Quaking in their boots

Italy’s Euro 2012 warm-up friendly with Luxembourg in Parma has been called off after an earthquake hit the northern region of Emilia Romagna.

The quake has killed at least 10 people and is the second to take place in the space of a week in the same region.

Vincenzo Bernazzoli, president of the Emilia Romagna region, said: ”In view of the victims and of the continuous tremors, it does not seem appropriate to proceed with the game.”

Also feeling the shockwaves was Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland Euro 2012 squad, which is currently stationed at a training camp in northern Italy.

“Tremors were felt in Montecatini. Nothing was noticed on the ground floor of the team hotel,” a spokesman said.

“However, some light movement was experienced in the higher levels.”

Not sure what that registered on the Richter scale, but in layman’s terms it was the equivalent of Richard Dunne falling out of bed.

Euro hosts hit back

Months of bad publicty and alarmist headlines have been borne stoically by Poland and Urkaine, but a BBC report that portrayed their fans as racist has prompted an angry response from the Euro 2012 co-hosts.

As reported yesterday, former England defender Sol Campbell warned travelling fans that they risked returning home from the tournament in coffins. Unless, that was an oblique reference to the rigours of flying economy class with Ryan Air, it was needlessly sensationalist stuff. Disappointingly, so too was the Panorama programme that questioned the decision to award the Euro 2012 finals to Poland and Ukraine, based on the behaviour of some of their supporters.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Voloshyn said the program was unjust, arrogant and xenophobic, portraying ”Eastern Europe as mentally not equal to the rest of Europe.”

”We believe this report is outrageous, done in the best traditions of Soviet journalism,” Voloshyn said. ”Ukraine is one the leaders in Europe in terms of religious and racial tolerance.

”Nazi symbols can be seen at … any match in England, but does it mean that fans should not come to London for the Olympics?”

I’m not sure the final claim is accurate, but it’s reasonable to assume that if you took a film crew to any town in England, plied the locals with drink, you wouldn’t need to prod them too hard to elicit from them an aggressive and offensive response for benefit of the cameras.

Poland’s Interior Ministry said in statement it would complain to the BBC because its report contained ”unjust,” biased and unverified opinions.  Not least, the decision to employ Campbell as an expert witness, purely it seems, because he is black.

Miss of the day

A 4-0 victory over Estonia was a largely successful confidence builder for Ukraine ahead of the European Championship finals. For Andriy Voronin though, the best that can be said is that he got a bad miss out of his system. Liverpool fans will be all-too-familiar with this kind of finishing.

Unhappy anniversary

Today marks the 27th anniversary of the Heysel tragedy, that claimed the lives of 39 supporters at the 1985 European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus.

Fighting broke out between rival supporters in a poorly-segregated Heysel stadium, before Liverpool fans charged into their retreating Italian counterparts, causing a wall to collapse. UEFA banned English clubs from European competition for five years as a result, but it is clear that 27 years on, time has not healed all the wounds in Italy.

A Juve statement, on the the club’s website, read: “It was a crazy night which swept away a joyful event to celebrate football and claimed 39 innocent victims. This tragedy occurred 27 years ago, exactly on 29 May 1985, but those sad, disastrous events in Brussels are still alive in our hearts.

“The Heysel Stadium hosted Juventus and Liverpool for the European Champion Clubs’ Cup final.

“However, before the kick-off, the English hooligans caused an absurdly violent uproar against the Italian supporters.”

Liverpool, who were criticised for their failure to erect a permanent memorial to the tragedy until 2010, 25 years after the disaster, have shown contrition in recent years.

The club wrote: “Liverpool Football Club today (Tuesday) remembers the 39 football fans who died when a wall collapsed at the Heysel Stadium in Belgium on this day 27 years ago.

“The tragedy unfolded on May 29, 1985, at the European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus, when what should have been one of the greatest nights in the club’s history turned into a nightmare.

