The Weird, Weird World Cup

June 19, 2018

Will you be one of the one billion or so people who will sit down and watch a 2018 World Cup match? Maybe you’ll witness yet another bizarre at this, the most popular sporting event in the world.

Stay hydrated

Many players of all different sports have certain in-game rituals to which they must adhere. Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs are an entire chicken before every game, for example. Argentina’s goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea showed off his own peculiar habit to soccer fans at the 1990 World Cup. Just before the opposing team would take a direct penalty kick of Goycochea’s goal, he’d urinate on the field. He apparently had done it once years earlier, and he saved the kick, so the practice became his “lucky charm.” And then, later on, he peed on the field again, but that time it was just because he had to go.

That’s not mud

Gary Lineker was the star of England’s 1990 World Cup team. He personally scored four goals, eking out enough wins and draws to help his team reach the semifinal round. But that’s probably not the thing from the 1990 World Cup for which he’ll be remembered. Prior to his team’s tournament opener against Ireland, Lineker had come down with some kind of stomach bug. He still played, and, well, he inadvertently evacuated his bowels right there on the field. “It was the most horrendous experience of my life,” Lineker said later. “But I tell you, I never found so much space in a game than I did that night after that happened.”

“And don’t come back!”

In the first round or “group” stage of the 1974 World Cup, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) faced two juggernauts of soccer: Yugoslavia and Brazil. They got absolutely destroyed in their game against Yugoslavia, losing 9 to 0, one of the biggest blowouts in tournament history. It was so embarrassing that Zaire’s president, Mobutu Sese Seko, gave the players an ultimatum: Lose to Brazil by 4-0 or worse, and they couldn’t come home. (The president sent his guards, who cornered the team in a hotel room with the news.) With five minutes left to go in their match against Brazil, Zaire’s players were down 3 to 0, and rather than risk getting scored on again, they held onto the ball and tried to run out the clock.

Air Bud, soccer edition

The 1962 World Cup was held in Chile, and an uninvited, un-ticketed fan showed up for an England-Brazil game: A stray dog ran out on the field. Striker Jimmy Greaves chased the dog around the field and caught him, only for the dog to relieve himself on the player’s jersey. Greaves had to play the rest of the match smelling of dog urine. (After the game, Brazilian squad member Garrincha reportedly adopted the dog.)