April 1st is widely known as “April Fool’s”. It is a day to go all-in with your best lie and have fun trying to fool your neighbour. On the day when everything is (or was!) allowed, learn about some legendary lies around sports and its significant figures.
A tradition that fake news has slowed down
The media have been playing with the secular tradition of April 1st for decades, taking advantage of the slack in the serious record to concoct the most outlandish stories, some of which have remained in the memory of millions of fans worldwide.
However, in the age of fake news, the media now hesitates to spread a tradition of disseminating lies. If on April 1st itself many people are suspicious beforehand and assume that a fabulous or simply strange story is a lie, later on – because most people have not yet gotten into the habit of double-checking what they read – this kind of alertness is lost and… a lie is born.
The spread of false information or information produced for propaganda, influence, and pure disinformation purposes, through social networks and even some niche media, calls into question the credibility of news and journalism. As a result, newsrooms and even the authors of specialized blogs act more cautiously nowadays so as not to feed the diabolical disinformation machine.
Memorable and hilarious stories
Anyway, on “April Fool’s”, the press at least recalls some of the old memorable and hilarious stories that have posed for the truth on this day in past years:
Maradona in Moscow
In 1988, on April 1st, the newspaper Izvestia published news reporting that Diego Maradona, the great legend of world soccer, was on his way to Russia, specifically to Spartak Moscow, in what would become the biggest deal ever in Russian soccer since the Argentinean would go to Moscow to earn about 6M euros, an extraordinary amount at the time.
Maradona, one of the significant figures responsible for his country winning the World Cup title in 1986, as well as the great star who led Naples to the Serie A championship trophy, would be willing to exchange Italy for Russia? To sharpen the story, the newspaper said that the President of the USSR himself, the legendary Mikhail Gorbachev, would be offering all possible conditions to guarantee the coming of the Argentine star, in a demonstration of openness to the World, similar to his “Perestroika”, which would lead to the implosion of the former Soviet regime.
Sidd Finch, the fastest pitcher ever
George Plimpton, a journalist for the famous Sports Illustrated, on April 1st, 1985, fabricated the story of Siddhartha or "Sidd" Finch, a Baseball pitcher for the famous Mets club in New York, when the editor-in-chief asked him for a collection of lies, and he decided to make up his own. The story claimed that Finch could throw the ball at an incredible 168 mph, far above the record of 104 mph, with pinpoint accuracy and without having to warm up. Some attentive readers noticed: the first letters of the words of the secondary title of the story read "Happy April Fool's Day". The Mets cooperated with the hoax, providing official equipment for the fake player photo shoot, and most of the readers, as well as the competition, believed it, pursuing the story of the genius pitcher. Plimpton would later turn his curious lie into a novel.
Cristiano returned the Golden Ball
The rivalry between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will forever make rivers of ink flow in the sports press. In 2018, the French magazine France Football, responsible for awarding the annual Ballon d'Or to the best player in the World up until 2016, decided to play with this rivalry and announced that Cristiano had returned his 2017 trophy. The article said: "after losing the derby against Barcelona, the Portuguese announced to France Football that he would return the Golden Ball, saying that he does not deserve it and that the fairest thing to do would be to give it to Lionel Messi".
Still in the Ronaldo and lies chapter, Portugal also did not escape from the British humour when in 2011 the daily "The Independent" integrated Ronaldo into the Spanish national team, announcing that the player had been sold to the neighbouring country for 160 million euros.
When Abramovich became the new Chelsea manager
Rafa Benitez was just passing through Chelsea and was, at the time, highly contested by the fans. Moreover, the previous Liverpool connection and the inconsistent results did not help the Spanish manager, and all this gave Talksport an idea for the lie of the year 2013. The British channel announced the manager's departure at the end of the season, claiming that his successor would be Roman Abramovich, the Russian tycoon who owns the club. To make the lie more realistic, the producers of the lie managed to convince former player and commentator Gianluca Vialli to go along with the hoax and comment on Abramovich's arrival on the bench.
Neymar bought by AD Mérida
Neymar had only been at PSG for a few months, but several rumours indicated that the Brazilian had had enough of living in Paris. Before the end of 2017, sports newspapers were already placing him close to Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or even returning to Barcelona. It was then that a small club in southern Spain, AD Mérida, decided to announce on its social networks the signing of the Brazilian international. In Spain, the “April Fool’s” equivalent is celebrated on December 28 and is the Day of the (Holy) Innocents.
Torres and a goat on the lawn against evil spirits
In 2011, the Spanish player Fernando Torres was going through troubled times at Chelsea. All the good results he had amassed at Liverpool and Atlético Madrid seemed to have evaporated. Disappointed fans suggested that evil spirits or the evil eye were behind the phenomenon. The Mirror, a well-known British tabloid, decided to bet its lie on the curse of Torres, who, tired of missing goals, would have been on the lawn of Stanford Bridge with a goat that would help him expel the lousy luck. According to the newspaper, the animal would have defecated in each of the goals so that the evil spirits would no longer block the shots of the Spanish star.
Gerad Piqué and Shakira's reality show
The Spanish newspaper Mundo Desportivo announced to its readers on “April Fool's” that, like the reality show 'The Kardashians', the Catalan player Gerard Piqué would go ahead with a similar project and allow television cameras into the house he shares with his wife, singer Shakira. At the same time, the newspaper advanced that the yet central defender and captain of Barcelona were also preparing his candidacy for the presidency of the club, even stating that Piqué would count on the help of Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook and his personal friend, to spread both the club and his family image globally.