The 7 Wonders of Football

Truth at times is painful, but let’s not avoid it: there’s an awful lot of bo***cks talked about football and this is not just a recent phenomenon. You could possibly trace it back to the first caveman who propelled a dinosaur turd between two mammoth tusks in the first rough approximation of football. The jubilant caveman might have turned round to his mate and uttered one of the unkillable shibboleths that have dogged the game since. “Did you see the way that turd picked up speed off the greasy surface?” he might have grunted.

In today’s world, we should do better, but unfortunately we don’t. Even in the 21st century we cling to half-truths, superstitions and inventions that have become the very fabric of the game. In a bid to stamp out the twaddle once and for all, here’s exploding some myths that stick to football like sherbet to a blanket.

Myth 7 | The wide open spaces provided by Wembley

Before the old place was abandoned, how many times did we hear that players turning out at the English national stadium would end up knackered after running around the ‘wide open spaces of Wembley’? Commentators made the pitch sound like the vast plain of the Serengeti, stretching away as far as the eye could see. Neither was it the biggest pitch in north London nor did it feature in the top 20 biggest playing areas in the country. Thank God, that old chestnut died with the rancid old stadium itself.

The Old Wembley Stadium

Myth 6 | George Best wasted his talent

Best was 29 when he left top-level football, so one can hardly say that his career was sawn off in its prime. He won a European Cup, two league titles, Player of the Year and European Player of the Year in 1968. He played 466 games for Manchester United, and scored 178 goals. On the international stage, it wasn’t his fault that he was Northern Irish. Not bad for a wastrel, actually.

George Best had a reputation as a wayward drinker and womanizer but he did his bit on the football pitch

Myth 5 | The ball gained pace off the greasy surface

Isaac Newton went through a good deal of trouble formulating his Three Laws of Motion, only to have his work thrown in his face by footballing ignorami. Newton pointed out, quite correctly that every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it. The chancers who insist that footballs pinged across rain-sodden pitches fly increasingly quickly should bear two things in mind: first, the ball is expanding energy in the form of friction as it bumps over the ground, and second, what about gravity, for crying out loud?

Myth 4 | It’s harder when you are playing against 10 men

Jose Mourinho was at his cynical worst when he had said that he was making his team Real Madrid practise with 10 players before the El Clásico series in the latter half of the last season. However, neither he nor any other football manager ever chose to start a game a man down, at least there is no recorded instance. Still this is the hackneyed line spewed very often when a team has a man sent-off. If this was for real, you would imagine that if not Mourinho, some superior tactician would have kicked-off minus the 11th man, rather than wait on the whim of a referee to hand his side the advantage of having one player less than the other lot.

Myth 3 | Lionel Messi is not special without Xavi and Iniesta

First, let’s look at pure numbers. Out of the 53 goals that Messi had scored last season, only 7 were assisted by Xavi and Iniesta, and Messi himself had 24 assists. If you combine the last 2 seasons (and this season is no different either) then too Messi has more than two times the number of assists than Xavi and Iniesta combined. Then he scores an awful lot of solo goals. Although goals and assists aren’t everything in football, Messi makes a frightening number of passes during a game and breaks the opposition defense with his tireless runs. The Barcelona football team virtually revolves around Messi.

Messi, yet again, was the difference between the two sides in this year’s Spanish Super Cup Final

Myth 2 | There are no easy games in international football

Try telling that to Australia, 31-0 conquerors of American Samoa national football team in the 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifying. Just two days before that, the Australian team had defeated Tonga 22-0. Those must have been fairly easy. In Europe, the only time you’d fear Liechtenstein is if someone asked you to spell it. Throw in the likes of Andorra, San Marino, Luxembourg, Faroe Islands and Malta, and you can see that there are plenty of simple games in international football. To say otherwise is providing lame managers with mealy-mouthed excuses.

Myth 1 | Pele scored over a thousand goals during his career

Of course, he did. When you factor in the goals he scored playing headers and volleys as a lad in the back streets of Sao Paulo, for his school teams, for the Cubs, in training with Santos and, most ludicrously of all, for New York Cosmos in the NASI. His final career tally is listed at 1282. True, he netted 77 in 92 games for Brazil, and hit over 200 for Santos in competitive games. However, should goals scored in non-competitive domestic games indeed be counted? I leave the readers to draw their own conclusions.


Indranath Mukherjee loves football and hates myths. He can be followed on twitter @indranath