20 Amazing Soccer Facts Most American Sports Fans Don’t Know
1. Soccer developed in London’s famed Newgate Prison in the early 1800s. Prisoners who had their hands cut off for crimes of theft came up with a sport that used only the feet. The game spread from there.
2. There are 32 panels on a traditional soccer ball, one for each country in Europe.
3. Known as “soccer” in the United States, the sport is known as “football” elsewhere. But the game’s original name was actually “basket-ball” because the first goals were overturned wicker baskets.
4. A soccer field is called a “pitch” because every regulation field is pitched — or sloped — 5 degrees upwards from one end to the other. The teams switch sides after each half so each team has to play slightly uphill for half the match.
5. Brazilian soccer legend Pelé was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento. He took the nickname Pelé, a Brazilian Portuguese word meaning “six feet,” due to being born with six toes on each foot.
6. The first American professional soccer league, the USSA, played from 1919 to 1921 and paid its players 35-cents for every goal scored.
7. The original World Cup was made of papier-mâché, but it had to be replaced after the heavy rains of the 1950 World Cup.
8. Soccer balls are slightly oval-shaped. But the checkered board pattern creates an illusion of a perfect sphere.
9. The aerosol spray used by many soccer medical staffs is simply an air freshener designed to lessen the player’s intense smell of sweat, dirt and grass so treatment can be more easily provided.
10. Many 3rd World villages cannot afford a soccer ball, so they play soccer with balls made from rags or disposable diapers.
11. Queen Elizabeth II was a natural athlete and, dressed in disguise, was a frequent participant in pickup up soccer matches near Buckingham Palace in her teenage years in the late 1930s and early ’40s.
12. A professional soccer player runs 48 kilometers, or 3.9 miles, in an average soccer game.
13. Until 1908, soccer balls were made from the inflated stomach tissue of executed Irish prisoners.
14. In most countries, a soccer player’s uniform is called a “kit.” The cleats are called “hooves.”
15. In 2002 the XEPL, a soccer league launched by the WWE’s Vince McMahon, played four games in the United Kingdom. The league folded due to lack of attendance and too many injuries from the trap doors placed throughout the field.
16. English soccer star David Beckham is a distant cousin of Texas congressman Louie Gohmert.
17. From 1994 to 1998, the English Premier League had red, yellow and teal cards. Teal cards were used for possible fouls that were to be reviewed by instant replay.
18. The national sport of Canada is soccer.
19. Pelé played one preseason game as a punter with the New Orleans Saints in 1981 before deciding to leave camp. His only punt traveled 54 yards.
20. Soccer was illegal in Mississippi until 1991.
Originally published at www.sportspickle.com on August 14, 2013.