Backlash

The ramifications from Tuesday’s dramatic Champions League tie between Manchester United and Real Madrid continue to rumble on, not least for anyone who had the temerity to agree with referee Cuneyt Cakir’s decision to send off Nani.

Showing that Liverpool fans do not enjoy a monopoly when it comes to one-eyed, spiteful, deluded, followers, Manchester United supporters have taken to the airwaves and various forms of social media to demand some kind of retribution for an act that most people, on reflection, believe was a correct call by the Turkish official.

The referee has received death threats (standard these days), while anyone even thinking that the referee might have had a point is regarded as a thought criminal.

Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane, now working as a straight talking pundit for ITV, is at the heart of the backlash after he backed Cakir.

Twitter has been awash with talk of Keane’s apostasy and former Manchester players have been queuing up to refute the traitor.

Bryan Robson, a former United captain and currently an unemployable coach, stated: “I think the only person in the stadium who thought it was a sending-off was Roy Keane. I’m glad Keane didn’t take up refereeing as a profession.”

The BBC, searched high and low for an impartial opinion on the incident, couldn’t find one and settled instead for Paddy Crerand, a former United player and current United apologist, who works for the club’s in-house football channel MUTV. What were they thinking?

Crerand said: “Does Roy want to be noticed? Is he envious, jealous, or has he got the needle with Manchester United? Why are we talking about Roy Keane? He is in a minority of one. Nobody else agrees with him. The referee was wrong.

“Why are we talking about Roy Keane, because he played for Manchester United? Well let me tell you something. I’ve played for Manchester United, I’ve played in a European Cup final, and Roy didn’t. The referee was wrong.”

Ah, I see. You played in a European Cup final, Keane didn’t: ergo you must be right.

For a more balanced piece on Keane and the passions he has stirred in the wake of those fairly innocuous comments, you could do worse than read this 

Voice of realism

Through to the last 8 of the Champions League after a comfortable 5-0 aggregate win over Celtic, but according to a candid assessment by their coach, Antonio Conte, Juventus no longer operate at the rarefied level of clubs like Barcelona or Bayern Munich.

Conte acknowledges that the Italian champions cannot compete financially with clubs from Spain, Germany or England, even if results in Europe’s elite competition have improved this season. A realistic assessment, but no less shocking when one considers we are talking about one of the most illustrious names in European football.

“When I played, there were not so many well-structured clubs, and there were more opportunities for Italian teams to be successful,” Conte told reporters after Juve beat Celtic 2-0 on Wednesday to complete a 5-0 aggregate win in the last 16 tie.

“Now, for a variety of reasons, mainly financial, teams such as Barcelona and Bayern Munich are stronger.

“We must be humble, be aware that we can no longer bridge that economic gap. We are three of four steps below them but it doesn’t mean we can’t compete with them.

“At the end, it’s about two teams with 11 players, a pitch and a referee.”

Discrimination

FIFA has written to the Nigerian Football Association amid claims that lesbians had been banned from playing football in the West African nation.

A FIFA spokesman confirmed the letter but insisted it was a preliminary inquiry.

Nigerian media outlets have quoted Dilichukwu Onyedinma, head of the country’s women’s football league, as saying lesbian players would not be allowed to participate.

“Any player that we find is associated with it will be disqualified,” Onyedinma was quoted as saying.

“We will call the club chairmen to control their players, and such players will not be able to play for the national team,” she added.

Gay rights campaigners including the Federation of Gay Games, the European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation, Football v Homophobia and AllOut said they had written to FIFA president Sepp Blatter about the alleged ban.

“The organisations sending this letter believe that FIFA must now take firm,” said the campaigners in a statement.

Call for crackdown

Jermain Defoe has urged football’s authorities to crack down on racial abuse ahead of tonight’s Europa League tie with Inter.

Inter were fined £43,000 after their fans racially abused Mario Balotelli during last month’s derby against Milan, while Defoe was subjected to monkey chants when Spurs faced Lazio in the Europa League at White Hart Lane last September. All in all, it does not bode well for tonight’s game.

“I’m doing my job, trying to win the game for my team,” said Defoe. “I shouldn’t be getting racially abused. It seems to be happening a lot and it shouldn’t be happening.

“I experienced it against Lazio and, if I experience it again, I’ll speak to the people at the club. I have to go out and perform and try not to let it affect me when I’m playing.”

