A World Cup-hater's guide to soccer

An update on soccer news for anyone who has ignored football since the last World Cup.

Richmond, Virginia

Research at the Medical College of , in 1995 showed that soccer players who frequently head the ball risk a deterioration in their mental skills. Players who headed the ball more than 10 times each game scored worse than average on tests of attention, concentration and overall mental functioning. Evidence of harm from less frequent heading was inconclusive.

Shanghai

In July 1995, a 29-year-old supporter of the Jinan Taishan football team committed suicide by flinging himself out of the window of his fourth- floor apartment when his team's opponents, Beijing Guoan, equalised in the semi-final of a Chinese league competition.

Japan

A survey conducted before Fathers' Day in 1995 revealed that 47 of the 2,867 men questioned would like to be soccer players if they could be reborn in any form they chose. The most popular response was a bird (155 respondents), followed by a woman (148) and a baseball player (125).

Brazil

In August 1995, Brazilian players were told that they could still celebrate scoring goals, but not by climbing the fence around the pitch, or by running to the phone box behind the goal and pretending to make telephone calls. Covering their heads with the front of their shirts was deemed permissible.

Devon

When the team from Channings Wood prison, near Newton Abbot, qualified to meet Victoria Rangers in the final of the 1995 Les Bishop Cup, the prison authorities refused to let them out of the jail. All previous rounds had been played at home, but the rules specified a neutral venue for the final. A team of prison officers substituted for them and lost 16-1.

Italy

When Padova beat Genoa on penalties in an Italian league relegation play- off in 1995, three Genoa fans died of heart attacks, two at the stadium and one at home watching the match on television.

South Africa

The start of a first division match in Soweto between Moroka Swallows and QwaQwa Stars in 1995 was delayed when the visiting Stars team accused a Swallows official of splashing magical water on them. The referee delayed the start of the game to allow their shirts to dry.

London

When the rules for Euro 96 were drawn up, bagpipes were included, together with knives, fireworks and gas canisters, on the list of offensive weapons that had to be left at stadium entrances.

Congo

Lightning killed 11 soccer fans during a match in 1996 at Moutambou. They were watching the match during a thunderstorm from the branches of a mango tree. It was the worst single case of lightning deaths ever recorded in Congo.

Peru

As Peru prepared to meet Colombia in a vital World Cup qualifier in 1996, they called on the services of a witch doctor to send their opponents to sleep. The "Shaman of the Andes" Juan Osco set up an altar on the pitch in Lima and led groups of medicine men in rituals that included stabbing, kicking and spitting at miniature effigies of the top Colombian players. When a Colombian midfielder was taken to hospital with appendicitis before the match, however, Osco denied any responsibility.

Lowestoft

The Stanford Arms ended the Lowestoft Sunday League in 1996 with minus two points. They had managed one draw in their 18 games, but had three points deducted when they called a match off because they could not field a full team. "There's always next season," said landlord Brian Cook.

Poole

The players of Poole Town were carried shoulder high by their fans after they drew with Bashley 0-0 in the Beazer Homes southern division in 1996. The result brought to an end a 39-game losing streak. A 40th defeat would have earned Poole a place in the Guinness Book of Records as worst team of all time.

Turkey 1

Two soccer fans committed suicide when Fenerbahce beat Trabzonspor 2- 1 in a crucial league match in 1996. The result pushed Trabzonspor down to second place with two games still remaining.

Turkey 2

Nejdet Yavuzer, 45, a Fenerbahce fan, fell to his death in 1996 as he tried to adjust a television aerial to improve his reception of his team's match against Manchester United in the European Champions' League.

Argentina

In August 1996, a florist was among three men arrested in Buenos Aires for murdering a Brazilian after he had cheered the goals scored by Nigeria that won them the Olympic final against Argentina.

Gillingham

In December 1996, supporters of the second division club Gillingham were warned that they risked being banned for life if they brought celery into the stands. The club's allegedly overweight goalkeeper Jim Stannard had been pelted with the vegetable at recent matches. "Perhaps if they threw lasagne, I might take more notice," he commented.

Britain

A survey of British teenagers conducted in 1996 by the Goethe Institute revealed that the German most of them had heard of was Adolf Hitler, with Jurgen Klinsmann way behind in second place.

Loughborough

In November 1996, Loughborough University were reported to be holding discussions with the Football Association with a view to developing stress management courses for football managers.

Wales

In 1997, researchers in Wales and Hull showed that soccer teams do not improve their results by changing their managers.

Doncaster

In 1997, Kelvin Pratt changed his name to Kelvin Paul Gascoigne. He said he was fed up with being asked: "Are you a Pratt?"

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