World gone mad part one

Following on from the ridiculous story of Manchester City supporters being warned by police to take down banners questioning the price of an away ticket at their recent match at Arsenal, UEFA has gone one better by fining Ajax €10,000 after their crowd displayed banners complaining about the ruinous effect money has on football.

During their Champions League match at home to Manchester City in October, Ajax fans unveiled a banner with the words “Against Modern Football“, beneath a cartoon of a sheik holding a bag embossed with a dollar sign, the image presented as a stop sign with a red line through it.

Another slogan read “€80 for the away section is ridiculous”, and there were banners with offensive messages aimed at Manchester City, Chelsea, Red Bull Salzburg and Red Bull Leipzig – all clubs who have benefited from the largesse of monstrously rich owners.

UEFA claimed that the Dutch club was fined for “display of a provocative and inappropriate banner”.

The lunatics have finally taken over the asylum.

World gone mad part two

Southampton have sacked manager Nigel Adkins after two-and-a-half years of almost non-stop success, and appointed Mauricio Pochettino, a man who requires a translator to speak English, as their new manager.

Don’t ask me why. Presumably, they have identified Pochettino as the man to bring the club the long overdue Champions League success, their fans neither craved nor expected.

It’s a strange one, of that there’s little doubt. Adkins, 47, took the club from League One to the Premier League with successive promotions. After a difficult start to the current season, there has been an upsurge in form recently, culminating in Wednesday’s fightback from 2-0 down to earn a point at the home of European Champions Chelsea.

Pochettino has been named the club’s new  manager by executive chairman Nicola Cortese, another man who understands the business world but knows nothing about the world of football.

A statement from the club said: “Southampton Football Club has this morning appointed Mauricio Pochettino as first-team manager, having relieved Nigel Adkins of his managerial duties.

“Pochettino has earned a reputation as one of the most talented young coaches in European football thanks to an impressive spell in La Liga with Espanyol.

“The Argentine was widely linked with a future role at one of Spain’s top clubs, but having left Espanyol in November now joins Southampton to continue his top-flight managerial career.”

Let’s be clear about this, he was sacked by Espanyol following a 0–2 home defeat against Getafe that left the club in last place with just nine points from 13 matches.

The statement continued: ”The club would like to thank Nigel Adkins for his service over the past three seasons, and wish him well for the future.”

Adkins’ short term future will be assured; clubs will be beating a path to his door. As for Southampton…

Goal of the day

Colombia’s Juan Quintero’s fantastic strike against Argentina is worthy of a place in our Six of the Best free-kick takers.

Quote of the day

 ”For Cavani I have already been offered 55 million euros, and I said no. I need him, not the money. I am confident in his ability, he knows that here he is the No. 1 in the city, and I do not think in other places or at other teams, most of us can identify with that city, jersey and fans.” 

When it comes to Edinson Cavani, Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis values the player more than the money.

Out of Africa

Cameroon Football Federation president Mohammed Iya says Africa deserves more than its current five places at the World Cup.

Iya says half of the European teams that earn places are no better than many African teams. A bold claim but one not borne out by the facts.

Iya says Africa’s federations are “convinced we deserve more.” His statement was backed on Friday by Ghana Football Association president Kwesi Nyantakyi.

Africa has five berths in the 32-team World Cup, compared to 13 from Europe, up to five from Asia and up to five from South America.

Europe’s allocation appears to be the biggest problem for African federations, although FIFA has made no move to increase Africa’s places.

Nyantakyi said Ghana’s run to the quarter-finals of the last World Cup “enhanced the reputation of African teams.”

Those of a cynical bent may wonder whether Iya’s demand for greater African representation might be connected to the CAF presidential re-election campaign of his compatriot, Issa Hayatou.

Two more years

New York Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry has said he will play on for another two years before retiring.

Henry scored 15 goals and provided 12 assists in 27 MLS games last season, and was runner-up in the league’s Most Valuable Player award.

He told BeIn Sport: “I’m giving myself another two years. That’ll take me to 37 years-old. It’ll make my career 20 years long. I recently talked about it with Robert (Pires).

“It’s never easy to stop, but there comes a time when your body tells you to. The head wants to continue, but… it’s certainly not desire that I’ll be lacking. But, at a certain moment in time, you have to stop.”

New challenge

Frank Lampard is close to agreeing a deal with LA Galaxy that will see the Chelsea midfielder play in the MLS next season.

The 34-year-old follows the well-trodden path laid by fellow member of England’s Golden Generation (sic), David Beckham, although unlike his former team-mate, it does look Lampard still has plenty to offer on the pitch.

LA Galaxy have identified him as a long-term replacement for Beckham, who left in November. They are prepared to pay him the same salary as Beckham, which was around £4million a year.

LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena revealed Lampard is in his thoughts. He said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if over the next week or so, we’re going to have some kind of decision we’re going to make with a Designated Player.”

When asked specifically about Lampard, he said: “We wouldn’t rule that out. It’s always a possibility.”

Role model

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has revealed has set himself a target of emulating Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard

A day after being described as the “complete midfielder” by Arsene Wenger, the 21-year-old claims he is still learning from his England colleague.

“Steven is a great role model,” he told reporters, although Gerard’s halo has been known to slip if Phil Collins isn’t on permanent rotation in his local wine bar.

“He has been the heartbeat of Liverpool for years,” added Wilshere.

“He has also been the stand-out performer for England as well. He is a great role model for me. If I can get anywhere near as good as him and drive the team forward like he does, then I will be happy.”

As for Arsenal’s ambitions this season, Wilshere was refreshingly realistic.

“We want to win the FA Cup. We’ve won it in the past and it is the last trophy we won. So we know what it means to the fans.”

It means they no longer compete for the major trophies.

Downing tools

Democratic Republic of Congo players have been refusing to train for the African Nations Cup as they continue a strike over money while coach Claude Le Roy has reportedly threatened to quit on the eve of the finals in South Africa.

The departure of French coach was reported by UN-funded Radio Okapi on Friday but not confirmed by officials.

Officials did confirm, however, that players had boycotted training for a second day as squabbling over proposed bonus payments as the tournament went on.

Le Roy said on Thursday there had been a strike by his players after a series of organisational disagreements.

The squad, who are to play Ghana on Sunday in the first Group B match, arrived in Port Elizabeth earlier this week to a backdrop of rows over money.

They also refused to participate in the official photo accreditation process.

Hardly ideal preparations for a major tournament, but equally, hardly without precedent in Africa.

Finally…

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has hailed the decision to overturn the club’s two-point deduction on match-fixing charges as a victory for all of Italian football.

The club received the penalty as well as bans for Paolo Cannavaro and Gianluca Grava for their part in the scandal.

“I am undoubtedly very happy. This is not just a victory for Napoli, but for all of Italian football and for justice,” he told Sky Sport Italia. “I believed and continue to believe in justice. I thank the judges who listened to us and debated for many hours. At the end of the day, innocence makes justice great. It was a right and equal sentence.”

Previously banned pair Cannavaro and Grava are now available for team selection again following a month of watching from the sidelines.

The decision also sees Napoli move up to joint second in Serie A, only three points adrift of league leaders Juventus.

“In my mind we always did have that position with the points that we earned on the pitch,” De Laurentiis added. “The sporting justice system is making giant steps forward, but still needs to adapt to the times. I am happy for Grava, Cannavaro and all the fans, as nobody deserved this infamy.

“First of all, I am very happy for Paolo and Gianluca, who are two lads with exceptional values. They had a terrible Christmas and were the victims of huge injustice. Naturally, I am also happy with our position in the table.”

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