The 10 funniest research topics in football history

As many followers enjoy my weekly update on the “latest research in football” my attention was drawn to other kind of research in football.

As it quite funny I thought it is worth sharing it.


1) Goalkeepers – the special breed
Michael Perkin from the St. George’s Hospital Medical School London found out that goalkeepers have fewer amount of siblings. The study showed that midfielder have on average 2.4 siblings, followed by strikers (2.2), and defender (1.8). Goalkeepers have on average 1.1 siblilngs and the interpretation was that the childrens dad need to go into the goal first. If there are more than one child, positions need to be rotated.

2) Referees are more relaxed in the initial phase of a game
Sportpsychology can also contribute in this category. Daniel Memmert from Heidelberg found out in 2010 that referees need to get accustomized with the game before making too many decision. Therefore they are more likely to continue with the game.

3) Size matters!
In 50-50 situations it is more likely that taller players are the ones that committed the foul. Niels van Quaquebeke and Steffen Giessner from the Rotterdam School of Management  stated in 2010 that the height of a human being is linked with aggression and dominance.

4) Black is beautiful - but it does not help with the referee
Black stands for aggression and referees are more likely to whistle against teams dressed in black. Mark Frank and Thomas Gilovich, both psychologists, in “The dark side of self- and social perception: Black uniforms and aggression in professional sports”, 1988.

5) Keep calm and shoot penalties
Who focus before taking penalties are more likely to succeed. Penalty takers are more likely to score (80%) if they focus at least 1 second between the refs whistle and initiating the kick.  If they only wait/focus for lower than 200 milliseconds only 58% scored. Sportpsychologist Geir Jordet in “Temporal links to performing under pressure in international soccer penalty shootouts” 2009

6) Spain will beat Germany in the World Cup Semi-final
Well that was before the World Cup, however, based on 26 official betting offices the final was supposed to be Spain against Brazil. Germany was supposed to be eliminated against Argentina. Luckily Christoph Leitner and Kurt Hornik from the University of Vienna and Innsbruck were wrong.

7) Winning team receives 3 points – instead of 2
Since 1995/1996 the Bundesliga rewarded the winning team 3 points instead 2 hoping there would be less draws. However, this was not the case. It was even shown that the number of draws was slightly increased from 25.89 up to 26.23%. Obviously the coaches are even more afraid of loosing and getting 0 points compared to being motivated and trying for 3 points, but being happy with 1. Bernd Strauss, Norbert Hagemann  and Florian Loffing from the University of Muenster in 2009.

8) Football/soccer where the underdog has a chance
Football is the sport with the most surprising results. Compared to Basketball (36%), American Football (36%) and Ice-hockey (41%), football/soccer presents the highest chance (45%) for the underdog to win the game. Eli Ben-Naim from Los Alamos National Laboratory (2005) interpreted that due to the low amount of goals deciding over winning and loosing – football/soccer is the most surprising sport

9) Scoring happens by chance
Martin Lames from the University Augsburg (2006) found out that in 40% of all goals, lucky bounces, deflections, inside of the post etc. were involved and therefore luck plays a major role in football.

10) Penalty myth
If you believe that the player getting the penalty should not take it, then you should reconsider your opinion.  Roland Loy stated in “Taktik and Analysis in football” (2007) that the one being fouled will score in at least 75%.

Aaah you have to love science.  It probably comes down to the variables chosen. I guess it seems worth to refocus my interest in research from now on.

Possible topics would be:

  • Different playing positions and their preference of cars. It seems obvious that strikers would prefer sports cars, while midfielders would drive save and reliable vehicles
  • The weather and game outcome. Games played under rain will result in a greater amount of close results (1-0, 2-1, 0-0 etc.). If the sun is shining players are more happy and willing to take chances, while rain will make them stick to easy passes and solid defense.
  • The characteristics of footballers and their footwear. Quick players wear Nike. Adidas is the preferred choice by players that tackle more often. Players with more than 15 years in professional football wear Puma.



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