Football is a beautiful game when you are winning and things are going your way. There are, however, times when you have to taste the bitterness of defeat, but for some managers and players it is simply too much to take in.
Before Spain became the all-conquering force that swept all those who stood before them, they were known as a team who did not quite live up to their exquisite potential at major tournaments. This is why it came as a surprise when they defeated Ukraine 4-0 in their opening game at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™. But it was not the fault of future Chelsea frontman Andriy Shevchenko in front of goal, or their leaky defence for the loss. It was in fact frogs. Yes, frogs! Defender Vladislav Vashchuk jumped at the chance to defend his team post-match.
"Because of the frogs' croaking we hardly got a wink of sleep," Vashchuk explained. "We all agreed that we would take some sticks and go and hunt them."
Upon Shevchenko’s arrival at Stamford Bridge, he was greeted by a man who has been the subject of more than a few headlines around Europe. But Jose Mourinho’s most infamous excuse came during his tenure at Real Madrid. After a Spanish Super Cup defeat to Barcelona in 2011, ‘The Special One’ launched a tirade on his bitter rivals.
“What I'm about to say is not a criticism, I'm just stating a fact: there were no ball-boys in the second half, which is something typical of small teams when experiencing difficulties.” The Catalan side had won just a mere ten trophies in three seasons before the tie.
He used the same excuse at the weekend after Chelsea lost their unbeaten run at Newcastle United, but while there is no doubting that ball boys play an important role during a match, a game cannot be played without a referee. Therefore, it became a slight problem when referee Marco Rezende failed to appear for River Plate’s Copa Libertadores last-16 clash with America of Mexico in 1998.
The crowd were buoyant; the television cameras were ready to broadcast, but Rezende was more than one thousand miles away in Belo Horizonte, Brazil after claiming that “nobody informed me that I was appointed for that game.” Due to the misunderstanding the game was postponed and played a week later, with Santiago Solari scoring the only goal in his last game for River before moving to Spain.
Players that featured in his new surroundings of Italy's Serie A would become accustomed to the odd unusual outburst. Francesco Totti and Christian Panucci fell victim to the old adage ‘a bad workman always blames his tools’ after a disappointing 0-0 draw against Denmark at UEFA EURO 2004.
Totti opted for the more credible excuse of blaming his boots, claiming that they were “like having your feet on boiling sand.” Panucci, on the other hand, went one step further and blamed his socks, claiming that “the thread that these socks were made with is too rough.”
In fairness they are not the only individuals to blame an uninspiring performance on their apparel. Sir Alex Ferguson made his team remove the now infamous grey away shirts at half-time against Southampton in 1996. Manchester United found themselves 3-0 down and on a run of four games without a win in that kit, and Fergie decided enough was enough.
“Get that kit off, you’re getting changed," remembered Lee Sharpe. “Those were the first words he said at half-time... we certainly never played in it again.” It made little difference. The Saints still ran out 3-1 winners.
Manchester United’s most successful manager ever may have learned a thing or two from one of his predecessors, Tommy Docherty, whose Red Devils side were condemned to relegation from the English top flight in 1974. However, rather than admitting that the team were to blame for their poor performances, Docherty attributed the responsibility to the bus driver who had frequently turned up late throughout the season.
Also while playing for debutants Scotland against Uruguay at the 1954 World Cup Switzerland™, the fiery midfielder laid blame to wearing old-fashioned thick woollen jerseys for their defeat to the then reigning world champions.
"The Scottish FA assumed Switzerland was cold because it had mountains," explained Docherty. "You'd have thought we were going on an expedition to the Antarctic. The Uruguayans wore light V-necked shirts with short sleeves. No wonder we lost 7-0."
The clothes that Angelina Jolie wore in the 2001 film Tomb Raider will be more likened to the South Americans than the Scots. Brad Pitt’s future wife played the role of Lara Croft, who was a popular video game character that David James became very accustomed to during his stint at Liverpool.
The goalkeeper paid the price on match-days for an obsession with his Sony PlayStation® console and after a match against Newcastle United, where James was held responsible for three goals, the England goalkeeper revealed the cause of his lapses in concentration: "I was getting carried away playing Tomb Raider and Tekken II for hours on end."
Have Your Say
What’s the best footballing excuse you’ve heard – either from a professional or someone you’ve played with?