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From the bizarre to the sublime, all in a week

It was a weekend when football, to use a popular term, totally lost the plot. Emmanuel Adebayor, a player who says he is now 'loved' by one set of fans, chose a foolish way of showing his disappointment at another (whose love, he claims, has turned to hatred), writes John Dykes.

sports Updated: Sep 19, 2009 10:23 IST
John Dykes

It was a weekend when football, to use a popular term, totally lost the plot.

Emmanuel Adebayor, a player who says he is now 'loved' by one set of fans, chose a foolish way of showing his disappointment at another (whose love, he claims, has turned to hatred). They got angry. A steward got knocked senseless by a flying bottle.

The same player appeared to kick a former teammate in the head. That former teammate, Robin van Persie, got angry and issued a statement condemning Adebayor. His manager, Arsene Wenger, decided a religious reference was necessary in support of van Persie's statement.

He said: “If somebody stamps on your head in that way, you wouldn't say, 'Thank you very much' and turn the other cheek. Only Jesus Christ did that.”

Okay, enough already. As with most aspects of everyday life, one can pretty well assume a situation has been blown up out of all proportion once religion gets dragged into it.

Take Serie A club, Roma, for instance. The Italian club sacked manager Luciano Spalletti for overseeing a disastrously leaky defence and appointed genial former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri in his place. When asked about his management tactics at his 'unveiling' press conference, the native Roman thought it appropriate to adapt a Biblical episode to illustrate his pragmatic approach to shoring up Roma's rearguard.

“Bread into bread, wine into wine,” promised Ranieri. Wow! And all that without anyone having mentioned the dreaded 'M' word (“Messiah”) around the Stadio Olimpico.

To be fair to Ranieri, he has always tended to be a man capable of seeing humour — absurdity even — in most things. He did, after all, gift us a delightful addition to football's vernacular in his less-than-perfect English when he coined the word “Tinkerman” to describe his squad rotation at Chelsea.

So, in the spirit of the Tinkerman, let's seek out recent examples of refreshing absurdity in the modern game to act as a counterbalance to the snarling intensity and massive overreaction demonstrated in some quarters last weekend.

One only had to travel 250 kilometres north from Rome last weekend to find such a case. In Tuscany, Livorno managed a 0-0 draw against not-so-mighty AC Milan. According to one report, they did so despite fielding two players whose names were misspelled on their shirts, and one who nearly didn't get to start the game. Apparently the referee, Daniele Orsato, did not recognise Livorno's new Brazilian midfielder Mozart, and delayed the kick-off while club officials ran back to their team hotel to get the player's passport as proof of his identity. Talk about an Overture, Italian Style.

In Germany, meanwhile, the real Franck Ribery was definitely on show as Bayern Munich destroyed Borussia Dortmund 5-1 in the ever-entertaining Bundesliga.

Catch John Dykes on ESPN's Football Focus every Tuesday (8pm) and First Edition on Friday (9pm)