This is the ninth in a series of examinations of soccer/football-related urban legends and whether they are true or false. This week, learn about the player who succesfully hoaxed his way on to a Premier League soccer team by having a friend recommend him while claiming to be a famous football player, shake your head at the footballer who was injured before he made his Premier League debut…on a goal celebration and find out just what ADIDAS stands for after all!
Click here to view an archive of all the previous soccer/football legends.
SOCCER/FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: A Senegalese player was signed by a British Premier League team through a hoax played on the club’s manager.
Association football history is littered with players who were given a chance to play in the Premier League in England (the top football league in the country) or in Serie A in Italy (the Italian equivalent to the Premier League) and not only failed, but flamed out quickly and spectacularly. There have been many legends told about these flame-outs. Heck, in a previous Sports Urban Legend installment, I examined the legend of Luther Blissett and how exactly he came to be signed by AC Milan for a disastrous season in Serie A (you can read that story here). One of the craziest stories, though, involves a Senegalese football player named Ali Dia who actually managed to con himself on to a British Premier League team (and even saw an action in a Premier League game!)!
Read on to see how he managed to pull it off…
Born in 1965 in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, Ali Dia spent the late 1980s and early 1990s playing for a variety of small non-league football clubs in France, Germany and, by the mid 1990s, England. Dia had failed try-outs for a number of smaller league football clubs in England. In 1996, he appeared in one game for the semi-professional Blyth Spartans in Blyth, Northumberland, England. Where he ended up playing next would astound everyone. You see, Dia and another person (some reports say it was his agent, but I don’t know if we’ll ever have a definitive answer on it, so I think it is better to stick with referring to him as a friend of Dia’s) had come up with a scam that would involve the friend calling teams in the Premier League and presenting himself as George Weah, the Liberian football player who was the reigning Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Player of the Year in 1995 (and who would later be named the African Player of the Century soon after)!
Dia’s friend had already tried West Ham United before convincing Southampton manager Graeme Souness that the actual George Weah was calling him and recommending his cousin Ali Dia, who had played with Weah at Paris Saint-Germain and had represented his native Senegal in international play.
Souness agreed to give Dia a try-out, and despite not exactly impressing his fellow Southampton players at his try-out, Souness still figured that Weah must know what he is talking about, so he gave Dia a trial contract with the team (I have seen conflicting reports as to the length of the contract – some say a month and some say a week. It doesn’t really matter) and he was listed as one of the possible substitutes for Southampton’s next game against Leeds on November 23, 1996. Southampton star player Matthew Le Tissier later recalled that after seeing Dia’s weak try-out that they would never hear from the player again, only to see the next day, “Then when we turned up for the game against Leeds the following day, I was amazed to hear that he’d been named on the subs’ bench. I think the picture of the faces of the boys must have been remarkable. Our jaws all dropped to the floor.” Souness had told the media about what he thought was Dia’s story, so the crowd knew about “Weah’s cousin” being a member of the team the next day.
Amusingly enough, it was an injury to Le Tissier that led to Dia entering the game!
Dia entered at the 32 minute mark in the game. Peter Harrison, Manager of the Blyth Spartans, was particularly floored, “Next thing I knew I was watching him on Match of the Day playing for Southampton which was pretty unbelievable.” What is really interesting is that Dia actually nearly scored a goal soon after entering the game!! However, soon it became quite apparent that Dia had no place playing in a Premier League match. Le Tissier later recalled, “He ran around the pitch like Bambi on ice; it was very embarrassing to watch.” So after just fifty-three minutes on the pitch, Souness actually had to put in a substitute for his substitute!! Ken Monkou entered for Dia and Dia never played another game for Southampton.
Dia actually played eight games for a small non-league team in Gateshead, England (no doubt using his experience on Southampton as his pitch for being signed) before retiring from football period to go back to school. He graduated from Northumbria University in Newcastle in 2001 with a degree in business.
Souness later stated, “I don’t feel I have been duped in the slightest. That’s just the way the world is these days.” Souness resigned as Southampton manager after the 1996-97 season, his only season in Southampton.
Thanks to David Hills of the Observer, Thom Gibbs of the Telegraph and Paul Bradbury for the great quotes for the piece!
SOCCER/FOOTBALL LEGEND: A player’s debut for a Premier League club was put off by a number of months because he injured himself celebrating a pre-season goal.
Celestine Babayaro is a retired football player from Nigeria. Babayaro spent parts of eight seasons for Chelsea’s Football Club in the Premier League. He had some success in Chelsea, being part of the team when they won the FA Cup in 2000. He was let go right before Chelsea went on their REALLY successful run in the mid-2000′s, though. Still, Babayaro had a fine career for Chelsea.
However, his start was not so good.
Babayaro moved to Chelsea as a teenager for £2.25 million pounds. Then the most Chelsea ever spent on a teen player.
Babayaro was popular with the fans for his acrobatic celebrations when Chelsea scored a goal. However, said acrobatics got him into trouble in his first pre-season for Chelsea.
In a pre-season match against Stevenage Borough, Babayaro actually BROKE HIS LEG doing a post-goal backward somersault!
Because of that injury, he did not make first-team debut for many months (finally debuting against Slovan Bratislava in the European Cup Winners’ Cup).
Not the way to start your career! Luckily, things worked out well for him as a player anyways. He has allegedly had some post-career financial problems, although Babayaro has downplayed the severity of his money problems.
