Meet the FAKE footballer who almost played in the Champions League
Meet the FAKE footballer who almost blagged his way into the Champions League: Gregoire Akcelrod claimed he was a PSG reserve and pasted his name into reports to earn trials across Europe… despite being a ‘bad’ player in France’s WORST amateur league!
- Gregoire Akcelrod went from terrible amateur player to nearly playing in Europe
- The Frenchman was banned from playing football by his father as he was so bad
- Akcelrod created a fake website where he convinced clubs he was a top star
- The striker copy and pasted his name into published top-flight match reports
- He had trials at Swindon, Norwich and Bournemouth after they saw his website
- Akcelrod was offered a three-year deal by Champions League side CSKA Sofia
Some people would do anything to become a professional footballer. Gregoire Akcelrod tricked Europe’s elite – including one Champions League team – to give him a chance by sending them a fake CV.
At 10 years old, the Frenchman was like any young boy with a dream. The only problem was he was terrible at football. His own father thought he was so bad that he banished him from playing out of pure embarrassment.
The young Akcelrod went on to trick Norwich, Bournemouth and Swindon into offering him a trial and he even received an offer to play European football for CSKA Sofia – all by creating a fake website which claimed he was an up-and-coming star.
French amateur player Gregoire Akcelrod tricked professional clubs with a fake football CV
Akcelrod pretended he played for PSG’s reserves when he actually played amateur football
Recalling his first memory of football, Paris-born Akcelrod told Sportsmail: ‘I played my first game in front of my father at 10 years old. It was like the Champions League final for me.
‘We played against a good team and we lost 4-0. When we were in the car on the way back he said, “Greg, I am so upset. You are so bad. You are so lazy. I don’t want to see you anymore on a football pitch.”
‘I was shocked. Being with my friends on the football pitch was the best time of my week.’
Between the age of 10 and 18, Akcelrod was banned from playing football due to his lack of ability. The youngster only ever played in his garden but still never gave up the dream of playing professional football – mainly as he wanted to prove his dismissive father wrong.
The Frenchman created a fake website which included false match reports and information
Akcelrod sent his website and CV to professional clubs across Europe, including Arsenal
One day at school, an idea struck – Akcelrod created a fake website which claimed he was a professional player playing for PSG’s reserves.
He would copy and paste match reports from the L’Equipe newspaper and took out the name of the star striker – such as Nicolas Anelka – and replaced it with his own.
The information wasn’t a complete lie – Akclerod was playing for PSG – but for the club’s amateur side in the bottom tier of French football – a level which he himself describes as ‘the worst in France’.
The 38-year-old claimed: ‘You can be Cristiano Ronaldo in the fifth team and nobody watches you. Nobody watched me at PSG because it was just for “kick and run” players.’
Ackelrod snuck into PSG’s stadium to take ‘official’ photos of him in PSG kit for his website
AKCELROD’S TRIALS AT BRITISH CLUBS
Swindon Town (twice)
At this point, Akcelrod had been cut off by his affluent family for choosing football over a proper education and career.
At 19, the Frenchman, whose grandmother inherited a fortune from Oscar-winning actor Maurice Chevalier after a 15-year marriage, was working in McDonalds and living in a small studio flat in France.
As part of the facade, Akcelrod even went to the effort of sneaking onto the PSG pitch one day to take ‘official’ photos of him in full PSG kit. His website and CV were then sent to some of the biggest clubs in England.
Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal turned him down, but second-tier side Swindon Town gave him a shot in the summer of 2003.
It was one of two occasions where the player trialled with the Robins.
‘On the first day of the trial I was so unfit physically and tactically I was lost,’ Akcelrod recalled.
‘In the practice game, the goalkeeper hit a long ball, I tried to head it but it hit me square in the face. Everybody laughed.’
The Frenchman wasn’t selected for a second day of the trial but still turned up at the County Ground for the other players’ practice match in front of the fans.
Irrespective of his talent, Akcelrod’s persistence was noted and manager Andy King gave him a second chance by giving him 20 minutes in a practice game. But no contract was offered – his first day at the trial had done enough damage.
Akcelrod’s fake website earned him two trials at Swindon and he scored in a Robins friendly
The Robins were not the only top-flight club convinced by Akcelrod’s hoax.
Bournemouth’s financial problems in the early 2000s meant the amateur Frenchman trained with them for one week in their 2007 pre-season campaign – Akcelrod even scored for the Cherries in a friendly.
Swindon then returned for the amateur ‘star’ later that pre-season and the Frenchman scored two goals in a County Ground friendly with 21 other trialists in front of the Robins supporters.
New manager Paul Sturrock refused to take him on despite pleas from the Swindon supporters.
The two-goal display was caught by the Sky Sports cameras and that led to a stint at Norwich but a poor performance in a reserve team friendly led to another rejection.
Ackelrod also trialled at Norwich City (above) and Bournemouth through his fake website
There were offers amid the rejections too. Professional clubs in Luxembourg offered Akcelrod a contract but the Frenchman turned them down – they were too ‘small’ for him.
But the right offer nearly came in the summer of 2009, when Akcelrod was asked to train at Bulgarian side CSKA Sofia, who had just qualified for the Champions League.
Convinced he was a PSG reserve team player, CSKA offered him a three-year contract worth £15,000-a-month – but an unfortunate series of events involving the club’s supporters saw Bulgarian side spot the striker’s problem.
Akcelrod recalls: ‘I did the two day trial and on the Sunday the coach told my agent that he wanted to sign me.
‘They took photos of my in the CKSA official jersey, I signed the contract, they published on the CSKA website that I was signing.
Akcelrod (right) was offered a contract by then-Champions League club CSKA Sofia in 2009
CSKA Sofia announced Akcelrod’s transfer and took official photos before spotting the gaffe
‘But it was the PSG fans who destroyed me. Overnight, one CSKA Sofia fan contacted a PSG online forum and asked, “We are about to sign Greg Akcelrod, what do you think about him?”
‘All the PSG fans didn’t know me. They said I was fake, they checked my website. But some of it was true, the video at Swindon for example.
‘The CSKA fan contacted every journalist in Sofia and it was revealed the club were going to sign a fake player.’
When Akcelrod came down for breakfast on Monday morning, nobody from CSKA wanted to know him anymore and he was asked to head back to France.
The Frenchman had other trials in Greece, Kuwait and Canada and a year playing for Mississauga Eagles in the top Canadian division was enough for him to finish his story.
Akcelrod (far left) realised his dream by playing professionally in Canada for one season
Akcelrod now has a full-time career in football, just not the one he planned.
The Frenchman now acts as an agent to young players trying to get into football academies – without using the tactics he used.
The 38-year-old has also written an autobiography, ‘Pro At All Costs‘, detailing his bizarre journey into football and giving advice to young players getting into the game.
Akcelrod admits he does regret certain aspects of his brief playing career, but insists he never short-changed clubs once in his bid to become a professional.
Akcelrod (left) is now a football agent trying to get young academy players into the game
He claimed: ‘I never stole a penny from clubs. I always paid for my hotel and my flights. The clubs wasted a little bit of time but it’s just like this sometimes.
‘In the book, I give advice about training. It’s good that I made a beautiful story.
‘In France, we are a country that only judges people by their CV. I realised that even though I was good on trial, I wasn’t given a professional contract.
‘I wanted to show that you don’t need a CV – I want to see attitude in the player that I showed.’
‘Prix à Tout Prix’ (Pro At All Costs) was released in January 2021 and is available now in French.
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