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...
“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.