Tuesday, March 21

Footballers playing in the highest percentage of their country’s games | Soccer

“I saw a stat that Luka Modric has played in around 42% of all Croatia’s international games. On quick research, I found one player who can beat that (Fatos Beciraj of Montenegro at 67.5% but is there anyone else who has played in an even higher percentage of their nation’s games?” asks Richard Wilson.

Let’s start with a bit of housekee … wait, come back! There are so many different statistical resources on the internet, and a dispiritingly small number of them agree on, for example, how many games Gibraltar have played (belated spoiler alert!). So in the name of consistency we’ve taken the relevant data from RSSSF.comadding this week’s games and cross-checking with the equally comprehensive eu-football.info.

Our first port of call is a principality in the eastern Pyrenees. “Ildefons Lima has played in 70.7% of Andorra’s games (133 of 188) ,” writes James Turley. “He played at Wembley last year, aged 41, and hasn’t retired yet so that figure could yet inch higher.”

Dara O’Reilly has the names of a couple of Kosovans. “Since their accession to Fifa in 2014, Kosovo have played 62 recognized international matches,” writes Dara. “Torino’s Mergim Vojvoda have featured in 45 of them, while another Serie A stopper, Napoli’s Amir Rrahmani, has played 44. That’s 72.9% and 71%, respectively.”

There are a few candidates in the Gibraltar team, as mentioned by David Ekstrand and Ben Blatch-Hanlon among others. Gibraltar have played 66 full internationals, of which Liam Walker has appeared in 59 (or 89.4%), Roy Chipolina 57 (86.4%) and Joseph Chipolina 47 (71.2%).

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Roy Chipolina, left, in action for Gibraltar against the Netherlands last year. Photograph: Socrates Images/Getty Images

Gibraltar’s stats will change over time but Saarland’s are probably set in stone. “Saarland was a French protectorate partitioned from Germany after the second world war,” notes Phil Mollicone. “Before rejoining the Federal Republic of Germany in 1957, Saarland played 19 internationals. Of those, the defender Waldemar Philippi played 18, or 94.7%.” It’s worth mentioning a couple of other Saarland players: Herbert Martin won 17 caps, playing in 89.5% of games, and Gerhard Siedl 16 (or 84.2%).

Philippi’s record is pretty impressive, but we may have found a man who played in 100% of his country’s games. Stuart Fryer points out that the Dutch East Indies – a colony that later became Indonesia – played five official internationals in the 1930s, including one match at the 1938 World Cup. “I haven’t been able to find the team for their final game, a friendly against the Netherlands,” notes Stuart, “but the majority of the squad played in at least three of their five competitive games, and one, Hong Dien, played in at least four of their five games.” According to RSSSF, Hong Dien (or THE Hong Djien as they call him) appeared in that final game, which makes it five out of five.

And if you’re not satisfied with that, there’s a more modern example. Navin Patel points out that the Gibraltar women’s team includes six players who have appeared in all six of their internationals: Kyrelle Revagliatte, Tiffany Viagas, Reighann Mascarenhas-Olivero, Naomi Victor, Joelle Gilbert and Shania Robba.

Neighbors across borders (2)

In last week’s Knowledge we looked at neighboring football clubs in different countries. And there are loads more, so many that we’re going to present them without comment and in no particular order …

Carlisle United in Cumbria are just 19 miles from Annan Athletic in Scottish League Two. Even closer from Carlisle are Gretna, who play in the Scottish Lowland League,” writes Peter Hunt.

Brunton Park, close to Gretna and Annan.
Brunton Park, close to Gretna and Annan. Photograph: Pete Norton/Getty Images

Dundalk F.C. in the League of Ireland Premier Division (ground – Oriel Park) and Warrenpoint Town F.C. (ground – Milltown) in the Northern Ireland Football Premier Division are 35km apart by road but only 16km as the crow flies,” suggests Paul Callan. Also: “It’s only 16 miles between Oriel Park and Newry City‘s ground,” adds Johnny Turner.

Paul has another: “Derry City F.C. (ground: The Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium) and Finn Harps F.C. (ground: Finn Park, Ballybofey, Co. Donegal) both play in the Premier Division of the League of Ireland (although Derry City is in N. Ireland) and are 40km apart by road.”

“The distance between Juarez‘s Benito Juarez Olympic Stadium and El Paso Locomotive‘s Southwest University Park is just 1.5 miles/2.4km,” points out Liam Searle, “though in reality it’d take an hour to walk.”

