Masal Bugduv

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Masal Bugduv is a fictional Moldovan youth footballer who was the subject of a hoax. He was created by Irish journalist Declan Varley as a social experiment.


With a fabricated backstory describing a teenage prodigy on a web of blog postings, evidently created by different people, reports of the youth talent were ultimately published in a The Times article titled "Football's top 50 rising stars",[1][2] as well as in When Saturday Comes and[3][4] As a means to establish credibility to the identity, the creators of the hoax planted text into Wikipedia articles and forged Associated Press reports.[3][2] The erroneous information remained in Wikipedia from July 2008 to January 2009.

The entry in The Times read, "30. Masal Bugduv (FC Olimpia Bălţi): Moldova’s finest, the 16-year-old attacker has been strongly linked with a move to Arsenal, work permit permitting. And he’s been linked with plenty of other top clubs as well."[3]

The Times later removed Masal from their list and published a clarification.[5] printed an apology for the mention of "phantom prodigy Masal Bugduv", stating the information had come from "a fake Associated Press report."[6]

Masal Bugduv sounds very similar to the Irish pronunciation of M'asal Beag Dubh (My Little Black Donkey), a story by the Irish-language writer Pádraic Ó Conaire about a dishonest salesman who seeks an exaggerated price for a lazy donkey.[7] John Burns of The Sunday Times suggested that the Ó Conaire story was indeed the inspiration for the entire hoax, and that the prank, which also included a fake Moldovan newspaper titled Diario Mo Thon (Diary My Ass), was in effect a satire on the football transfer market.[8]

Brian Phillips, a blogger of, described in an article for Slate the anatomy of the hoax,[2] featuring a testimony email of "the alleged hoaxer's lengthy explanation of the Bugduv-creation process".[9]

In 2017, Irish journalist Declan Varley revealed that he created Bugduv as a social experiment, frustrated by having to sieve through countless speculations about football transfers.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dart, Tom, The Times (January 12, 2009). Football's top 50 rising stars
  2. ^ a b c Phillips, Brian, Slate (January 23, 2009). Fictional Moldovan Soccer Phenom Tells All
  3. ^ a b c Burnton, Simon, The Guardian (January 15, 2009). "Masal Bugduv – the 16-year-old Moldovan prodigy who doesn't exist".
  4. ^ (January 15, 2009). The curious case of Masal Bugduv
  5. ^ (January 2009) The times online clarification Archived 2009-01-22 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ (September 4, 2008). WCQ Preview: Europe - Group 2
  7. ^ (January 15, 2009). The literary origin of the Masal Bugduv hoax
  8. ^ Burns, John, The Times (January 18, 2009). "Discovering an extra ass on the pitch is just a pain in the net".
  9. ^ Slate: sidebar (January 23, 2009), Alleged hoaxer's explanation of the Bugduv-creation process
  10. ^ Smith, Rory (2017-07-16). "Football transfer speculation – the original fake news". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2018-03-29.