Friday, August 27, 2010
ESPNsoccernet: August 31, 3:41 PM UK
Bebe's a dud, fans sabotage own pitch
The new season is upon us and Off The Ball will be scratching around the underbelly of professional football for the duration of the campaign to find the most bizarre, humorous and inexplicable stories.
This week, Manchester United's new £7.4 million signing is dropped from the reserves, Panionios fans dig up their own pitch, there is a phantom underpant slasher at Chelsea and Khalid Boulahrouz kicks a ball at a woman's head.
Is Man United's new signing Bebe a dud?
Manchester United's new signing Bebe has reportedly been so disappointing in training that he was pulled out of a reserve match against Manchester City on Wednesday by coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
More than a few eyebrows were raised when the former street kid was plucked from obscurity early this month and eyebrows reached an all-time high when manager Sir Alex Ferguson revealed he hadn't bothered to watch the Portuguese forward before parting with nearly £8 million.
Ferguson signed Bebe from Vitoria de Guimaraes, following a spell with third division side Estrala da Amadora, on the recommendation of former assistant and Portugal manager Carlos Queiroz and still hadn't seen the youngster as the The Guardian reported he had been pulled from the reserve match the Scot was scheduled to attend.
Still, it's not all bad news for United. A completely unsubstantiated rumour is doing the rounds that Bebe actually only cost £250k and not the £7.4 million reported in the press.
Panionios fans sabotage own pitch
Imagine the scenario: Your city rivals are set to enjoy a heady night of European football on your club's pitch and there is nothing you can do about it. Or is there?
Fans of Greek side Panionios were so infuriated to discover that AEK Athens were set to play a Europa League clash with Dundee United at the Nea Smyrni stadium that they broke goalposts and ripped divots out of the pitch to prevent the game going ahead.
The match was originally switched from AEK's Olympic Stadium because their playing surface was being re-laid and now UEFA has been forced to move the game to Olympiakos's Karaiskaki Stadium to avoid having to throw AEK out of the competition.
As an added bonus for the Panionios supporters, crowd concerns mean AEK fans are banned from attending the match.
Chelsea's millionaire players are living in fear of a phantom underpant slasher who stalks the club's dressing room, according to a report in the News of the World.
Apparently, the Y-front saboteur strikes up to two times per week and what started out as a "cheeky prank" is now a real pain in the rump for the players, who have to keep buying replacement designer keks.
Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard revealed: "It's gone on for about a year. We get in to find the bum cheeks cut out of our underpants. It has to be one of the players. They are the only ones with access. You might get two hits in a week, then he won't attack for a month or so.
"I've a good idea who it is but wouldn't dream of making accusations until I have proof. It's costing a fortune in designer underwear."
Top tip for Chelsea's stars: 100% cotton boxers are £7 for a three-pack at Primark. Get the maid down there pronto to stock up.
Bale's barnet key to Spurs success
Tottenham Hotspur cruised into the Champions League for the first time in their history this week and at least a small portion of their success can be attributed to Gareth Bale's hair.
Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp singled out Bale's barnet as the reason why the left-winger has progressed so much in the past 18 months, culminating with a winning brace against Stoke City at the weekend.
"Bale has grown up," Redknapp said. "When I first came to Spurs, Bale was still a baby, he always seemed to be limping off the training ground every time he got touched.
"Have I had to talk to Bale about mental toughness? A bit, yeah. I just said, 'Stop messing about with your barnet'. I said, 'C'mon Gareth, stop messing about with your hair'. He was always at it."
Whilst playing for Wales, Bale famously called the physio over after taking a bang to the head and then, after composing himself, picked up a hair-clip and carefully pinned his fringe back into place.
Ronaldinho sneaks into Barca team photo
It seems AC Milan forward Ronaldinho is still in love with former club Barcelona. After serenading the cules with a sickeningly gushing pre-match letter the Brazilian then stole into Barca's official team photo ahead of the Trofeo Gamper friendly clash at Camp Nou on Wednesday.
Ronaldinho, who was twice crowned FIFA World Player of the Year during his time at Barca, wrote: "I would like to take advantage of this occasion to thank you all for everything we shared together during the five years I defended the Barca shirt. They were certainly the best years of my life, both professionally and personally. I honestly think we enjoyed so much whilst we were together... blah.. blah... a sincere hug to all the Barca family and especially to Sandro Rosell."
AC Milan will be none too happy that Ronaldinho claimed the best time of his life came at a rival club, especially as the Rossoneri are hoping to lure Barcelona's Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the San Siro.
But maybe it's all part of the master plan to cosy up the Spanish club and get Ibra on the cheap. Especially the shout-out to president and chief negotiator Sandro Rosell.
Video of the week
This is probably the best shot of Khalid Boulahrouz's career. The Stuttgart defender hits a 40-yard strike with pin-point accuracy into the back of the head of unfortunate German reporter Jessica Kastrop. Given Boulahrouz's agricultural performances for Chelsea this can only be an accident. Can't it? To see Boulahrouz kick a ball at a woman's head click here.
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