All in the game


Compiled by  MARY HANNIGAN

Playing most foul: Why the English are better

Last week wasn’t the first time Stoke manager Tony Pulis had a go at Chelsea’s foreign players, back in 2009 he was a bit exercised too by the behaviour of Michael Ballack during a game between the clubs.

“The problem with foreign players is they go down and stay down,” he said. “Our players jump up after a foul …. I was born in Wales, I played my football in England and we are different to them I suppose. I am not having a go at Ballack, it is just their culture.”

The theme was similar after the teams met in the League last week, Pulis particularly upset by dives from Oscar and Branislav Ivanovic. “This is England,” he said. “Were playing in England, were not playing in Europe. And we cant watch people just fall over and not talk about it … its a part of the game that I dont think we should stomach.

As Anorak delicately reminded everyone, Pulis’s reaction to Peter Crouch’s two handballs before he scored against Manchester City last month: “I havent see it, but if Peters got away with it then brilliant.”

Zidane gets his own back: The art of head butting

It was earlier this year that Algerian conceptual artist Adel Abdessemed had an exhibition in New York that featured, among other cheery things, 500 stuffed wolves, suicide bombers, genocide and themes of “abandonment and resignation”.

There was also a statue of Zinedine Zidane head butting Marco Materazzi at the 2006 World Cup.

Where’s the statue now? It’s bang in front of the Pompidou Centre in Paris – somewhat dwarfing passers-by, it being five metres high.

Pity anyone stumbling home from the pub who bumps in to it.

The long road to understanding: 'They'll punish me but I don't know why'

“Carl had anothTheyll punish me but I dont know whyer fine game on Sunday. I even heard he was trending on Twitter.”

– Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen on young Carl Jenkinson’s progress and the ultimate accolade he’s received.

Harry rang me last Sunday and said there was absolutely no truth in it. The only worrying thing was at the end of the conversation he asked me what the best areas to live were.

– Ipswich manager Paul Jewell on an almost reassuring phone call from Harry Redknapp, who insisted rumours that he might replace Jewell at the club were untrue.

Football is like a pyramid. It is easy to reach the top of the pyramid but to stay there is the hardest part. Patrice Evra will have to fight for his place. Patrice Evra has always fought for his place.

– Yep, Patrice Evra.

I was talking to the fourth official and they sent me off. Theyll punish me but I dont know why. They dont seem to have realised that Francos dead and theres freedom of expression these days.

– Valladolid manager Miroslav Djukic with some breaking news for the Spanish football authorities.

“They gave us four minutes, thats an insult to the game. It denies you a proper chance to win a football match ….. its a flaw in the game that the referee is responsible for time-keeping.”

– Alex Ferguson complaining that the referee didn’t keep the match going until United equalised against Spurs on Saturday, and offering to take over time-keeping duties.

He sells out: He scores

Cash-strapped Voukefala’s deal with a local brothel now has its name emblazoned across the team’s shirts. “The proposal was made strictly for economic reasons,” said club president Giannis Batziolas. “When we announced to the players that our sponsor would be a brothel, they wanted to know about bonuses.”

Merchandise of the week

Hull City reading glasses. They are also available in Arsenal, Celtic, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest and Rangers colours, but because the makers, Fan Frames, are Hull-based they clearly felt obliged to support their local team.

The company, “is looking to develop the concept globally” and, director Paul Gibson told the Yorkshire Post, is specifically planning to target the Indian market. “There are 600 million middle class people in India at the moment and there is a massive Manchester United following,” he said. You’ll note he’s not targeting the Hull City support in India. But, how are the Hull reading glasses selling? “Out of stock,” says the website.

A fine Messi: Stating the footballing obvious

We can’t all be Lionel Messi, even if we want to.”

– Ajax’s Ryan Babel. Liverpool supporters who remember his time at Anfield? Behave.

“I dont know how much they miss him. But we dont.”

– Arsene Wenger not quite pining for Didier ‘thorn-in-Gunners’-side’ Drogba.

“In Palermo, landlords ask for six months payment in advance from the coaches because they all know the way Zamparini works.”

– Giuseppe Sannino after becoming, roughly, the seven gazillionth coach sacked by Palermo club president Maurizio Zamparini.

Ryan Babel of Ajax – not quite at Lionel’s level

Heskey time: Emile makes a splash Down Under

How excited are they at Australian club Newcastle Jets to have signed Emile Heskey? Very. In fact, they’ve sold out of Heskey replica shirts and had to order 5,000 more. But while supporters are waiting, they can download free Heskey desktop wallpapers from the club website.

The Jet’s Swiss defender Dominik Ritter is tingling. “When I came here, I didn’t know much about Australian football,” he told the Guardian. “Then a couple of weeks ago, Del Piero signed for Sydney FC . . . now Emile Heskey is coming to play with me and my team. Its very, very exciting.”

The English man seemed a touch bemused by the frenzied reception on his arrival, but he was hopeful enough he could live up to expectations. “I heard it’s a bit hot out here. I should be okay, fingers crossed.”

You can only wish the fella well after years of having to listen to chants of “if Heskey can play for England so can I”. Hopefully the Jets fans in their replica shirts won’t be singing the same in a while.

Crucified: Neymar gets in a good cross

It’d be hard to top the effort of Brazilian sports magazine Placar, which shows a “crucified” Neymar – although you’d like to think he didn’t actually pose for the effort. Placar’s point, according to the multilingual SambaFoot, is that the Santos wizard is a “scapegoat in a sport where everyone plays dirty, that he’s unfairly picked on by referees who suspect he’s a bit fond of diving.

The same website says that the cover is “inspired by a 1970s issue of Spanish magazine Don Balon, which depicted Johan Cruyff in almost exactly the same way”.

So, how has it gone down in Brazil? Not tremendously well.

The Brazilian National Bishops Confederation states that it feels severely outraged with the photo . . . where the image of Jesus Christ is seen with the face of a football player. This is a clear lack of respect that offends the most sacred image for Christians.” At the last count, an online petition protesting against the cover had reached 7,000 – less, you’d guess, than the sales of the mag.

Fine of the week

The €100,000 Dinamo Zagreb’s Domagoj Vida had to pay for opening a can of beer on the team bus on the way to a game.

Back in August, the club fined their midfielder Sammir €270,000 for dancing the night away on the eve of a Champions League qualifying match.

If they keep this up, they’ll be able to buy Lionel Messi.

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