The Run of Play is a blog about
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.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
Commenter DM put forward the theory that the prankster behind the Masal Bugduv hoax chose that name for his player because it sounds like “M’asal beag dubh,” which is Irish for “my little black donkey.” I’m absolutely convinced that this is true, for two reasons. First, because Fredorrarci had already found an Irish-language element in the prank when he originally exposed it (the fake Moldovan newspaper Mo Thon, which means “my arse” in Irish). And second, because “My Little Black Donkey” is an old Irish children’s story by Pádraic Ó Conaire that happens to work as a brilliant satire of the culture of football transfers.
The English translation of the Irish text doesn’t appear to be online (though you may be able to find it through Google Books). Here’s a summary.
The story opens with the narrator encountering a little black donkey at the fair and deciding he wants to buy him: “I needed a donkey, I was tired of walking—wouldn’t this fellow carry myself, and my bag and my top-coat, and everything? And who knows that I wouldn’t get him cheap enough?”
He finds the owner, who’s standing outside a pub, singing for pennies. The owner immediately expresses a willingness to sell, but only because of his straitened financial circumstances:
Were it not for things being so bad, he wouldn’t part with him at all—indeed he wouldn’t! A find young donkey that could do his twenty miles a day with ease! Sure if he only got a fistful of oats, once a month, there would not be a racehorse in the land to catch him—not one!
A crowd begins to gather around the two men and the donkey, and they all start appraising his qualities. The beggar’s family begins spinning an incredible narrative about the donkey’s capabilities, claiming that he can ration his own grain and that he once dived into a river to save their drowning son. The beggar claims that he once had a deal in place to sell the donkey for five pounds—“I had the money in my hand”—when he suddenly felt that he couldn’t bear to part with the donkey, and backed out on the deal.
The narrator offers a pound for the amazing donkey, and the family reacts with astonishment at the high price. But the beggar quickly demands two pounds, and his wife begins shedding tears at the thought of parting with an animal that’s practically a member of their family. The narrator finally manages to buy the donkey for a pound and a sixpence bonus for nearly everyone at the fair. He leaves the town riding on the donkey, a huge crowd following them praising the donkey’s legendary qualities.
But as soon as they’re alone, the narrator finds that the donkey doesn’t want to budge. He stands in the middle of the road, refusing to go forward even when the narrator beats him with a stick. Finally, the narrator has to go ahead of the donkey and drag him along behind through the forest.
He finally solves this problem when he realizes that the donkey is afraid of the sound of the wind, so that if the narrator places a crown of rustling leaves on his head the donkey will gallop all the time. But, having fallen for hype and gossip, overspent his budget, and been left with a delicate, reluctant, nervous prima donna of a donkey, he certainly speaks for many a football manager when he vehemently declares, “I didn’t half curse the beggar who sold me such a beast!”
Pádraic Ó Conaire, as Fredorrarci has pointed out, was from Galway, and some of the phony AP stories about Bugduv were posted by “Galwaygooner.” This has to be the origin of Masal Bugduv. Cheers to whoever came up with this brilliant (and, we now know, genuinely satirical) prank. And please pop over to Sport Is a TV Show to thank Fredorrarci for discovering it and giving us all this fun in the first place.
by Brian Phillips · January 15, 2009