Fun Fact Grab Bag: 41 World Football Random Fun Facts You May Not Have Known

Lindsay EanetCorrespondent IDecember 14, 2011

Fun Fact Grab Bag: 41 World Football Random Fun Facts You May Not Have Known

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    Or you might have. I can't honestly predict what you know or don't know. 

    Anyway, with all the transfer gossip and Champions League excitement and the holidays coming up, we thought we'd take a break and give you a nice little grab bag of random fun facts that you can use to impress your friends at the pub at halftime. If you've got your own fun facts and random tidbits you'd like to share with your fellow readers, as always, have at it in the comments.

5-Finger Discounts, Renegade Swans and More

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    1. Here's an obvious one to start us off. The name itself, “soccer,” comes from English university slang, the “soc” coming from “association football.” (As opposed to rugby, known then as “rugger.”)

    2. In 1990, the Albanian national football team was detained at London’s Heathrow Airport after the team helped themselves to more than $3,000 worth of merchandise at a duty-free shop, and, misunderstanding the term “duty free,” left without paying. As difficulties with detaining the team mounted, among them being unable to find a translator, they were eventually released.  

    3. In one of the most famous football weird stories/urban legends, a team once scored an own goal to advance in a tournament. In the 1994 Shell Caribbean Cup, Barbados had to win by at least two goals to advance in the tournament. If they won by one, opponents Grenada would move on. In this particular match, goals scored in extra time counted as double, so the Barbadians figured their best option was to score an own goal, force the match into extra time and try to score there. It worked, and Barbados wrote themselves into weird football history.

    4. Cyril the Swan, the giant feathered mascot of Swansea City, was banned from the pitch and fined £1,000 during a 1999 match when he (?) celebrated a goal with a pitch-invading dance. Always thought that kind of mascot behavior was, like, encouraged.

    5. Paraguayan club Cerro Porteño, based in the capital city of Asunción, is known as the “People’s Team” (sound familiar, Everton?), and based on their choice of team colors, it’s clear why. Cerro’s red-and-blue-striped crest comes from a desire to create unity among fans between two warring political factions, the Partido Liberales (who used blue as their color) and the Colorados (who used red). Now if football could solve all problems that easily..

    6. If you’ve heard the name Mwepu Ilunga, it’s probably because you’ve heard this story: When the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) advanced to the tournament stage of the 1974 World Cup, things didn’t go as planned. After a handful of devastating losses, the Leopards were told that if they lost to Brazil by more than three goals, they would be exiled. As Brazil was about to take a free kick and all looked dire, Ilunga charged at the player and punted the ball out of the way. He was given a yellow card, but in the end, Zaire only lost 3-0 and all was well.

    7. In 1966, following England’s victory in the World Cup, Queen Elizabeth II gave Tofik Bakhramov, the Azerbaijani official of the final, the “golden whistle” award for his arbitration services. Had things turned out differently for the Three Lions, would he have still gotten the award?

    8. Bakhramov is also the only referee in history to have a stadium named after him, in Baku, the capital city of his native Azerbaijan. The ground was dedicated after his death in 1993, and FK Baku and the Azerbaijan national team player there. It may also be a venue for Eurovision 2012... so there’s that.

    9. Aston Villa’s Darius Vassell, in an effort to make sure he made it to a match, injured his foot by attempting to drain a blood blister under his toe using a power drill. The resulting infection saw him on the sidelines anyway, and the incident earned him the nickname “The Aston Driller.”

    10. In 2001, the game itself was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Swedish politician Lars Gustafsson cited the capacity for world football to bring normally hostile nations together as his justification (such as the United States and Iran playing each other in the 1998 World Cup), even though that year, a dozen fans were killed during a post-match stampede at a World Cup qualifier between Zimbabwe and South Africa.

The Other Final, American Samoa and Celery

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    11. In 2006, a user on the BBC’s 606 message board accurately predicted a 7-0 win for Liverpool over Birmingham City. The user, posting under the alias “Messi better than Cesc,” not only got the score right, but was only 17 seconds away from accurately predicting the time of the first goal. Hope they made a bet on that.

    12. This is one that keeps showing up on the forums, but is too good not to pass along: In 1978, a football match in Tanzania was postponed when the referee was caught smoking marijuana. That’s one way to stay calm during a match, we guess.

    13. Stephen Ireland was one person who missed the Republic of Ireland’s joyous ride to the Euro 2012 tournament. The midfielder famously bid his international days adieu when he told manager Steve Staunton his grandmother had died and he needed to return home. It was only after he’d been sent on a private plane home that it was revealed to be a ruse and both Ireland’s nans were very much alive. 

    14. The record for the most goals in a single match is held by New Zealand-born Australian international Archie Thompson. Thompson netted a jaw-dropping 13 goals in one match, a 31-0 spanking of American Samoa, in 2001. Which leads us to...

