Speculation Speculation Speculation

Spanish press plays doctor and makes up horrible disease for Paul Gascoigne

Thanks for your concern Spain, but England’s most gifted player could probably do without the ghoulish speculation just at the moment.

Gazza at Lazio

As reported in last week’s Guardian, players with more than five seasons of Italian football in the 1980s and 1990s have reason to worry after fifty-one professional and amateur sportsmen died of Lou Gehrig’s disease – that’s six times more than the non-sporting national average. And now the Spanish press at Sport have taken the report and gone in search of fresh victims.

The disease is named after the great New York Yankees player, Lou Gehrig, who died of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in 1941. As conditions go, it’s horrible, causing a swift onset of paralysis, weakening of the muscles and slurring of the speech, while the mind stays perfectly tuned in. It’s fatal. In the 80s, it struck three NFL players for the San Francisco 49ers – Bob Waters, Gary Lewis, Matt Hazeltine – and studies suggest that the chances of contracting the illness are 60 per cent higher amongst military veterans.

Over in Italy, players such as Gianluca Signorini (Genoa, 1988-1995) and ex-Avellino defender Adriano Lombardi have already died from the illness, whilst Stefano Borgonovo (AC Milan, Fiorentina) is the latest player diagnosed. Various theories are being looked into, with some people pointing at the pesticide used on Italian pitches as a cause and others suggesting it could all be down to too many headers. There are also whispers of “stimolanti”.

Without a shred of evidence, it seems that the Spanish press have taken one look at Paul Gascoigne – suffering the effects of chronic alcohol abuse (which, granted, might include slurred speech, and the symptom of involuntary periods of laughing or crying is particularly Gascoignian) – and pulled their prognosis out of a hat. Obviously not big drinkers over there.


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