Football isn’t just a sport; for its followers it’s a phenomenon which has been around for more than 150 years! In Football – The Firsts, Lasts and Onlys, Paul Donnelley’s digs up trivia from the last century and a half and shocks you with facts you didn’t know about. What better time to test your knowledge of the game than during the Euro ‘16, the second largest event after the Football World Cup!
What is this book about? Well it is a treasure trove of facts that either became the first in Football, the last in the sport or the only instance in the game. There is enough tension and intrigue in this book to match a football encounter because that’s what you’ll get when you will find out that once there was an instance in which a midfielder was murdered by a secret police force; in an ‘only’ case there was a Cabinet Minister who went onto play football for his country whereas it so happened that once a player got a lockjaw from shouting at his colleagues. Interesting, isn’t it?
There is more knockout facts in this book than you can find anywhere else; if you didn’t know that the first international football match in the world was played on a cricket ground in 1873; that shin pads were first used in 1874 by players of Nottingham Forest; the first player to miss a penalty kick in an FA Cup final was Charlie Wallace and the luckless team was Aston Villa, then don’t feel embarrassed. Use that knowledge against your friends and play the information in this book, smartly.
There may be many trivia books about football in the market but the narrative is either too lengthy in them or too boring. Donnelley plays around the trivia he has compiled for this collection intelligently and sometimes there are as many as three facts on one page. There is also a two-page mention of Busby Babes’ last match in 1958, after which most of the team met with an unfortunate plane crash. Once you read this book, you will also get to know that:
• Alfred Lyttleton was the first person to play international football and Test matches (cricket) for England; RE Foster captained England in both the sports
• The first football match under floodlights was played in 1878
• Lincoln became the first club to add a suffix ‘City’ to its name in 1892
• Till 1898-1899, promotion/relegation was decided by Test matches in Football
• Tom Watson was the first Manager to win the league championship with two clubs
• French inside left Lucien Laurent scored the first goal in a World Cup against Mexico
• Spain couldn’t qualify for the mega event in 1954 due to a blind 14-year old boy
• Manchester United and Liverpool were involved in the first betting scandal to tarnish the game – in 1915!
As a sports fan, I was shocked to know that in the first World Cup final in 1930, different sized balls were used as both Uruguay and Argentina wouldn’t agree on using the other team’s ball. In that match, Belgian referee Jean Langenus agreed to officiate if only a boat was ready to whisk him away! One of the players who represented Argentina in the final – Luis Monti – later played for Italy in 1934 edition. Such are the facts that keep anyone interested in football amazed; however, the too-much mention of England irritates some especially if you aren’t a fan of the team. The best time to read the book is during the football season, which is currently in full swing. So grab a chair and enjoy!