Unappealing

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo’s suspension for pushing a match official has been extended to 13 months by the French Football Federation (FFF) after the club failed in its bid to have the original ban reduced.

“The superior appeal commission has suspended Leonardo until June 30, 2014,” the FFF said in statement on Thursday.

Television footage showed the Brazilian bumping into referee Alexandre Castro with his left shoulder in the tunnel after PSG drew 1-1 with Valenciennes in a Ligue 1 encounter in May.

The French champions, who were also handed a suspended three-point deduction, had appealed the initial nine-month ban imposed by the French League.

Leonardo protested his innocence but the footage looks fairly damning.

War zone

FIFA has banned the Iraqi Football Association (IFA) from hosting international games due to an increase in violence, with the decision coming barely three months after world football’s governing body gave the go ahead for matches to resume.

More than 2,500 people have been left dead from April through June and at least 123 have been killed in the first three days of July alone.

“Today, we received a notification from FIFA to stop hosting any friendly matches in stadiums in Iraq at the current time, and until further notice, due to the wave of violence,” said Naim Saddam, an IFA official. “This is regrettable.”

FIFA had lifted the ban in March, with Iraq subsequently staging friendly games against Syria (for whom the trip must have felt like a holiday) and Liberia. The games had been seen as a step in the country’s re-emergence on the world stage after a prolonged period of conflict.

In January, the Iraqi government stated it was seeking to host the best Gulf Cup of Nations in the history of the tournament when it stages the 2015 event. That boast now looks in doubt.

The 2013 edition of the Gulf Cup was scheduled to be held in Iraq only for it to be moved to Bahrain due to security concerns. Iraqi officials had criticised the decision as being politically motivated, but stated that new facilities in the southern city of Basra are almost complete for the first football tournament to be held in the country since the invasion in 2003.

Plastic man

David Beckham’s career in lego. It does what it says on the tin.

Sour grapes?

Roberto Mancini remains unhappy with his sacking by Manchester City, suggesting he outperformed expectations and was undermined by the arrival of Ferran Soriano as the club’s chief executive.

The Italian, who was sacked by the club in May and has since been replaced by Manuel Pellegrini, told Corriere Dello Sport: “I think I deserved more respect for what I achieved at City in three-and-a-half years. The club didn’t win a title for 40 years. I won a Premier League, an FA Cup, a Community Shield and, in the worst season, I lost a final and finished second in the Premier League.”

More respect? Over £1 billion was spent bringing that solitary league title to the Etihad. More than half of that on transfer fees. Even Joe Kinnear would be hard pressed to mess up with that kind of budget behind him.

“I still do not know why City sacked me. They demanded that I won the title within three years – I won it within two years. I’m not angry with the owner Mansour and or the chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak. They are two great managers and I’ll always be grateful.”

That gratitude did not extend to Soriano, who according to Mancini, was not a football person. 

“Soriano? For him I was too big within the club. A manager in full control, loved by the fans still today,”Mancini added. “He judged a person and a context without knowing anything about the people he should have dealt with. I never thought of him as an interesting person from a football perspective. We never spoke the same language. And I’m not talking about Italian, Spanish or English.

“His past at Barcelona? I think he was coming from an airline. I’ve been in football since I was 13 and I had never heard anything about Soriano. He arrived in England with his manager role and I saw that he loves to speak, to get media exposure.”

The Italian did praise his replacement, Manuel Pellegrini, and insists the sale of Mario Balotelli to Milan hurt City’s title defence.

“We missed Balotelli’s goals, but he was unhappy in England,” he said. “He, like [Luis] Suarez, was constantly attacked by opponents, referees, fans. It’s also true that he didn’t do anything to avoid some situations.

“Our fights? It was nothing. I just got angry with Mario after a rough tackle. Thirty seconds of verbal argument and it became a matter of discussion. Pellegrini is a good coach, it’s logical he will do a good job. The team is top.”

Goal of the day

A great first touch from Corinthians’ Renato Augusto, and an even better second one sends the past sailing over the top of the back pedalling Sao Paolo keeper.

Quote of the day

“I am very satisfied to have won the Confederations Cup on home soil and I am going through a great time of my life at Barcelona.”

Neymar is enjoying life at the moment.

Chart toppers

Brazil have climbed 13 places to ninth in the FIFA World Rankings following their Confederations Cup win.

