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the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

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Masal Bugduv, Today’s Top Nonexistent Moldovan

Masal Bugduv is a fake player. He doesn’t exist. The state of material being has not been conferred upon him. Which is too bad, because he’s really, really talented:

Moldova’s finest, the 16-year-old attacker has been strongly linked with a move to Arsenal, work permit permitting. And he’s been linked with plenty of other top clubs as well.

That’s from the Times‘ recent list of Football’s 50 Rising Stars, which ranks Bugduv the 30th most promising player on Earth. He’s also been profiled by When Saturday Comes and by He’s a phenom, the story goes, watched by “scouts all over the continent.” It’s an enviable position for a 16-year-old to be in. Rather less so, sadly, for one who doesn’t exist.

We know that Masal Bugduv isn’t real because Fredorrarci did some digging, analyzed the Wikipedia history logs, dusted for fingerprints, spoke to football experts in Moldova, and discovered that Bugduv, his club (FC Tirol), and the Moldovan newspaper that publicized his story (Diario Mo Thon) are all perfectly and unimpeachably imaginary. The Bugduv drama—which included some amazingly specific details about “diplomatic issues” that were jeopardizing his transfer to Arsenal—was a wicked little practical joke, spread by false AP stories.

Fredorrarci suspects that the joker may have been Irish:

And it’s here that we may have hit the nub of the issue. It seems certain that “Masal Bugduv” is the invention of a prankster, likely from Ireland. Mo Thón, you see, is the Irish for “my arse.”

There’s probably a lesson here about the problem of verification on the internet, where an easily forged aesthetic of authoritativeness is frequently the only available credential for information. But really the best part of the story isn’t just that some major football publications fell for a hoax, it’s how the publications’ individual takes on the hoax reveal their own personalities: spreading it with breathless hype, the Times distilling it for repackaging in a staid super-list, When Saturday Comes delving into its political significance (“Amid nationalist strife in Moldovan football there is one bright spot on the horizon…”)

Anyway, read Fredorrarci’s whole piece on Soccerlens. His quest to expose the fraud is almost as much fun as the fraud itself.


Masal Bugduv, Today’s Top Nonexistent Moldovan

by Brian Phillips · January 15, 2009

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