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Sport in 2019: Ten offbeat stories

No arm done: Roberto Firmino’s armpit was adjudged to be offside in Liverpool’s game against Aston Villa © AFP/File / Paul ELLIS

PARIS, France, Dec 25Matches held up by wildlife and underwear protests, chickens in danger in Croatian football and offside armpits.

AFP Sport looks back at 10 of the best offbeat moments in sport in 2019:

Oh deer!

— The kick-off in a Scottish football match was delayed after a herd of wild deer left excrement all over the pitch.

“Kick off suspended due to the ref being delayed, the pitch currently waterlogged — and covered in deer faeces,” Nairn County, who play in the Highlands League, tweeted ahead of the game at Fort William.

The match in April eventually ended in a 6-2 defeat for hapless Fort William, their 29th loss in 31 games.

Sue are you?

Name game: The French Open trophy being held up by Jelena Ostapenko in 2017. On the honours list, 1976 winner Sue Barker is classed as Australian rather than British © AFP/File / Eric FEFERBERG

— When Sue Barker won the Roland Garros women’s title in 1976 she became Britain’s most recent champion in Paris — or did she?

An eagle-eyed photographer spotted that Barker is listed as Australian and not British on the list of champions whose names are engraved on the Suzanne Lenglen trophy presented each June to the French Open women’s champion.

“Last time I checked, Sue Barker was British – are my eyes deceiving me?” tweeted Ella Ling who snapped a photo of the cup which has classed Barker as ‘AUST’ rather than ‘GBR’ for the last 43 years.

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“I mean seriously….how has no one noticed!”

Red alert

— Dimitris Giannakopoulos, the owner of Greek basketball club Panathinaikos, was fined 3,000 euros for leaving a pair of red women’s underwear on the empty bench of rivals Olympiakos before a game.

“It was an act that defamed the sport,” said the sports judge who handed down the ruling.

Giannakopoulos made the move after Olympiakos — who play in red — failed to show up for a February contest in Athens.

Standing room only

Standing room only: Sebastian Rodriguez of Veracruz watches Guido Rodriguez of Tigres © AFP/File / VICTOR CRUZ

— Players of Mexican football club Veracruz went on strike in the opening minutes of a league game, allowing grateful opponents Tigres to walk in two goals unchallenged.

Veracruz decided on the radical action of standing — instead of running — about the pitch to protest over unpaid wages.

As a result, Eduardo Vargas and Andre-Pierre Gignac put Tigres 2-0 ahead inside three minutes on their way to a 3-1 win.

At the end of the games, Veracruz sarcastically applauded their opponents who they claim reneged on a promise to respect their strike.

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“They knew that we were going to stay still for three minutes,” said Veracruz defender Carlos Salcido.

Cut! Hamilton too busy for ‘Top Gun’

— Lewis Hamilton had to put his ambitions to be a Hollywood movie star on hold because he was too busy winning Formula One world titles.

The six-time world champion revealed he had to turn down a role in “Top Gun: Maverick” due to lack of time.

The 34-year-old’s role in the film was expected to be bigger than in his previous movie appearances in “Zoolander 2” and “Cars”.

Eddie’s not having a ball

Water torture: England’s Eddie Pepperell © AFP/File / Paul ELLIS

— British golfer Eddie Pepperell’s Turkish Open bid came to an abrupt and early end when he ran out of golf balls.

Pepperell put five balls into the water at the fourth hole before telling playing partners that was quitting the course.

Offside — by an ‘armpit’

— Liverpool maintained their lead at the top of the Premier League with a last-gasp win over Aston Villa but came perilously close to being denied a result — by an offside armpit!

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Jurgen Klopp’s side, who took all three points at Villa Park thanks to Sadio Mane’s 94th minute winner, were trailing to Trezeguet’s opener when Roberto Firmino thought he had tapped home the leveller seven minutes later.

However, the linesman raised his flag and a VAR check confirmed the decision to the rule the goal out, with the Premier League revealing that Firmino’s armpit “was marginally ahead of the last Villa defender”.

The decision looked like it would lead to Liverpool losing their first league match of the season, before Andy Robertson headed home an equaliser in the 87th minutes and Mane snatched the points deep in stoppage time.

“It’s not right that we laugh about it. Managers get sacked over it,” Klopp said after the game.

Fowl play

— A Croatian footballer kicked a chicken to death during a semi-pro match.

The incident took place when a brood of chickens ran onto a pitch in the eastern part of the country.

Ivan Gazdek from the home team NK Jelengrad, ran after the birds, kicked one with his foot and then chucked it over the fence in a flurry of feathers.

“I ran towards the chickens to chase them away, swung my foot and accidentally killed one,” said Gazdek.

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Pope and glory

Saints and winners: Pope Francis © AFP / Tiziana FABI

— The New Orleans Saints got a surprise shout-out from Pope Francis, with fans and at least one player taking the inadvertent tag as a good omen for the NFL team.

Francis created five new saints in October in a canonisation ceremony at the Vatican.

“Today we give thanks to the Lord for our new #Saints,” he posted on Twitter — with the combination of a hashtag and the capital letter of Saints apparently adding the New Orleans team’s fleur-de-lis logo.

Saints linebacker Alex Anzalone put a screenshot of Francis’ tweet on his own Twitter feed.

“Wow, are we blessed or what?!??” Anzalone wrote.

Bees stop play

— A swarm of bees sent players taking cover on the pitch during a Cricket World Cup game between South Africa and Sri Lanka in Durham.

“It’s very funny. Looks like someone’s just had a machine-gun through all the players on the field and everyone is down on the ground,” said South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis.

“You are not brave enough when there is a swarm of bees flying. I’m brave, but not that brave.”

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