All in the Game: Oprah Winfrey has a message for Messi

Ghanain referee pays for his error while young Dutch fan gleefully flicks the Vs

Ref error has humongous repurcussions

It was a simple enough mistake by Ghanaian referee Reginald Lathbridge last season when, after a league game between Elmina Sharks and Bechem United, he erred in his match report, writing that a Bechem player had been booked when it was actually Sharks’ Felix Addo.

The repercussions, alas, were humongous, Addo going on to play in a game for which he should have been suspended. That all led to a relegated club seeking an injunction to delay the start of the new season, Great Olympics arguing that Sharks should have gone down instead for fielding an illegible player.

Lathbridge eventually corrected the mistake, but only seven months after it happened, leading to chaos. The upshot? The Ghanaian FA have only gone and banned the poor fella for life from taking part in all football related activities having been found guilty of bringing the game in to disrepute.

Lathbridge, though, believes he did the right thing in correcting the error. “I have been very honest in the issue at hand, it could take you even a year to realise you made a mistake. To err is human. I asked for forgiveness from God – yet I have been punished. From now on I will walk as a free man.”


And then he produced the mother of all analogies: “If it is possible for a doctor to operate on a patient and leave a scissors in his tummy and later realise what he has done, why can’t I also do the same even if it’s seven months later?”

There’s just no answer to that.

Double-digit Dutch

Did you see that rascal of a Dutch mascot before the Netherlands v England game? That’s her standing in front of Memphis Depay, waving two sets of two fingers at the camera when it picked her out. If her Ma and Da weren’t amused, she’ll be grounded for six months.

There must be something in the Dutch air. The most famous ever photo of a small person making a rude gesture at a football match was, of course, that one of a five-year-old Feyenoord fan at the 2002 Uefa Cup final. Mikey Wilson was his name, not the Dutch-est of monikers, and he was sitting on his father Ronald’s shoulders. It was assumed that he was being rude to the ref or the opposition, but it turned out his target was Borussia Dortmund fans who were noisily objecting to the minute’s silence being held for the controversial Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn who had been assassinated a couple of days earlier. Who knew?

It was a Brazilian website (, oddly enough, that tracked down father and son a few years ago. They come from a diehard Feyenoord family, both Ronald’s late parents even buried in the club shirt, but all you could hope was that Ronald’s wife shares the faith. Why? Because when she was about to have Mikey’s younger brother, Ronald realised Dutch law wouldn’t allow him name him Brian Feyenoord, so he asked her to go to Belgium to have the baby. Which she did. And it was there Brian Feyenoord Wilson was born. A quiet woman.

Word of mouth

“Messi this message is for you…. you have to go deep, deep inside of you to find all the strength you have inside. Messi, be a warrior.”

Argentine magazine Pronto asked Oprah Winfrey to send Lionel a message, so she did. Beyond that, we're at a loss.

“I think Jon will still want to play when he’s 64.”

– Martin O’Neill on Jonathan Walters’ decision not to retire from international football. ‘Will you still need me, will you still feed me….’. Yes we will Jon, you legend.

“I don’t see many people with my talent, dedication, my work, my ethic, my football. No one is going to be compared with me. No one is going to be Cristiano Ronaldo.”

– We can forgive Cristiano Ronaldo anything, but not this level of third-person-itis.

“We were at physiotherapy and the news was on TV. Zlatan asked me to translate it because there was something about him on. So I explained that they said that Zlatan is the King of Paris. I thought he would be happy about it but he was very angry and shouted at me: ‘What the ****? I’m not the king, I’m God’. This guy is totally crazy.”

– Benjamin Stambouli on life with his former Paris Saint-Germain team-mate, the deity that is Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Quote of the week

You look at him and think he can’t be Scottish because he’s 6ft 4in, passes the ball really well and is playing central midfield for Manchester United”

– In praising Scott McTominay, Scotland’s assistant manager Peter Grant ends up insulting his entire nation’s growing and footballing ability

By the numbers

11 - That's how many minutes of free talk time Vodafone Egypt will give their 43 million customers for every goal Mo Salah scores between now and the end of the season. At the rate he's going, you'd worry for their end-of-year profits.

Allen back in the game with Barnet

It was back in December 2016 that Martin Allen was appointed manager of Eastleigh in the fifth tier of English football and so enthusiastic was club owner Stewart Donald about his new gaffer he promised him all the funds he needed to strengthen the team. “It’s like when you first meet a bird and she’ll do anything for you,” Allen said of the pledge.

Eleven weeks and 14 games later the relationship was over. The experience reminded Allen a bit of his time in charge of Cheltenham when he was never able to bring in quite the quality of player he wanted. Back then he needed a goalscorer, but had to settle for a 36-year-old on a free transfer. “If you go shopping at Sainsburys and ask for some fillet steak and you don’t have the money, you can’t buy it,” he said at the time. “We have ended up with a gristly, old, fatty lump of lard up front.”

But after a year out, Allen is back in the game, taking over at Barnet for the fifth – fifth! – time in his managerial career. This time, though, his first job is to get rid of players, not bring them in. In an interview with the Guardian he said that when turned up for training he discovered there were 43 players in the squad, including trialists and non-contract players.

“I can’t have that amount in training sessions,” he said. “There were about five right-backs, nine centre-backs, five goalkeepers. They were coming from everywhere. It was like: ‘Who are you? Which position do you play?’ It was like a scene from Zulu.”

Welcome back, Martin.

From Antalya to Valley Parade

How busy was Colin Doyle’s weekend? Very. He played 90 minutes in goal for Ireland in Turkey on Friday, then the same for Bradford City against Gillingham – the next day. He detailed his itinerary for the club’s website:

“We played the game against Turkey. We flew out after. We had to fly to Zagreb to re-fuel. We landed in Dublin at five in the morning. Got back to the hotel, had a bit of breakfast.

Back to the airport, flew at eight to Leeds-Bradford, got home about 10 o’clock, had an hour and a half kip, came here [Bradford] and played 90 minutes, got the win and the clean sheet.”

After all that, he should be allowed nap for the week.

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan is a sports writer with The Irish Times