In what many consider a premature move, VAR will be deployed at this summer’s World Cup in Russia. The use of video referees may help prevent controversy and injustice, but there’s also a fear that match officials aren’t sufficiently prepared to use it. After all, football and technology hasn’t always been the best mix…
Arsenal rocked by Socco tweet
With Arsenal the only club in Europe’s top five divisions not to sign an outfield player in summer 2015, Gunners fans were open to any form of transfer gossip. So when Twitter suggested Arsene Wenger had spent £34m on a 16-year-old called Rex Socco, the club’s social media following went into panic mode (very uncharacteristic behaviour, we know).
Videos of the player scoring wonderful goals were suddenly unearthed from nowhere, with comparisons made to fellow teenage sensation Anthony Martial. It was later rumbled as a hoax, however, with marketing agency Social Chain taking responsibility for the prank.
Berba’s Q&A with… er, Berba
The languid striker took the unusual step of conducting an interview with himself in January 2016 after being sent off for PAOK in their 1-0 defeat by AEK Athens, taking aim at the reporters who were coming up with “stupid things” such as questioning his commitment to his team’s cause. Imagine...
In his Facebook interview, the Bulgarian took the guise of both a reporter, unimaginatively titled JDB (Journalist Dimitar Berbatov), and himself (DB). Frost versus Nixon this was not.
De Bruyne becomes royal search
When Prince Harry lookalike and Belgium international Kevin De Bruyne scored against the United States at the 2014 World Cup, the internet went into a frenzy. Good Morning America also joined in the fun by tweeting: “Prince Harry is out to destroy America. He plays in Lukaku and it's 2-0. Sad, instrumental Barry Manilow music plays.”
Meanwhile, Belgium’s real royal, King Philippe, came out to support the national team in Brazil. Come to think of it, he does look a bit like Sven…
Essandoh the analogue hero
Ahead of an FA Cup quarter-final clash with Leicester in 2001, Wycome boss Lawrie Sanchez was desperate to find a striker to boost his injury-ravaged squad. Roy Essandoh ran to Wanderers’ aid after his agent saw Sanchez’s plea on BBC’s now-redundant Ceefax news service.
The Northern Irishman, who signed a two-year contract, headed an injury-time winner to secure the Chairboys a semi-final berth against Liverpool. Essandoh later cast doubt on parts of the fairy tale by admitting: “I guess the version that everyone knows makes for a better story.” Spoilsport.
“Hi Barça!”... “Bye Barça!”
Barcelona B signed Sergi Guardiola on the afternoon of December 29, 2015 but cancelled his contract later that day after some derogatory messages dating back to 2013 were discovered on his Twitter account.
Among the 24-year-old’s social media musings were “I wouldn’t have Messi in my team; he spoils the way the team plays” and the even more inflammatory “Up Real Madrid, and to hell with Catalonia”.
Hargreaves’ YouTube shorts
Released by Manchester United, Owen Hargreaves came over all Davina McCall when he made a series of fitness videos on YouTube in 2011 in a bid to revive his injury-hit career. The clips showed the former midfielder doing strength and conditioning exercises in a pair of tight-fitting bicycle shorts, and only one of him actually kicking a ball.
Hargreaves subsequently signed a one-year contract at Manchester City but made just one league appearance, later suggesting Sir Alex Ferguson’s medical team may have tampered too much during his time at United.
Brentford’s Blackberry book
Now-retired Bees keeper Richard Lee wrote a book about his football journey on a Blackberry, mainly during his daily commute to Osterley from Cockfosters.
The 34-year-old has also appeared on Dragons’ Den, and won a cash prize with the missus on Come Dine with Me. When a fellow contestant suggested footballers aren’t very bright, Lee retorted: “I have a master practitioner award in neuro-linguistic programming.” So there.
Felipe Melo’s app attack
Inter and Brazil’s Felipe Melo spotted a gap in the app market in 2015 and quickly filled it with a game allowing players to assume his identity and help prevent the destruction of the planet by zombies.
Users were armed with the rather atypical weapons of footballs and training cones to help them ward off the flesh-eating reanimated corpses, with the option of the two-footed challenge surprisingly not included in the available arsenal by the tough-tackling midfielder.
Mutu’s Photoshop faux pas
Adrian Mutu’s colourful career took a farcical turn when he was left out of Romania’s World Cup qualifier against Greece in November 2013, with the irate striker taking to Facebook to post an image of coach Victor Piturca as Mr Bean.
The picture was soon deleted – but not before the Romanian Football Federation had got a glimpse of the bumbling movie star in national colours. The former Chelsea man was promptly told he would never represent his country again.
Poldi’s Facebook nuptials
On Valentine's Day 2015, Lukas Podolski received a message from a Brazilian woman, Santana Sontos, confirming she had met a German man through the Arsenal star’s Facebook page and that the couple were getting married.
Podolski was bereft of goals but not the spirit of romance. “I’m glad for being the Cupid of this beautiful relationship,” he gushed on his Instagram page. “I wish you two lots happiness, joy and longevity. Enjoy your love for the rest of your lives.” How sweet.
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