Pitch battle

Barcelona have complained to UEFA about the state of the San Siro pitch during Wednesday’s Champions League encounter with Milan.

Players struggled to keep their footing and as the game progressed the pitch began to cut up, which did little to help Barcelona’s fluid passing game.

There have been longstanding problems with the state of the San Siro pitch, caused it is believed, by the lack of sunlight reaching the  turf. More recently though, there have been suggestions that something more sinister is afoot, with Milan accused of doctoring the pitch to negate the strengths of their opponents.

In the previous round there were claims that the Italian club had overwatered the flanks in a bid to to nullify the pace of Arsenal on the wings. Last night, it seemed equally slippery on the flanks, while the central areas played like they had been prepared for the imminent planting of arable crops: levelling the playing field by cutting it up, if you like.

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola is far too urbane a man to complain about something so prosaic as the playing surface, and despite seeing his side fail to score in the competition for the first time in 30 matches, he refused to blame the pitch for an uncharacteristically disjoined performance.

“To win the Champions League, you have to overcome a lot of things, that’s what makes some sportsmen better than others,” he told reporters.

“Things happen and you have to overcome then.”

“We have won a lot in the last four years, but we have also drawn and lost matches.

“After a draw or defeat, we have never complained about a refereeing decision or the pitch, maybe we have done so after winning but not after a draw or defeat.”

Picture perfect

While Milan’s playing surface may not have been up to scratch, the club’s supporters provided a wonderful, colourful, coordinated backdrop to events on the pitch.

Mancunian candidates

BBC reporter Dan Roan has been banned from Manchester City, after an interview was screened in which Manchester City’s, Patrick Vieria, a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations, appeared to suggest that referees favoured Manchester United.

Is that really newsworthy? Perhaps in a dog bites man kind of way.

“I have to be careful what I say, because if I say something you will make more noise than if it was a Fulham player or a Fulham coach saying it, I don’t want to get into that type of comment.”

Best to keep it to yourself then Patrick, I’d have thought. But no, Vieira proceeds to tell Roan, who has a microphone in front of him and a camera behind him, that Manchester United are favoured by referees at home, “it’s something teams who are used to winning get all the time.”

Vieira responded to the ‘sting’ by stating: “I am very angry with Dan Roan. I feel he has misrepresented me.

“I made it clear in the interview twice that I wanted to avoid criticising United and even stated that I didn’t watch the United game against Fulham and had not seen the incident to which the reporter referred.

“That part of the interview was ignored and my comments were taken completely out of context. I called the reporter twice to ask for a retraction and an apology, which has not come.”

The interview comes on the back of his equally tactless remark about the return to Manchester United of Paul Scholes, and suggest that while Vieira may be qualified for a number of positions in his post-playing career, an ambassadorial role probably isn’t one of them.

Here’s the clip in question:

FIFA lose court battle

Switzerland’s supreme court has overruled FIFA’s “fundamentally unlawful” threat to ban Brazilian midfielder Matuzalem from any football activity if he failed to pay €11.86 million compensation owed to former club Shakhtar Donetsk.

The Swiss Federal Tribunal says it FIFA’s threat to Matuzalem represented a “manifest and serious attack on his rights”.

The federal court objected to FIFA’s disciplinary panel giving Shakhtar “arbitrary power” to request Matuzalem’s ban if he missed payments.

Matuzalem, who now plays for Lazio, must still pay the compensation plus five percent annual interest, after he broke his Shakhtar contract in July 2007 to join Real Zaragoza.

Cuban on his heels

United States authorities have refused to comment on the whereabouts of a Cuban footballer who is reported to be trying to defect to the country.

Yosmel de Armas has reportedly left the Cuban team while it was in Tennessee for an Olympic qualifying tournament. De Armas missed Monday night’s final game in the tournament against Canada, with the Cuban coach claiming the player was sick and had stayed at the hotel.

The U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Department of Homeland Security had no comment about the player or his possible defection.

