Newly-promoted Croatian side HNK Cibalia have strengthened their squad for the new season by signing the former Yugoslav republic's top kick-boxer. Mirko 'Cro-Cop' Filipovic is already a legend in Japan and among fight-lovers the world over for his performances in the ultra-violent K1 no-holds-barred fighting championships, but as he prepares to battle for the world title on 28 August, he will be training with Cibalia. While not a football expert, Filipovic is a reasonably skilful player, and was handed his debut for Cibalia in the second division last season. However, even though he is unlikely to play in the top division, the club had no hesitation in signing him. "He will bring extra motivation and strength to our team," said Cibalia coach Davor Mladina. At 105kg, there is certainly little doubting that Filipovic is not built like a footballer, and even if he does get the chance to play for Cibalia this season, he was not overconfident about his ability. "The only way I will score a goal in the first division is if I bribe all the opponents' squad," he joked. It would probably be cheaper to just threaten to beat them up.
Bellamy groomed for stardom
Welsh international Craig Bellamy ended a miserable spell at Newcastle United FC recently by moving to their Premiership rivals Blackburn Rovers FC, but it might never have happened had he not been accosted at a wedding. Bellamy had turned up to attend the marriage of former Manchester United FC star Clayton Blackmore in Glamorgan, but for Blackmore's best man, former Wales and United star and now Blackburn manager Mark Hughes, the 25-year-old's presence provided a perfect opportunity to talk shop. Just before he delivered the traditional best man's speech at the wedding reception, Hughes collared Bellamy and, despite an offer to join UEFA Champions League contenders Everton FC, persuaded him to come to Ewood Park. "I thought we were going to miss out on him, but it's a massive coup for us," said Hughes, presumably silently congratulating himself on his unconventional approach to scouting. "Mark was the biggest factor," Bellamy added of his former coach with Wales. "I look up to him, he is very professional." Conducting transfer negotiations in a room full of booze has, of course, has long been regarded as ultra-professional behaviour.
Trunk and disorderly
Finally, the usual cavalcade of raggy half stories. First to Germany, where football fans in the village of Paltschow have decided that they cannot wait until the FIFA World Cup comes to their homeland in 2006 to see big footballing stars in action. Instead, they have set up their own team made up entirely of African elephants. Elephant football has long been popular in the Far East, but the six pachyderms have yet to impress their German coach, who told Reuters: "They have to learn to play properly that means free-kicks, throw-ins and passing to each other." There is no lack of such skills at Stamford Bridge, but perhaps - deep in the core of his being - Chelsea FC manager José Mourinho would love his side to be as cute and loveable as a load of big dumb animals when they take the pitch. He is certainly sick of his squad being cast as the bad guys while the likes of Arsenal FC get portrayed as goodies. "Some clubs are treated as devils, some are treated as angels," he sighed. "I don't think we are so ugly that we should be seen as the devil and I don't think Arsène Wenger and David Dein are so beautiful that they should be viewed as angels."
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