Alien invasion strikes Germany

... Germany, the annual team photo is back – after a year of social distancing, it had become an alien concept



Hallescher FC welcomed a new arrival for their squad photo – but he seemed a bit under the weather.

Looking rather green, with bulging eyes and a tired expression on his face, the 8ft new boy didn’t exactly look ready for action. But no, the German third- tier side hadn’t brought Peter Crouch out of retirement – this was Galaktikus, alien mascot for the kids’ section of regional newspaper Mitteldeut­sche Zeitung.

Hallescher are based in the city of Halle, in former East Germany. They qualified for the UEFA Cup in 1971, back when the club were known as Chemie Halle, in honour of the local chemical industry. Sadly they fell on hard times after reunificat­ion, falling as far as the amateur leagues, before embarking upon a partial recovery and returning to the 3. Liga.

It’s unknown if Galaktikus is a Halle resident who was exposed to a few too many chemicals, but his presence wasn’t the only weird occurrence in the early weeks of 2021- 22 – Hallescher soon thumped Alemania Riestedt 18- 0 in a regional cup tie. Was it down to alien interventi­on? The truth is out there.


Jose Mourinho’s installati­on as Roma boss took most of the pre- season headlines in Serie A – but city rivals Lazio have a new manager, too.

A year since he was dismissed by Juventus, Maurizio Sarri has been drafted in to replace Simone Inzaghi, who has joined champions Inter.

To mark his new job, Sarri posed with the club’s eagle mascot. If the former Chelsea boss looked a little edgy, it was probably because of the absolutely furious expression on the eagle’s face, as if the bird was ready to claw his eyes out.

Either the eagle is an anti- smoking campaigner, or Sarri had just tried to substitute it for Willy Caballero.


Only four months ago, Ben Brereton was warming the bench for Blackburn Rovers – now he’s the face of Pepsi in Chile.

The 22- year- old from Stoke received a shock Copa America call- up thanks to his Chilean mum. He starred on his debut against Argentina, then scored against Bolivia to earn cult status.

Commercial deals soon came rolling in. His only previous experience had been a tongue- in- cheek appearance on Blackburn’s social media channels alongside Bradley Dack, dressed as Del Boy and Rodney hawking watches QVC style – now he was promoting actual Pepsi on actual Chilean TV, in pidgin Spanish, with a broad Stoke accent.

Sometimes life is just weird.


If you stumble across a giant polar bear outside Bramall Lane in the near future, don’t be alarmed.

Despite the long absence of fans, man- eating beasts haven’t taken over the stadium – although one has been stationed outside the main stand as part of a charity campaign.

The Bears Of Sheffield exhibition has seen sculptures placed around the city to raise funds for the local children’s hospital – one was painted in Sheffield Wednesday colours, another donned Sheffield United’s 1994- 95 kit.

The Blades had just been relegated from the top flight that year, too, after a last- minute Chelsea goal sent them down. The bear still looks stunned.


Kanye West knew exactly how to blend in when he turned up at Atlanta United’s MLS match against Columbus Crew – by wearing a giant red puffer jacket and a bizarre mask covering his entire face.

The rapper has been living inside the club’s Mercedes- Benz Stadium while completing his latest album, initially donning the weird attire for a listening party where 42,000 people turned up to watch Kanye silently sway while demo tracks were played over the PA.

Two days later Atlanta were in MLS action, so he headed back into the stands and hung out with fans – still wearing the mask. The home side lost 1- 0, so perhaps it was just as well that he couldn’t see a bloody thing...


Kanye West’s new album is all well and good, but can he rap like Leonid Slutsky?

The former Hull City boss is now manager of Rubin Kazan, and having lived in the shadow of Phil Brown’s unsurpasse­d singing skills during his days by the Humber, the 50- year- old has found his voice back in Russia.

Last year, Slutsky treated fans to an out- of- tune but hearty rendition of Mariah Carey classic All I Want For

Christmas Is You, and recently he’s been at it again – releasing rap song

Rubin Supergood, featuring two waitresses brandishin­g the local equivalent of Ferrero Rocher.

He’s set the standard high for all ex- Hull managers – expect Steve Bruce’s reggaeton debut very soon.


With pretty much no fans in stadiums last season, there wasn’t a lot of need for mascots – but suffice to say, they’ve been making grand returns for 2021- 22.

None have been grander than the return of PSV Eindhoven’s mascot Phoxy, who marked the club’s friendly against Greek side PAOK by heading up to the roof of the Philips Stadion, then dramatical­ly abseiling down into the arena. England U21 prospect Noni Madueke scored PSV’S winner, but his thunder had been well and truly stolen by the daredevil fox.

Next up in the world of mascots: to celebrate his comeback, after that time he was sacked and unsacked again, Gunnersaur­us is shot out of a cannon at the Emirates Stadium.


Some players spent their summer at Euro 2020, while others headed to the Olympics. Pepe Reina, meanwhile, dressed up as a penguin on Spanish TV.

The 38- year- old former Liverpool keeper was enjoying a well- earned rest after his first season at Lazio, and was a guest star on Spain’s version of The Masked Singer – treating viewers to Junco’s ’ 80s tune Hola Mi Amor.

Reina appeared for one night only, but El Chiringuit­o presenter Josep Pedrerol – he of the ace Eden Hazard Champions League semi- final meme – was a full contestant, donning a frog suit before bopping along to a tune by Dutch DJ Tiesto. Just imagine how angry he would have been if Hazard had done that at Stamford Bridge...


Last summer, Ronaldinho was under house arrest after an unhappy spell in a Paraguayan prison – so this time he was determined to enjoy himself.

The 41- year- old headed to Illinois to meet Chicago White Sox’s fluffy mascot Southpaw, then make the ceremonial ‘ first kick’ ahead of their clash with Cleveland Indians.

We’re pretty sure you’re not actually supposed to kick a baseball, and it’s probably not a very effective method of pitching – but he’s a living legend, so you go right ahead Ronnie.

The Brazilian also met up with the Chicago Bulls, where he presumably tried to rainbow flick the ball into the basket or something. If only Michael Jordan had thought of that.

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