The unbeautiful game

Ian Plenderleith takes a mischevious delight in a site dedicated to ugly players, assesses the mixed credentials of players seeking to blag themselves a club on another, and savours a Gaillic nostalgia trip

Ugly Footballers is puerile and pointless. The perfect football website, in fact, and my favourite to feature this month. Taking the tired old concept of footballers’ haircuts a few steps further, the site shows and shames the worst of the game’s gurners, including current and past domestic and international stars, referees and players’ wives too.

Even fans and streakers are given their own respective sections, including a pallid, tattooed skinhead about to get a kick in the knackers from an unidentified player wearing an orange sock, and a man in red suspenders with the words “Fiona, I’m sorry” scrawled across his back being led away by stoical stewards. In “Players’ Wives”, you can compare the beauty of the trophy wife or girlfriend (or, in some cases, ex-girlfriend) with the beast in the footballing arena. Francesco Totti in manic match action opposite his former pouting partner, Maria Mazza, suggests all you need to know about how their relationship came to an end.

“With his sunken eyes and creepy expressions, Mr Collina is a classic post-modern ghoul who looks as if he’s just been dug up,” says the site in tribute to the world’s most famous referee, and in the “Look-a-Likes” section compares him with Morph, a kids’ TV creation I hadn’t thought about for some decades. Trifon Ivanov’s resemblance to Baldrick is more than uncanny (you can almost imagine him saying, in Bulgarian, “I have a cunning plan. I’m going to kick the shit out of our opponents’ striker”), while comparing Luke Chadwick with Plug from the Beano may be a cheap and easy shot, but that doesn’t make it any less apposite or amusing.

Any footballers feeling unloved after looking at that site can advertise their skills at the football section of Club Wants. Here, scouts can pick up 21-year-old Francis Quarm of Dulwich Hamlet, who not only says he’s scored more than 30 goals in 100 first-team appearances, but boasts strength in “passing, vision [and] shooting ability” too. He certainly seems a more convincing proposition than 22-year-old goalkeeper Rikko Beck, who is “looking for a new club because the ones in Northern Ireland are a waste of time”. Attitude, son, attitude.

Another keeper once on Leicester City’s books says: “I picked up a knee injury which knocked me back a peg or two, but now I’m back playing and feel quite good.” Which is touchingly honest, but might not sway a coach imprudent enough to sign a player via the internet. Another favourite was a teenage striker with “experience at Rushden & Diamonds and Northampton Town”. But being a ballboy’s one thing, playing pro quite another.

If you want to gain some experience of Boston United and put it on your CV, the best place to pick it up would be at Impstalk, “the worldwide leader in senior Lincolnshire football stories that aren’t true”. Although written by a Pilgrims fan, the site directs its puckish wit at anyone, including its own team, and you don’t even have to be much acquainted with the ins and outs of lower league Lincs to know what they’re getting at.

“Boston United supporters were stunned today when manager Steve Evans released them on a free transfer and made an immediate bid for another team’s crowd,” begins one story. “Fans were called into Evans’ York Street office this morning and told they did not have a future with the Pilgrims after stalling on signing new season-ticket contracts.”

Evans is the target of much of the site’s satire, expressed in stories about his failure to land the Celtic job, and how he deliberately avoided the play-offs this year in order to secure an appearance at the new Wembley in 2006 instead because the Millennium Stadium’s “rubbish”. Not all the stories work, but every team should have a site like this.

Finally, the best French site I’ve ever seen, Foot Nostalgie, works on a simple but effective principle – every month it publishes a new issue containing cuttings from old football mags, divided up into sections for teams, players, a match of the month, and a history of the World Cup in comic book form.

There’s also a section called “Gueules”, which translates literally as “Mouths”, but which reveals pictures of… ugly footballers, among them Alan Biley, a young, pale-lipped Chris Waddle, and a spectacularly podgy Lech Walesa-lookalike who played for Nimes called Louis Landi. It’s reassuring to know it’s not just a British thing. Ugly footballers are revered and celebrated across Europe.

Blog of the month
“If he was our girlfriend, we would have stopped and asked him to get out of the car after asking for the 10th time, Do you reeeally love me?” Liverpool fans at OleOle, “the thinking fan’s journal of global football”, comment on how they would have dealt with Steven ‘Okay everybody, I’m leaving now, really!’ Gerrard.
OleOle – The Thinking Fan's Journal of Global Football

From WSC 223 September 2005. What was happening this month