The most unlikely football computer games | The Knowledge
"A trawl through the internet's eternal ether brought up this gem, Sean Dundee's World Club Football, a 'soccer simulation which features several championship modes and exhibition matches'," notes Mick Reynolds. "Is there any more obscure footballer to grace a game than the erstwhile Liverpool flop?"
'Obscurity' being an imperfect scale to measure upon, the Knowledge instead delved into bargain (and rubbish) bins to dig out some of the more unlikely footballer computer games to have been released, although the aforementioned SDWCF takes some beating from 1997. The following, therefore, is not ordered, merely a selection of random releases:
Chris Kamara's Street Soccer: Would there have been a Fifa Street without this precursor? Yes, of course. But this PlayStation game still pre-dated Fifa's spin-off by a good five years, coming out in September 2000, and trumpeting on its back cover that "5-a-side soccer has never been this tough". Because when you thought of street football, you thought of Chris Kamara. Oh Midas Interactive!
Ally McCoist Director of Football: This just seemed strange, due to McCoist still being a decade from becoming a manager when the game came out in 2001. It also includes an unfortunate element, as STV Sport explained in 2012:
"McCoist may regret his name appearing on a game which appears to offer the opportunity for wannabe directors of football to avoid paying tax. At the end of each in-game season your club is presented with a tax bill, but you can decide to risk further repercussions by only paying a fraction of the money owed. The screen reads: 'You can reduce the amount of tax by 50%, at the risk of being caught and facing a large fine. Do you wish to adopt this tax evasion?'"
Peter Shilton's Handball Maradona: "All you do is develop a (fairly pointless) skill without any opportunity to use it. And unless that turns you on, the game probably won't," declared Your Sinclair about this 1986 release. The reason it's on this list? Try and find any relation between the game's title and the game.
David O'Leary's Total Soccer 2000: Game Boy Color owners got the chance to be inspired by the then-Leeds boss in a rather unlikely release, although the gameplay lacked an option to write a cash-in book about off-field troubles. This release was followed nine months later by O'Leary Manager 2000.
Keith Van Eron's Pro Soccer: You may not have heard of Keith Van Eron. Back in the day he played in goal for the MISL sides Cinicinnati Kids, Wichita Wings, Philadelphia Fever, Las Vegas Americans and Baltimore Blast, and now runs highly-regarded soccer camps in the Baltimore area. Despite a lack of international, or for that matter national, or even particularly regional, acclaim he was also chosen as the Stateside name and indeed face of the British Commodore 64 release Microprose Soccer. He wasn't the only big name signed up to raise the game's profile in the States – gamers also got coaching tips from Drago Dumbovic, who was a fairly prolific Yugoslavian striker at the time but doesn't so much as have a Wikipedia page these days. Other Commodore games to take different players' names for foreign markets include Gazza's Superstar Soccer, known in Germany as Bodo Illgner's Super Soccer, and in Sweden as Anders Limpar's Proffs Fotboll, and Gary Lineker's Super Skills, which was called Emilio Butragueño 2 by the time it reached Spain.
Alex Ferguson's Player Manager 2001: An interesting choice, given Ferguson never held the dual-role (he was a player-coach with Falkirk for a spell) "Its amazing realism and in-depth playability makes it perfect for those who want to really find out what it is like to be Sir Alex!" trilled an overly enthusiastic BBC Sport review. Championship Manager it was not.
Dundee's European Challenge: Not a specific player, but an interesting tie-in nonetheless, given that it came out 18 years after Dundee last challenged in Europe. "Here is your chance to help Archie Knox achieve European glory," reads the game's instructions. "As player/assistant manager, guide the Dark Blues through a full season and on to a European place." Don't miss the 'game hints' section, mind: "Try to strengthen your squad as quickly as you can."
Portsmouth Club Manager: Before the 2002-03 season an identical game was widely licensed around, well, whatever clubs fancied having their own computer game. Alongside Pompey the likes of Sheffield United, Ipswich Town, West Bromwich Albion, Charlton Athletic, Southampton and Hibernian all signed up, and the game boasted unique "processor-friendly" technology that helped it "run on low-spec PCs". In other words, it wasn't very good. Using the text-heavy approach familiar from rival management titles, it allowed users to take control of their team's fortunes, though gross financial mismanagement and consecutive relegations would probably have prompted some kind of error message.
Fifa 96: Bear with us, this is a cover-related issue. While Jason McAteer and Ronald de Boer were the faces used to hawk the game, it appears that a different cover existed (we think, for the Sega Saturn). Specifically, one featuring two individuals whom the Knowledge did not immediately identify. Tortured research eventually led us to the 1994 Anglo-Italian Cup final between Notts County and Brescia, and the players involved being Andy Legg and Ioan Sabau, chosen ahead of Gheorghe Hagi, who also played in that game at Wembley. Black-and-white highlights from the game, featuring an excitable Italian commentator, live here.
