Barnsley's bonny lasses jeer footballer's own goal

Clare Garner
Thursday 08 January 1998 00:02 GMT

The bonny lasses of Barnsley are refusing to take criticism lying down. For when the town's adopted footballer, Georgi Hristov, complains that they are all ugly beeries, what do they do? They stage a beauty contest - and invite him to judge it.

The Macedonian international striker must be rueing the day he made public his feelings about Barnsley babes. "I'm finding it difficult to find a girlfriend in Barnsley, or indeed settle into a decent way of life," he told a magazine in Belgrade. "The local girls are far uglier than the ones back in Belgrade or Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, where I come from. Our women are much prettier. Besides they don't drink as much beer as the Barnsley girls which is something I don't like at all."

Now two local barmaids, Donna Carman and Tina Powers, are striking back. They are planning a beauty contest at the town's O'Neill's Bar where they work and they want the 21-year-old Hristov to select a winner. "Barnsley women are very outgoing," said Ms Carman, 32. "There are plenty of good looking ones coming in here. They go out once or twice a week to enjoy themselves and forget about the woes of the week."

Ms Powers, 30, could not understand what the player, who was signed from Partizan Belgrade for pounds 1.5m in the summer, was talking about. "He can't find a girlfriend. Is he kidding - in Barnsley?"

If Hristov has been finding life hard on the field - the Tykes are currently bottom of the Premiership - and off, things are now taking a turn for the even worse. His interview has become one of the biggest talking points since two years ago a book called Top Towns singled out Barnsley, in South Yorkshire, as the worst place to live in Britain.

John Dennis, chairman of Barnsley FC, yesterday moved quickly to limit the damage caused by his player. "Just after Georgi had arrived in Barnsley six months ago he had an interview with a freelance reporter from over there [Yugoslavia] in which it was asked if he was happy in England," he said. "He said at the time he missed all his friends, family and girlfriend. It seems a journalist somewhere has seen this old article and exaggerated it beyond all recognition."

But the Barnsley women won't be easily persuaded. They believe Hristov has scored an own-goal and they are not going to let him off lightly. Melanie Dixon, 20, said the problem lay with him, not them. "I think it is a disgusting thing to say and he wants to get a life. I would tell him to get himself a life if I saw him. There must be something wrong with him if he is pulling people down."

Sarah Scholey, 17, said she would love to get her hands on Hristov. "It is not on. There are pretty women in Barnsley.

"He is sad, he wants to get a life. I would give him a good slap. There are some ugly women but it is not right to be saying it."

Mr Dennis insisted that Hristov has now settled into life in Barnsley. So, he's got a life. Now all he needs is a girlfriend.

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