The muddy road to glory
Before getting bogged down in the new season, Scotland are celebrating an unlikely victory in the first round of the World Swamp Football championships. With old rivals England having missed out on qualification, Scottish representatives Athletico Leskinen scored a famous 2-1 win against Germany to reach the second stage of the finals in Finland. "We're ecstatic," said team captain Mark Middleton. "It's a great feeling to be going through to the next round and to make Scottish history.” The unusual sport, which was first played in Finland by skiers and soldiers to help develop their physical strength, combines the traditional rules of football with a very soft, marshy pitch measuring 60 metres by 35 metres. While this hardly encourages the kind of slick skills you will see in the UEFA Champions League, Middleton was quick to praise his team-mates' efforts, saying: "Running in these swamps is very tiring and we were all knackered but we didn't let the good name of Scottish football get dragged through the mud."
Villa clinches Como deal
Hard cash may mean a lot in the world of professional football, but fringe benefits play their part too, as former Dutch international Jean-Paul Van Gastel proved last week. With a move from Ternana Calcio to newly promoted Serie A side Como Calcio on the cards, the wise Dutchman hit the jackpot with a superb package of bonuses. With the deal hanging in the balance, the 30-year-old former Feyenoord player managed to persuade Como to offer him a villa with a view of Lake Como, a stylish car and, perhaps more importantly, a babysitter for his young son to clinch the deal. "Well, this is something I dreamed about," he said afterwards. "The situation with Ternana was not ideal, but I never regretted my transfer to Italy. This transfer came to me as a real surprise. This will be the perfect solution for the whole situation."
Viva lash Vegas
From creature comforts to severe discomfort, two members of the Iran national team were left nursing their wounds after receiving dozens of lashes for 'moral corruption'. The two unnamed players were sentenced to a judicial punishment after videotapes and photographs found in an illegal brothel in Tehran implicated them in a major prostitution scandal. One player received 70 lashes while the other had to endure 170 lashes under sentences imposed by the strict Islamic Sharia law system, while six other players were given cash fines. Prostitution is illegal in Iran, and the players claimed to have been ensnared in the vice ring after being invited to a party after the national side's elimination from the 1998 FIFA World Cup finals in France. The players have subsequently repented their sins and promised to lead an honourable life from now on.
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