BY ALEXIA JAMES
Spend any time with a certain football fanatic I know and you realise this man is the Football Google. Whereas most blokes spend the occasional evening with the Mrs, this fellow is Football itself. I have not been in the man’s bedroom but no doubt it is bedecked with Leeds United paraphernalia, his wardrobes bulging with Gremio shirts and his duvet cover has surely got to be a 1990’s Cantona classic.
A few months ago I simply did not know that Zinedine Zidane was never caught offside during his great career. Nor that Dave Watson played for Everton, for Liverpool, against Everton against Liverpool, for England and against England.
Seriously, my brain is now weighed down by football facts.
Did you know Cardiff City were relegated in 1929, even though they conceded the fewest goals in the league (1st division)? Or that in 1975 an international match between Chile & Uruguay was abandoned after 19 players were sent off? Did you know Ryan Giggs’s real surname is Wilson and he’s part African (his dad, Danny Wilson, is a half-Welsh, half-Sierra Leonean rugby professional who used to play for Wales. Giggs took his mother’s maiden name when his parents split up). Did you know that the heaviest ever England player was a goalkeeper called Willie ‘Fatty’ Foulke who at 6 feet 6 inches tall weighed 22 stone and played for England around the turn of the century?
Let me enlighten you further… for with the following mega-paragraph of trivia you could win Pointless or knock Kevin off Eggheads …
A Manchester City fan was banned in 1995 from bringing dead chickens into City’s Maine Road ground. He used to celebrate City goals by swinging the birds around his head. In 1957, the Salisbury and District FA of Rhodesia officially approved the payment of £10 to hire a witch doctor. Salisbury had lost every match the previous season. Striker Elisha Banda, who played for Zimbabwe air force team Cone Textiles, was kidnapped, drugged and tortured for eight days by team-mates angry that he’d signed for civilian team. He was found bound and gagged on scrubland outside Harare. There are only two football teams in the Isles of Scilly – The Gunners and the Wanderers. They play each other every week in the league, the only break being when they meet in the Cup. In 1973, the entire Galilee team spent the night in jail for kicking their opponents during an Israeli League game. Stopping off en route to Iceland, the Albanian national team were thrown out of England in 1990 after going on a shopping spree at Heathrow. They had thought “duty free” meant help yourself.
Italian referee Marcello Donadini was taken to hospital in 1973 after being bitten in the back by a player who didn’t agree with a decision. Barcelona ’s Hristo Stoichkov was banned for six months in 1990 for stamping on the referee’s foot after being sent off in a Cup tie against Real Madrid. The Liberia team escaped imprisonment by holding Gambia to a goalless draw in 1980. The Liberian Head of State, Master Sergeant Samuel Doe, had threatened to jail them it they lost. West Ham defender Alvin Martin scored a hat-trick against three different goalkeepers in the 8-1 win over Newcastle in 1986. The injured Martin Thomas was replaced in the Newcastle goal first by Chris Hedworth, then by Peter Beardsley. A referee at a friendly match in Brazil drew a revolver and shot dead a player who disputed a penalty decision. The referee escaped on horseback. Hollingsworth Juniors football team from Manchester fell victim to an own gull in a match with Stalybridge Celtic Colts in 1999. Colts were leading 2-1 when 13-year-old striker Danny Worthington tried a speculative shot from 25 yards. The ball was sailing way over the bar until it hit a passing seagull on the head, spun over the Hollingsworth goalkeeper and landed in the net. Despite protests, the goal was allowed to stand. Realising they were up against 12 men, demoralized Hollingsworth went on to lose 7-1. The Scottish Cup tie between Falkirk and Inverness Thistle in 1979 was postponed no fewer than 29 times because of bad weather. The first Littlewoods Pools coupon attracted the interest of just 35 punters. The Sampdoria team and 200 players walked 20 miles to a mountain sanctuary near Genoa in 1969 to thank the Madonna for helping them stave off relegation. In 1990, the Football League banned Scarborough from wearing shirts advertising Black Death vodka on the grounds of bad taste. In 1998, The Macclesfield mascot was sent off for making obscene gestures during a players’ brawl in the match with Lincoln City. Cash-strapped Portsmouth cancelled their weekly order of new jockstraps in 1999, a move which would save £112. Administrator Tom Burton ordered the club to wash them instead of buying new ones. When England entertained Malta in 1971, the match was so one-sided that the ball didn’t cross the England goal-line once in the entire 90 minutes. And Gordon Banks in the England goal didn’t have a shot to save. Visitors Kilmarnock had to take the same penalty seven times during a fixture at Partick in 1945. The spot-kick was eventually saved and Partick went on to win 5-3. Bury players refused to do any more promotional work for the club in 1997 as a protest at the lack of nappy-changing facilities at Gigg Lane for their wives. In an attempt to boost gates, Bristol City staged a chimps’ tea-party before the 1976 game with West Ham. Plymouth Argyle striker Dwight Marshall was accidentally injured by one of his own fans after scoring at Chester in 1999. In 1993, HFS Loans League team Congleton were forced to call off a minute’s silence to mourn the death of the club’s oldest fan…when he walked into the ground. Referee Henning Erikstrup was about to blow full-time with Norager leading Ebeltoft 4-3 in a Danish league match when his dentures suddenly fell out. While he scrambled around looking for them, Ebeltoft equalised. Despite vehement protests from Ebeltoft, Mr Erikstup disallowed the goal, replaced his false teeth and promptly blew the final whistle. A Tanzanian soccer match was postponed in 1978 after the referee was arrested on the pitch and accused of smoking marijuana just before the kick-off. In the space of five minutes at Sunderland in November 1998, Barnsley striker Ashley Ward scored, missed a penalty and was sent off. Leicester City went through an entire FA Cup tie with Northampton Town in 1997 without committing a single foul. Leicester won 4-0. In 1999, a Manchester City fan threw an asthma inhaler on to the pitch during a disappointing home draw against Northampton. Dundee United’s Premier Reserve League game against Dunfermline at Arbroath in 1998 was abandoned after just 90 seconds because of high winds. At the age of 52, Pedro Gatica cycled from his home in Argentina to Mexico for the 1986 World Cup, only to find on arrival that he couldn’t afford to get in. While he was trying to haggle for a ticket, thieves stole his bike. Giuseppe Lorenzo of Bologna was sent off after just ten seconds of the Italian League match with Parma in 1990 for striking an opponent. Romanian midfielder Ion Radu was sold by Second Division Jiul Petrosani to Valcea in 1998 for 500kg of pork (worth about £1750). A 1984 match between Sheffield United and Oldham was postponed when a war-time bomb was found near Bramall Lane. Fans at Gillingham were subjected to celery searches in 1996. A craze had started for waving sticks of celery while chanting an obscene song. So anyone caught in possession of the vegetable was threatened with a life ban.
Still there? Is your head hurting? Mine is.
There are some religious fanatics who say that football was invented so that the population is distracted from plotting revolutions. Now – with my brain full of footie facts and figures – I can dismiss this as doubtful, for Football was actually invented in China. First reports of the game can be found in writings dating from around 476 BC, when it was known as “cuju” and involved players kicking a leather ball through a hole in a piece of cloth. At that time revolution was the last thing on the minds of the Chinese dynasty, or the Chinese people for that matter.