Turkey votes for Euros

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed his country would like to stage the 2020 European Championships.

In a speech to delegates at the opening of the UEFA Congress in Istanbul, Erdogan said: “I would like to repeat the request to host the European Championship in Istanbul in 2020.”

Turkey should be in with a good chance of hosting the finals; they have never done so before and they lost out to France by just one vote in the bid to host the 2016 finals.

One potential thorn in Turkey’s side is the ongoing match fixing saga that has beset the country over the past 12 months. Erdogan acknowledged that Turkish football had much work to do to convince the rest of Europe that it was fit to host the European showpiece.

Erdogan said: “The entire football industry – advertising, finance, sports officials – must defend the integrity of the game. Football is an art and it is imperative to preserve and defend it to protect its legacy of peaceful coe-existence for future generations. The priority should always be fair play and we must take the most powerful and determined measures to outlaw violence and trickery.”

Scourge of match fixing

The issue of match fixing was a prominent theme in FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s address to the UEFA Congress.

Blatter said an ‘early warning system’ which monitors suspicious betting patterns was paying off but worryingly, despite the precautions being taken, the problem continued to grow.

“Are we responsible for all the evils in our world? No. But we must see to it that we stay alert,” said Blatter. “There is something that is new and concerns the region where we are and that is illegal betting and this leads to match rigging.”

Erdogan also spoke of match-fixing but said individuals and not clubs should be punished.

“We must punish the individuals involved, the criminals, and not perhaps entire clubs or communities,” he said. “If a legal entity is punished for the crime of an individual, millions of people would be punished.”

It should be noted that Erdogan is a fan of Fenerbahce, one of the clubs at the heart of the match fixing storm, and undoubtedly the one with the most to lose.

Night light robbery

Sergio Ramos has now played 300 games for Real Madrid. Unfortunately, he has also been sent off 11 times as a Real Madrid player – a club record. To get sent off once, can be seen as an accident, twice a coincidence… by the time we’re up to 11 though, it’s safe to conclude that we’re talking about an idiot.

Ramos was one of two players sent off (Mesut Ozil being the other) in Madrid’s tempestuous 1-1 draw with Villareal. Also, shown red cards were coach Jose Mourinho and his assistant, Rui Faria – the latter for the 4th time this season, which must be some kind of record.

After the match was over, Real defender Pepe verbally abused the referee Paradas Romero. Reports claim he confronted the official and shouted: ”What a robbery, you son of a bitch!”

Romero said in his report after the match: ”When the match was over and we were in the tunnel, the number three of Real Madrid (Pepe) chased after me shouting ‘what a rip-off! M*********er! He had been booked in the 44th minute for simulation.”

To be fair to Pepe, the decision to award him a yellow card for diving after he emerged from a challenge with a cut lip, looked ridiculous.

After the match, Mourinho, along with his staff and players, refused to speak to the media, but Cristiano Ronaldo, who opened the scoring with a wonderful goal, was heard shouting “It’s a robbery, just a robbery” as he left the pitch.

Pele warns Neymar

Pelé has accused Mano Menezes of holding a grudge against Santos, following the Brazil coach’s recommendations that the club’s star forward, Neymar, should move to Europe in order to further his career.

Neymar, 20, pledged his future to Santos until June 2014, despite reported interest from a number of European clubs including Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea.

”I think that Mano does not like Santos,” the Brazil legend told Marca Brasil. ”I am totally against the sale of Neymar.

“I played my whole life here and Neymar has a chance to continue playing for Santos; to continue winning and doing the work he has been doing with the national team.

”He will still be Neymar, the best in the world.”

”He [Neymar] almost went to England. I also went and got to speak with him and turn him against it, because he can’t play in England or Germany.

”If you go abroad, you have to go where football is more technical, like in Spain and France, but I do not want him to leave.”

Goal of the day

Sebastian Coates first ever goal for Liverpool was one to remember.

Clubs 1 Countries 0

Sepp Blatter promised that FIFA will pay to insure players on international duty, in a move expected to satisfy Europe’s top clubs.

“This is an insurance coverage for the players, for the clubs and the (national) associations” for all matches on FIFA’s international calendar,” Blatter told the UEFA Congress. “You have to take into account the best interests of the players.”

FIFA follows the lead of UEFA, which said in January it would pay for insurance at Euro 2012, after strong lobbying by the European Club Association (ECA).

Although FIFA renumerated clubs for players used at the 2010 World Cup, the clubs complained that the amount paid out did not compensate for players who suffered injury during the tournament. The case of Arjen Robben was cited. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, chairman of Robben’s club, Bayern Munich and the ECA, complained at the time that the Dutch forward “came back in worse condition and now we have to pay the bill.”

Rummenigge said Bayern received a paltry €58500 - less than one week’s pay – for Robben’s time spent in South Africa.

Civil rights leader criticises Russia

Reverend Jesse Jackson believes Russia will be unable to ignore racial abuse in stadiums as it prepares to host the 2018 World Cup.

The civil rights leader said that “racism in the field of soccer can’t be ignored because it is so visible.”

“These global events put the spotlight on how racism is viewed,” Jackson said.

Jackson referred to Russia’s issues during his speech at a United Nations event marking International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

He discussed an incident at a match on Sunday during which a banana was thrown at Anzhi Makhachkala’s Congolese defender Christopher Samba.

“Clearly, the visibility of these incidents puts Russia on the defensive and challenges the need to invoke a deterrent against these languages and these actions,” Jackson said.

Quote of the day

“If we have to differ between them, you can say that Maradona was more artistic and had a unique, beautiful style of play. Messi on the other hand is more efficient and more consistent. He’s dangerous every time he gets the ball.

 If he continues to perform at this level, he will exceed everyone, including Pele.”

Jorge Valdano, a former team-mate of Diego Maradona, offers an insider’s perspective on who might be the best player of all time.

The full Messi

Some enterprising person has compiled a video of each one of the 234 goals Lionel Messi has scored for Barcelona. The sheer variety of finishes is what really impresses.

Finally…

Just days after Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba collapsed during an FA Cup match against Tottenham after suffering from cardiac arrest, an Indian player has died after collapsing on the field.

D. Venkatesh, 27, a midfielder for A division club Bangalore Mars collapsed toward the end of the game.

Alas, unlike the incident involving Muamba, there was no ambulance available and Venkatesh was taken to the Hosmat Hospital on Wednesday in a three-wheel auto-rickshaw.

The Times of India newspaper quoted Dr. Ajith Benedict Royan of Hosmat Hospital as saying there were no external injuries and attributing the cause to “Sudden Death Syndrome.”

“Maybe if he had been given oxygen or proper medical care at the time of the incident, he could have stood a chance,” the newspaper quoted Royan as saying.

The All India Football Federation issued a statement.

“The AIFF prays for his departed soul,” the statement said. “May he rest in peace.”