Some of you may be aware of the Masal Bugduv story, in which your correspondent played a small role in recent weeks. If not, read this and this before continuing.
In the aforelinked Slate article, Brian Phillips wrote about his email exchange with somebody claiming to be responsible for the hoax. Our 'Galwaygooner' detailed the process by which he supposedly went about the scheme. Shortly afterwards, the would-be duper confirmed that he was an, um, was duper. (And maybe a still-is duper...of which more later.)
After that, myself and Galwaygooner engaged in quite an interesting conversation for several days, shedding new light on the tale. And here I present it for your curiosity.
A few notes:
* As you'll see, the hoaxer has asked me to preserve his anonymity, so you'll have to take this on trust. I know the name of the person, but I ain't gonna divulge it. Hey, if you wanted to know his name, you should have spent a few hours uncovering all this in the first instance. But you didn't, did you? No: it was me, me, me, &c.
* The correspondence ended abruptly when Galwaygooner stopped replying for reasons unknown. This could have been twice as long, but hopefully what's here will be worth your time.
* There is a possibility that this person is himself pretending to be the hoaxer. The chance is slight; as far as can be reasonably ascertained (oh, the lengths that have been travelled in trying to ascertain this...) he's our man. If he is having me on, the level of detail of such a hoax-on-top-of-a-hoax would be so impressive that it would be an honour to have fallen victim to it. And I'm an idiot. And he should probably get a hobby or something.
* Last but not least, a huge thank you to Brian, who got enthusiastically and tenaciously involved, and allowed himself to be driven halfway to madness in the process. He also supplied many of the questions for the interview. I would heartily recommend his site, The Run of Play, but knowing the kind of intelligent and beautiful people that make up my readership, I suspect you're way ahead of me on that score.
So: to the main event.
Do you want to be identified by name in all this?
Not really keen on naming myself yet, if you don't mind because the possibilities for this are endless and I wouldn't want to out myself too early in the entire process. It's been a ball but bugduv may be only the tip of the iceberg.
So you're planning some more shenanigans, then? Will there be more Massi stuff or have you some new characters up your sleeve?
Some new ones are already there, sleeping, although not all necessarily in the field of football. The few Massi stories are the sting of a dying wasp. He's pissed off at not existing, which as you can imagine is a bummer, especially in Moldova where people view non-existence very dubiously. He had a lash at Arshavin (that fat Russian) who he feels has stolen his dream move, but in the main, he's resigned to a life of drudgery. And Arshavin got his work permit too! The Times did this to him. If they hadn't named him at No 30, he would have rumbled on there in the background.
So were you responsible for the Great Galway Donkey Sex Hoax of 2007 as well? Is there a donkey theme running through all this or was that just a coincidence?
Yes, the donkey case was totally devoid of any sexual reference at all. It was only when you added all the evidence together that there was any suggestion of sexual impropriety. The presence of a donkey in a hotel room, the latex outfit, the handcuffs suggested that they weren't just watching TV. It was written as a totally straight court case in typical Irish court case style, with albeit some unbelievable characters such as the receptionist Ms Irina Legova and the much-believed Unlawful Accommodation of Donkeys Act 1867. It crashed the website having a million hits in two days, and crashed the hosting company. It also featured as the "and finally" story on some networks in the US.
We had another soccer one which did the rounds which had dogging aficionado Stan Collymore being tempted out of retirement to join local team Galway United because Galway city council had just introduced a new park and ride scheme.
However, the donkey theme is merely coincidental, it was never my intention to cause mass hysteria with the donkey court case, and the manner in which it spread showed just how gullible many people are.
How did you find out about Massi being "outed"? What was your reaction?
I was at home a few weeks ago when a mate called to say that the Off The Ball football show on Newstalk radio station was all about Bugduv. At work, the lads knew that I had invented him and we had the odd laugh about how his Google count w as doing, or when he'd pop up on screen as a possible transfer target on Setanta Sports News, but the Times list just sent the ball rolling. At last count, he had 108 million google mentions on that day. That's better than Paris Hilton. Who needs a sex tape. I knew than that his life as we knew it was about to come to an end, that his "dream move" to (take your pick) was in jeopardy and that for him, a life of sheep tendering on the hills of Moldova was the most likely option. I can still imagine him in ten years time, fat, balding and managing the Moldovan national team. He will probably be a chain smoker at that stage, having kicked a coke habit that he could ill afford and having being kicked out of his home having bedded the runner-up in Miss Moldova. He will speak with a husky voice ( Can huskies talk?) and his eyes will be filled with regret forever that the Times have ruined his life. I have visions too of Bugduv coming to Ireland to seek revenge on his creator, a footballing Frankenstein.
Did you have any more plans for Massi before the whole thing was rumbled? How long would you have persisted with it? How would Massi's story have continued?
Oh Massi was going to prostrate himself before the top clubs in Europe for another transfer window. Like Arshavin (almost), he would once again go through another transfer window unsold. He would react to this with disdain and insults. He would lash out at fat Arshavin. He would attack Chelsea for having no charisma (or Quaresma). He would have provoked his way into a move to some minor French club from where he would hope to leap the Channel come summer time. He was to have a wild social life. There would have been the night with the woman who came second in Miss Moldova. There would have been an incident in a Balti bingo hall. He would have attacked Blatter and tried to force a new Webster or Bosman ruling. Massi was going to have an exciting spring and summer, but it was not to be. And so it falls to his successor to have that fun, to challenge FIFA, to become widely know for things other than on the pitch.
Why invent Massi in the first place?
Basically, it was done for the craic. (Irish fun) As Lee Harvey Oswald may have said, it just seemed like a good idea at the time. I did it to see how far it would go, to see just how gullible some people may be and to have a laugh. It is a model that will be used in many other spheres of public life. I see that there have been several Bugduv copycat postings since he was outed, the linking of some player to Hoffenheim. People will be wary for a while, but their guards will fall again in a few months.
It also begs the question. What is real? Is it real because we have read it on the net, if it can be googled, or do we have to touch it? I am in the news business and have been for 25 years. I've also written five novels and a series of plays so I just see this as an extension of my fiction writing. I was a sportswriter for a decade of that so sportswriting can be a case of joining the cliches, so you find out how to write in a style that people will believe. When you have that, you can virtually deliver any message and get away with it. If we had just tweaked the donkey sex story a bit, it would have been very believable. As it was, its style had thousands wondering. And that is where the future of this project lies.
I am busy on three other writing projects at the moment, so it will be a month or so before that really takes off.
And Masal's successor has already passed the 1,000 mentions mark on google. He is cooking nicely, his life story is developing and at some stage, some journalistic fish will come along and bite the hook. His name is a phonetic play on an Irish word as well, so in a way, I'm doing my bit to preserve the Irish language. The guy who wrote M'Asal Beag Dubh, Padraic Ó Conaire. A statue of him used to be 50 yards from my office in Galway, but has since been moved. Yet, his stories never got as much mention as they have done in the past month.
So that is why Massi was born and why his legacy will live on.