The much derided rankings do, for once, reflect pretty much the reality of many countries recent performances. For instance, could anyone really argue with England falling six places to 15th, behind Bosnia, Greece and the Ivory Coast, following a less than convincing start to their World Cup qualifying campaign? It is England’s lowest position in five years, but perhaps the only time in that period that the FIFA Rankings accurately reflect their form.

As for the World Cup 2014 hosts, who had slipped down the rankings due to a lack of competitive football inthe past two years, victories against Japan, Mexico, Italy, Uruguay and a 3-0 win against world and European champions Spain in the final, have boosted their standing.

Spain, despite that humbling defeat, retain top spot, with Germany second, but Colombia are the surprise climbers and move into third place ahead of Argentina.

Serious offer

Besiktas have made an offer for Tottenham striker Emmanuel Adebayor, according to the Turkish club’s director Ahmet Kavalci.

The 29-year-old joined Spurs on a permanent deal from Manchester City in August 2012 after impressing during a season-long loan spell at White Hart Lane.

But a return of just five goals in 25 Premier League appearances hardly endeared the former Arsenal man to the Tottenham faithful, and now Besiktas claim to have made a substantial bid for the forward.

“It is certainly true that we are looking at the idea of a transfer. We have made a serious bid for Adebayor,” Kavalci told Fanatik.  “That, in turn, has given us a figure for the player, which is slightly above the amount that we imagined.

“However, making a signing as big as this immediately is nothing but a dream. Negotiations always take a long time. I hope that we will get a chance to have a meeting soon.”

If the fee is a problem, there is likely to be a major stumbling block to negotiations proceeding smoothly: Adebayor’s wages.

This time last year the striker was trying to negotiate a move away from Manchester City. Details of the saga and of the Togan’s wage demands can be found here.

Flogging a dead horse

A-League chief executive Damien de Bohun says there is no reason Harry Kewell cannot make a significant impact second time round in the competition as the well-travelled forward prepares to sign up with Melbourne Heart.

Kewell has been out of the international frame for some time now, but De Bohun said the fact that seven A-League players are in that squad offers encouragement.

“Holger was clearly on record saying he’s spoken to him at length and the door’s still open,” de Bohun said.

“The philosophy for a long time has been as long as people are playing regular first-team football they’re in with a chance.

“I’ve got no doubt that’s firmly in Harry’s mind … if he plays to the level he can I’ve got no doubt that will be looked at favourably down the track.”

Kewell played for Melbourne Victory in his previous A-League season, in 2011-12 with Melbourne Victory, scoring eight goals in 25 matches, and generally being remembered more for his protracted wage negotiations than anything he did on the pitch.

Two years on, and with three games in Qatar under his belt in that time, de Bohun argued that Kewell would once again be a big crowd puller for the league.

“There’s no reason why not,” he said.

“The thing that’s been interesting about Harry’s whole career is that people follow it and follow it very closely.

“If he does end up signing with Melbourne Heart there’s obviously the conversation about him signing with a crosstown rival (to the Victory) and I think that will add a lot of interest.

“How he plays obviously time will tell, but from all reports he’s kept himself very fit and obviously he’s got an appetite to keep playing.

“Enough of us have seen him enough times to know that when he’s at his best he’s just a world-class player.”

A debatable topic, but even assuming that Kewell was once a world class player, those days are surely long gone.

The forward himself, claims that thoughts of the World Cup are far from his mind and that he just wants to continue playing for as long as possible. Or, until people stop paying him to do so. Whichever comes first.

“The fact that [when] I did have that time out I spoke to a lot of great managers and great players and they all came back with the same kind of response — ‘You should always play, because once you finish you can’t come back from it. Play as long as you can’,” he said.

“Considering I’ve had a bit of time out of the game I feel like I’m only 27 now anyway so I’ve got a long way to go.”

In which case, he should take the next couple of years off and return when he’s feeling like a 25-year-old.

Finally…

Authorities say brawling broke out among rival fans at a Las Vegas match and dozens of police responded.

Las Vegas police spokesman Bill Cassell says tension began building Wednesday evening when fans from two rival Mexican teams - Chivas Guadalajara and Club America - arrived at the stadium by bus.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that clashes involving dozens of fans began at that point and then again after the match.

The paper reported that the match ended with a Chivas 1-0 win, and fans again began to cause trouble, running onto the field and resuming the fight as police worked to quell the chaos. The referee brought the match to a halt by blowing up early. In the circumstances, he had little choice.

Here’s a local news report detailing the trouble.

And here’s footage of the pitch invasion.