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Friday, November 5, 2010
50ft Rooney to burn on bonfire

Dominic Raynor

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, Wayne Rooney is to be burned on a bonfire, a US General 're-educates' some over-zealous Aston Villa stewards, the Rome derby is deemed too scary for an eagle and Rafa Benitez speaks more wibble at Inter Milan. 50ft Rooney effigy to be burned on bonfire Holding Manchester United to ransom for a 180,000-per-week contract might not rank up there with attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament, but it's enough for Wayne Rooney to be burnt by the Kent Bonfire Society as their celebrity Guy on Saturday. If you happen to find the way an out-of-form Rooney ungraciously went about boosting his already ridiculously inflated wages - amid lurid allegations about his private life a bit galling - then watching a 50ft effigy of the striker go up in smoke might prove satisfying. The giant figure, which has been filled with fireworks, depicts a Shrek-style Rooney holding a copy of his lucrative new five-year contract under one arm and a bag full of cash in his other hand. The society's spokesman, Charles Laver, said: "I hate football myself so I'm quite happy to burn a footballer. One of our members is a big Man U fan, so he's been advising us on getting all the details of the kit just right." Past celebrity Guys include Gordon Brown, Russell Brand and Katie Price. US General teaches over-zealous Villa stewards a lesson Vietnam and Gulf War veteran General Charles Krulak has threatened to "re-educate" Aston Villa's hapless stewards (who are now presumably quaking in their boots) in light of the news that they ejected a teenage fan who accidentally tumbled on to the pitch ESPN Video after heading the ball back into play during Villa's derby match with Birmingham. Luckily for the kill-joy jobsworths, former US Marine Krulak is actually a member of the club's board and won't be throwing them into the depths of Abu Ghraib for an astounding lack of common sense. Apprentice bricklayer Kieran Comerford, 19, was thrown out of the ground, much to the disgust of his fellow fans, for 'encroaching on the playing area' after his header was followed by a comedy fall over the advertising hoardings. Krulak said: "Our head of security is meeting the senior stewards to 're-educate' them on how to carry out their duties. Overzealous stewards can destroy the atmosphere as fast as poor play." After being ejected from the 0-0 draw, Comerford said: "My header was probably one of the best bits of the game." Glentoran goal nominated for Puskas Award Unknown Glentoran striker Matty Burrows could soon be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi after his back-heeled 92nd minute winner against Portadown last month became an internet sensation. The 25-year-old's audacious jumping back-heel volley ESPN Video received more than three million views on YouTube and has now been shortlisted for FIFA's new goal of the year gong, the Puskas Award. The winner of the award will be whoever receives the most public votes on FIFA's website and, as the goal featured in this column back in October, it would only be right to urge you to back the Irish Premiership player when voting begins later this month. Last year's inaugural Puskas Award was scooped by Ronaldo's 40-yard winner for Manchester United against FC Porto in the Champions League. Rafa ramps up the nonsense at Inter Somebody get the men in the white coats: the potent residue left on the Inter Milan hotseat by soundbite king Jose Mourinho is turning current incumbent Rafa Benitez into a wibbling fool. The former Liverpool manager, who famously only used to deal in 'facts', has followed up last week's "white liquid in a bottle has to be milk" metaphor with an even more perplexing rant about clergy and mounds of demerara. Reacting to Roy Hodgson's remarks about the mess he found Liverpool in, Rafa said: "He's talking about things that he doesn't know, and some people cannot see a priest on a mountain of sugar. He doesn't know but I will explain it to him. So, instead of talking about the flips or the flops, he has to concentrate on his players, try to do his best." It used to be possible to pre-write almost every Benitez interview as it was so predictable, and now he's spouting nonsense. It's like shining a bicycle on your knees. Rome derby too scary for Lazio's eagle This weekend's Rome derby has been deemed too volatile for Lazio's lucky mascot, an American eagle known as Olimpia, and the bird of prey will be forced to miss the clash along with suspended Roma skipper Francesco Totti. The news is a huge blow for league-leaders Lazio, who have not lost a game at the Stadio Olimpico since president Claudio Lotito brought the eagle to club in the summer. Olimpia normally does three laps of the pitch while the club song is playing in the build-up to the match, but local authorities feel she could get distressed in a derby environment, where flares and paper bombs are often let off. It's up for debate who will be missed more: Roma skipper Totti or Olimpia. Video of the week One minute a smiling Ze Eduardo is walking along with a birthday cake in his hand and the next he's being beaten up, taped to a post, egged and floured and then beaten up some more. That's how birthdays go at Brazilian club Santos, apparently. Click here to see Ze Eduardo's birthday get messy ESPN Video. Around the web • Beckham wants to open Queen Vic pub in USA • Gazza makes jokes as he represents himself in court • Nolan makes Andy Carroll read bedtime stories • Phil Neville beats Obama in Twitter campaign


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