Friday 15 May 2020, 07:13

Success, it’s a family affair

  • 15 May is International Day of Families

  • Success often runs in families

  • From brothers, sisters or twins to fathers and sons

"What’s in a name?" said one of the English language’s most famous playwrights, William Shakespeare, back in the 16th century. A name can spur people on to achieve great things or even act as a burden – but what makes a name so significant?

In the past, it bound people together on a specific rung of the social ladder across generations. Even today, a name is part of an individual’s identity that accompanies them throughout their life and can often be difficult to bear.

Football has its fair share of ambitious offspring and relatives of great players. In many cases, these youngsters have the same passion for the sport as their parents. This phenomenon is easy enough to understand. After all, it is natural for children to want to follow in their relatives’ footsteps and hear their own name sung in reverent tones from the stands.

Kasper Schmeichel’s role in helping Leicester City clinch their first English Premier League title in 2016 was eerily reminiscent of the feats achieved by his father Peter. Both won their first top flight trophy between the posts on 2 May at the age of 29, with exactly 23 years separating them. Although Schmeichel senior won Manchester United’s first league title in 26 years, his son’s achievement was undoubtedly even more impressive. They became the first father-son pair to win the Premier League since Ian Wright and Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Although Alain Giresse's son Thibault plied his trade in France’s top two tiers, he played in the shadow of the former France international, who formed part of Les Bleus' ‘Magic Square’ in midfield in 1982 and 1986. The same is true of Jordi Cruyff, who was repeatedly compared to his legendary father Johan.

Conversely, it is not unusual for children to surpass the high standards set by their father, even if these achievements include a FIFA World Cup™ winner’s medal. "At first Thiago and Rafinha [Alcantara] were talked about as Mazinho’s sons.

Now it’s the other way around – I’m Thiago and Rafinha’s father," said the Brazilian who was part of his national side’s triumph at USA 1994. The midfielder’s two sons have won the UEFA Champions League with Barcelona. The older Alcantara brother, Thiago, is now pulling the strings in central midfield for record-breaking German champions Bayern Munich. "That’s life," added Mazinho. "My time has come and gone and now it’s their turn to taste success. I couldn’t be happier for them or prouder of them. They’ve surpassed me by far."

"In a way it’s fortunate that I never had [my father] as a coach, because he would have demanded even more from me," said Johan Gerets, son of former Belgium international and now successful coach Eric. "He always thought I wouldn’t be good enough to play in the top flight, and he told me so again and again. It’s not easy to hear that when you’re young."

If a father ends up coaching his son, as happened with the Gourcuffs in Rennes or the Maldinis with the Italian national side, parental expectations can sometimes override a coach’s usual impartiality. "No matter what, I’m always told that I’m too hard on him," said Jean-Michel Cavalli, who coached his son Johan at Nimes.

"People who talk to me about it say that too," added the player himself. "Others might say something different behind my back, but that’s human nature. For me, one thing is certain: if I’m competing with another player with the same skills, he’s the one who gets to play."

Mazinho and his kids

Fathers and sons are not the only pairings regularly seen in football – brothers have also been a recurring theme on the international stage. When 13 national teams gathered in Uruguay to contest the first World Cup back in 1930, three of the squads included brothers. Mexico even included two pairs in their travelling party.

This tradition continued as the years went by, and there have since been victorious brotherly duos such as Fritz and Ottmar Walter, who became world champions with Germany in 1954, or Jack and Bobby Charlton, who lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy 12 years later.

August 1966. Ashington, Northumberland. England stars, the brothers Bobby, left and Jack Charlton in an open top Rolls Royce as they get a heroes welcome back in the North East after the World Cup success.  

Numerous pairs of twins have also attracted a great deal of attention. Perhaps the most famous were Rene and Willy van de Kerkhof, who reached the World Cup Final twice with the Netherlands in 1974 and 1978 but finished the tournament as runners-up on both occasions.

Frank and Ronald de Boer, who turn 50 today, spent most of their careers playing together, following in De Kerkhofs' footsteps by lining out for the Oranje together two decades later.

Jerome and Kevin-Prince Boateng experienced a very special version of sibling rivalry when they met for the first time on the international stage at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Jerome pulled on the jersey of Germany’s national side while Kevin-Prince represented the Black Stars of Ghana. The encounter ended in a 1-0 win for the then three-time world champions.

Ahead of the match, Kevin-Prince told our reporter: "It’s going to be special for me. I promise the Ghana supporters that I’ll be doing all I can to win, no matter whether I’m up against my brother, my father or my mother." Jerome seemed no less motivated: "I live in Germany. I love the people there and the mindset. Kevin’s choice was entirely up to him. He’s still my brother and I’m happy for him."

Germany's defender Jerome Boateng (L) embraces his brother, Ghana's forward Kevin-Prince Boateng

There are all kinds of ways to make history at a World Cup – and being one of three brothers to represent their country at a World Cup is certainly one of them. The Palacios brothers – Jerry, Jhony and Wilson – wrote a new chapter in the tournament’s history at South Africa 2010.

"To be playing for Honduras in our first World Cup in 28 years is incredible, but being able to share it with my brothers is a gift from God, and something that our children and grandchildren will never forget," said Jerry.

Jhony Palacios, Jerry Palacios and Wilson Palacios of Honduras pose for a photo.

Another pair whose names are permanently etched in the annals of footballing history are John and Archie Goodall, who became the first brothers to play for two different national sides.

The irony was that neither ever had the opportunity to represent their country of origin! As John was born in England, he decided to play for the Three Lions. His brother Archie came into the world in Belfast and thus felt drawn to Northern Ireland. Although they laced up their boots for different countries, both men played their club football for Preston North End and were part of the side that went undefeated in winning the league and FA Cup in the 1888/89 season before playing side-by-side for several seasons at Derby County.

The case of Sone Aluko and his sister Eniola is unique in the game so far. While she turned out for England at two FIFA Women’s World Cups™ and the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament at London 2012, her brother made his debut for Nigeria in 2009. Reflecting on his decision, Sone said: "I spoke about it with my family. They supported me and I followed my heart."

Anything brothers can do, sisters can do too, right? Of course! Yuki Ogimi and Asano Nagasato finished as Women’s World Cup runners-up with Japan in 2015, while the Hegerberg sisters Ada and Andrine spent many years dominating play for the Norway women’s national team.

The FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016 even had twins playing against each other. Sabrina Flores represented USA while Monica wore the colours of Mexico. "It feels weird," Monica told at the time.

Sabrina Flores of United States and Monica Flores of Mexico

No journey through the history of family footballing ties would be complete without mentioning the Inzaghis, who not only celebrated success on the pitch but have since followed it up with distinguished coaching careers. World champion Filippo is dreaming of promotion with Benevento to Italy’s Serie A, where brother Simone has been seeking to chase down league leaders Juventus with second-placed Lazio.

An honourable and final mention must also go to Iceland’s most famous footballing dynasty. While Arnor and Eidur Gudjohnsen never played together as team-mates, son Eidur replaced Arnor as a second-half substitute in an international friendly match against Estonia in 1996, symbolising one career coming to a close as another was just beginning.

"It remains my biggest regret that we did not get to play together, and I know it is Eidur’s too," Arnor later said.

In Focus: Famous Footballing Father And Sons