2015 was a great year for soccer. A wildly talented Barcelona side held off a determined Juventus team in the Champions League Final. The US women’s national team played some compelling soccer en route to winning a third Women’s World Cup. Chile lifted Copa America silverware, and a rejuvenated Mexico did the same in CONCACAF. And yet, 2015 was also a pretty odd year for soccer. So much so, in fact, that we’ve compiled a list of the 10 strangest moments in soccer in 2015.
1. Partick Thistle unveils Kingsley AKA The Demonic Hell Creature of Your Nightmares
Mascots are generally pretty terrifying creatures. They’re big. They’re brightly colored. They have roughly the same amount of artificial energy as Tony Montana near the end of Scarface. And yet, all current, former and future mascots will forever pale in comparison to Partick Thistle’s newby Kingsley (whom I am inclined to rename “Anthropomorphic Sunshine Supermonster” or “ASS” for short). Named after corporate sponsor Kingsford Capital Management, the yellow Harbinger of Terror replaced former (and beloved) mascot Jagee MacBey in June. As JJ Bull of The Telegraph noted, “…The head looks like Lisa Simpson if she had been tortured and then melted. And then addicted to crystal meth for a while.” It’s only a shame that Partick Thistle and its first choice for a new mascot, Stabby McFearClown, couldn’t’ agree to terms.
2. Arda Turan Throws A Shoe
In a scene more or less straight out of Austin Powers, Turkey international Arda Turan (then playing for Atletico Madrid) was so displeased by a call during a Copa del Rey match against Barcelona that he did the most logical thing possible: he hurled a shoe at the linesman. It was a move straight out of Random Task’s playbook, and it earned Turan a yellow for his trouble. It also almost certainly left the official muttering Mike Myers’ classic line: “Who throws a shoe? Honestly!” Somehow, with all that transpired in the brief outburst, my favorite moment remains Turan realizing that he now sheepishly had to walk 30 yards to collect his violently discarded footwear.
3. Koi Carp at Carlisle’s Ground
Soccer is rife with animal-related terminology like nimble as a gazelle, fast as a cheetah or (in George Best's case) drunk as a skunk. Carlisle United could now justifiably add “carping around” to that list after the events of mid-November. Following a night of torrential rain, staff at Carlisle's Brunton Park arrived to find the aptly-named Waterworks End completely submerged.
Once cleanup operations began, an even more amazing sight was discovered in the goalmouth area: three koi carp. The club posted a photo of the fish on Twitter, and were soon after returned to owner Mark Chandler, who spotted his pets doing the rounds on social media. Chandler's home had flooded, and his three fish evidently saw it as an opportunity to try their fins at footy.
4. David de Gea's Failed Transfer to Real Madrid
The headline “player stays at club” isn't usually cause for international enquiry. However, in the case of David de Gea's failed move from Manchester United to Real Madrid, it definitely was. The transfer, which dragged out over the entire summer window, was seen by many as a foregone conclusion as the clock ran down to Deadline Day. The Spanish shotstopper was heading to Madrid with Keylor Navas and cash heading in the opposite direction. Done deal. And then it all went south. At midnight on Transfer Deadline Day (it's so important that it gets three capital letters), the necessary documentation had not been submitted. Madrid blamed United. United blamed Madrid. There were accusations of improper file formatting, false declarations of what was actually done, confusion over time zones, and more references to the Transfer Matching System than had ever been used in every other transfer window combined. In the end, Navas stayed at Madrid and de Gea signed a new contract with United … and we all get to look forward to a second round of this saga this summer!
5. The Definition of a Wind-Assisted Goal
On a blustery night in the Isthmian League Division One North, Thurrock FC traveled to Romford FC for a standard league match that featured a goal that was anything but common. Thurrock defender Kamari Duncan attempted clear a ball from his own half, but his lobbed effort was stopped midair by a gale-force wind, which then forced the ball backwards 30 yards. A vicious bounce and some suspect goalkeeping saw the attempted clearance end up in the back of Duncan's net. The video footage (courtesy of the BBC) could easily double as a major plot point for a new Disney picture in which invisible forces help drive a team to victory. To any and all burgeoning screenwriters out there, you're welcome.
