Sometimes football matches can throw up incidents that bring a smile or even a laugh to the faces of spectators. The central characters on such occasions are invariably the players themselves, who show a gift for turning unusual and potentially awkward situations into comic events laced with good humour.
FIFA.com takes a look at just some of the occasions when football’s funny men have had us doubled up with laughter and rolling around in the aisles.
The men between the posts
As some people say, you don’t have to be crazy to be a goalkeeper, but it helps. That maxim could well apply to Mexican custodian Jaime Gomez, one of Guadalajara’s all time idols.
The man they called El Tubo revealed his gift for comedy during a derby match with city rivals Atlas in 1955. Chivas were winning comfortably, so comfortably in fact that the Atlas fans stationed behind the under-worked keeper’s goal were reduced to hurling insults at him. With so little to do, Gomez had the temerity to borrow a magazine from one of the spectators and sat down against a post to read it.
His reading session lasted no more than ten seconds, but it was time enough for a photographer to capture the moment for posterity and for the player to incur the referee’s wrath. When he blew for half-time he warned Gomez that he would send him off if he did again. The keeper, who died in 2004 and was forever associated with that legendary photograph, promised he wouldn’t.
One keeper who made even more of an impact in the media than Gomez was Argentinian shot-stopper Angel David Comizzo, whose comic turn came in an October 1992 Superclásico between Boca Juniors and River Plate at the Bombonera.
Spotting a little radio that had fallen from the stands, just moments after his side had been awarded a penalty, the Millonarios keeper picked it up, put the headphones attached to it in his ears and, surrounded on all sides by home fans, awaited the fateful spot-kick, which would tie the score at 1-1 if successful.
To his dismay, however, opposite number Fernando Navarro Montoya kept out Hernan Diaz’s kick, prompting much amusement among the Boca fans, most of it directed at Comizzo. Speaking to the magazine El Gráfico some ten years later, when he was still playing, he said: “I wouldn’t pick a radio up from the ground now even if I was drunk.”
The evil weed and the demon drink
Staying in Argentinian football, there is the even more amusing case of talented Paraguayan playmaker Gabriel Gonzalez, who made his name with Asuncion club Olimpia and also played in Spain, Peru and for his national side. Nicknamed El Loco (The Madman) owing to his eccentricities, Gonzalez achieved lasting comic fame while playing for Estudiantes in a 1994 derby against La Plata rivals Gimnasia y Esgrima.
Waiting to take a corner, the Paraguayan entertainer was struck by a cigarette thrown at him by an opposing fan. “It hit me on the shoulder and when I saw what it was I just picked it up, had a couple of puffs and threw it back,” he told local newspaper El Día after the game. “Then I just took the corner as if nothing had happened. They wanted to kill me, but to me it was just a laugh.”
Former Scotland striker Steven Thompson also gave into temptation during a 2009 pre-season friendly between his club side Burnley and Portland Timbers in the USA. After falling over the billboards at one stage in the game, Thompson came to rest right by a stall promoting a certain brand of beer.
“I landed on this person’s table and I don’t know what happened, I just instinctively grabbed this guy’s pint and had a drink,” the player later said. While the striker’s cheeky sip caused plenty of chuckles in the crowd, the Burnley directors were less pleased, fining the player a week’s wages for “unprofessional conduct.”
Taking it in their stride
The food and drink theme continues with Mick Quinn, a burly former centre-forward who had just as big an appetite for scoring goals as he did for eating pies. A cult figure in the 1980s and 90 at Portsmouth, Newcastle United and Coventry City and a string of other clubs, the affable Quinn was the butt of many jokes from rival fans because of his weight and size.
As he later recalled, however, there was one day when he got his own back: “I remember at West Ham once we were waiting for a corner and some fan shouted “Who ate all the pies?” and threw a pie at me. I actually managed to catch a bit of it and I just ate it in front of him! I didn’t make a fuss and his mates started giving him stick.”
Quinn’s compatriot Paul Gascoigne, a semi-finalist with England at the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy™, is also famed for his sense of humour and liking for a practical joke. And like Quinn he also had a snack on the pitch once, while playing for Tottenham Hotspur against his old club Newcastle United.
Aware of his fondness for a Mars Bar, the Newcastle fans threw several of them at their former idol during the game. Taking a bite from one during the game, Gazza stuffed the rest of the bar down his sock, determined to finish it at a later stage.
He gave another demonstration of his comic abilities north of the border with Rangers, in a league match against Hibernian. Spotting the referee’s yellow card lying on the pitch, the irrepressible Gascoigne picked it up and handed it back to the official, but not before pretending to book him with it. Failing to see the funny side, the referee booked the player for his cheek, attracting criticism from all sides, the Hibs fans included.
German striker Jurgen Klinsmann, one of the players Gascoigne came up against in the semi-finals at Italy 1990, a competition the Germans went on to win, showed he had a sense of humour after making the move from Monaco to Tottenham four years later.
Branded a “diver” by the English press, a tag that did not go down well with the blond-haired striker, Klinsmann gave them the perfect retort when he made his debut for Spurs, scoring a goal and celebrating with a swan dive, which became a trademark of his.
The last of our football jokers is ex-Argentinian referee Angel Sanchez, who took charge of two matches at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan. Prompted by his wife, the former umpire opened a museum with 600 items collected during the course of his career, among them a series of objects thrown at him from the stands: a lighter, a mobile phone and a radio.