Q & A: The goalmouth of existence

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The Independent Online
Q. Please help settle an argument. My husband insists that Albert Camus played in goal for Algeria. Although I agree that there are several references to football in his writings, I can find no verification that he actually played the game for his country.

A. Although the Algerian-born Albert Camus never represented the national team, he did play club football in Algeria, first with the relatively minor Montpensier team and later (when a student of philosophy at Algiers University) for the University team, RUA (Racing Universitaire d'Algiers), who were league champions in 1933 and 1934.

Later, when living in Paris, Camus claimed that he supported the Racing Club de Paris team, because 'they wear the same jerseys as RUA, blue and white hoops'.

As befits a renowned author, Camus waxed philosophical about the game, writing in France Football magazine in 1957: 'I quickly learnt that the ball never came to you where you expected it. This helped me in life, above all in the metropolis, where people are not always straightforward.'

There was another 'literary' goalkeeper in Vladimir Nabokov who played while at Cambridge University, although, as far as I am aware, neither he nor Camus even made the bench for the memorable Monty Python Philosophers and Thinkers match which included, inter alios, Karl Marx, Aristotle, Socrates (the Athenian rather than the Brazilian), Hegel and Wittgenstein. - Adrian Brodkin, London N2 A. Albert Camus did not play in goal for Algeria. As a 17-year-old in 1930 he did keep goal for a brief period for Racing Universitaire d'Algiers, but a promising career was cut short by the onset of tuberculosis in that same year. Indeed, Racing's first man continued to be plagued by illness and never recovered from his fall from sporting eminence. He remained, in footballing terms at least, an outsider for the rest of his days. - David Hempstead, London W6 Q. When did the last amateur footballer in Great Britain or Ireland play for his country?

A. With reference to the query about the last amateur footballer to win a full cap in Britain or Ireland: In 1946 Michael O'Flanagan (Bohemians) won what was, I believe, his only full cap, and his brother Dr Kevin O'Flanagan, an amateur with Arsenal, won several full caps around this time. Both incidentally were also capped by Ireland at rugby. - C J Pidgeon, Penrhiw Llanrhystud, Dyfed Q. Which Football League or FA Premiership clubs have instituted changes in their first-choice kit and colours since their foundation?

A. Percy Young, in his book 'Bolton Wanderers' tells us that while the present colours of white shirts and blue shorts have been maintained since 1886, previous players had been asked to wear salmon pink, white with red spots and scarlet and white quarters.

Obviously, the fashion gurus of today have taken on the ideas of their Victorian predecessors.

While on this subject, was it a dream or do I remember Coventry City visiting Burnden Park in the early 1980s sporting chocolate brown? What happened to the creator of this masterpiece of tailoring? - D Knowles, Huddersfield Q. Why is the ball and chain thrown by athletes called a hammer? What is the equivalent word used in other languages?

A. According to Ross and Norris McWhirter's Get to Your Marks] (published 1951, four years before their famous 'Guinness' book), 'throwing a sledge hammer was undoubtedly a contest of great antiquity.' The first contest of which precise details survive is one that took place at Oxford on 4 December 1860, won with a distance of 63ft. Although the hammer head weighed a standard 16lb, it could be made of anything.

Legislation introduced in time for the English Championship of 1875 said that the hammer should be made of iron, have a length of 3ft 6in and be thrown from a 7ft circle. The 9ft circle was later introduced, with the metal handle legalised by the Amateur Athletic Association, in 1896. The event was introduced to the Olympic Games at Paris in 1900, and was won by J J Flanigan with a throw of 163ft 1 3/4 in. - Tim Mickleburgh, Grimsby ANSWERS PLEASE Q. Only one golfer playing left-handed has won a Major - Bob Charles at Lytham in 1963. Charles was otherwise essentially right-handed. How many naturally left-handed golfers, playing right-handed, have won Majors? Does the dominant hand affect the mechanics of the golf swing? - Andrew Kitching, Wolvercote Q. During the recent second Test match between Pakistan and Australia, every player but the wicketkeeper Ian Healy bowled at least one over in Pakistan's second innings. Have more than 10 players bowled in a Test innings before? - Patrick J McGrath, Belfast Q. What is the origin of the expression 'tin hat', meaning that your opponent wins at darts before you hit a double to start? - K Eardley, Coventry Q. Have there ever been any Members of Parliament in office at Westminster who have been active in professional sport? - Kevin Maguire, Batley If you know the answers to any of these questions, or have a sporting question of your own you would like answered, write to: Q & A Sports Desk Independent on Sunday 40 City Road London EC88 2HR Fax: 071-956 1894