Thanks to Mike Baker of the Guardian for the information about Babayaro!
SOCCER/FOOTBALL LEGEND: The sport apparel company Adidas got its name from the acronym “All Day I Dream About Soccer” (or, in the alternative, “All Day I Dream About Sport”).
STATUS: Both False
In the world of product names, quite often the names behind the companies are plainly evident. To wit, Rawlings Sporting Goods was named after its founders, brothers Alfred and George Rawlings. Another sporting goods giant, Spalding, was named after its founder, Albert Spalding. Pretty simple, eh? Even when things get a bit more confusing, many companies do a good enough job advertising their history so that while you might not know much about Greek goddesses, you might know that Nike is the Greek goddess of victory.
But when names are not obvious and the origin of the name is not widely promoted, that’s when things get tricky. That’s when you start getting into somewhat “conspiratorial” waters, where people start to think up elaborate acronyms and the like to explain odd company names. Muddying these waters are companies like Fubu, which actually ARE named after an interesting acronym for “Five Urban Brothers United,” testifying to the original goal of the company (as was their later slogan/acronym “For Us, By Us”), which was to create a market for shoes and apparel designed and produced by African-Americans.
So it is not surprising that the somewhat odd name of the European shoe and sports apparel company Adidas has given rise to legends about the origin of its name.
The first acronym bandied about as the basis of the company’s name was “All Day I Dream About Soccer,” although more recently the more generic “All Day I Dream About Sport” has become a popular guess for the origin of the company’s name.
Both are incorrect.
The actual origin is tied to an acrimonious split between two German brothers in the wake of World War II.
After returning from World War I, Adolf Dassler began producing sport shoes in his mother’s laundry (using debris from the war as his starting point). Adolf’s father worked at a shoe factory, and in the early 1920s, his father and some family friends helped Adolf start up his own shoe company. In 1924, Adolf’s older brother, Rudolf, joined Adolf in the business, with Adolf as the main designer and Rudolf as the salesman. The pair ran a very low budget organization (at one point, they were actually using pedal-generated electricity for the production of their shoes) but by the 1930s had begun to make a name for themselves. Their company, Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory) really broke through in 1936 when the American star athlete, Jesse Owens, wore their shoes as he won four gold medals in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. In the years leading up to World War II, the brothers were selling 200,000 pairs of shoes a year!
By this time, the brothers had already joined the Nazi Party in Germany (in fact, it was their Nazi connections that made it possible for them to get access to Owens in the first place) and during World War II they produced shoes for German soldiers (and by the end of the war they had transformed their factory into an armament production factory for the war effort). For a rising company in Germany in the 1930s, becoming a member of the Nazi party was practically a necessity, so I would not be so quick to judge the Dassler brothers on their actual political viewpoints. That said, while it was practically a necessity, it was not actually a necessity, so they certainly have to take at least some heat for their political alliances.
The brothers had quite different personalities, with Rudolf the bombastic salesman and Adolf the quiet shoe designer. They lived together in the same house with their wives during World War II and their relationship got more and more strained. When Rudolf was drafted into the German army, he believed that Adolf had pulled strings to get Rudolf out of his hair. Later, when Rudolf was captured by American soldiers and accused of being a member of SS (the armed force of the Nazi Party), he believed that Adolf had tipped the Americans off (Rudolf was cleared of the charges).
Either one of those incidents could have led to estrangement between the brothers, but another possibility is something that happened in 1943 during the Allied bombings of Berlin. The brothers were forced to share Adolf’s bomb shelter with their families, and Adolf remarked “The dirty bastards are back again,” which Rudolf took as a reference to him and his family, while Adolf maintained that he was referring to the Allies.
Whatever the reason for the estrangement (the “dirty bastards” misunderstanding is the most popular one, but I don’t see how that would be worse than thinking your brother turned you in to the opposition and said you were a member of the SS), after the war, in 1948, the brothers split their business in half.
In 1949, Adolf named his new company adidas AG (originally it was lowercase like that) after his nickname Adi and his last name Dassler. So Adi Dassler became adidas.
Rudolf did the same thing with his company name, calling his new company Ruda. Soon after forming Ruda, though, he changed the name of the company to Puma, which remains its name today.
The brothers were highly competitive in the athletic endorsement market, as they each competed to be the shoe of choice for Olympic and World Cup star athletes. They also pushed each other in the realm of shoe innovations, with each company trying to add new bells and whistles to their respective shoes (like bolt-on cleats or screw-in studs). Rudolf got off to a great start by scoring key endorsements in the 1948 and 1952 Summer Olympics, but Adolf would make the biggest score when his adidas shoes were worn by the West German national team as they won the 1954 FIFA World Cup, which was a really big deal at the time.
Adidas went on to become the largest shoe company in Europe and second only to Nike in the world.
Puma is a successful worldwide company, as well.
“All Day I Dream About Soccer” and the more recent “All Day I Dream About Sport (sometimes Sports)” are just acronyms created BASED on the success of adidas (these sort of acronyms are sometimes called backronyms, because they work backwards off of an established name). A German artist named Barbara Gauss claims to own a trademark on both phrases dating back to 1981.
Thanks to reader Jonathan B. for suggesting I feature this one!
Okay, that’s it for this edition!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com