Conference South side Farnborough FC went into administration in April — an extra depressing turn of events for a club that had only been founded six years earlier as the replacement for liquidated Farnborough Town FC. The new club's financial situation could have kept them from participating this season, but then bookmaker Paddy Power swooped in with an offer to sponsor the club and provide the money they so desperately needed. And in exchange, the players and manager all had to legally change their names so Paddy Power could extract maximum publicity from the deal.
“Over the summer it looked touch and go whether we’d even start the season," manager Spencer Day (now Jose Mourinho) told the club's official website. "But now we’ve got by far the greatest team the world has ever seen. Although it’s not all good news, Pelé and Maradona have almost come to blows over who gets to wear the number 10.”
Yes, Paddy Power — who you might remember from Nicklas Bendtner's underpants and their Stamford Bridge billboard mocking Fernando Torres — got the manager and players all to change their names by deed poll to those of pre-existing legends of the game both past and present. Here's the full squad:
GK: Gordon Banks (Kevin Scriven)
DF: Lothar Matthaus (Joshua Huggins)
DF: Roberto Carlos (Oliver Treacher)
DF: Paolo Maldini (Adam Doyle)
DF: Alan Hansen (Alan Inns)
DF: Cafu (Paul Massaquoi)
DF: John Terry (Djibril Fofana)
DF: Franz Beckenbauer (Thomas McGarry)
MF: George Best (Reece Jones)
MF: Paul Gascoigne (Stephen Laidler)
MF: Zinedine Zidane (Merrick James-Lewis)
MF: Johann Cruyff (Tyrone Berry)
FW: Lionel Messi (Daniel Bennett)
FW: Gary Lineker (Reece Connolly)
FW: Diego Maradona (David Tarpey)
FW: Pele (Elvis Hammond)
Manager: Jose Mourinho (Spencer Day)
Assistant: Paddy Power (James Dynan)
Coach: Sir Alex Ferguson (Simon Gardener)
Kitman: Terry Venables (Roger Peirce)
Though Paddy Power and the club have labeled this as just a "bit of fun," The Irish Times explains the implications of this move:
How much has the whole business cost? Not a lot. The name-changing can be done for as little as £30ish in the UK, although if Farnborough eventually make it to the Champions League they’ll have to update their passports too so they can travel to Milan, Munich or Madrid. That will cost around £70 per person, which would bring the total price to in or about £2,000.
The players should know, though, that there doesn’t seem to be any going back. On the ‘change of name’ form, they have to agree to “absolutely and entirely renounce relinquish and abandon the use of my old name”.
Meanwhile, in Brazil, Serie B club Atletico Goianiense signed forward Michael Jackson to play alongside John Lennon and Mahatma Gandhi. From the AP:
Carlos Adriano, soccer director for the Brazilian Serie B club Atletico Goianiense, says the team has signed a forward known as Michael Jackson - his real name is Carlos Adriano de Sousa Cruz.
Like many Brazilian players, he goes by a nickname rather than his family name or given name.
Jackson could play with a couple of famously named teammates: John Lennon, full name John Lennon Silva Santos; and Mahatma Gandhi, full name Mahatma Gandhi Heber Pio.
In case you were wondering, this is what Michael Jackson the footballer looks like: