Pyro, chainsaws and fireworks: post-goal stunts at football clubs

“I took my three-year-old to her first match on Saturday, Central Coast Mariners v Western United,” tweets Matthew Collins. “The Mariners have a tradition: after scoring a goal they fire a pyrotechnic cannon. My kid now assumes this happens at all grounds. Are there venues that do similar stunts?”

Thanks to all of you who wrote in with answers to this one. Let’s start in the spiritual home of post-goal entertainment: the USA. “My MLS side, Chicago Fire, have set off fireworks after every home goal they score,” writes Tom Wendt. “For a few years, they set off what I can only describe as a ‘fire cannon’ with a flame flaring a good five metres high.”

Another MLS side, Portland Timbers, have a literal take on the buzz of scoring. “Whenever the Timbers score a goal at home, Timber Joey revs up a chainsaw and cuts a slice off a large log,” writes Anthony Hinxman (and others). And thanks to Mark Folkard, who took a video during a Timbers match back in the day. “Can you imagine,” says Mark, “a chainsaw in an English football stadium?”

These rituals aren’t limited to developing football nations such as America and Australia. “A very famous case is Real Sociedad’s tradition in San Sebastián,” writes Jordi Gómez. “For a goal by the home team, two rockets; for a goal by the away team, one rocket. The tradition started in 1960 in order to update the fishermen in the bay on the progress of the match, and in Covid times it was extended to more towns in the province as a way to keep the club close to the people who couldn’t attend the matches. For more on this, there was this lovely report in the NYT by Rory Smith.”

There are a few decorated England players who never played at a major tournament, including Martin Chivers (24 caps), Ian Wright (33) and Mick Channon (46). But the record, certainly for England, is held by Liverpool legend Emlyn Hughes, who won 62 caps between 1969 and 1980. England spent most of that time failing to qualify for tournaments. Hughes was in the squad for the 1970 World Cup and the European Championship a decade later but didn’t get on the field.

We haven’t found anyone who beats Hughes, but there are some other names worthy of mention. Unless you count the Nations League (which we don’t), Kevin Strootman has won 46 caps for the Netherlands without playing at a major tournament. He was a non-playing member of their Euro 2012 squad and missed the 2014 World Cup because of a serious knee injury.

Another Dutchman, Virgil van Dijk has 38 caps and is missing Euro 2020 because of injury. The Portuguese midfielder Vitor Paneira won 44 caps between 1988 and 1996, when he was glued to the bench during the Euros in England.

“Being a man of questionable vision, whenever I play sport I need contact lenses to have some idea of what is going on,” writes Lewis Dunhill-Pool. “However given lenses have the propensity of moving about, particularly after collisions – I was wondering whether this has ever been an issue for any professional footballers? Have any players had to leave the pitch or be substituted to correct their vision?”

Scotland’s 1-1 draw with Wales in World Cup qualifying in 1985, which earned Scotland a play-off place at Wales’ expense, was overshadowed by the death of Jock Stein after the game. It has largely been forgotten that the Scotland goalkeeper, Jim Leighton, lost a contact lens during the first half. He hadn’t brought any spares, and Leighton’s poor vision almost led to a farcical goal just before half-time, meaning he had to be replaced by Alan Rough during the break. None of the coaching team – not even his club manager at Aberdeen, Alex Ferguson, who was also Stein’s assistant – knew he wore them.

“Who are the highest-ranked team England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have never played?” asks Geraint Morgan.

A number of you emailed in about this, all with the same correct answer: Senegal, currently ranked 22nd in the world, are the highest-ranked team that none of the home nations have played. That said, Senegal have (in a way) played all of the home nations at once, having taken on Team GB in a group game at the 2012 Olympics.

Paul Carver has turned it into a top five, just for the hell of it: Senegal (22nd), Venezuela (30th), Mali (57th), Cote d’Ivoire (59th) and Burkina Faso (60th). Meanwhile, Ryan Frost has listed the teams each individual nation are yet to play:

England Senegal (22), Venezuela (30), Iran (31)

Scotland Senegal (22), Tunisia (26), Venezuela (30)

Wales Colombia (15), Senegal (22), Peru (27)

Northern Ireland Senegal (22), Tunisia (26), Peru (27)

“With a good proportion of foreign ex-players and managers employed as pundits on British TV for Euro 2016, were there any British pundits employed by non-English-speaking TV stations?” wonders Mike Dunton back in, well, 2016.

David James featured on Norway’s state broadcaster, NRK, during the tournament, noted by Terje Kleven, who adds: “James was mostly left to himself on the flank, contributing little or nothing to the show. Luckily, he made no attempt at speaking Norwegian.” Staying in Norway, the former West Ham player Trevor Morley is a regular on commercial channel TV2, Graeme Coleman notes. Bizarrely, Morley understands questions posed to him in Norwegian but normally responds in English. Here’s a typical example from earlier this year.

“I was in Dresden at the start of the tournament, and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw German television had employed Phil Neville as a studio pundit for England v Russia,” writes Tom Johnson. John Lasting also got in touch to confirm that “the ZDF coverage had Oliver Kahn as their permanent studio pundit alongside Phil Neville, who certainly didn’t attempt the local language. To be fair, neither did Gaizka Mendieta or Christian Karembeu while they were on duty for matches involving their nations, yet somehow their respective charisma shone through anyway.”

Have you spotted any British pundits on the continent during Euro 2020? Mail us or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU.

“Gigi Buffon’s fairytale return to Parma (26 years after his professional debut there) has given him a perfectly symmetrical career – Parma, to Juventus, to PSG, to Juventus, to Parma. Are there any players with a longer ‘chain’ of clubs set out in this fashion?” asks Eddie Eyers.

“Belgium’s starting line-up against Portugal in Euro 2020 had a total of 949 caps between them. Four of them have more than 100 caps (a fifth, Dries Mertens, came on as a sub). So what is the most experienced national team to ever take the field?” wonders Martin Davies.

“The Netherlands have received four red cards in Euros history,” begins Bas Vlaming. “Not only is this a record but, oddly enough, they’re all against the same team (Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic). Are there any teams that have similar histories of red mists against one particular opponent?”

“After the own goal in the Spain game being awarded to Pedri, is it the longest distance own goal on record?” asks Don Berno.

Email your questions and answers to or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU.

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