Racism rears its ugly head

FIFA President Sepp Blatter says he was “appalled” by racist jeering directed at Milan’s Mario Balotelli during their Serie A match against Roma.

The game was stopped early in the second half at the San Siro on Sunday because of chanting by visiting Roma fans aimed at Balotelli. Roma captain Francesco Totti, who had complained to the referee about the chants, then went to speak to the fans. Warnings were broadcast over the public address system and the game resumed shortly afterwards.

“Appalled to read about racist abuse in Serie A last night,” Blatter said on Twitter. “Tackling this issue is complex, but we’re committed to action, not just words.”

Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri was concerned at the impact the abuse would have on Balotelli.

“Stopping the game doesn’t work, it’s a happy medium and like all happy mediums, it doesn’t do anybody any good,” he said.

“Balotelli was defeated this evening, he gave everything, but he is 22 and subjected more and more to racist chants and that doesn’t do him any good.”

One hopes that Balotelli can find the inner strength to deal with the abuse, but more importantly, that the Italian authorities start dealing with the idiots responsible.

Staying put?

Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini has denied he has spoken with Premier League club Manchester City over the possibility of replacing Roberto Mancini whose future as the club’s manager is under threat after Saturday’s FA Cup final defeat.

If true, that makes Pellegrini the second person who believes Mancini has a future at City – the other, being Mancini himself.

“It’s rubbish, this speculation,” Mancini said after the Cup final defeat. “I know football and anything can happen. In one or two weeks you will know if it’s true or not. If it’s not true then a lot of stupid things have been written. If it’s true then I’m stupid.”

To be honest, a coffin with Mancini’s name engraved upon had been constructed before Saturday’s final, but defeat to the relegation-threatened Wigan looks like being the final nail. Media reports in Britain suggest City will sack Mancini, who has been in charge since 2009 and who won the Premier League title last season.

City have fuelled the speculation about Mancini’s future by remaining silent over the rumours, but Pellegrini has moved to distance himself from reports suggesting he was on the verge of replacing the Italian.

“I categorically deny that I am the new Manchester City coach, nothing has been signed and no agreement reached,” he said on Malaga’s website following their 0-0 draw with Sevilla.

“I’ve been fortunate enough, and very proud, that every year the big clubs are interested in me.

“I have an agreement with Malaga not to talk to anyone and nothing has been agreed with any other outfit.

“I hope the future of this club will become somewhat clearer in the next few days.”

Sion of the times

While Mancini clings on to his job, fellow Italian Gennaro Gattuso has been sacked by Swiss side FC Sion following a 5-0 defeat at St Gallen.

Gattuso, who joined the club as a player at the start of the season, had taken on the role of player-coach in February but managed only 10 points from 11 league games and suffered a cup elimination at the hands of FC Basel.

His dismissal can’t have come as too much of a surprise, though, given that he was the 5th coach appointed by the club this season. Sebastien Fournier started the campaign in charge and was replaced by Michel Decastel in September. He was followed by Pierre-Andre Schuerman, Spaniard Victor Munoz and then Gattuso.

Sion said in a statement that he would be replaced by under-21 coach Decastel, who will take over the senior side for the second time this season.

In addition, eight players were also demoted to the reserve squad and replaced by eight from the under-21 side.

Club president Christian Constantin has employed around 30 coaches since taking over for a second stint in 2002. An architect and former goalkeeper, Constantin has appointed himself as coach on two occasions.

Last year, he led the club into a legal battle with UEFA after Sion were kicked out of the Europa League for fielding ineligible players.

Sion lost the battle, were docked 36 points in the league but escaped relegation because another club, Neuchatel Xamax, were expelled due to financial irregularities.

Football! Bloody hell!

On the weekend that Sir Alex Ferguson bade farewell to Old Trafford, there were echoes of the Football! Bloody! Hell!‘ phrase he famously uttered after Manchester United’s remarkable last gasp Champions League triumph in 1999.

