The world cup is well underway now, with most teams fighting out their last group games for pride or progress. Portugal are finding their return to their former colony isn’t as triumphant as when they first came conquering. In fact, Portugal are used to victory in the field. The Portuguese have etched out the tenth largest empire in known world history. This came in 1815, when Portugal controlled over 4 million square miles, or to put it roughly, about one fifteenth of the earth’s land belonged to Portugal. So what empire was the biggest?
It seems the obvious answer to this would be the roman empire, right? I mean,Veni, vidi, vici; I came, I saw, I conquered. The truth is rather shocking. Rome actually only represents the seventeenth greatest empire, much smaller than the Portuguese,but respectable given their methods of transport. The largest was actually that of the British Empire, which at its height in the aftermath of the Great War in 1922 was over 12 million square miles, which is over a fifth of the world’s land. A part of me likes to think we Irish were behind the great collapse, given the year in it (note this part represents no known historical basis, but hey, give us this one). Behind that, the Mongols and the Russians make up spots two and three.
Much of this World Cup is centering as usual around controversial refereeing decisions. Some of the greatest moments in World Cup history have come down to referees, such as allowing the England goal to stand in ’66, or dismissing Zidane after he went headbutting in 2006. Only moments ago, Suarez put his own meaning to “Chewsday”, though I’m sure he only reads my blog from time to time. John Langenus refereed the first world cup final in Uruguay in 1930. Langenus first undertook his refereeing exam only to fail it when he wrongly answered a question posed by examiners. The question asked of him was: “What is the correct procedure if the ball strikes a low-flying plane?”. Langenus did not answer and failed the exam. One of the major talking points under his officiating was an incident involving one of the US medical staff, after Langenus had given a foul against one of the American players; “the team’s medical attendant raced, bellicose, on to the field, to berate Langenus. Having had his say, he flung his box of medicines to the ground, the box burst open, various bottles smashed, including one full of chloroform, and its fumes rose to overpower the American. He was helped from the field.”
Having been selected to watch over the final, which was played between the host nation and the ever-passionate Argentinians, he demanded a quick escape route to his ship after the final occurred, in case any controversy surrounded him. So though we may whinge still over the wrong decisions that have swung the pendulum in some of the most hotly-contested games, we re safe in the knowledge that refereeing has gone to great lengths before for the game, and should do again.