Silent treatment

German fans have reacted against a controversial proposal, which will see a ban on standing and a reduction in ticket availability for away supporters, by staging silent protests at stadiums across the country.

The first wave of nationwide protests were launched against the German Football League’s (DFL) Safe Stadium Experience plan.

At the matches played in Dortmund, Hannover, Hamburg and Frankfurt, the terraces fell silent at kick-off as the first 12 minutes and 12 seconds of each game was played largely in silence.

Once the set time elapsed, the spectators generated  a wall of noise and organisers plan to make sure the same happens at grounds across Germany over the next two weekends.

Borussia Dortmund captain Sebastian Kehl admitted it was a ‘funny feeling’ playing in front of silent stands at the start of the 1-1 draw with Fortuna Dusseldorf.

“They want to use the symbolic time of 12:12 to send a clear sign,” he explained with December 12 being the date when clubs will vote on the proposal.

Under the slogan ‘No voices, No atmosphere’, rival fans across Germany’s top 36 teams have united for the 12:12 campaign against the DFL’s proposals.

The scheme also aims to reduce tickets for away supporters at Bundesliga games from the current 10 per cent down to five and ban standing areas at stadiums.

“The protest is to show the clubs what it would be like if we were not there,” explained Philipp Markhardt, spokesman for the supporters group ProFan.

Hamburg coach Thorsten Fink admitted he was baffled by the silence during his team’s 3-1 win over Schalke.

“I was wondering what was going on at the start, because I didn’t know why,” said Fink, who thought the protest was just by Hamburg fans against the team’s recent poor display.

“I had to ask someone on the bench to explain.

“At first I thought they were protesting because we had played so poorly at Dusseldorf.”

They tried something similar at Stamford Bridge last night, but no one noticed.

Back to the future

Luiz Felipe Scolari is back in charge of Brazil’s national team, 10 years after leading it to the 2002 World Cup title.

The Brazilian football federation ended speculation about the vacancy by announcing that Scolari has been hired to lead the team through the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He replaces Mano Menezes, who was fired last week.

The former Chelsea and Portugal coach, who has been without a job since leaving Brazilian club Palmeiras, led Brazil to its fifth World Cup title at the 2002 tournament in South Korea and Japan.

The federation also announced that Carlos Alberto Parreira, who led Brazil to the 1994 World Cup title, will be the national team’s coordinator. Parreira also coached Brazil in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

The appointment of the popular Scolari has divided opinion among former players.

“Felipao has won so many titles he has to be respected – and the two of them together have international experience and competence so I can only wish them luck,” said Zico.

“I wish a lot of luck to my friend Parreira and to Felipao,” former Brazil striker Romario said. “We know that now we will have the best players picked for the team.”

Scolari had said his goal was to end his career by coaching a national team during the World Cup in Brazil.

“Congratulations to him, it’s a great challenge to him,” said Ronaldo, whose goals were instrumental in Scolari’s 2002 success. “I think Brazil has been in a different moment in which we have to do some recycling. I think Brazilian football obviously is not undergoing its best moment. But we can’t forget that Spain has also done something extraordinary both in its national league and its national team involving very beautiful football.”

Former skipper Carlos Alberto, who lifted the 1970 World Cup, provided a dissenting voice.

“I don’t know that this is Felipao’s moment. He won in 2002 – but that was 2002! This year he bombed out at Palmeiras (relegated shortly after Scolari quit),” he said.

“There are other coaches who are better equipped for the job right now – such as Titye, Muricy and (former coach) Vanderlei Luxemburgo.”

On this day…

It was on this day, 140 years ago, that international football began, when Scotland hosted England.

The British rivals had already competed in unofficial games, but their first official clash drew an crowd of 4,000 to Hamilton Crescent in Partick.

The Scots’ team was made up entirely of players from Queen’s Park, who played in the English FA Cup final twice in the 1880s and remain their country’s oldest football club, while the 11 Englishmen came from nine different clubs including Cambridge University, Crystal Palace, Notts County and Oxford University.

The match finished goalless, but from such decidedly unpromising beginnings international football as we know it, can be traced. The world game as moved on leaps and bounds in the intervening decades, even if the original two contestants appear to be have hardly budged at all.

1872 – England, Scotland
1901 – Argentina, Uruguay
1902 – Austria, Hungary
1904 – Belgium, France
1905 – Netherlands
1908 – Denmark, Germany, Sweden
1910 – Italy
1914 – Brazil
1916 – USA
1917 – Japan
1919 – Paraguay
1920 – Czechoslovakia, Spain, Yugoslavia
1921 – Poland, Portugal
1922 – Romania
1923 – Mexico
1924 – Bulgaria, Soviet Union
1927 – Peru
1938 – Colombia
1948 – Korea Republic
1949 – Nigeria
1957 – Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia
1960 – Cameroon

* Includes teams to have made over three appearances in the World Cup.

Blackmail?

Inter President Massimo Moratti has defended his club from accusations that they are blackmailing Wesley Sneijder.

The Nerazzurri appeared to tell the Dutchman that he wouldn’t play again this season until he agrees to lower his salary.

“Wes is part of our history and we care for him, but we are discussing a necessary contract modification with him,” Inter director Marco Branca told Sky Sport Italia.

“We will give him and his entourage the time to evaluate our proposal, so the decision not to use the player can be traced back to this wait for a more relaxed and clear situation.

“The club and Coach are in agreement that until the player is in a clear state of mind, he will not play.”

Seems pretty unequivocal, but Moratti, perhaps conscious that Inter were operating on questionable legal ground territory, quickly backtracked.

