Cristiano Ronaldo voodoo doll backfires

Pepsi has been forced to apologize for a promotional campaign involving a voodoo doll of Portugal international Cristiano Ronaldo.

The company ran a number of adverts before the second leg of the World Cup qualification play-off between the nations on Tuesday, with the Real Madrid star depicted as a small doll lying on train tracks with the caption ‘We’re going to pass over Portugal’.

Another image shows the model of the 28-year-old with dozens of pins stuck in.

“We would never want to put the sport or the spirit of competition in a negative light,” an official Pepsi statement reads.

“We regret it if people were offended by the posts. They were immediately taken down. We would like to extend our apologies to all concerned.”

The campaign failed on every level, with Ronaldo scoring all three goals in Portugal’s 3-2 win and provoking a predictably negative response in Portugal.

A Facebook group titled ‘I’ll never drink Pepsi’ hit 115,000 likes, and members of the group have responded by making their own versions of the adverts after Ronaldo’s one-man demolition in Stockholm. You can see those as well as the original Pepsi images by clicking here.

World Club Cup to employ vanish spray

A vanishing spray which has been used in South America for several years to stop defensive walls encroaching at free kicks will feature at next month’s World Club Cup, FIFA has confirmed.

FIFA said the spray had been tested at this year’s Under-20 and Under-17 World Cups with “very good overall feedback from the participating referees.”

Referees mark out the 10-yard distance between the ball and the nearest defender before spraying a line on the pitch to mark the correct position of the wall. The line then disappears from the pitch within a minute.

“A large majority of the officials considered the spray as a useful and helpful tool,” said FIFA’s head of refereeing Massimo Busacca.

“The spray has a clear preventive effect: The distance was always respected, so no yellow card for not respecting the distance had to be given throughout the two tournaments played so far.

“After the World Club Cup in Morocco further evaluations will be made. We will review the results and discuss if the spray will be used also in future FIFA competitions.”

So, the prospect of the vanishing spray being used at next year’s World Cup cannot be ruled out.

South Africa may suffer for botched substitution

South Africa is set to lose the FIFA world ranking points picked up for beating World Champions Spain on Tuesday because of an illegal substitution during the sides’ friendly fixture in Johannesburg.

The two nations had agreed on a maximum of six replacements each, but Vicente del Bosque had used up all of his changes when goalkeeper Victor Valdes went down injured after 76 minutes.

Right back Alvaro Arbeloa went in goal initially, but Spain soon sent on Pepe Reina – despite the protests of Bafana boss Gordon Igesund.

“The Spanish players asked me if I minded and I told them to ask the referee,” the South Africa coach told reporters afterwards.

“It was all about fair play,” Del Bosque said.

“I am normally cautious with the last change but I wanted to give [Andres] Iniesta a rest. We asked to make the substitution and were given the thumbs up.”

The home side held on to record a famous 1-0 win thanks to Bernard Parker’s 56th-minute strike but will miss out on the ranking points that would have boosted its world position because the game is set to be declared null and void by FIFA.

South Africa are currently ranked joint 61st in the world and victory against the world champions would have been worth 500 points.

Ranking points are used by FIFA when deciding seedings for major tournaments.

Barcelona past and present on Ballon d’Or controversy

The news that the voting deadline for this year’s Ballon d’Or award has been extended, did not go down well in Barcelona, with figures form the past and present unhappy with the way the vote has been conducted.

Barcelona legend Hirsto Stoichkov, a former winner of the award (in its European Footballer of the Year incarnation), has criticised the role played by UEFA president Michel Platini, whom he accuses of campaigning for compatriot Franck Ribery.

“It’s a done deal; it makes me sick. Platini is a smooth operator and Ribéry is French and has won a lot of trophies,” said Stoichkov as the presentation of last season’s Golden Shoe to Barcelona striker Lionel Messi.

Stoichkov, clearly a man who holds grudges, especially against the French, then harked back to Bulgaria’s World Cup match win obver France in 1994.

“In ’94 they tried to kick us [Bulgaria] off the pitch and then there was the French referee against Spain. These things have to be said,” he continued.

Meanwhile, Barcelona president Sandro Rosell has hit out at FIFA’s ‘lobbying’ for Cristiano Ronaldo to depose Lionel Messi as perennial Ballon d’Or winner.

FIFA made the unprecedented move of extending the deadline for votes, as well as giving voters the option of changing their mind.

The move has been greeted with scepticism in Barcelona and is seen as a way of tilting the vote in favour of Ronaldo, after the Portugal striker attracted plaudits for his World Cup play-off hat-trick against Sweden on Tuesday.

However, Barca chief Rosell, is under no illusion over who he believes should claim the award.

“If all the lobbying is ignored, the Ballon d’Or will go to Messi,’ Rosell said at the Golden Shoe presentation.

“First I would vote for Messi. Second would be Messi and third, Messi. Then I would vote for Xavi and [Andres] Iniesta, and in sixth place, [Sergio] Busquets.”

French weather woman does indeed strip naked

Doira Tillier, a weather girl on Canal+’s  Le Grand Journal programme, who made a  promise on Tuesday’s show that if France  beat the Ukraine to reach the World Cup she would read her weather report on Wednesday in the nude, has come good on the pledge – although perhaps not in the way that her myriad admirers would have chosen.

Running around a field sporting nothing but a pair of boots, Ms. Tillier did her report without any clothes on, although viewers, even those who freezed the footage frame-by-frame, were unable to make out any detail.

French fans celebrate with free porn

A French porn producer was left red-faced after France defied the odds to qualify for the World Cup finals on Tuesday.

Marc Dorcel offered football fans free access to his X-rated website if the national team turned around a 2-0 first leg deficit and defeated Ukraine in the World Cup play-off. After a 3-0 win for France fans were clicking on expecting to celebrate the win in some style.

However, such was the demand that Dorcel’s server crashed under the weight of traffic. And that was before French duo Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema had logged on to peruse the barely legal section.

But, frustrated French fans will get a second chance to take advantage of Dorcel’s offer with the producer promising to keep his pledge when the site was up and running again.

He tweeted ‘ exploded on the whistle. Mail your details to to receive your film tomorrow.’

Naked weather forecasters, porn on demand, it would seem that the libido of the entire French nation was riding on the outcome of Tuesday’s game.

Quote of the Day

“I’m a good lad. I’m as normal as anybody, just I’m in a situation where being normal is not permitted. You’ve got to be a man, you’ve got to be big and you are not allowed to get distracted in my surroundings. People are watching me, but I’m not bothered by it. I have a good character so I’m relaxed. I’m no longer like I was when I was younger.”

Mario Balotelli claims that his wayward, immature years are behind him.