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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Rubik's Cube

A Rubik’s cube has more combinations than light travels inches in a century. This is my favourite illustration of how a very small number of factors can produce an absurdly complicated situation. A silly little toy, with only three squares in each of its three dimensions. How can that get complicated? Well, as anyone who's ever tried to solve one just by guessing will tell you, it gets very complicated. The number of possible combinations is 43,252,003,274,489,856,000. Forget billions - that's 43 quintillion and change. (In fact the cube's manufacturers just said ‘billions' in their advertising, figuring that no one would know what a quintillion was. It's a billion billion.) The number of inches light travels in a century, meanwhile, is a mere 37,165,049,856,000,000,000. Or thereabouts.