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Oct 15, 2011

Bad Bhoy Bob Marley, Gullit Mo's best

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, reggae legend Bob Marley is revealed as a fanatical Celtic supporter, Ruud Gullit vows to regrow his iconic 1980s moustache, Paul Gascoigne recounts his booze bender with Colonel Gaddafi's son, Santos urge Barcelona to sign up Diego Maradona and we provide our National Curry Week XI.

Lisbon Lion Zion

As they trail arch-rivals Rangers by ten points in the SPL, Celtic could really do with a shot [The Sheriff] in the arm and former Hoops striker John 'Dixie' Deans provided one this week when he revealed that Bob Marley was a huge Celtic fan and could even name all of the Lisbon Lions side that lifted the European Cup in 1967.

In his new autobiography, Deans, who scored 124 goals in 184 appearances for the [Bad] Bhoys, tells of a chance meeting with the Rastafarian reggae legend, who approached him during his time at Adelaide City in the late '70s and said: "Are you the Dixie Deans who used to play for Celtic?"

Marley went on to name all of Jock Stein's side that beat Inter Milan 2-1 at the Estadio Nacional in Lisbon, adding: "I'm a big Celtic fan. I would love to go to Scotland to see Celtic Park and maybe even kick a few balls there. Celtic has always been my team."

Deans, who admits he didn't know who Marley was at the time, wrote: "I was greatly impressed by the great man's football knowledge. And when we got down to training, I was just as impressed by his football ability."

Santos bag Pele, urge Barca to sign Maradona

Last week, Off the Ball brought you news of Santos president Luis Alvaro de Oliveira Ribeiro's plan to register Pele to play in the forthcoming Club World Cup in Japan and now the headline-hogging Brazilian has urged fellow-qualifiers Barcelona to sign up Diego Maradona for what he claims would be "the greatest show on earth".

The Club World Cup takes place in December between the champions of each continental federation, with Santos, where Pele won the Campeonato Paulista ten times, and Barcelona, where Maradona won the Copa del Rey and Copa de la Liga, expected to contest the final in Yokohama.

"Why don't Barca also take Maradona? With Pele, Maradona, Messi and Neymar it would be the greatest show on earth," the president reportedly told Sao Paulo radio station Jovem Pan FM.

Brazilian legend Pele, 70, and Argentinian idol Maradona, 50, are regarded as the best players to ever grace the game and the chance to see the two fierce rivals go head to head for a few minutes alongside their modern-day counterparts Neymar and Lionel Messi would be unmissable.

Gazza's booze bender with Gaddafi's sons

A friend of Off The Ball once told a tale of how he'd bumped into a boozed-up Paul Gascoigne in Soho and been regaled by an implausible story of how the former England star had just been on tour with British rock giants Iron Maiden. It was dismissed as drunken ramblings but later discovered to be true.

So when Gazza claimed in a TV interview with Piers 'I get paid to reduce you to tears' Morgan this week that he had enjoyed a boozy night out with Colonel Gaddafi's sons and concluded the evening by signing a missile, it wasn't easily dismissed.

"I went to Libya when I played for Middlesbrough and took Gaddafi's two sons out and got them lamped (drunk)," he said. "I also signed this thing in his compound. I think it was a bomb!"

Gazza, who is currently in rehab in Bournemouth, also revealed he grabbed the controls of an aeroplane carrying England's 1990 World Cup squad to Naples, Italy. "I asked if I could sit in the cockpit. Then I asked the pilot if I could have a go at the controls. I gave it a turn and I must have sent the jet three miles off track," the ex-Newcastle midfielder said.

Gullit brings back the tache

There are numerous things Off the Ball would love to see back in football: a coherent offside rule, the 'reducer' tackle, tight shorts ... er, no, not tight shorts ... and Ruud Gullit's moustache. So imagine our immeasurable joy when the partying Dutch legend announced this week that he'd agreed to grow back his 1980s soup-strainer in aid of the Movember fund-raising movement.

And the euphoria is two-fold, because not only will the former AC Milan star once again sport his iconic lip curtain to help raise awareness of men's health issues, specifically prostate cancer and other cancers that affect men, but it's also the perfect excuse to publish a picture of his old-school Mo.

The currently tache-less Gullit said: "I'm used to seeing myself with a Mo. I had a moustache for some of the most memorable moments of my career, including the 1988 European Championships and when I was awarded the Ballon d'Or in 1987, so it will be fun to grow it back for such a great cause."

Hopefully a lengthy list of moustachioed heroes from yesteryear, such as Graham Souness and fellow Dutchman Ronald Spelbos (well worth a google), will follow suit. But you can do your bit by registering to grow a Mo here or by sponsoring Gullit's effort via his Mo-Space.

Balti Wanderers

And finally... we love a good Ruby Murray here at ESPNsoccernet towers so as it's National Curry Week we've pooled our collective knowledge of all things spicy and, with bit of help from our Twitter followers, created a chef's special team to honour the occassion.

Our Balti Wanderers line up in 3-5-2 formation and will, of course, be playing a tikka-taka style under the stewardship of Martin Jol-frazi.

So that line-up in full:
Goalkeeper: Pasanda Westerveld
Defenders: Christopher Sambar, Poppadom-inic Matteo, Wilfred Bhuna
Midfielders: Naani, Rogan Josh McEachran, Paulo Samosa, Saag Aloo Diarra, Steven Paneer
Strikers: Martin Dhal-in, Lomana Vindalua Lua
Substitutes: Stephane Chapati-sat, Mustapha Bhaji, Didier Pakora, Tony Currie, Pathia Evra.

Off the Ball really wanted to get Tandori and Massala in there somewhere but failed miserably. Maybe you can do better.


Video of the week

Knowledge is power, as the saying goes. And watching this video of South Africa celebrate qualification for the African Nations Cup armed without the knowledge there had been a horrible miscalculation and Bafana Bafana hadn't actually booked a place at the tournament makes it one of the funniest, or harrowing, bits of footage you'll see. Click here to see South Africa's premature celebration .


More than words...


Denmark celebrate booking a place at Euro 2012 as a Portugal player trudges off into the playoffs. ©PA photos


Around the web

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• Paolo Di Canio accidentally completes a half-marathon

• Villa defender James Collins trains with a steak in his boot


• You can follow me on Twitter at @ESPNsoccernetFC

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