A to Z of brilliantly weird football facts, including Brazil's surprise kryptonite

If you love your weird football facts, you're going to be in for a treat.

It is often said that the least surprising thing about football is its capacity to surprise you.

We thought we would put that theory to the test by compiling an A to Z of weird football facts that you might not even believe.

All are true, though, and every single one is magnificent.


If you want to know how to beat Real Madrid in a European final, you're best off asking Aberdeen. The SPL club are the last club to do it (Cup Winners Cup final, 1983). While we are on the Dons, when translated from Gaelic, Aberdeen's home ground of Pittodrie Stadium literally means 'sh**heap'.


Everyone remembers David Beckham's iconic goal for Manchester United from the half-way line. However, few know he scored it while wearing another player's boots. Predator boots were all the rage back then, and Beckham was desperate to try a pair. Adidas only had one pair of size eights available. They had been made for Rangers and Scotland midfielder Charlie Miller and had 'Charlie' embroidered into the tongue.

Guiseppe Bergomi is football royalty in Italy having played for the Azzurri in four World Cups. Remarkably, though, despite that, and earning 81 caps, he never played in a single World Cup qualifier.

Between them, Gianluigi Buffon, Peter Shilton and Stanley Matthews have made at least one first-team appearance in every single season since 1931/32. Buffon's longevity is such that he has played with or against six father and son duos: The Weahs, the Thurams, the Chiesas, the Simeones, the Valotis' and the Fricks. If unused subs are counted, the list would be 13.


Only one foreign club has ever won the Copa del Rey. A post-season edition was trialled by the Spanish FA in 1927, with two foreign clubs invited: Motherwell and Swansea City. It was Motherwell who won it, beating Real Madrid in the final. A special version of the trophy was donated by King Alfonso XIII and it remains in the Motherwell trophy room today.


Dion Dublin has certainly had an eclectic career from footballer to daytime TV host but it also includes being the room-mate of a Hollywood star shortly after he signed his first professional contract with Norwich. To be fair, it was Jason Statham, and he wasn't a Hollywood star at the time. He was a diver in the British National Swimming Squad.


Harvey Elliott Liverpool Feb22

James Milner and Harvey Elliot started a Premier League game for Liverpool together in in 2021/22 season, with Milner's longevity underlined by the fact he made his Premier League debut and scored in 2002, a year before Elliott was even born.


Rio Ferdinand was named in four successive England World Cup squads (although he only got minutes in two of them) but was never in a squad for the European Championships.


When former Chelsea and Barcelona striker Eidur Gudjohnson made his international debut for Iceland at the age of 17 he replaced was his own father, Arnor, as a second-half substitute. Both players later complained they were not allowed to play together.


On November 11, 1987, Mark Hughes played two matches on the same day. He started for Wales in a Euro 1988 qualifier in Prague and then Bayern Munich flew him over the border to play for them in a cup clash with Borussia Monchengladbach.

Wales lost their European Championship qualifier against Czechoslavakia but there was better fortune for Hughes later on that evening as he came on as a second-half substitute in Bayern's extra-time win over Borussia Moenchengladbach.


Arsenal's Invincibles are part of Premier League folklore. However, in that 2003/04 season they lost six matches and won just the one trophy. In 1998/99, Manchester United lost one fewer match and won a Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League treble.


Jules Rimet trophy

After Italy won the World Cup in 1938, the Jules Rimet trophy spent the Second World War in hidden in a shoebox under the bed of Ottorino Baressi, who was the Italian vice-president of FIFA and president of the Italian Football Federation. He removed it from a bank in Rome for fear of it falling into the hands of the Nazis.


At the time of writing, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy are the highest scoring active players in the Premier League, with 316 between them. In the famous 2013 Championship play-off semi-final between Watford and Leicester, won by Troy Deeney in the 97th minute, they were both on the Foxes' bench.


The Football League match with the smallest ever recorded attendance (469) took place in the biggest stadium to ever host league football. It was Thames AFC vs Luton Town at the West Ham Stadium. It was a speedway and greyhound stadium, nothing to do with West Ham United, and it had a 120,000 capacity. The match, played on December 6, 1930 finished in a 1-0 win for Thames AFC.

