Shorts

Quirky retro-football stories from around the world, amusing anecdotes, fascinating statistics, quiz questions and photos – Shorts is a regular BTLM celebration of football from yesteryear, lovingly packaged in bite-size chunks for our thrilled followers. Or a dump of all the stuff that we can’t make proper articles out of. Take your pick.

Our first eclectic collection covers fear of flying, nicknames, slapstick Brazilians and Yugoslav beauty queens.

Brazilian amateur defender Joao Pinheiro became briefly famous in the late-1960s through his absurd capacity for scoring own-goals – ten in all past his keeper in 3 seasons. A decent player despite this, his coach moved him from defence to the left wing. Guess what happened in his first game in his new position? Yes, he inadvertently deflected a shot past his long-suffering goalkeeper. On his 25th birthday his teammates presented him with a compass. The inscription on the back said simply: ‘The Enemy Is Opposite’

The Italians have always had a certain style and flair when it comes to nicknaming footballers. Bobby Charlton was known in Italy as ‘the cannonball‘ for his powerful shooting, his brother Jack finally arrived as a player when he too earned a nickname of his own. A volcanic and violent performance by the central defender in a Fairs Cup tie for Leeds in Naples inspired the Italian media to dub him ‘Jackie Vesuvius‘. The great Sopranos bad-guy that never was, surely.

FranceStaying with nicknames, the French showed they could be just as rubbish as the English when it came to dishing out unimaginative ones. France’s 13 goal top scorer at the 1958 World Cup, Just Fontaine, was widely known as ‘Justo’. At least the partnership he forged with Raymond Kopa at that tournament led to the pair being labelled ‘le tandem terrible’ – a bit of an improvement.

Jimmy ‘Jinky’ Johnstone was famously fearful of flying sounds like a tongue twister rather than a phobia assertion. Anyway, when Celtic drew Red Star Belgrade in the European Cup in 1968, the brilliant winger begged Jock Stein to leave him out of the team for the away leg. The prospect of the four flights it would take to get there and back terrified the life out of him. Stein agreed, on the condition that Celtic went there with a three goal lead from the home game. Johnstone played like a man possessed, scoring two and setting up the other three in a 5-1 win. Stein kept his word and Johnstone stayed at home for the return. Even the Red Star officials tried to persuade Stein to take him, just so their fans could appreciate his talent in the flesh.

George Best was not the only famous footballer dating beauty queens in the 1960s. Red Star Belgrade wing legend Dragan Džajić was engaged to a local girl named Ivona Puhlera, the winner of the Miss Yugoslavia title in 1968. She went on to finish eighth in that year’s Miss World contest in London. His wedding ambitions were thwarted by a magazine contract she had signed which did not allow her to marry for its duration.

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