Match fixing returns

The Italian football federation ( FIGC ) is to investigate 22 clubs and 61 people in the latest match-fixing scandal to hit the sport.

Serie A clubs Atalanta, Novara and Siena are among the 22 teams under scrutiny, although of the 33 matches being probed, the FIGC says 29 were played Serie B but none in Serie A.

Of the 61 people, 52 are active players, two are non-active, four are club officials and three are coaches.

More than 30 people have been arrested in Italy in the past year in the investigation started by judicial authorities in Cremona, including former Atalanta captain Cristiano Doni and former Lazio captain Giuseppe Signori – both former Italy internationals.

The probe has revived memories of the infamous Caliopoli scandal of 2006 that saw Juventus relegated to Serie B and other major clubs suffer points deductions.

Messi accused

Royston Drenthe has accused players of Barcelona, specifically Lionel Messi, of making derogatory remarks towards him based on his colour.

The Real Madrid winger, who spent the season on loan at Everton until being axed for disciplinary reasons, claims that Messi and his team-mates frequently referred to him as ‘negro’.

“I played a lot against Messi in recent years and we always had problems. You know what bothered me most? The way he talked, always called me ‘negro, negro,’

“I understand that it is common in South America, but I can not stand it, Mahamadou Diarra, my teammate at Real Madrid, got angry when Higuain and Heinze (Real Madrid team mates) spoke to him that way. So in the end they stopped.

“When the Hercules won in Barcelona I had a little incident with him. Before the match, shook my hand and said ‘hello, negro’ a few times. After the game he did not greet me.”

Left holding the baby

Dario Conca could be in trouble after he brought his baby onto the pitch before an AFC Champions League game.

An Asian Football Confederation (AFC) spokesman said Conca, who became one of the world’s best paid players when he joined Guangzhou Evergrande last year, was being investigated over the incident at this month’s match with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

“The case is currently under investigation for potential violation by the player of the rules and regulations of the competition,” a spokesman told AFP.

The China Daily newspaper said Conca had ignored a match official who told him children were not allowed onto the field of play when he kissed his two-month-old son, Benjamin, in front of the Guangzhou crowd.

The Argentine midfielder was recently given a nine-match ban and fined 1 million yuan($159,000 fine), for publicly criticizing coach Lee Jang-soo after he was substituted during the club’s AFC Champions League match against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

It’s a steep fine, and one that Conca complained was too harsh, but to put it into some kind of perspective, it hardly makes a dent in his annual salary of $10.4 million.

In January, Conca was also fined 150,000 yuan ($24,000) for returning late to training after a holiday. Again, a lot for us mere mortals, but for Conca, less than a day’s pay.

Career change for Drogba

Professional footballer, UN ambassador, charity fundraiser, theatrical performer and diver extraordinaire, Didier Drogba can now add a new string to his bow: that of slightly uncomfortable performer in a music video.

The Chelsea striker has a small cameo role in the video for Julia Channel’s debut single.

Ljajic defends himself

Fiorentina’s Adem Ljajic has denied that he verbally abused Delio Rossi prior to the now infamous dug-out attack on him.

“I didn’t insult the Coach,” the 20-year-old told the Corriere della Sera.

“If the TV images show that I did then I’ll quit the game. Rossi looked to strike me on more than one occasion while saying ‘you’re a jerk, I’ll kill you’.

“That’s when I responded to him in Serbian and I wasn’t complimentary.”

Rossi, who was sacked for the attack, subsequently apologised to the club, the fans and the player, but inferred that he reacted to an insult from the Serbian.

“I can’t forgive him,” Ljajic added. “He tried to strike me while I couldn’t defend myself. I have a little cousin in Serbia who is 10 and he watches all of my games. He was left shocked.

“I came off the pitch and I applauded the coach, I gave him the thumbs up and in Italian I said ‘you’re a great, you’re really very good!’

