On the rise

Robert Lewandowski created a little bit of history for himself in the course of Borussia Dortmund’s resounding victory over Real Madrid.

The Polish striker scored all of Dortmund’s goals in the 4-1 win and in so doing, became the first player in the history of European football to score four goals in a match against Real Madrid.

Only three other players have ever scored four goals against Real Madrid, and none in European competition: Josep Samitier (1926), Eulogio Martínez (1957) and Diego Milito (2006). Lewandowski also joins an elite group of strikers who have scored four in one game in this competition in the quarter-finals or beyond. Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, Sandor Kocsis and Lionel Messi are the others.

However, having basked in the adulation of the adoring Dortmund public, Lewandowski, via his agent, dropped a bombshell with the announcement that this will be his last season at the club.

“We have reached an agreement with another club and intend to switch clubs this summer,” his agent, Maik Barthel, was quoted as saying by Sport Bild.

“All of Borussia Dortmund’s demands will be met.

“There is an interesting offer for Robert that meets Dortmund’s criteria and satisfies Robert’s demands. Dortmund have assured us that Robert will be allowed to leave under these circumstances. It’s now up to the clubs to sort it out.”

Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp tried to make light of the news, when he said: “I do not have the feeling that Robert is on the run and we are not the ones to send him away.

“Let’s wait and see what happens next.”

Dortmund’s general manager, Hans-Joachim Watzke, said he was determined to keep Lewandowski for another year, despite the risk of him then leaving on a free transfer when his contract expires in June 2014.

“Our wish is explicit that he stays here. We will even do without receiving a transfer fee for him – that doesn’t interest us in the slightest,” he told Sky Germany. “Robert’s contract runs until 2014 and, unlike Mario Götze, there is no get-out clause.”

Of course, what pains Dortmund is not just that the striker might leave, but that the club he is reported to have agreed to join is Bayern Munich, the side who have they will most likely contest next month’s Champions League final with.

Crime and punishment

The knives are out for the Football Association after they issued Luis Suarez with a ten-match ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic.

First out of the blocks was Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina, who implied that the severe punishment was due to Suarez being Uruguayan.

“I consider myself a friend of Luis. People in England are treating him different because he is Uruguayan or because he has had a previous episode like this,” Reina told Spanish radio station Cadena Cope. “He knows he is wrong, but a 10-game ban seems to me absurd, out of proportion and excessive. It seems that the people making the decisions have got it in for Luis a little bit.

“I know Luis and I know that he is the complete opposite [off the pitch]. He is a magnificent person and great teammate.

“But because of the way he plays, he is aggressive and very competitive, he plays like a street player and sometimes the way he is gets him into trouble. Sometimes his strong temper does not help him.”

Nor does his tendency to bite opponents.

The 10-match ban was also greeted with dismay by manager Brendan Rodgers, who railed against the injustice of the punishment.

Rodgers told LFC TV: “The punishment is against the man, rather than the incident.

“We have a punishment with no intention of helping [his] rehabilitation.”

Let’s clear one thing up straight away: it is not the FA’s job to rehabilitate Luis Suarez; that role falls to Liverpool and sadly, on the evidence of the past two years, they have failed badly.

“We are shocked and bitterly disappointed,” said Rodgers. “It is the severity of the ban which has hurt most. That is something we are bitterly disappointed with.

“I can only compare [it] with similar incidents we have had. We have had two incidents of this type of scenario, both in 2006.

“One player received no ban and continued to be chosen by the FA as part of the England squad. The second player received a five-game ban. As you can imagine whenever Luis Suarez receives a 10-match ban it is very very difficult for us to understand and even more so for him.

“If I had more players of a similar mentality we would be in a different position. He has not let me down one bit.”

No, but he let you down one bite.

Liverpool, as their supporters never cease to remind us, are a big club, but what we have learned from their conduct over the past few days is that they are not as big as Luis Suarez.

Boos from Brazil

Brazil international Neymar says he is growing bored of supporters booing his performances in the wake of the 2-2 friendly draw against Chile on Wednesday.

The Santos player was booed throughout by fans, despite scoring once and creating Brazil’s other goal, but he has made it clear that he is now getting used to the abuse.

“Obviously no one likes to be jeered and booed. I don’t care about it any more, though. I get booed each game with the national team. It’s getting boring,” Neymar told Reuters.

“We always give our utmost for the team. All our opponents try do something extra when they meet Brazil. It’s up to us do even better.

“We have to get used to being jeered. That’s football. One day you’re booed and the next day people praise you. That’s the way it is.”

Storming out

After the 2-2 draw with Chile, Luiz Felipe Scolari stormed out of the post-match press conference after he was asked if he would step down as Brazil boss if his troops failed to win this summer’s Confederations Cup.

The press conference was drawing to a close, but Scolari walked out after being asked if his future hinged on a successful defense of Brazil’s Confederations Cup crown.

“No comment; this is a joke,” he said curtly before storming out.

Before his exit, Scolari had spoken optimistically about his side’s chances.

“They can expect a better trained and better prepared side,” Scolari said. “At the Confederations Cup, we will have two friendlies beforehand and the benefit of 10-15 days of training.

“For this game, we did not have the time required for the integration of the players who were chosen.”

Scolari led Brazil to World Cup glory in Japan and South Korea in 2002 but is yet to savour victory in his return to the position having been re-appointed for a second stint at the end of 2012.

Goal of the day

Eduardo Vargas lets fly from long range to earn Chile a draw against Brazil.

Quote of the day

“He has a game plan and it works. We’re all behind his game plan. Whatever he says is God’s word and we believe in him and he believes in us. That’s how this team was formed and that’s how this team has become successful.”

