"A mate of mine has recently returned from a holiday in Argentina and claims that Diego Maradona's little brother is more popular over there than El Diego himself because of his excellent career in the Argentinian domestic league," announces Tyler Blake. "How come I've never heard of his brother? Is my mate making things up?"
Yes, Tyler, your mate is a liar and a cad. Or maybe he's just very confused. It's true that one of Diego's little brothers has been enjoying a high profile in Argentina recently, but it is preposterous to suggest he is bigger than El Diego, or even that he was a top player in Argentina, or anywhere else.
In fact, Diego has two brothers who became professional footballers. Hugo, who is eight years Diego's junior, was actually a useful player, though, of course, never came close to the vertiginous heights of his elder brother. He was capped by his country at youth level and began his professional career at Argentina Juniors before, in the wake of his brother's exploits at the 1986 World Cup, he was snapped up by Ascoli. He didn't quite cut it in Italy (but did once play against Diego's Napoli) and was soon sold to Rayo Vallecano, where he spent an unspectacular but respectable two years. He then played for clubs in Austria, Uruguay and Venezuela before moving to Asia and enjoying the most successful period of his career, hitting almost 100 goals in six seasons in Japan before retiring in 1998. Last the Knowledge heard, Hugo was living happily in the United States, running a bakery with his wife.
"It's correct to say Hugo never reached the level of his brother," Hugo told The Palm Beach Post in this 2010 interview. "It's also correct to say Pele is the only man who has. To do what my brother does is impossible … but I'm very grateful to soccer. Otherwise, I wouldn't be where I'm at now. I wouldn't have created a family I now have."
The brother to whom Tyler's knave of a mate is probably referring to, though, is Raúl Maradona, better known as "Lalo". He was not as good as either of his elder brothers but does still have a high profile in Argentina. Lalo came to global attention in the run-up to the 1990 World Cup final, when he was caught by Italian police driving his brother's Ferrari without a licence. When the police turned up at Argentina's training camp to verify Lalo's identity, Diego immediately suspected they were bogus: angrily denouncing "vigilantes" hired by Argentina's rivals to disrupt his country's preparation. Diego launched himself at the lawmen with flailing fists. A mighty brawl ensued.
By then, Lalo's football career was already on the way down. It had begun at the family's beloved Boca Juniors, again in the wake of the 1986 World Cup. It soon became apparent, however, that Lalo had little of his brother's talent: after three competitive appearances as a substitute, he was moved on. He had unsuccessful stints in Japan and Spain before enjoying a spell in Toronto. In 1998, the Peruvian side Deportivo Municipal announced amid great fanfare that they had signed Maradona. Lalo scored in a friendly on his debut but played only one match after that before the club went to the wall. Commenting on Lalo's contribution during his time there, club director Luis Saettone complained that "he added so little that with him the team was basically playing with 10 men."
Lalo's current renown in Argentina, then, has little to do with his own footballing exploits. An appearance in 2005 on the Spanish edition of Celebrity Big Brother brought him to the fore anew, and in recent months he has gained some affection in Argentina by appearing in a TV ad for a fantasy football game in which he lampoons his own attempts to follow in his most famous brother's footsteps. The ad depicts him earnestly goofing at a variety of football exercises; in one scene he supposedly attempts to dribble between cones but instead knocks them over. "That was not easy, I had to do it about 20 times before I managed to knock them all down," Lalo explained in a recent interview.
So the Maradona brothers had varying ranges of ability. Nonetheless, many teams over the years must have dreamed of fielding a team of Maradonas … and one nearly did so. In 1987, Lalo, Hugo and Diego played together for the Spanish second division side Granada, the arrangement being part of the contract that brought Lalo to the club. Their opponents? Malmo FC, managed by none other than Roy Hodgson. Two banks of four was, apparently, no match for three Maradonas and Granada prevailed 3-2, with Lalo opening the scoring following a sublime pass from Diego, who later netted with a trademark free-kick. Alas, after that fun introduction, Granada and Lalo's fortunes plummeted, with the player being released at the end of the season following the club's relegation.
