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4 February 2011 ~
In these difficult times, football provides the occasional heartwarming story, such as the Liverpool fan who changed his name to Fernando Torres in December. The owner of a toy company in Scunthorpe declared himself to be "gutted" at the news of his idol's departure to Chelsea, as presumably he's now going to have to fork out for a season ticket at Stamford Bridge.
Badge of the week ~ FK Siauliai, Lithuania
Richard Keys and Andy Gray have recently reminded us of the deep-rooted boyishness of the footballing fraternity, so it is refreshing to discover that this Lithuanian team of men's men are quite happy to have a naked man plastered to their shirt, week in, week out. Not only is this guy naked, he has a sort of look-at-me air about him. If you or I found ourselves naked in public holding a longbow, we'd probably cower more – crouch perhaps – while edging towards a doorway.
This is not even a proper archer anyway – just look at his posture. He should be on his balls of his feet with the forward foot angled towards the target. The bowstring should be touching nose and lips. He should not be tippy-tapping around like a bandleader at the New Orleans Mardi Gras. FK Siauliai are to be applauded for their metrosexual emblem of an unmarried man with a military fetish parading about the place. Keys and Gray might learn something if they spent a few nights in Lithuania. Cameron Carter
from Drew Blackwell
"Thinking of getting married? Then Anfield could be the venue for you. For a further 50 quid, Andy Carroll will serenade the happy couple before the cake-cutting. They've got to recoup that £35 million somehow."
Getting shirty Notable kits of yesteryear
Raith Rovers away, 2003-05
This two-tone number marked something of a low point in Raith Rovers' history. It looks rather like a half-hearted attempt to recall the classic semi-hooped shirt of the 1960s – a plain white shirt with two blue hoops across the chest, which was the only successful deviation from our regular home shirt of plain navy blue. Although we've long since been back with navy blue, there are some who still hark back to the hoops. This away shirt, however, has been the closest attempt to recapture its spirit.
It doesn't really work. Instead of white it's a rather un-Raith-like light blue, and instead of the double-hoop it's a single thicker band to fit a sponsor's name. But its memory is even more tarnished because it was worn by so many of the most hopeless players we've ever had the misfortune to watch. For the first part of the 2004-05 season we had a serious candidate for the worst manager to grace any club in the modern era. Other than having been caught by an ITN camera making disparaging remarks about his more famous brother's contract, Claude Anelka had no experience of the game in any capacity, and no man-management skills to compensate for this obvious deficit.
He did, however, have some money to invest in anyone who'd give him the chance, and Raith were the only team daft or desperate enough to take him up on it. So, amid talk of playing like Arsenal and becoming Scotland's third force, he signed a bunch of unknowns from French amateur leagues. The experiment lasted 11 games, of which we lost ten and – somehow – drew one. Unfortunately, the players had been signed on 12-month contracts which we couldn't afford to ditch, so even after a change of manager we had a miserable season, with its long-inevitable relegation, following this unfortunate shirt around the country. Dark days. Gavin Saxton
from Kevin Forbes
"I wonder if Andy Gray and Richard Keys will get much work if potential employers realise they could hire the impersonators from RTE's Apres Match show for a fraction of the fee? Their analysis makes considerably more sense too."
Anton Ferdinand welcomed Sulley Muntari to Sunderland this week. The former Portsmouth midfielder obviously remembers at least one hand gesture from his previous stint in the Premier League.
from Stephen Hughes
"Someone has adapted part of the Wikipedia entry on Ewood Park – they might be a Burnley fan."
Spurs fans should snap up this bargain DVD – it's a defensive masterclass.
Stickipedia A mine of information constructed from sticker cards
Egyptian national team Panini Egypt 87
Among the various celebrities lending their support to the pro-democracy protests in Egypt over the past week were several members of the national football team. As holders of the African Nations Cup, Egypt were expected to qualify for the 2010 World Cup but were beaten by Algeria in a play-off held in Sudan. The two sides had finished level on points and goal difference after Algeria lost 2-0 in Cairo in the last group game. Before the match several visiting players were injured when bricks were thrown at their coach on its way from the airport.
The Egyptians took their third consecutive Nations Cup title in January 2010 and have won the competition a record seven times in total. Yet they have only qualified for one World Cup finals, in 1990 (their other appearance, in 1934, was by invitation). Egypt's only goal at Italia 90 was a penalty scored by midfield Magdi Abdelghani (second from the left in the top row in this picture) in a 1-1 draw with Holland. They then played out a bad-tempered draw with Ireland – Jack Charlton later complained about the opposition's defensive tactics while an Egyptian official responded "any other match would be beautiful after playing the Irish" – and were finally beaten by a Mark Wright header for England.
Abdelghani was the first Egyptian to play regularly in European club football, with modest Portuguese side Beira-Mar, while one of his Italia 90 colleagues, central defender Hany Ramzy, subsequently spent a decade in the Bundesliga. Also in that World Cup squad were the Hassan twins, defender Ibrahim and striker Hossam, who played in Greece and Switzerland – Hossam scoring four goals against Celtic for Neuchâtel in the UEFA Cup in 1991. With a domestic league paying the highest wages in African football, most Egyptian internationals still opt to remain at home, Ahmed Hossam (Mido) and Amir Zaki being the only ones to have played in the Premier League so far.
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