THE ABR CLUB
"In the city of Jos in central Nigeria, the rivalry between the fans of the two major clubs – Plateau United FC and Mighty Jets FC – is such that whenever other teams visit to play against either of the home teams, the rival fans cheer for the visitors. It got to the stage that away teams visiting the city don't need to come with their fans because of the available support from supporters of their host's rivals. Does this happen anywhere else?" wonders Yusuf Maisamari.
"This subject shouldn't pass without mentioning Heia Bortelaget (roughly translated as 'Go, away team!'), a supporter group founded and based at the University of Trondheim in the 90s," begins Terje Kleven. "The city's footballing flagship Rosenborg BK totally dominated Norwegian football for two decades, winning the Norwegian Tippeligaen for 13 consecutive seasons, as well as performing decently in Europe, and this obviously increasingly spread annoyance among football fans elsewhere in Norway, not least among the out-of-towners studying in Trondheim.
"So, this supporters group was formed, always cheering for the away team, regardless of who visited (dressing in neutral pink, to not take sides with any particular visiting team), reaching more than 3,000 members. When Vålerenga finally broke the streak and won the Tippeligaen in 2005, Heia Bortelaget cheered for victory, stating that 'we won the championship'. The activity in the group seems to have dwindled in recent years. Following a slight demise in Rosenborg's fortunes (having 'only' won the Tippeligaen twice the last six years), it may simply appear that the away teams don't need that extra support anymore. This pdf from FourFourTwo has some additional info."
FANCY SEEING YOU HERE?
"Next season will see the first ever South Wales derby between Cardiff and Swansea played in the top flight," writes Martin Boekweit. "This will mean the two have played each other in all four professional English divisions. Have any other teams played each other in four divisions or more?"
"After much discussion round the office, we've finally hit on a pair," brainstorms Navin Patel. "Those Wanderers of Bolton and Wolverhampton having met each other regularly in the top two divisions both before, between and after the wars, finally met for the first time in the third tier in 1985-86. Two seasons later in what was Bolton's only season in the fourth tier, Wolves were waiting for them having been relegated the season before. The 87-88 season finished happily for both as they were promoted back into the third division in first and third place." Chris Storey has another: "My team, Carlisle United, have played Burnley, Coventry City and Luton Town in all four divisions of the league. And this season, Wolverhampton Wanderers will become the fourth side we've faced in all four."
However, Jamie Bennett can go one better. "Luton and Oxford have met in five divisions in the last 25 years or so," he emails. "They last met in the top flight in 1987-88 when Oxford finished bottom. They next met in the second tier in 1992-93. In 1999-2000 they met in the third tier and two seasons later (2001-02) met in the fourth. Their paths finally crossed in the Conference in 2009-10."
"Have they ever used an actual hat for the FA Cup draw?" asked Andy Morrison in 2006. "If so, when was it last used, and what kind of hat was it?"
Early draws really did involve headwear; a top hat covered by a handkerchief, to be precise. It was filled with pieces of paper bearing the names of the clubs, with a member of the FA committee delicately lifting a corner of the handkerchief to draw the ties. Bryon Butler's history of the competition is the only source of information on this arcane ritual, as until the first radio coverage of the draw in December 1935 it was "barred and bolted against all unofficial comers" – including the press. By then, the bag and ball arrangement was in place. Indeed, the then FA secretary, Sir Stanley Rous, was asked by the BBC to rattle the balls in the bag for dramatic effect.
David Barber, the FA's historian, suggests that the top hat and handkerchief met their demise in a drive for modernisation around 1914. Nevertheless, phrases such as "in the hat for the next round" will always have their roots in the actual routine of the draw.
CAN YOU HELP?
"Bristol Rovers have a player by the name of Mark McChrystal who, as I'm sure you noticed, has a surname which begins with eight consonants. Is there a player out there who can boast more?" asks David Broome.
"The Manic Street Preachers recently booked their tour dates around the Lions Tour in Australia," notes Mark Jones. "Are there any examples of bands/musicians who have planned tours/dates around football fixtures?"
"The recent rise of Paul Clement from PE teacher to right-hand man for Carlo Ancelotti during title wins at Chelsea and PSG made me think of former teachers like Gérard Houllier and José Mourinho, and made me wonder – who are the most successful former teachers in football?" muses Bill Maclachlan.
"On 15 June 2013, CA Bizertin beat AS Marsa in the final of the 2012-13 Tunisia Cup," begins George Chan. "Five days later, as the 'defending champions', they lost to ES Tunis in the round of 32 of the 2011-12 Tunisia Cup (yes, 2011-12!). The reason was that the 2011-12 Tunisia Cup was suspended in 2012, and was only resumed in 2013 after the 2012-13 Tunisia Cup had finished. So has there ever been a similar case, where a football tournament was only completed after its next edition had already finished? Or even better, the same team won both tournaments, hence winning the next edition before the previous edition (not counting Marty McFly, Doc Brown, etc)?"
"After watching Japan's Keisuke Honda have a good game, I wondered if there were any players with a surname that matched their sponsor," wonders Ivan Anthony.
• Send your questions and answers to email@example.com.
Filed under: Euro 2012
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