Not our fault

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has rejected claims his organisation is to blame for England’s failures at major tournaments and questioned the role of the English Football Association and government.

Speaking at the Premier League Asian Trophy in Hong Kong, Scudamore reacted tetchily when asked about the widely held perception that the Premier League is culpable for England’s failure.

“It frustrates me enormously because it is so palpably not true. We are putting on a competition that the best players in the world want to come here and play in,” he said.

“The whole thing seems to me that if England don’t win something it is someone else’s fault. I have never, in my 15 years with the Premier League, never said the Premier League’s success, or lack of, is someone else’s fault. You have to make it yourself.

“Let’s run the reverse argument. Where does that leave the people at the FA in terms of their accountability? It can’t be our fault.

“It is bigger than us. It is not the Premier League who ripped up the playing fields. It is not the Premier League that didn’t put the education into schools that the government should have done. That is not the Premier League’s fault.

“Clearly, we have a job to do. We have not won the World Cup since 1966. We didn’t start until 1992. What happened between 1966 and 1992? Whose fault was that? The whole thing is immensely frustrating. It cannot be our fault on any level.”

All valid points, but it overlooks the dwindling pool of homegrown talent being produced by the richest league in the world. And for that, much of the blame has to rest with the Premier League.

Strict diet

Red Star Belgrade players have been told to stop eating meat pies for breakfast, drinking beer after practice and enjoying wild nights out in the Serbian capital.

Former European Cup winners Red Star struggled against Icelandic outfit IBV in the Europa League second qualifying round and barely deserved their 2-0 aggregate win, prompting manager Slavisa Stojanovic to criticise his players condition after Sunday’s training session.

“All the hard work you have done in the searing heat of pre-season build-ups will amount to nothing if you keep eating meat pies before practice and drinking two or three beers after it,” Stojanovic was quoted as saying.

“You have to rest properly and adopt an athletes’ diet otherwise your careers will go down the drain,” he said.

Red Star vice-president Nebojsa Covic added: “Cigarettes and nights out on boat-bars lined up along the river are also out of the question. A professional attitude means turning up for practice and raring to go an hour before it starts.”

Serbian tabloids have often produced photos of first division players revelling in Belgrade’s nightlife, including drinking and smoking in popular bars along the city’s two rivers, the Sava and the Danube.

In January, Red Star’s Montenegrin defender Milan Jovanovic was sent home from mid-season training in the Turkish resort of Antalya after he was caught in an all-night drinking binge. He parted company with the club by mutual consent in April.

Red Star are away to Ukraine’s Chernomorets Odessa in the first leg of their Europa League third qualifying round on Thursday.

Innocent until proven guilty

A lawyer defending Genoa and their former midfielder Omar Milanetto against match-fixing charges has confidently predicted his clients will be cleared.

Milanetto and Genoa were charged with conspiring to fix a match against Lazio in May 2011, with the fixture forming part of the on-going Calcioscomesse investigation led by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC).

But Mattia Grassani insists the claims against Genoa and Milanetto are completely unfounded.

“A sentence for Milanetto would be something that could only happen in science fiction,” he told Italian news agency ANSA.

Lazio midfielder Stefano Mauri has also been implicated in the alleged fixing of the Serie A clash, but could be given a reduced punishment amid reports of a plea bargain.

And Grassani believes such action would weaken the case against Genoa and Milanetto.

“If one of the two people necessary to commit fraud was not there, the situation with (Stefano) Mauri would greatly undermine the prosecution’s case,” he added.

A number of players have recently received bans as long as four years as the FIGC steps up its crackdown on match-fixing.

Tide turning?

U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati has criticised the bidding process for the 2022 Wold Cup that led to Qatar securing the right to host the tournament.

Amid speculation that the the finals may be switched to winter to avoid the desert heat, the bids which missed out are aggrieved that FIFA is moving the goalposts to accommodate the 2022 competition in the Gulf state.

Gulati, who was earlier this year elected to the FIFA Executive Committee, told reporters that the USA would be interested in bidding for the 2026 but the process had to be more clearly defined.

“The process needs to be far more transparent as far as what matters. What’s OK. What’s within the rules and what’s not,” he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

FIFA’s inspection team rated Qatar as a high overall risk, with the heat cited as an issue and proposals for unproven air-conditioned stadia also a concern.

“In my view, if you’re going to have a technical part of the bid, the technical part should be given some weight,” Gulati said, referring to the fact that the content was ignored by the FIFA ExCo members who voted on the 2018 and 2022 hosts.

“If you’re going to send people around and do an analysis of stadiums and conditions and government commitments and all of that, then that should have a significant role in final bid process.

“If it’s only about going to new frontiers, OK. But let’s know that going in,” Gulati added.

“If it’s about maximizing revenue, let’s know that going in. Whatever. I think that needs to be far more clear.”

