Did India Withdraw From the 1950 World Cup Because They Were Not Allowed to Play Barefoot?

SOCCER/FOOTBALL LEGEND: India withdrew from the 1950 World Cup because they were not allowed to play barefoot.

India surprised the world with their performance in the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, England. The Indian national football team, with every player playing without footwear (some players played in socks while most played barefoot), lost to France in the first round by the razor thin margin of 2-1 (and actually were tied with France at 1 all 70 minutes into the match) . This match already drew a great deal of attention as the 1948 Summer Olympics was the first time that India was performing in an international tournament as an independent nation (after gaining their independence from Great Britain). However, the fact that the Indian team did all of this in bare feet drew the most attention.

Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) made it clear to India that they would not be allowed to play in the 1950 FIFA World Cup without footwear. Then a curious thing happened. You see, when determining the make-up of the 1950 World Cup, FIFA determined that obviously the two defending finalists, Brazil and Italy, would be guaranteed spots. That left fourteen spots that needed to be filled. FIFA decided that seven of those spots would come from Europe, six would come from the Americas and one would come from Asia. The problem was that of the four Asian teams that were invited to the World Cup, three of them (the Philippines, Indonesia and Burma) withdrew from the tournament before the qualification round. Therefore, India earned an automatic spot within the World Cup. It would be India’s first time appearing in the World Cup (and, indeed, as of 2011 they still have never appeared in the World Cup), but India, too, withdrew from the tournament.

For years, the story has been that India withdrew from the World Cup because FIFA would not allow them to compete barefoot. Is that true? Let us find out!
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Was Pele Paid to Tie His Shoelaces at the 1970 World Cup?

SOCCER/FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: Pele was paid to tie his shoelaces in the 1970 World Cup Final.

Nowadays, the idea of athletes endorsing sneakers is well ingrained in the public consciousness. Seemingly every draft class in the NBA has at least one player sign an endorsement deal with one of the major sneaker companies in the United States. Heck, Al Harrington of the Washington Wizards even had a shoe deal a few years ago when he was on the New York Knicks! However, in the early days of the so-called “sneaker wars” between rival shoe companies Adidas and Puma, athlete endorsements were seen as a much bigger risk. As sneakers became a bigger part of the world of athletics in the years following World War II, which athletes wore Adidas and which wore Puma became a major part of the advertising arm of each of the two companies (which were formed by estranged brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler, respectively. I wrote about the origins of Adidas awhile back here) but as time went by, athletes were beginning to play the two companies against each other and the results were financially damaging. In addition, the companies began to spend too much time trying to one up each other. This was especially evident during the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City where Adidas actually had Puma sneakers confiscated by custom officials! Things had gotten so crazy that in the lead up to the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, the two companies (now run by the sons of the original founders) actually decided to come to a sort of “peace treaty” and to avoid the dealings that had marked their relationship for most of the 1960s. The most notable result of their interactions was the so-called “Pele Pact,” where both companies agreed NOT to sign a deal with Pele, the greatest football player in the world at the time. Their feeling was that they would both end up spending so much money on a bidding war that it would not be worth it in the end.

Led by Pele, Brazil’s 1970 national team was one of the greatest World Cup teams in the history of the tournament. They played Italy in the final match of the tournament. It was one of the most highly anticipated football matches in years. Right before the opening whistle, Pele asked the referee for a moment to tie his sneakers. All eyes were on Pele as he bent over to tie his sneakers….Puma sneakers.

What happened to the “Pele Pact”? Read on to find out…

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Did the Queen of England Give a Golden Whistle to a Linesman Who Made a Controversial Call in Favor of England in a World Cup Final?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the soccer/football urban legends featured so far.

SOCCER/FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: A linesman who made a controversial call on a goal in the World Cup final of England’s only World Cup victory was presented with a golden whistle by the Queen of England.

Tofik Bakhramov is one of the most notable figures in Azerbaijan sports history. Originally a football player himself, injuries led him to a career in refereeing, ultimately becoming one of the most notable referees FIFA had.

