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.