Fact finding trip cancelled

FIFA has postponed secretary general Jerome Valcke’s 2014 World Cup inspection trip in the wake of the recent dispute between world football’s governing body and the Brazilian government.

Scheduled for this week, the visit will now not take place until FIFA president, Sepp Blatter’s has met with his Brazilian counterpart Dilma Rousseff.

It will be at that meeting that Blatter will learn whether Valcke, currently persona non grata in Brazil as a result of the “kick up the backside” furore, is actually welcome in the country.

In the English speaking world, we’d call this kind of saga a soap opera, but in South America, they use the word telenovela. Mercifully, unlike soap operas, telenovelas run for a limited period.

Mancunian candidates

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini says his side’s encounter with Manchester United on April 30, will ultimately determine the outcome of this season’s Premier League title race. He should be so lucky. On current form, United could be out of sight b the end of March.

Mancini was speaking after his side’s 1-0 defeat at Swansea a result which, combined with their rivals 2-0 win over West Brom, means that City have relinquished leadership of the Premier League for the first time in 5 months.

“Today was not critical. I think this championship will be decided with three games to go,” Mancini told BBC Sport.

“I’m still confident about winning the Premier League. We were top for months but it just so happens that we are second with 10 games to play. It is important that we are there around the top.

“We know United have gone top, like we were, but now we should be more strong and it is a test for our players. It has been a difficult last four days for me but football is like this.

“The season is long and what happened today can happen also to United.”

It could, but there are a number of factors favouring United, most notably their ability to grind out results when the pressure is on.  This mediocre season, more than most, that quality alone could prove significant.

Certainly, United boss Sir Alex Ferguson says he has no fears for the run-in.

“We won’t get nervous. We have the experience,” he said.

“I hope it is a significant day,” he said. “I don’t mind being top of the league at this stage.

“I think we’ve clawed it back from seven points behind to one point ahead.”

Indonesia on the ropes

Indonesia’s football association (PSSI) will receive a boost from a group of businessmen led by Arifin Panigoro, who will make up a funding shortfall after the government withdraw their backing.

The government pulled the plug on funding in the wake of a weakened Indonesia side’s 10-0 defeat to Bahrain in a World Cup qualifying match. The national side were unable to select players from the rebel Indonesian Super League (ISL), which was established last year by a deputy of former PSSI chairman Nurdin Halid.

The governeent has promised to resume funding provided the PSSI brings the two leagues together, or under control at least. FIFA wants that to happen before March 20 or sanctions could be imposed, including a possible ban from international competition.

Football is immensely popular in Indonesia but the national team have failed to appear at a World Cup since 1938.

PSSI Vice President Farid Rahman told Reuters said he had no idea the mess he and his colleagues were inheriting when they took over the PSSI in July .

“For eight years, or maybe 16 years, there was lots of mismanagement,” he said. “The last eight years during the (former chairman) Nurdin Halid era, but even before then it was not in a good condition.

“To have a better football environment in the future we have to start from zero. It is not easy, we have to struggle, we have to start with the youth team development. With clean and honest fair competitions with a strong management of the PSSI and finance ability to support these activities.

“We still need the government funding. It will be a big problem for Indonesian football (without it).”

No way Jose

While his former players, John Terry and Didier Drogba have enthused about the prospect of Jose Mourinho returning to Chelsea, the man himself insists he will be staying at Real Madrid.

“I am going to sign a new contract with Real Madrid,” Mourinho was quoted as saying in the Daily Mail. “I would like to have a place in the club’s history. Real Madrid and I share a project and we are going to carry on with it.

“Being part of this team is a fantastic and unforgettable experience for a manager like me. Madrid is one of the biggest clubs in the world and I feel happy here. I feel they trust me here and I feel I have the complete support of all the directors and fans.”

Neymar told to move to Europe

Brazil coach Mano Menezes has angered Santos after he told the club’s star player, Neymar, that he needs to move to Europe to fully develop his game.

Neymar, who has been linked with moves to several of Europe’s bigger clubs, recently signed a new contract with the Libertadores Cup holders that will keep him in Brazil until 2014.

However, Menezes believes a move abroad would be in the player’s best interests.

“In relation to his environment, to feeling at home, it’s good that he is staying,” Menezes told O Globo. “But for a complete development, to gain more respect, it’s important that he goes to Europe.

“Being there, he won’t be as exposed. Staying in Brazil demands contracts that take a lot of his time. We see that he is exposed. You need to execute three things in order to be well: train, eat and rest.”

Santos, understandably, were unhappy with the remarks and responded by asking whether Menezes might have benefited from a spell in Europe.

“A comment like that, coming from the coach of the Brazilian national team, is regrettable,” Santos vice-president Odilio Rodrigues Filho told local media. “It’s the same thing to say that someone needs to coach a European club before coaching the national team, which is not true.”

Goal of the day

Adelaide United scored a wonderful team goal against Brisbane Roar.

Miss of the day

There have been a few of these this season, but Shakhtar Donetsk’s Brazilian striker, Luiz Adriano, will take some beating in the annual miss of the season competition.

I predict a riot

Dozens of people were injured as fans clashed with police after a game between relegation threatened Chacarita and Atlanta in Argentina’s second-division.

The game finished 1-1, which did little to help either team.

According to police sources, officials of Atlanta club were trapped in the stadium after being surrounded by Chacarita fans. The clashes spread to the streets outside until riot police established some control.

You can see the aftermath of the riot here.

Coach attacked

Majed Nasser, the Al Wasl and UAE national team goalkeeper, has been suspended indefinitely by his club after he was seen shoving Al Ahli coach, Quique Sanchez Flores, following last night’s Etisalat Cup semi-final

Nasser was ushered away by his manager, Diego Maradona, who found himself in the unaccustomed role of peacemaker.

Mr Popular

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez is in danger of alienating the one group of people that until now, has given him their full support. Liverpool fans, who pride themselves on their fidelity to players and managers – provided their name is not Roy Hodgson – will have their loyalty stretched to breaking point by the news that Suarez would like to play for Paris Saint-Germain.

Suarez, whose main contribution to Liverpool’s cause this season has been to embroil the club in an unwelcome, distracting racial storm of controversy, has nonetheless inspired great affection among Liverpool fans. There was a more bountiful time, not so long ago, when cult status was bestowed upon those performing great or noble deeds at Anfield, but with success no longer a given it would appear the bar has been lowered somewhat. These days, being found guilty of racially abusing a Manchester United player and then refusing to shake his hand when you next meet, can do the trick.

Anyway, Suarez’s red-tinged halo may now be slipping after it was reported that he told Canal Football Club on Canal Plus that he ‘could come’ to PSG.

Suarez is reported to have said: “I would love to play at the same club as him (Uruguayan team-mate Diego Lugano).

“Yes, I could come to Paris, like lots of other clubs. There are lots of big clubs with such a reputation who want to build a strong team and Paris are one of these teams who buy to strengthen their side.”

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