Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Fun Facts About the World Cup

Germany is the sports capital of the world this month as it hosts the World Cup. Competition begins Friday, with the Germans taking on Costa Rica. The fervor of soccer fans in most of the participating nations is generally not matched in the USA. However, this quick primer should make you a little more informed about the World Cup and soccer in general.

Contrary to popular belief, the World Cup was not named for former NBA guard World B. Free. His high scoring was contradictory to the principles of soccer.

The World Cup is the most widely-viewed sporting event in the world. Surprisingly, second place belongs to the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

In most countries, soccer is known as football. Unlike American football announcers, soccer broadcasters do not feel the need to constantly remind fans of what sport they are watching (“These football players are playing great football in this football game.”)

Brazil, attempting to repeat as champion, is the only country to previously accomplish the feat. Their 1962 triumph delivered on a guarantee made during the 1958 victory celebration by Pat Riley.

The sport’s most well-known rule is that players, excluding the goalkeeper, are forbidden to use their hands. One major exception is that soccer-playing pirates may utilize their hooks.

In 1994, Cameroon’s Roger Milla became the oldest player to score a goal in the World Cup, at 42 years and 39 days. Last week, he signed a contract to pitch for the Houston Astros.

A player expelled from a game receives a red card. His team plays the rest of the game a man short. On the bright side, a red card entitles the recipient to a free sub at Quizno’s.

This year brings the first World Cup appearance for Trinidad & Tobago, Ivory Coast, Angola, Ghana, Togo, and Ukraine. These teams will be hazed by the others, forced to sing their fight songs at meals.

Soccer’s international governing body is FIFA, which stands for Football Is Frickin’ Awesome!

The United States team is rooting heavily for the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. They feel that if Dirk Nowitzki wins a championship in the USA, the Germans should allow them to do the same in their country.

The modern game of soccer was developed in England in the 1800s, in response to Queen Victoria’s request for an activity to bring hooligans together.

The 1978 championship match was the only one since 1950 that did not include either Brazil or Germany. On that occasion, the Netherlands lost to Taylor Hicks.

A “Golden Goal” is a game-winner scored in sudden-death overtime. The Golden Goal earns the scorer a trip to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

The official FIFA World Cup Trophy goes on loan for four years to the victorious nation. Many fakes have turned up on EBay, with some versions listing Krypton as the 1982 champion.

England still fumes over a 1986 loss to Argentina, cursing Diego Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God.” Similarly, Gary Coleman still fumes over his noogies on the Diff’rent Strokes set, cursing Todd Bridges’ infamous “Hand of Todd.”

The legendary Pele’s signature move was the bicycle kick, which allowed him to win the World Cup and Tour de France in the same summer.

Iran defeated the United States in a 1998 match, but it is otherwise winless at the World Cup. Sports talk radio callers in Tehran complain, “Sure, we get up for the Great Satan, but where’s that intensity against the run-of-the-mill Satans?”

Andres Cantor is a Telemundo broadcaster celebrated for shouting “GOOOOOOOOOOOALLLLLLLL!!!” He routinely keeps the call going for longer than David Blaine was under water.

In 1994, Brazil needed penalty kicks to defeat Italy for the championship. Italy’s final penalty kick was booted miserably wide by Mike Vanderjagt.

The referee adds stoppage time at the conclusion of each half due to delays from injuries and substitutions. Dick Clark has the same authority at the end of each year.

The competition culminates on July 9, when a champion is crowned. Just as Florida had “One Shining Moment” in Indianapolis, one elated nation will enjoy “Ein Glänzender Moment” in Berlin.