International football can be, and so often is, a drag that no one wants to be a part of. However, like every segment of football it does have it’s quirky, and yet simple pleasures. Not least, getting to see players you thought had retired four years ago, and had stopped playing at any sort of a decent level shortly after the 2010 World Cup, line out for their national side.
Ryan Babel ladies and gentlemen. The ex-Liverpool and Dutch winger appeared back from oblivion for the Netherlands on Sunday evening, seemingly arriving in Paris on a plane that departed Amsterdam in 2009. He even managed to get on the scoresheet on his return from obscurity against Les Bleus in their Nations League tie. The man whom the now-infamous metaphorical Babelcopter is named after on Merseyside has even branded himself, with a second Instagram account by the name of ‘@rbthebrand.’ The bio suggests that the profile is based around motivational and inspirational posts, but in reality, it’s Babel uploading black and white images of pop culture icons with cryptic one-word captions in an effort to make himself seem cool and mysterious.
A glitch in the footballing matrix means that somehow Babel is still only thirty-one. It’s as if someone’s just missed a few numbers there. Some lad has just accidentally left out three birthdays. Wikipedia even claims that he made his debut for Ajax in the 03/04 season, which may force you to sit down and rethink your life. And as we know, Wikipedia has never been and never will be wrong, ever.
Tim Cahill is surely the leading example of this often-unexplainable phenomenon. The 38-year old played in the 1994 OFC Under-20 Championship, representing Samoa at the age of 14. Yet, only last week he signed a contract with Indian Super League team Jamshedpur, and has even been made captain immediately upon arrival. It seems as if every World Cup since 2010 has been destined to be his last. 2014 was understandable as some sort of a final farewell perhaps, but 2018 was taking the piss. Incredibly, the ex-Everton corner-flag abuser continues to ply his trade for the Socceroos (note to self, never say that word again), and he’ll play in a final game for his country in November against Lebanon, only a month before his thirty-ninth birthday. As you do.
Florent Malouda is another man who wouldn’t look out of place filling his time doing some punditry for French TV. The Caribbean-born winger turned 30 only a few weeks after Chelsea’s Carlo Ancelotti-led double of 2010, but he only retired in June of this year. His post-Chelsea career saw him move to Trabzonspor, Metz, Dehli Dynamos, Wadi Degla, and Differdange. Can’t imagine it was anything else but him checking where was cheap to go on Skyscanner, to be honest.
All these players had mad transfers in abundance, and mad moves are one of the other quirks which just about keep me interested in the sport. It’s a shame that you often don’t find out about them until the players involved have retired, but John Terry’s Russian deal meant it’s been a big week for us ‘batshit crazy transfer’ ultras.
JT to Spartak Moscow is as good as done. A commercial mainstream name going east of the Iron Curtain is always a big one, especially when the last few grains of talent they have left haven’t disappeared. Lookin’ at you Florent. Yaya Toure to Olympiacos was another strong contender for loopiest move of the summer, although made slightly less novel given the fact that he did in fact once play there over a decade ago.
Djibril Cisse went several steps further though in an effort to outdo the rest of Europe and make himself the king of niche moves. He’s currently in the process of refusing to retire and instead just waiting until death halts his career. He briefly retired in 2015, citing injury as the cause, but then returned with Yverdon-Sport FC a few months later. Sort of defeating the purpose of retiring due to injury there Djibril. It gets madder. Cisse, who came off the bench in the 2005 Champions League Final to score in the shoot-out, managed to rack up 24 goals in 29 appearances for Yverdon who were then playing in the third-division of Swiss football, ironically named the Promotion League.
But fucking hell, just when you thought that couldn’t be topped. Prepare yourselves lads and ladies (unlikely there’s any females reading but anyway) for Eric Djemba-Djemba. The midfielder started his career in 1999 with FC Nantes before moving onto Manchester United. He then headed for Aston Villa, Burnley, back to Villa, then onto Qatar (no, not the country, but a team in Qatar called Qatar SC), then Odense in Denmark before Hapoel Tel-Aviv and Partizan Belgrade. It was at this point that he thought it was wise to take a break. At the end of that break, he moved onto St Mirren and then Chennaiyin of India.
I’ve had to start a new paragraph, Eric. This is how mental you are. After his Indian adventure Djemba-Djemba took another break before, seemingly refusing to retire and headed to Poland to play for Persebaya. Their crest includes a shark and a crocodile swimming around a penis-shaped monument which he must’ve thought was funny because it’s clear that at this stage he had stopped giving a shit a long, long time ago. But it doesn’t end there. The Cameroon-born Djemba then headed back to France where he began his career, this time opting for a less-glamorous option in Voltigeurs de Chateaubriant. They play in the fifth-tier of French football. And according to several sites, Eric is still playing with a club by the name Vallorbe-Ballaigues, in the Swiss fifth division. All the best lad. All the best.
If you don’t hear from me Friday, it’s because Seamus Coleman has just picked up an injury and with the way things are going, there’s every chance I get a call-up here. Peace.