His strong reputation led to him being a linesman under head referee Gottfried Dienst in the 1966 World Cup Final between England and West Germany.

Late in the match, with the score tied 2-2, Geoff Hurst of England had a shot on goal that bounced off of the crossbar sharply downwards and then bounced away from the goal back into the field. Dienst did not see the play well and hesitated at first, but when Bakhramov signaled goal, Dienst ultimately agreed.

England would score one more goal for the victory and the World Cup title.

Naturally, English people loved Bakhramov and Germans hated him. As Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union at the time, Bakhramov began known as the “Russian judge.”

In any event, over the years, the story goes that Queen Elizabeth II presented Bakhramov with a golden whistle in honor of “services performed for England.”

Is it true?
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Did British World Cup Fever in 1966 Lead to the Election of a British Prime Minister?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the soccer/football urban legends featured so far.

SOCCER/FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: British World Cup fever in 1966 led to a Prime Minister being elected.

You can see this is a number of places, but specifically I’m citing the British social research group, SIRC (Social Issues Research Centre)…

Sport’s impact goes beyond the day-to-day social environment of the workplace. Famously, Harold Wilson, following England’s win in the 1966 World Cup, claimed his subsequent election victory was in no small part due to the team’s performance and the wave of euphoria and goodwill emanating as a consequence.

I don’t know if Wilson ever CLAIMED that, but it certainly has gone into British lore as happening that way.

Is it true?
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Did Johan Cruyff Really Sit Out the 1978 FIFA World Cup as a Political Protest?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the soccer/football urban legends featured so far.

SOCCER/FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: Johan Cruyff sat out the 1978 FIFA World Cup as a political protest.

There is a long history of countries using international athletic competitions as political tools. Just during a four year stretch during the 1930s, you had Japan trying to send a delegation from their puppet nation, Manchukuo, to solidify that country’s status as a “real” country in the 1932 Olympics, then Benito Mussolini using the 1934 FIFA World Cup to show Italian superiority and Adolf Hitler using the 1936 Olympics to do the same for Germany.

More recently, the United States and the Soviet Union used the 1980 and 1984 Olympics, respectively, to make political points through boycotts.

So when Argentina was named as the site for the 1978 FIFA World Cup tournament, it was a major political coup for the new military leadership of the country, who had taken over Argentina in a Coup d’état in 1976. Jorge Rafael Videla was the nominal president of a military junta (or council) that ran the country and made several human rights violations between 1976 and 1983.

In 1978, while people likely did not know the extent of the problems in Argentina (thousands of dissenters went “missing” in those years), they did know that there were some serious human rights problems going on. So a number of countries made noise when Argentina was named as the host country of the World Cup. However much bluster there was, no country ended up actually boycotting the event, not even Netherlands, which was one of the more vocal countries about the Argentine leadership.

There WAS one notable absence, though – Netherlands’ star player, Johann Cruyff, perhaps the best European football player of the 1970s, and the leader of the Netherlands team.

Cruyff helped lead Netherlands to the finals of the 1974 FIFA World Cup (where they lost to host West Germany) and was thought by many to have been the best player in that particular tournament, even though his team ultimately did not win it all. Cruyff retired from international play in October of 1977 at the age of 31. The presumption for decades was that Cruyff was protesting the military dictatorship and human rights abuses in Argentina – we now know that this almost certainly not the case.
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Did 40,000 Prostitutes Enter South Africa and Germany for the Last Two World Cups?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the soccer/football urban legends featured so far.

SOCCER/FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: 40,000 prostitutes enter the country hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2006 and 2010.

The World Cup this year is unique in that it is the first time in years that we haven’t seen a pile of stories about how there are tens of thousands of prostitutes coming into Brazil for the World Cup. That, though, is only because of Brazil’s laws about prostitution – in other words, no one would believe that you’d need to have 40,000 prostitutes come into Brazil because of the high amount of prostitutes already there. However, there ARE numerous articles about how prostitutes ARE coming to Brazil and in all of them, they cite the “fact” that 40,000 prostitutes came into South Africa for the World Cup in 2010.