Borussia Dortmund defender Neven Subotic sheds light on the motivational powers of coach Jurgen Klopp.

Cat out of the bag?

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke has said that in an ideal world, his organisation would prefer to work with autocratic governments than those democratically elected.

Valcke said one of the reasons FIFA had encountered problems in organising the 2014 World Cup was due to those pesky Brazilians and their reluctance to trample over the country’s laws for the sake of a four-week football tournament.

Understandably, he expects fewer problems for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and no doubt by the time Qatar comes around in 2022, everything will go swimmingly.

“I will say something which is crazy, but less democracy is sometimes better for organising a World Cup,” he said.

Valcke was speaking at the start of a four-day conference “The Relevance and Impact of FIFA World Cups” debating the World Cup as an event.

Valcke told delegates: “When you have a very strong head of state who can decide, as maybe [President Vladimir] Putin can do in 2018… that is easier for us organisers than a country such as Germany, where you have to negotiate at different levels.

“The main fight we have [is] when we enter a country where the political structure is divided, as it is in Brazil, into three levels – the federal level, the state level and the city level.

“[There are] different people, different movements, different interests and it’s quite difficult to organise a World Cup in such conditions.”

The irony is that the same conference has been told that the World Cup was twice won with the help of dictators fixing matches for the host country.

Argentina’s triumph in 1978 and Italy’s in 1934 were said to be influenced by military leaders seeking propaganda coups.

Italian writer Marco Impiglia tells The Associated Press: ”It’s the same old story: Sport and politics are brothers, and sometimes sport is under the other brother.”

Impiglia presented a paper suggesting Benito Mussolini ensured favorable refereeing decisions, helping the host team win.

Raanan Rein, an Israeli professor of Latin American history, says he’s ”100 percent persuaded” Argentina’s then-ruling military junta influenced a 6-0 win against Peru.

No doubt Valcke would say this was a small price to pay for a smoothly run tournament.

Finnishing line

Two former top of Finnish club Tampere United have been found guilty of money laundering after accepting funds from a Singaporean company that had obtained the money through match fixing.

The court of appeals of Turku, Finland, handed former managing director Deniz Bavautdin and former board chairman Harri Pyhalto six-month suspended sentences.

Three-times champions Tampere United were expelled from the Finnish league in 2011 for receiving funds from Singaporean firm Exclusive Sport Pte Ltd in exchange for giving certain players places on the team.

The court said the men should have known that the around €300,000 the team received from Exclusive Sport as part of partnership deal in 2010-2011 was obtained nefariously.

Exclusive Sport representative Wilson Raj Perumal, who was given a two-year jail sentence by a Finnish court in 2011 for bribing players and referees to fix matches, has said the money came from match fixing.

The court said in its verdict that Perumal had also approached other Finnish teams to offer money in exchange for accepting some players.

The former head of the Finnish football association, Kimmo J. Lipponen, told the court he had warned Bavautdin the Singaporean company might seek to influence match results through the players it provided.

Celtic cross

Celtic boss Neil Lennon is furious that no members of his squad made the short-list for the PFA Scotland Player of the Year.

Lennon said his players were perplexed at the lack of recognition by their fellow professionals who named Leigh Griffiths (Hibs), Andrew Shinnie (Inverness), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen) and Michael Higdon (Motherwell) as their four candidates.

“It beggars belief,” he said. “We make the semi-final of the League Cup, the final of Scottish Cup, win the Championship and make the last 16 in Europe.

“We are putting the country on the map again, and the outcome of the votes belittles the efforts of players. It’s abysmal.

“Are people voting for the best player or most improved? I’m not taking away anything from the candidates, they’ve all had fine seasons, but to have no Celtic players in that top group is unbelievable.

“After the outcome yesterday there is a lot of ill will in the dressing room. I am very disappointed none of my players have been recognised.

“For all their efforts in putting Scottish football back on the map in a positive way, it’s a smack in the face. There was a lot of anger and bewilderment and I totally understand that.”

Finally…

Sixteen supporters and seven police officers were injured, two of them seriously, in a brawl when rivals fans clashed in a central Bosnian village while heading to first division matches.

The police detained 62 of around 120 supporters of rival clubs Borac Banja Luka and Zeljeznicar Sarajevo who took part in the fight in the village of Oborci, where they met on their way to different matches.

Three supporters of Zeljeznicar were seriously injured and taken to hospital in Sarajevo, two of them with life-threatening head injuries. Six other supporters were admitted to a hospital in the central town of Travnik.

“One man was operated on and is still in intensive care but stable and conscious for now,” Biljana Jandric, a Sarajevo hospital spokeswoman, told Reuters. The other one’s life was not at risk, and the third one was released from hospital, she said.

The seven injured police officers were at the Travnik hospital, a spokeswoman for the central Bosnian regional police told Reuters.

Zeljeznicar fans were heading to the town of Prijedor for the match with Rudar and Borac supporters were on their way to Sarajevo where their club was taking on Olimpik Sarajevo.

Both groups of supporters were escorted by local police but they could not stop the fight and had to ask for help from special police forces, the police spokeswoman said, adding that several vans were completely destroyed.

Borac is based in Bosnia’s autonomous Serb Republic and Zeljeznicar in the Federation dominated by Bosniaks and Croats. Their fans have a long history of violent clashes.

May-2014-cover
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  • Olly

    These articles attempt to act as a neutral voice striving to satisfy inept and brash judgements that thankfully does not exist in the magazine.

  • Olly

    “Let’s clear one thing up straight away: it is not the FA’s job to rehabilitate Luis Suarez; that role falls to Liverpool”. Ridiculous comment if that’s the case what is a national football body for?.