Tales of the Unexpected

Tales of the Unexpected
The season is cranking towards the business end and it’s time to start believing (unless like approx 75 clubs in the league you’re drifting miserably towards relegation or if you’re lucky mid-table with an outside chance of the playoffs).

It’s time to believe in last minute winners, in your players and managers, in the possibility that we are not all just wasting our time. But some things are too ridiculous to be believed. Too far-fetched. We’d all love to believe that a prehistoric dinosaur-like creature lives in Loch Ness and has somehow managed to avoid detection for several hundred years.

Or that one day a Saviour will appear and lead us to (World Cup) Glory.

But we believe in them because it’s fun. It’s exciting. It gives us a sense of the unknowable, takes us away from the crushing realisation that we’re trapped on a spinning mass of rock floating in a vast and uncaring nothingness, heading - no, careering - towards a burning fiery Sun that will one day consume us all.

Ahem. But weird and wonderful things do happen in football stadia. All the time. Inspiring, wonderful and weird.

On the 27th May 1954, Fiorentina were playing Pistoiese at the Stadio Artemi Franchi. The game was in mid flow. But suddenly the crowd fell silent. The players stopped. Ten thousand spectators began to roar with excitement. Up above them an object - variously described as ‘egg-shaped’ or ‘cigar-shaped’ moved slowly through the sky. It shone like glitter, sending flakes of strange material down to the ground.

Across the region, there were more and more sightings of this strange object. Schools closed. Business stopped. People were torn between panic and excitement. This was the Atomic age. Were they at war? Were Aliens invading - or the Russians? Was this a typical Juve trick to stop Fiorentina winning?

60 years later, there has never been a satisfactory explanation.

When ‘loveable rogue’ Barry Fry took over as manager of Birmingham in 1993 they didn’t win for 3 months. That’s when he found out about The Curse. Legend has it that when the Blues built St Andrews they had to evict a group of Travellers, who promptly cursed the team. Relegation, closure, German bombs, far-fetched dramas about Peaky Blinders, you name it, the Blues were cursed.

Ron Saunders apparently had crucifixes hung from the floodlights in order to break it. Fry decided to reach out to the Traveller community who - perhaps literally taking the piss - told him the only way to lift the curse was to pee in all four corners of the ground. They promptly won 7 out of the next 10 games.

Though they were also relegated that season, so maybe the curse was more to do with the mob up the road nicking all their best players? Or selling Trevor Francis? Just off the top of my head.

Unexplained items have frequently appeared at football stadia - a thick fog that appeared in just 60 seconds at a Bodmin Town - St Austell game, a strange hovering craft seen above Coventry City’s Ricoh Arena, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Football fans love these unexplained phenomena because they appeal to the romantic inside us, the sense that anything is possible, which is surely what drives us to stand on the terraces in the freezing rain in the hope that one day, maybe, our team will win something, do something. Anything.

Because If you take away that belief then it’s just grown men paying £20 to eat sausage rolls and watch other men kick balls really high in the air. So let’s keep believing in Aliens. Fog. Gypsy Curses. England’s chances at Euro 2020.

Actually, scratch that last one. Too much.

Words by Daniel Brierley
Illustration by Want Some Studio