A Different Week – South Africa mess up, James Collins beefs up, Al Hooti goes in studs up and Ebbsfleet fan coughs up

With the world’s top leagues taking a break for international fixtures, attention last weekend shifted to the lower leagues and in the Spanish fourth division match between Alondras and Pontevedra, referee Garcia Parada put in a performance that firmly underlined just why he was officiating a fourth tier game instead of an international. Alondras player Fran Fandino thought he had given his side the lead when his looping header found the top corner of the Pontevedra goal and ran off to celebrate with his teammates, not realising that the ball had slipped through a hole in the back of the net and bounced away into the stand, prompting the myopic Parada to give a goal kick, thinking the shot had missed. The Alondras celebrations were cut embarrassingly short and, to rub salt into a nasty wound, Potevedra went on to score a late goal to win 1-0.

There were also some premature celebrations in South Africa, where the 2010 World Cup hosts thought they had qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations, only to realise they…er…hadn’t. South Africa went into Saturday night’s game against Sierra Leone needing a win to guarantee qualification, but with nearest rivals Niger losing 3-0 to Egypt, the 0-0 draw looked to be enough to send Bafana Bafana through and they duly began tearing around the pitch celebrating. The African Broadcasting Corporation announced that the team had qualified and the president of the South African FA, Kirsten Nematandani even went on air to congratulate them. However, it quickly emerged that it was actually Niger who had qualified for their first ever Nations Cup, as they had the better head-to-head record, having beaten South Africa 2-1 in qualifying.

Staying on international scene, having only recently broken into the Bahraini national football team, Rashed Al Hooti will have been keen to make his mark in this week’s Asian Cup qualifier against Iran. Unfortunately the biggest mark he made was on the ankle of Iran midfielder Andranik Teymourian, after Rashed dived in with a, well, rash two-footed lunge – just 35 seconds after the game had kicked off. The 21-year-old defender was immediately shown a red card by Australian referee Peter Green in what is believed to be the quickest sending off in international football. Iran went on to win the game 6-0, with Teymourian among the scorers.

Talking of meaty challenges, if James Collins offers to cook you a steak, you might do well to politely decline. The Aston Villa and Wales defender has been training with a slice of meat in his boot in a bid to shake off a troublesome foot injury. The problem had already forced him to withdraw from the Welsh squad for their recent Euro 2012 qualifiers against Switzerland and Bulgaria and now the 28-year-old is facing a battle to be fit in time for this weekend’s clash with Manchester City. “We were panicking a bit with James because his foot was quite bad…believe it or not, he was training with a steak in his boot!” explained assistant manager Peter Grant. “We thought we’d try it because it has been used in Germany recently. He didn’t play with it, because we were worried it might get a bit hot and start cooking!” he added, presumably to silence.

Someone else who might have sore feet this week is Swindon Town manager Paolo Di Canio, after he inadvertently completed a half-marathon having taking a wrong turn during a fun run. The 43-year-old former West Ham star was guest of honour at the Swindon half marathon and had started the event before setting off on a shorter two-mile course. However, after taking a wrong turn, Di Canio found himself among the half marathon runners and ended up having to run the full 13.1 miles instead. Not only that, but the fiery Italian reached the finish line in an impressive 1 hour 49 minutes, just 36 minutes behind the winner. “I couldn’t stop, there was a challenge,” he explained. “There were three options, I thought I should start with the fun marathon but unfortunately we changed direction, kept going and followed the first group. Unfortunately I ended up doing a full half marathon.”

Another Italian, Gianfranco Giordano, must have taken a severe wrong turn to go from watching AC Milan to Ebbsfleet United, but that’s exactly what he has done, swapping the San Siro for Stonebridge Road and regularly making the 1,800km round trip to watch the Fleet in action. Having bought a £300 season ticket, Mr Giordano flies from his home in Turin for home games, at a cost of £200 pounds a time to Kent, where Ebbsfleet, who are owned on the internet by 3,000 members in 70 different countries, play in front of crowds of under a thousand. “I like the idea of owning a bit of a football club,” says Mr Giordano. “I particularly like lower league English football with the terraces, the crowd choirs and the combative players.”

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