Funny old world: The week's offbeat news

From lucky leeks to World Cup madness.... - Football follies - After a hesitant start, World Cup fever is finally gripping the globe.

From lucky leeks to World Cup madness... Your weekly roundup of offbeat stories from around the world.

- I'm rooting for the vegetable -

When politicians get compared to fruit and veg, it is usually not a good thing. There was Liz Truss and the lettuce that outlasted her as British PM, Donald "The Orange" Trump and his im-peach-ment woes and the late Zambian leader Michael Sata, who never lived down the comparison to a knobbly sweet potato.

But in Taiwan politicians are queuing up to have themselves photographed with vegetables as the island goes into election mode.

It is all because of Taiwan's love of homonyms: words that sound similar but can carry multiple meanings.

Politicians on walkabout have been deluged with gifts of garlic not to ward off any vampiric tendencies but because the Chinese word sounds similar to the one for "chosen".

The daikon radish is a winner too because it is pronounced almost the same as "good luck" and they are happy to accept a pineapple as it is a homonym for "prosperity comes".

While Taiwan is proud of the rude vigour of its democracy, there are limits. Aubergines do not seem to be making it into veggie bouquets quite yet.

- Football follies -

After a hesitant start, World Cup fever is finally gripping the globe. But not everyone is on board, like the man who was arrested for tearing down a Portuguese flag hoisted by Ronaldo fans in India because he mistook it for the emblem of a controversial Islamist group.

Deepak Elangode was arrested after angry fans confronted him in the southern state of Kerala, one of the few places in the country where soccer rivals cricket.

- Suffer the little gingers -

The millionaire Swiss chief of World Cup organisers, FIFA Gianni Infantino, moved many by comparing the suffering he endured having red hair as a child to the migrant workers who died slaving in the desert heat to build the stadiums in Qatar.

Despite such stiff competition, our Cultural Sensitivity of the Week prize goes to the England fans who arrived to watch their team play in Doha dressed as crusaders.

While some fans have been dressing as knights for years in a nod to the nation's patron saint, St George, the penny hadn't dropped that centuries of rape and pillage may have been seen rather differently in the Middle East.

- Take your eye off the ball -

Nowhere is immune from World Cup mania, not even Uganda's jails, where guards have been banned for using their mobile phones during the tournament lest they take their eye off the inmates.

With mass breakouts common, authorities warned that the "excitement may result into prisoners' escape".

- Hole lot of trouble - 

To the Philippines for one of the weirdest, and possibly most chilling, stories of the week.

Prison governor Gerald Bantag has been suspended as police investigate whether the huge hole in his garden is an escape tunnel or, as he insists, the "deepest swimming pool in Manila" for him to scuba dive.

Bantag -- who is also accused of killing a journalist last month -- already has a 25-metre pool and apparently kept a python as a pet and allowed some prisoners to ride horses around the garden of his home within the prison grounds.

In a further bizarre twist, Bantag -- appointed by controversial former president Rodrigo Duterte -- told the justice minister he dug the hole to find treasure buried by the Japanese during World War II.

"Not all of us are corrupt," a despairing prisons spokesman told AFP.


© Agence France-Presse

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