History makers

January 19, 1994 was a largely forgettable date in recent history. unless of course you were a citizen of Cleveland Ohio, in which case you will have suffered the coldest day in the city’s history. Or, if you were a fan of Tottenham Hotspur, who will have witnessed your side’s 5-4 penalty shootout win over Peterborough United. Little will you have known that this was the last time you would see Spurs win a shootout.

Defeat to Basel on Thursday was not only their 7th successive penalty shootout defeat, but it also cemented the suspicion that, as winter finally loosens its icy grip and blossom begins to appear on the trees, Tottenham are once again in free fall.

Coach Andre Villas-Boas who said his side wanted to win the competition, conceded that the defeat might boost Spurs flagging chances of finishing in one of the four Champions League qualifying spots.

“We wanted to be in it,” Spurs boss Villas-Boas said. “The fact we are not in it will allow us longer weeks to prepare for league games.

“We have six games left before the season finishes. That is the reality.

“Ideally we wanted to be there [in the semi-finals] but, if it’s going to serve as something good, it will definitely allow more time for the players to rest.

“We can’t over-train even though the weeks become longer, with the habits becoming dramatically different for us.

“It’s six games left for the rest of the season and we hope to be fully ready to respond.”

Villas Boas looked on aghast, telescope in hand, as Emmanuel Adebayor fired his spot kick high into the Basel night sky. He, though, an intelligent man, would have appreciated the irony of his pre-match assessment of the Togo striker.

“Adebayor has got back in the goals in our recent games and he has shown how influential he can be,” said Villas-Boas before Thursday’s game.

“He’s really enjoying his football; he is driven by his last goals and last performance and he is doing extremely well.

“Finding the back of the net allows him to go into the game with more confidence and I always think it’s self-belief from the player, rather than anything else that helps them improve.”

Think again.

Persecution complex

The Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) have defended Luis Suarez, alleging he is the hapless victim of persecution, amid claims that he punched a Chilean opponent during a South American World Cup qualifier last month.

Argentine referee Nestor Pitana didn’t see the incident during Chile’s 2-0 victory in Santiago on March 26 when Suarez and Gonzalo Jara tussled in the penalty area at a corner. FIFA have confirmed that they are investigating the incident and if found guilty, the forward, already suspended for one-match as a result of a booking picked up in the same game, could face an extended ban.

Uruguayan media reports said Suarez reacted after Jara grabbed his genitals.

“Once again we feel Suarez is being persecuted by different football leagues, mainly the English, and we think this is unjust because it’s a normal action in football,” AUF president Sebastian Bauza said.

“We will defend him very strongly. We are working with all the videos and pictures showing Suarez reacted to an initial aggression from Jara,” he was quoted as saying on South American governing body Conmebol’s website.

Here’s the incident in question which clearly shows the persecuted, downtrodden wretch Suarez demonstrating Gandhi-like levels of restraint as Jara attempts to attack the Uruguayan’s clenched fist with his jaw.

Quote of the day

“Friendly games, for the last decade, have been played the Wednesday before the season starts. You tell me the sense of that. I’ve got no issues with competitive matches. But you can’t tell me that should apply itself for friendly games.”

Sir Alex Ferguson responds to claims by England coach Roy Hodgson that Premier League clubs are treating the international breaks as an opportunity to rest players.

Men behaving badly

Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim has paid a high price for his outburst against referee  Suleyman Abay during last weekend’s victory over  Mersin Idmanyurdu.

The veteran coach has been given a nine-match ban over “unsportsmanlike conduct” after he verbally attacked the referee and had to be restrained from physically assaulting the match official.

Terim, who threatened to walk away from Turkish football after the incident, had been infuriated by a number of decisions and strode onto the pitch to confront the referee.

The coach will now miss Galatasaray’s final six games of the season along with the first three games of next season.

Here’s footage of the bust-up. A favourite moment occurs at 1 min 45 sec when the referee lets out a world weary sigh as he spots the enraged Terim returning to the fray.

Goal of the day

The goal that steadied the ship for Basel in their Europa League tie against Tottenham came from a clever improvised finish from the outstanding Mohamed Salah.

Performance related pay

Premier League outfit Reading have posted the advert on the UK Sport website, asking for applications to be a ‘performance analyst’ at the club.

Nothing wrong with that you’d think. That is until you read the small print. The successful applicant must be prepared to ‘work unsociable hours from July 2013 – May/June 2014′, to have ‘some previous experience of working in Professional/Semi-Pro Football’ as well as being required to ‘attend all First team home games and some away games.’ The chosen applicant also must have their own car.

