Hi everyone! 😀
In case you don’t know about my obsession over football, you could first check out my previous post about the hot football players in 2000s that made me glad that I hit the puberty back in the days. But since we’re now counting down the days to the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia, I want to have a special feature for this big event.
It’s because that I started my obsession with FIFA World Cup years ago as well. I remember I got this booklet with a lot of information about football and the countries that played in the tournament.
And for exactly the same reason, I want to have a similar feature on my blog. However, since I’m the queen of the random stuff, I’ll create this feature to be as random as possible. After all, I’m the kind of person who shamelessly asked my skinhead friend how far he washed his face and whether he used shampoo or soap to wash his head.
In case now you’re wondering about the answer, the answer is that he still uses shampoo to wash his head since soap formula is not so good for the scalp that may cause unwanted dandruff.
Since there are a lot of countries playing in the tournament, I will make this a World Cup series feature on my blog. Therefore, I will publish new content for this feature every Saturday for 2 groups in 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia for the next few weeks before the opening ceremony started in Moscow on 14th June 2018.
FIFA World Cup 2018 – Group A & B
In case you have no idea what countries are on group A and B in this FIFA World Cup,here ares the 4 countries for each group that you could check out.
- Saudi Arabia
Before we start, let me tell you that I’m actually not exactly an expert in terms of geography or let alone politics despite the fact that I’m holding a bachelor’s degree in Political and Social Science.
However, I’m quite good at some random trivia. So in this post, I hope you’ll enjoy the most random shit about these countries based on the knowledge I know, experiences, as well as the things I randomly found on the internet.
Group A – Smartass Prediction & 11 Random Facts of the Countries
It’s always interesting to follow what could happen to the country host.
From the first time I watched football in general, the country host could get so much pressure to win that could lead to some success as the champion like France in 1998 or surprising performance like South Korea in 2002. However, the outcome could come across as embarrassing like 1-7 to Brazil when they lost to Germany in the last FIFA World Cup 4 years ago.
I don’t follow football news that much nowadays, but besides Russia, I think I can’t wait to watch what Salah could do for Egypt in this tournament after some astonishing performance in Liverpool.
I’m not so familiar with Saudi Arabia, although I, unfortunately, could remember perfectly how they got beaten 8-0 by Germany in Korea-Japan. Not pretty to watch, but that was when the legendary Klose started to shine.
As for Uruguay, they’re not exactly the best football national team in South America alone. But in terms of history, they’re the first champion for this tournament. Hence, the pressure to rewrite the history from their own peers.
But then on this post, I will not get too deep about the football side of each country since I’m gonna write randomly about the things I know for each country.
Talking about Russia, talking about Babushka. Eh, nope. Apologies for being a Slavwashed Asian. 😛
But anyway, I think nowadays when people talk about Russia, it’s impossible to imagine Russia without Putin. But apart from that, I’m not that familiar about the country in general despite the fact that one of my best friends in Turkey, Vika, is a Russian girl.
What about Vika? She’s such a bad influence that I’ve been friends with her for almost 8 years now and all I know about Russian is cyka blyat. Bless my soul.
- Since it’s so hard to talk about Russia without involving their president, then the first fact about Russia is that Putin had served in the KGB before he started his political path.
- For those who don’t know about KGB, it is the main security agency for the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991 when they broke up.
- Vodka is actually derived from the word ‘voda’, which means ‘water’ in Russian. And according to Vika, yes, they drink vodka every day in Russia.
- I think most of you already know about The Trans-Siberian Railway for being the single longest railway in the world. And not just that, because you can also get on a trip by train to explore Russia, China, and Mongolia through the Trans Mongolian Railway as well. Sheldon Cooper must have been excited! 😛
- The Russian name of Marya, or some variant names of Maria or Mary, is Masha. Like Masha and the Bear. Okay.
- There are approximately 10 million more women than men in Russia. And that’s probably why my beloved friend Vika moved to Turkey. And some other Russian friends ended marrying Turkish guys.
- The award given to the best goalkeeper in the World Cup is previously named as Lev Yashin award. Lev Yashin is regarded as one of the greatest goalkeeper in football history. He was playing for Soviet Union back in the days. Also, did you know that Lev is actually the Russian name for Leo?
- Moscow has more billionaires than any other cities in the world. One of them happens to be the big boss of Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovic.
- It’s actually quite hard to find a symbol of Russia that is more popular than matryoshka, or the Russian Nesting Doll.
- Russia, with 4 other countries, has veto power for any resolution in UN Security Council.