In 1969, an eight-year-old Gary Lineker attended the FA Cup final as Leicester lost to Manchester City. Peter Shilton was in goal for Leicester that day. Lineker went on to play with Shilton for England for almost a decade, and still retired from playing three years before him.


In 1987, central defender Alvin Martin helped himself to a hat-trick in a 8-1 trouncing of Newcastle United at Upton Park. If that wasn't unusual enough, all three goals were scored against different goalkeepers and former England forward Peter Beardsley was the keeper for the third one.

Manchester City amassed 100 Premier League points in 2017/18 and such was their dominance, Opta discovered that even had every single shot on target against them resulted in a goal, they would still have won the title.


Brazil have been beating everyone left, right and centre in international football for decades, right? Not everyone. Not Norway. Brazil have never actually managed to beat Norway in four attempts. That includes a game at the 1998 World Cup in which Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Bebeto, Denilson, Rivaldo and Ronaldo all played. Norway won it 2-1.

Nottingham Forest are the only club to have been champions of Europe more times than they have been champions of their own country.


The great grandson of the original Obi-Wan Kenobi is a professional footballer. Nesta Guinness-Walker is a left-back for AFC Wimbledon and Sir Alec Guinness is his great grandfather.


Robert Prosinecki has a unique place in international football as the only player to ever score for two different countries at the World Cup finals. He scored for Yugoslavia against the UAE in 1990 and then, eight years later, scored two as Croatia finished third.


Glasgow club Queen's Park are the only Scottish club to have reached an FA Cup final. They achieved that back-to-back, in 1884 and 1885, and lost to Blackburn Rovers both times. Two years later, the Scottish Football Association banned its members from taking any further part in the FA Cup.


The largest football stadium in the world is likely one that you have not heard of. The Rungrado 1st of May Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, has an official seating capacity of 114,000. The only venue of any kind that can top that is the Narendra Modi Stadium in India, which hosts cricket.


Russian Oleg Salenko won the Golden Boot at the 1994 World Cup with six goals. He is the only player to ever win the award while playing for a team that were eliminated in the group stage. Even more remarkably, they were the only goals he ever scored in international football.

There are 15 whole years between the end of Bobby Moore's international career and the start of Paul Gascoigne's. Peter Shilton played for England with them both.

Brazilian legend Socrates played one match in the Northern Countries East Football League for Garforth Town in 2004. He was 50 years old at the time and their player-manager. Tadcaster Albion were the opposition.

Sunderland are the only English club to have won a major domestic honour under every sitting monarch since professional football was invented. Oddly, the city firmly supported the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War, not the Royalists.


Televised football is now just part of the culture, but it had much more humble beginnings. In fact, the first match to be televised was on September 16, 1936 and it was a specially arranged friendly match between the Arsenal squad.


If you think transfer windows are crazy now, 1998 would have blown your mind. That was when David Unsworth signed for both Aston Villa and Everton in the same summer, with the deals just a month apart. It was also the summer when Coventry signed Robert Jarni from Real Betis. Four days later, they sold him to Real Madrid.


For some reason, it doesn't really feel like Ruud van Nistelrooy and Patrick Kluivert overlapped all that much. In fact, those two prominent strikers not only overlapped in their careers but they were born on the exact same day: July 1, 1976.


Blackburn were bankrolled to a Premier League title by Jack Walker, and he was a man who was never afraid to challenge convention. In fact, he offered a 25-year-old Alan Shearer the player-manager job in a desperate attempt to keep him at the club.

Johnny, Ronnie, John, Ron, Ronnie, Ron, Johnny, Nobby, Ron and Ron. That is a list of all the West Brom's managers between 1975 and 1988. Glorious.


Barcelona legend Xavi is such a serial winner that when he moved to Qatar he even won the lottery.


When Yate Town played Yeovil Town in the FA Cup in 2021, it was the first-ever meeting between two sides beginning with Y in English football.


Former Chelsea forward Gianfranco Zola did not have an international career that befitted his talent, but he is the owner of one brilliant fact: He is the only player to ever be sent off in a World Cup on his birthday. Probably not the kind of card he was hoping for.

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