12 Global Stories
Our monthly round-up of the stranger news in global football takes in kangaroos, werewolves, the Mona Lisa and Rafa getting the filters out
1 NICE ARTWORK IF YOU CAN GET IT France Paris
Once labelled “as valuable as the Mona Lisa” by his agent Mino Raiola, Mario Balotelli tested the theory by snapping himself sampling the Leonardo da Vinci doodle amid rumours he was leaving his club Nice. Potential buyers from around Europe swiftly got in touch to say they’d be keen to pay big money to purchase the star of the photo… and they’d chuck in a fiver to buy Balotelli as well.
2 RESTRICTED VIEW Bangladesh Dhaka
It might seem strange (not to mention dangerous) to watch the World Cup with a bag over your head, but such measures were taken in Bangladesh, where folks viewed the action in the pouring rain on the streets of Dhaka. The bags were transparent, so the kids could see all of the action in Brazil’s 2-0 win over Serbia. Whether they were given something a little more opaque for France’s goalless draw with Denmark, we can’t say. Oh and kids: don’t try this at home, or for that matter outside.
3 GETTING ABOVE HIS STATION England London
London Underground knew exactly the best way to pay tribute to England boss Gareth Southgate after he guided the Three Lions to a World Cup semi-final: they named a Tube station after him. Just as Paris renamed their Metro stations ‘Victor Hugo Lloris’ (not bad) and ‘Deschamps-Elysees’ (better), Southgate station in north London was officially called ‘Gareth Southgate’ for 48 hours. Sam Allardyce was gutted: before he departed the England job, he’d had his eyes on ‘Samden Town’.
4 LES NOT-SO-MISERABLES France Paris
The celebrations in Paris didn’t stop at a few renamed Metro stations. No, the French capital went big on the night of Les Bleus’ triumph over Croatia. Thousands of fans gathered on the (Des)Champs-Elysees, where the Arc de Triomphe was lit up in the colours of the French flag… the colours of the Croatia flag, too. Key players were also beamed onto the arch – a towering monument with limited mobility, even Olivier Giroud got his face up there.
5 “FRIEND FIRST. BOSS SECOND. ENTERTAINER THIRD”
England West Kirby
The internet felt incomplete without an official Rafa Benitez Instagram page, but the Newcastle gaffer has put it right. After posting a picture of his dogs, the second image Benitez shared with the world was a Brentish photo of him posing nonchalantly by some rocks in the Wirral. The hotly-anticipated new album, Facts, is released on August 12.
6 KANGAROO 1 PUSSY RIOT 0 Australia Canberra
In Russia, pitch invaders are usually feminist punk rockers on a protest. In Australia they’re kangaroos. A marsupial bounded onto the pitch during a women’s match between Capital FC and Belconnen United, and stayed for 32 minutes. Once caught, it probably got the same treatment as Pussy Riot: taken to a kangaroo court…
7 FROGGER GOES GLOBAL Russia Rostov
Nothing confuses Russians like a man in a frog suit, our grandad always said. So, Ippei-kun, the mascot of Japan’s Ehime region, flew to the World Cup to cheer on the Blue Samurai. He rode the Metro, watched Japan’s clash with Belgium, and confused security guards when he casually walked through the metal detectors to enter Red Square, putting out his arms for a full body search. They just waved him through.
8 “DIEGO TOLD THE TAXI DRIVER THAT HE WANTED TO SEE BREST” Belarus Brest
Fresh from flipping the bird at World Cup fans, Diego Maradona was unveiled as chairman of Dynamo Brest in Belarus. True to form, the Argentine maniac was paraded in some sort of monster truck, before watching his new team lose 3-1 to Shakhtyor Soligorsk. The face on the besuited bloke walking in front of Diego’s tank says it all.
9 FROM SCHEISSE TO SCHEESEN Germany Lindenfels
Germany’s confidence hasn’t been rocked by a disastrous World Cup, if the Scheesen Race is anything to go by. A variety of weird contraptions raced around a football pitch near Frankfurt – among them a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang tribute, driven by two men wearing Mesut Ozil and Toni Kroos masks and bearing the sign ‘Europameister 2020’. Nice try, lads, but you’ve got no chance. England host the semi-finals and final of the Euros, and they’ve got Gareth Southgate. How could Germany possibly win in a situation like that?
10 “THE KIDS WILL LOVE IT” Mexico Puebla
Liga MX side Lobos BUAP prepared for 2018-19 by dispatching two players to meet an animatronic werewolf who has clearly been working those abs hard. Oscar Rojas and Omar Tejeda were greeted by the daunting 9ft creature when they turned up at the local university. There was even speculation that the werewolf would be the club’s new mascot. It would terrify opponents all right, but it might leave their entire junior fanbase running for the hills, too.
11 EVERY FOOTBALL SHIRT NEEDS A RAILWAY BRIDGE ON IT Russia Krasnoyarsk
To liven up the monotony of Siberia, freshly-promoted Russian Premier League outfit Yenisey Krasnoyarsk have released two eye-catching new kits. One of them features a lot of lions, because as striker Maksim Rudnev says, “a lion never allows himself to be fed up of old successes” (look out, Attenborough), but the away kit wins with a full cityscape, including the cathedral and the railway bridge, which is a UNESCO heritage site.
12 BICYCLE AND STRING OF ONIONS NOT PICTURED England London
And we have another bridge to round off this month’s weirdness: Patrice Evra randomly chose London Bridge as the backdrop when he dressed up in full musketeer garb ahead of France’s World Cup semi-final against Belgium. The former Manchester United full-back and patronising pundit had previously posed with a beret and baguette before the tie with Uruguay. OK Patrice, we get it: you’re French. What’s next? Playing an accordion, or maybe headbutting an Italian?