“I made a mistake, but I didn’t expect a reaction like that. I want people to examine the pictures so they can read my lips.

“People have started saying that I insulted his dead mother, that I spoke about a handicapped son and none of that is true.”

Ljajic’s version of events was corroborated by team-mate  Valon Behrami, who claimed there had been no provocation from the Serb.

“We were all shaken up by the scene with Adem, but the day after Rossi said some things that weren’t true.

“Adem swore to us he never said those things to Rossi, plus the people on the bench didn’t hear anything either, so perhaps Rossi would’ve done better to keep quiet.

Villa fears

Twenty four hours after learning that talismanic defender Carles Puyol will almost certainly miss Euro 2012 through injury, Spain are now sweating on the fitness of their leading scorer, David Villa, who has not played since breaking his leg at Club World Cup in December 2011.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque recently stated that he’s willing to give Villa until the last possible moment to prove his fitness.

“We are on tenterhooks,” he said. “We are worried because, of course, it is difficult for us to take someone who has not played one game.”

“We’re obliged to wait until the last moment in David’s case because he has been our most reputable goal scorer.”

More optimistic sounds were being made by Spain’s team doctor, Javier Minano, who had not given up hope of the striker making a full recovery in time for this summer’s finals in Poland and Ukraine.

“Villa will have to join the group for regular training action, and has to continue to improve. We met with him a few days ago, and his recovery is on schedule. I am optimistic about his chances,” Minano stated to Efe.

A mighty oak falls

With JohnTerry’s place in the England squad for Euro 2012 reported to be in doubt, his error-strewn performance against Liverpool will have done him no favours.

The low point of Terry’s performance came when he lost his footing as Jordan Henderson ran towards him. But, as we can see, this isn’t the first time the former England skipper has struggled to stay upright this season.

Going...

going...

And then there was this.

Gone!

Quote of the day

“There is no more dissent, no more problems, everything has been solved. We are not speaking about personal problems anymore. That is solved and over. This summit represented a strong signal from the Brazilian government that it is fully committed to our partnership and shared responsibility to stage the most successful FIFA World Cup ever.” 

After meeting with representatives of the Brazil 2014 World Cup organising committee, FIFA President Sepp Blatter tries to convince the world – and possibly himself – that it will be alright on the night.

Meanwhile a more realistic assessment of the current state of play, came from FIFA General Secretary, Jermoe Valcke

According to Valcke, among the issues “which needed solutions” were hotel capacity, airports, security and transport in the air and in general.

To say that Brazil will have its hands full for the next two years, is something of an understatement.

Goal of the day

An eventful re-run of Saturday’s FA Cup final saw Liverpool emerge 4-1 victors over Chelsea on Tuesday.

The match was littered with incident, with players from both teams outdoing each other in their attempts to maim each other, and most of the goals the result of inspired attacking play or keystone cop defensive work. Or, as in the case of Liverpool’s fourth from Jonjo Shelvey, sometimes both.

Finally…

Relatives of Rashid Yekini, the former Nigeria striker who died last week, have appealed for the player to be immortalised.

Yekini’s mother, Sikirat, Yekini’s brother, Akeem and one of his sisters, Nike said the family would be delighted if the government could name a stadium after Yekini.

A rather touching thought; well it would have been had it not accompanied by a rather crass appeal for cash from the government – a request which somewhat taints their desire for Yekini to be honoured.

Despite his heroics on the pitch, Yekini left no provision for his family, and his mother believes that oversight could immediately be rectified by a handout from the authorities.

Sikiriat said, “I appeal to the government to do something that would be a memorial in honour of my late son and at the same time make me happy because that was all I had in my life. Please let the government do its best to ensure that this great loss does not transmit negativity to the entire family.”

One can sympathise with her plight, but surely there was a more timely and diplomatic way of broaching the subject of her penury. A respectful wait, at least until the body had gone cold, would surely have been more appropriate.

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