Friday, September 17, 2010
Lehmann's a muppet, UEFA ban Monty Python
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, Jens Lehmann is told he's a muppet who belongs in an asylum, Togo send a fake team to Bahrain, Jay-Z wants to buy Arsenal and UEFA tell Bayern Munich fans they're very naughty boys.
Wiese: Muppet Lehmann is mad as a hatter
Eccentric goalkeeper Jens Lehmann may have hung up his gloves but thankfully the numerous rivalries he carefully fuelled during his playing career continue to be stoked thanks to his role as an outspoken TV pundit in Germany.
Lehmann, who rarely has a good word to say about his fellow keepers, criticised Werder Bremen's Tim Wiese following the 2-2 Champions League draw against Spurs on Tuesday, claiming he could have saved the opening goal if his positioning had been better.
Wiese responded to Lehmann's mild admonishment by saying: "He should go on the Muppet Show. That man should be on a couch. Maybe someone would be able to help him there. Commit him - best to an asylum."
At first glance this may seem like something of an overreaction, but the duo have previous. Wiese has always claimed Lehmann would not shake his hand before matches and ahead of the World Cup the former Germany international backed Manuel Neuer and Rene Adler for Die Mannschaft's No.1 Jersey ahead of Wiese.
An Emirates state of mind
New York rapper Jay-Z intends to buy a place on the Arsenal board so he can help develop his favourite Premier League club and it's all the fault of Gunners legend Thierry Henry.
It gets better; Jay-Z's wife Beyonce Knowles would even move to London so he could be "involved in the decision-making" at the team he began to support "when Thierry Henry was at the club".
"I never want to be a back-seat investor. I want to be on the board, involved in the decision-making," the Daily Mirror quote Jay-Z as saying. "I have really got into soccer over the last 10 years and I've been saying for some time I want a percentage of Arsenal."
At least half of ESPNsoccernet Towers have their fingers, toes and eyes crossed that the jigga man makes his presence felt at the Emirates, the other half are cursing Henry for an unwanted legacy.
UEFA bans Bayern's Monty Python banner
A number Bayern Munich fans landed themselves in trouble with UEFA this week for having what rule 7.9.1 article 4a in the grey-suited kill-joy rule book defines as 'a sense of humour'.
The Bayern supporters unfurled a Monty Python-inspired banner ahead of their Champions League clash against Roma at the Allianz Arena that read "Romani ite domum"- Latin for "Romans Go Home". Despite being a clear reference to Monty Python's Life of Brian film it was considered provocative by UEFA. The accompanying "Life of Bayern" flag escaped censure.
In a statement, UEFA said: "Anything that may cause offense to a fan base or ethnic group, and therefore pose a security risk, including banners or symbols, is carefully vetted."
But even if we the obvious comedy element is overlooked, "Roman's go home" is hardly the most provocative banner ever seen at a football stadium. Galatasaray's "Welcome to Hell" and the accompanying throat-slitting gestures springs to mind.
'Fake' Togo go on tour
It can't be easy to assimilate a secret team of imposters to play an international friendly on foreign shores but that's exactly what the Togolese Football Federation (TFF) claimed had happened when a "completely fake" side lost to Bahrain.
The Middle East hosts expressed their surprise at the poor quality of the Togo team following a 3-0 win in Riffa and once the TFF had a quick butchers at the fixture list they declared they hadn't sent a team to the National Stadium.
"The players that took part in the friendly match against Bahrain were completely fake," TFF chairman Seiyi Memene said. "We have not sent any team of footballers to Bahrain. The players are not known to us."
If only the French had thought of that excuse the FFF could have saved themselves from all the clowning around that followed this summer's World Cup debacle.
Total Messi on Hackney Marshes
"Okay, so we'll fly the world's most famous footballer to an unsecure public playing field in one of the world's most populated cities to have a kick about with a bunch of local kids from London. What could possibly go wrong?"
And so went the meeting at Adidas HQ as they planned a bafflingly ill-conceived publicity stunt for Lionel Messi to promote his new boots. However, the sports company - who posted photographic clues on Facebook as to where Messi would be 30 minutes beforehand - had not banked on the levels of interest.
With Sky Sports News also covering the event, and hardly keeping the location secret, viewers were treated to live footage of the diminutive forward disembarking from his helicopter - unaccompanied and kit bag in hand - and within five seconds being swamped by a mass of adoring fans.
Just what Messi must have thought as his MIB-style handlers were forced to bundle him into the back of a transit van to escape the pandemonium heaven only knows. But it's probably safe to say Adidas are now minus one executive.
Video of the week
It's a goalkeeper special this week. First, FAR Rabat goalkeeper Khalid El Askri shows how not to do it as he is too busy beating his chest in triumph to realise he hasn't actually saved a penalty. See El Askri's stunning penalty blunder here.
And secondly, Bayern Munich's veteran goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt shows how to make a spectacular save with nonchalant ease. To see Butt's double rebound save click here.
Around the web
• Bet on the height of Peter Crouch and Abbey Clancy's child
• Turkey rocked after manager is stabbed on touchline by his brother
• Backlash to Stjarnan's cheeky goal celebrations in Iceland
• Medvedev praises Marseille defender for own goal