Chelsea bun

Metropolitan Police have confirmed that they have dropped their investigation into complaints over alleged racist comments made by referee Mark Clattenburg.

The official was investigated after Chelsea duo John Obi Mikel and Juan Mata both raised complaints following the Blues 3-2 Premier League defeat to Manchester United last month. However, after the initial complaint, neither player nor Chelsea have provided any evidence of the incident and in the absence of any evidence, the police felt compelled to drop their investigation.

The news has not stopped Peter Herbert, Chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers, climbed upon his high horse again.

Herbert is clearly someone who having spent some time in the limelight is now reluctant to leave it, believes that Chelsea should have submitted a complaint to the police.

He told Sky Sports: “What seems to have happened is that although Chelsea made a report to the FA they’ve decided, in their infinite wisdom, not to submit the same papers to police.

“It appears on the face of it to be another example of the football industry seeking to sweep racism under the carpet. If there is anything we can do to put pressure on the victims concerned to go forward to the police with this matter, then we’ll do that.

“It highlights the fact that football cannot regulate itself and really, on this issue of race, always wants to take the path of least resistance. Given the publicity this engendered it’s fair for all concerned, including the person who’s alleged to have made the comment, that justice is seen to be done and it’s not dealt with by the FA internally.”

All of which may be true, but in this particular instance, does tend to overlook the fact the police themselves stated that ”without a victim and/or any evidence that any offence has been committed,” an investigation is pointless.

One could say the same about many of Herbert’s interventions in the past few weeks.

Married to the mob

Paris Saint-Germain striker Ezequiel Lavezzi has admitted that he used to socialize with members of the mafia whilst he was at Napoli.

In so doing, he follows a noble Argentinian tradition created by Diego Maradona, whose vast consumption of cocaine during his Napoli years will have feathered the nest of many a local mafioso.

The 27-year-old was testifying at the trial of Antonio Lo Russo, whose father Salvatore was the chief of the mafia group the Clan Lo Rosso, and he revealed that he used to play video games with the accused.

“I knew him as one of the Napoli fans and sometimes he even came to my house,” he told the court when questioned by the prosecutor Sergio Amato.

“I did not find anything strange because in Argentina it is common for players to deal with the fans.

“We even played the Playstation together, and if I remember, I saw him in the stadium.”

The Argentina international was also questioned regarding his relationship with another member of the group, Marco Iorio, but claimed to have used the gangster to look after his valuables.

“When I had to play in another city, for safety, I let him have some valuables like watches,” Lavezzi said.

It makes a change form the safety deposit box I suppose.

Do foreigners dive more

It’s a question that gets asked a lot within English football circles and after a glut of statistical research that would make Nate Silver blush, it looks like we are now closer to finding out the definitive answer to the eternal question: do foreign players dive more.

Last month, Stoke City striker Michael Owen claimed that diving in the Premier League is “worse than ten years ago with the influence of players coming from South America, Spain and Italy.” Of course, has Owen spent more time on the pitch, he would surely have evened things up a bit.

Using OPTA statistics which record, among myriad of other meaningless pieces of data, the frequency with which each Premier League player is fouled, the Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective has concluded that players from South America, Italy or Spain do indeed get fouled more often than their British counterparts and as such can be deemed to dive more frequently.

A player from South America, Italy or Spain will on average receive 28 percent more fouls than will players of other nationalities. A team with an extra three players from South America, Italy or Spain would receive an extra foul, on average, per game.

Obviously, there is much more to it than simply totting up the fouls, with weighting factors such as the number of touches a player has during a match, the position he plays, the number of tackles he wins and loses, and so on. The methodolody is explained here and if you really do wish to delve deeper then within that piece you’ll find a link to even more detailed analysis of how the conclusions were reached.

Lies, damn lies and statistics

Sticking with the statistical theme and a striking example of why cold, hard figures on a piece of paper do not always give an accurate picture of what is really happening.

Earlier in the year, Patrick Viera helped launch the Western Union Pass Initiative – where every successful pass in the Europa League is translated into funding to support one day’s education for a young person somewhere in the world.

According to the data, and to the amazement of anyone who has watched a football match in the past decade, English players are completing more passes (on average) than any other nation. Behind them come not Spanish, or Italian players, but those form Romania and Austria.

If that seems somewhat surprising, wait ’til you hear who has completed the most passes in this season’s competition. It is out-of-favour Liverpool midfielder  Jordan Henderson.

Facebook friends

Portuguese football magazine Futebol Finance has published its latest report into the popularity of football clubs.

Using the number of Facebook followers of each club, the survey has produced a list of the 100 most popular football clubs.

Real Madrid and Barcelona are out in front of third place Manchester United, which either proves that the Spanish duo are more adept when it comes to utilising social media, or United’s claim to be the biggest in the world rests on shaky foundations.

