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Lyon rampant, Lions laid low, a lucky giraffe

Published: Friday 22 March 2013, 9.25CET
Olympique Lyonnais in the UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-finals, two England greats forced to retire, and a lucky giraffe named in honour of Jan Koller. Read and wonder.

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Published: Friday 22 March 2013, 9.25CET

Lyon rampant, Lions laid low, a lucky giraffe

Olympique Lyonnais in the UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-finals, two England greats forced to retire, and a lucky giraffe named in honour of Jan Koller. Read and wonder.

Team: Olympique Lyonnais women
No team has lifted the European women's club title three years in a row but Lyon are on course to put that right. Having won all 23 of their competitive fixtures in 2012/13, on Wednesday they welcomed FC Malmö in the first leg of their UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-final. Malmö are no mugs, fieldling established internationals like Anja Mittag, Manon Melis and Ramona Bachmann, but Lyon blew them away 5-0, Sweden forward Lotta Schelin scoring twice.

"If we continue on this path, in good form and as efficient as we were tonight, nothing can stop us," Schelin told Lyon now seem clear favourites for the 23 May final at Stamford Bridge, London – not far from where they clinched their first title in 2011, Craven Cottage.

Players: Michael Owen & Faye White (England)
Two England stalwarts bade a reluctant farewell to football this week, with striker Michael Owen announcing he will hang up his boots at the end of the season, while defender Faye White said that – after unsuccessful struggles with a knee problem – her career was now over. Owen, 33, scored 40 goals in 89 games for England before a series of injuries took their toll, yet he was not bitter, saying: "I have been very fortunate in that my career has taken me on a journey that, like many young players starting out, I could only have dreamed of."

White, meanwhile, made 90 international appearances, but a spell away from the game on maternity leave could not stem a tide of knee troubles. "The will was still there," said the 35-year-old UEFA Women's Champions League final ambassador. "The rest of my body could have done it, but my knees couldn't."

Goal: Kris Commons (Celtic FC)
Commons set a Scottish Premier League record, scoring just 12 seconds into his side's 4-3 home win against Aberdeen FC last weekend. "It was crazy," said the 29-year-old Scotland winger. "I don't think half the fans were in the stands yet. The manager wasn't even in the dugout so it was a bit of a whirlwind." His quick-fire strike beat the previous best of 13 seconds belonging to Hoops team-mate Anthony Stokes, who teed him up for the goal. "He was telling me afterwards he was sure I'd beat him so I think he's a little wounded now," said Commons.

"The Pope was probably one of those kids I played football with in the street. In our neighbourhood we had proper matches with everyone against everyone until it got dark. You'd have to ask him because at that time I was the famous one, from when I was very small, as I belonged to the River Plate academy – everyone knew me."
Real Madrid CF great Alfredo Di Stéfano ponders the possibility that he and newly elected Pope Francis – who is ten years his junior but attended the same school – may have played street football together in Buenos Aires.

Number: 500
FC Dinamo București forward Ionel Dănciulescu made it to 500 Romanian league outings in last Saturday's 2-1 First Division loss at FC Petrolul Ploiești. Yet while the 36-year-old holds the national appearance record, he needs 40 more goals to break Dudu Georgescu's best of 252 league strikes set in the 1970s. "I can't enjoy this moment," he said after a result that left Dinamo fifth in the table. "Can we think about playing in the Europa League after this match? Let's be realistic and work harder."

Homage to Messi: Antonio Cassano (FC Internazionale Milano)
In the same week it was revealed a museum would be erected in Lionel Messi's honour in his home town of Rosario, Inter forward Cassano paid his own tribute to the FC Barcelona marksman, naming his second child after the 25-year-old.

"I called him after the best footballer of all time, my idol," the Italian international, 30, explained. "I'd been telling my wife Carolina for ages that I would like to give him that name. She didn't want to, but finally she surprised me and accepted the request." Even so, Cassano is not expecting young Lionel to live up to his billing, saying: "I hope he will kick the ball like his father, because doing it like Messi is impossible."

Giraffe: Dino (Czech Republic)
Former Czech Republic striker Jan Koller found his past catching up with him when he joined the current national team at Olomouc Zoo ahead of their FIFA World Cup qualifier against Denmark in the city. The highlight of the trip was the naming of a three-month-old giraffe born at the zoo – with the gangly youngster being dubbed 'Dino' after Koller, his country's 55-goal top scorer.

"I got the nickname when I was playing youth football but it doesn't bother me," sighed the 39-year-old, who stands 2.02m tall. "It might have been inspired by Jurassic Park, a big film back then. When I moved abroad, there was always a Czech player in the squad who would revive the nickname, so it followed me through my career."

Extra training: FC Energie Cottbus
Energie are still hoping to win promotion to the Bundesliga, but losing 2-1 at MSV Duisburg last Friday night was a big setback for Rudi Bommer's men. So the coach decided extra training was required – starting immediately on their return to eastern Germany at 3.45am. Bommer insisted it was not intended as a punishment. "I did something similar as coach of [TSV 1860 München] in 2004, but back then I was really fed up. This was different. I didn't want the players waiting until the next morning to get rid of their frustration."

Those who had played did a 30-minute run, with the rest training for longer. Bommer then had mercy on his seventh-placed troops, scheduling no sessions for Sunday and Monday.

Knight in shining armour: Edgar Davids
Ipswich Town FC teenager Tyrone Mings recently won plaudits for securing free tickets for a fan who complained on Twitter that he was "too skint" to watch the club's match that weekend – but Barnet FC player-manager Davids took customer care a step further. When a supporters' coach broke down on the way back from the English fourth-division side's 3-2 defeat at Accrington Stanley FC last Saturday – leaving 36 fans stranded beside the motorway – the ex-Dutch international sent the team bus to rescue them.

"We saw our fans on the motorway and decided to all get off at the next service station for our coach driver to pick them up," said Davids. "This is the least we can do to thank our loyal fans." One supporter remarked: "The result didn't go our way but we'll be talking about that experience for days to come. Not many people can say they've been rescued by Edgar Davids."

Tomorrow's heroes: FK Vidar
Pick of the Week is all for long-term planning, so we salute Norwegian third-tier outfit FK Vidar. Not content with their current status they have pledged to qualify for the UEFA Champions League – by 2043. To that end they have launched a Twitter campaign #2043 with two accounts – @VidarIFC (international) and @FKVidar (domestic) – building up 1,500 followers from around the world and counting since debuting on Monday.

As they tweeted that day: "We play in 2nd div the 2013 season but we hope to be in 1st div in 2014 and in CL in 2043." Their season begins on 13 April away to Åsane IL, whom they pipped on goal difference to fifth place last year. #EvenTheLongestJourneyStartsWithASingleStep.

Last updated: 04/12/13 6.21CET