Is that true?
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Did a Dog Seriously Discover the Stolen World Cup Trophy Before the 1966 World Cup?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the soccer/football urban legends featured so far.

SOCCER/FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: A dog discovered the stolen World Cup trophy soon before the 1966 World Cup began.

In 1966, the World Cup was held in England.

The festivities almost hit a major snag before the games ever began – the Jules Rimet Trophy (the trophy awarded to the winning World Cup team ever since 1930) was STOLEN!
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Did Benito Mussolini Threaten the Italian National Team With Death if They Lost the 1938 World Cup?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the soccer/football urban legends featured so far.

SOCCER/FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: The Italian national team was threatened by death by Benito Mussolini if they lost the 1938 World Cup.

In one of the most famous quotes in World Cup history, after the Italians defeated Hungary 4-2 to capture their second straight World Cup in 1938, Hungarian goaltender Antal Szabó said, “I may have let in four goals, but at least I saved their lives.”

This is based on a telegram sent to the team by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini…

that read “Vincere o morire!” which, translated literally into English reads “Win or die!”

Now it is possible that Szabó honestly believed that “Win or die!” meant that the Italians had to win or Mussolini would order them killed, but that’s not the truth of the matter.
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Was Anfernee Hardaway Named Anfernee By Mistake?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about basketball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the basketball urban legends featured so far.

BASKETBALL URBAN LEGEND: Anfernee Hardaway was named “Anfernee” by mistake.

Drafted third overall in the 1993 NBA Draft, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway came over to the Orlando Magic in a blockbuster draft day trade where the Magic traded the #1 overall pick, Chris Webber, to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for the Warriors’ first round pick (Hardaway) and three future first round picks. Teaming up with 1992-93 Rookie of the Year, center Shaquille O’Neal, Hardaway helped to make the Orlando Magic one of the most promising young teams in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

In 1995, Hardaway made the first of four straight All-Star Game appearances. In addition, in 1995 and 1996, Hardaway was named first team All-NBA. He was named to the third team, All-NBA in 1997, the first season he played without Shaquille O’Neal (who had left the Magic as a free agent to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers). Hardaway’s career was forever altered in the 1997-98 NBA season when he suffered an awful knee injury. After recovering from the knee injury, Hardaway played well in the 1999 strike-shortened season and then forced the Magic to trade him to the Phoenix Suns, where he would play in the backcourt with Jason Kidd. However, in the 2000-01 season Hardaway suffered a second knee injury that effectively robbed him of most of the skills that had made him an All-Star level player. He played another six seasons in the league, but he was essentially a bench player for most of them (barely even that towards the end of his career).

Besides his stellar play early in his career and a series of popular Nike commercials (with comedian Chris Rock voicing a puppet called “Lil’ Penny”), Hardaway is perhaps best known for his unusual first name. The origins of the name have become clouded over the years and today it appears that the general consensus is that his name was the result of a mistake on the part of his mother.

Is that true?
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Did Ricky Davis Really Shoot on His Own Basket to Try to Get a Rebound for a Triple-Double?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about basketball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the basketball urban legends featured so far.

BASKETBALL URBAN LEGEND: An NBA player tried to get a triple double though a somewhat…odd fashion.

On March 16, 2003, the Cleveland Cavaliers were hosting the Utah Jazz. The Cavs were in the midst of a pretty terrible season (which paid off in the long run as they had the best odds at getting the #1 pick in the 2004 NBA Lottery, and once they did get the pick, they took Lebron James who did pretty well for them, I’d say) but in this game they were creaming the Jazz, up about thirty points with only a few seconds left.

Cavs player Ricky Davis was having the game of his career, 26 points, 13 assists and 9 rebounds. Davis, though, wanted the “triple double,” which is what you call it when a basketball player reaches double figures in three statistical categories.

HOW he tried to get that triple-double was quite a shock.
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