Football Facts
Football Facts

63 Sensational Facts about Soccer

James Israelsen
By James Israelsen, Associate Writer
Published March 4, 2018
  • Soccer is the only major world sport in which you can't use your hands to manipulate the ball or object of play.[4]
  • The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the self-declared governing body on all things pertaining to international soccer.[7]
  • The FIFA World Cup is the most-watched sporting event in the world.[7]
  • Soccer is known as "football" everywhere except in the United States. An English name, it does not actually refer to the fact that you play with your feet, but that it is a game played on one's feet, rather than on horseback.[4]
  • The first World Cup was held in 1930 in Uraguay; 13 teams competed and Uruguay won.[7]
  • The earliest game resembling soccer was invented by Chinese Emperor Huang-Ti in 1697 BC. Players kicked a leather ball stuffed with cork and hair.[4]
  • Ancient Chinese Soccer
    Every great idea starts somewhere

  • Certain Britons, ancient inhabitants of England, played a game resembling soccer in which the players kicked around the head of a sacrificed animal.[4]
  • A British soccer legend holds that a footballer once leapt into a canoe to chase a ball that had been kicked off the soccer pitch and into a nearby river. By the time he got back to the game, the teams had found another ball, and his team had lost.[4]
  • In the seventh century BC, the North African Berbers played a soccer-like game as a fertility rite.[4]
  • The correct name for the area of play in soccer is not "field" but "pitch."[5]
  • Soccer is the most lucrative sport in the world. The soccer industry produces more money than any other sport.[9]
  • The Britons, pre-Roman inhabitants of the English Isle, played a soccer-like game that had religious significance. The ball represented the sun.[4]
  • Brazilian soccer player Edson Arantes Do Nascimento, more commonly known as Pelé, is widely considered to be the best footballer of all time.[7]
  • Soccer Facts Pelé
    Pelé was an international phenomenon, raising global awareness of soccer to new levels (Christopher Furlong / Getty Images)
  • Brazilian soccer superstar Pelé was discovered by scouts at age 11 and began playing professionally at age 16. He played in his first World Cup (1958) at age 17, scoring a phenomenal six goals and helping Brazil secure its first World Cup victory.[7]
  • After his performance in the 1958 World Cup, several European teams offered Pelé huge contracts to play for them. In order to stop this, the Brazilian government declared Pelé to be an official national treasure.[7]
  • In 1960, a massive earthquake decimated Chile two years before they were to host the World Cup. FIFA planned to relocate the cup, but the Chilean president demanded that the cup be in Chile, as his country had lost everything else.[7]
  • Famous Brazilian footballer Manoel Francisco dos Santos (nicknamed Garrincha, or "the little bird") was born with several birth defects, including a deformed spine and a shorter right leg. Despite these challenges, he rose to stardom, scoring five goals for his native Brazil across three World Cups.[7]
  • A professional soccer player scoring an average of one goal per game is basically the equivalent of a baseball player hitting a home run in every game.[7]
  • During his entire career, Brazilian superstar Pelé scored 1,280 goals in 1,360 games, putting him at the second best record of all time, second only to Arthur Friedenreich.[7]
  • After the 1970 World Cup, which Brazil won, the London Sunday Times ran a headline that read: "How Do You Spell Pelé? G-O-D."[7]
  • Woman playing soccer
    Women have played soccer in relative secret since the late 1800s, but the sport has only been fully opened to them in the last three decades
  • FIFA started the World Cup in 1930. In 1991, the organization created the Women's World Cup.[7]
  • Argentine footballer Diego Maradona used his hand to score a goal in the 1982 World Cup. When referees discovered this through checking videotape, Maradona claimed it was "the hand of God" that scored the goal.[7]
  • In the Middle Ages, Londoners played an early and very violent form of soccer every Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.[4]
  • English Puritans in the 1600s opposed soccer, claiming it was a sinful game.[4]
  • When the United States bid to hold the 1994 World Cup, Brazilian soccer representative Guimarães Octavio Pinto commented that holding the World Cup in the United States was like holding the World Series in Brazil.[7]
  • Only 20 players have ever scored at least one goal each in three different World Cups. (Id est: of the hundreds of players to play in three different World Cups, only 20 of them have ever actually scored once or more in all three of them.)[7]
  • Soccer fans take the game seriously. A French fan once shot a rival fan twice, once for each goal the opposing team had scored on his team.[4]
  • A 2007 FIFA survey found that approximately 265 million people, or 4% of the world's population, played soccer in a regular, organized form, making it the most popular sport on Earth.[6]
  • Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I’m very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.