"What with Anton and Rio Ferdinand being in the news recently, and Phil's brother Gary Neville a regular on our screens, I've been wondering how many pairs of brothers have played for England down the years?" writes Howard Jacobs.
The answer, Howard, is 20, not including the Ferdinands, since Anton has not been capped at senior level. The first pair were Herbert and William Rawson in 1875. Only three pairs of brothers have represented England while also playing for the same club: Gary and Phil Neville, of course; Hubert and Francis Heron of Wanderers in 1876; and, in 1899, the Nottingham Forest duo of Frank and Fred Forman.
There is a single instance of three brothers playing for England: Arthur, Ernest and Edward Bambridge were all capped by their country, though not at the same time. Ernest was the eldest and won his solitary cap against Scotland in March 1878. Arthur played three times for England, including once with Edward in 1884 – both brothers scored in an 8-1 victory over Ireland. Edward (or "Charlie" as he was more commonly known, Charles being his second name) was considered the best of the trio, playing for England 18 times and described by the FA's 1972 centenary yearbook as "the greatest outside left of his day, very fast with outstanding ball control. His left-foot shooting was devastating." Hence his nickname of "Charlie Bam".
Most of his club football was played with Swifts and on his England debut as a 20-year-old, he netted twice against Scotland and went on to score for his country in eight consecutive seasons, a feat not matched until 1965, when another famous brother, Bobby Charlton, did likewise. Charlie also captained England to what is still their record victory - 13-0 against Ireland in 1882.
"I am bloody sick of hearing about Rory Delap's long throws," barfs Chris Barnes with uncalled-for virulence. "Can you confirm that other Premier League teams score way more goals from throw-ins than Stoke do, including my team, Blackburn Rovers?"
Well, Chris, it's true that in their valedictory Premier League season your team did score more goals from throw-ins than Stoke did, with both Blackburn and Bolton leading the table last season with three goals each following flings. Stoke only got two. Bolton also bettered Stoke's return from throw-ins in the 2009-10 season (when they scored six to Stoke's five) but otherwise, Stoke have been the kings in this realm, outscoring everyone from throw-ins in the other two of the four seasons since their return to the Premier League.
Mind you, Stoke's dependence on throw-ins has reduced significantly, which is just as well because their effectiveness has also declined: Opta statistics show that in their first season back in the top flight (2008-09), Stoke flung in 377 long throws and plundered nine goals from them, making for a goal-per-long-throw strike rate of 37. Buoyed by that return, Stoke hurled in almost double that amount of long throws the following season (608) but opponents had rumbled them and the ploy only yielded five goals, giving a strike rate of 122. Over the following two seasons the strike rate went out to 142 and then, last season, to 261 (two goals from 522 long throws). This decline, however, has been more than offset by improvements in corners and free-kick efficiency, which is why Stoke last season scored 58.3% of their goals from set-pieces, the highest rate since their promotion (and the highest in the Premier League last season).
"Why do Italy play in blue when their flag is red, white and green?" asked Jon Davis back in July 2000, eliciting the following explanation.
The Italian national team wear blue because it is the colour of Savoia, the ruling house of Italy from 1861 to 1946. Until the end of the second world war, the Italian flag always had the Savoy coat of arms in the centre, and it was only after the family were overthrown, and the Italian Republic established in 1946, that the plain tricolour was adopted as the national flag.
CAN YOU HELP?
"What is the biggest winning margin in a league ever?" wonders Dino Lykay.
"Who is the slowest ever outfielder player in England's top-flight?" asks Brian Shelley, who is presumably after some sort of proof rather than the inevitable salvo of emails of conjecture.
"There is no reason why someone who uses a wheelchair cannot be a top coach or manager so, excluding the Paralympics and so on, can you tell me who has been the most succesful wheel-chair-using gaffer in the professional game?" asks Melanie Thomas.
انسخ الكود التالى و ضعه فى موقعك او مدونتك.