Last week, another FIFA executive committee member, Theo Zwanziger, called the selection of Qatar to stage the World Cup a “blatant mistake”, adding that a winter tournament would also create serious problems for the European football calendar. the Premier League has also expressed its opposition to playing the finals in the winter.

Goal of the day

Keisuke Honda, who has been linked with a move away from CSKA Moscow all summer, curls in a wonderful free-kick in the Moscow derby against Lokomotiv.

Quote of the day

“If I have one regret, it is the way that I am leaving. It is only natural that I would be disappointed that the Liverpool management agreed to loan me to Napoli without telling me first, I thought that I deserved better than that even though I understand that difficult decisions have to be taken in football.”

A disappointed Pepe Reina says a deal to loan him from Liverpool to Napoli was agreed without his consent.

Fans send-off

A lifelong Feyenoord fans suffering from terminal cancer  had his final wish granted when he was give permission to attend the Dutch club’s first training session of the season. Having been told he had terminal cancer and just days to live, the last wish of 54-year-old lifelong Feyenoord fan “Rooie Marck” (Red Mark) was to meet his idols on the pitch.

Fans of the club traditionally turn out in decent numbers to watch the session held annually at De Kuip, but this year thousands turned up to help make “Rooie Marck” (Red Mark) day as special as possible.

What Mark did not expect was the incredibly warm welcome that awaited him as he entered the pitch on his hospital bed adorned in his club’s colours.

The supporters unveiled a banner in his honour with a picture of Mark displayed on the front coupled with the words: “uit eigenkracht voortgebracht” which when translated means: “produced from own strength,” and they lit huge numbers of flares simultaneously.

Het Legioen adopted Liverpool’s anthem of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in an emotional tribute to the terminally ill fan.

Feyenoord’s players came over to meet Rooie, led by manager Ronald Koeman, who all embraced the man.

Sadly, he passed away only three days after this visit, but thanks to the fans, Rooie was given a truly emotional farewell.

Trouble brewing

Police in Moscow made 31 arrests after violence broke out Sunday’s Russian Premier League derby match between city rivals CSKA and Lokomotiv.

Local police said the game at Lokomotiv Stadium drew roughly 21,000 spectators, including 6,000 CSKA supporters.

The events come days after Russian president Vladmir Putin signed off a bill granting authorities greater power against hooliganism in preparation for the country’s hosting of the World Cup in 2018.

The so-called Fan Law, which is aimed at keeping the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia safe from hooligans, comes into effect on January 19, 2014.

According to figures supplied by the Russian sports ministry, there have been over 14,000 disturbances at sporting events in the country in the last three years.

Russian police made more than 200 arrests over two successive weekends in April as Premier League games were hit by fans’ drunken and violent behaviour.

Following those arrests the interior ministry released a statement calling for action to be taken.

The Russian Premier League ends in May and begins again in July.

This past weekend welcomed the third match day of the 2013-14 Russian domestic campaign.

Giving the club a bad name

Liverpool fans have condemned fellow fans in Thailand who displayed a banner mocking the Munich Air Disaster.

During the club’s 3-0 pre-season victory over Thailand on Sunday, a group of locals in Liverpool shirts unveiled a banner outside the Rajamangala National Stadium that read: “Alex Ferguson Out Working Go To The Hell (Munich, 58).”

Eight Manchester United players and three members of staff lost their lives in the plane crash in 1958, and despite the bitter rivalry between the two club’s both sets of fans have made their efforts to pay their respects to the victims of both the Munich and Hillsborough disaster in 1989 over the years.

Liverpool fans have already taken to Twitter to vent their anger at the images, labelling those pictured as “fake” and a “disgrace”.

Darren Belfast said: “Imposters wearing Liverpool fc shirts in Thailand mocking those ManUtd players and staff who died in Munich. You disgrace the Club.#Shameful.”

Another Tweet, from a Liverpool fans’ account called LFC flags & Banners said: “Absolutely shocking & embarrassing banner by some fake so called Liverpool fans. Probably Never even been to the UK!”

Finally…

Ecuador international Christian Benitez passed away on Monday at the age of 27, his club El Jaish has confirmed.

El Jaish, who signed Benitez, also known as ‘Chucho’, on 6 July, confirmed the news but the official cause of his death is unclear.

Their statement said: “The club would like to offer its sincere condolences to the family of the player.

“Benitez had recently joined the club from Club America for three seasons. The player participated for the first time with the team during yesterday’s match against Qatar Sports Club in the Sheikh Jassem Cup without complaining of any health problems.

“His sudden departure is a big shock for each member of the technical and administrative staff. He was a player that over the short period he was here was regarded for his high moral character.”

Ecuadorian teammate Antonio Valencia of Manchester United expressed his condolences having been informed of Benitez’s death.

“You’ll always be my brother. This pain is hard, my brother, but we love you,” the winger, who also played alongside the 27-year-old at El Nacional, posted on Twitter.

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