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“We all know of footballers who played cricket, but have any ever competed at the Olympics,” asks Harvey Mayne, presumably meaning in other sports.
Yes they have, Harvey – and in a variety of sports, too. We have already covered footballers at the Winter Olympics so we’re going to stick to the summer Games. Here’s Graeme Park with a former Welsh international you wouldn’t want to mess with competing in Japan on Wednesday. “I would nominate Lauren Price, who has earned international caps for Wales and won world kickboxing titles. She has already won a Commonwealth gold in boxing and is at Tokyo 2020 as the current No 1 middleweight boxer.”
Rit Nanda has plucked a couple of good examples from Romania. Bondoc Ionescu-Crum was a footballer for Venus București and Sportul Studențesc București and competed at the 1936 Olympics in the men’s long jump. He also managed Universitatea Craiova in his later years. Vintila Cristescu won the Romanian league title with Colțea Brașov in 1927-28 and then ran in the marathon at the 1928 Olympics, though records say he did not finish.
James Harvey has saved the best for last (a tip of the hat to Ben Janeson, too, for also flagging this incredible story). “Aleksandar Duric represented the newly formed Bosnia and Herzegovina in canoeing at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona (thumbing lifts to get there, apparently),” writes James. Duric told the BBC: “Other sportsmen flew from their countries to Barcelona but my journey was a bit different. I tried to hitch-hike.” He was dropped off by a truck driver on the Austrian border but there he was denied entry by immigration police who did not believe he was an Olympian trying to get to Barcelona. They thought he was a refugee. A phone call to the International Olympic Committee helped to persuade police that he could pass through to Slovenia, where he flew to Barcelona to compete in the heats.
James continues the story: “He then embarked on a nomadic footballing career, mostly around Australia before ending up in Singapore where he became eligible for the national team. He made his debut for the national team at 37, became captain and banged in 24 international goals before retiring at 42. He was still putting the ball in the net in amateur football until recently, where I was able to watch him waltz past me several times on his way to yet another goal!”
Missing two penalties in one shootout
“Marvin Ceballos of Guatemala twice failed to convert his kick in a 10-9 loss on penalties to Guadeloupe in qualifying for the Concacaf Gold Cup. Twelve penalties were taken by each side, he was the only Guatemalan to take two. Has anyone else ever achieved this ignominious distinction?” wonders Rob Hick.
“Graham Gartland took Drogheda United’s first and 12th penalty kick in their shoot-out against IK Start in the second qualifying round of the 2006-07 Uefa Cup,” begins Dirk Maas. “He missed twice and IK Start won 11-10. And on 3 March 2006, an Israeli Cup match required a staggering 34 penalties, of which only 25 were converted. Maccabi Petah-Tikva beat Maccabi Herzliya 13-12 with Herzliya’s Shaul Smadja being the unfortunate soul to miss twice.”
Managers crossing derby divides: a Brucey bonus
Last week we missed a manager who crossed an acrimonious derby divide on three occasions. “I can’t believe Steve Bruce wasn’t mentioned here,” writes Kirk Burton. “He has managed Sheffield United and Wednesday, Birmingham and Aston Villa plus Newcastle and Sunderland.”
Richard Morris adds: “You mentioned Ron Saunders in your piece but in fact Villa have a habit of appointing managers from the enemy – both Bruce and Alex McLeish were previous Birmingham City managers before taking over at Villa. In between we managed to appoint Roberto Di Matteo, who scored the winning goal against us at the last ‘Old Wembley’ FA Cup final. Brilliant. Presumably it’s only a matter of time before we usher Pep Clotet or Aitor Karanka through the doors.”
Brendan Mackinney reminds us of an obvious omission: Brian Clough, who won the title with Derby and then the league and European Cup with Nottingham Forest. Luke Carter points out that Billy Davies has also managed both Forest and Derby. “Jorge Jesus caused uproar in Lisbon when he moved from Benfica to Sporting in 2015, writes Oliver Farry.
Finally, Paulo Padilha brings us some examples from Brazil. “In Rio, 10 coaches bounced around between rivals Botafogo, Flamengo, Fluminense and Vasco da Gama: Rámon Platero, Gentil Cardoso, Elba de Padua Lima aka Tim, the legendary Mario Zagallo, Oswaldo de Oliveira, Ricardo Gomes, Jair Pereira, Joel Santana, Paulo Cesar Gusmão and Abel Braga. Meanwhile in São Paulo, seven coaches have sat in the hot seat of Corinthians, Palmeiras, Santos and São Paulo: Aymoré Moreira, Carlos Alberto Silva, Emerson Leão, Nelsinho Baptista, Osvaldo Brandão, Oswaldo de Oliveira (again!) and Rubens Minelli.”
“With Cristiano Ronaldo currently leading the Premier League scoring charts on 18 and with only two games to go, I was wondering when was the last time the English top flight’s top goalscorer ended with less than 20 goals,” posed Ross Hayward in May 2009.
It had been 10 years exactly since the Premier League’s top scorer last managed fewer than 20, though it would be more accurate to say “top scorers”. In 1998–99 Leeds United’s Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Liverpool’s Michael Owen and Manchester United’s Dwight Yorke shared the Golden Boot, having scored 18 league goals apiece.
Update: the 2009 season ended with Nicolas Anelka winning the Golden Boot on 19 goals. Since then the winner of the award has never dropped below 20 goals. Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov scored 20 apiece in the 2010-11 season.
Can you help?
“There was a horse called Zlatan running in the 4.45 at Ascot last weekend. Is it possible to make a starting XI from race horses named after footballers? And what would be the best team?” asks George Jones.
“Barbra Banda scored a hat-trick for Zambia in the 10-3 defeat by Netherlands at Tokyo 2020. Has there been a more supreme individual feat in a humiliating defeat before?” muses John Carlisle.
“Is there any fictional character that is inspired by a football player or manager?” wonders Nusaib Nus.
“After a career so far played exclusively in non-league football, Sutton United’s Craig Dundas will be a minimum of 40 years and 172 days old when he makes his league debut in the upcoming season. Is this an English, European or world record?” asks Tim Postins.
“Have any other managers ‘done a Rooney’ and injured players in training?” enquires John Blythe.
“Professional cyclist Remco Evenepoel was a Belgium youth footballer and played at PSV Eindhoven and Anderlecht but never signed a professional contract,” notes Graham Stockwell. “Has any professional cyclist also played professional football?”