Off the Post: Oddball Tales of the Soccer World

Refs have feelings, and middle fingers too
Swiss referee Massimo Busacca, who officiated the 2009 UEFA Champions League final, was banned for three games for flipping the bird at Young Boys fans who jeered him.

A clash and a crash
Universidad Chile striker Juan Manuel Olivera had to be taken away by ambulance after a collision with O'Higgins goalkeeper Jorge Rivera. Olivera's arrival at the hospital was delayed for two hours because the ambulance crashed and the replacement vehicle was stuck in rush-hour traffic. Olivera reportedly took it "all with a dose of humor."

Italian taxman collects little by little
After his team lost three straight World Cup qualifiers, Argentina coach Diego Maradona hid out for 11 days at an Italian spa. But Italian tax collectors tracked him down and confiscated his diamond earrings worth $5,900 as partial payment for a tax bill - reported to be $54 million dating back to his playing days at Napoli. Three years ago, police took two Rolex watches worth an estimated $11,000 from Maradona during a visit to Naples.

He heard it's a game of inches
IFK Gothenburg goalkeeper Kim Christensen got caught by television cameras before a match against Orebro using his feet to push the bottom of each goalpost slightly inward. Christensen said he used this tactic before several other games.

Coaching secret revealed
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said hanging out at his parents' bar, La Croix d'Or, in the French village of Duttlenheim, prepared him for a coaching career: "There is no better psychological education than growing up in a pub, because when you are 5 or 6 years old you meet all different people and hear how cruel they can be to each other. ... And from an early age you get a practical psychological education into the minds of people. ... I even learned about tactics and selection from the people talking about soccer in the pub."

Hull to the rescue
After his team got shelled, 6-1, by Liverpool, Hull City manager Phil Brown took his players on a town walk "looking for clarity." At the Humber Bridge they encountered a woman apparently contemplating suicide. "But we saved the girl," said Brown. "Sweet talk, you can say. In the end, she tootled off back to wherever she had come from. I think she saw us and realized, 'OK, at least it's not that bad.'"

Das Fest is for winners only!
Goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was suspended by his club VfB Stuttgart for one game for attending the Munich Oktoberfest a few hours after a 2-0 loss in which he gave up a soft goal. Lehman said he only had half a "Radler" (beer and lemonade) and a mineral water.

So close, yet so far
Burnley fan Jason Taylor lives around the corner from the home stadium of archrival Blackburn Rovers. But when the teams meet at Ewood Park in their derby game, he has to trek 50 miles to see the game because of travel restrictions on away fans. Police require Burnley fans to meet at its stadium, Turf Moor, and travel from there by bus to Ewood Park.

Math's tough after a loss
Tranmere defender Shaleum Logan wasn't concerned about his team's slow start because, "There are 46 games in the season and we've played just eight of them so far. There are still 30 left so we are not worried."

(This article originally appeared in the November 2009 issue of Soccer America magazine.) 



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