The Gambler

Suspended England under-21 winger Andros Townsend admits he was stupid and naive to have bet on televised matches.

Townsend withdrew from the squad for the European under-21 championship in Israel after being charged with breaches of the Football Association’s rules.

He was fined £18,000 and banned for four months, with three of them suspended, meaning the player will still be available for the start of next season.

Speaking to the Sun newspaper, Townsend said his gambling started while on loan to Championship sides Leeds United and Birmingham City.

“I was bored and there were TV ads promoting bets you could have on the matches I was watching,” he said. “So I downloaded the phone app and started having small wagers to make watching games as a neutral fun.

“I was incredibly naive and didn’t realise I was doing anything wrong,” he added. “I assumed as long as you weren’t betting on your club, then it was OK.”

An honest and understandable mistake to make and Townsend, who said that there was no matchfixing, or betting on his own team to lose, was angry at his own stupidity.

“I was stupid. I’m angry with myself because I’ve always been proud of how I conduct myself off the pitch,” he said.

Unlikely transfer stories

Milan CEO Adriano Galliani has revealed he was interested in bringing Neymar to the San Siro before the forward joined Barcelona in a 57 million euro deal.

The 21-year-old sealed his long-awaited move to the Camp Nou on Monday, and Galliani has admitted were it not for financial constraints, Rossoneri were keen on signing the Brazil international. Like every other club in world football, then.

“Neymar? We tracked him, which is something that nobody knew,” he told reporters.

”We could not make it happen. He was just too expensive.

In other transfer news, Wigan Athletic have abandoned their attempt to sign Cristiano Ronaldo.

Spend spend spend!

On the subject of unlikely transfer stories, the long-missing cheque book at Arsenal has been found.

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis says the club are ready to “escalate” their spending next season. Starting from an exceedingly low base, that doesn’t exactly herald a spending spree, but apparently the money is in place.

Asked whether Arsenal could afford to spend a £20m transfer fee on a single player, and offer salaries of £200,000 per week, he said: “Of course we could do that. We could do more than that.”

But he warned that manager Arsene Wenger will not necessarily spend such money.

“It is going to be the players that Arsene believes in,” Gazidis said.

“He is pretty blind to price tags, he looks at what he sees with his eyes and makes judgements based on that, not on reputations and prices.”

“We have a certain amount of money which we have held in reserve,” Gazidis said.

“We also have new revenue streams coming on board and all of these things mean we can do some things which would excite you, but what excites Arsene isn’t necessarily what excites you.

“This year we are beginning to see something we have been planning for some time – the escalation in our financial firepower.

“That is going to happen partly into next season, it is part way available now in the summer, but the following season as well.

“It is a progression over the next two seasons and is quite significant for the club.”

If Gazidis is to be believed, Arsenal have held back from spending money in recent seasons. This strikes me as a high risk strategy, given that in each of the past two seasons they have sneaked into one of the qualifying places for the Champions League – a competition that is critical to their financial wellbeing.

Coincidentally, today is the deadline for Arsenal season ticket renewals. Make of that what you will.

Typecast

With little else to occupy him in recent weeks, Manchester United’s out-of-favour striker, Wayne Rooney, has taken advantage of his spare time to front a campaign for Mr Potato crisps in Malaysia.

Here’s a photo of the Mr Potato poster

You can imagine the instructions from director: “Just be yourself Wayne.”

Goal of the day

Coritiba’s Alex produced a stunning long range strike to earn all three points against Fluminense.

Quote of the day

“If I said there was not anything in it, I would be lying. But that is not for now. I am 100 per cent focused on the national team at the moment.

Asked about interest in from Chelsea, Zenit St Petersburg’s Brazilian striker, Hulk, admits that there has been contact.

Aussie rules

Australia’s foreign minister has apologised to the Jordanian ambassador over an incident at Melbourne Airport, where the country’s national coach was detained by immigration officials.

