11 of football’s best animals of the 2010s: Catinho, Paul the octopus…

Quick Reads

We’d be lying if we said the last decade’s worth of football has been unflinchingly positive, but it’s been great for one thing: football-adjacent wildlife.

No longer do we have to settle for ‘dog on the pitch’ as the only animal-related football story out there. As the game has developed, so to has the range of animals involved.

We’ve looked back at what has been a good decade for football – and a great one for animals.

The Europa League husky

Look, we didn’t say there would be no dog-on-pitch incidents. They just have a higher bar to reach.

During Vardar’s Europa League meeting with Rosenborg in December 2017, the match was briefly interrupted when an extremely handsome husky made its way onto the pitch and took up a spot in the centre-circle.

Macedonian goalkeeper Filip Gacevski then did what we all would have done in the situation, much to the delight of everyone.

Atom and Humber

Is it a coincidence that the less we’ve seen of Alexis Sanchez’s pet dogs, the less he’s done in his career? Almost certainly, but we still miss Atom and Humber dearly.

The pair have their own Instagram account, and there were times during the Chilean’s Arsenal spell where fans cared more about the pups than the Gunners’ star man.

The highlight, though, has to be this phenomenal advert for dog food brand Master Dog.

Nigel Pearson’s ostrich

Nigel Pearson is ending 2019 back in the Premier League, in a twist which none of us saw coming, and it gives us an opportunity to revisit the words which characterised his Leicester City team’s unlikely run to survival in 2014-15.

Memorable rants don’t tend to work out well for top-flight managers – just look at Rafa Benitez on ‘facts’ and Kevin Keegan’s ‘love it if we beat them’ – but the power of the animal kingdom can make anything horribly, brutally possible.

“If you don’t know the answer to that question then I think you are an ostrich,” Pearson told reporter Ian Baker in April 2015.

“Your head must be in the sand. Is your head in the sand? Are you flexible enough to get your head in the sand? My suspicion would be no.”

Paul the octopus

Paul the octopus correctly predicted the result of all seven Germany games at the 2010 World Cup, as well as backing Spain to win the final.

The BBC gathered a group of more than 50 experts ahead of the tournament, and only five called the Germans’ run to third.

Turns out one of the few pundits with the same level of expertise as a marine animal is… Danny Mills. Not sure what to make of that.

READ: An ode to the true star of the 2010 World Cup, Paul the Octopus

Leroy Fer’s horse

As the legend goes, Fer bought a horse for his girlfriend without stopping to think how he’d be able to navigate the simple but crucial fact that she lived in an upstair flat. The ‘he’ here refers to the Dutch footballer, not the horse.

“Thankfully, about 10 minutes [after buying it at auction], someone came up to me and said, ‘Do you really want that horse?’ I said, ‘Nah, I was just fooling around,’” Fer later said.

“He offered to buy it off me for €35,000, so I made a bit of money. But for 10 minutes I was thinking, ‘Shit, I’ve got a horse. Where shall I leave it?’”

Crying Lightning

Joey Barton and Claudio Pizarro co-owned a racehorse called Crying Lightning, named after the Arctic Monkeys song.

We have a lot of questions, but we’re not sure we want any of them answered.

James Rodriguez and the Grasshopper

James Rodriguez came in for a lot of punishment in Colombia’s 2014 World Cup exit at the hands of Brazil, but it wasn’t just David Luiz and co getting on his back.

When the midfielder celebrated getting his team back in the game, our eyes were drawn to his bicep and, wait, are grasshoppers meant to be that big?


The Euro 2016 moth

What is it about Real Madrid players at major tournaments and insect invasions?

When Cristiano Ronaldo went down injured in the Euro 2016 final, a moth came over to offer its sympathy. Well, either that or it wanted to feast on the Portuguese forward’s tears. We can’t know for sure.


Yakubu getting outpaced by a chicken

It’s exactly what it sounds like.

The bird was sent onto the Ewood Park pitch in protest at football club and fried chicken company owners Venky’s. Because 2011 was weird.


Not much to add here.

Darron Gibson’s massive dog

No animal should be able to get this big this quickly. The dog grew pretty fast too.

These pictures were taken less than a year apart.

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