Friday, November 7, 2014
It seems that every few years, rumors arise about mysterious athletes in obscure countries whose talents are guaranteed to change the future of sports. One of the most recent examples concerned Masal Bugoluv, a supposed 16-year-old soccer prodigy from the small eastern European country of Moldova. News of the phenom first broke on soccer blogs and forums, where Bugoluv was described as a surgical striker who already played for the Moldovan national team. Soon enough, the mainstream soccer media—known the world over for their tendency to play fast and loose with the facts—had picked up on the story. The popular website Goal.com posted news about the player, and in early January of 2009, even the Times of London was on board, listing Bugoluv as “Moldova’s finest” and linking him with a possible move to the famous English club Arsenal. But the more the rumors about “Massi” began to heat up, they more they became suspect. After some background checking and research, a soccer blogger named Neil McDonnell was able to prove the truth: Masal Bugoluv didn’t exist. In fact, the whole media whirlwind was all a hoax allegedly perpetrated by an Irishman who was fed up with the glut of fake information circulated during soccer’s transfer season. In order to test just how unreliable media outlets were, he’d decided to invent his own player. With the help of fake Wikipedia articles, blog posts, and falsified reports from the Associated Press, he created a cult following for what turned out to be the greatest soccer player who never was.