The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.

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There’s a odd aspect of history that I’m often drawn to think about. It’s the degrees-of-separation game extended through time. Consider this as an example: I know a woman who as a teenager in Jamaica met T. S. Eliot, whose grandmother—she lived next door to him in St. Louis—remembered her great-uncle John Adams, who once, when living in Paris, met Voltaire at the theatre. And Voltaire was born in 1694. That’s how quickly we can skip from you and me to the seventeenth century: it’s really not that long ago.

This works with the brief generations of athletic careers too. So consider this: Watching Shaun Wright-Phillips on the pitch for QPR this morning, I was reminded that early in his career, when he played for Manchester City, one of his teammates was Peter Schmeichel. Yes, Peter Schmeichel—who overlapped on the Danish national team with Allan Simonsen, who played at Borussia Mönchengladbach with Berti Vogts.

And that’s not anything like an extreme example. So I propose a game for RoP readers: try to find the shortest route back from a player of today to a great player of the past—Pelé, Puskás, George Best—using only teammates as links. Go to it.

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by Alan Jacobs · October 3, 2011

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