Chewsday-June 24th

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. 

British-Empire

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.

250px-John_Langenus_The_football_arbitrator_a_judging_first_final_of_the_World_championships_1930_year

 

Chewsday-June 17th

One year today since the blog went live!This week it’s another two rather obscure facts; one on ship disasters and a second on World Cup football, which now features two weeks in a row in the spirit of the games.

The most popularised ship disaster of all time is that of the RMS Titanic; the supposed unsinkable ship, which went down in 1912 after striking an iceberg on its maiden voyage. The rest, rather like a cliché, is history. With a death toll of over fifteen hundred, and with the majority of its male and lower class passengers (or if very unlucky-both male and lower class) going down with the ship (a cliché again I’m afraid), the story of the Titanic has won its place in history rightfully. The Titanic sunk during peacetime, with it’s massive hull striking the Atlantic floor some time before Europe imploded into war. But in war, even civilian ships become targets. Such was the case with the Lusitania, a ship sunk by German naval power leaving nearly 1200 people dead. And so comes our first fact: what exactly is the worst wartime maritime disaster?

One of the least known multi-ship disasters is that of the English armada (yes, not the Spanish). Coming some time after the Spanish calamity, the renowned Sir Francis Drake helped lead the English into a 15,000 man blood bath. Course we never hear that story, do we? What is regarded as possibly the worst single ship disaster in history is that of the Wilhelm Gustloff. This German evacuation ship (carrying some Nazi officials and troops, but majorly acting as a civilian transport) sailed into the Baltic Sea and met its end by three torpedo shots. Coming at the start of 1945 when the war was all but lost for Hitler, over nine thousand people are estimated to have been killed during the sinking, some seven or eight times the amount that were lost during the Lusitania attack.

Lazarettschiff  "Wilhelm Gustloff" in Danzig

On a brighter and more relevant note, we look at another World Cup fact. Giuseppe Meazza is widely regarded by football experts to be one of the greatest players in World Cup history. Playing for Italy in the 1930s, his goals helped lead Italy to two trophies in 1934 (in which he won the golden boot) and 1938. He scored 33 times for Italy. One of the most memorable (but least known) World Cup goals came in the 1938 semi-finals, where Italy played host to Brazil. Italy were awarded a penalty after Silvio Piola, the team’s new center forward, was chopped down in the box by “the Divine Master”, Domingos da Guia. The Brazilian goalkeeper Walter, who was famous for hypnotizing his opponents and for saving penalties back in Brazil, arrogantly claimed he was certain he would save the shot. Meazza confidently stepped up, but having been the target of Brazilian tackles throughout the match, saw his shorts fall down during his run up due to the elastic having suffered damage. Still with his eyes fixed on goal, the prolific scorer held up his shorts by one hand and continued his run to place the ball into the net, with the Brazilian keeper still busy laughing at the situation in front of him.The goal stood, and Italy went on to win the 1938 World cup, much to Meazza’s relief of course, who was left a telegram by Mussolini reading “Win or die!” before the tournament.

Giuseppe_Meazza_(Derby_d'Italia)

Chewsday-June 10th

What better day than Tuesday to have two facts to chew on for a week or so? None! That’s why starting this week I’m gonna give ye two facts to sit back and think about. Not bad for a Tuesday.

1. The scale of the Rwandan genocide.

Not an optimistic one to start on, but it comes in to my head from time to time. Of course, most of western culture would be somewhat familiar with the film ‘Hotel Rwanda’, a true story of Tutsis saved during the Rwandan genocide. Although the movie does touch on the massacre elsewhere, the overall result if looked at is terrifying. At 8:30 p.m. on April 6, 1994, President Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda was returning from a summit in Tanzania when a surface-to-air missile shot his plane out of the sky over Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali. All on board were killed in the crash. Although it has never been determined who was truly responsible for the assassination, Hutu extremists profited the most from Habyarimana’s death. Within 24 hours after the crash, Hutu extremists had taken over the government, blamed the Tutsis for the assassination, and begun the slaughter.

In short, over a hundred day period roughly 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus (who sympathized/helped the Tutsis) were slaughtered. This does not even begin to take into account the countless rapes and other war crimes that occurred. So we reach our fact : using simple maths we can take from these figures that nearly 6 Tutsis were killed every minute…consistently…for one hundred days. This dwarfs the killing rate of the Black Death easily and towers even over Hitler at the height of his ‘final solution’. Just a scary thought when we consider this was happening in our lifetime.

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2. Just Fontaine

Given the World Cup is finally about to hit our screens, I thought a good fact about this would be appreciated. One of the ongoing talking points in the build up to Brazil is the inclusion of Miroslav Klose in Germany’s squad. The rather aged striker (36 years) is now setting off to his fourth World Cup, an accomplishment that has seen him net fourteen times and remain only one shy of Brazil’s own Ronaldo as the player with the highest tally of World Cup goals. Of course Gerd Muller, also a German, is tied with Klose on fourteen goals too, and rather impressively he did this in only 13 world cup games (Ronaldo and Klose are 19 a-piece). With a goal/ game average of 1.08 over two games, Muller is king right? Not exactly.

First off Sandor Kocsis has the highest goal/game average having slammed home 11 goals in the ’54 finals, a feat he achieved with the then unbeaten Hungarian national side. But who needs averages when we have more goals? At least that what France’s Just Fontaine would say. He appeared in the 1958 finals (remembered fondly as the games that announced Pele to the world stage) and managed to score THIRTEEN goals in just six matches.

Unfortunately for the french it was to be Pele’s day, as his hat-trick in their semi-final tie saw them pummel the French 5-2. Just Fontaine did net another three impressively in the third place play-off against defending champions West Germany, but then it was curtains. Forced to retire early at twenty-eight due to recurring injuries, his name faded out of history pretty quickly as the Brazil side of the sixties dominated the headlines. Yet to this day, nobody has ever managed to out-do his 1958 legacy. it’s over to Brazil to see will it hold for another four years….

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Come back next week for two more facts to chew on