From the malign to the ridiculous, the madcap to the simply weird — there was no shortage of offbeat moments in world sport this year, from fining a coach not money but pigs for misdemeanors to eccentric Englishmen playing cricket in the sea.
Here’s a summary of strange sporting highlights of the past 12 months:
England players who step out of line at major tournaments “merely” suffer a tabloid lynching and, as Mike Tindall knows to his cost, can pick up a fine for their trouble.
Samoan manager Mathew Vaea didn’t have to dig into his pocket after the World Cup in New Zealand after allegations of misconduct. Instead he was symbolically fined ... 100 pigs by his home village.
Leaders in the Pacific island nation’s Leauva’a village ordered Vaea to pay 100 sows for tarnishing the chiefly title of tuala earlier bestowed on him after the team failed to reach the quarter-finals.
Instead of taking piggies to market, Vaea handed over 2,000 Samoan tala (US$840) equivalent to their value.
Cricketers’ damp designs
Their Test counterparts are no longer all at sea, having claimed the Ashes, but a flotilla of eccentric Englishmen took to the waves to contest one of the silliest fixtures of all — playing cricket under water.
The annual match takes place on Bramble Bank, a tiny patch of sand that emerges for 30 minutes at the year’s lowest tide in the Solent, separating the south coast of mainland England from the Isle of Wight.
Every September, the Royal Southern Yacht Club meet the Island Sailing Club, using a few square meters of soggy sand several nautical miles away from dry land.
“The fact is, this is total nonsense, and total nonsense is extremely enjoyable,” umpire Philip Gage said of the seven-overs-a-side contest.
Batting for the Royal Southern was Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to circumnavigate the globe non-stop single-handed.
He scored a duck, saying: “The key to the bowling is to pitch it just at the edge of a puddle.”
Simply the best? Yes, prime minister
Such is the financial might of the soccer world these days that it’s only natural the sport should attract the rich and the powerful. However, the sycophancy that can follow reached new heights in Bulgaria, where Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov was nominated the country’s best player.
Borisov does have some affinity for the beautiful game — he occasionally turns out for third-division side Vitosha Bistritsa.
However, he was never a Hristo Stoichkov and admitted his nomination ahead of the likes of Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov was a bit over the top.
“This vote does not show Borisov is the best footballer, but that Bulgarian football needs reforming and to be run differently,” Borisov said.
Yes, prime minister.
It’s not a record; it’s a girl
Amber Miller took a modest 6 hours, 23 minutes to finish the Chicago Marathon — then gave birth the same evening to a baby girl.
The 27-year-old had her -doctor’s permission to compete in her eighth marathon, despite being 39 weeks pregnant.
“It was the longest day of my life,” Miller told the Chicago Tribune, adding that the race had been easier than labor.
You’re never too young — or old
An eight-year-old Malaysian girl became the youngest athlete to win Southeast Asian Games gold when she won the waterskiing tricks event.