No pope has been more synonymous with football than Pope John Paul II. He played in goal in his native Poland and even as Pontiff he took a keen interest in the world game. Several clubs were said to have been named as his favourites, such as Cracovia Krakow, Liverpool and Barcelona. London club Fulham were also mentioned in connection with the Pope, but that turned out to be a myth promoted by the media. Pope John Paul couldn’t have, as reported, stood on the Craven Cottage terraces as a young priest in 1930 because he would have been only ten at the time and was not ordained until 1946. A British newspaper that doctored a picture of the Pope to show him wearing a Fulham scarf was forced to apologise.
A ball boy who got on the nerves of goalkeeper Juan Flores ended up in hospital – and the player in jail. The Peru international had to put up with ball boy Freddy Caoquira Ccalla repeatedly calling him a «faggot» from the sidelines. Flores finally snapped during his Cienciano side’s defeat by Total Clean and thumped the boy so hard he needed hospital treatment. Flores, who was interviewed by police, said the boy was referring to a video he had seen of the player in a bar with male friends.
Every ball boy at a match in Spain was sent off by a frustrated referee in 2006. Real Betis were 1-0 up at home to Atletico Madrid when the ball boys went on strike. Allegedly following orders from club officials, the boys refused to put the ball back into play as six minutes of added time ticked away. Atletico were furious and the referee Miguel Ayza Gamez sent off all 14 ball boys. Chelsea once had a similar complaint against Real Betis because the ball boys disappeared once Chelsea had fallen behind.
Former German prisoner of war Bert Trautmann unknowingly played for the last 15 minutes of the 1956 English FA Cup final with a broken neck. His reward was a 3-1 win for Manchester City over Birmingham City.
German Green Party MPs Evelin Schonhut-Keil and Margareta Wolf launched a campaign to end the rule of giving yellow cards to players whipping their shirts off in celebration. Inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo’s buff torso on show at Euro 2004 they wrote to the German FA without success. They took their campaign to FIFA, whose president Sepp Blatter had called for skimpier clothing for female footballers, again to no avail. In their letter to the German FA they said: «We can’t understand how the voluntary showing of a gorgeous male chest can be objectionable.»
Reserve wing half Joe Payne was called up by Luton Town as an emergency centre forward for an English Third Division match in 1936 – and proceeded to score a record ten goals in a 12-0 win over Bristol Rovers.
The sight of two sides defending furiously did not make for an attacking game when Barbados met Grenada in a 1994 Shell Caribbean Cup match. Barbados just needed a two-goal winning margin to progress instead of Grenada and the equation was further complicated by the decision that a golden goal in extra time would count double. At 2-1 to Barbados, the Bajans saw that was not enough so a deliberate own goal by a defender made it 2-2 – and extra time. Barbados won with the golden goal.
David and Victoria Beckham gave £1 m to a children’s charity over five years from 2005 to 2010. The money has bought, among other things, state-of-the-art wheelchairs to improve the lives of many disabled children. Some wheelchairs cost up to £10,000. The Victoria and David Beckham Children’s Charity was run by Posh’s mother Jackie.
Football-mad Vince Reeves risked missing the birth of his first child in order to get FA Cup tickets. The Southampton fan and wife Rebecca had been queuing for tickets for 90 minutes when she went into labour. Not wanting to lose his place in the queue Vince arranged for a friend to take his wife home and when her waters broke Vince was still 50 places from the front of the queue, so his mother-in-law took Rebecca to hospital. Vince still managed to get the tickets for a 2010 tie against Portsmouth and be at his wife’s side in time for the birth of daughter Jessica, who has been given a lifelong season ticket by the club. The only downside was Vince watched Southampton lose 4-1.