A football match between Carlton Athletic and Ilkley Town had to be halted for fifteen minutes when an alpaca named Oscar invaded the pitch.
The two teams play in the West Yorkshire League Premier Division in England and it was in the midst of a match at home for Carlton Athletic that Oscar, an alpaca from a nearby farm, escaped and came to investigate. The team is based near Rothwell and is famous for having alpacas in the neighbourhood, though perhaps after this event it will be infamous instead.
Estimates on the numbers of alpaca in the UK can vary widely, with some organisations saying there are around 14,000 while others give 30,000 as a prediction. Most of the alpacas in the UK are kept for their fleece, with each individual giving between 3 and 5 kilograms per year. The fleece is becoming more and more valuable to knitters and other crafters in the UK, both as people become more accustomed to it and learn how to use it in effective ways, but also as breeding helps to improve the quality. Alpacas come in two breeds, the Suri and the Huacaya, which are differentiated mostly by the difference in their fleeces. The Huacaya has thicker fleece, having originated higher up in the Peruvian Andes. Partly due to this much thicker fleece, it is the Huacaya which is more often found in the UK, since they are better able to keep off the rain. This also has the added benefit of them providing their owners with more wool when they are shorn. However, there are lots of other reasons why people may wish to keep the animals, with some being kept as pets, while others are used as friendly and attractive lawnmowers. They generally take less effort to keep than sheep and other herbivores, however, due to their rarity they are more expensive to buy.
The pitch invasion occurred 35 minutes into the match, while both sides were still on zero goals. The referee took the decision to pause the match there as attempts were made to coax Oscar off the field and to a place of safety for both him and the players. However, even attempts at bribery with food failed to be more interesting than the game and Oscar refused to be moved.
Fears that he may kick or otherwise attack anyone coming too close meant that none of the players or bystanders were keen on getting too close. But a farmer was called and he was safely removed from the pitch, allowing the match to continue. That might not have been such a good thing for the home team, however, as Carlton Athletic went on to lose 2-0 to Ilkley Town.
There appear to be no hard feelings, however, as Carlton Athletic Club Chairman, John Flynn, said that some of the players had described the fluffy football hooligan as the man of the match. There are some questions about how he managed to escape his field to join them, as John Flynn also said that, "there must be a little gap in the barrier somewhere as we've seen some chickens here as well."
Oscar's owner, Jill Howell told reporters on BBC Breakfast that Oscar "absolutely adores football" and it certainly seems like that, given the descriptions of the hijinks he got up to on the pitch. A club representative described Oscar as "really inquisitive, he was enjoying himself and running up and down the pitch, he wasn't distressed" which appears to be the view of everyone involved.
So, all in all, a fun day out for both alpacas and humans and a wonderful story for everyone to tell when they get back to their herd, or family, as the case may be.