History repeats itself

The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has charged 33 people with alleged involvement in match-fixing following further investigation into two Bari matches that took place in recent years.

Former Belgium international and Bari goalkeeper Jean-Francois Gillet, 34, is among those accused of “putting measures in place aimed at altering the performance and outcome” during Serie B defeats to Treviso and Salernitana in May 2008 and May 2009 respectively.

Gillet represented Bari for 11 years before moving to current club Torino and could face a five-year ban from football if found guilty, while current Bari captain Francesco Caputo and former defenders Andrea Masiello and Marco Esposito are among the other high-profile players implicated.

Masiello has already been handed a 22-month suspended prison sentence after confessing to scoring a deliberate own goal in a Serie A relegation-decider against Lecce in May 2011 (see below).

A statement published on figc.it read: “The federal prosecutor has examined the evidence found by the public prosecutor of Bari and, after carrying out a preliminary disciplinary investigation, has referred 33 members to the national disciplinary committee.

“With regard to Bari-Treviso on May 11, 2008, 11 members (Belmonte, Bonanni, Esposito, Ganci, Gillet, Lanzafame, Rajcic, Santoruvo, Spadavecchia, Strambelli and Pianu) are accused of “putting measures in place aimed at altering the performance and outcome” and another eight (Cavalli, Donda, Galasso, Gazzi, Ladino, Marchese, Masiello and Stellini) for failing to report their knowledge.

“With regard to Salernitana-Bari on May 23, 2009, 19 members (Esposito, Stellini, Santoni, Masiello, Lanzafame, Gillet, De Vezze, Guberti, Kutuzov, Parisi, Galasso, Bonomi, Caputo, Colombo, Bianco, Edusei, Fusco, Ganci and D’Angelo) are accused of “putting measures in place aimed at altering the performance and outcome” and another two (Gazzi and Barreto) for failing to report their knowledge.

“Bari are referred due to their objective responsibility for members involved in the games in question.”

We’ve been here before with Italian football; niente di nuovo sotto il sole as they might say.

Credit where it’s due

English Championship club Bolton Wanderers have struck a blow for ethical sponsorship by dropping plans for a shirt deal with short-term loan company QuickQuid, after protests from fans and politicians.

The club announced the two-year deal only a week ago but issued a statement on Wednesday, saying: “Whilst we anticipated some negative responses from the initial agreement, we underestimated the adverse reaction to the sector of business in which the sponsor operated.”

The backlash underlines growing public concern about the activities of “payday lenders” that offer short-term loans that are repaid at sky-high interest rates when borrowers receive their wages. Needless to say, it is the poor who are targeted for such loans.

Bolton Chairman Phil Gartside said the club, relegated from the Premier League last year, did not want to alienate supporters and jeopardise strong ties with the local community in the town.

“We don’t want our commercial relationships to come between us and our community, and neither does QuickQuid,” Gartside said in a statement.

QuickQuid is not the only payday lender that has tried to use soccer sponsorship to boost its brand.

Pat on the back for Bolton, but it should be remembered that their decision was ultimately a commercial one. If Bolton Wanderers fans did not want to be seen walking around with the name of a short-term loan lender on their shirts, then replica shirt sales would plummet.

Dirty tricks

The Jordan Football Association (JFA) was left fuming after its national team coach was detained for questioning for more than four hours at a Melbourne airport on Wednesday.

In the country for next week’s crucial 2014 World Cup qualifier against Australia, the JFA told The World Game it is “deeply disappointed” over the treatment of its Iraqi coach Adnan Hamad after the team arrived from a training camp in New Zealand.

Hamad, who had a valid visa for Australia and was the only one of the delegation to be questioned, is said to have been surprised when he was initially refused entry.

JFA General-Secretary Khalil Al-Salem has already spoken with the Australian embassy in Amman and said his organisation was extremely upset with the treatment the coach received.

“Every player and all the officials, including two Iraqis and a Brazilian were processed in a matter of seconds yet our coach was the only one detained.”

“We were provided with no answers as to why this happened and after he was finally granted entry into Australia after four hours we were not even given an apology.”

The JFA General-Secretary also claimed that there was no Football Federation Australia (FFA) official present to greet his side as is usually protocol for FIFA matches.

“It is not a sporting decision and it’s against protocol not to have an official from the host FA present and again I will say that we are extremely disappointed at this treatment.”

“If there were any issues that needed clarification these should have been done in Amman before we left and we will voice these clear complaints to the FFA as well as informing FIFA of what has happened.”

FFA released a statement disputing the JFA’s claim that a representative from the Australian governing body was not present at the airport: “FFA regrets any inconvenience caused, but the operations of Australian Customs is not a matter over which FFA has control,” the statement read. “We respect the right of Customs to carry out its lawful duties as it sees fit.

“FFA had two representatives at the airport to meet the Jordanians and they did what they could to assist in the arrival process.”

With Japan already qualified for next year’s World Cup finals, one Group B spot is still up for grabs. In a closely contested section, Australia and Jordan are tied on seven points. Oman currently hold second spot, with nine points, but they only have one game left, whereas both both other countries have two matches to play.

Success breeds success

Champions League winners Bayern Munich have sold out 16 of a total of 17 Bundesliga home games for next season as demand remains high following their treble-winning run.

“We have already had between 80,000 to 140,000 orders for each of the 16 games,” said Bayern board director and former UBS Germany chief Jan-Christian Dreesen.

“Only for the game against Hoffenheim there are only 68,000 orders and a few remaining tickets available.”

