10 times footballers went AWOL (featuring paintballing, weddings and grandmas)

Adriano Brazil
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6. “Duckadam? He’s ’armless”

When Steaua Bucharest’s Helmuth Duckadam saved all four of Barcelona’s penalties to win the 1986 European Cup shootout, he expected more than the car he received as a bonus and had a moan at a post-game banquet.

Duckadam soon disappeared, amid rumours that Steaua benefactor and notoriously unhinged Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu had ordered his arms to be lopped off as punishment for his whinging and increasing fame. Three years later, Duckadam reappeared, citing a blood disorder for his absence – but never played for them again. Hmm.

7. Here’s looking at you, George

After refusing to travel with the United team for a match against Chelsea, Best spent the weekend with actress Sinead Cusack

The king of disappearing acts excelled himself in 1969 when, after refusing to travel with the Manchester United team to London for a match against Chelsea, George Best took himself to the capital and spent the weekend with actress Sinead Cusack in her flat. Best watched photographers camped outside on television pictures from inside the flat. “Even by my standards that was a weird day,” said El Beatle with a wink.

8. “Erm, I think we’ve lost a football team”

“It’s something that happens in international events,” sighed Homeless World Cup spokeswoman Kat Byles in 2008, after it emerged that players from Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Kenya had fled their team camps at the end of the Melbourne tournament, and the entire Liberian women’s team had vanished into thin air.

“Currently, no players are in breach of their visa conditions, but the clock is ticking,” insisted an increasingly fraught Byles.

Homeless World Cup

"Er, we should probably take some of those flags down, guys"

9. Adriano goes ‘paintballing’

Refused leave by Inter to stay on in his homeland after a 2009 friendly against Peru, wayward Brazil striker Adriano stayed on anyway. Eventually he resurfaced, but only after pictures emerged of him flashing gang signs and posing with a gun. “He uses it for paintball,” insisted the striker’s spokesman. Sure.

10. Granny shenanigans

Stephen Ireland finally admitted to missing Ireland’s 2007 defeat in the Czech Republic because he was visiting his “lonely girlfriend” in Cork – but only after both his grans had to read of their deaths, thanks to the then-Manchester City midfielder’s bewildering fibs.

Six months earlier, ex-West Ham defender Anton Ferdinand missed a friendly because, apparently, he had to visit his sick gran on the Isle of Wight. In fact, he was en route to the Knock Knock nightclub in South Carolina. The truth will always out, eh boys?

This feature originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!

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