This position is full-time and will require the successful applicant to work unsociable hours from July 2013 – May/June 2014. Unfortunately, while the successful applicant must be willing to drive to most matches, he or she will not be reimbursed any travel travel expenses.

The real killer though, comes from the fact that the candidate, although expected to possess professional qualifications (postgraduate degree in performance analysis or Sports Science) and relevant experience, will not get paid a penny.

Earlier this year, prozone carried a feature on Reading’s Senior Performance Analyst Lucy Rushton.

The piece begins: “Behind every manager at Reading over the past two seasons there has been a wise woman…” And behind that wise woman is a well qualified graduate working for nothing.

Welcome to the new world of unpaid labour.

In case you’re interested, this multimillion pound business is owned by Russian billionaire Anton Zingarevich.

Keeping it in the family

Milan director Barbara Berlusconi has ruled out the possibility of her family ever selling the club.

The 28-year-old’s father, Silvio, bought the Rossoneri in 1986 and, according to his daughter, is not remotely interested in relinquishing control.

“My father has impressed upon us an idea: Milan are a piece of our hearts,” Berlusconi explained in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“The Berlusconi family will never sell. Building partnerships to have new capital and expand is one thing; to sell the club quite another. It will not happen.”

Berlusconi admits that Milan cannot compete with the wealthier European clubs, but is keen to reassure fans that they remain a side capable of challenging for the Champions League.

“I think the fans are happy to see players that they can identify with develop,” she mused. “Not necessarily Italian, but linked to Milan and their history.

“I believe that successful clubs are those that have an identity.

“I’m thinking of Arsenal, and of course Barcelona and Bayern Munich. These are clubs who transmit certain values which give a sense of continuity and develop a strong sense of belonging to those who work and those who support them.

“That’s what Milan has done in recent years and will continue to do. We want to have healthy accounts; it is a matter of necessity because we want to conform to financial fair play.

“But our primary goal is to remain at the highest level. Milan are the most successful club at international level, we have won a lot in Europe.

“To be of Champions League [level] does not mean to win it, but to play in it every year. Without that, no, we would not be satisfied.”

It sounds very much like the Arsenal model: no chance of winning anything but regular exposure to the Champions League trough should placate fans in the short term. The only difference being that whereas Arsenal have never won the trophy, Milan have won it 7 times.

Third time unlucky

Manchester City defender Micah Richards has become the third player from his club to receive a driving ban this month.

The England international was disqualifed after he failed to respond to two speeding notices sent to his home address.

Tameside Magistrates’ Court heard the six penalty points took him over the 12-point penalty limit as he already had nine points for three separate driving offences in November 2010, December last year and this January.

The court was told Richards had difficulties with his post at the time the notices were sent out last September and last November because his home in Bowdon, Altrincham, was being renovated and he was staying elsewhere.

It’s a common problem among City players: Carlos Tevez failed to respond to police letters because he claimed not to recognise the word constabulary. Last week, the Argentinian was disqualifed from driving for six months and told to perform 250 hours of community service.

City midfielder Samir Nasri, 25, also received a six-month ban last week after he admitted to three charges of failing to provide police with the identity of the driver of his car which was clocked speeding over four months in 2011. He too blamed poor personal administration for his failure to respond to police notifications.

Whoever is advising these errant players really does need to come up with a fresh line for them to spin to the not-so-gullible magistrates. .

Finally…

Former South Africa international Bryce Moon has been found guilty of culpable homicide in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court.

Moon was acquitted of murder, attempted murder, drunk driving and reckless or negligent driving charges, Eyewitness News reported.

The player knocked down pedestrian Mavis Ncube with his car in 2009 when she was walking on a street in Sandton.

Magistrate Vincent Pienaar says Moon’s version that he was not speeding at the time of the accident is false. He said Moon had no regard for Ncube’s life.

The Bidvest Wits midfielder, who turned 27 at the weekend, denied being drunk at the time of the accident, or speeding.

On the same day that Moon was found guilty, former Zimbabwe football captain Peter Ndlovu was cleared of culpable homicide following a car accident that killed his brother Adam last December.

Former Coventry City striker Peter, 40, was driving the car at the time of the accident. Police said he was speeding and at fault.

“He’s been found not guilty. There was no evidence whatsoever,” Harrison Nkomo, Ndlovu’s lawyer, told Reuters.

Peter and Adam, who both represented Zimbabwe at international level, were travelling to a friendly match when their BMW struck a tree near Victoria Falls after a tyre burst.

Peter retired in 2011 and was capped 100 times for the Zimbabwe national team.

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