Would you Belize it?

Following their 6-1 defeat to the United States in their first Gold Cup group-stage match, several members of the Belize team claimed they were approached before the match by a match fixer.

The Belize players say they turned down the bribe attempts — which were for €10,000 -  in the name of national pride. According to the Edmonton Sun:

“(The briber) started (saying) we don’t really stand a chance to beat the U.S so he wanted us to promise him that we would lose the game and that he would give us a large amount of money to change our lives in Belize and to help our families,” Belizean defender Ian Gaynair told 7 News Belize.

The players claim they were first approached while at a Guatemalan airport before meeting the man at a Portland mall.

“I made him understand that we’re not into taking money from him or anything like that, and we’re here for our country,” Belizean goalkeeper Woodrow West said.

Yes, hard though it is to believe, that dismal performance was the players playing for the pride of Belize.

CONCACAF released a statement in which they say they have “a positive identification of the individual attempting the bribery.”

Here’s the statement in full:

“CONCACAF was notified of an attempt to bribe Belize national team players Woodrow West and Ian Gaynair on July 7th, two days ahead of their Group A, Gold Cup match against the United States that took place in Portland, OR.

Both players directly approached confederation officials immediately after the incident took place to report the attempted offense.

Following the report by the players, CONCACAF launched a full investigation alongside FIFA.

Initial findings of this investigation have resulted in a positive identification of the individual attempting the bribery.

We want to thank Woodrow West and Ian Gaynair and recognize them for their bravery and commitment to preserving the integrity of our game.

The fight against match-manipulation is a top priority for CONCACAF.  In alignment with FIFA guidelines and with the help of outside entities such as INTERPOL, we have taken all necessary measures to ensure the legitimacy of each game played throughout the 2013 Gold Cup.  In the past months, CONCACAF, FIFA and INTERPOL have conducted three separate seminars with all Member Associations in the region that have focused on educating, identifying and preventing match manipulation.

We are precluded from commenting any further on this matter, due to the ongoing status of the investigation.”

The most surprising element of this episode is the fact that anyone would pay the Belize players to throw a match that they were odds-on to lose anyway.

Mou on Roo

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has admitted that he is an admirer of the Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney.

With Chelsea having been linked with a move for the England forward, Mourinho’s remarks could be construed as an attempt to unsettle the forward, but the Portuguese insists Rooney is a Manchester United player.

“It’s a tricky question because I cannot speak about players from other teams,:” he said.

“But you know me, it’s not my kind of character to speak with a bit of hypocrisy and I always say what I think.

“He is a player I like very much but I can say no more than that. Being fast and direct, I like that, but he’s a Manchester United player.”

On hearing Mourinho’s comments, ManchesterUnited boss David Moyes was quick to reiterate his position that Rooney was going nowhere.

“It’s hard to keep repeating myself. But I will do. Wayne is a Manchester United player and will remain that,” he said.

“Unless I was speaking double Dutch I think we said Wayne Rooney is not for sale.”

Asked if he thought Mourinho was being mischievous, Moyes said: “I don’t think so.

“People are entitled to talk about good players. I’m getting asked plenty of questions about Wayne so I’m sure Jose will be getting asked about lots of players as well.”

As for Rooney, the stress of it all was obviously too much for him, as he is travelling home from the club’s pre-season tour in Thailand after picking up a hamstring strain.

Meanwhile, the Manchester Evening News has compiled a lighthearted list of 101 reasons why Rooney should stay at Old Trafford.

Possibly the only one that might have a bearing on Rooney’s decision was No. 90: ‘Lou Macari’s chip shop. ’Nuff said.’

Money talks

The Real-Madrid-Barcelona stranglehold on Spanish football shows no sign of abating as Real Madrid have splashed out 39 million euros to buy Spain Under-21 midfielder Asier Illarramendi out of his contract with Real Sociedad.

Illarramendi’s capture follows hard on the heels of the purchase of playmaker Isco from Malaga and the return of fullback Daniel Carvajal from Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen.

The trio were in the Spain squad that won the Under-21 Euro championships in Israel last month and in many regards are seen as the future of Spanish football.

The signings herald a change of direction for Madrid: rather than signing the world’s best players at mind boggling prices, they are going to sign the world’s best young players at astronomical prices.

The 23-year-old Illarramendi admitted the allure of joining Real proved too strong to resist.

He told a press conference: “I became aware of the interest whilst on holiday, there was contact, the only ones I spoke to were my agents.

“I spoke with my people, we considered it and I thought this is a unique and irresistible offer. I feel the colours of La Real and will always be a fan, I struggled a bit to make this decision, but it is a good decision.

“I have been here 12 years and the decision was not easy, I had a hard time deciding. I want to give thanks to the directors, the coaches in the youth team, my team-mates, I wish them all well.”

Goal of the day

Leandrinho adjusts his position before lashing home from the edge of the area to put Santos ahead against CRAC.

