Mary Hannigan's Planet Football


You know the way there's nothing we love more than an auld football kiss-n-tell? Well, we found another one in the Sunday People yesterday, under the tremendous headline: "I Was Soccer Bad Boy's Spit On The Side". Helena Rogers, who - and you mightn't believe this - is a topless model, had a fling with "spitting shame footballer El-Hadji Diouf", who had to chat up Helena through an interpreter because he doesn't speak much English.

Diouf's spit of the side

Helena didn't reveal how involved the interpreter had to become in the relationship, but she admitted the language barrier was a problem: "While he was driving he kept saying random English phrases, like 'I love my mum'. It was very strange."

What we enjoyed most about the story, though, was the revelation that football really does keep it in the family: "I only slept with El-Hadji to get back at Dwight Yorke after he cheated on me with David Beckham's sister Joanne," said Helena. It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "football transfer system".

Tartan Army top of the pops

If the Scottish football team were as creative on the pitch as its Tartan Army is off it, then, well, they'd be Germany-bound. To the tune of Is This the Way to Amarillo, as heard on Saturday night: "Is this the way to the San Siro, I'm off the beer and on the vino, Scotland One, Italia Zero, O bonnie Scotland win for me.

"Sha-la-la la-la la-la la - one-nil! Sha-la-la la-la la-la la - one-nil! Sha-la-la la-la la-la la, O bonnie Scotland win for me."

Genius. Although "sha-la-la la-la la-la la - nil-two" doesn't quite have the same ring about it.

Two faces of the enemy

Ahead of Saturday's game at Old Trafford the Daily Mail ran a "Know the Enemy" feature on Northern Ireland, introducing England fans to the players most likely to line up against them in the qualifier. Among those mentioned was Stephen Elliott.

That'd be the Dubliner who plays for Sunderland and who was many, many miles from Manchester on Saturday - he was in Tel Aviv, to be precise, with the Republic of Ireland squad.

We'd hazard a wild guess that the Mail had Stuart Elliott in mind, the fella who played for Northern Ireland on Saturday against an England team that included Ron Ferdinand, Dwayne Rooney and Barry Neville. But sure, there but for the grace of God go we.

Quotes of the week

"He has taken to English football like a duck out of water."

- Denis Irwin, on MUTV, attempting to pay tribute to Gabriel Heinze, whose transition from French to English football has been like water off a fish's back. (Thank you Cian)

"I can offer a service at full back - I did it sometimes with Liverpool - but I'm not always at my best there. I think it's a bit like Picasso painting with his left hand: he can do it, but it's not the same picture."

- Stephane Henchoz, painting by numbers at Celtic.

"When people don't find ways to shoot you on the pitch, they do it off the pitch."

- Fabien Barthez, feeling a little sorry for himself after being ordered before a French federation disciplinary committee. God love him, all he did was spit at a referee in a friendly.

"It was weird. They were throwing stones and tomatoes, all sorts of things. At one point a dead pigeon just missed me."

- Japan's Toshyia Fujita reminiscing about his last trip to Tehran's Azadi stadium, where some interesting confetti rained on his head, before travelling there again for a World Cup qualifier.

"I was right wing in politics and he was left wing. I think that is why he didn't like me. He wanted all communists in his team."

- Mark Bosnich explaining that his fondness for Margaret Thatcher came between him and Alex Ferguson, who dumped him in favour of Comrade Massimo Taibi.

Rafa's dodgy reference point

It pains us to say it but Planet Football has taken a shine to Liverpool supremo Rafa Benitez. He just, well, seems to be a very nice man. But? We were just a bit unconvinced by his attempts to prove that Liverpool have come on in leaps and bounds, league-wise, since the departure of Gerard Houllier.

"At the moment we are 17 points behind Arsenal, where last year it was 30," he said last week. "From this point of view we have reduced the gap. If we use Arsenal as the reference, we have done better."

That's grand, but at the risk of stating the bleedin' obvious: Arsenal aren't top of the table, they're not even second, they're 13 points behind Chelsea. And according to our calculator 17 + 13 = 30. Which is actually two points worse off than Liverpool were this time last season. (Many thanks to our source for this information, Gerry H from France).

A cheeky mistake to make

In the course of the recent clash of Forfar Athletic and Stirling Albion, Forfar defender David McClune suffered a bit of a knock in a clash of heads and was taken to Stobhill Hospital for an X-ray. Happily, the medics gave him the all-clear, having found no evidence of a break or fracture, and sent him home. So, McClune returned to action, playing in Forfar's next three games.

But? He still felt a bit muzzy, a little head-achy. And then? The hospital gave him a ring a fortnight later, told him that they, eh, had mixed up his X-ray with somebody else's and he had, in fact, suffered a triple fracture of his cheekbone.

"I think they were looking at the X-rays of somebody's foot, because it certainly wasn't my cheekbone," said McClune.

Foot v cheek? An easy mistake to make.

Dave's Real deal a laugh

According to yesterday's Sunday Mirror, Real Madrid have been "besieged by discreet soundings by agents whose clients want to replace Vanderlei Luxemburgo" as manager at the end of the season. "But there was also a more formal approach," they world-exclusively revealed. "Real received a brown package with an English postal address containing David O'Leary's CV and a video charting his career in management".

How did Real greet the package? "Sunday Mirror Sport's sources in Madrid suggest the innovative approach provoked mirth in the boardroom."

As I say: ouch.