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Saturday, September 24, 2011
Barca serve up a treat

Jon Carter

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, Barcelona's kitchen is the place to be, Fernando Torres' miss is recreated online, Dimitar Berbatov thinks he is like Franz Beckenbauer, Turkey takes a new approach to crowd trouble and Joey Barton reads a book!

We are what we eat

Barcelona have announced a new plan to continue their great success on the pitch, and it will take place in the Masia academy kitchens. Having recruited famed avant-garde chef Ferran Adria to revamp its youth academy menu this week, the new campaign - titled 'We are what we do, we are what we eat' - was launched and will be led by Lionel Messi and team-mate Gerard Pique. The European champions poached the chef from the well respected El Bulli restaurant, which closed its doors in July after 24 years of service, and there will be some intriguing new dishes on the menu as names like 'Clam Meringue', 'Olive Spheres' and 'Hot Cold Gin Fizz' have made an appearance. "Barca is the world reference not just because of its on-field results but its attitude," Adria said (presumably while elbow deep in a blancmange), with the club adding that it was keen to "foster healthy eating and exercise" for the stars of the future. Probably best to start with whatever food Messi ate as a kid.

The rise of 'Berbenbauer'

As a manager, what do you do when you are winning 3-0 but the only centre back that you have bothered to name in your squad limps off injured after you have used all three of your substitutions? Well, you scour your ranks for a player of strength and power who can take command of a situation to ensure that a shock stays off the cards... unless you are Sir Alex Ferguson, in which case you stick Dimitar Berbatov in there. Against Leeds in the Carling Cup in midweek, an understrength United were hardly tested defensively, but when young Zeki Fryers (we didn't know who he was either) had to go off with ten minutes remaining, Berbatov, who has become known for his never-say-die attitude, passionate commitment and combative style, was thrown into the breach. And, to be fair to him, he did pretty well. Regular (when he's not injured) centre back Rio Ferdinand took to Twitter to give us some insight from the training ground, tweeting: ''Berba loves it at centre back in training... thinks he is Berbenbaur!!'' [sic]. Given that there are at least three strikers ahead of him in the United pecking order right now, perhaps a change of position at this stage of his career could yet happen. After all, Franz started his career as a midfielder.

Women and children first

It's not the Titantic but rather a unique approach to the Turkish league's problem with unruly fans. Taking the view that it is men who cause the problems in the stands, the Turkish FA passed a rule this week that bans those with more Y than X and admits only women, and children under the age of 12, at clubs that have been sanctioned for crowd trouble. One such club is Fenerbahce, and they saw more than 41,000 women and children attend their game against Manisaspor in Istanbul this week and even brought in female police officers to help with searches. Before the game, both teams' players tossed flowers at the fans, while the game had a ''fun and pleasant atmosphere", according to Manisaspor midfielder Omer Aysan. The Anatolia news agency even reported that the visiting team was greeted with applause, instead of the usual jeering, and a 1-1 draw sent everyone home happy at the end. Now, if only the match-fixing investigation could be solved so easily.

Neil Warnock's good books

Off the Ball is all for getting into your boss' good books, but some people just take it too far. It will surprise no-one that the culprit in this instance is one Joseph Anthony Barton, who evidently misunderstood the meaning of the phrase above and immediately rushed out to buy QPR manager Neil Warnock's autobiography, Made in Sheffield. While Friedrich Nietzsche and George Orwell usually occupy the time of football's finest pseudo-pseud on Twitter, it is Warnock's book that Barton was caught reading on the bus by fellow team-mate Jay Bothroyd. And a picture was published for all to see. Barton must have learned something as he has just been made the new QPR captain, although given that the some of the book's reviews point out Warnock's ''delusional opinions and lack of humility',' while also criticising him for ''lacking any form of self awareness'' and being ''immature at times'', perhaps there is little for the midfielder to learn from his new boss. Still, if Joey seems overly knowledgeable about the world of Global Interface Design in coming weeks, you know he's just Googled the wrong Tony Fernandes.
Video of the week As 50 million man Fernando Torres shanked the ball wide of an open goal that even Diana Ross surely would have found, gamers around the globe were already beginning to wonder how to make their mark on his induction into football's hall of infamy. Step forward YouTube user 'R9Rai', who gave up a large proportion of his life to recreate the miss on EA Sports' FIFA 11 title. And, to his credit, he did a remarkable job. Click here ESPN Video.
More than words...

Sandefjord players Stian Antonsen and Marius Berntzen failed to win a 'friendly' game of footy tennis in training and were punished by being made to train naked. Lucky it's not winter yet, eh?©

Around the web • The best headed own goal ever? ESPN Video • Hope Solo beats Steve Nash at FIFA 12 ESPN Video • How spontaneous rule changes would improve football • Pictures of Bayern Munich in lederhosen

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