There is a history of Cuban athletes defecting to the United States. Seven members of Cuba’s Olympic football team defected in Florida in 2008 after a game against the USA. n October, two days before the country’s World Cup Qualifier versus the USA, Reynier Alcantaraand Pedro Faife walked away from the team’s hotel near Washington, D.C.. During the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Yosniel Mesa defected while the team was in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Unlike the vast majority of non-US citizens who try to enter the country, immigrants from Cuba are given a swift path to citizenship and permanent legal residency. The policy that gives Cubans their unique immigration status is a legacy from the Cold War.

“Back in the day, Cuba was considered the enemy the way any government in Latin America turning toward socialism was considered a threat to U.S. power,” Michael Principe, a Middle Tennessee State University professor who specializes in social and political philosophy, told The Tennessean. “The U.S. has spent a lot of time, energy and resources trying to take out the government Cuba put into place in 1959.”

Homphobia ban

Houston Dynamos midfielder Colin Clark has been suspended for three games by MLS and fined for a homophobic remark he made toward a ball boy during Houston’s 2-0 loss at Seattle last week.

Clarke, who allegedly called the ball boy ‘a fucking faggot’, apologised immediately after the game and he has since issued what appears to be a sincere statement of contrition.

“I am sorry about what happened during the Seattle match,” Clark said.

“I have personally apologized to the ball boy, and I want to take this chance to say I’m sorry to everyone that I’ve offended. I intend to never use those words again in any context. There is no excuse for them. What I said does not properly represent who I am or what I believe. I made a mistake that I truly regret. I accept the punishment that has been handed down by MLS, and I want to learn from this incident and move forward.”

If only Luis Suarez had said something similar last November, we could have been spared a mountain of pain and recrimination.

Win or lose always booze

Sydney FC goalkeeper Liam Reddy has been sent home for drinking alcohol on a flight to New Zealand for an A-League playoff match, the club has confirmed.

The club said Reddy had admitted drinking on the flight to the New Zealand capital for the first round play-off match against Wellington Phoenix.

The 30-year-old Reddy will also face charges under the A-League’s code of conduct, which puts into doubt his participation in remainder of the playoffs.

Reddy was dropped in favour of team mate Ivan Necevski last month, although whether his demotion is responsible for him hitting the bottle is unknown.

The decision to ban the keeper appears to go against the grain of the entire Australian sporting culture. A culture perhaps best epitomised by the longstanding drinking challenge practised by generations of sportsmen on the flight from Australia to London. The current record stands at 52 cans of beer consumed by cricketer David Boon in 1989.

Goal of the day

Olimpica’s 3-2 defeat of Flamengo in the Libertadores Cup has left the Brazilian’s side’s qualification hopes in the balance. Scant consolation for Flamengo came with this long range consolation effort from Dario Botinelli.

Alcohol ban lifted

On the day that Brazil national coach Mano Menezes was fined for refusing to take a breathalyser test, the country’s lower house has finally passed a bill which will in effect allow alcohol to be served at venues for the 2014 World Cup. Presumably, not to the coaches though, and definitely not to those driving home.

The approved legislation doesn’t specifically authorize alcohol sales, but the government says other articles in the legislation mean it meets FIFA’s requirement that all spectators have the right to drink overpriced beer of mediocre quality whilst watching football matches. Cheers!

“The government’s sovereignty has never been in question. Brazil accepted the right to host this tournament,” House government leader Arlindo Chinaglia said. “Two or three hours in a stadium will not turn someone into an alcoholic.”

Clearly, he hasn’t seen England play in a recent major tournament. Talk about driving a man to drink.

Not everyone was happy with the bill’s passage.

“The national Congress is setting a terrible example to the Brazilian society by allowing alcoholic beverages inside stadiums,” congressman Vanderlei Macris said.

Congressman Andre Moura added: “We were able to ban alcoholic beverages back in 2003. We shouldn’t retrocede, we should move forward.”

Finally…

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s football/pop crossover track from Carlo Ancelotti and his Paris Saint-Germain players, comes more music mayhem courtesy of Club Brugge.

Players from the Belgian side along with their manager, got together to film a ‘comedy’ remix of LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.” The results, as you can imagine, are hilarious. Not really.

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