Mascot Monday: Jay (Juventus)

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Name: Jay (sometimes referred to as simply J).

Club: Juventus (Italian Serie A).

Mascot Since: 2015

Species: Zebra. Obviously.

Friends & Family: Being a Champions League sort of zebra, Jay has, of course, hung out with many of Europe’s biggest mascots, including Bayern Munich’s Berni the Bear and Sporting CP’s Jubas the Lion (although the latter slightly worries us – we hope Jubas had already had his lunch). He also appears to be great friends with Tottenham’s Chirpy, and the two hang out whenever Juventus and Spurs play each other.

Then there are his glamorous transatlantic mascot pals. During Juve’s pre-season tours of the USA in 2017 and 2018, Jay was caught on film swapping shirts and messing around with a bevy of mascots from various American sports – including the NFL’s Swoop the Eagle (Philadelphia Eagles) and TD (Miami Dolphins), MLB’s Teddy (Washington Nationals), and the NBA’s Harry the Hawk (Atlanta Hawks).

Social Media: Lots of YouTube videos of Jay on his travels and doing stuff with his celebrity mascot mates. He’s also the star of a 2016 Juventus Christmas cartoon, in which he involves himself in delivering a gift-wrapped football to a young fan whose letter to Santa gets lost, as well as what appears to be an online animated series for junior supporters of the Bianconeri called Team Jay.

Notes: Another mascot lifted straight from the club badge, Jay’s black and white stripes echo Juve’s iconic monochrome kit (which, as we all know, was ‘borrowed’ from Notts County in 1903 – the shirt definitely came first).

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But why a zebra? Obviously because of the black and white stripes, but also because the creature is said to be a heraldic representation of ancient nobility, and there is nothing football clubs like more than playing up their storied histories…

Some commentators have described Jay as decidedly creepy. We’re not sure we would necessarily agree with that (he actually reminds us more of Donkey from the Shrek movies, although that’s probably just the general horsiness, toothy grin and excessive enthusiasm).

As zebras go, he seems friendly enough, and as a mascot, he seems pretty well behaved – compared to the bad boys of the mascot world that is. The likes of the manager-bothering Harry the Hornet (Watford) or even the frankly notorious Cyril the Swan (Swansea) don’t seem to have anything to fear from this cheery zebra.

However, like any young zebra who has had fame thrust upon them, he has occasionally been known to get up to no good. Revealing no specifics, but the spider on a string incident in Lisbon is probably best not discussed…

For more Mascot Monday antics click here – and if you’ve got any suggestions for other mascots we should check out, leave a comment or tweet us!

The Weird World of Football: Crocodile Rock

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Photo by Flickr on Pexels.com

At ASRV, we love tales (or perhaps tails?) of animals involving themselves in sport. The all-time classic dog on the pitch. Suicidal pigeons with no sense of direction. The most chill kangaroo ever. An owl with a secret ambition to be a goalie. Joey Barton making friends with a squirrel. Pitch-invading Merseyside cats. And the list goes on. We even made a YouTube playlist of our favourites – which includes all of the above.

However, this particular incident is really the opposite – this is the story of some spectacularly daft humans attempting to involve animals in sport in what can only be described as new and terrifying ways…

In the early 2000s, a fourth division Romanian side found themselves in a bit of bother. Steaua Nicolae Balcescu were in trouble with the League after a number of pitch invasions and hooligan incidents involving their fans, and they’d been threatened with expulsion if they didn’t sort things out.

So the club put its collective thinking caps on, and came up with an audacious plan. What about, someone suggested, digging a moat round the pitch to stop any marauding fans in their tracks? We could even fill it with water and add a few crocodiles to make very, very sure they stopped – no, really hahaha!

No, really.

The plan swiftly took shape. The moat was to be far enough away from the pitch that no player would accidentally fall in (We can just imagine -‘the centre-back will be out for the rest of the season with a crocodile bite to the bum…’), and pipes would supply warm water to keep the crocs cosy during the Romanian winter.