    - Bill Shankly

  • French-Algerian footballer Zinedine Zidane is most remembered for using his head. He scored two "header" goals in the 1998 World Cup to win the Cup. In 2006, he scored another header and was then red-carded for infamously headbutting Italian defender Marco Materazzi.[7]
  • Claudio Riberio is Brazil's #1 professional-soccer fan. He has attended every World Cup since 1978.[5]
  • The most famous soccer field in Tokyo is the Adidas Football Park. The regulation field is located 130 feet above the ground on the top of Tokyu Toyoko Department Store.[5]
  • Many teams utilize "striker partnerships" where offensive players work as a duo, watching each others' movements and setting up plays.[5]
  • Modern Soccer British
    Modern soccer began with the British
  • In England, soccer matches did not have referees until 1881. Before that they simply relied on good sportsmanship.[5]
  • Singapore's national football stadium is a giant floating field anchored in Marina Bay.[5]
  • Consetto LoBello, an Italian soccer referee from the mid-20th century, is one of the sport's most iconic and remembered referees. Wearing immaculate clothes and sporting a waxed mustache, he would often accidentally knock players to the ground while making forceful calls.[5]
  • In 2007, FIFA first tested technology to track the movement of the ball relative to the goal, to determine if a goal was actually scored. A microchip in the ball and sensors in the goal make it possible.[5]
  • A 2000 internet poll voted Argentine Diego Maradona "the player of the century." FIFA disagreed strongly enough that they appointed a special committee to render judgment. The committee selected Pelé.[7]
  • Eighty percent of injuries that occur in soccer matches are severe enough that players need to miss subsequent games.[5]
  • Soccer players are famous for over-exaggerating injuries, or "flopping." One famous instance occurred in the 2002 World Cup, when Hakkan Unsal kicked the ball into the legs of Rivaldo Vítor Borba Ferreira. Rivaldo grabbed his face and fell to the ground; he was subsequently fined $7,000 for play acting.[5]
  • Brazilians refer to soccer as the “jogo bonito” or “beautiful game.”[7]
  • Brazil Soccer Facts
    Brazilians have a unique love for soccer

  • Attending the World Cup isn't cheap. Tickets for the 2018 World Cup can run as much as $1,100 US.[3]
  • The modern version of soccer was developed by the British, who established the rules for the game in 1863.[7]
  • A medical survey found that professional soccer players sustained approximately 1.5 injuries per player per year.[5]
  • Part of soccer’s worldwide popularity can be attributed to colonialism; the British took the game with them in their exploration and colonization of the world.[7]
  • Games similar to soccer were played in ancient China, Greece, and Rome.[7]
  • The Romans introduced an early form of soccer to England in 43 AD. In these early games, punching and biting were allowed on the field, creating such an atmosphere of disruption that many attempted to have the game banned.[7]
  • Soccer World Cup
    While the World Cup is an international sporting event, it has generally been held on only two continents
  • The World Cup has only been held outside South America or Europe three times in its 90-year history: once in the United States, once in South Africa, and once in Japan and South Korea, in a unique co-hosting.[7]
  • In the 1800s, British sports teams attempted to create a set of unified rules for the game of soccer. Some teams wanted to continue to allow tackles and to use their hands to handle the ball; these teams split off and created the sport of rugby.[7]
  • Colombian soccer player Andres Escobar accidentally scored an "own-goal," or a goal against his own team, in a match against the United States in the 1994 World Cup. Ten days later, Humberto Munoz Castro, an angry fan and member of the Colombian drug cartel, shot Escobar six times in a disco parking lot.[1]
  • Soccer was introduced to the United States in the 17th century by English colonists. Soon thereafter, however, Harvard adopted the rugby rules for their soccer teams. Other sports teams quickly followed suit, which is one reason why soccer doesn’t have a large presence in the United States.[7]
  • During WWI, Britain’s four national soccer associations (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) pulled out of FIFA, after FIFA ignored their demands that Germany and its war-time allies be kicked out of the organization.[7]
  • Only seven countries have ever won the World Cup in its whole history: Uruguay, Italy, Brazil, Germany, Argentina, England, and Spain.[7]
  • World Cup Soccer
    The World Cup has always been about pitting the best in the world against each other
  • One of the main reasons FIFA created the World Cup was that the Olympics did not allow professional soccer players to compete, meaning that the most talented players would not be able to participate.[7]
  • The FIFA World Cup has been held every four years since 1930, except for a 12-year hiatus during and after World War II.[7]
  • The largest soccer stadium in the world is located in Pyongyang, North Korea. The stadium can seat 150,000 visitors, but is also infamous as a site for the mass execution of military generals suspected of being enemies of the state.[8]
  • Across the globe, 1.1 billion people watched the 2006 World Cup final between Italy and France. This was one-sixth of the total world population at the time.[7]
  • British sportsmen formed the Football Association in 1863 and adopted the modern rules of soccer.[7]
  • Because of the decision to host the first World Cup in Uruguay instead of in Europe, many European countries, including Holland, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, opted not to play. Only four European countries made the trip to South America for the competition: France, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Belgium.[7]
  • The second World Cup was hosted in Italy. Because Italy had refused to attend the World Cup hosted by Uruguay, Uruguay chose to snub Italy, making the second cup the only time a champion team was not present to defend their title.[7]
  • Brazil has hosted the World Cup twice, but did not win either time. They are the only country to have attended every single cup, and they have won more times than any other country.[7]
  • One reason soccer is so popular is that it is very easy to play. Unlike sports such as American football or basketball, all you really need is a ball and an open field.[6][5]
  • Forbes consistently ranks soccer clubs as the most valuable sports franchises in the world. Real Madrid, Manchester United, and FC Barcelona regularly top the list.[9]
  • The Estádio de Maracanã soccer stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was the largest soccer stadium in the world for many years. However, it's real claim to fame is that its construction involved routing a nearby river through the stadium to create a moat between the seats and the soccer field.[2]
  • Fantastic Soccer Facts INFOGRAPHIC
    Soccer Infographic Thumbnail

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