9 times football fell victim to fake news: arrests, deaths and sex changes

Donald Trump, fake news

Arsene Wenger has dismissed suggestions of first-team assistant Boro Primorac leaving as "fake news" – already a buzzword of 2017 thanks to a certain White House incumbent. But as Jon Spurling discovers, mistruths in the game were being reported long before Donald Trump got up in grills. Sad!

1. Puskas back from the dead

In the midst of the Hungarian Revolution in October 1956, the legendary Ferenc Puskas was reported to have been killed by gunfire

In the midst of the Hungarian Revolution in October 1956, the legendary Ferenc Puskas was reported to have been killed by gunfire “while manning the barricades for freedom against tyranny”. The Manchester Guardian even ran a front-page obituary “with an infinite sadness”.

Yet within 24 hours, state radio confirmed that Puskas was alive and very much kicking; a month later he defected, vowing to never play for his country again. "The pressure and the worry it put my family through was awful," the the inside-forward later reflected.

When Puskas finally joined Real Madrid in 1958, supporters held up a banner reading: “De Entre Los Muertos” (“Back From The Dead”). Opposition defenders probably wished he'd stayed in Hungary.

Ferenc Puskas

Puskas (centre) pictured 18 months after he supposedly passed away

2. Car-eer pause

Weeks after the final, Dudacam contracted a rare blood disorder which prevented him from playing

After a heroic penalty shootout performance in Steaua Bucharest’s victory over Terry Venables’ Barcelona in the 1986 European Cup Final, goalkeeper Helmut Ducadam allegedly complained at the post-match banquet that a car wasn't adequate reward for the glory he'd brought to Romania.

“The Hero of Seville” promptly disappeared that summer, amid wild rumours that he’d been shot dead or had his arms cut off by leader Nicolae Ceaucescu’s vengeful agents. The truth was rather more mundane, although still serious: weeks after the final, Dudacam contracted a rare blood disorder which prevented him from playing. Arms still intact, he returned three years later with lower-league Vagonul.

3. Supermac's wrath

I'll never speak to the journalist who spread the story for the rest of my career

- Malcolm MacDonald

“I can confirm that I’m very much alive,” reported a distinctly miffed Malcolm 'Supermac' MacDonald in 1978 after local radio stations had broadcast details of his death in a car crash on the M1 that morning.

The story at least contained a grain of truth: another Mr MacDonald had perished in an accident in Bedfordshire that same day, which led to a tabloid writer putting two and two together and getting five.

"I'll never speak to the journalist who spread the story for the rest of my career," the Arsenal striker fumed. He was as good as his word.

Malcolm MacDonald

Reports of MacDonald's death were greatly exaggerated