The Steaua chairman Alexandru Cringus enthused about the project:

This is not a joke. We can get crocodiles easy enough and feed them on meat from the local abattoir. The ditch is planned to be wide enough that no one could manage to jump over it. Anyone who attempted to do so would have to deal with the crocs. I think that the problem of fans running on to the pitch will be solved once and for all.

Now, we’re all for creative thinking, and the Laws of the Game don’t actually say anything about crocodiles (we’ve checked), but it seems only right that these plans were last heard of being ‘considered’ by the local authorities. To quote Douglas Adams, they’re probably still “in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard.”

Leopards? Eeek! For heaven’s sake, don’t give them ideas, please….

Celebrate good times…

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CB writes…

I’m absolutely loving the Women’s World Cup so far (apart from the pervasive sexism that’s still hanging around like a bad smell, eg: the suggestion of smaller goals. Don’t be daft). There is much to celebrate from the Group Stage nonetheless.

The Lionesses are through to the Round of 16 with a game to spare, the USWNT can’t stop scoring, Thailand started scoring (hooray!), Chile’s outstanding goalkeeper Christiane Endler (below) has shown herself to be a total badass, and Brazil’s Marta….well, Marta is an absolute legend.

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“The party’s over there!” Chile’s Christiane Endler knows the score.

Her perfectly-taken penalty in yesterday’s game places her right at the top of the all-time overall World Cup scoring table with 17 goals in her five tournaments – one more than Germany’s Miroslav Klose. She’s on another level, no question of that.

Marta may be one of the greatest players of all time, but we’re glad to see she’s not immune to a silly goal celebration (below), making a brave effort to kiss her magical right boot while still wearing it after her record-breaking penalty against Italy last night!

The Italians were celebrating too, having also reached the Round of 16. The joyous picture of captain Sara Gama being given the bumps (above) by her team-mates beautifully captures the spirit and feeling of this tournament. Everyone seems to be having an absolute blast.

Long may the party continue!

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Mascot Monday: Ettie (Women’s World Cup 2019)

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The Women’s World Cup begins on Friday in France, so it seemed like a good idea to celebrate that on Mascot Monday! If you have any suggestions for future editions, get in touch.

Name: Ettie

Age: 15 (according to FIFA)

Tournament: Women’s World Cup 2019, France

Mascot Since: 2018

Species: Chicken

Friends & Family: Ettie’s dad is Footix (below, as immortalised on an Albanian stamp), the cheery blue rooster who you’ll remember as the celebrated mascot of France ’98 if you’re of a certain age.

Screenshot_2019-05-31 Stamp Mascot Footix (Albania) (Football World Cup 1998, France) Mi AL BL113,Sn AL 2564,Yt AL BF88,Sg [...]

She’s also been seen hanging out in Moscow with Zabivaka, the wolf mascot from last year’s World Cup – they went sightseeing and did a photo session together, apparently.

Notes: Like her mysterious English cousin Lily, Ettie is a chicken who loves football (unlike this one) – but in many ways she’s the opposite to Lily, in that we know quite a bit about her. FIFA have given her a cute little back story:

[Her] name comes from the French word for star, étoile, as she came from the bright star that her father Footix was awarded for the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Footix cast his star far into the night sky so it could shine brightly, and after a few years of travelling through the cosmos it came back to him in the form of his twinkling daughter, ettie.

Footix knew immediately that ettie was very special, not only because of her sparkling personality that would radiate happiness and joy to everyone she met, but because they shared a real passion for football.

Like father, like daughter, it seems. Good luck Ettie!

 

Brian Clough, Peter Shilton and a roundabout way of winning in Europe

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In 1980, Brian Clough (below) took Nottingham Forest to their second European Cup triumph in as many seasons. Like the Spurs side of nearly forty years later, Forest had beaten Ajax in their semi to reach the final in Madrid (although the 1980 final was held at the Santiago Bernabéu).

