Outside the Box: Argy-bargy indeed as 18 see red and General brawl is abandoned

  • @stevetongue

Something of a South American theme this week, reflecting the fact that football rarely experiences a dull day in that part of the world. Those of a certain age will remember gasping at grainy black-and-white footage of the fighting and kicking matches when Racing Club of Buenos Aires took on Celtic and then Estudiantes met Manchester United in the World Club Cup.

Even then there were enough players left on the pitch (just) to finish the games. But a recent Argentinian third division match between Barracas Bolivar and General Lamadrid had to be abandoned after all 18 players and substitutes from Lamadrid were sent off following a brawl also involving Bolivar fans and riot police. The footage is available on YouTube. Equally entertaining, by the way, is the YouTube film of the Uzbekistan national team manager attempting to improve his team's shooting accuracy. Each player has to kick the ball through a small hole in a wall and, if they fail, must run behind the wall and stick their head through the hole while team-mates have a shot at them. Should liven up a dull England session, Fabio?

Defending like a big girl

Meanwhile, Roberto Fernandes, the manager of Brazilian second division side Figueirense, came up with an equally innovative means of motivation. His central defender Jairo, in a bad run of form, was told not to bother with his normal kit for a training session and was sent out instead in a pink dress. The veteran coach claimed it worked, but others were less impressed; the president of the Brazilian Association of Lawyers called the idea "moral abuse".

Brown-nosing for votes

"What on earth is Gordon Brown doing in Brazil?" fumes Spurs fan and 'Daily Mail' columnist Richard Littlejohn. Relax, Richard, he's cementing relations with the Brazilian Football Confederation and might even pick up some support for the 2018 World Cup bid described prematurely by the 'Mail' as doomed. As well as discussing minor matters like the global financial crisis, the PM and Brazil's president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, announced a partnership under which the FA will send referees to Brazil and help create a national refereeing school in exchange for their vote. Sorry, that should read in exchange for sharing "information and best practice on player transfers, registrations and security".

When the kit hits the fan

Newcastle United and Crystal Palace have joined the infamous list of clubs who have banned local journalists. In the Geordies' case it was the long-serving Alan Oliver, while Palace's chairman, Simon Jordan, classy as ever, had the hugely supportive 'Croydon Advertiser' barred by text message. Their crime? Printing criticism by fans of the club's new kit. "It was such a hysterical reaction to a small thing," the paper's editor said after successful peace talks.

Musical heroes and Villans

Aston Villa's manager, Martin O'Neill, appears to be taking solace, as so many of his predecessors did, in music. At the training ground last week he was clutching copies of the Small Faces fanzine 'Darlings of the Wapping Wharf Launderette', which led to conversation at the weekly press conference straying from Villa's poor run to The Hollies' reunion tour. John Gregory used to have an electric guitar and framed pictures of Bruce Springsteen in his office and Ron Atkinson, asked once for his highlight of the 1994 World Cup, said: "Meeting Frank Sinatra".