A team of football's baddest boys would include coke-heads, dope-heads, alcoholics and all-round gluttons, writes Carlos Amato
Several hundred of the world's richest, stupidest young men have just landed on South African soil. But don't expect to spot any of them enjoying their good fortune on a nightclub dance floor near you. The poor bastards are here to work, and nothing else. They will be herded from hotel to training to stadium to hotel for as long as they keep winning. On their free days, some of them will be licensed to bonk their WAGs. But most will have to play golf and engage in bouts of self-abuse.
The stakes of the World Cup are so high that the players' minds and bodies have to be kept as pure as a nun's nipple.
But football stars, oddly enough, are nothing like nun's nipples. They are spectacularly fallible - more fallible than most, perhaps because their often tough backgrounds and sketchy educations don't equip them for the surreal fate of becoming rich and famous in your teens because you can kick a ball unusually well.
Contrary to Fifa spin, football has always been a dirty game. It's the sporty cousin of rock 'n' roll - an industry marinaded in sin. Most of its greatest exponents have also excelled at boozing, fornication, drug abuse, gambling and common assault.
Modern football's cult of blandness has all but exterminated the breed of wild men who once roamed the sport. What's more, meddling sponsors and media officers have institutionalised a tedious hypocrisy: while many of today's stars cheat and carouse as happily as their ancestors did, the rules dictate that they must feign decency in the public eye, drip-feeding us platitudes about commitment and teamwork. Each star must coat his life in a varnish of fake virtue.
And when a sinner is exposed, he must miserably plead for the world's forgiveness, à la Tiger Woods, the supreme traitor to the cause of bad behaviour.
Those footballers who can't conceal or repent for their misdeeds now suffer the most undignified fate of all: they are ignored. At the 2010 World Cup you will see no sign of Brazil's Adriano, a world-class striker for Flamengo whose simple passions for beer, cannabis and gun-waving have cost him a place in Dunga's final squad.
And Bafana's ranks will lack the imperious passing and tackling of Mbulelo "OJ" Mabizela, perhaps the most naturally gifted player of his generation. OJ's passion for the bottle doused his international career five years ago.
Nor will you clap eyes on Italy's Antonio Cassano, a walking argument who happens to be a greater talent than any of the 23 players Marcello Lippi brought to these shores.
Of course, all three of the coaches concerned were wise to shun these mad souls. Their gifts are inevitably outweighed by their flair for disaster.
But what if they were to play together - for an all-time dream team of divine delinquents?
Meet the 11 greatest sinners in football history. We call them Misdeeds United ...
The Australia and Chelsea goalkeeper had the world at his feet in 2001. Unfortunately, he also had a world of cocaine up his nose - 10 grams a day, to be precise. Bosnich blamed his dedication to his girlfriend, top knicker model and occasional prostitute Sophie Anderton. "For every line she had, I had to have one too," said Bosnich, explaining his altruistic labours. "All I did was fall in love with someone and care about them deeply and I put them ahead of everything and so be it. As Martin Luther King said, 'Life is not worth living unless you find something worth dying for'." Bosnich didn't die, but he did go bankrupt and lost his football career.
MBULELO "OLD JOHN" MABIZELA
Widely considered the finest defender south of the Limpopo, "OJ" boozed away a glorious future in 2004. He won a dream contract with Tottenham Hotspur, and scored a gobsmacking goal on debut. But within weeks he was arriving either inebriated or deeply babalas at training - and made a swift, involuntary exit from White Hart Lane. Ever since, his meandering career has been punctuated by Jack Daniels binges and car prangs. OJ should be starring for Bafana this month. He isn't.
"Sex plus food: a perfect night." That's the credo of Cassano, a 27-year-old Italian striker and lunatic who earns his keep at Sampdoria. In one of his two autobiographies, he claims to have bedded "600 to 700" women. While at Real Madrid, Cassano would bribe hotel bellboys to smuggle willing Madrilenas into his room. Later the bellboy would return with a bevy of pastries. When not bonking and eating, Cassano likes to kill time by insulting his colleagues and bosses. His boss at Roma, Fabio Capello, even coined a word for Cassano's attitude: "cassanata", which has become an accepted term in Italian football journalism for the theory and practice of being annoying.
