Beautiful game, beautiful trivia

The Football Association turns 150

150 years ago tomorrow, in a pub in Covent Garden, a group of men got together and founded the Football Association. So started a century and a half of arguments about such crucial issues as whether the one-handed throw-in should be outlawed (it finally was in 1882) and what the minimum height of a corner post should be (it's currently 1.5 metres). But the world's most popular sport also gives us some of the world's most compelling trivia. To celebrate the anniversary, here are 10 of my favourite footie facts:

Beautiful game, beautiful trivia

1. In his entire career, Zinedine Zidane was caught offside only 4 times.

2. Umbro stands for HUMphrey BROthers - it was founded in 1911 by brothers Harold and Wallace Humphrey of Cheshire.

3. The inventor of Subbuteo wanted to call the game ‘Hobby', but that was ruled too general - so he took the second half of the Latin name for the hobby bird, Falco Subbuteo

4. The original stands at Stamford Bridge were made from earth excavated during construction of the London Underground's Metropolitan Line.

5. In 2001 a Spurs fan, delighted that his team were 3-0 up at home to Manchester United at half-time, put £10,000 on them to win the match (at a paltry 16-1 on). Man United scored 5 goals in the second half, winning the match 5-3 and losing the punter his ten grand.

6. Mexico's first ever football team, Pachuca Athletic Club, was made up entirely of ex-pat miners from Cornwall. (To this day the town's clock plays the chimes of Big Ben.)

7. Gary Lineker's middle name is Winston - because he shares his birthday with Winston Churchill.

8. The coach of the New York Cosmos signed legendary defender Franz Beckenbauer but wanted to play him as a forward. ‘Tell the Kraut to get his ass up front,' he said. ‘We don't pay a million for a guy to hang around in defence.'

9. Geoff Hurst's last goal in the 1966 World Cup Final wasn't actually an attempted shot - he was trying to kick the ball over the crossbar to waste a few more precious seconds.

10. Swindon Town are the only club in the top 4 divisions whose name shares no letters with the word ‘mackerel'. 

 

 

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Big Ben

On a visit to Big Ben, I was told that if you stand at the bottom of the tower with a portable radio and listen to the chimes on Radio 4 (they still transmit them live), you hear them on the radio before you hear them ‘for real’. I couldn’t believe it – but was intrigued enough to try it for myself. And you know what? It’s absolutely true. The bongs come out of the radio a fraction of a second before they reach your ears from the top of the tower. It’s something so silly, so counter-intuitive, that you have to tell people. (Well, I did.) Researching the explanation, I found that it’s because radio waves travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) rather than the 700 or so miles per hour at which sound waves travel. The signal travelling down the wire from the microphone to the BBC goes at the speed of light too. Hence the radio version overtaking the real one.

I realised that this would be the perfect way to teach the principle in school physics lessons. Instead of a boring teacher droning on that ‘radio waves travel at the speed of light’, illustrate it with this beautiful and quirky little fact. The kids will remember it then. I certainly would have done if my physics teacher had taken this approach. As it was I had to wait until I heard a piece of so-called ‘trivia’ in my thirties.