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26 July 2013 ~

"What do you think they are smoking over there at Emirates," said Liverpool owner John Henry when Arsenal bid £40 million plus £1 for Luis Suárez. Probably the same stuff that was being passed around the Anfield boardroom when they spent a total of £71m on Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson.

UniversidadBadge of the week ~ CF Universidad de Chile
If you talk to some of the oldest people in Chile – let's say you are the kind of mewling Little Englander who seeks out "local characters" when abroad – they may well relate to you of the Masked Owl of Santiago. Given any kind of encouragement by you – a bright smile, heavy nodding, hard cash – the elderly person will give you, at length, the entire legend.

Many years ago, Santiago was a very rich city and people flocked there from the surrounding pueblos to seek work and high-energy dance music. Masked bandits preyed on unwary travellers journeying to the big city, stripping them of their valuables, often forcing them to dance in the dust to save their lives. For the record, the dance most frequently requested by the bandits was The Shuffle.

All this stopped one night when there was a shuddering of wings and a sustained single note of such haunting purity that many of the robbers fled at the very sound. Indeed, the leader and most feared of the robbers band, Black Heart Andres, was heard to say that the sound "went right through me".

Seconds later, the sight of the Masked Owl of Santiago descending towards them was the final straw for the villainous gang and they disbanded on the spot, although three of them later set up a splinter group dealing mainly in disparaging remarks to horsemen from behind a wall. Universidad de Chile use the owl emblematically as a demand for respect. Many questions remain about the enigmatic figure, not the least of which is "Why did he wear a mask? Who can tell owls apart?" Cameron Carter


Richard Keys's website announcement saying that he has left Talksport for Al Jazeera reads like a rather mournful poem.


from Ross Burton
"Seeing this baggified Match of the Day intro made me think that the programme should try to reflect musical trends now – I would suggest one but I'm too old to know any."


from Peter Adams

"Frederic Veseli looks less than thrilled at joining Ipswich on a free from Man Utd. Could he be docked wages for failing to even raise a smile?"



A very thorough survey of footballers around the world who are in the grip of a terrible affliction.


from Rob Doolan

"Was reading up on the Russian revolution at AS Monaco over the past few seasons, only to stumble across a very peculiar third paragraph on the club's Wikipedia page."



Also in the news this week
Man Utd players make unpleasant guggling sounds to sell tomato juice.

Yeovil inform the world's press that they have taken delivery of a defender.
Pascal Chimbonda looks to resurrect his career in a small Shropshire town.


Getting shirty Notable kits of yesteryear


AZ Alkmaar home, 2006-07 

DSB is the abbreviation of Dirk Scheringa Bank, Scheringa being an earlier Dutch version of Roman Abramovich. He bought AZ cheaply when they were down and out in the second tier and spent ten years learning about the football business. In 2005 AZ were seconds away from reaching the UEFA Cup final when they conceded a late goal to Sporting Lisbon. Soon afterwards, however, Scheringa's application to start a bank was accepted by the Dutch government. He was also allowed to build a new ground, called DSB Stadium. More money became available, as  did the best coach: Louis van Gaal, who lived down the road.

In Van Gaal's  first season AZ, playing in the shirt shown here, only needed to beat lowly Excelsior in Rotterdam to win the title, but somehow they lost 3-2; the next week they lost the cup final on penalties. Two years later, however Van Gaal took the club to their second league title.

Meanwhile, Scheringa's bank was hit by a financial crisis. In September 2009, the week AZ played their first Champions League home game, a financial pundit urged DSB customers to close their accounts, causing a bank run. Scheringa survived for another ten days before the state took over and filed for bankruptcy. Without a shirt sponsor, AZ soldiered on in Europe and just missed out on third place in their group, a Europa League spot, when they conceded a 95th-minute goal headed in by Standard Liege's goalkeeper. The club have since rallied and went on to win the Dutch cup in May 2013. Ernst Bouwes

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