Top ten most popular clubs on Facebook:

1. Barcelona (Spain) with 36,619,000 “likes”

2. Real Madrid (Spain) with 32,858,000 “likes”

3. Manchester United (England) with 28,533,000 “likes”

4. Chelsea (England) with 13,762,000 “likes”

5. Milan (Italy) with 12,206,000 “likes”

6. Arsenal (England) with 11,778,000 “likes”

7. Liverpool (England) with 10,529,000 “likes”

8. Galatasaray (Turkey) with 7.581 million “likes”

9. Fenerbahçe (Turkey) with 6.099 million “likes”

10. Bayern Munich (Germany) with 5.279 million “likes”

The top 100 can be found by clicking here.

Quote of the day

“When Mourinho told me that he was leaving, I said to him: ‘Damn you for leaving me with Benitez.’I did not get on well with Benitez. He made me remove pictures of the most important moments of my career with Mourinho and [Marcello] Lippi from my locker. He thought he knew everything, but he was afraid of his own shadow.”

Marco Materazzi on his relationship with former Inter boss Rafa Benitez.

100 Club

While Steven Gerrard prepares to become just the 6th English player to win 100 caps, along comes Zlatan Ibrahimovic to play the role of party pooper.

Ibrahimovic was speaking ahead of Sweden’s friendly international with England, a match that will see the Liverpool skipper make his 100th international appearance.

“He is respected throughout Europe but I would like to see Steven in, of course Liverpool is a big club, but in a big international club,” said Ibrahimovic. “I would like to see that also for England because it is very exciting when someone goes abroad and shows who he is in another competition.

“For me a fantastic player can make a difference in every country, wherever he plays, and I’m pretty sure that Steven would do that also. Of course, he is playing in one of the best leagues in the world now but he’s a fantastic player.”

Asked what he considers a “typical English player” to be, the PSG forward added: “Someone with a big heart, always fighting, aggressive, who never gives up. For me Steven Gerrard has more international skills than a normal English player.”

I think that’s what they mean when they say ‘damning with faint praise’.

The hand that rocked the cradle

Older readers will recall with affection the trademark celebration employed by Brazilian striker Bebeto after he had put Brazil 2-0 up against Holland at the 1994 World Cup.

The choreographed cradle-rocking routine with teammates Romario and Mazinho in honour of his new-born son Mattheus was an instant hit and has since been reproduced by countless players to mark the birth of their children.

Eighteen years, later that baby, now with Flamengo, is a step closer to emulating the achievements of his father after receiving his first Brazil Under-20 call-up.

Mattheus said at the time of his club debut: “I talk to my father all the time, because he had a great career and is an ideal example for me to follow.

“He has helped give me peace of mind by telling me not worry about expectations and just to concentrate on doing my best.”

Hearts resuscitated

Scottish Premier League side Hibernian have sacked their stadium announcer and DJ after he mocked the club’s financially-stricken rivals Hearts during a match at the weekend.

Towards the end of the half-time interval at Hibs’ 2-1 win over Dundee United on Sunday, the stadium announcer, Willie Docherty, played The Beatles’ track ‘Taxman’.

Hibs have come in for criticism from their own fans for sacking the announcer, prompting the club to release a statement explaining their decision.

It read: “The action has been taken because the individual chose to wilfully disregard specific instructions given in the pre-match briefing which itself was consistent with guidance given during the week in the run-up to the match, which was broadcast live on television.

“Before our recent home match against Dundee United discussions took place and specific instructions were given. The individual concerned has admitted that he deliberately breached the terms of the instructions.

“The club was left with no option but to take the course of action it did. This is not an issue about having or not having a sense of humour.”

Well, it is, but perhaps it will be Hearts who have the last laugh after it was confirmed that the consortium aiming to take over the club and hand it to the fans are credible bidders.

Paul Goodwin, head of the Scottish Government-backed Supporters Direct, said of the Foundation of Hearts group: “They’ve been working very, very hard behind the scenes for the last two years developing a model looking as all the various options for a community-based club.

“I’m really encouraged by the progress they have made, looking for a programme that has Hearts fans at the front of a campaign to put the club in their hands.

“There are no white knights out there and everybody knows that, so all the aces are held by the Hearts fans.

“It is their club, they want to move it to a new position and I think [Vladimir Romanov] has wanted out for a few years. Here’s the opportunity to develop something.

“This is a credible group. They want to have the fans involved completely in the campaign and the people have done a lot of groundwork.”

Hands on coaching

Here’s footage of a bizarre incident  from an Italian amateur match between Corpolò and Rivazzurra. The Corpolò winger dispossesses and heads off down the flank where, from nowhere, the Rivazzurra manager for some reason decides to stick his leg out and trip the opposition player.

The players are incensed and the coach is sent to the stands – or in this case, the gateway to what looks like a vineyard or possibly an olive grove.


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