12 Global Stories
Felix Magath mixes chess and cheese, a Russian bear warms up for the World Cup and Prince William nearly names baby Axel – it’s been another weird few weeks
1 “HELLO... IS IT NON-LEAGUE YOU’RE LOOKING FOR?”
USA Las Vegas If there’s one thing that Lionel Richie is known for, it’s his willingness to throw his weight behind clubs threatened by relegation from the Football League. Hartlepool, Aldershot, Kidderminster Harriers: Lionel has supported them all (probably). This season he posed with a Chesterfield top to support the ailing Spireites, ahead of a summer concert. “Good luck to Chesterfield for the rest of the season!” he said, in a quote that definitely wasn’t made up on his behalf. “Looking forward to performing at the legendary Proact Stadium in June.” Legendary indeed...
2 WHAT A PAIR OF CLOWNS England Accrington
Strange times at Accrington Stanley, where two Ronald McDonalds turned up at the Wham Stadium after an odd dispute between the EFL and the club’s chairman, who was warned for buying his players a McDonald’s after victories. Not that Stanley were too perturbed: those victories helped them to secure promotion. They’re lovin’ it.
3 “THEY HAVE POLAR BEARS IN RUSSIA, RIGHT?” France Paris
Another month, another weird Neymar picture on Instagram. After inexplicably donning Christmas costume in the snow in February, this time the Brazil star kept himself occupied by sticking on a massive fur coat and stroking a toy polar bear. Amid transfer links to Real Madrid, it’s almost as if he’s dropping hints that Paris is too cold for him. It’s all too subtle at the moment, though. Next month: Neymar dresses as Queen Elsa from Frozen, performing a beautiful rendition of Let It Go, before launching straight into, “Oh this year I’m off to sunny Spain, Y Viva Espana…”
4 LIFE AND DEATH Italy Milan
It was a battle of the tifos when Milan faced Inter at the San Siro recently. The Nerazzurri unveiled a banner quoting a heartfelt line from Vasco Rossi’s song Vivere (‘To Live’) – Milan went in the opposite direction, making a tifo of an enormous skull together with the words ‘Fino Alla Morte!’, or ‘Until Death!’ Crikey guys, keep it light.
5 BEAR 1 MONKEY 0 Russia Pyatigorsk
Japan led the way, training a monkey to deliver the match ball at Cerezo Osaka. Russia have taken it further: no messing about with monkeys, they’ve got a bear – an actual eight-foot bear. The animal was led out to the pitch before Mashuk-KMV’s third-tier match with Angusht, standing on its hind legs to clap the crowd before handing the ball to the referee. It certainly added an touch of jeopardy to proceedings – Russian hooligans are a minor concern compared to the prospect of an angry bear rampaging through the stadium.
6 ROLLING IN IT Germany Mainz
Opposition to Monday Night Football shows no sign of going away in the Bundesliga. After Werder Bremen’s Garfield tifo protest last month, this time Mainz fans got involved – hurling reams of toilet roll onto the pitch to delay the start of the second half. The game had already been delayed when the players went in for half-time, only to be called back as a penalty had been awarded by VAR. Just an average midweek match, then.
7 FORGET HEAVY METAL FOOTBALL England Liverpool
Anyone who knows anything about music can reel off the names of The Beatles: John, Paul, George, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain… No wait, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain? OK, the Ox isn’t actually part of the band, but he did don Sixties gear and pose as part of the Fab Four for charity, alongside Joe Gomez, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson. Thankfully, heavy metal fan Jurgen Klopp didn’t turn up and bite the head off a bat.
8 RAY PARLOUR, TOP GIZA Egypt Giza
Ray Parlour headed to Cairo recently to meet Gunners supporters in Egypt – a fanbase that has been growing since Arsenal’s signing of Mohamed Elneny. Duties complete, he hotfooted it to Giza and did the classic ‘finger on top of the Great Pyramid’ joke. Surprising, really, that no one photobombed him with a ‘Wenger Out’ sign.
9 SAY CHEESE, FELIX! Germany Berlin
If you’ve been wondering what Felix Magath is up to now, wonder no more. The former Fulham gaffer randomly turned up to make the ceremonial first move at a chess tournament, and it’s rumoured he also offered some tactical instructions to the players – something about rubbing some cheese on each piece before the start of the match. It didn’t help, to be honest.
10 PRINCE AXEL IT IS, THEN England Birmingham
Prince William and John Carew, together at last. Second in line to the throne met lumbering former striker at Aston Villa’s game against Cardiff, and the pair were pictured celebrating together when Jack Grealish scored a late winner. A renowned Villa fan, William joked he’d call his third child Jack or Jackie in Grealish’s honour. It was a pity that Axel Tuanzebe didn’t bag the winner.
11 “BUT NO ONE GOT ME A CARD?” France Paris
When Hatem Ben Arfa posed in front of a birthday cake on Instagram recently, it confused people: mainly because it wasn’t his birthday. The former Newcastle wideman was ‘celebrating’ the fact that it was exactly a year since his last outing for PSG – he’s been well down the pecking order since Neymar and others rocked up. We can’t imagine the photo went down terribly well with boss Unai Emery…
12 ZLATAN IN ‘NOT ACTUALLY A REAL LION’ SHOCKER USA Los Angeles
As we know by now, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a lion. We know this because for the past year or so, the Swedish frontman has been telling anyone and everyone that he’s definitely a lion. Not a tiger, and certainly not a cheetah. A snow leopard? Don’t even go there, friend. He’s a lion, all right? Grrr. Ibrahimovic continued this pretence by posing with a lion mascot at a recent LA Kings ice hockey match, although it backfired on him. If anything, he looked much less like a lion than the mascot, and even the mascot isn’t a real lion. You’re fooling no one, Zlatan…