6. Anthony Martial's Lucrative Transfer
On August 31, Anthony Martial was a 19-year-old striker who had scored 11 goals for Ligue 1 side Monaco, and was eagerly anticipating his first camp with the France national team. On September 1, that was all still the case, except he now played for Manchester United and carried an €80 million price tag (€50 million flat fee plus €30 million in add-ons). It had been obvious for the entire summer that United was in need of a new goalscorer, but the surprising nature of the transfer combined with its considerable financial impact caused more than a little consternation around the world. Oh, and the clauses for those add-ons? According to French journalist Philippe Auclair, “It's €10 million when he plays his 25th game (for Manchester United), €10 million when he gets his 10th cap with the French national team and €10 million if he finishes in the top 20 list of best players in Europe.” As of now, Martial has made 14 appearances for United, eight for France and could soon be ranked as one of the best players in Europe. Here's hoping United have that €30 ready to go.
7. Jose Mourinho vs Medical Science
With time ticking away in the opening match of a new Premier League season, Jose Mourinho's Chelsea found itself drawing 2-2 with only 10 men left on the pitch following an early red card to goalkeeper Thibault Courtois. Late in the match, matters compounded when Blues attacker Eden Hazard went down with apparent injury and referee Michael Oliver waved on the medical crew (as is standard protocol). However, this also meant that Hazard was required to leave the field of play, thereby further weakening a Chelsea side desperate to start the season with a win. Mourinho reacted furiously, openly yelling at his medical crew (led by veteran first team doctor Eva Carneiro) and later denouncing them in the press. The (now unemployed) manager went a step further later in the week when he downgraded's Carneiro's role within the club, and later barred her from all training sessions. Carneiro would leave the club by late September, and is now in the process of taking legal action against both Mourinho and the club. This incident was the first in a string of bizarre moments at Stamford Bridge in the 2015 season, culminating in Mourinho's second dismissal from the London club.
8. Pep Guardiola Also Not A Fan of Club Medical Personnel
Much like Reece Bobby tearing up an Applebee's, Pep Guardiola just can't operate when everything is going smoothly. No, he has to threaten Caleb Porter or fight Jose Mourinho … or alienate the club doctor that had been employed by Bayern Munich since 1977. After a rash of injuries at the Bavarian club, Guardiola wasn't feeling too pleased with life. When Bayern lost to FC Porto in the Champions League in April, things boiled over. In case you're wondering what it looks like when Pep boils over, it looks like this:
After the match, renowned club doctor Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt and three other members of his medical team resigned in protest, and issued a unified statement that declared, “The medical department was blamed due to inexplicable reasons for the loss… The bond of trust is broken.” Issues regarding medical treatment reemerged in the 2015-2016 season when Bayern’s new medical personnel alleged that Guardiola had rushed Frank Ribery back to fitness. When the Frenchman went out and immediately exacerbated a previously existing condition, things got decidedly awkward.
9. Sepp Blatter Steps Down as FIFA President
On May 29, Sepp Blatter was elected FIFA President for a 5th consecutive term. Following his victory, he gave a particularly self-congratulatory speech in which he noted, “I am now the president of everybody. I am president of FIFA. I thank you, I thank that you have accepted me.” Four days later, Blatter again addressed an assembly of FIFA delegates and members of the press, only this time it was to announce 1) a special election for FIFA President would be held in early 2016 and 2) he would not seek office again. With that, the man who had run FIFA since 1998 more-or-less announced his resignation. Since that time, numerous FIFA officials have been arrested and both Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini have been suspended for eight years. And yet, the sight of a somber Blatter announcing defeat will simultaneously become one of the strangest and most iconic moments of 2015.
10. Fabian Johnson’s Phantom Injury
It’s tough to pinpoint one particularly odd moment for the US men’s national team this calendar year, as there have seemingly been too many to count. There was a thorough trouncing at the hands of Brazil, a fourth place finish at the Gold Cup, and a dramatic defeat courtesy of Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup. And yet, perhaps the oddest moment was the rift that rapidly developed between head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and defender/midfielder Fabian Johnson. In the dying moment’s of the USA’s 3-2 loss to Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup, Johnson claimed to have suffered a thigh injury and was substituted in the 111th minute. Klinsmann was visibly annoyed on the sideline and would later send Johnson back to his club team (Borussia Monchengladbach), declaring, “He can rethink his approach about this team.” Many believed that Klinsmann felt Johnson had feigned an injury and cost the US an essential substitution simply because he was worried about the possibility of becoming injured. For their part, Gladbach issued a press release stating that Johnson did return from international duty sporting a thigh injury and that his participation in the team’s upcoming game was questionable.
End of story, right? Not entirely. Only a few days later, Johnson started and played every minute in Gladbach’s 5-1 demolition of Eintracht Frankfurt. The relationship between manager and player has since been repaired, but for many the incident represented a turning point in their feelings towards the USA’S manager. Chastising behind closed doors is one thing, but publicly calling a player’s dedication and resolve into question is quite another.