Preperation for such a big match can sometimes be fraught with problems, especially if you are a perfectionist in the same way that Cloughie undoubtedly was. This excellent tale, as told by the legendary Forest and England goalkeeper Peter Shilton (above), possibly explains a lot about Old Big ‘Ead’s more… er… unconventional problem solving methods:

When we got to Madrid, [assistant manager] Peter Taylor told me we had a great training pitch, but it was too hard. ‘You haven’t looked hard enough,’ Cloughie told us. ‘We know a grassed area that’s perfect.’ I couldn’t believe what Taylor was pointing at: we were standing in front of a roundabout, near the city centre, and on it was a circle of grass. It was fairly quiet, but a few cars came past, beeping horns.

Whether or not the roundabout actually had any impact on the eventual outcome of the final is unknown (probably not, or we’d be seeing Alisson and Hugo Lloris preparing for this season’s trip to Madrid in the same way!), but Forest won, beating Germany’s Hamburger SV by a single first half goal scored by John Robertson. In the end, Shilton was left with roundabout nothing to do.

Brian Clough

No, I don’t think he looks very impressed either…

 

 

Mascot Monday: Chirpy and Lily (Spurs)

Chirpy and Lily

Names: Chirpy and Lily

Club: Tottenham Hotspur

Mascot Since: See below

Species: Cockerel (Chirpy), Chicken (Lily)

Friends & Family: According to the club, they’re best mates – but we reckon Chirpy secretly really fancies Lily!

Notes: Adapted straight from the club crest, there have been various versions of a cockerel mascot at Spurs for many years (see photo below for a terrifying early iteration of Chirpy, and this disturbing video – eek!), but Chirpy’s cheerful female counterpart Lily is a relative newcomer to the Spurs family.

Named after the club nickname ‘The Lilywhites’ (we’d like to think it’s also a nod to the early twentieth-century women’s football pioneer, Lily Parr, but it probably isn’t), little is known about this mysterious mascot except that she seems like the sensible one and she’s obviously a chicken rather than a cockerel!

Chirpy!

On the other hand, we know quite a bit about Lily’s best mate. Chirpy likes to have a go at things – he’s been seen doing tai chi, playing tag in Turin against the Juventus mascot Jay the Zebra, helping make traditional Chinese mooncakes, and taking part in the Mascot Derby, as well as the usual charity work, hanging out with the junior fans on matchdays and kickabouts on the pitch with the players’ kids during the end of season lap of appreciation (even your cynical, hard-bitten ASRV team went ‘awwwww’ at that one!).

The introduction of Lily was not the first time Spurs have added to their mascot roster. In the early 1970s they rather randomly employed a bloke dressed up as an astronaut to wander round pitchside at European home games, waving a placard that read ‘COUNTDOWN TO EUROPEAN ORBIT’.

To be totally honest, we wonder what the Board had been smoking.

Somewhere along the line, this approach must have worked, however – and, it seems, is still working. We wonder if Spurs Astronaut Man will come out of retirement to help Chirpy and Lily into orbit at the Champions League final on Saturday: the biggest European night in the club’s history…

COME ON YOU SPURS!

If you’ve got any suggestions for future editions of Mascot Monday, please get in touch.

FA Cup: The War of the Roses (1890)

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It’s the FA Cup final this weekend, the traditional showpiece end of the football season – so we’ve been looking at some interesting finals of the past. Today’s final is from 1890, when Blackburn Rovers played Sheffield Wednesday in the first battle of the football War of the Roses…

The 1890 FA Cup final was the first time a team from Yorkshire had faced a team from Lancashire in the competition. If you know your history, you’ll know that this fact was guaranteed to add a little spice to the proceedings!

Held again at the Kennington Oval (which, incidentally, is one of only two venues to have hosted England football and cricket internationals as well as FA Cup finals – the other being Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane ground), this final marked the eighth and last appearance of Major Francis Marindin as referee.

An influential figure in the early development of what we would now see as the modern game during the nineteenth century, Marindin began as a player and was later described as “one of the outstanding referees who really knows the rules”.

On the day, poor old Wednesday were absolutely thrashed 6-1, which, I believe, is still a Cup final record score. Another record was set that day, when William Townley (who was later to go on to great success as a coach on the Continent) scored the first ever Cup final hat-trick, which helped send Blackburn home to Lancashire with the FA Cup trophy for the fourth time.