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Top ten sporting excuses

ESPN staff
February 11, 2011
Sir Alex Ferguson said his Manchester United players 'couldn't pick each other out' in grey © Getty Images

Earlier this week, British sprinter Dwain Chambers found himself in the headlines after raising concerns that a lack of crash mats at indoor events could lead to injury. At the Birmingham Games, Chambers was beaten in his semi-final by Joel Fearon after slowing down with ten metres still to run. It's noble of Chambers to draw attention to health and safety matters but would he have made such a fuss if he had won at the National Indoor Arena?

We've looked around for some of the other momentous excuses sporting stars have used to either defend their lacklustre performances or to get out of a hole...

Manchester United - Grey kit
Thirteen, unlucky for some. On April 13 1996, the unlucky number struck again, with Manchester United the unfortunate recipients. On this occasion, however, it was United's grey kit that carried the can for Sir Alex Ferguson's side losing at Southampton. Nobody at The Dell could quite believe their eyes as United headed down the tunnel at half-time trailing 3-0. The explanation for their pitiful display was obvious, the players were "invisible" on the pitch, according to Fergie, "they couldn't pick each other out". Lee Sharpe's first recollection of the half-time team talk is being told by the fiery Scot to "get that kit off, you're getting changed". The visitors came out for the second half wearing blue and white but they still lost the match 3-1. The ghastly grey kit was officially retired two days afterwards, with United going on to win every remaining fixture to claim the title.

Ronnie O'Sullivan - female streaker
'The Rocket' was coasting in the best-of-19 Masters final at Wembley in 1997, leading Steve Davis 8-3 and needing only two more frames for victory, when a female streaker got in on the action during the afternoon session. Following the unexpected guest's foray, O'Sullivan, clearly with other things on his mind, completely capitulated, losing the next seven frames - and the match. Later, O'Sullivan claimed the shock interruption had broken his concentration. Davis, the consummate professional, remained unmoved at the disruption and, as his opponent struggled to deal with his emotions, 'The Nugget' took full advantage to storm back and snatch a third Masters title - his first since 1988.

Lighton Ndefwayl's jockstrap woes
Ndefwayl, the Zambian tennis player, threw his book of post-match platitudes out of the window in 1992 after losing to Musumba Bwayla, instead preferring to let rip at his conqueror. "Bwayla is a stupid man and a hopeless player," he began, before cranking things up a notch: "He has a huge nose and is cross-eyed. Girls hate him. He beat me because my jockstrap was too tight and because when he serves he farts, and that made me lose my concentration, for which I am famous throughout Zambia." He became famous throughout the world as a sore loser after this tirade.

Giuliano Grazioli was the hero as Stevenage earned a 1-1 draw with Newcastle © Getty Images

Kenny Dalglish's balls-up
Dalglish may be attracting plaudits at present for his efforts with Liverpool, but let's cast our gaze back to one of the lowest moments of his celebrated career - when his Newcastle side drew 1-1 at Stevenage, who were 15th in the Vauxhall Conference, in the FA Cup in 1998. After the match, the Scot's ire was aimed at the match balls, which were "too bouncy" for famously gifted ball-players like John Beresford and David Batty to work their magic in the midfield.

New Zealand's "Suzie" woe
Forty-eight hours before the 1995 Rugby World Cup final, the New Zealand team were laid low by a bout of food poisoning that played a significant part in their defeat to South Africa. "Suzie the waitress", who may or may not have ever existed, took the blame for allegedly poisoning the All Blacks side ahead of the final. The passage of time has been kind to Suzie, however, with Colin Meads, the manager of New Zealand at the time, later admitting: "Suzie is just a fictitious person as far as I was concerned. I don't think anyone was called Suzie."

Ukraine haunted by frogs
Ukraine's 4-0 loss to Spain at the 2006 World Cup was a chastening experience but, with Fernando Torres and David Villa running rampant, most teams would have struggled to cope. Nonetheless, Vladislav Vashchuk was on hand with a ludicrous excuse. "Because of the frogs' croaking we hardly got a wink of sleep," the defender explained. "We all agreed that we would take some sticks and go and hunt them." The hunting was the first time he'd got close to someone all day.

Jose Cardenal's sins
Cardenal, the Chicago Cubs baseball star, told his coach in 1972 that crickets outside his hotel room had kept him awake for so long that he was unfit to play. Not the most convincing of reasons, you'd have to say, but it didn't stop him repeating the trick in 1974 by claiming - on the opening day of the season, no less - that he couldn't play because his eyelid was stuck open.

David James: 'I was getting carried away playing Tomb Raider for hours on end' © Getty Images

David James' PlayStation
With a series of gaffes threatening to derail his hopes of installing himself as England's No. 1, James identified his PlayStation as the source of his woes. "I was getting carried away playing Tekken II and Tomb Raider for hours on end," he said after conceding three times against Newcastle in 1997. Of course, he did go on to make a glut of appearances for the national team - but he never truly managed to shake accusations of being an error-prone player. Perhaps there was a sneaky Xbox360 involved in later years.

Uri Geller makes his mark
David Seaman was one of many England stars during the run to the semi-finals of Euro 96, mainly for his penalty-saving prowess. But, if you believe notorious spoon-bender Geller, Seaman's group-stage stop from Scotland's Gary McAllister came with the benefit of some outside assistance. Geller, not one to undersell his capabilities, said he used telekinetic powers to nudge the ball away from McAllister's boot just as he was about to let rip. "I received around 11,000 hate mails for that," Geller said - although there were surely plenty more when he failed to prevent the last-four defeat to Germany.

Hot air from Mervyn King
King had caused quite a stir when he romped into a World Darts Championship semi-final with Raymond van Barneveld off the back of a 5-0 hammering of Colin Monk - but the clash with Van Barneveld proved a step too far for King, who blamed the air conditioning for his loss. "I asked for it to be turned off before I went up there and it wasn't," he said. "I asked for it to be turned off at the break - it wasn't. The air conditioning doesn't affect Raymond because he throws a heavier dart and a very flat dart." Organisers insisted the air conditioning had been off for the duration, leading the Observer to publish the classic line: "Mervyn, you require... a better excuse."

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