football was, by far tougher than it is now. Harsh challenges, severe injuries, weak medical treatment for most part of those and the impossibility to make substitutes to some point. Many would say that this kind of stuff enforced all footballers. Maybe it did, but when we’re talking about exceptions, a couple of tragedies can be dag out. It’s the case of Jimmy Thorpe, a 22 year old goalkeeper who played 123 competitive games for Sunderland from 1930 until the 1st of February 1936.

Murray, Thorpe & Shaw - Sunderland

In that day, Jimmy appeared between the posts of his team on Roker Park, the former ground of Sunderland, closed in 1997. The opponents were Chelsea with players that they literally had in their minds only a win. Because of this, a back pass to the goalkeeper made them see black in front of their eyes and so they ran to Thorpe and even though he caught the ball in his hands, some of them kicked him in the head and chest, hopping that he will give away the ball and provoked him a couple of rib fractures and some heavy bruises. Jimmy was injured, but continued playing until the end because in those times episodes like this weren’t a rarity. But what maybe opponents didn’t know is that the youngster was suffering of diabetes, a very dangerous illness. So, in the following day, Jimmy felt into a diabetic coma and because of the heavy injures caused by Chelsea players’ hits, he suffered a cardiac arrest on the 9th of February and he died in the hospital at only 22 years of age…


As I was saying, at the end of the season Sunderland became champions for the sixth and last time in their history, but with what a sacrifice! His medal was given to his widow, which was devastated alongside all the people which were closed to Jimmy. That was the moment when FIFA decided that something should be made to avoid such dramas and they forbid all kind of challenge from the players to the opposite goalkeeper when he catches the balls. Even now, usually, when a player makes a tougher tackle to a goalkeeper, the referee books him or even sent him off. It is the only case of this type known in professional football, but it shouldn’t happen in anyway. Especially when we realize that the victim was a young man which might have had a brilliant future. The game with Chelsea ended 3-3 with the Londoners scoring twice in the end of the game. Journalist of that time criticized Thorpe’s late in the game performance, but when found out about his severe condition they ultimately apologized. Unfortunately for Jimmy it was too late…


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