Jack The Lad: Football wisdom

8th November 2017

With no Premier League action this week, supporter-turned-blogger Jack The Lad turns his attention to Wales' upcoming opponents Panama, and explains how football has helped his general knowledge.

“You’ll never learn anything with your head buried in football books and magazines!”

The above is one of the many pieces of advice I was given during my schooldays by several teachers and my parents.

But I think they’d be surprised how much I did learn through my football obsession during my formative years.

Probably the subject which benefited most was geography.

Granted, this knowledge hasn’t proved particularly advantageous to me career wise, but my knowledge of countries, towns and cities - particularly in Europe - has raised many an eyebrow whilst watching TV quiz shows or filling in general knowledge crosswords.

“How on Earth do you know that Groningen is a city in Holland?,” is the kind of startled response I’ve experienced in the past.

It’s just one of those things that sticks in your head when you’ve spent a lifetime following football.

For example, reading about the sport taught me that there is no such town or city in Scotland called Raith.

I learnt that lesson when I read about Scottish football presenter Sam Leitch who, as legend has it, made the famous mistake of saying: "They’ll be dancing in the streets of Raith tonight” following a famous Rovers win in the 1960s.

Despite their name, Raith Rovers are based in Kirkcaldy. More recently, the error inspired Jeff Stelling's catchphrase: "They'll be dancing in the streets of Total Network Solutions tonight".

I reckon he only coined the phrase because he didn't fancy attempting "Llansantffraid", although the club is now known as The New Saints and play their matches in Oswestry.

Thanks to football I know that the Carpathian mountain range largely runs through Romania, because that country’s mercurial playmaker Georghe Hagi, who helped dash Wales’ World Cup finals ambitions in 1993, was known as the Maradona of the Carpathians.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve scored Pointless answers on the popular BBC quiz of the same name, thanks to my football-related knowledge.

The latest being “Krasnodar” in response to a question about Russian cities. That little nugget of knowledge would have passed me by but for the Swans’ Europa League adventure a few seasons ago.

And I'll always remember that Sliema is a town in Malta, after the Swans beat its Wanderers 17-0 on aggregate in the European Cup Winners Cup in 1982.

But, for once, my non-football-related geographical knowledge outweighs my football-related knowledge as Wales prepare to face Panama in next week’s friendly international in Cardiff.

I realised that just about everything I know about Panama is limited entirely to canals, cigars and headwear, rather than catenaccio, centre-forwards and hat-tricks, which isn’t an awful lot of use for a football-related article.

Apart from being green with envy over the fact they have qualified for next year’s World Cup and Wales haven’t, I know absolutely nothing about Panama as a footballing nation.

This is probably largely due to Wales never having faced Panama in an international match, and as far as I know, the Swans have never toured there!

So, just in case you’re up the same canal without a paddle as me, here are a few footballing facts about the Central American country ahead of next Tuesday night’s friendly, which might just earn you a cigar!

  • According to Wikipedia, the Swans and Blackpool were interested in Panamanian player Román Aureliano Torres Morcillo in 2010.
  • One of the national team's nicknames is Los Canaleros, which unsurprisingly translates to The Canal Men.
  • Another nickname of theirs is The Red Tide. That should be interesting when it hits The Red Wall next Tuesday!
  • Their most capped player is Gabriel Gomez with 140 appearances.
  • The country enjoyed a national holiday after qualifying for next year's World Cup.

C'mon Wales!