Cape of no hope

Cape Verde have seen their hopes of qualifying for a first football World Cup dashed after the FIFA punished the African country for fielding a suspended player.

FIFA ruled that Cape Verde’s Fernando Varela had only served three matches of a four-match ban handed out following a red card for unsporting conduct.

As a result, they have lost their place in the last round of African World Cup qualifiers

FIFA announced that last weekend’s game – a 2-0 win for Cape Verde – “has been declared to be forfeited and awarded 3-0 in favour of Tunisia, meaning that the Cape Verde Islands will not progress to round three of the African zone qualifiers having dropped to second place in Group B with nine points while Tunisia finish first with 14 points and will now advance”.

Tunisia will go into the September 16 draw for the final round of African World Cup qualifying along with the other nine group winners from round two.

The winners of five, two-legged ties will advance to the finals in Brazil.

Real deal

The latest twist in the increasingly tacky and occasionally surreal saga surrounding Mesut Ozil’s departure from Real Madrid, sees the Spanish club denying a claim by Mesut Ozil’s father that  Florentino Perez leaked negative stories about his son’s off-pitch behaviour.

A story in Spanish newspaper ABC last week claimed that Madrid president Perez had told senior Madrid members that Ozil had been allowed to leave as the club had become fed up with the player’s playboy lifestyle.

Mustapha Ozil reacted angrily to these claims, threatening to sue Madrid and Perez for tainting his son’s name. Real have now quickly moved to distance themselves from the original story.

The paper also claimed that Ozil senior, who represents his son, had leaked stories of interest from other clubs after Madrid turned down his demand for an €8.5 million salary.

He angrily denied all such suggestions in Bild on Thursday and claimed he would go to court to defend his and his son’s good names.

“Just because someone earns a lot of money does not make them automatically a man of honour,” Ozil senior said. “And [Florentino] Perez is no man of honour. Mesut is made the scapegoat now. And I am the greedy father, who only waits for the big money. A put-up job, a bad business. We will defend ourselves legally.

Madrid quickly reacted to this by issuing a statement denying that Perez had anything to do with the ABC story.

“It is thoroughly denied that president Florentino Perez or any other member of the football club has anything to do with the information about the player Ozil that was published in a Spanish newspaper,” the statement said.

“The Spanish newspaper, in which the information was published, denies any kind of connection of the aforementioned with the publishing of the story. A press release by the newspaper confirmed that no-one from the club made any contact with the paper nor made any statement regarding this issue. Real Madrid deeply regrets that those statements, which have nothing to do with the football club, evoked the dad’s reactions, which are at odds with the truth and are totally out of place. Real Madrid renews its thanks to Mesut Ozil and wishes him well for the future.”

The consensus in Madrid is that the stories were planted by the club in an attempt to deflect criticism from fans unhappy with the decision to sell  Ozil. It is a view shared by Ozil’s father.

“If Mesut leads such a dissipated life, as they always say, then I wonder: Why did he always play?,” he said. “They want to talk Mesut down, because the fans and some team-mates are angry about his sale.”

The ABC allegation specified that Ozil had become infatuated with a former Miss Venezuela, Aida Yespica. It was this fixation, the report claimed, that prompted Madrid to offload the distracted player.

Aida Yespica has now spoken out about her rumoured relationship with Özil, and discredited the story completely.

“I know Özil,” she said. “Two years ago we ran into each other at a nightclub in Madrid, but I have nothing to do with his departure from Real. We never had sex.

“What’s true is that we exchanged phone numbers. Then one night he calls me and tells me: ‘I’m in Milan, I’ll see you?’ So I went to meet him and we went to dinner at one of the most famous clubs of the city, without hiding from the paparazzi.’

“We had a fun night together, but then we went our separate ways. Today I know that he is happily engaged, am so am I.

“Ozil and I just had a beautiful friendship, we never even flirted. He is both younger and smaller than me!”

Which may not be how Ozil would like to have heard, but will come as a relief to his fiancee.

Match fixing latest

Czech and Slovak police have charged at least 19 people suspected of match-fixing and illegal betting in Czech and Slovak leagues and summoned more than 20 others for questioning.

Slovak news agency SITA said the Slovak part of the probe included three players for the first division side Dunajska Streda. All the betting activity was done in Asia, it said.

“The head of the organised group was a person from Asia who, using intermediaries, solicited players in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. He offered players bribes of 2,000 to 60,000 euros ($79,800) per match,” it quoted police president Tibor Gaspar as saying.

“It included 19 matches in the Czech Republic and Slovakia including top league matches this season.”

The raids were prompted by investigations carried out by the Czech Football Association Czech police said in a statement they raided 15 homes and other premises in the probe, which the Czech FA said was triggered by the association’s findings.

“The association had received serious findings 11 months ago that not all is in order in lower leagues in terms of betting,” the FA said in a statement.

The price is right

Average ticket prices across English football’s top four divisions have fallen by up to 2.4%, the BBC Sport Price of Football study has found.

Last year’s study showed the average price of the cheapest ticket in English football had gone up by 11% – four times the rate of inflation. But this year, average prices for the cheapest and most expensive matchday and season tickets were down – as clubs in the Football League face up to an average 5% drop in attendances, from 9,949 in 2011-12 to 9,481 in 2012-13.

“It is good news for fans but it does come after a long period of incremental rises year on year,” Sports Minister Hugh Robertson told the BBC.

“The key thing is that it is replicated in years to come. I think clubs are beginning to understand what fans are going through and to adjust their prices accordingly.”

