England’s footballers are coming home without the World Cup trophy but were not entirely empty-handed on leaving their training base in Al Wakrah on Sunday.
The defenders Kyle Walker and John Stones, who both started for Gareth Southgate’s team in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat by France, befriended a stray tabby cat during their four-week stay in Qatar.
Stones named their handsome new feline companion Dave, while Walker had said they planned to adopt the cat and bring him home to England should the Three Lions ultimately triumph.
Despite that dream again failing to become a reality, it seems the players had become too fond of Dave to say a final farewell when they departed Al Wakrah.
The cat was transported to a local veterinary clinic for tests and vaccinations and will spend four months in quarantine before what is presumably a free transfer to Manchester City – or to the care of Stones or Walker, who both play for the Premier League champions.
“They’re still undecided as who’s having him but he’s going back,” said a woman tasked with taking Dave to the vet’s on Sunday, in a video posted by Rich McCarthy on Twitter.
“He was just there one day so we’ve just adopted him, me and Stonesy,” Walker told the FA’s official media channel during England’s World Cup campaign. “Dave is welcome to the table … Some people really don’t like the cat, but I love him.”
“First day we got there … Dave pops out,” Stones said. “Every night he’s sat there waiting for his food.”
Walker also told journalists that Dave was involved in a fight with a rival cat before the last-eight defeat by Les Bleus. “Dave’s fine, thank you for asking,” Walker revealed.
Dave is not the only cat to have grabbed the media’s attention in Qatar. Before their last-eight defeat by Croatia, Brazil’s press conference was invaded by a cat that sat in view of the cameras next to the forward Vinícius Junior, before being thrown off the table by a team official.