A Devil Of A Time
When considering the phrase "world's biggest clubs," we pretty much have to use a Euro-centric perspective, since you can find a Manchester United fan in pretty much any corner of the globe.
Boca Juniors, for instance, is a huge club in Argentina, but it obviously doesn't have the same far-reaching brand appeal as a Barcelona or AC Milan.
ESPN officially brought sports minutiae to the forefront sometime in the early 90's with their "Did You Know" segments. Sports trivia will forever have legs as many fanatics like to consider themselves authorities on their given teams and favored leagues.
In that vein, we bring to you some titillating tidbits on clubs supported the world over.
Though Vinnie Jones featured principally for Wimbledon in his semi-illustrious career, we must defer to his tour de force thespian work in the movie Euro Trip as a preamble to a lesser-known facts discourse on Manchester United (mainly because it still makes us laugh—ah, you remember laughter, don't you?).
Today's rivalry between Manchester United and Manchester City is primarily centered around the title race—we concede there's that whole Manchester supremacy bit as well—but in 1907, the Red Devils did a bit of dumpster-diving, scooping up a number of the 18 players City banned that season. Two years later, United won its first title and in 1910 secured the FA Cup and the first-ever Charity Shield.
Nothing stirs up enmity and rivalry like perceived betrayals such as these. Just ask Cleveland Browns fans.
In 1956, United's Busby Babes won the league title with players averaging just 22 years of age.
The Red Devils were the first English team to win the European Cup in 1968.
In 1980, goalkeeper Gary Bailey saved three penalties in a match against Ipswich Town but United still fell on the day, 6-0.
In recent years, the Barcelona brand may have eclipsed Manchester United (and Real Madrid) for the "world's most popular club" distinction.
The Real Madrid/Barcelona rivalry is rumored to have a political component as dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco purportedly favored Madrid. Franco ordered the removal of Barca's Catalan language/symbols during his reign of ignominy. Josep Sunyol, president of Barcelona during the outset of the Spanish Civil War, was captured and executed by Franco loyalists in 1936.
Apparently, a man named Carles Pujol featured in the inaugural Blaugrana side in 1899. Despite extensive research, we haven't been able to uncover any relation to current captain, Carles Puyol.
Former president Joan Laporta (2003-2010) required all Barcelona players to learn Catalan.
As for the Madridistas, the Real aspect of their name comes directly from King Alfonso XIII, who chose Los Merengues and other clubs like Real Sociedad and Real Zaragoza (among others) as his favorites.
In the "why can't we be friends" category, Real Madrid's first two presidents happened to be Catalans.
Los Blancos have twice scored 11 goals in a major match. In 1942-43, they bagged an 11-1 win over Barca in the Copa del Rey, and in 1960 achieved an 11-2 victory over Elche in league play.
In the summer of 2011, while some of us were well on our way to consuming half a keg of beer, Cristiano Ronaldo was scoring a hat-trick in nine minutes against Chivas. Common knowledge to Real fans, sure, but some of us can't even remember what we had for lunch yesterday.
Mee-lan! Mee-lan! Those chants are likely still heard from Marrakech to Mongolia but there's no doubt some of the antics of calcio Italiani have cost AC Milan and other big Italian clubs worldwide prestige in recent years.
AC Milan was formed initially as a cricket club by two English gents, Alfred Edwards and Herbert Kilpin, in 1899. The football charter was signed December 16 of that year. Thus, the Anglicized version of the name, Milan, as opposed to the direct Italian translation, which would require the club to be named AC Milano.
Party animal Silvio Berlusconi is responsible for penning the team's anthem, which is, in all fairness, not exactly "You'll Never Walk Alone." Quite honestly, it's cheesy, though it probably sounds a bit better at the San Siro with fans in full voice.
Liverpool has always had its share of high-profile supporters, but one thing we might not ever uncover is if Lancashire native Morrissey had a secret affinity for The Reds. The Smiths' tune "Frankly Mr. Shankly" has absolutely no football references, but perhaps the lyrical content offers some small tip of the cap to Bill Shankly, Liverpool's famed manager from 1959-1974.
Liverpool completed the first-ever continental treble by an English team in 1984, winning the League, the European Cup and the League Cup.
In 1946, Liverpool striker Jack Balmer scored a hat-trick in three consecutive matches.
Which club do you consider to be the world's most popular?
While our UK readers will probably not be happy to see a German club mentioned after an English one, our list wouldn't be complete without a look at Bayern Munich.
An important historical note on Die Roten, their chairman, coach and some of the players were of Jewish descent during the early 1930s. The proliferation of Nazism forced these members of the team to flee the country and the club's development was stunted.
Bayern is one of only three teams to have won the Champions League title three straight times (1973-1976). Real Madrid won the first five titles from 1955-1960 and Ajax managed the three-peat from 1970-1973. Incidentally, the last repeat winner of the trophy was AC Milan from 1988-1990.
Franck Ribery's adopted Muslim name is Bilal Yusuf Mohammed.
There's bigger clubs than Ajax these days but, throughout the 70's and 80's, few were mightier than de Amsterdammers.
Ajax's logo is an homage to the Greek hero of the same name. In 1990, the logo was re-designed with just 11 lines to signify the 11 players on the pitch.
Ajax has something of a history with the now-defunct club V.U.C. Delft. In 1931, they managed two TDs and a field goal en route to a 17-0 victory. 10 years later, Ajax was down 6-0 at halftime against V.U.C. They managed to notch six goals in the second half for an unheard-of 6-6 draw.
We sign off with a salute to the Gunners with new understanding of their Tottenham rivalry. In 1919, Arsenal was invited to play in the First Division at Spurs' expense. While the league ostensibly viewed Arsenal as a more attractive commodity, certain innuendos suggest chairman Henry Norris had some shady dealings with high-ranking officials.
From 2003-2004, the Gunners recorded a 49-game unbeaten streak, something that all of North London (and perhaps the entire British Isle) might know better than their anniversary dates.
We bid you adieu with a bit of on-field chicanery, showcasing two of Arsenal's brawls with rivals Manchester United.
Back to (club) football we go.
"I spent 90% of my money on women, drink and fast cars. The rest I wasted." -George Best
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