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May 27, 2011

A date with destiny, funeral for a friend

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, 30,000 Genoa fans hold a funeral for relegated Sampdoria, Mario Balotelli throws water bombs at an Italian TV crew, Diego Maradona claims the Argentinian FA doped the national team's coffee, men would rather watch the Champions League final than date a supermodel and Paolo Di Canio twins Milan with Swindon.

Supermodels ditched for Champions League final

Unless you've just returned from the magnificent elephant polo tournament at the Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge in Chitwan, Nepal, then you'll probably be aware that it's the Champions League final on Saturday, but you may not be aware that over 50% of men claim they would give up a date with a leading international supermodel to see their team triumph in Europe's flagship event.

In fact, 37% of the 5,638 men polled in the international survey instantly said they would definitely snub a romantic evening with the likes of Brazilian model Adriana Lima, or the UK's Naomi Campbell, for the final. Now maybe it's just because Off The Ball is getting a bit older these days but we'd certainly have some follow-up questions before jumping in with both feet quicker than Lee Cattermole.

For instance: Has our team already won the Champions League on numerous occasions like Real Madrid (9)? Or twice in recent years like Barcelona (2006 and 2009)? Is this date likely to lead to another date? What base are we likely to reach on said date? And most importantly, can this date take place at the Champions League final?

These young whippersnappers never really thought it through did they? It does throw up a great opportunity to ponder some closely fought battles though. Gisele Bundchen or Porto versus Monaco (2004)? Bianca Balti or AC Milan v Juventus (2003)? Almudena Fernandez or Bayer Leverkusen versus Real Madrid (2002)? I make it 2-1 there.

Balotelli bombs in Milan

It's been awhile since Mario Balotelli's ill-advised antics registered on the bungle-o-meter, but even those duped by the Manchester City striker's recent PR drive must have known it was only a matter of time before the irrepressible rascal would be back to sprinkle more trouble dust. And it this week it was a double dose.

Firstly, having been excused from City's FA Cup victory parade so he could return to Italy for "family reasons", Balotelli was caught on camera with brother Enoch and, bizarrely, agent Mino Raiola throwing water bombs at a meeting of Serie A club chiefs.

The troublesome trio apparently drowned a number of TV crews with water bombs thrown from a second-floor balcony and although the victims were extremely relived that Balotelli had moved on from throwing darts at people they were still none too pleased.

But that's not all Balotelli got up to during his family time. According to Italian newspaper Gazzetta Dello Sport, the 20-year-old also hit the town in Milan and as a result was hit twice himself after eyeing up another man's girlfriend.

30,000 Genoa fans hold funeral for Sampdoria

Relegation is devastating for all involved. However, if you happen to be sitting at a comfortable distance from the disaster and the doomed club are your bitter rivals then it's time to get out the party hats and quaff the champers, or, as one member of staff at Soccernet Towers may have done, frame a picture of a crying Leeds fans.

In Italy they do schadenfreude differently, but equally brilliantly, and this week more that 30,000 Genoa fans took to the streets to celebrate the demise arch-rivals Sampdoria by holding a fake funeral to mourn the passing of their neighbours.

With Samp doomed to Serie B and nothing riding Genoa's last game against Cesena, the Rossoblu fans held a five-minute silence during the match to mock their rivals and after the match held one of the most joyous funeral procession's ever seen as they carried a coffin draped in Sampdoria's colours through the city.

The elaborate joke also included pallbearers in special robes, a cardinal, a saucy nun and a laughing widow dressed in black. You have to admire the effort.

Di Canio twins Milan with Swindon

If you have ever been on holiday, temporarily befriended a couple and, out of politeness, asked them to come over and visit you back home sometime only to be horrified if they actually take you up on the empty offer then you'll know exactly how AC Milan chief Adriano Galliani must have felt this week.

When the Rossoneri vice-president told Swindon Town's new manager Paolo di Canio to "come to meet me for young talented players" he probably didn't expect the League One club's boss to actually hold him to it and proclaim said comments to the press at his unveiling.

"I spoke with Adriano Galliani, the chairman of AC Milan, I asked him jokingly to give me some players," Di Canio explained "He said 'seriously come to meet me for young talented players', so hopefully we can start a collaboration with him."

The Italian is also hoping to strike up a more similar deal with Tottenham Hotspur boss Harry Redknapp, who managed di Canio at West Ham United. Off The Ball doesn't expect too many young Italians to swap the manicured surroundings of the Milanello for a potential away trip to the Moss Rose on a winter's evening.

Maradona claims AFA doped national team's coffee

Now that he is safely in gainful employment, newly-appointed Al-Wasl coach Diego Maradona has reopened his bitter feud with Argentine football chief Julio Grondona, claiming the AFA doped the national team's coffee.

Grondona, who has been head of the Argentine FA for 32 years, recently he had a pop at Maradona for his "self-inflicted health problems" and El Diego hit back claiming his nemesis was involved in doping players for a match against Australia in 1993.

"They put something in the coffee and it made us run more. Grondona was well aware of it, to play against Australia we were given speedy coffee," Maradona told El Show de Futbol. "Grondona told us that there would not be anti-doping controls. They gave us something to make us run faster. You have got to be pretty dumb if you go through 10 controls, and then there is not one in the game which decides qualification. But Grondona knew all about it."

Argentina narrowly won the two-legged qualifier with Australia 2-1 on aggregate to make it to the 1994 World Cup. But Maradona was infamously sent home from the tournament after failing a drugs test.


Video of the week

Schalke goalkeeper Manuel Neuer might be a hero to the majority of the club's fans, but the fact he is off to rivals Bayern Munich next season doesn't sit too well with some other supporters. This fan lets Neuer know what he thinks off him with a quick slap in the chops. To see Neuer gets slapped in the face click here .


More than words...


Birmingham fans regret their decision to wear such unsuitable attire as their club are relegated. ©Getty Images


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