- I can’t think of anything else, so yeah.. cyka blyat.
2. Saudi Arabia
Since I used to live in Jeddah for 1++ years, I suppose I’ve got more personal knowledge about the country than any other countries in this tournament.
However, since the things I’ll point out is mostly based on my personal experience, that could be bias. Just a heads up though! 😉
- The current king of KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), King Salman, is reported to be the 25th son of the first monarch and founder of KSA, Ibn Saud or known as King Abdulazis. The airport in Jeddah is named after King Abdulazis, where I was based a few years ago.
- While birth control is illegal in the country, you can find condom in almost every drug store.
- According to UN data, immigrants make up more than 30% of the total Saudi population. It is not so surprising since I could manage to get around the country without speaking any Arabic except for Assalamualaikum. Most people that I have met in Saudi would either speak English (mostly broken English, but still understandable!) or they actually know Indonesian so voila… 😛
- For women to eat in the restaurant, they have to find restaurants providing ‘family section’. Otherwise, they can’t even eat there although more often than not, they can order for a take-away.
- While it is a must for women to wear black abaya, it is not exactly mandatory to wear hijab in Saudi Arabia.
- Every kind of business in Saudi Arabia, from food stall to office, it is obligatory to close their activity for prayers’ break. By prayers’ break, it means there are 5 (five) times where they are not allowed to operate.
- Saudi Arabia is the only place that I have visited where I had to use VPN the most. Why? One time I want to check out Cosmopolitan website, only to find out that it’s banned there.
- Pork is prohibited to enter the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. One of my ex-coworkers got deported due to getting redhanded by the custom to bring pork with her at the airport.
- While it is believed that only Muslims are allowed to enter Mecca and the mosque area of Medinah, there is actually no special procedure to prove whether someone is Muslim or not before going in the area. One time, I took the bus for umrah to Mecca from Jeddah, and I was really expecting someone to test me with shahada. As it turned out, the procedure is pretty much the same like when we buy a bus ticket to anywhere and the bus stopped not so far from Masjidil Haram anyway.
- They have the religious police called muttawa, so make sure to never do anything against their local custom or Islam law in general. E.g. talking to the opposite sex without being able to prove the certificate of marriage or the proof that you’re actually relatives. Jeddah is considered as muttawa-friendly compared to some other cities like Riyadh.
- If you, by any chance, get an opportunity to visit Saudi Arabia, I would totally recommend you to try Al Baik. It is a major fast food chain in Saudi Arabia, and they have the best-broasted chicken in the world! I’m not kidding, their chicken is better than KFC.
I have a love-and-hate relationship in a way there are so many good friends of mine who are Egyptians.
However, since I used to work for an airline with Jeddah/Medinah-Cairo/Alexandria sector, I have to admit that operating as a cabin crew in a flight with such sector, it is the most difficult thing. Especially when you work for a full-service airline where you actually have to serve hot meals to the passengers in such a short flight.
No kidding, a flight from Medinah to Cairo, for example, could only take around 35 minutes in total. Now, extract the critical eleven that includes take-off and descending time, you only have 20++ minutes to serve all the passengers. The 20++ minutes you’ve got include the serving time, time for the passengers to ‘enjoy’ the meals as well as the collection.
That’s probably the most stressful flight that I had to operate back in my flying time.
- Egypt and Palestine are the first two countries that recognized Indonesian sovereignty in 1945.
- Contrary to popular belief, the pyramids were built by paid laborers and not slaves.
- There is such thing like Egyptian Astrology, and according to this, my sign is under Amon-ra. What’s yours? 🙂
- Legend has it that the ancient Egyptians shaved off their eyebrows to mourn the death of their cats. While I would believe this, having the cats on my own, I would totally choose to do the threading instead.
- Egypt is the world’s largest Arab population.
- Al Ahly and Zamalek are pretty much the only clubs that I know about Egyptian football. And I only got familiar with it due to the fact that I knew this Egyptian footballer back in the early 2000s, Mido.
- I’m still wondering about how Egyptian usually has such a long name. When I told you that I’ve a lot of friends and ex-coworkers who are Egyptian, the case is that I don’t always remember their full name because it’s so long. And no, it’s not because I’m Indonesian that I can’t remember Arabic names because I am in fact familiar with Arabic names, just not more than 3 words, please. 😛
- Of the world’s 20 most populous countries, Egypt has the biggest weight problem. And I could confirm this because flying so many times to the country made me a bit familiar with the situation. One time, I had a flight to Cairo from Jeddah and we’re running out of extension seatbelt due to so many obsessed passengers on board. And yes, we were already using the extension seatbelt that were supposedly designed for infants. We were flying 747-400.