    15. The largest margin of victory by which a team has ever won in a professional football match is 31 points, in that very same routing of American Samoa by Australia in 2001. 

    16. The American Samoa national team has won just one official match in its entire history, a 2-1 victory over Tonga in the 2011 Oceania Football Confederation World Cup qualifiers. They also netted a 3-0 victory over Wallis and Futuna, but this is considered an unofficial win because Wallis and Futuna are not members of FIFA.

    17. American Samoa shares the lowest FIFA ranking in the world at time of writing with Andorra, Montserrat, San Marino and Samoa.

    18. In June 2002, the same day the World Cup final was being played in Japan, a film crew shot The Other Final, a match between the two lowest-ranked teams at the time, Montserrat and the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan. Bhutan won the match, 4-0.

    19. Danish international Allan Nielsen was once sidelined with an injury while playing for Tottenham Hotspur after his newborn daughter poked him in the eye. Tough break explaining that one to the trainers.

    20. In 2007, Chelsea F.C. banned fans from bringing celery stalks into Stamford Bridge, not because of the lewd-but-beloved terrace chant which invoked the green vegetable, but because referees were complaining about celery being thrown on the pitch. Go figure.

Hat Tricks, Postponements and Relegations

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    21. In 1979, a Scottish Cup match between Falkirk and Inverness Thistle had to be postponed 29 times. Ice on the ground meant that the clubs had to wait six weeks for Kings Mills ground to return to a suitable state of play.

    22. Not to be outdone, in 1963, another Scottish Cup match between Airdrie and Stranraer was postponed 33 times due to inclement weather.

    23. During World War I, English and German soldiers engaged in a “Christmas truce,” and, appropriately enough given their storied rivalry on the pitch, played a friendly game of football.

    24. West Ham United legend Alvin Martin was the first to score a hat trick against three different keepers in an 8-1 home win against Newcastle United. Martin scored first against Martin Thomas, then Chris Hedworth and finally Peter Beardsley.

    25. The fastest hat trick of all time was scored in 90 seconds by Tommy Ross of Ross County (no relation), in November 1964.

    26. Yossi Benayoun (now with Arsenal) is the only player to have scored a hat trick in the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.

    27. The fastest hat trick in the Premier League was the work of a 19-year-old Robbie Fowler, who got three past veteran keeper David Seaman in a 1994 Liverpool-Arsenal showdown in just four minutes and 32 seconds.

    28. Just last week, Bafétimbi Gomis set the record for the fastest Champions League hat trick, scoring three goals in seven minutes in Lyon’s 7-1 routing of Dinamo Zagreb.

    29. Aston Villa, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Liverpool are the only clubs to have played every Premiership season (since the establishment of the modern EPL).

    30. Technically, Wigan Athletic have never been relegated either, as they have remained in the top flight of English football since their first promotion in 2005.

Green Giants, Fresh Shrimp and Witch Doctors

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    31. The only Bundesliga clubs to have never been relegated from the top flight since the league’s formation are Hamburger SV (been in the top-flight the longest) and Bayern Munich.

    32. Founding La Liga members Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona and Real Madrid are the only Spanish clubs to have never been relegated from the top flight.

    33. Inter Milan are the only Serie A side to have never been relegated, just narrowly missing relegation in 1922 after losing in the Italian Football Championship. A merger between cups led to a playoff round, which bought them some time.

    34. In 1969, Italian club Sampdoria were so grateful to not have been relegated that the players walked 20 miles to a secluded mountain sanctuary to thank the Virgin Mary for their good fortune.

    35. Yeovil Town F.C.’s mascot is called the Jolly Green Giant. Not sure if this has been an issue with the vegetable spokesgiant of the same name. Who do you reckon would win in a fight?

    36. In 2001, Chilean side Deportes Arica commissioned witch Eliana Merino to cast out evil spirits before matches to prevent their side from being relegated. Merino would use candles in a purifying ritual on the players before each match.

    37. Not to be outdone, in 2002, Ivory Coast’s sports minister offered a $2,000 financial reward to the witch doctors commissioned to help the national team in the African Cup of Nations.

    38. The almighty Maracanã ground in Rio de Janeiro has a concrete moat around the pitch, built to keep fans from invading the pitch.

    39. Kenneth Kristensen, a striker in Sweden’s third division, was traded in 2002 from Vindbjart to Floey in exchange for his weight in fresh shrimp. A bottle of cocktail sauce was thrown in to sweeten the deal.

    40. Even better: Ernie Blenkinsop, a left-back who would become one of the most respected English players of the early 20th century, was traded from Cudworth to Hull City in 1921 for £100 and a barrel of ale. I think we all know who the real winners were there.

    41. Dario Dubois, a player in one of Argentina’s regional divisions, used to play in KISS-style makeup as a tribute to the death-metal music he loved.