Jump to content
By fans, for fans. By fans, for fans. By fans, for fans.

Bobby Shillinde

Recommended Posts

Guardian waffle


I doubt I could ever love anyone who did not admire a sporting blagger.


Two years ago, a red-faced Worcestershire County Cricket Club let go Adrian Shankar, when his sporting CV – and indeed his age – was discovered to have been not as billed. The details of Shankar's embellishments are well-documented, but it's the anecdotes from a "fellow" pro that force the bigger giggles. Luke Sutton had played with Shankar at Lancashire (he fooled them too) and recalled how Shankar had also claimed to have played for Arsenal's youth team, despite failing to impress when Lancashire had kickabouts during warm-up.


After playing tennis against him in pre-season, Sutton couldn't help but wonder after Shankar's insistence that he had reached national level in that game too. As for his age: "One day I had it out with him and asked why there was this doubt," remembered Sutton. "His reply ... was that he'd been on a life support machine for the first three years of his life and was therefore physically three years younger than he should be."


And if you can't doff your hat to that, then you're probably the Worcestershire blazer who passed Shankar's registration documents to West Mercia police.


Sport is supposed to be the purest form of meritocracy (except when you have to be able to afford a show jumper or whatever to do it). And these days, even middling competition has so many checks and balances that it's impossibly hard for even a committed chancer to game the system. Very occasionally, though, someone slips momentarily through the net, and I am indebted to the AFC Wimbledon fanzine Wise Men Say for drawing my attention to a spellbinding football tale.


Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin the story of Bobby Shillinde.


It would probably help if I told you who Bobby Shillinde is, but I am afraid that is a matter of some debate. The way Bobby has it, in multiple tweets, videos, and now Botswanan national newspaper interviews – don't worry, I'll explain in a minute – he is AFC Wimbledon's brightest hope. A star of the reserves, with eight first-team appearances under his belt, the 21-year-old Botswana-born Bobby is nearing the business end of a season during which he has picked up a man of the match award and made the League Two Team of the Week.


Or, as AFC Wimbledon's press officer put it to me: "I've checked with a few people. This player has never played for AFC Wimbledon as far as we are aware. Just to point out also that AFC Wimbledon does not have an Under-21s squad at the current time nor a reserves squad, though we do have a development squad."


Well, whoever they are, they have been forced to make do without Bobby's talents of late, as he pulled off his first international call-up last week, and flew out to join Botswana's training camp.


This amusing development would appear to be the culmination of Bobby's two-year Twitter campaign to bring his vital contribution to Wimbledon to a wider audience. "The first tweet I remember was from our play-off final in May 2011," muses Wise Men Say's Charlie Talbot, who has chronicled the rise and rise of Shillinde in wonderfully deadpan fashion. "He was leaving the hotel with the team."


Bobby's tweets are now protected, but thanks to the archive efforts of bemused AFC fans I have seen a photo of his team hotel room, as well as that Team of the Week achievement (in which his name has been Photoshopped into midfield space that was actually occupied by Wycombe Wanderers' Joel Grant), and much more. Elsewhere, there's a video of Bobby playing it cool with his man of the match ball "signed by the lads".


Even a few weeks ago, our hero was hard at work. "Shillinde believes that he can only be known to Botswana if he can get a call-up to come showcase his skills," ran a helpful article in the country's Sunday Standard newspaper. And so he did.


Quite how, I could not say, but it has something to do with Fifa's only licensed agent in Botswana, a chap by the name of Comfort "Big Fish" Ramatebele. The coup was even characterised by some as Bobby choosing Botswana over England (Botswana are 122 in the Fifa rankings.) Similarly mysterious is a lengthy quote singing Bobby's praises that purports to come from the AFC Wimbledon manager, Neal Ardley. "[bobby] has plenty of first-team experience," this claims. "One thing I admire about the youngster is his persistence," says "Ardley" – and I hope you're starting to agree with him.


"I'm an unknown player in Botswana," breezed Bobby to the country's media, although he declined to add that he is an unknown player at Wimbledon too.


Or rather, he isn't, as some seem rather sweetly to be embracing him. A Botswana flag fluttered among the away fans at Aldershot last Saturday. "Great result," tweeted their first-team coach, Simon Bassey, after the win, "and all without our star player Bobby Shillende [sic]."


I'd love to be able to tell you this ended with Bobby starting against Malawi in Tuesday's friendly ahead of Botswana's World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia on Sunday. Alas, Botswana suddenly announced last weekend that Bobby would not be making his debut yet because of passport issues. It is total surmise, of course, but perhaps his performance at the Zebras' training camp was something akin to Adrian Shankar's in that tennis game against Luke Sutton.


Either way, let us hope this is not the last we hear of the fantastical Bobby Shillinde. In an age where footballers are routinely stereotyped as lacking in application, his chutzpah is only to be saluted.


And if you chance to read this, Bobby, please get in touch. I'm a huge admirer of your work and feel I MUST know more.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...