22 Surprising Facts About the World Cup
We all enjoy our football, and rightfully so. We’ve been playing “gridiron,” as it’s known in other countries, since 1869. If you’ve been fortunate enough to travel abroad, and I hope that you have, you’ve no doubt discovered that “football” in other countries isn’t football at all. Rather, it is what we call soccer, and if you think we’re passionate about our football, you haven’t been to a “football” game abroad! Just like our Super Bowl, the FIFA WorldCup is the crème de la crème of football matches. The 2014 World Cup is being held in Brazil, and the competition begins on Thursday, June 12, with the champion crowned on Sunday, July 13. So what’s so special about the World Cup? Check out these 12 surprising facts:
- The WorldCup Is Bigger Than the Super Bowl: FIFA claims the World Cup is the largest “single-event sporting competition in the world,” and it’s not kidding. Unlike the NFL, which has 32 teams vying for a chance at the Super Bowl, more than 200 national teams compete to win the World Cup.
- Fact #1’s Proof Is In the Viewer Pudding: The Super Bowl might be broadcast throughout the world, but it still hasn’t reached the total viewing audience the 2006 FIFA World Cup final had. More than 715 million football fans screamed at their TVs during 2006’s final game.
- The World Cup Is Much Like the Olympics of Football: Just like how the Olympics used to be scheduled, the FIFA World Cup is only played every four years. It is during the three years in between that the teams compete for one of the 32 places available in the final month-long competition.
- The World Cup Was Not Played During World War II: Since the FIFA World Cup is a national competition, the competition was not held in 1942 or 1946 due to the unrest from World War II. These cancellations have been the only ones in the competition’s 84-year history.
- This Year’s Host Nation Has Won the Most World Cups: Brazil has won the World Cup five times, making it the winningest country in the competition to date. Brazil is also the only team that has successfully won a spot in the competition every four years.
- World Cup Fans Love Hot Dogs and Beer as Much as We Do: During the 2010 World Cup finals, which were held in South Africa, rabid football fans consumed 390,600 hot dogs and washed them down with 198,129 gallons of beer.
- The Players Like Their “Comforts” as Well: Russian goalkeeper Lev Yashin played in a total of three World Cup competitions from 1958 to 1966. When asked what made him such a tough contender, Yashin replied that he liked a cigarette to calm his nerves and a shot of alcohol to tone his muscles.
- Shirts and Shoes Are Required: Some players might pull off their shirts at the end of a game, but in 1950, India qualified for the World Cup and declined to play. Team finances were one reason, but the team also played barefoot and didn’t want to wear the mandatory footwear.
- Losing Your Pants Can Get You to the Final: Speaking of mandatory dress, Italy’s Giuseppe “Peppino” Meazza made World Cup history in 1938 when his penalty kick took Italy to the final. What was so special about that? Meazza’s shorts fell down as he ran to the ball. He pulled them up and kicked the ball anyway, shocking Brazil’s goalie, who failed to block the point.
- World Cup Champions Have Yet to Experience a Trifecta: World Cup victories do not come in threes. No team in final World Cup competition has won the championship three times in a row, and only Brazil and Italy have won it back-to-back.
- Football Great Pele Trumps Fact #10… Somewhat: No single team has won the World Cup three times in a row, but perhaps the most famous footballer of all time, Brazil’s Pele, has three World Cup championships. He is the only player to have won the competition that many times.
- You Can REALLY Plan Ahead for the World Cup: Football fans already know how to plan their vacations in 2018 and 2022. The hosting countries are decided far in advance, and the 2018 World Cup championship will be played in Russia, while the 2022 one will be played in Qatar.
I’m a fan of both versions of football. While I thoroughly enjoy American football and look forward to a Super Bowl party annually, the roar of the crowds and the global impact that the FIFA World Cup championship garners is second to none. While some of my facts were fun and others were serious, all of them are a testimony to the fact that football, soccer to us, is truly one of the biggest sports throughout the world. The global competition and national pride rival that of the Olympics; the rabid fans rival those of NCAA and NFL football. FIFA was correct when it said the World Cup is the biggest single sporting event in the world. Turn it on and find out why. I guarantee that you will become a football fan of a different kind.