The run on tickets comes only five days after the official end of the season and nine weeks before the start of the new campaign in August. The 2013-14 season will be the first under new coach Pep Guardiola, who has the unenviable task of succeeding treble-winning Jupp Heynckes.

Bayern, who can again expect around 1.2 million fans in total, have just enjoyed their most successful season after also winning the German league and Cup titles. But, even without that success the club had been attracting huge attendances to the Allianz Arena,perhaps best illustrated by the 500,000 applications they received for tickets for last season’s Champions League final.

Last year, Bayern had sold out all 17 home games by July 11. A repeat this year looks likely.

Goal of the day

When he concentrates on his football Luis Suarez is a fantastic player. Here the Uruguayan resists the temptation to go down for a penalty before eluding his marker and stabbing home a neat finish against France.

Quote of the day

“There is a nationwide concern with the national team, we have still not built our national team. It will be an insult to world football if Brazil become Confederations Cup champions. The Confederations Cup is just a test for Brazil, so that Scolari can choose his team.”

1970 legend Jairzinho is unimpressed with the current crop of Brazil players.

Falling standards

Jarzinho’s comments come on the day that Brazil have plummeted to their lowest ever place on the FIFA rankings, dropping to 22nd, leaving them sandwiched between Ghana and Mali.

Brazil’s low position has not been helped by a lack of competitive internationals, and nor has it been aided by a run comprising four draws in their last six games.

The latest rankings were also embarrassing for Asia, whose highest-placed team Japan were a modest 32nd, with South Korea and Australia the region’s only other teams in the top 50.

Mali were among four teams who reached their highest-ever ranking, alongside Belgium (12th), Bosnia (15th) and Albania (38th).

Oceania champions Tahiti will head for the Confederations Cup in 138th position after dropping three places. They will face Nigeria, Uruguay and European champions Spain, who continued to lead the rankings.

There was no change in the top four with Germany, Argentina and Croatia trailing Vicente del Bosque’s Spain.

Rankings:

1. (1) Spain

2. (2) Germany

3. (3) Argentina

4. (4) Croatia

5. (9) Netherlands

6. (5) Portugal

7. (6) Colombia

8. (8) Italy

9. (7) England 10. (10)

Some good news and some bad news…

There’s some good news and some bad news for Arsenal fans. The good news is that the club has opted for a strategy of continuity with no knee jerk decisions threatening to undermine the long term stability of the club. The bad news?  Arsene Wenger is going nowhere.

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis believes Wenger is the right man to make Arsenal title challengers again. In this, he must be alone.

“We think we have got a fantastic manager,” Gazidis told reporters. “We hope that he wants to do what he is doing for the long term. I believe he does. I think he is still ambitious, still driven and sees the potential of the club as he looks forward and I think he is very excited by that.

“We have a great relationship and he has a great relationship with the board as well. So, quietly and at the right time I think we will make an announcement on that when things are all put in place.

“This is going to happen very quietly behind closed doors, privately and then there will be an announcement. We have got a lot of confidence in Arsene that he is the right person to take the club forward and I think he will want to do that.”

Asked whether potential transfer targets were reluctant to join Arsenal because of the uncertainty over Wenger’s position, Gazidis said this was not the case.

“If you are asking me, is that an issue with players, the answer is ‘No,’” Gazidis said. “It is far more an issue with players signing at other clubs than it is at Arsenal. If players have that on their issue list, I think that’s a mark in our favor, not against us.

“I think players that are concerned about uncertainty probably think about Arsenal as the most certain place they could be in the world of football. This is a club that has had remarkable consistency in terms of its manager, its football philosophy, its direction and the consistent support from the board.”

All that, and a lack of silverware.

As Arsenal and Wenger look set to renew vows, this really is a relationship that can de described as a triumph of hope over experience.

How to lose friends and alienate players

Strikers are a sensitive breed, prone more than any other type of player to suffer lapses in confidence, caused by a failure to hit the target. Unlike other positions whose contribution can usually be measured by a myriad of criteria, forwards, rightly or wrongly, tend to be judged on just the one: goals.

Spain boss Vicente del Bosque is clearly oblivious to the unique needs of the misfiring striker, as he cheerfully admits that he does not have a striker upon whom he can truly rely.

At Euro 2012, Spain sometimes went without a recognised striker, opting instead to use midfielder Cesc Fabregas as a ‘False nine’. For this month’s Confederations Cup, a dress rehearsal for next summer’s World Cup,  Del Bosque says he might persist with the system. This, despite having David Villa (Spain’s all-timeleading scorer), Fernando Torres and Roberto Soldado at his disposal.

“We’ll be playing with a striker, that’s quite clear – even if it’s a false nine or an out-and-out striker. As a rule, every team should play with a No. 9 but we haven’t found one we all like,” he told Diario dela Roja.

“Maybe that’s our fault. A few have been given run-outs, Negredo, Torres, Soldado, even Villa hasn’t really bowled us over either.

“We need players up front who participate, ones who are visible and actively taking part during the game”.

Not content with undermining the confidence of his forwards, Del Bosque moved onto the midfield and in particular, the contribution of Bayern Munich’s Javi Martinez, who has yet to show his best form in a Spain shirt.

“I’ve said it many times and I won’t mince my words – I think he is capable of giving a lot more, he needs to participate more during Bayern’s games and exert more control in his own game,” said del Bosque. “He performed well in the Champions League final and that’s something.

“He’s also first choice in the team. Whenever we haven’t called him, it’s been because we haven’t liked how he has been playing but there’s never been a problem about that because he’s a good lad.”