- Now that we all know that cats were worshipped by Ancient Egyptians, did you know that back in the day, when one accidentally killed a cat, it could result in a death penalty?
- The Royal Library of Alexandria in Alexandria was one of the largest libraries in the world, and it was once the house of works by numerous great thinkers and writers such as Homer, Plato, and Socrates. It was believed that the library has been destroyed in a huge fire a long time ago.
- Dodi El-Fayed, Lady Di’s boyfriend, who died with her in the car accident in Paris, is Egyptian. His dad, Mohamed Al-Fayed, used to own Harrods and one of the football clubs in London, Fulham FC.
Now, before I begin talking about Uruguay, I just want to let you know that I’m not that familiar with the country in general. Latin America is not really my strength, and in terms of football, the only country that I take a special interest in CONMEBOL is just Brazil and nothing else.
As for Uruguay, there were some big names that I got quite familiar with back when I started to watch football like Alvaro Recoba or even Fabian Carini. And to be fair, for the latter, I only know his name because I think he’s cute. Nowadays, football-wise, I know about Edison Cavani, and of course the power of Luis Suarez’s teeth. 😛
So, most of the things written on this list, I took it from some other sources on the internet.
- From everything about Uruguay, I think the only thing that reminds me of this country is what I read about their former president, Jose Mujica. Some say that he was the ‘poorest president’. I’ve read a few articles about him, and I am inspired.
- And thanks to him, cannabis is legal in Uruguay while it is also the most widely used drugs in the country.
- They won the world cup twice, in 1930 and 1950.
- They were also the first country host of the tournament in 1930.
- There are only two countries in South America that legalize abortion in the first trimester: Cuba and Uruguay.
- While Australians often make fun of New Zealand for having more sheep than human, statistically speaking, there are actually more cattle in Uruguay than human.
- Pretty much like the champion title in the World Cup, Uruguay has also won the gold medals in the Olympics a long time ago. 1924 and 1928 for football as well.
- According to 2013 data from Transparency, Uruguay is named as the least corrupted country in Latin America based on the democracy in the country, quality of living, e-Government, as well as prosperity and security.
- Uruguay is also the second smallest country in Latin America after Suriname.
- Uruguay has the longest national anthem in the world, that could run for about six minutes with the line, “No one insults the image of the sun!” Maybe it is something to do with the image of the sun in their flag, no?!
- Needless to say, reading a lot of good things about this country makes me want to move to this country. Anyone?
Group B – Smartass Prediction & 11 Random Facts of the Countries
With the big names like the neighbor countries Portugal and Spain, the holder of European champion title and the former world champion, this group is something that you cannot miss in the tournament.
I’ve never been a big fan of Portuguese national team, or most likely my opinion is bias since I’m rooting for Croatia and they lost to Portugal in the last Euro. All I am saying is that despite the fact Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the two best football players nowadays (you know who’s the other one right?!), I think the way they play is boring. But the boring way they play was surprisingly effective to win Euro 2 years ago.
In the other side, knowing David De Gea’s performance, it’s fair to say that Spain has got such a promising defence in the squad with such a strong squad in the front like Morata as well.
The other two, Morocco and Iran… Well, since I’m not really an expert in African football, I honestly had to do a few research on Morocco’s track record. And I see that this team is strong enough with probably good defence in the back as well since they won every match without conceding a goal to the Ivory Coast, Gabon and Mali.
As for Iran, well… For us in Asia, I think it’s fair to say that Iran is one of the strongest Asian countries in football. Moreover, their current head coach is Carlos Queiroz.
Don’t forget that he used to assist Sir Alex back in Manchester United before he got to manage Portuguese National Team. That being said, he’s probably familiar with Cristiano Ronaldo’s technique and playing style. So… Yeah, I secretly hope he could put it in such a useful way to sack Portugal in the first round.
Okay, too much revenge against Portugal here, but we shall continue then! 😛
To be fair, I think it’s so hard to learn History without mentioning anything about Portugal, or Portuguese. It’s the home of Vasco da Gama, the first European to reach India by sea. Also don’t forget about Bartholomew Diaz, the first one to sail around southern Africa.
In result, half of the “New World” once belonged to Portugal. That includes Brazil, and some other region in Africa and Asia like Macao or our neighbor East Timor.
