In my reading tonight I was reminded of one of the most amusing cock-ups in the history of world sport.
The scene: England, 1996. As usual Southampton are struggling at the arse end of the English Premier League. Their manager, alarmingly moustached Graham Souness, recieves a phone call. It goes something like this,
Caller: “Hi, my name is George Weah. I’ve got this cousin called Ali Dia who I think would be absolute dynamite in the Premier League. He’s played 13 times for Senegal and was on the books at Paris St. Germain. I’d really love you to take him on at your club”
Souness: “George Weah? 1995 FIFA World Player of the Year? International Superstar? Wow, what a recommendation. Thanks for calling. Tell him to come in!”
So our Graham signs the 30-year-old up on a month’s trial on nothing more than a phone call from somebody who, presumably, sounds like George Weah. Ali is due to make his debut in a midweek reserves game at Arsenal - where he will predictably be shown up for the complete and utter dud that he is. But that game is cancelled. And come Southampton’s clash with Leeds United on the Saturday he inexplicably ends up on the bench - seated next to Australia’s own Robbie Slater (write your own obscenities here…) For some unexplained reason after 32 minutes Matt LeTissier - potentially my favourite player of all time - is removed from the field and replaced with one Ali Dia. The next 53 minutes provided one of the worst performances in footballing history, with the alleged international falling on his ass repeatedly and failing to grasp the concept of trapping a ball. The penny dropped for Souness that something was horribly wrong and he was taken off in the 83rd minute.
It turned out that the man purporting to be George Weah was actually Dia’s agent and that far from playing for Paris SG that his career highlight was failing a trial at lowly Rotherham. Unsurprisingly he’s sent on his way and ends up at publicity whore non-league club Gateshead for a few games before they boot him out as well. He then disappears off the face of the earth to become the punchline to every joke about Southampton or Graham Souness ever.
I love it. It has all the elements. Best football anecdote ever.