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Apr 15, 2011

Napoli's wisdom for WAGs, Hell Clasico

Off The Ball never rests in its mission to scratch around the underbelly of professional football to find the most bizarre, humorous and inexplicable stories.

This week, Napoli's wisdom for WAGs, Manchester United's Darron Gibson lasts just two hours on Twitter, Real Madrid have the last word on Hell Clasico, mascot Sammy the Tammy dons a cardboard tank to gun down fans and Icelandic side Thor Akureyri FC take pranks to a whole new level.

Abused Gibson takes his ball home

If you're the type of person who takes criticism to heart then you should never write anything on the internet. It's an unfortunate truism and one that Manchester United midfielder Darron Gibson discovered to his cost this week.

Just two hours after opening a Twitter account, having been encouraged to do so by team-mate and prolific tweeter Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5), the 23-year-old deleted @dgibbo28 following a barrage of abusive messages from a host of foul-mouthed fans.

The account was bombarded with negative comments about Gibson's footballing ability, or perceived lack of it, although Ferdinand later insisted the derogatory comments were not behind Gibson's decision to leave the site and that he just "couldn't be bothered with it".

Some of United's more positive fans started a #getgibboback hashtag trying to urge the Derry-born midfielder to return to the site. As yet, @dgibbo28 remains extinct.

Real have last word on El Clasico

Wednesday night's battle of the Bernabeu was pure theatre. Not least because there was some Oscar-worthy acting from the main performers, with Sergio Busquets pulling off his trademark face clutch, some top quality verbal jousting, red cards, fisticuffs and in the 87th minute some football even broke out when Lionel Messi scored a truly amazing goal.

But the best bit about all the shenanigans was that it provided the press with a host of puns. The Daily Mail's 'Hell Clasico' and The Guardian's 'El Fiasco' were both good efforts but The Times' 'Night of the long dives' was inspired.

The Daily Telegraph took a pop at Real coach Jose Mourinho, who's 'Not so special now', and with both teams roundly criticised for their unsavoury antics The Guardian haughtily concluded that 'the beautiful game has been warped by the poison of El Clasico'.

But the best bit of media overreaction came from Real Madrid themselves, who put together an excellent video package of all of Barcelona's BAFTA-winning acting, complete with self-righteous commentary, before concluding with a tweet from Rio Ferdinand. You can't top that.

Napoli's wisdom for WAGs

As Serie A reaches its climax and Napoli's hopes of winning the Scudetto have been reduced to clinging on for a top-three finish, the Champions League-chasing club have taken a novel approach to achieving onfield success by giving their players' wives and girlfriends lessons in how to keep their men happy.

The club vice-president and wife of Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis, Jacqueline De Laurentiis, has carefully prepared a 'So You Married a Footballer' pamphlet that she says will instruct the WAGs how to be responsible during the Serie A run-in.

The list includes nuggets such as: "Your partner is a champion. Make him feel good at all times." And top of the list is steering clear of arguments: "Please, avoid unnecessary tensions in the house."

I wouldn't dare make a wife-related quip to conclude this snippet so here are the Serie A standings instead: Napoli sit third in Serie A with five games remaining; they trail leaders AC Milan by nine points, meaning they have little chance of winning the title. Despite choking in their last two games, against Udinese and Palermo, the Partenopei currently head fourth-placed Lazio by five points.

Thanks, but no tanks

The life of a mascot must be a thankless one. Ignored or jeered for most of the season and then once a year you have to take part in that Mascot Grand National thing at Huntingdon Racecourse.

But that's not enough for Dunfermline Athletic mascot Sammy the Tammy who was given "a word of caution" by Fife police after he dressed in a cardboard tank and pretended to shoot at fans of Raith Rovers before their promotion showdown at East End Park.

His madcap antics were accompanied by a gun fire sound effect played over the PA system and while the Dunfermline fans loved it, Scottish football officials weren't so impressed given that the SPL is still reeling after a parcel bomb was sent to Celtic manager Neil Lennon.

But the authorities should cut such a committed artist as Sammy the Tammy some slack; against Ayr a few years ago he sat hidden inside a cardboard box in the centre of the pitch while the whole song 'Living in a Box' was played. He then came out and took a bow.

Steaua chief goes on offensive with apology

There's nothing like a heartfelt apology to clear the air and what with Easter bringing the promise of new beginnings, controversial Steaua Bucharest owner Gigi Becali took the opportunity to say sorry to "everyone I offended this year".

But in typical style, Becali, who has insulted almost everybody in Romania, and many beyond its borders, at one time or another, even managed to be offensive whilst trying to say sorry.

To Rapid Bucharest owner George Copos he said: "I'm sorry for what I called him ... Yes, he's cheap, but let God judge everyone, I don't have to do it." And regarding his outspoken views on sexual minorities Becali added: "I apologise to them. It's their problem, their disease, not mine."

The Orthodox Christian then concluded his unique offering of remorse by extending the hand of peace to other spiritual denominations. "I'm sorry to all of the religions, the cults," he said. "But I do have my views. Jehovah's Witnesses are on the way to perdition."

After "cleansing" his soul the "reborn" Becali declared himself "an inspiration to millions".


Video of the week

This is a cracking prank, devised by Icelandic side Thor Akureyri FC, and not only is the pay off hilarious but you have to admire the time and effort that goes into the set-up; four players lay the ground work over a period of about five minutes. Did you know that if you cover your face before doing sit-ups it makes you seize up for a few seconds? Click here to watch the sit-up prank .


More than words...


Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho gives a match official an ironic thumbs up after Pepe is sent off against Barcelona. ©Getty Images


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