In terms of football, back in the days, of course, we know some legendary football players like Luis Figo or Rui Costa. And nowadays, of course the one and only Cristiano Ronaldo.
- Portugal is the oldest country in Europe, as they have had the same defined borders since 1139.
- Talking about Portugal, it’s so hard not to miss the fun fact about how J.K. Rowling taught English in Porto, where she lived between 1991 and 1993. That period later became the formative years of Harry Potter as she outlined and developed her ideas for the book series here. And hey, you can check out the shopping guide in Porto in case you’re planning to visit the city! 😀
- Portugal was the first colonial power to abolish slavery back in 1761.
- Portuguese is the 6th most spoken first language in the world, by 2014, with around 203 million speakers in total. However, I heard that Portuguese spoken in Portugal and Brazil is slightly different from one and another. You can confirm this if you’re a Portuguese speaker coming across this post however. 🙂
- The oldest diplomatic alliance in the world is between Portugal and England, which was signed in 1373 and is still going strong until this very day.
- Speaking of which, anyone remember the case of Madeleine McCann? In case you haven’t heard about this case, it was the case of 4-year-old UK citizen who was missing from her bed in a holiday apartment in the Algarve region of Portugal. If you’re into such random conspiracy theory like me, the case was quite interesting back in 2007. Also, one of the viral photos of her back in the day is the one with her wearing Chelsea FC’s jersey. I remember there was even a one-minute-silence in one of Chelsea’s match around that time.
- As it turned out, Portugal is actually a founding member of NATO and they joined the European Economic Community (EEC), that later would be the European Union (EU), in 1986.
- As I mentioned about our friendly neighbor East Timor, or known as the Republic of Timor-Leste, so long story short they were colonized by Portugal in the 16th century, and known as Portuguese Timor until 28 November 1975 when the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor declared the territory’s independence. It was invaded and occupied by Indonesia nine years later until 1999, Indonesia relinquished the control over this territory. And this makes me so jealous, because nowadays for any East Timor passport holder, a visa is not required to enter Schengen area.
- As surprising as it sounds, as it turned out, Portuguese is the one who introduced chilli, pepper, potatoes and tomatoes in India. Now that you think about it, no Portuguese, no biryani I see? 😐
- There are at least 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country.
- In 2016, Portugal won EURO in the most boring (and mostly annoying) way possible in France.
The world champion in South Africa, I was a bit sad when I read the news recently about Iniesta who would move to China after such a long time playing for Barcelona.
In a way, it’s always sad to see such a loyal player who’s associated with a particular team left. And for some other reason, it reminds me that I’m getting older each day.
Like, those called “young players” back in the days, are now reaching the end of their career. Meanwhile me, I’m still here, still as single and broke as 10 years ago. HAHA.
- Real Madrid is currently the most valuable sports team in the world. With the annual revenues of $650 million and a brand value of $3.3 billion, no wonder they could get the best players
and pay the referees.
- There is no lyric in Spanish national anthem. It’s all just instruments.
- While prostitution in Spain is not illegal, but getting some profit from the sale of sex by another is. Long story short, something you should keep in mind in case you’re running out of money
and dignityin Spain: you can be a hooker, but not a madame. 😛
- Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world.
- The oldest restaurant in the world, awarded by Guinness World Records, is located in Madrid called Restaurante Botín that has been open since 1725.
- Two of the most well-known artists, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, are Spaniard.
- It’s interesting to follow the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona as two of the biggest football teams in Spain. But politically speaking, Madrid vs Catalonia is also something interesting to follow, especially after the moratorium for Catalonia’s demand for independence last year.
- The capital city Madrid was called Ursaria by the Romans, which means land of bears due to the number of bears in the area.
- And speaking of Real Madrid and Barcelona rivalry, I refuse to forget the incident of pig’s head thrown to former Barcelona player Luis Figo who then played for Real Madrid. That was just unforgettable. Rude, but epic.
- Pretty much like the UK, Spain is also a royal monarchy country.
- Spain’s original monetary unit was the pesetas. Now that you think about it, I think it’s not so surprising that most of the countries colonized by Spain have ‘peso‘ as their local currency. Hmm.
Pretty much like Egypt, I’m only familiar with Morocco related to my former job as a flight attendant. I mean, at least I’ve got my own draft of travel itinerary in Morocco.
