Sunday, February 25

Footballers named after politicians, from Tony Blair to Mahatma Gandhi | Soccer

“The Costa Rican player Yeltsin Tejeda is named after the former Russian president. Are there any other footballers named after politicians?” asks Peter Strang. “Perhaps Tony Blair or a Ronald Reagan plying their trade in Series B…”

“Please can I be one of the no doubt thousands of people to point out that Cristiano Ronaldo was named after Ronald Reagan and has done a bit better for himself than playing in Serie B?” writes Chris Matterface. Indeed, Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro was named in part after the 40th US president. “My parents named me after him because they both liked this name and thought it sounded strong – my father admired him,” Ronaldo told GQ in 2016 (hat-tip to Sean McHugh).

“Here are two pairs of players named after Lenin and Stalin,” offers Kári Tulinius. “Lenin Steenkamp played his entire career in the USA, while Lenin Porozo has spent most of his career at El Nacional in his native Ecuador. Then there’s Stalin Rivas, capped 34 times by Venezuela, and Stalin Motta, who has played more than 400 games for La Equidad in Colombia.”

“There isn’t a Tony Blair in Serie B, but there is a midfielder in Kosovo called Bler Thaçi, who is named after the former UK prime minister,” notes Dara O’Reilly, who also offers former Brazil Under-20 player Marx Lenin (“a twofer”), Liberian international Chris Roosevelt Jones and a Lazio youth player named after his great-grandfather: Roman Benedict Floriano Mussolini.

South America is something of a goldmine for political names. Tom Aldous suggests three Brazilians: futsal star Franklin Roosevelt Bueresmidfielder Mahatma Gandhi and Chelsea’s Kennedy – named after Robert F Kennedy. William nominates teenage Fluminense forward John Kennedy, while Lewis Dalgarno suggests the Peruvian winger Jefferson Farfan – “after Thomas, not Airplane”.

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Tim Dockery sat in a laundry list of presidential names, including former Galatasaray midfielder Lincolnformer Flamengo forward Nixona fair few washingtons (including long-time Uruguay coach Oscar Washington Tabarez). There’s also goalkeeper Jefferson,World Cup winner Wilson Plazaa jackson from MLS and a Harrison from the J-League.

Anyone we’ve overlooked? Email or tweet us – or take a look at clubs named after political figures, from our archive.

On the up and up

“If Luton Town finish higher than 12th in the Championship, which looks increasingly likely, it will be the seventh consecutive year they have improved their league position. Would that be a record?” wonders Bogdan Kotarlic.

First, a correction from John Curry: “Luton finished 11th in League Two in 2015-16 after coming eighth the year before – so they are chasing a sixth straight season of improvement. Local rivals Watford can beat that – they improved their league position for eight consecutive seasons between 1975-76 and 1982-83.” The Hornets climbed from eighth in Division Four to second in Division One in that time.

Chris Roe chimes in: “This will not be a record, not even for Luton Town. Their best record stands at nine straight seasons, starting in 1978. Only Gillingham (from 1994) and Oldham (from 1969) have equaled this.” Another set of Hatters, this time at Stockport County are comingmind.

Ian Ditchfield nominates National League South side Dorking Wanderers. “Their record stands at seven consecutive improvements, from fifth in the Sussex County League Division 3 in 2008-09 to second in the Isthmian League Division 1 South in 2015-16. The run was only broken by two consecutive second-place finishes, although they won the playoffs the second time. If that counts, and we disregard the voided 2021-22 season, the run will reach 12 as long as Wanderers (currently second) finish in the top six this term.” You can read more about Dorking’s remarkable rise here.

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Assisting for England

“Phil Foden got another assist for England against Ivory Coast, his sixth or seventh in 15 caps depending on which source you believe. But who has the most assists for England?” muses Matty Ellis.

“Given that the recording of assists wasn’t really a thing until the advent of Fantasy Football, the records don’t seem to stretch back particularly far,” notes Fred Sullivan. “Transfermarkt offer the following top 10 – no surprises for guessing No 1…”

1) David Beckham (42)
2) Raheem Sterling (25)
3) Steven Gerrard (23)
4) Wayne Rooney (21)
5) Harry Kane (14)
6) Joe Cole (14)
7) Paul Scholes (13)
8) Michael Owen (12)
9) Frank Lampard (12)
10) Emile Heskey (11)

David Beckham celebrates an assist for England against Brazil at Wembley in 2007. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

knowledge file

“As my housemate and I were half watching the Scotland-Northern Ireland game I completely misheard the commentator say that it was some player’s first appearance in 16 years,” wrote Jamie Dodd in 2015. “This turned out to be false following a quick rewind but it got us thinking – which player has the biggest gap between two international matches and how long was it?”

The record for the longest gap between two England caps belongs to the Liverpool legend Ian Callaghan, who won his second cap against France in England’s final group game of the 1966 World Cup but then had to wait 11 years and 49 days for his third, when Ron Greenwood recalled him to face Switzerland in a friendly in 1977.

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But the world record. Wouter IJzermans reckoned it might be the Greek Maradona Vasilis Hatzipanagis. “His first game for Greece was on 6 May 1976 (a 1-0 victory over Poland),” Wouter wrote. “After his first match Fifa prevented him from playing again for the Greece squad because he had played for the Soviet Olympic team back in 1975 [Hatzipanagis had been born in Tashkent to Greek political refugees]. After a long career, he was offered a chance to play another international match when this restriction was lifted in 1999, which means he got his second cap at the ripe old age of 45 on the December 14 1999 in a friendly match against Ghana (1-1), 23 years after making his debut for the Greek national team.”

knowledge file

Can you help?

“In 2019-20, Sheffield Wednesday scored more than twice as many league goals away from home as they did at Hillsborough,” notes Peter Newon. “Their tally of 39 away goals was highest in the Championship that season, while their total of 19 at home was the lowest. A unique ‘achievement’?”

“Where and when was the term ‘shithousery’ first used, and do other languages ​​have a word for it?” asks Brian.

“Hearts have a 16-point cushion above and below them in fourth place, so with five games to go, they already know their final position in the table,” writes Andy Brinkhurst. “What’s the earliest a team already has their final position sewn up, aside from runaway champions or freefalling bottom clubs?”

“Are there any examples of a professional club employing a goalkeeping coach who was an outfield player during their career?” asks Charlie Mentern.

“If Liverpool make it to the final of the FA Cup and Champions League then they will end up playing every game in every competition they entered this season,” explains Niall Carey. “Has any other team managed this feat before?”

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