“As far as the club is concerned, we are completely open to the player, there is no sort of blackmail,” Moratti noted.

“If a contract is valid, it’s certainly valid to ask a person if it can be improved in some way. That doesn’t change the fact that for the time being he’s not playing for technical reasons.

“Obviously no one would want to throw away someone of his value. The club is calm, we haven’t forced anyone to do anything. His contract is valid, no one is forcing him, Sneijder is free.”

When asked if the Sneijder would thus soon return to action, Moratti insisted that was a question for Andrea Stramaccioni.

“That’s entirely down to the coach,” he added. “And whether he thinks he’s physically and psychologically up to playing.”

One suspects that as soon as Sneijder representatives utter the words ‘constructive dismissal’ he’ll be ‘physically and psychologically up to playing’.

Rewriting history

Italy’s 1982 World Cup winners Fulvio Collovati and Claudio Gentile have hit back at the criticism from Brazilian legend Zico.

The Brazilian claimed yesterday that Italy’s 3-2 win over Brazil in the tournament had a negative effect on football as we know it.

Those remarks haven’t gone down too well with some members of the Azzurri squad.

“I saw Zico crying on the bus after that game and that wound has not healed,” Collovati stated.

“Italy-Brazil was an extraordinary game and we also had a good Giancarlo Antognoni goal disallowed.

“Zico’s words are out of place and Gentile’s man-marking on him was in line with the rules at the time. Brazil lost because they faced us with presumption.

“And the following year, Zico came to play in Italy with Udinese – a sign that our football was not so disgusting.”

Former Juventus defender Gentile, the hatchet man’s hatchet man, added: “Are you sure Zico said such things? I’m friends with Zico and he’s always told me something different.

“For example, he recognised that my marking of him was tough but fair. If his comments are accurate, then what do you want me to say?

“It is absurd to kick-start a controversy 30 years on. Italy-Brazil was spectacular. Come on, this is just a misunderstanding.”

Tough but fair? Here’s footage of Gentile marking Diego Maradona in the same tournament.

Goal of the day

James Milner smashes in an unstoppable shot in Manchester City’s 2-0 win over Wigan.

Quote of the day

“Maybe they envy me, because this season I have not got as much support from my team-mates as in the past.”

Spartak Moscow’s Nigerian striker Emmanuel Emenike explains his recent goal drought. Way to make yourself popular Emmanuel.

300 club

David Villa took his career goal tally to 301 when he scored twice as holders Barcelona eliminated third-division Alaves 6-1 on aggregate to qualify for the last 16 of the King’s Cup on Wednesday.

The 30-year-old has gradually been getting back to something close to his best after breaking his leg at the Club World Cup last December and now has 40 goals for Barca since he joined from Valencia at the end of the 2009-10 season.

Frequently overshadowed by the exploits of his free-scoring team-mate, Lionel Messi, Villa remains a highly prized member of the Barcelona personnel.

“Every day he looks better,” said Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova.

“It was a complicated injury and he has worked a great deal over the summer,” he added.

“He is a player who has the scorer’s gift and it is important to have him in the squad.”

All of Villa’s 301 goals

40 Sporting
40 Zaragoza
128 Valencia
40 FC Barcelona
53 Spanish national team

And here’s goal number 300.

Fans behaving badly

Ten fans were arrested and one injured following a pitch invasion at the end of a Danish Cup derby between Brondby and FC Copenhagen.

With their struggling team second from bottom in Denmark’s Superligaen, Brondby fans invaded the pitch following a 1-0 victory after extra time against their rivals.

“The sad epilogue to the game is that we see thousands of Brondby fans running onto the pitch,” police inspector Michael Kristiansen, adding the fans were arrested for disorder and breaches of firework regulations.

“The object was clearly to get into a confrontation with FC Copenhagen fans,” Kristiansen said.

Brondby’s head of security Emil Bakkendorf condemned the fans involved.

“It is shameful and unacceptable. This is a grotesque development. I strongly condemn this,” he told Danish radio station DR.

Finally…

Interpol says it expects imminent arrests in Singapore linked to Italy’s growing Calcioscommesse match-fixing scandal.

The global police body’s chief Ronald Noble said more links to the Asian city-state had been revealed following this week’s arrest in Italy of Serbian footballer Almir Gegic.

“In the near future, Singaporeans will be reading about arrests made here in Singapore of people linked to illegal betting or match-fixing either in Singapore or outside Singapore,” Noble told the Straits Times.

He added that Gegic, suspected of involvement in Calcioscommesse, had links to Singapore’s Tan Seet Eng or Dan Tan, “one of the leaders of an organised crime group” who is reportedly also wanted by Italian police.

Noble was speaking during a conference on match-fixing in Singapore.

Calcioscommesse whistle-blower Simone Farina, a former left-back with Italian lower-league side Grubbio, told the Interpol conference a former team-mate offered him €200,000 to throw a match last year.

“I was told that this amount was guaranteed because of his support from an organisation based here in Singapore,” Farina said in an address on Wednesday.

Nineteen people were arrested during raids in May, including some senior figures in Italian football. Juventus manager Antonio Conte is currently serving a four-month ban over the affair.

“The size of the illegal gambling market has been estimated at close to €500 billion per year,” Noble told the Singapore conference.

“The sizes of the bets can be in the tens, and even hundreds of thousands of euros. There are estimates that the large Asian bookmakers have revenues on the same scale as the Coca-Cola company.”

Which, if true, would indicate that the size of the problem is on a scale that no had even dared to imagine.

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