He announced himself to the world by weeping during a World Cup semifinal in 1990, and had enough talent to become England's greatest footballer. But Gazza's mind was not up to the task. He suffered from a lurid bouquet of pathologies: bulimia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder and alcoholism. While he was playing, his demons hid themselves, but as soon as he quit, they started playing. He drove his car into Loch Lomond. He beat up his girlfriend. He renamed himself "G8". Unsurprisingly, Gazza was deemed too unstable to participate in "I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here".
The Romanian striker's greatest achievement at Chelsea came in 2004, when he passed one of his free days by drinking the blood of Transylvanian porn queen Laura Andresan on a kitchen table, before bonking her and two svelte compatriots. He was soon fired by the Blues after testing positive for cocaine - and still owes the London giants à17173990 for breach of contract. But at least Mutu is scoring goals aplenty for Fiorentina nowadays, and he has conquered the old vampirism habit.
A powerful, gifted striker, Collymore was a reluctant member of the Spice Boys, Liverpool's high-living gang of English stars, during the mid-90s. He turned out to be Crazy Spice: life in Collymore's head was not a party, and his clinical depression contributed to his early retirement at just 30. Then, in 2004, he was caught participating in the odd subcultural practice of "dogging" - having anonymous sex in a public car park. Without Collymore's efforts, we wouldn't know the term. He's now a successful broadcaster.
He is neck and neck with Pelé for the title of "greatest player of all" - but when it comes to insanity, the Brazilian Viagra salesman is El Diego's bitch. As a player, Maradona was an inspired cheat and a prodigious coke-head. On retirement, he set about nearly eating himself to death. A stomach stapling operation shrank his monstrous belly, but not his head. When he qualified Argentina for the 2010 World Cup after heavy criticism, Maradona angrily demanded penitent oral sex from the assembled media. Last month, he drove over a photographer's leg, then called him an "arsehole" for getting in the way. Expect anything and more from Maradona this month.
At 21, the Dutch goal glutton was convicted of manslaughter for his role in a fatal car accident that killed an Amsterdam theatre director. Then he became so dedicated to the delights of Barcelona nightlife that he opened his own club. He would often arrive trashed at training, but such was his talent that he was allowed to burn the candle at three ends. Now 33, he should be playing, but he's an assistant coach at Brisbane Roar. Yep, Brisbane Roar.
"I spent 90% of my money on women, drink and fast cars. The rest I wasted," quipped the Northern Ireland and Manchester United legend. As decadent as he was brilliant, Best loved to recount how a hotel bellboy delivered a magnum of champagne to his room and found a bed piled with casino winnings and draped with a semi-naked mid-70s Miss World. "Where did it all go wrong, Mr Best?" asked the bellboy plaintively. It really did go wrong much later, when Best drank his way through two livers before popping his clogs at age 57.
Born with wonky legs, the legendary Brazilian winger lost his virginity to a goat. Then he became the greatest dribbler in football history. Garrincha was utterly ungovernable. He never trained, never read his contracts, never banked his pay, drank to surreal excess, slept with hundreds of women and fathered at least 10 children. He died miserable and broke at 49, of cirrhosis of the liver, in 1983. Brazil reveres his memory.
Six years ago, "Ngwana wa Tshwenya" (troublesome child) was a superstar in the making - but his glittering talent was submerged in booze and drugs. On one notorious occasion, the then Kaizer Chiefs forward (known at the time as Jabu Pule) missed a major cup semifinal, preferring to sleep off a hangover instead. Later he ruined a promising club stint in Austria by passing out behind the wheel on an autobahn, and then abducted a teenage girl in Soweto. In desperation, Mahlangu underwent a traditional cleansing ceremony, which had modest success. He should have been the cutting edge of Bafana's 2010 team. Instead, he's playing lower-league football in Sweden, and wondering what might have been.