Adnan Hamad was held for around four hours and questioned by officials after arriving with his team from New Zealand in preparation for next week’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Australia.

The Jordanian Football Association (JFA) said their delegation had completed all the necessary paperwork and requested clarification from Australia’s soccer governing body.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr called Jordan ambassador Rima Ahmad Alaadeen as a “diplomatic courtesy” after the incident, a spokesman from Carr’s office said on Friday.

“It was an expression of regret for any embarrassment or inconvenience that may have been caused,” the spokesman said.

“It was conveyed to say, ‘We hope you don’t think that it’s a reflection of your welcome in the country’.”

A spokesman for Australia’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship said the coach had been referred by customs officers to immigration officials to “confirm his immigration status”.

“From time to time they might stop and question someone to confirm this,” he said.

Indeed, but what are the chances that the one person you question on that particular flight was the coach of the side that threatens Australia’s World Cup aspirations.

“Maybe customs were trying to hold them back or something,” Australia central defender Sasa Ognenovski told reporters in Melbourne.

“Maybe (Australia coach) Holger (Osieck) had something to do with it.”

Winter wonderland

UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino has joined the growing chorus in favour of a winter World Cup in Qatar in 2022.

In an interview with The Times, Infantino said all tournaments should be played in the most suitable weather in the host country. FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA boss Michel Platini have also backed the move.

Qatar, meanwhile, are preparing to spend £65 billion on air-conditioned stadiums and other facilities, but Infantino believes there is a more sensible approach.

Just take a moment to think of how that money could be better spent.

“Whenever you play the World Cup should be the best period for it,” he continued. “I had the same reflections on South Africa in 2010.

“Four years earlier in Germany it was nice sunshine. South Africa is a beautiful country, but at five o’clock, it’s night and it’s zero degrees [Celsius]. It’s not a celebration of football.”

Infantino went on to say that he did not understand why football had been historically played in winter.

“You see people in stadiums with hats and scarves,” he said. “Why did England, who brought to us this beautiful game, decide that football is for the winter and not for the summer?

“The month of June, which is the most beautiful month to play football, is hardly ever used except for the Euros and the World Cup. But the World Cup is played only every 12 years, more of less, in Europe.

Good question. The reason it was played in the winter was because the Victorians didn’t want football to interfere with the cricket season, which at the time, was England’s traditional summer sport.

The Real deal

PSG boss Carlo Ancelotti is ready to buy his way out of his contract with the French champions in order to force through a move to Real Madrid this summer.

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, who obtained a report from Marca, the Italian coach is willing to pay €2m to be freed by the Parisians, with Madrid president Florentino Perez ready to pay the other half.

L’Equipe have reported that the compensation fee which would be owed to PSG should he leave stands at €4m, and early indications are that the 53-year-old is willing to fork out his share of the money.

The latest development comes after Ancelotti told the club he wanted to leave at the end of the season, but was told by Qatari president Nasser al-Khelaifi that he has one more year left on his contract and that an exit “was not possible”.

The Qatar Sports Investments group expect him to fulfil his contractual obligations, but it appears as though Ancelotti has made his decision and will continue to push for a move to Spain this summer.

Finally…

A Bolivian judge has freed seven of the 12 Brazilian fans held since February as part of an investigation into the death of a young Bolivian supporter from a flare allegedly fired by supporters of Brazil’s Corinthians.

Five of the Brazilians remains in custody and will be tried over the death of the 14-year-old boy during a South American Libertadores Cup match in February.

He was struck in the eye and died almost instantly according to the doctor who attended to him.

A dozen Corinthians supporters were initially arrested and a criminal investigation was opened.

The prosecutor in the case, Ruben Arancibia, told local radio that judge Julio Huarachi released seven of the 12 after weighing evidence against the group.

“It may seem that they were held a long time before being released, but you have to understand that an exhaustive investigation had to take place to get the necessary evidence and make the right decision,” Arancibia said.

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