“Since 2015 the Icelandic club Grótta have played at Vivaldivöllurinn (Vivaldi Stadium), sponsored by a company that took its name from composer Antonio Vivaldi, who died in 1741 … 274 years before Grótta’s ground took his name. Who has been a ground’s namesake the longest since their death?” asks Kari Tunlinius.
“The home of both Club Brügge and Cercle Brügge is named after the revolutionary Jan Breydel (1264-1328/33),” writes Asgeir Hingolfs. “In Syria though, the Khalid ibn al-Walid Stadium, which is home to Al-Karamah and Al-Wathba, is named after a commander in the service of prophet Muhammed who died in 642 AD.
Dominic Meredith offers the Estádio D Afonso Henriques in Guimarães, named after Afonso I, first king of Portugal. The stadium was built in 1965, which was 780 years after its namesake’s death.
Sam Mongon raises a pertinent point of order. “We may need some advice about which people were likely to have actually existed and when but it must be a saint whose name has been adopted for a stadium. St Mary’s, St James’ Park, San Paolo, San Siro, etc. Anyone know a football-loving theologian who could help out?” Well, St Mary is said to have been born in 18BC before giving birth to the legendary Jesus Christ, whose brother Saint James died in either 62 or 69. San Paolo – St Paul the Apostle – died in 64 or 67. San Siro was otherwise known as Syrus, the first bishop of Pavia, a first-century figure said to have been the boy with the five loaves and two small fish who appears in the New Testament’s gospel of St John, who died in the year 100 AD at the age of 94.
However, those saintly figures are positively recent. Vince Lacey points out that North Macedonia recently renamed its largest ground in honour of a popular singer, Toše Proeski, who died in 2007, but from 2009 to 2019 the ground was named after Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. Philip was assassinated by one of his own bodyguards in 336BC, a full 2,345 years before the stadium was named after him.
But David Hopkins has gone yet deeper into history for the Diagoras Stadium in Rhodes, opened in 1932 and named after the boxing champion from the classical Olympics. “Legend (and Wikipedia) has it that Diagoras died of happiness when his sons later won titles and carried him around on their shoulders at the games in 448BC, making him 2,380 years dead when the stadium opened.”
Falling fast and far
“What is the latest point in a season that a team has topped the league and still gone on to be relegated?” asks Andy Brook. “Obviously excluding huge points deductions, relegations for rule breaches, etc.”
“In the old First Division (now the Championship), on 9 December 1995 top-of-the-table Millwall came to Roker Park to face second-placed Sunderland,” writes Richard English. “They headed back to east London in glum mood after a 6-0 spanking from the home team, who went top for the first time that season and went on to win the title. Millwall on the other hand, dropped like a stone, and on the last day of the season fell into the bottom three, so being relegated to the third tier. Millwall’s Ben Thatcher was visibly upset by it in a post-match interview, though whether this was the motivation for his notorious ‘shoulder charge’ on our Nicky Summerbee in 2000 is not certain.”
Could English domestic football in July be a first?
“Has there ever been an English league or FA Cup game played in July?” asks Tai Wai Cheung.
And further to last week’s question longstanding teammates, @sviraman kindly draws our attention to Igor Akinfeev and Sergei Ignashevich, whose appearances together clock in at 565. Plus a few notable others:
“With all the fuss about the half-eaten hamburger thrown at Gary Neville against Liverpool, it reminded me of the pig’s head once aimed at Luis Figo in Camp Nou and the burning scooter lobbed towards the field in the San Siro,” recalled Brian Cowell in 2006. “But what is the strangest item to be lobbed from terrace to pitch?”
“On his return to St James’ Park after being sold to Spurs, Gazza was pelted with Mars bars by the Gallowgate end,” recalled Neil Jackson. “I think he’d professed a liking for them in an interview. During the game, in full ‘daft as a brush’ mode, he picked one up, opened it and took an enormous bite.”
Then there was the time in 2000 when Hull City fans decided to protest against David Lloyd, former tennis player, then GB Davis Cup chief and owner of Boothferry Park. “He had threatened to close the club down and called the people of the city ‘crap’,” explained Richard Gardham, “all because he hadn’t realised the ground he’d bought had a supermarket built on to it with a 99-year lease that scuppered his development plans. To protest, loads of Hull fans interrupted a match by pelting the pitch with tennis balls. Apparently, Mr Lloyd didn’t see the funny side.”
But really there was only one winner: the scooter that Internazionale supporters stole from an Atalanta fan outside San Siro in May 2001, then smuggled into the stadium (past rigorous security checks, clearly), set on fire and tossed from the second tier onto a thankfully empty section of the lower stand. OK, so the scooter didn’t actually make it on to the pitch, but that was the intention.
Can you help?
“To the best of my knowledge, Tameside General Hospital in Ashton-under-Lyne is the only hospital in the world in which World Cup winners for two different countries have been born (England’s Geoff Hurst and Italy’s Simone Perrotta),” mails Andrew Lawler. “Are there any other examples?”
“Hallelujah FC, who were the first professional club in South Korea, won the inaugural K-League in 1983,” writes Kári Tulinius. “Two years later they had ceased to be professional, and continued as an amateur club until 1998, when they were dissolved. Despite the name, they were never resurrected. Has any professional club gone so quickly from being top-flight champions to amateur status? And has any other professional club been permanently dissolved so soon after being champion?”
“Was it really true that the late Luciano Gaucci once tried to fire a manager for bringing his dog to a press conference?” wonders Kevin.
“After he was mentioned last week, I looked up Hans Segers and was interested to see that he had played Premier League football with Wimbledon, Conference football with Woking, then Premier League football again with Tottenham,” notes Ricardo Sentulio. “Can any other player claim to have dipped even lower than the Conference to play a competitive match between spells in a top flight?”
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