Friday, March 30, 2012 ESPNsoccernet: March 31, 9:59 AM UK
Messi by name and the path to goal
Off the Ball never rests in its mission to scratch around the underbelly of professional football to find the most bizarre, humorous and inexplicable stories.
This week there is another Messi around; some German fans take matters into their own hands; Facebook causes issues in Ghana; Mario Balotelli makes an unexpected entrance at an Inter press conference and Miss Southampton may have one of her own thanks to a headline writer at the south coast club's matchday programme.
Messi by name, messy by nature
When your club signs Lionel Messi, naturally there is a moment when you get overly excited and start dreaming of all the medals and trophies that will soon start to come your way. But when it is French second-division side Angers, something doesn't quite add up.
The reason, of course, is that it isn't the World Player of the Year after all, rather Lionel Messi Nyamsi: a 17-year-old central midfielder who was born in Cameroon and plays for Toulouse Fontaines.
All the same, Angers' head of youth recruitment Axel Labatiniere was impressed by the youngster with the famous name and insisted: "I spotted him playing a tournament in the southwest of France. We gave him a trial at Angers. He has a really good feel for the game. We've offered him a contract. He is considering it.''
Choosing to join a relegation-battling club languishing in 15th place in Ligue 2, the Cameroonian Messi was quoted as saying on French football website Chronofoot: "I've had other offers but I think I'll end up at Angers. My greatest wish is to play alongside Leo Messi. I was born in Cameroon but I'm French. I would choose France.''
Stay tuned for a raft of players named Di Stefano, Puskas, Zidane, Cruyff and Maradona making their way to a lower league near you.
Hearts of Darkness
Hearts of Oak midfielder Uriah Asante learned the power of Facebook in Ghana this week with a comment that caused some of the club's loyal fans to threaten him and almost force him to end his career.
In what was a fairly short exchange with Kotoko coach Maxwell Konadu - under whom he had played at the 2011 All Africa Games for the Ghana Under-23 side where Konadu was assistant coach - Asante responded to Konadu's comment which read: "No retreat no surrender at Berekum on Wednesday" by posting: "I pray you win."
Hearts fans responded with warnings that he would suffer a severe beating if they saw him again and the 19-year-old opted to stay out of the team's training grounds at the ATTC Park. The club also hit him (metaphorically) with a two-week pay cut.
"How can a Hearts player wine and dine with the enemy?" Osman Awal-Kasim, a chairman of one of Hearts supporters' wing Chapter 'O', told Kumasi-based Angel FM, while his father, Mettle Nunu, pleaded to Oman FM in another radio interview: "Asante didn't mean what he said. It was just a good will message because Maxwell Konadu coached him at the Black Meteors. I'm a big time Hearts of Oak fan myself so I'm pleading with the fans."
Hearts travel to Aduana Stars on Sunday, where Asante is expected to play as thankfully the storm appears to have died down. Chief exec Fred Crentsil reported:
"Uriah Asante was at training today and nothing happened to him; you can check."
Which way to goal?
It's tough when your side isn't scoring, but what can you do about it? The obvious answers include more vocal chanting, perhaps some well directed 'motivation' aimed at a particular player; although most tend to favour the old 'keep quiet and then moan about it in the pub' routine.
In Germany though, they have taken a different approach. Fans of regional side FC Magdeburg had grown so bored of seeing their side slip up in front of goal for the past five matches that they decided to try and make an impact against BAK '07 on Sunday.
Arriving at the ground with a banner reading: 'Wir ziegen euch, wo das tor steht!' [Which Google translate tells you means 'We'll goats, where is the gate!' but is probably more like 'Don't worry, we'll show you the goal is'] they preceded to unveil some rather larger dayglo arrows to point their ailing men in the right direction.
The result, aside from global fame in OTB of course, was actually quite impressive as American striker Chris Wright ended the 558-minute dry spell with an equaliser ten minutes from time. However, next time the creative fans will have to come up with something to bolster their defence as BAK '07 still found a winner in the closing stages.
Video of the week
It was the proudest day of his young career: Inter youth team coach Andrea Stramaccioni was presented as the club's new manager after the sacking of Claudio Ranieri and also got to shake the hand of the great Mario Balotelli as well. Quite what the City striker was doing in Milan is up for debate, but crashing an Inter press conference was obviously on his busy agenda.
To see Mario stealing the limelight, click here .