High-flying footballers in turbulent times


  • Other Sport
  • Sunday, 05 Oct 2008

PARIS: Planes struck by lighting, paying for fuel in cash, delays, vandalism and players refusing to take to the skies are just some of the wacky stories which have emerged from air travel by footballers in recent times.

In the last week, PSV Eindhoven had their plane struck by lightning as they landed following defeat by Liverpool in Champions League action, and Marseille players had to have a whip round to buy 3,000 worth of fuel before they could take off from Madrid.

PSV’s Boeing was hit by lightning on both wings early on Thursday as it landed in Eindhoven but the pilot managed to keep control of the aircraft, bringing it in without any problems.

Marseille’s whip round for fuel, at about the same time early on Thursday, was bizarre, if not surreal.

Marseille, beaten at Atletico Madrid in Champions League action, took off two hours late from Barajas Airport after representatives of oil company Exxon refused payment by credit card from the pilot.

An administrative error, it appears by Exxon, meant they had forgotten to send authorisation to oil company CLH, representing Exxon, to supply fuel for the Aigle Azur flight, said Christophe Villeneuve, who works for travel agency Thomas Cook in Marseille which organises the team’s trips.

Marseille coach Eric Gerets joked: “I wanted to buy two cigars but I gave 100 euros which meant I was not able to smoke today. I felt as though I was in a film, a bad one.”

Wild weather in the Faroe Islands last October twice prevented a plane carrying the French players and officials from landing in the capital of the far-flung islands in the north Atlantic.

Instead Raymond Domenech and his men were forced to stay overnight in the Norwegian coastal city of Bergen.

UEFA rules stipulate that a team must arrive in the location of the match the day before it is due to be played, expect in exceptional circumstances when a team can arrive on the day of the match.

They finally arrived with just 3½ hours to go until kickoff, but both sides agreed that the game should go ahead.

Boys will be boys but the vandalism committed by England players on a trip home from the Far East caused embarrassment in the run-up to the Euro ‘96 Finals on home soil.

Though the trip was ostensibly preparation for the most important football tournament played in England for 30 years, it coincided with Paul Gascoigne’s 29th birthday and became an excuse for partying on an unprecedented scale.

Gascoigne, Steve McManaman and Teddy Sheringham were photographed taking part in the infamous ‘dentists’ chair’ drinking game and Cathay Pacific instituted an investigation after several thousands of pounds of damage was caused to the first-class cabin on England’s journey home from Hong Kong.

Manager Terry Venables made the right disapproving noises but at heart, it was clear he saw the bar-room antics as little more than a bit of male-bonding.

“In Italy, they (the footballers) drink wine every day with their meals. Spain as well. What would we make of that?,” he said at the time.

“I had three years at Barcelona and it was compulsory to drink red wine with every meal. Julio Alberto tried to smuggle a Coca-Cola in!”

Former Arsenal star Dennis Berg-kamp was known as the non-flying Dutchman because of a fear of flying. In September 2005, he had been set to make the journey to Amsterdam over land and sea to ensure he could play some part against Ajax, for whom he scored 122 goals in 239 games before moving to Inter Milan and then Highbury.

But back and hamstring problems ruled that out €” sparing him another long train ride. €” AFP

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