“Any ideas on the most completed passes ever recorded in a football match?” asks Charlie Welton.
Despite locking all our finest boffins into rooms tasked with watching every football match of the last 120 years to add up every pass, we could not get the answer. Instead we fired up the Stat-Signal and Opta mercifully saved us decades of work to review Europe’s top five leagues since 2006-07.
Where better to start than at a Barcelona game, as ball-hogging has become a pastime for the Catalonians in the past two decades. Their short-passing heroics has brought them many wins, trophies and kudos, peaking at 988 completed passes in May 2011 against Levante. Inexplicably, they were only able to secure a 1-1 draw.
Manchester City collectively tippy-tapped the ball around 942 times in their 5-0 pummelling of Swansea in April 2018. It was not their most successful day of passing, which happened just one month prior when they played Basel off the park in the Champions League in a 2-1 home defeat to the Swiss side, wasting 979 passes in the process. Luckily for City, they had hammered them in the first leg.
The only side to pass the 1,000 mark are Bayern Munich, who made Hertha Berlin very dizzy for 90 minutes in March 2014, in a win that secured the Bundesliga title ridiculously early and one in which Philip Lahm produced his perfect 134 from 134:
These games have something a certain Mr Josep Guardiola in common. No small feat for the Catalan who now has something else to add to his CV, along with a few shiny trinkets.
Guardiola, however, cannot take credit for all the individual performance passing art. At the top of the tree, where no doubt he could still pick out a 50-yard through-ball, is Julian Weigl. The Borussia Dortmund midfielder successfully found a teammate on no fewer than 199 occasions when playing FC Köln in 2016. Although he must be disappointed not to get the double ton up.
On top of these figures, Opta tell us that Weigl attempted 210 passes, a 94.76% completion rate, while Xavi’s 178 passes against Celtic in 2012 came from 184 attempts (96.73%). That Bayern team mark of 1,033 came from a record 1,109 (93.14%) attempts, while Barcelona’s 988 represented 94.45% completed from their 1,046.
And when it comes to the international game, Spain – spot the thread – have the men’s World Cup best (recorded since 1966) against hosts Russia in 2018, smashing Argentina’s 703 completed passes against Greece in 2010. Death by 779 cuts it was not, with Russia winning on penalties after a 1-1 draw. Sergio Ramos was only 21 shy of Russia’s 162 completed passes on his own.
Refs sharing names with teams they are officiating
“The referee for the Cambridge United v Oldham Athletic game was none other than a Mr Scott Oldham,” writes Aron Royle. “No suggestion of bias of course, but are there any other examples of referees sharing their name with one of the teams they are officiating?”
Will Bains leaps right in. “Adam Bromley has refereed a total of seven matches involving Bromley that I can find, resulting in three wins, two draws and two defeats for the team from Kent,” he mails. “Elsewhere in the National League, there is a single instance of Simon Barrow refereeing the team with whom he shares a name: a 2-0 victory away at Eastleigh.”
Odd uses for football grounds (2)
Needless to say, there were absolutely loads more strange uses for stadia …
Kieron Parr offers: “In 1992, Wembley hosted the World Wrestling Federation’s Summerslam. This featured The British Bulldog vs Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart in the main event.” Indeed, the result even made the Daily Mail’s classified sports results the next morning. Marcos Garcia brings our attention to filming at now-mid-table Premier League grounds. First, The Fall taking over Turf Moor. And Snatch Of The Day, which explained how not to get pickpocketed.
Eddy Reynolds chimes in. “The 2011 Eurovision Song Contest was held in Fortuna Düsseldorf’s Esprit Arena, requiring six weeks to convert it,” he explains. The UK were represented by Blue, who secured 100 points for their song ‘I Can’, meaning an 11th-placed finish, one spot above Moldova. Azerbaijan were worthy winners.
Alex Jackson from the National Football Museum tries to lift the tone: “Bloomfield Road was used to host part of the Victory Celebration of the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners’ Federation on 21 June 1919. An estimated 100,000 men, women and children travelled in over 130 special trains. They assembled on the promenade, before many marched to the stadium for an open air-meeting. Several speeches by MPs and union leaders hoped that the Royal Commission report on the coal industry would recommend nationalisation, something that sadly did not happen until 1947.”
Finally, we enjoyed this from Nicholas Walton, who writes that “back in 2007 the Stadion Grbavica, home to mighty FC Zeljeznicar of Sarajevo, hosted the British Embassy’s cricket tournament, which had hitherto been suspended for several years. As BBC correspondent on the ground, I was captain and wicketkeeper for the mightily-outclassed journalists’ team. We had maybe five or six players, from Britain, the US, Bosnia, Netherlands and beyond, and were rubbish. I have no idea how the Embassy managed to get the ramshackle tournament held in the 13,000-seat stadium.”
Back in 2008, Michael McCarthy posed this sartorial head-scratcher: “Tranmere Rovers have had the same shirt sponsor since 1989. Are there any teams who have had theirs longer?”
In response, Timothy Casson, Chris Clough and Steve Wilson all pointed to PSV Eindhoven, a club that began life as a works team for Philips. The brand name first adorned their shirts in 1982, when Dutch football allowed top-flight shirt sponsorship [update: this ended after 34 seasons in 2016].
Paul Haynes highlighted a similar set-up at Bayer Leverkusen whose badge – “the Bayer cross” – is the emblem of pharmaceutical company Friedrich Bayer and has adorned the club’s shirt since 1904 but, crucially, not at the expense of other sponsors names. And Richard Henriksson writes in from Sweden with a potential winner. While IFK Gothenburg have had ICA – a Swedish grocery store – on their shirts since 1982 (the same as PSV), they began sporting ICA on their shorts in 1976.
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Can you help?
“Hereford FC from the National League North (sixth tier) have recently postponed two fixtures due to international call-ups,” reports Eddy Reynolds. “Is this the lowest level for this to happen?”
“All three penalties that Sebastián Coates conceded for Sporting against Rio Ave were fouls on the same player, Mehdi Taremi,” writes Alexandre Queirós. “Is there any other example of the same player fouling the same opponent and conceding a penalty on three occasions in the same match?”
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