San Diego Loyal SC (playing in USL, second division in the USA) and Club Tijuana (playing in Liga MX, first division in Mexico),” begins Kevin McAllister. “The distance from Torero Stadium in San Diego to Caliente Stadium in Tijuana is 25 miles.”

Hot Stadium, just over the border.
Hot Stadium, just over the border. Photograph: Francisco Vega/Getty Images

Laredo Heat SC in Texas and New Laredo Braves CF across the Rio Grande river in Mexico,” suggests Eddie Bellion, a retired Fifa referee. “Probably not much more than 10 miles between them.”

Detroit City Football Club and Windsor T.F.C. in Ontario, Canada,” begins Mike Ruddy. “According to Google Maps, the teams’ stadiums are 9.5 miles apart, whether crossing the Detroit River by bridge or tunnel.”

“Don’t forget Gibraltar‘s Victoria stadium, where all club teams in Gibraltar play,” shouts Nick Corea. “It is located less than 1.5km from Estadio Municipal de La Línea de la Concepción, where Spanish third division (sort of, it gets complicated after Segunda; ask Sid Lowe) side Real Balompédica Linense play. They’re probably the closest stadiums in different countries to host international matches, with Gibraltar playing at Victoria and two nations, Spain and Andorra, hosting in La Línea.”

“I’d like to be nominated FC Helsingør and Helsingborgs IF,” nominates William Jansen. “Helsingør are leading the second tier in Denmark and Helsingborgs IF were just promoted to the Swedish top flight. Helsingør is just 5km from Helsingborg. The teams play an annual pre-season friendly known as ‘The Øresund Derby’ (named after the strait between the countries).”

How about KFC Komarno in the Slovak Second Division and Komaromi VSE in the Hungarian Third (West)?” muses Peterjon Cresswell. “They represent Komárno and Komárom, actually one town until a century ago. Now they’re divided by the Danube and a border running down the middle of it. Unfortunately, the Gods of football decree that although the opposing neighbors are only 1.5km apart, the grounds are 19km as KFC play in Hurbanovo just outside Komárno.”

ND Gorica of Slovenia play in Športni Park Nova Gorica in Nova Gorica,” emails Tim Dockery. “Across the border in Italy are AS Pro Gorizia, who play at the Stadio Campagnuzza. According to Google Maps, the distance between the two stadiums as the crow flies is 2.15 km, but on foot it would be 2.8km.”

The partly dismantled fence in Nova Gorica, Slovenia, since 2020, when the border with Italy reopened after a months-long closure aimed at stemming the Covid pandemic.
The partly dismantled fence in Nova Gorica, Slovenia, since 2020, when the border with Italy reopened after a months-long closure aimed at stemming the Covid pandemic. Photograph: Jure Makovec/AFP/Getty Images

Tim has another example from South America. “Monumental Rio Parapití is the fifth largest stadium in Paraguay and hosted a number of games at the 1999 Copa América. It is also the home of Club May 2 of Paraguay’s second tier. Across the avenue in Brazil, is the Estadio Municipal Aral Moreira, home to SE Pontaporanense. The distance between the two stadiums is 2.3km as the crow flies, but 2.5km if you were to walk.”

Nice and Monacogrounds 20km apart across an international border,” writes Charles of the Ligue 1 sides.

Wrexham obviously play in the English system but there are a plethora of Welsh Premier League teams around them,” reports Micky Smith. “The closest is Gresford Athleticwho play in Cymru North (second tier) at a mere 5.7km door to door.”

“Is it worth throwing in? The New Saints (Welsh Premier League and regular participants in European football) and St Martin’s (NWCL Division 1 South for now)?” asks Steve Howard. And it is. “Both share the Park Hall Stadium in Oswestry, England, yet the New Saints are ‘Welsh’ and St Martins play in the English pyramid.” Then of course there’s the one-club case of Chester City …

And finally, an amendment. Nevermind fortune sittard,” writes Wim Joefs (and others). the Roda JC stadium in Kerkrade, the Netherlands, is less than 15km from Germany Aachen.

knowledge file

Can you help?

“Between 1911 and 1927, there was a run of 13 consecutive FA Cup finals in which the runners-up failed to score (14 matches if you include the 1912 replay),” notes John Stephenson. “Are there any examples of longer consecutive runs in other club finals anywhere?”

“Ivo Stas is legendary for scoring an own goal against Aston Villa while playing for Banik Ostrava in 1990. Villa subsequently signed him; he promptly picked up an injury in his first training session and never featured for Villa. Are there any other players who scored for their team without ever playing for them?” asks Stuart Fryer.


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