Still got it

As one of the prime exponents of tiki-taka, it should come as no surprise to see Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola showing his new players how it works.

Quote of the day

” I happened to read a lot about South Africa when I was younger and followed with passion what happened in South Africa because of the fact that Nelson Mandela was one of my heroes. He was one of my examples and I carry a lot of what he taught me and my family through the books I read on him”

Manchester City skipper Vincent Kompany shows that he is not your typical footballer by revealing his admiration for Nelson Mandela.

Topless fans banned

New plans which include a ban of shirtless and standing fans at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium have not gone down well in Brazil.

Drums and flag poles traditionally used by organised fan groups could also be banned, says the stadium’s new administration.

Critics are calling the plans “colonisation” and “gentrification” measures after the $450m modernisation.

Maracana has been renewed to host the final match of next year’s World Cup.

“We will talk to the clubs aiming a change of habits. I’m referring to bamboos [used as flag poles], bass drums, watching the matches standing. We do not even have room for the bamboos,” Joao Borba, president of the stadium’s consortium, told Extra.

The changes are meant to safeguard the comfort, security and accessibility of the fans, he explained.

But in a city where casual dress is seen as the norm, many do not believe the changes can be implemented.

“In the new Maracana, icon of a football undergoing transformation, a war has been declared against people,” blogger David Butter wrote under the title “The colonisation of Maracana”.

Another blogger saw an attempt of gentrifying football behind the proposals.

“So, away from the people, with expensive tickets and surroundings that handpick the attendance, they decreed [new rules],” wrote Rica Perroni.

Maracana is expected to become once again the home ground of Rio de Janeiro’s leading clubs.

But so far, only current Brazilian league champions Fluminense have signed a 35-year contract with the consortium, leaving the prospect of Brazil being saddled with an expensive white elephant.

Follow the money

The amount of money spent on football transfers has risen sharply in the past six months, although the number of deals has fallen slightly, according to FIFA.

The number of transfers fell by 2% in the first six months of 2013, but their total financial value rose by 39%.

The total income from 5,204 transfers around the globe was $928.8m (£612m).

FIFA’s transfer unit said the increase could be down to some economies recovering. The biggest seller was Brazil and the biggest buyer was England, where many clubs have been shielded from the ravages of the Europe-wide economic downturn by the largesse of their wealthy owners.

The data was revealed by FIFA’s Transfer Matching System (TMS) organisation, which uses electronic technology with the aim of making international football transfers more transparent.

TMS head Kimberly Morris, using the type of language that only marketing people employ, said sales revenues were “trending up considerably”, and had been helped by the improvement in some countries’ economic fortunes.

Morris, who had been speaking at a World Sports Law Report conference into football player contracts, said the vast majority of player moves so far this year had been free transfers.

The total of $928.8m income generated in the first half of the year came from just 12% of all transfer deals.

During the whole of 2012 the biggest spenders were English clubs, followed by those in Russia, Turkey, China, and Germany.

Rare success

Prestatyn Town enjoyed a rare success for Welsh football when they beat Latvian side Liepajas Metalurgs in a Europa League first qualifying round tie after losing the first leg at home.

Prestatyn, average attendance 312, who won the Welsh FA Cup last season, went through 4-3 on penalties after winning the second leg 2-1 in Latvia with a 90th minute goal to send the tie into extra time 3-3 on aggregate.

Head coach Chris Hughes told BBC Wales: “At Prestatyn we never ever know when we’re beaten. It’s a trait of ours – we never give in.”

Prestatyn will now play HNK Rijeka of Croatia in the first leg of the second qualifying round next Thursday.

The club have so far earned 250,000 euros following their European exploits.

Regular contact

Brendan Rodgers has revealed he is in regular contact with wantaway striker Luis Suarez as he tries to persuade the player to remain at Liverpool.

The Uruguay international informed the Reds of his desire to leave Anfield this summer, with a number of clubs reported to be interested in signing him, though Rodgers is determined to hang on to his man.

“At the moment he’s on a break, we’re in constant communication,” Rodgers told talkSPORT. “He’s got three years left on his contract, we don’t want to sell him. We think we can put up a real fight next season.

“I spoke to Luis, of course over the last few months, there have been a lot of speculation over his situation. The fact remains the same we value the player, he had a terrific season for us last year, and showed us his quality.”

Suarez received a 10-match domestic ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic toward the end of last season, while the previous campaign he received an eight-game suspension for racial abuse.

“That’s something we’ve stressed, what he did was wrong at the end of last season,” Rodgers said.

“That’s the bottom line you can’t do that on the football pitch, but we’ve moved on from that.

”

Do people really need to be told that biting an opponent is wrong? Most people don’t, but clearly Suarez was an exception.

Rodgers continued: “He’s a real competitor, he’s a winner, he wants Liverpool to do well, he wants to be working at the real high level.”

Which is why he wants to leave Liverpool.