In Portugal there was high drama as unbeaten duo Porto and Benfica clashed at the Estádio do Dragão with the league title on the line. As the match entered injury time, with the scores level at 1-1, the home side, who needed the win, broke forward.

Witness the reaction of Benfica coach Jorge Jesus as the ball hits the back of the net. Jesus now has the difficult task of lifting his players for Wednesday’s Europa League final against Chelsea.

Meanwhile, in England, Watford and Leicester were playing for a place in the Championship play-off final with the victors heading to Wembley for what has become regarded as the most valuable match in club football.

Ninety seven minutes had elapsed when Leicester were awarded a penalty; up stepped Anthony Knockaert only for Watford goalkeeper Manuel Almunia to make a double save. The ball was hacked upfield and seconds later was lashed in from 15 yards by Troy Deeney to secure Watford a place in the play-off final.

Remarkably, something identical had occurred on the final day of the League One season in England when Brentford missed a penalty in the last minute of the game and saw promotion rivals Doncaster Rovers sprint up the other end to snatch the match at the death. Even more amazingly, the referee on that occasion was Michael Oliver, who was also in charge of the Watford-Leicester play-off game.

Goal of the day

On a weekend of dramatic late goals, Adam Duda scores in the last minute of injury time to secure a 4-4 draw for Lechia Gdansk against Ruch Chorzow.

Quote of the day

“People should go to the stadium to see two teams battling each other on the pitch, not this sort of thing, it’s a place for the uncivilised. Above all, the culture in Italy is backward – tonight we had racism, laser beams flashed in the eyes of players and an interrupted match.”

Milan’s coach Massimiliano Allegri condemned Italian football culture as backward, following the racist abuse meted out to Milan’s black players.

Zlat attack!

Paris Saint-Germain’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic did not take kindly to his title winning celebrations being interrupted by a request to undertake a routine drugs test – even when the request came from PSG sporting director Leonardo.

The party turned sour when sporting director Leonardo told Ibrahimovic he needed to submit a sample to testers.

With friends like this…

Another player whose title celebrations were rudely disturbed was Bayern Munich playmaker Franck Ribery, who was drenched in beer by team-mate  Jerome Boateng.

Ribery, a Muslim, had told players to keep the alcohol away from him as they celebrated on the pitch after the game. That, though, was like a red rag to Boateng.

The livid Frenchman was chased around the pitch before Jerome Boateng reached him and dunked a huge glass of beer over his head.

Ribery said: “I won’t talk to Boateng again, he knows that I’m Muslim. I’m p***** off.”

Cup boycott

CSKA Moscow fans have called for a boycott of next month’s Russian Cup final against Anzhi Makhachkala because it will be played in the Chechen capital Grozny.

The fans have been angry at the Russian FA’s (RFU) decision to stage the June 1 final in the volatile North Caucasus region.

“We’re calling on all our supporters to refrain of going to Grozny. Let others follow (RFU) orders and do what they are told, not us,” the CSKA fan club said in a statement posted on its official website (www.pfc-cska.net).

“Idiots in the RFU had made a decision to hold the Cup final in a city where local referees and security officials beat up players from visiting teams and the region’s head makes public insults and then boasts about it social media.”

“By boycotting the final we want to express our outrage by the stupid decision of the RFU, totally ignoring the fans’ opinion,” the statement said. “We’re still asking all our followers to boycott all the away games played in the Caucasus.”

Finally…

A Fenerbahce fan was stabbed to death by rival fans after the match between Fener and Galatasaray and died in hospital later on Sunday evening.

Burak Yildirim, 19, was on his way back home after the match – which ended in a 2-1 win for Fenerbahce – when he was attacked by a group of Galatasaray fans at a bus stop.

Yildirim was taken to the Bezmialem Vakif University Hospital immediately after the incident but died despite the efforts of medical staff.

Turkey’s state-run news agency, citing CCTV footage, said two people wearing Galatasaray clothes stabbed Yildirim in the heart at a bus stop.

Fenerbahce have published a statement on their official website to offer their condolences to the victim’s family and have condemned the incident.

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