2018 FIFA World Cup.

The strangest stories from the football archives.

Peru’s Paulo Guerrero was a substitute in the defeat to Denmark on matchday 1. But the tattooed striker nearly missed the World Cup altogether due to a positive test for benzoylecgonine, the primary compound in cocaine. Guerrero insisted he had inadvertently consumed the substance in a herbal tea and had not taken cocaine.

Key evidence in his case came from mummified children found in the Andes. Forensic testing of the 500-year-old mummies yielded results for benzoylecgonine, but an expert’s analysis showed that the compound was consistent with benzoylecgonine from coca leaf, not cocaine. This was evidence, Guerrero’s lawyers said, that the footballer had, like the mummies hundreds of years ago, merely drank herbal tea with trace amounts of coca leaf.

Guerrero’s story is hard to top, but here are some other strange stories...

Hair today, gone tomorrow: 1998

Argentina manager Daniel Passarella was a disciplinarian who refused to select players with long hair or earrings. Gabriel Batistuta famously cut his hair to ensure selection but Fernando Redondo refused, and duly missed out on selection for the 1998 World Cup.

Egypt miss the boat: 1930

Any team who wanted to could play in the first World Cup in 1930. All they had to do was turn up. For Egypt, even that was too much. The North Africans were supposed to sail to Uruguay from Marseille, but a storm during the journey from Egypt to France meant the good ship Florida left the French port without them.

Clothed in absurdity: 1930

The first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930 didn’t have the Egyptians, but it did have some bizarre fashion choices. One referee wore a shirt and tie, while many of Bolivia’s footballers donned red berets while playing.

Polls apart: 2006

The 2006 World Cup was the scene of one of the worst mishaps to befall a referee in the history of the sport. Croatia’s Josip Simunic was yellow carded not once, not twice, but an incredible three times by Graham Poll before the English referee sent him off against Australia.

Ilunga boots the ball and takes a bow: 1974

In 1974, Zaire took on Brazil after losing 9-0 to Yugoslavia (not a typo) and 2-0 to Scotland. The African side would lose 3-0 to the Brazilians, but Mwepu Ilunga stole the headlines by booting the ball downfield as Brazil lined up a freekick. He then followed this up with a cheeky bow after the referee booked him.


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