“Instead of leaving Brussels having seen our team lift a fifth European Cup, Liverpool supporters travelled back to England having witnessed the deaths of 39 football supporters including 32 Italian fans of Juventus, four Belgians, two from France and one man from Northern Ireland.”

Hardly a mea culpa, but an acknowledgement of sorts.

Paris-bound?

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo has hailed the quality of Kaka, describing the Real Madrid playmaker as ‘an extraordinary player’.

“Kaka is surely a great player, with enormous potential,” Leonardo told O Estado de Sao Paulo. “But he has suffered severe injuries, which damaged him.

“He is at a very competitive club, in which everything happens very fast. But he has not lost the hunger for the game.

“I am very close to Kaka since the start of his career. He is an extraordinary player, even when he is not at 100 percent.”

I think we know where this one’s heading. All it needs now is for Kaka to dot the i’s and cross the t’s by declaring that it has been a lifelong ambition of his to play for PSG and that given the precarious state of the Euro, a signing on fee paid in either Qatari rial, solid gold bars or crude oil, would do nicely thank you very much.

Quote of the day

“First, he plays every minute of every game. I do not play 90 minutes ever. And then, he has a team [based] around him … 

”

Asked why he doesn’t score as many goals as Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Karim Benzema fails to mention one salient point: he is not as good a player as the Argentinian.

Dangerous Hazard joins Chelsea

The wait is over for Eden Hazard after the Belgium forward finally confirmed he would be joining European champions Chelsea.

“I’m signing for the champion’s league winner,” he tweeted.

So disappointment for Manchester United, who probably knew that they couldn’t compete financially with Roman Abramovich’s billions, but for fellow suitors Manchester City, who definitely could top any financial package on offer, there must be some consternation. Still, where they fish, the sea is full of obliging big fish.

The fee is reported to be €40million with Hazard signing a five year contract. He will also earn a reported €550,000 a month.

Back on speaking terms

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke says that his relations with Brazil have improved since his high-profile row with sports minister Aldo Rebelo.  So much so that he is even allowed back in the country, after previously being told he was not welcome.

Valcke told World Football INSIDER that he couldn’t “remember at all” when he was last in Brazil but claimed the row was now over and all parties were moving forward.

Valcke’s visit this week is largely to launch the Brazil 2014 slogan, which surprisingly, is not ‘With a bit of luck, and a following wind, we just might be ready in time’.

Valcke, who appears to have swallowed a Stepford-like tablet preventing him criticising Brazil’s preparations for 2014, was sanguine about the current situation.

“What we have to do is not talk about is Brazil ready or not ready or is Brazil behind or not behind. What we have to do now is deliver in one year’s time the Confeds Cup and in two years the World Cup,” he told INSIDER.

“We have to make sure whatever is the situation we are finding solutions to make sure that everyone will be able to work and deliver the best World Cup. And that’s what we will do.

“You know that at the end it will happen… we will have a great World Cup.”

Power, corruption and lies

The scale of the investigation into widespread corruption in Italian football, is laid bare in a piece in today’s Irish Independent. It’s depressing, but worth a read.

The probe focuses upon a notorious Singaporean fixer, Tan Seet Eng, who is reputed to be top of the Italian police’s most wanted list.

“There are a lot of people who are prepared to betray their sport,” said former Italy midfielder, Cristiano  Doni, who was convicted and imprisoned  for his involvement in match fixing last year. “An omerta (code of silence) is destroying Italian football and we have to blow that wide open. We must have the courage to say how rotten football is.”

Finally…

Former Argentina coach Sergio Batista is set to sign with Chinese Super League team Shanghai Shenhua.

The club said on its website that it will introduce a new coach at a news conference on Wednesday.

Batista has been in China since Friday and met former Chelsea player Nicolas Anelka, who has been leading a five-man coaching line-up since the departure of Jean Tigana of France last month.

Anelka, all his experience, has not exactly shown himself to be a natural when it comes to coaching.

 

 

 

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