FOOTBALL is the one thing that has always been in my life.
I used to be in the box as a player, now I’m on the box as a presenter.
Gary Lineker has shared with us five of his favourite incredible football storiesCredit: Getty
Gary’s new book 50 Times Football Changed The World is filled with inspirational tales
Football has a long and rich history with so many memorable moments, unforgettable tales and incredible stories from across the world which all show the numerous ways the game has been a force for good.
I’ve put 50 of the most fascinating, educational and inspiring tales in my new book, 50 Times Football Changed The World.
Here I’m sharing five of my favourites.
ARTHUR WHARTON was born in 1865 in Jamestown, Gold Coast, West Africa, which is now Accra, in Ghana.
Not much is known about Arthur’s early life, but when he was 19 he moved to Darlington to train as a missionary.
Arthur Wharton, who played for Darlington FC., was the first black professional footballer in the worldCredit: NNP
Arthur was born in 1865 in Jamestown, Gold Coast, West Africa, which is now Accra, in Ghana, moved to Darlington when he was 19Credit: Sharon Doorbar
It wasn’t long before he started playing as goal- keeper for Darlington FC.
He was said to be an entertaining performer with a phenomenal punch, by which they meant punching the ball, not his opponents (hopefully)!
He also used to catch the ball between his legs and he would sometimes pull the crossbar down (it was only made of tape in those days) so shots would miss.
That would certainly get a red card today.
It wasn’t long before he moved to Preston North End, one of the biggest teams in England at that time, then Rotherham Town, Sheffield United, Stalybridge Rovers and Ashton North End, before finishing his career at Stockport County in 1902.
As a professional, Arthur earned a lot of money, so he would often donate part of his wages to help people in need.
Unfortunately, after retiring from football, his life was hard.
He gradually spent all the money he made from his sports career and had to work as a coal miner to support his family.
He passed away in 1930 and was buried in an unmarked grave.
For many years afterwards, Arthur and his great achievements as a true sports pioneer went unrecognised.
He was finally given the footballing recognition he deserved in 2003, when he was welcomed into the English Football Hall of Fame, having paved the way for so many of the talented players we see today.
Arthur paved the way for so many of the talented players we see today (pictured: Marcus Rashford)Credit: AFP
NOTHING makes you want to grab a football and kick it around quite like watching an incredible match.
And that’s exactly what happened when the children from a fishing village called Koh Panyee, in Thailand, were watching the 1986 World Cup finals.
Children from a fishing village called Koh Panyee, in Thailand made a football pitch in the seaCredit: EPA
But there was one not-so-small problem . . . Koh Panyee is in the sea.
It is a floating village built on stilts. No one had ever been able to play football there because . . . well, there just wasn’t space.
The children really, really wanted to play, though, so they came up with a brilliant idea — if the village could float, then so could a football pitch.
So they began gathering bits of wood and old rafts, took a boat just a little way out on to the sea and started building a surface they could play on.
It was like no other pitch in the world. Sharp nails jutted out from the wood.
There was no barrier between the edge of the pitch and the sea.
And splinters were a real hazard for their bare feet.
But the children loved it — despite having to jump into the water to retrieve the ball an awful lot.
When they entered their first proper tournament, Panyee realised they were actually really good. All that playing on their floating pitch had paid off.
They have become one of the best youth teams in southern Thailand, winning seven regional titles on the trot between 2004 and 2010.
Today they have a smooth new pitch, which even has a fence to stop the ball going into the water.
The village has also benefited from tourists coming to see the incredible pitch and hear the team’s amazing story.
It just shows what you can do with determination, courage, teamwork . . . and a few bits of wood.
MADRON is a village in Cornwall. About 1,600 people live there and it also has a football team, Madron FC.
At the start of the 2010–11 season, they were in the first division of Cornwall’s Mining League.
Madron FC. were branded the ‘worst team in Britain’ but they eventually won a match after 30 straight defeatsCredit: SWNS:South West News Service
They began the season full of hope and positivity and were ready to give it their all.
But in their first game they lost 11-0. Ouch! And things didn’t get better.
As the season progressed, Madron lost 16–0, 29–0 (yes, twenty-nine) and 9–0.
Later in the season, when they played against Illogan Reserves, they lost . . . wait for it . . . 55–0.
That means Illogan scored a goal nearly every two minutes. One of their players scored ten goals — more than three hat-tricks.
Madron were branded in the newspapers as “the worst team in Britain”.
