The bare facts — and then some

Officials of German club threaten to, er, strip the privileges of the owners of a stadium luxury box if unwelcome shows don't stop

February 17, 2011|By Grahame L. Jones, Tribune newspapers

Only six weeks into the year and already the mound of strange and odd happenings that surround soccer is reaching mountainous proportions.

With that in mind, here is a sampling of the global game's more bizarre antics during the early days of 2011:

We begin in Germany, where Stefan Orth, president of everyone's favorite club, St. Pauli in Hamburg, saw fit to issue the following decree:

"We had a discussion with the owner of the box and made it clear there cannot be dances during the matches. There can be performances after the matches, there can be dances, but they must not end up nude.

"If they dance once naked, they will be out of here."

What on earth was Orth talking about?

Strippers, naturally. It seems that one of the luxury suites, or boxes, at St.Pauli's stadium is owned by a strip club and its occupants have installed a dance pole in the suite.

Guests are entertained with performances by the club's very scantily clad employees.

It gives a whole new meaning to being stripped of the ball.

Things get heated: They take their losses hard in Greece.

After Larissa was beaten on the road by Atromitos, angry fans blockaded the team bus by lighting fires in front of and behind the vehicle, preventing it from moving.

The 500 or so irate fans then pelted the bus with rocks, eggs and, believe it or not, yogurt, trapping the players and coaches inside for more than four hours.

Kneel and keel: In Spain, tough economic times meant that the players of third-division Pontevedra were not paid in more than three months.

Eventually, though, enough was enough, and the players broadcast their unhappiness by kneeling on the grass in protest during the first half-minute of their game against Lugo.

Empathizing with Pontevedra's plight, the Lugo players did not take advantage to score an easy goal and instead simply passed the ball around.

They went on to beat Pontevedra 3-2.

Seeing the light: In Kuala Lumpur, a game between Malaysia and Indonesia was stopped in the second half when Indonesia's goalkeeper and a defender complained that bright green lights were being directed at them from Malaysian fans in the stands with laser pens.

Police blotter: Seven months after the World Cup final was played there, Johannesburg's Soccer City Stadium had to cancel a South African Premier League game between the Kaizer Chiefs and Moroka City Swallows.

Why? Because thieves had cut all power to the stadium by stealing copper cables around the venue, causing a blackout that left Soccer City in the dark.

Elsewhere, Byron Moreno, the controversial 2002 World Cup referee from Ecuador, faces a lengthy spell behind bars after being found guilty of trying to smuggle 13 pounds of heroin into the U.S.

Another South American staring at jail time is Botafogo midfielder Somalia, who filed a police report in Rio de Janeiro saying he had been held hostage and robbed at gunpoint of his watch and jewelry.

At least that was Somalia's excuse as he tried to avoid a hefty fine for being late for training.

Police looked into the claim and, using the video cameras from the player's apartment building, saw him wearing the allegedly stolen items.

Now Somalia could have some time on his hands.

Stop, thief: You have to hand it to Brazil's Valerio Fernandes Gama, referee by day and cross-dresser by night.

"I'm the only gay referee in Ceara," he told the Folha de Sao Paulo online newspaper.

"I'm sure of it. Everybody mistakes me for a woman, as I look just like one, and I dress like one for parties and discos.

"But there's never prejudice from players. They don't abuse me. … They just stick to football and call me a thief."

Blood money: Finally, two contrasting tales from Manchester, England.

Pirin Blagoevgrad, the former Bulgarian club of Manchester United's millionaire striker Dimitar Berbatov, has fallen on such hard times that fans are offering to donate blood to help bail it out.

Patients in Bulgaria needing transfusions have to pay for donated blood, and former Pirin goalkeeper Miroslav Mitev said, "We're appealing for people who will use our blood to present donations to the club," which is $277,400 in debt.

On a happier note, Manchester City's recent $40million acquisition, Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko, has earned plaudits for remembering his roots.

Dzeko reportedly has given a $64,000 car to an unnamed taxi driver who used to drive him to training at a youth club in Sarajevo.

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