The most expensive ticket in English football remains at Arsenal, where fans pay up to £126 for the privilege of moaning about their lot and also of Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to take advantage of their largesse in the transfer market. The term ‘gluttons for punishment’ springs to mind.

Despite the adverse economic climate, the Premier League continues to defy gloomy predictions about its wellbeing. Average attendance in 2012-13 were 35,975 – up from 34,646 the season before. In addition, there were record season-ticket sales of 476,776.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, somehow managed to maintain a straight face, when he said these figures were helped by the “fact that so many clubs are working so hard to ensure that Premier League football remains as accessible and affordable to as many people as possible.”

Days numbered?

Former Anzhi Makhachkala assistant Roberto Carlos has predicted the demise of the club will fold in two years.

Carlos left the Russian side in June to take over at Turkish side Sivasspor after reportedly being told he would not be able to replace Hiddink, who left his post as coach in July.

Rene Meulensteen was appointed as Hiddink’s successor, but was sacked after 16 days after Anzhi announced plans to cut its budget significantly.

Those cost-cutting measures have seen high-earners Samuel Eto’o and Willian both leave to join Premier League side Chelsea, while Yuri Zhirkov, Igor Denisov and Aleksandr Korokin all moved to Dynamo Moscow.

“If Hiddink and I are gone, the entire command structure will collapse,” Carlos told Sport Express.

“But I didn’t think it would happen so soon. If I had stayed in at Anzhi, this would not happen. The team simply does not have enough experience.

“Makhachkala will look ridiculous in the Europa League, unless they hire a good coach and a good sports director.

“At this pace the club will collapse in the next two years.”

The Brazilian also had harsh words for the departed Eto’o, claiming the Chelsea striker was corrosive influence on the dressing room.

“He did everything at Anzhi, except play football,” Roberto Carlos told Globo. 

“I came to the club and in my first year we finished in the top five. We managed to professionalize the team. In the second year, we signed Eto’o and I had control of the team – I organised the players and worked with the coach. I put Anzhi among the best.

“With the arrival of Eto’o, with the values of everyone involved, I had some little problems in the dressing room and had to talk to the Russian players and explain why Eto’o was there.

“However, a moment arrived when Eto’o thought to interfere with my work, to control the club, taking my position and that of Guus [Hiddink, the coach]. We talked about one thing, and then he went to the players and talked about another. That stressed me out and I warned that I would pack my bags and go.”

Goal of the day

Cordoba’s Carlos Caballero strides through the Deportivo defence before unleashing an unstoppable shot from the edge of the area.

Quote of the day

“No, it was not a mistake (to award to Qatar) because by the rotation it was time to go to the Arabic world. And now here we are in the Arab world. It is not a very big country, but it is a very important one. So the decision was absolutely in the context of the politics of FIFA and especially in the context of the politics of this president.”

After suggesting earlier in the week that it might have been a mistake to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, FIFA president Sepp Blatter quickly backtracks.

More than a club

Ecuador’s Barcelona Sporting Club have submitted an objection to FC Barcelona’s petition to trademark the name of ‘Barcelona’ in the South American country.

A reasonable objection given that they have carried the Barcelona name for the best part of a century.

Guayaquil-based Barcelona Sporting Club confirmed via an official club statement that the 14-time Ecuadorian champions are doing what it takes to protect their own brand .

“Regarding the brand “BARCELONA” in Ecuador, the only and legitimate owner in Ecuadorian territory is the Barcelona Sporting Club, and that is specified in the register of Ecuadorian Institute of Intellectual Property (IEPI),” it read.

“It’s a public fact that in Ecuador the name “BARCELONA” identifies Barcelona Sporting Club. Futbol Club Barcelona has requested the register of the brand “BARCELONA” in Ecuador.

“Our response in the face of this is that we have presented our supported opposition to the IEPI through specialist lawyers in Intellectual Property.

“It’s important to say that there aren’t any complaints between the two institutions and that the chance of an arrangement of legal coexistence of the brand in the country is being analysed.

“Meanwhile, we’ll continue defending institution’s interests and obviously their intellectual property assets.”

Barcelona Sporting Club were founded in 1925 by a group of friends – including members of the Spanish community – in Guayaquil and named in tribute to Spain’s FC Barcelona, adopting a club crest identical to that of the Catalan giants.

Given the latest developments, they may be tempted to distance themselves from their illustrious namesakes.

Finally…

Italy striker Mario Balotelli has come in for criticism from the Italian media for missing a meeting with the country’s minister for integration, Cecile Kyenge.

Balotelli allegedly overslept as Kyenge met national team coach Cesare Prandelli, football federation (FIGC) president Giancarlo Abete, and six players.

Angelo Ogbonna, who was born in Italy to Nigerian parents, and Stephan El Shaarawy, whose father is Egyptian, were two of the players who attended the meeting and gave their Azzurri shirts to the minister.

Italian media called the Milan striker’s behaviour “an own goal” and “a gaffe,” while FIGC said that the meeting was informal and recalled that Balotelli met Kyenge before an international game in May and donated her his jersey.

Balotelli was said to have apologized to Kyenge later in the day via a telephone message.

The striker, who has been targeted by racist chants during games, expressed his commitment against racism when he said in an interview with Sports Illustrated in August that “you can’t stop racism if people don’t want to. But I’ll do everything I can to help.”

It’s a shame that Balotelli could not rouse himself from his slumber. If the most visible victim of racism in the country, is deemed not to be taking the issue seriously, then, some might argue, why should anyone else.

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