Some teams might give up after a defeat like that, but not Madron.
The following weekend they put on their game faces once again.
Could they bounce back from that defeat with a victory? Well, no — this time they lost 22–0.
By the end of the season they were bottom of the table with zero points, having lost every single game.
Their goal difference was minus 395.
But throughout the season Madron had continued to try their best, week in, week out.
As one of the players said: “I’d rather play for a bad team that has fun than a good team that you don’t enjoy playing for.”
The following season Madron lost their first game 8-2. But their second game ended 4-3 — to Madron.
After 30 straight defeats and 407 goals conceded across both seasons, they had finally won.
The Madron players ran around the pitch, did laps of honour, cheered, shouted and high-fived one another. It was as if they’d won the league.
Their hard work had finally paid off. They showed the true value of believing in yourself and never giving up.
IT’S not easy being a referee. Every match is a battle.
But in the case of Lea Campos, the battles started long before she even got on to the pitch.
Lea Campos had to take on football authorities and a dictator to fulfil her dream of becoming a refereeCredit: Museu do futebol
Lea was born in Brazil in 1945 and loved playing football.
Unfortunately, women were banned from playing organised sports in those days.
Instead, she was encouraged to take part in beauty pageants.
She won quite a few, and one helped her back into football.
Cruzeiro is one of Brazil’s biggest football teams, and after winning the title Queen of Cruzeiro in 1966, Lea got a job with the club where she helped to promote it by speaking to journalists and organising player interviews.
She realised the love of football she’d had hadn’t gone away.
Lea still wasn’t allowed to play, but she discovered there was nothing to stop her becoming a referee.
In 1967, she did an eight-month course and became one of the first female referees in the world.
Even though she was qualified, the Brazilian sporting authorities — led by a man, João Havelange — still wouldn’t let her on the pitch.
She was told women’s bodies weren’t suitable for the sport.
Lea wasn’t going to stand for that, though. In one of the beauty contests she had met an army commander.
She asked him if he could arrange for her to have a meeting with the president of Brazil, Emílio Garrastazu Médici.
But Médici was a brutal leader who ruled the country with violence.
What was he going to think about a woman requesting to be a referee?
Over lunch, the president told Lea that one of his sons was a big fan of hers.
Then he handed her a letter.
It was a written request for Havelange to let her become a referee.
And everyone knew you didn’t say no to the president.
Lea went on to referee 98 matches in Brazil.
Fans might still disagree with a lot of referees’ decisions, but one thing we can all agree on is that what Lea Campos did was incredibly brave — and has helped to change the world’s opinion on female referees.
THERE were four teams in the play-off tournament to decide Madagascar’s 2002 champions — Adema Analamanga and Stade Olympique de l’Emyrne, who were big rivals, and Domoina Soavina Atsimondrano Antananarivo and Union Sportive Ambohidratrimo.
In the penultimate game of the tournament, L’Emyrne were leading 2–1 but, with full time approaching, the referee awarded their opponents, Antananarivo, a penalty.
L’Emyrne scored an own goal approximately every 30 seconds as a protest in their match against Adema
The players and manager of L’Emyrne were certain the penalty should not have been awarded but, despite their complaints, the referee didn’t change their mind (they rarely do) and Antananarivo scored the spot kick.
The final result was 2–2.
This meant L’Emyrne couldn’t win the tournament.
The manager and players were convinced the referee had been biased — and at their next match, the last game of the tournament against their arch rivals Adema Analamanga, they decided to protest.
The game kicked off, and as soon as a L’Emyrne player got the ball, he did something very odd.
Instead of running towards Adema’s goal, he ran towards his own team’s goal and scored an own goal.
It was 1–0 to Adema. L’Emyrne kicked off again and this time . . . the same thing happened.
They scored another own goal, making it 2–0 to Adema. And it happened again, and again.
Adema’s players couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
The spectators couldn’t believe it either, and many of them started demanding their money back.
But still the game went on, with L’Emyrne scoring an own goal approximately every 30 seconds.
By the time the final whistle blew it was 149–0 to Adema — without any of their players touching the ball.
It was very odd, and in some ways very funny, but the Madagascan football authorities didn’t think so.
L’Emyrne’s manager, Ratsimandresy Ratsarazaka, who organised the protest, was banned from coaching for three years and four players were also banned for the rest of the season.
It truly was an amazing, game-changing moment.
One team did something extraordinary to stand up for themselves and to let everyone know that they weren’t going to put up with what they believed to be cheating.