Chewsday-August 19th

One thing that always makes for a good fact is weird stories surrounding those in the public eye. This week, I went digging to find out which celebrities/stars have made a weird name for themselves. The following two are only some of my results.

It’s hardly surprising that footballers make it on the list as people who leave us pondering just what on earth were they thinking. In today’s world, with finances just as crucial as three points on a Saturday, contract signings can become a source of amusement.When footballer Stefan Schwarz signed for Sunderland in a record transfer for the club in 1999, it was explicitly written into his contract that he was forbidden from travelling into space.

Sunderland were worried that Schwarz, a well known space entusiast, would be tempted to accompany one of his advisers, who had tickets for one of the planned upcoming commercial tourist flights into space that were then scheduled for 2002. In the end, by the time Schwarz ended his playing career with Sunderland in 2003, only two paying tourists had actually flown in space, and regular tourist flights into space are yet to become a reality.

Jockey Frank Hayes holds the dubious distinction of being the only jockey to have won a race while dead. In 1923, he suffered a heart attack mid-race while riding at Belmont Park in New York. By the time the horse, Sweet Kiss (a 20 to 1 long shot) crossed the line in unexpected triumph, Hayes was dead – although he managed to stay in the saddle. Hayes’ death was not discovered until Miss Frayling and race officials came to congratulate him shortly after the race. It was theorised that the fatal heart attack was probably brought on by Hayes’ extreme efforts to meet the weight requirements, possibly followed by the excitement of riding to the front of the pack. After the discovery of Hayes’ death, all further post-race regulations were waived by the Jockey Club, the result being declared official without the customary formality of weighing in. Hayes, dressed in his colorful racing silks, was buried three days later.

Chewsday-July 1st

This week it’s the Round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup. In order to do it justice, we’ll give both our facts to the infamous stage where champions emerge and supposed favourites are crushed by the outsiders.

Since the World Cup began in 1930, the competition has seen controversial matches of all shapes and sizes. Back in 1966, Pele was on the losing side of a bloodbath, when a talented Portuguese side, having seen the success the Hungarians (who were a jaded team living in the shadow of a masterful 1950s side) had in dealing with the Brazil No.10, proceeded to violently foul the player for an entire ninety minutes and not even have a player dismissed. Forty years later, things were different when a passionate Zinedine Zidane bowed out of international football on the grandest stage of them all; his end coming in the form of an enigmatic headbutt to the body of Italian defender Marco Materazzi. Fairly shocking. But then what was the most violent match of them all, at least by statistical standards? Enter the Battle of Nuremberg, a round of 16 clash in the 2006 finals, played out surprisingly by the Netherlands and Portugal. Russian referee Valentin Ivanov had his hands full, having to issue a record four red cards and 16 yellow cards, setting a new record for cards shown at any FIFA-administered international tournament.

The match ended 1–0 to Portugal, with Maniche scoring in the 23rd minute. Before the goal, Van Bommell had been booked and in the eighth minute, Dutch defender Boulahrouz was cautioned for a foul which injured Ronaldo and would eventually force the substitution of Portugal’s star winger before half time. Ronaldo left in tears, and proceeded to describe Boulahrouz’s tackle as “clearly an intentional foul to get me injured.”In the meantime, Maniche had been booked for a foul on Van Bommel after 19 minutes.Costinha was sent off just before half time, the culmination of a foul and a handball. After Petit had been cautioned in the 50th minute, Van Bronckhurst and Luis Figo both received yellow cards, with Figo’s coming as a result of a headbutt. Portugal manage Luis Felipe Scolari controversially approved of the foul after Figo had been incited, “Jesus Christ may be able to turn the other cheek but Luís Figo isn’t Jesus Christ. Scolari also escaped punishment.

Boulahrouz was sent off in the 63rd minute with a second caution after fouling Figo, which sparked a melee on the touch line. Portugal’s playmaker Deco roughly fouled Dutch defender Heitinga and was booked; the Netherlands had held onto the ball after Portugal had cleared it into touch to allow a player to receive medical treatment, thus breaking one of football’s unwritten rules. Deco received his second caution and was dismissed in the 78th minute for delaying the restart after a free-kick was awarded. Philip Cocu escaped a caution for wrestling Deco to the ground in his attempt to retrieve the ball. Meanwhile, Van Bronckhurst received his marching orders. Overall, Sepp Blatter quoted on the matter saying “the referee should have gave himself a yellow card”, but later apologised.

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For our second fact, we go back to 1990. It’s the second round, Italy is the scene and two nations hold their breath as it becomes clear only one team is going to emerge. And no, this fact is not about the Ireland-Romania match. While Ireland’s heroics in the second round of Italia 90 are applauded to this day, one of the surprisingly lesser known matches came in the form of a Brazil-Argentina clash. At half time, the game was stuck at 0-0, and although Brazil seemed to be controlling the play, no goal was in sight.Aan Argentinian went down injured around this time. During this interruption Branco – later to play in England with Middlesbrough – drank from a bottle supplied by Argentina’s physio Miguel di Lorenzo.Shortly afterwards, against the run of play, Claudio Caniggia scored the only goal of the game from a Diego Maradona pass, putting Argentina into the quarter-finals.

Suspicion of foul play was first raised two days later by Branco, who said he had felt dizzy and ill after drinking the water. Maradona later admitted on public TV that after he offered the water to the Brazilians, Branco was ‘falling over’ after taking free kicks. The coach Bilardo has also said “I’m not denying it happened”. So although the incident has never been proved, the suspicion remains.

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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