Small pleasures: Footballers with koalas

Date published: Thursday 20th April 2017 11:10

One of the best bits of reporting at some grounds – Sheffield Wednesday, for instance – is that you leave the ground via the same route as the players, usually just a few minutes after they have themselves made their exit.

This means there are usually four or five autograph hunters still desperately hanging around behind a barricade just in case Glenn Loovens or Carlos Carvalhal decided to have an especially long shower that day.

(Apparently that’s a thing managers do: we’ve all heard the story about Tony Pulis’s naked headbutt on James Beattie, and I’ve seen Chris Powell mention showering after a game on a clear, mild spring day. Am I alone in finding this totally bizarre? Jogi Low aside, what are they doing on the touchline that necessitates a shower afterwards?)

Despite being the right age for a footballer in his prime, I most assuredly do not pass as one for a second, so the little looks of disappointment as all 16.5 stone of me lurches outside always brings me a small amount of joy.

One day, perhaps as a birthday treat, I’m going to nip into the club shop at Hillsborough and buy a club tracksuit and see how far I can push it: autographs, selfies, perhaps even stapling an action shot of myself down the local park in an undersized 2007 Sheffield Wednesday away kit into the middle of a programme just to sow seeds of doubt in an ignorant young fan’s mind.

This tells us two things. One is that I am a heartless, horrible man who enjoys disappointing children; by which I mean I enjoy the act of bringing disappointment upon children, rather than that I enjoy the company of children who are, in themselves, disappointing, for I am not a parent and therefore don’t need to make any pretence at the second meaning.

The second is that for all we claim to abhor the cult of celebrity in football, it’s very much something that we’re willing to make exceptions for when it’s us that’s doing it. The great success of tabloid stories about Pedro buying discounted eggs on the black market, or a half-hidden Adam Le Fondre doing a poo in a layby off the A1(M), or whatever it happens to be that week, also stand as testament to this.

I think it must be this endless cycle of adulation and condemnation that drives footballers to hang out with koala bears at seemingly every given opportunity. Seriously. Just look at the variety.

This isn’t even a new thing. Here’s Trevor Francis with a deeply unimpressed specimen in 1983:

And here’s Des Walker and Stuart Pearce, sporting a rare smile, on England duty in 1991:

Koalas are the absolute best creatures in the world for not giving a f**k who you are or what you’ve done. Whether you’re Gary Lineker or Theresa May, koalas will regard with an indifference that borders on disdain. They might even piss on you. (Ed: Are we making the whole chlamydia thing the elephant in the room?)

When you spend your whole life being alternately told that you’re a hero and a disgrace, the indifferent urine of an unmoved koala must feel like a cold refreshing stream. It’s either that, or football clubs need to start booking different pre-season photo opportunities when on tour. But I ask you, which of the two options is the more likely? I know what side I’m on.

Steven Chicken

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