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Friday, March 4, 2011
Early bath for Sao Paulo, lucky pants

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, Birmingham City's Craig Gardner thanks his lucky pants, Sao Paulo fans swim in the aisles of the club's Morumbi Stadium, an English club launches the most expensive season ticket in the world and Jose Mourinho takes aim at Real Madrid predecessor Manuel Pellegrini. Early bath for Sao Paulo fans There's only really two things required to fully enhance the match-day ritual: your team scarf and a Thermos full of Bovril. That's unless you happen to follow Brazilian side Sao Paulo and then a pair of swimming trunks and goggles can be added to the list. They would certainly have come in handy for this week's Championship clash with Palmeiras after a torrential downpour turned the club's 80,000-seat Morumbi Stadium into a water park. Such was the extent of the flooding that fans could swim in the walkways between the seats and the hardier supporters did just that as floodlight failure temporarily halted their clash against Luiz Felipe Scolari's side. Despite an hour delay and the atrocious conditions, referee Marcelo Aparacido Ribiero de Souza insisted the game, which ended in a 1-1 draw thanks to goals from Sao Paulo's Fernandinho and Palmeiras' Adriano, went ahead on a paddy-field of a pitch. Gardner gives Gunners the slip The biggest winner of Sunday's League Cup final must surely be Birmingham City midfielder Craig Gardner, who, after lifting the famous trophy, can finally change the thread-bare lucky underpants he has been wearing for two-years. Gardner was a key man during Birmingham's march to Wembley, scoring the winner in extra-time of the semi-final against West Ham, and the life-long Blues fan puts his sensational performances down to his beneficial briefs. "They are two years old, white and massive! They are shocking but seem to be doing the trick," the 24-year-old said. Given that Birmingham's previous trophy came 48 years ago, Gardner would do well to use the club's current high point to begin breaking in a new pair of propitious pants. Moreno faces sanctions after Owl attack Controversial Rangers striker El-Hadji Diouf, who this week managed to get himself sent off after the Old Firm derby had finished, may have thought he had the monopoly on inciting football fans but Panama defender Luis Moreno has an entire country baying for his blood. Moreno, who plays for Colombian side Deportivo Pereira, quite literally kicked an injured owl off the pitch against Atletico Junior only to discover that the injured bird, which died of shock 30 hours later, was in fact the opposition's mascot and lived in the stadium. Angry Atletico fans chanted "murderer, murderer" after the incident and brought an instant reaction from the players of the Barranquilla-based side, including Luia Paez, who said: "It made me very angry that he kicked the little animal. It was already injured by being struck by the ball. I said a bunch of awful thing to him [Moreno]. I was really angry." Moreno, who will be punished by his club and could also face sanctions from Colombian football's governing body, said: "I was not trying to hurt the owl. I did it [kicked] to see if it would fly ... my family is very worried about what happened because an entire country is against me. I believe what happened is regrettable and I apologised to the entire country." The world's Poshest season ticket If the words 'credit' and 'crunch' don't mean anything to you and there's a spare 15,000 in the glove box of your Bugatti Veyron then why not buy something special, like the world's most expensive season ticket? Sneer at the paupers who paid a mere 1,825 for one of Arsenal's top-tier passes - the most expensive season tickets in the Premier League - and cackle at the peasants at the Santiago Bernabeu who could buy a ridiculous 13 season tickets in the West Stand for the same price. Those beggars won't be able to join the club's executives for every home game, have a chance to meet the squad, legally be able to use the title 'Honorary Director' or take advantage of the all-you-can-eat supply of pies and champagne at Peterborough United's London Road stadium. Hang on! Peterborough? Aren't Posh in League One? Is this April 1? Stick with the 'Lifetime' ticket at a far more reasonable 12,000. Mourinho takes aim at Pellegrini Outspoken Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho flipped his switch to 'no mercy' mode this week, loaded up his verbal blunderbuss, declared open season on Manuel Pellegrini and fired both barrels at the harmless Malaga coach as he prepared to return to the Bernabeu dugout for the first time since being sacked. Pellegrini endured a trophyless tenure at Madrid last season and Mourinho softened up his axed predecessor with platitudes, such as "good coach", before going in for the kill ahead of Thursday's La Liga clash. "The same thing couldn't happen with me that happened with Pellegrini because if Madrid fires me I won't go coach Malaga, I'd go to a big club in England or Italy," Mourinho sniped. "I'd have no problem going back to coaching a big club." And what did Mourinho think about Pellegrini setting a new Real Madrid record of 96 points in La Liga last season? "In my philosophy, finishing second just makes you the best loser," he concluded.
Video of the week FC Twente's Douglas gets sent off for hitting a player on the floor. Then tries to headbutt the referee, before lamping another player and then finally getting carted off down the tunnel by the Dutch club's staff. If your'e going to do it, do it properly. To see Douglas lose it, click here .
More than words...

Man City manager Roberto Mancini and and Fulham boss Mark Hughes go at it at Eastlands. ©PA

Around the web • Samuel Eto'o pleads with a traffic warden not to give him a ticket • Zamparini says Delio Rossi 'ruined my Palermo' and sacks him • Obafemi Martins dedicates Carling Cup-winning goal to car-wash man • Paul Ince claims pampered players will be soon be wearing skirts


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