Football / The Diary: Burnley's burning passion

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The Independent Online
NO ONE can doubt Dave Burnley's love of Burnley FC. Burnley, originally Beeston until he renamed himself, has missed one match in 25 years - Newcastle away in '74, and then only because of miners' and rail strikes, confusion following 12 postponements and an inaccurate St James' receptionist. With him at tomorrow's Wembley play-off will be Claretta, his four-year-old daughter. 'She was going to be called Burnley, but her mother pointed out she would have felt silly calling, 'Burnley Burnley, your tea's ready'. Claretta's a very feminine version of the club colours.'

Dating is awkward. 'I wanted to be responsible when I met the right woman. So I took her for a curry and made her fill in a questionnaire with 150 questions. Like if we had a son, would you mind if we called him Ralphie (after Coates) or Turfmoor (sic)? She passed on 97 per cent. But we eventually fell out.' You will not be surprised to learn the parting was 'football-related'.

MINDFUL, no doubt, of those Killer Prawns that gave English cricketers the wrong sort of runs in India, Scotland's rugby tourists played it safe with potentially dodgy dishes in Argentina this week. A mass sidestep was executed before one Buenos Aires barbie - which sizzled with intestinal tract of cow and bull's balls.

IMAGINE you are a very young Arsenal fan at Wembley to cheer England's Gunners. Imagine Ian Wright runs off the pitch after the warm-up and kicks a ball into the crowd. Imagine the ball arcs towards you and, after a scrum, you emerge smiling with the ball. Imagine how boys seated nearby steal an envious glance at your gift from an idol. Imagine then that a Football Association official marches across and demands the ball back. Imagine your disappointment as your father angrily hands it over. No imagination needed. It happened last Sunday.

'These pounds 50, top-of-the-range balls are not giveaways,' an FA spokesman said yesterday. 'The man claimed that any ball that goes into the crowd becomes the property of the person who gets his hands on it. This is clearly nonsensical. Would a person be allowed to keep a ball kicked into the crowd during a game?' Poor kid, though.

ODESSA, currently last in the Whitbread Round The World Yacht Race, has had so many delays en route it would have been no shock if she had been lapped. The Odessa file is full of money crises, a fight on board, sickness, and a succession of rigging breakages. But, as Odessa's crew of five Ukrainians, three Yanks, an Australian, an Irishman, an Englishman and a Kiwi, give chase across the Atlantic, their odyssey looks like ending joyously. Southampton yachties, whose largesse helped Odessa compete, will roll out the barrel and bunting when she arrives around D-Day. 'We're telling everyone to join in the armada to cheer in the underdog,' David Goyder, of Shamrock Chandlery, said. Dockside philanthropists are even raising funds to pay for the skipper's wife to fly in from Kiev. Anatoly Verba's boat has been invited to the Statue of Liberty, to Odessa itself for the city's 200th anniversary, while the UN is rumoured to be preparing a tribute. Odessa's transatlantic crossings are not finished.

THE bottle of Wild Turkey Bourbon for odd team of the week (cricketers named after places) goes to J Golson, of Leeds, who writes: 'All are current county players eligible for England. The bowling may be a bit suspect - but so is England's'

Team (player's county / place): Atherton (Lancashire / Lancashire); Weston (Worcestershire / Shropshire), Thorpe (Surrey / Surrey), Ward (Kent / Ireland), Middleton (Hampshire / Lancashire), Newport (Worcestershire / Isle of Wight), Cork (Derbyshire / Ireland), Marsh (Kent / Devon), Salisbury (Sussex / Wiltshire), V Wells (Leicestershire / Somerset), Radford (Worcestershire / Warwickshire).

Today's Team Spirit test: a side of cricketing comedians (like Gloucestershire's T Hancock). Entries to Sports Diary, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.