JUNE 17 — And suddenly everyone is an expert when it comes to football.
From the six-year-old who aspires to be the next Norshahrul Idlan Talaha to the uncle that is forced to squint his eyes while watching Dutchman Arjen Robben dazzle in front of the Spanish defenders before scoring Holland’s fifth goal in the World Cup on Saturday.
It amazes me how some people speak when it comes to football; criticising the lineups of world renowned coaches to scrutinising the antics of world class players whose salary is even more than the gross domestic product of some nations. The media too often have plenty to say.
As some of my friends would say to critics: “If you think you so terror, you play-lah.”
But this is the beauty of football. There is always room for the hardcore fans and armchair critics. Ironically, listening to them is way better than the rubbish some politicians tend to say.
However, football is beyond chanting ‘Germany!’ (who by the way, will win the tournament) or jeering England striker Wayne Rooney each time he touches the ball.
How much do we really know about football?
Here are some quick facts about the beautiful game as we embrace the World Cup.
It started in China
According to Fifa.com, the very earliest form of football for which there is “scientific evidence” was an exercise from a military manual dating back to the second and third centuries BC in China.
“This Han Dynasty forebear of football was called Tsu’ Chu and it consisted of kicking a leather ball filled with feathers and hair through an opening, measuring only 30-40cm in width, into a small net fixed onto long bamboo canes. The players were not permitted to aim at his target unimpeded but had to use his feet, chest, back and shoulders while trying to withstand the attacks of his opponents. Use of the hands was not permitted.”
Sadly, China is no where to be seen in this World Cup ... or even at the last World Cup ... heck even at the 2006 edition. Despite its history and huge population, the Republic has only qualified once — in 2002.
China had also banned ‘Football Manager 2005’ after its Ministry of Culture said the game “posed harm to the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
England — home of football, only one World Cup.
Football flourished in the British Isles from the eighth to the 19th centuries, as described by Fifa.com. But it saw opposition. The game was punishable by law during the 100 Years’ War between England and France (1337 to 1453) as “it prevented subjects from practising more useful military disciplines”. The Scottish kings of the 15th century prohibited the game, as evident in the decree proclaimed by the parliament convened by James I (1424), which read: “That na man play at the Fute-ball”.
But football later prospered in England, making it the nation’s No 1 sport. Despite its rich history, England has only won the World Cup once — after beating West Germany 4-2 in the 1966 final.
Balls are important
Most modern footballs are stitched from 32 panels of waterproofed leather or plastic. Sports manufacturer Adidas has been providing the official ball for the World Cup since the 1970 edition in Mexico.
The 2014 World Cup ball, called Brazuca, features six identical panels. The brazuca was tested for two and a half years, involving more than 600 of the world’s top players from 30 teams in 10 countries across three continents. It the most tested ball by the company. Balls are very important!
Run, boy run!
Studies have shown footballers run an average of 10 kilometres each game.
You call 5-1 embarrassing?
In 2002, Madagascar club AS Adema thrashed arch-rivals Stade Olympique I’Emyrne 149-0 in a national league game — the largest score in football history. That’s an average of one goal scored every 0.65 minutes. Spain fans shouldn’t feel that bad. It was only 5-1 after all.
The Jules Rimet Cup was the first Cup. It was introduced in 1930 and renamed in 1946 after the founding father of the World Cup, who was also the third Fifa president (1921-1954). It was stolen in 1966 while on display in England but was later found in a suburban garden by a dog named Pickles. In 1983, the Trophy was stolen in Rio de Janeiro and never found. The current trophy is the work of Italian artist Silvio Gazzaniga.
Get the name right
It is called football, bola sepak (Malay), futebol (Portuguese), fußball (German), voetball (Dutch) and futbol (Spanish), among others. Only the ignorant call the game soccer.
Here’s hoping for a fun-filled World Cup.
This is the personal opinion of the columnist.