Former Spurs player Kevin-Prince Boateng walked off the pitch after he was verbally abused in a mid-season friendly for Milan.

Defoe added: “I don’t think it’s something I’d do but it depends how you feel and how bad it is.”

Goal of the day

Stunning long range effort from Atletico Choloma’s Samir Garcia in their Honduras Liga Nacional Clausura game against Olimpia.

Quote of the day

Real Madrid shut his mouth for me. It was a lack of respect. A professional of his age, an English Sir, should not be so disrespectful. It was not classy. I have no words for this gentleman, except that I hope the team he manages always loses.

Brazil’s Ronaldo did not take too kindly to Sir Alex Ferguson calling him ‘fat’ in the build-up to the Champions League meeting between Manchester United and Ronaldo’s former team Real Madrid on Tuesday night.

Sink or swim

Not sure how this one passed the pre-match pitch inspection. It’s an unknown league match in Kazakhstan and the conditions can best be described as testing.

Credit to 101greatgoals for bringing this video to a wider audience.

The kids are alright

Steve McClaren, perhaps realising that it could be some time before a top flight European clubs comes beating a path to his door, has spoken of his desire to manage England’s Under-21 side.

McClaren finds himself out of work after being sacked by Dutch side FC Twente.

The former England coach says he is in no hurry to find another club. Which, all things considered, is probably just as well.

He told Sky Sports News: “I have always said that I want to give back. I had six or seven years working with England as assistant, as the head coach, working abroad and seeing how countries like Holland and Germany have developed their youth programmes.

“I think at the elite end of English football is something, I don’t know when, I would like to give something back into the game and at that level would be perfect. But I always get that excitement as well from management and proving a point in every job you go to.

“At the moment, it has been a bit of a shock leaving FC Twente. It’s a case of resting, getting my head straight, getting some energy and seeing what’s out there.

“I’m enjoying a bit of football. I was at Old Trafford the other night and I hope to get around many of the grounds, not just in England but around Europe, and while you are out of work, expand your knowledge.

“I have been quite a while away from England and it’s good to catch up with the Premier League and see all the teams play. I will take a rest and have a look in the summer.”

To give the man credit, McClaren, notwithstanding his patchy managerial record, has always been one of the more forward looking, open minded of English coaches.

Spanish practices

Real Madrid fullback Marcelo has been fined 6,000 euros for driving without a valid licence.

The Brazilian was stopped by police last month and it was discovered he had previously lost all his points, rendering his licence invalid.

Marcelo is the latest Real player to break Spain’s traffic laws after their France striker Karim Benzema was recorded driving at 216 kph in the early hours of February 3.

The 25-year-old faces losing his licence as well as a possible fine, a period of community service or even a short prison sentence, according to Spanish law.

The two incidents have drawn criticism from a Spanish association which supports victims of traffic accidents.

The “STOP accidentes” group also criticised Real captain Iker Casillas for driving with a cast on his injured hand and Barcelona defender Gerard Pique for carrying his infant son in the front seat without the proper safety equipment.

“Many players are persistently breaking traffic laws and they are people with a significant influence on the majority of the population, especially young people,” the association said in a statement on their website.

Everything must go

Malaga’s Martin Demichelis on Thursday criticised the club for selling too many players and called on the team’s Qatari owners to be outline their intentions.

“Instead of thinking about improving or maintaining the squad, as soon as any chance to sell has arisen they (the club owners) have sold players,” the Argentine defender told reporters.

“I believe the next player to be sold in the short-term will be (Spanish international) Isco because he is the one in the squad who will be most wanted.

“I hope that this group is maintained and reinforced, that the ideas of the owners are not that Malaga will just fade away and that we can continue to grow.”

The club was bought by Qatari Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Thani in 2010 and he initially embarked upon a Manchester City style that produced dividends when the club finished fourth last season.

But a turbulent close season last year saw a number of key players leave and the club was even reported to unions for unpaid wages.

Their failure to pay transfer fees to other clubs and tax irregularities led to a ban from UEFA competitions from next season should they qualify, although the club are appealing that decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Demichelis said the departure of players such as Nacho Monreal to Arsenal in the January transfer window was a worrying sign.

“Right now we, the players, are the principal ones responsible as to whether we continue in the European places,” he said. “But, at the end of the season, those responsible to show what they want to do with this club are the owners.”

Ironically, Demichelis, who is out of contract in June, is reported to be have agreed to return to River Plate at the end of the season.

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