THE WEEK THAT WAS

World Cup to be "blessed" with slaughtered cows

December 3, 2009
By Dominic Raynor
(Archive)

This was the week in which FIFA chief Sepp Blatter laughed at poor old Ireland, Avram Grant was likened to Yoda, Manchester City were rebranded as Manchester United, Arsene Wenger spat the dummy and South Africa proposed to slaughter a cow at every World Cup venue.

Avram Grant is like Yoda - Friday, November 27

Scowling former Chelsea manager Avram Grant might appear to have a touch of the dark side about him but Portsmouth goalkeeper David James hailed his arrival at Fratton Park by likening the new Pompey boss to Yoda.

The Premier League's bottom club finally gave Paul Hart the boot following yet another defeat and although Avram began his reign with a 4-1 loss against Manchester United, James is backing the wizened Jedi master to eventually get it right.

"Avram's knowledge is immense. He's like Yoda," James said. "His pearls of wisdom seem to be far-reaching and he speaks a lot of sense." Far more sense than James, it seems.

Bullard celebrates the last laugh - Saturday, November 28

Hull City, Jimmy Bullard
GettyImagesHull City's Jimmy Bullard celebrate his goal by impersonating his manager

There have been some fantastic goal celebrations down the years - Paul Gascoigne's dentist's chair, Jurgen Klinsmann's self-mocking dive, Peter Crouch's robot dance - but Jimmy Bullard's mimicry of Hull City manager Phil Brown at Eastlands on Saturday has to be one of the best.

Last season Brown admonished his players during an on-field team-talk as Hull were embarrassed 5-1 by Manchester City and his impromptu public rant was blamed for the Tigers' dip in form for the rest of the campaign.

On Saturday Bullard celebrated his equaliser in the 1-1 draw at the City of Manchester Stadium by wagging his finger at a circle of players sat around him in a light-hearted re-enactment of the half-time roasting Brown delivered.

Fortunately for Bullard his manager saw the funny side. "It was a fantastic celebration," said Brown. "Great comedy is about timing. You could not have had a celebration like that, after a goal, unless it was at Eastlands and was in the goal in front of the Hull fans. The whole thing was timed to perfection."

But is this the best goal celebration ever?

Man City chief rebrands club "United" - Sunday, November 29

Manchester City executive chairman Garry Cook has made no secret of his uncompromising desire to transform the Citizens into one of the best sides in the world but rebranding the club "United" proved to be a step too far for the fans.

Speaking at a 60th anniversary dinner for the Official Supporters' Club, Cook introduced City Hall of Fame inductee Uwe Rosler as a star player for their bitter cross-city rivals Manchester United.

"I'd like to welcome Uwe Rosler into the Manchester United Hall of Fame," Cook blurted.

His error was greeted by a chorus of jeers. Cook was still being booed when Rosler stood up to deliver his acceptance speech and the German striker left the ceremony looking deeply embarrassed.

Blatter laughs at Ireland - Monday, November 30

Already branded as "loose cannon" and "an embarrassment to FIFA" by Republic of Ireland assistant manager Liam Brady, football supremo Sepp Blatter made himself even more unpopular in Ireland this week when he publicly laughed at their attempts to overturn Thierry Henry's handball.

Blatter actually chuckled as he told a press conference in South Africa how Ireland had asked to be added to the 2010 World Cup finals as the 33rd team following their controversial play-off defeat to France.

Speaking at a gathering of the world's media ahead of Friday's draw, Blatter smirked: "They have asked, very humbly 'can't we be team No.33 at the World Cup?' They have asked for that, really!"

He has since apologized.

La Messiah runs away with the Ballon d'Or - Tuesday, December 1

GettyImagesStar striker Lionel Messi celebrates his goal as Barcelona win the Champions League.

The 2009 Lionel Andres Messi award, otherwise known as the Ballon d'Or, surprisingly went to... well... er... Lionel Messi.

There has probably never been a more odds-on favourite to win the annual European Footballer of the Year title than the Barcelona forward and he swept to victory with the largest majority ever.

The Argentina international scored 473 out of a possible 480 points following his starring role in winning the Champions League, Copa del Rey and Primera Liga treble with Barcelona last season.

Messi's bĂȘte noire, Cristiano Ronaldo came a distant second and Barca team-mate Xavi came third. The highest placed Englishman was Wayne Rooney in 8th place. There is really no debating that Messi deserved the award.

Wenger spits the dummy - Wednesday December 2

You have to admire Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger for his stubborn insistence on embracing defeat with a distinct lack of grace. The Frenchman has spat more dummies than a disgruntled baby and he was at it again on Wednesday night when he refused to shake the hand of victorious Manchester City manager Mark Hughes following a Carling Cup tie at Eastlands.

Wenger quickly disappeared down the tunnel after the final whistle leaving Hughes with his hand out.

The snubbed City boss said: "You have to be gracious when you win and gracious in defeat and maybe Arsene wasn't too gracious but I can understand it, maybe he's used to winning games and when he does get beat sometimes he doesn't know how to behave."

Wenger's curt response to Hughes' comment was: "I think I have nothing to say. I am free to shake hands with whom I want."

The great, the good and Mick McCarthy have since come out to say that managers should always shake hands at the final whistle. But if you don't really mean it, is it better to abstain?

South Africa plan "cow sacrifice" at World Cup stadia - Thursday, December 3

There have been a number of pointless controversies ahead of South Africa 2010, such as the furore over the noisy vuzuvela blown by the fans, and a proposal to bless the World Cup stadia in a "true African" way by slaughtering a cow at each venue has stirred up a real storm.

A South African judge refused to stop a traditional Zulu bull-killing ceremony at the weekend and the Makhonya Royal Trust, which co-ordinates African cultural activities, is pushing for a sacrifice to ensure a successful World Cup.

"We must have a cultural ceremony of some sort, where we are going to slaughter a beast," Trust chairman Zolani Mkiva said. "We sacrifice the cow for this great achievement and we call on our ancestors to bless, to grace, to ensure that all goes well."

The South African government is reportedly backing the plan and will lobby FIFA for their backing.