Tonight, England play Moldova at football, whose footballers are more famous to most readers of this blog, I bet, for having played Tony Hawkes at tennis.
Will Masal Bugduv be playing? In early 2009, The Times reported that the 16 year-old was ‘Moldova’s finest’ and listed him as number 30 in its list of rising stars. They said he was linked with Arsenal.
Oops. Masal Bugduv doesn't exist. Someone created him using fake Wikipedia pages and AP reports. The hoaxster was almost certainly Irish. The linked piece is by my favourite football writer, Grantland's Brian Phillips, who elsewhere pointed out that Masal Bugduv sounds very similar to the Irish pronunciation of M'asal Beag Dubh (My Little Black Donkey), a story by the Irish-language writer Pádraic Ó Conaire about a dishonest salesman who seeks an exaggerated price for a lazy donkey.*
In bonus Moldovan sporting trivia: at the Underwater Hockey World Championships in Hobart in 2000, the Moldovan men lost to Colombia 30-0 and Arg 23-0. They didn’t really know how to put on their fins and flippers. Then they went and filed for (and received) refugee status.
Two years later in Calgary, the Moldovan women’s team didn’t turn up to its first match because they were all also filing for refugee status. Each woman on the team had paid organisers $1200.
The Baltimore Sun article on this is funny:
Yes, underwater hockey is a real sport. The players wear fins, masks and snorkels, and they use little hockey sticks to push a weighted puck around the bottom of a swimming pool. At least that's what they claim they're doing down there; they could also be building a life-size replica of Keanu Reeves out of Legos. There's no way for the spectators to tell.
According to an anonymous source who was interviewed by the CBC on camera wearing a diving mask for disguise (I am still not making this up) and identified only as "Deep Trout," some members of the Moldovan team "couldn't even swim."
* Incidentally, BP's recent essay on Serena Williams is right up there with anything I have ever read about tennis, including David Foster Wallace on Federer and (I preferred this one) Michael Joyce. I have elevated Williams to Nemesis status, alongside Josh Levin and Mike Tanier.