I never exactly had a layover in the country, so I’ve never really landed there. I was supposed to have one flight in Casablanca for a short layover but it was cancelled. 🙁
However, I’ve flown to Morocco without a layover a lot of times. I’m quite familiar with Moroccan friendliness, and once randomly got proposed by this passenger. But he sadly clapped his hands during landing so yeah, no was the answer. But anyway…
- Just like some countries in North Africa, most people in Morocco speak at least 3 languages: Moroccan Arabic, Berber, and French.
- Speaking of which, they’re not that comfortable to be called Arab, since they feel like they’re more associated with Berber culture. How do I know this? While my ex is Tunisian, I used to also get involved with Moroccan and Algerian to the point one of them actually made fun of me by calling me “Ms. North African”. Not my prestigious achievement, but anyway…
- Morocco is actually so close to Europe, for it’s only around 13 km across the Strait of Gibraltar.
- So it’s so hard to skip couscous from the interesting facts about Morocco. I love couscous so much that one of my coworkers used to have a side business opening a catering business and I often had this for lunch. My other Indonesian friends found it weird, but I love it so…
- Despite Rabat being its current capital city, the basis of Morocco’s English name is Marrakesh, the former capital city under the Almoravid dynasty and Almohad Caliphate.
- Morocco’s national animal is the Barbary lion. Hence, the nickname of their football national team: Lions of the Atlas.
- The blue houses of Chaoen are blue as the Jewish refugees painted them that way for they believe that it kept the mosquitoes away.
- Ibn Battuta, probably the most notable Muslim explorers in the medieval world due to his adventure to travel widely in most of the Islamic and non-Muslim lands from North Africa to China, is also Moroccan.
- Morocco has been readmitted to the African Union in 2017 after they left for more than 3 decades due to the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
- Morocco is the country in the Arab world that encourages the friendly relations with Israel, only second to Egypt. However, Israel and Morocco have not had formal relationsIsrael and Morocco have not had formal relations since the outset of the second intifada in 2000 when Morocco suspended their diplomatic ties with Israel.
- Morocco’s formal name is actually Al Mamlakah al Magribiyah.
For me, as Indonesian, I think it’s fair to say that Iran is associated with Shia Muslim.
But that’s pretty much the thing that I know about the country. I mean yeah, I flew to some destinations in Iran like Tehran, Mashad, or Isfahan back in my flying days but that’s about it. Like Morocco, I didn’t have a chance to actually have a layover anywhere in the country.
I don’t know, when it comes to Iran, I only got familiar with the people, but not the country or situation there in general. One of my good friends back when I stayed in Izmir, is Iranian who’s now living in England. And I think if there’s anything about Iranian people, they’re very friendly and nice.
I mean, come on… I think it’s only Iran flight where passengers would randomly call me to give me pistachios. 😀
- Iran has become the Islamic Republic since 1979 when the monarchy was overthrown under supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini. You can watch the movie Argo for some reference. Hmm.
- “Bilmiyorum” is the word in Farsi for “I don’t know”. It’s the same as Turkish, and my favorite word to say during Iran flight whenever some random passenger spoke to me in Farsi.
- After oil, Iran’s second largest commodity is carpet.
- The former name of Iran is Persia, which was used until 1935.
- And yes, that’s where the breed of cat Persian comes from. My beloved late cat Disco was a Persian, and in Iran Persian cats are known as Shirazi cat.
- When I said that it’s only Iran flight where passengers would randomly call me to give me some pistachios, it’s actually not surprising as pistachio nuts are intertwined with Iranian culture and are present in all facets of Iranian life. As to speak, giving me some pistachios is a way for Iranian people to try introducing their culture despite the language barrier between us. Isn’t that sweet?
- In terms of geography, they share borders with at least ten countries. Those include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Oman, UAE, Kuwait, Iraq and Turkey.
- While majority of the population in Iran is Shia Muslim, they also recognize Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and the Baha’i.
- The word Iran in Farsi means ‘the land of Aryans’.
- When I read Prince Caspian from Narnia series, I would honestly imagine it had something to do with the Caspian Sea. I mean, the name King Miraz actually ring a bell and sounds pretty Middle Eastern. Couldn’t confirm this though.
- Iran national football team won the Asian Cup 3 times, only second after Japan, and the same titles as Saudi Arabia.
Okay, so I know that this post turns out to be way too long to read, but I just got an idea to compile this recently when I realized that it’s just one more month to go for the World Cup and there are so many countries to cover, so yeah… Sorry about the inconvenience length of the post.
However, for you who have actually read the whole post, I’d like to say thank you!
So, see you on the next smartass production for group C and D as well some random facts about each country. Cheerio! 😀