10 of football's weirdest initiation ceremonies

John Hartson Wimbledon

It's doubtful to imagine Ben White finding his national insurance number or Raphael Varane being introduced to the HR department on their respective first days of work. In football, it's often very different indeed for the new boys.

These days, players are already in WhatsApp groups before they've met. They already follow each other on social media. If any initiation ceremony takes place, it's probably an awkward karaoke performance in the dressing room.

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Thank heavens for small mercies. Not all progress in football is good but getting rid of some of these strange, disturbing and downright mean introductions can only been good news.

1. Kenny Sansom's unlikely bedfellows

Every player wants to feel loved by their manager... but perhaps not as much as Kenny Samson did at Crystal Palace. 

“Peter Taylor kept mouthing ‘I love you’,” recalled Sansom. “The next thing, he’s blowing kisses at me too.”

The chunky full-back, who admitted to being “naive” when he turned professional at Crystal Palace, later discovered room-mate Dave Swindlehurst had pushed the beds together in their room. Sansom soon cottoned onto the wind-up, but not before some curious moments ahead of his first-team debut.

2. Garrincha's Little Bird dropping

His Botafogo coach later described him as “the most amateur professional ever to play football” - and Garrincha’s behaviour towards new signings did little to disprove that view. 

“He’d eat a really spicy meal,” explained former team-mate Didi, “then break wind in the new boy’s face.”

The Little Bird’s array of bottom-related pranks also extended to lobbing turds through new signings’ windows. Lovely.

3. Parlour-vous Anglais?

Ray Parlour enjoyed taking new Arsenal recruits under his wing and teaching them some helpful English phrases. After being schooled by Parlour, Brazilian midfielder Edu was reported to have greeted former Manchester United chief executive Martin Edwards with “you dirty bastard”.

The Romford Pele later admitted that he would “try to get foreign players to swear at important people all the time”. It was an old trick: ex-Manchester United man Andrei Kanchelskis once told FFT of the time he was duped into calling Alex Ferguson "Scottish bastard". We're sure that went down swimmingly. 

4. Know what Amin?

Idi Amin

There's nothing like a rousing chant... just not one that could get you killed by the president. 

Despotic Idi Amin ruled Uganda during the 1970s and was one of the most brutal leaders in history, with human rights groups estimating that between 100,000 and 500,000 people were killed by him. So how did Uganda players decide to welcome newly-capped stars?

“You were told to shout ‘down with Amin’ in front of the first team,” explained an unnamed former Uganda striker in the early '80s. 

It seems dangerous. This test of foolhardiness proved too much for some petrified newcomers, who opted not to play for The Cranes, rather than incur Amin’s wrath. 

5. Trev's “milk and two sugars”

Having already threatened to “whack him around the head with my squash racquet” after signing for Nottingham Forest, Brian Clough then decided to bring down million-pound signing Trevor Francis a further peg or two by instructing him to make his new team-mates’ half-time cuppas during his first week at the club.

“He put too much milk in mine,” moaned the barking mad Cloughie afterwards, “but luckily he played football better than he made tea.” 

6. Sing or else

Conor Wilkinson

Portsmouth fans may be forgiven for forgetting about 2016 loanee Conor Wilkinson – he only played 20 minutes for them, after all – but the now-Walsall striker remembers his short-lived stint at Fratton Park all too well. Wilkinson bizarrely claimed that his loan spell at Pompey was cut short by manager Paul Cook because he refused to sing in front of his new teammates en route to a match. 

"I'd been there for a day, I felt awkward in front of the lads," Wilkinson recalled. "I said to him [Cook] that I would have happily paid the fine or done something instead of sing. It was pretty awkward in front of 20 lads.

"I wouldn’t have minded had I been there for a few days or so, but after one day he wanted me to sing and I wasn’t very comfortable with it. I didn’t want to sing and he sent me back."

7. Gordon Hill served up a treat

“Gordon Hill had only been a professional for two months,” recalled Eamon Dunphy in Only A Game? - “but he made a mistake when he told us he was a great tennis player.”

On a pre-season Millwall tour to Bournemouth, Hill received calls from teammates pretending to be tennis journalists. As his mates prepared for a night out, the future Manchester United winger was left slouched in the hotel lobby in his tennis whites... waiting for a TV crew that never arrived.

8. Gerd Muller: Der Bomber silenced

After arriving at Bayern Munich, Muller was disturbed to find that none of his team-mates wanted to speak to him. “It was like I was invisible,” admitted Der Bomber.

After grabbing a brace in the reserves a week into his Bayern career, Muller’s colleagues shook hands with him in stony silence. A fortnight later, they burst into applause when he walked into the dressing room and congratulated him for “enduring the two-week silent treatment”.

And who said Germans had a poor sense of humour?

9. John Hartson's gang induction

It wasn't called the Crazy Gang for nothing, you know.

“The suit cost me a couple of grand,” admitted new Wimbledon striker John Hartson, after joining the Wimbledon from West Ham in a club-record deal. Having torched the Welshman’s suit, Vinnie Jones et al proceeded to throw the charred remains in a puddle, torch the new recruit's tracksuit for good measure, then let down his tyres.

“English football misses that kind of humour,” reflected Vinnie years later, “it’s all too serious these days.” 

10. Mel Sterland's pain game

Sheffield Wednesday was no place for faint-hearted apprentices in the early '80s, particularly with boss Jack Charlton actively encouraging “welcome to Hillsborough” ceremonies for new recruits.

“I’d get a really hard toilet brush,” recalled Mel Sterland in his autobiography, “shove it in their bollocks, and twirl it around.”

The rest of the initiation ceremony comprised dollops of Vaseline, boot polish and being tied naked on the freezing Kop. No thank you. 


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