Foul play from the Bard

FOOTBALL DIARY
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The Independent Online
Consider the following dialogue from King Lear, 1608. Lear: You whoreson dog! You slave! You cur! Oswald: I am none of these my lord; I beseech your pardon. Lear: Do you bandy looks with me, you rascal! (Striking him). Oswald: I'll not be strucken, my lord. Lear: Nor tripp'd either, you base football player (Tripping up his heels).

Now this from the Evening Sentinel, Stoke, 1995. "William Shakespeare head-butted his victim and then kicked him as he lay on the floor, Stoke Crown Court heard. The defendant and his victim had been talking about football in a public house before the assault happened."

As the Bard did not say, plus a change.

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Legend has it that Norman Hunter's mother lashed out with her handbag if anyone in the stand criticised her son. Possibly to the embarrassment of Steve Lilwall, the West Bromwich Albion full-back, his mum called a live radio phone-in after fans rang blaming him for conceding the late penalty which cost Albion a point at Bolton. "I just want to say he was tired after playing full games for the reserves on Monday and Wednesday," Sandra Lilwall pleaded. "Fans think players don't care if they lose, but I know Steve will be devastated."

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The FA often takes stick for its idea of "urgent" in dealing with problems that arise in the game, but consider this piece of decisive action in Brazil. Edmundo, the Palmeiras striker, was banned for a second time this week more than six months after the original incident. Palmeiras have already appealed twice and intend to appeal again.

Last October, fighting between Palmeiras and So Paulo players during a Brazilian championship match held up play for 15 minutes. Police broke it up and six men, including Edmundo, were sent off. He was banned for 30 days plus four games, increased after a failed appeal to 40 days plus five games. A second appeal meant Edmundo could resume playing, and he appeared in the championship final in December.

That appeal failed on Wednesday, the ban being confirmed. The news ruined Edmundo's meal out that night as he had apparently forgotten all about the incident. Now, it seems, the Brazilian FA cannot remember how much of the ban Edmundo has served.

If you are fed up with your team's matches kicking off at strange times dictated by television or the police, try this one from Italy. The Serie B promotion showdown between Atalanta and Udinese yesterday had its kick- off changed at the behest of the Vatican. The match, scheduled for 8.30pm, was brought forward a day so it could be shown live on TV, but the Vatican's newspaper L'Osservatore Romano expressed papal outrage at football's "insensitivity" in playing on Good Friday at all. As a compromise, it kicked off at 6pm, to enable spectators to get to mass later.

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T-shirts, haircuts and even tattoos have been vehicles for advertising adoration of a player, but a Milan fan elevated the art to a higher plane this week. Paolo Simonetti offered his own cartilage for transplant in the hope it could help heal Marco van Basten's right ankle. Apparently, such transplants are not very successful, especially in athletes, and there were legal problems, so the Dutch striker will have to limp on without Paolo's implant.

The Horseracing XIs brought horses names, like the clever Nashwan Cyril, and courses, the pick of which was WinCantona. The winner of the Wild Turkey Bourbon is Rutger Andre-Wiltens, of Kent, for a variation on the National's first 11 home:

HORSERACING XI: ROYLE Athlete, Party PoliDICKS, Over The DEANE, DubASPRILLA, BOWMANy King, Into The RED-KNAPP, Master OAKES, Riverside BOYD, HARRISON Savannah, Topsham BAIN, Cool BROWNd.

Next week: Religious XI (and no hymns). Entries to: Team Spirit, Football Diary, Independent, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL.

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