Around the world in 12 sto­ries

Psy­chic cats, Eric Can­tona with spaghetti on his head and a bear play­ing a vu­vuzela – just be­cause the World Cup’s on, it doesn’t mean foot­ball gets any less weird...

FourFourTwo - - CONTENTS -

“BLUE RINSE, PLEASE” Eng­land Lon­don

It wouldn’t be a World Cup sum­mer with­out David Luiz caus­ing amuse­ment by blow­ing it in style. Thank­fully, this time Luiz wasn’t re­liv­ing Brazil’s 7-1 de­feat to Ger­many: he was blow-dry­ing hair in de­lib­er­ately comic fash­ion.

Luiz tended to a Chelsea fan’s perm to pro­mote the west Lon­don­ers’ deal with Hyundai – if it was any­thing like 2014, he prob­a­bly looked like he could cut it at first, then got too ad­ven­tur­ous and left it hor­ri­bly short at the back.

FE­LINE LUCKY Rus­sia Saint Peters­burg

All World Cups need a psy­chic an­i­mal, and Rus­sia didn’t dis­ap­point. It’s un­fair to ex­pect any crea­ture to match the feats of Paul the Oc­to­pus, very much the Maradona ’86 of clair­voy­ant beasts, but Achilles the Cat gave it a go.

The Saint Peters­burg tabby is famed for its psy­chic pow­ers – it pre­dicted the Oc­to­ber Revo­lu­tion months be­fore ev­ery­one else – and ac­cu­rately fore­cast that Rus­sia would beat Saudi Ara­bia and Egypt. Just as well: it was head­ing to a gu­lag if it pre­dicted they’d lose...

IT’S A MARATHON NOT A SPRINT Nor­way Dram­men

A year af­ter re­tir­ing from athletics, Usain Bolt has been con­tin­u­ing his quest to be­come a foot­baller by go­ing on trial at Stroms­god­set.

The 31-year-old lined up in a friendly against Nor­way Un­der-19s, al­though Stroms­god­set lost. Ru­mour has it Bolt frus­trated team-mates by oc­ca­sion­ally do­ing a su­perb run from one end of the field to the other, only to then in­sist on spend­ing 10 min­utes search­ing for a Ja­maican flag be­fore re­peat­edly ask­ing when the medal cer­e­mony was.

CHILD’S PLAY Turkey Yol­macayir

Turk­ish foot­ball isn’t known for seren­ity: take the re­cent na­tional team match when Cenk To­sun was sent off for mak­ing throat-slit­ting ges­tures at fans.

Things were a lit­tle dif­fer­ent in the east of the coun­try, where a bril­liant photo cap­tured three chil­dren play­ing foot­ball in peace on a makeshift pitch be­side the moun­tains. It’ll all be fine un­til they get older and one sup­ports Galatasaray, one chooses Fener­bahce and the other opts for Be­sik­tas...

JUST A BEAR WITH A VU­VUZELA Rus­sia Mos­cow

Noth­ing says the World Cup like a bear play­ing a vu­vuzela. ‘Tim’ was on hand to de­liver the match­ball at a re­cent do­mes­tic fix­ture, and made his glo­ri­ous re­turn af­ter Rus­sia beat Saudi Ara­bia.

The griz­zly was driven around the cap­i­tal city’s streets on a truck while play­ing ev­ery foot­ball fan’s favourite African wind in­stru­ment – ex­pect him to turn up and present the World Cup tro­phy on July 15, while gar­gling the Rus­sian na­tional an­them or some­thing.

BRICKING IT The in­ter­net Some­where

If you didn’t catch Cris­tiano Ron­aldo’s World Cup hat-trick against Spain due to a month-long voy­age to the cen­tre of the Earth, fear not.

You can now watch the high­lights on Youtube, as de­picted in Lego. The video uses stop-mo­tion an­i­ma­tion – a bit like a World Cup equiv­a­lent of Wal­lace and Gromit – to recre­ate Lego Ron­aldo run­ning riot, look­ing pos­i­tively cheery be­fore fir­ing home that free-kick. The ref even con­sults VAR us­ing a gi­ant tele­phone. Dom Joly would be proud.

RAIS­ING THE DEVIL Rus­sia Mos­cow

More than 40,000 Peru fans trav­elled to the World Cup, and they weren’t only at matches in­volv­ing Los In­cas.

Sup­port­ers at­tended the tour­na­ment opener wear­ing Peru­vian knit­ted devil masks, pos­si­bly de­signed to ap­pear so ter­ri­fy­ing that even the lo­cal hooli­gans would think twice be­fore go­ing near them. “Put the crow­bar down and run, Dmitri, they’re from Peru!”

SANÉ COMES UN­STUCK Ger­many Dort­mund

It was all go­ing so well for Leroy Sané: PFA Young Player of the Year and in Ger­many’s pro­vi­sional World Cup squad, en­sur­ing that a gi­ant Panini sticker was un­veiled in his hon­our out­side the DFB Mu­seum. But then the fi­nal 23-man squad was cho­sen and the mu­seum got a call. “Er, you might want to take that Sané sticker down...”

Take it down they did, pub­licly peel­ing it off the wall, just to ram home Sané’s ax­e­ing in full pic­to­rial form. Harsh.

“WHAT ABOUT A DRAGON?” Spain Seville

The sum­mer of 2017 was a golden age for weird sign­ing videos: Al­varo Ne­gredo com­ing to Be­sik­tas (‘BAM! BAM!’), Je­sus Navas be­ing kid­napped, and Alek­san­dar Ko­larov pre­tend­ing not to be amused by a story about a tree full of goats.

The videos are back, and they’re still bizarre: Real Betis an­nounced Takashi Inui’s ar­rival with an an­i­ma­tion of a dragon as part of a Japan-themed video. Su­per Mario turns up, too, and some old bloke with a beard. Baf­fling.

ERIC THE (SPAGHETTI) KING France Paris

Eric Can­tona gen­er­ally keeps a low pro­file in the me­dia, but he’s prone to pop­ping up and do­ing some­thing bizarre dur­ing a ma­jor tour­na­ment.

Can­tona spent Euro 2016 singing ‘WILL GRIGG’S ON FIRE!!’ at the top of his voice, but he ap­pears to bored of Wi­gan strik­ers now. This time he put spaghetti on his head in­stead to poke fun at Ney­mar’s new hair­cut. Cheers Eric, see you again in 2020...

SOUR GRAPES Poland Krakow

World Cup fever re­ally was ev­ery­where in Poland: even at the su­per­mar­ket, where a full sta­dium was made out of toma­toes and mush­rooms. Grapes were used to de­pict the play­ers, laid out in the for­ma­tions of Poland and Sene­gal, their first op­po­nents.

Given how that game in Mos­cow went, we’re won­der­ing ex­actly how many min­utes into the match it was when some­one stormed into the su­per­mar­ket and trashed the thing.

PIC­TURE PER­FECT Rus­sia Yessen­tuki

Of­fi­cial por­traits can be pretty bor­ing, but not at the 2018 World Cup. Ev­ery player and man­ager posed – yes, even Julen Lopetegui – and some were odd.

New Wolves sign­ing Raul Jimenez dressed up in a wrestling mask, while Nige­ria’s Vic­tor Moses was pic­tured ma­ni­a­cally burst­ing through a piece of pa­per. The Chelsea man is scream­ing loudly dur­ing the photo: we think it’s be­cause he’s about to go down and claim a penalty, but hard to be sure.

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