Fans fined

UEFA has fined the German football €25,000 after fans displayed a neo-Nazi flag at a European Championship match.

Germany has now been disciplined for fans’ behaviour at all three Euro 2012 group-stage matches, and paid fines amounting to nearly €50,000. They must be taking these offences seriously: that’s almost half as much as they fined Nicklas Bendtner for exposing the upper part of his underwear.

UEFA says fans were guilty of ”improper conduct” at the match against Denmark on June 17.

Monitors from FARE fans’ group identified the neo-Nazi symbol after being appointed to help find offensive flags, chants and behavior in Euro 2012 stadiums. They’ve had a busy time and are currently enjoying a well-earned break from their duties.

UEFA previously said Germany fans in the Arena Lviv in Ukraine also sang ”inappropriate” chants and set off fireworks.

German fans had thrown paper missiles at Portugal and Netherlands players at earlier matches.

I wonder what treats they got in store for the semi final.

Paying the penalty

We might as well get all of the bad news out of the way first.

British police have begun an investigation after Ashley Cole and Ashley Young, the two England internationals to miss penalties during the shootout defeat to Italy, were subject to racist abuse on Twitter.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “We are aware of alleged racist comments on Twitter following last night’s England game and have launched an investigation.

“The allegation was made to MPS on 25 June by a member of the public relating to comments on a Twitter account supposedly based in London.

“No arrests at this early stage.”

The Football Association branded the attacks as “appalling and unacceptable”, although they stopped short of saying that they were as bad as the penalties themselves.

“We are concerned at the reports regarding allegations of abuse aimed at England players Ashley Cole and Ashley Young on Twitter,” an FA statement read.

“They have just given everything for the national team at Euro 2012 and it is appalling and unacceptable that messages of an abusive type are being posted. We support any police investigation in identifying who is behind this.”

After fellow posters complained, the offensive tweeter wrote: “All I got to say is this was just a joke, you guys need to relax, police know i was kiddin around and they won’t bother me hopefully, cheers.”

Another said: “The police won’t bother me mate i can assure you that.”

I wouldn’t be so sure. In March, student Liam Stacey was charged with racially abusing two Twitter users and mocking Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba after he collapsed and almost died.

Muamba survived, Stacey went to jail. Justice at work!

Paying for the sins of others

Russian football chief Sergei Fursenko has resigned his post following Russia’s disappointing showing at Euro 2012.

Fursenko, who also sits on the UEFA executive board, resigned after speaking with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Did he jump or was he pushed, would be the obvious question.

“I would like to apologize to our fans for such a result. I have taken a difficult decision – to step down as head of the Russian Football Union (RFU),” Fursenko told his close friend Putin, who was not holding a gun to his head, the Kremlin said.

Fursenko has been criticized for the team’s poor showing at the tournament in Poland and Ukraine, where they failed to advance past the group stage, despite an opening day 4-1 win over the Czech Republic.

He was largely responsible for hiring Dutchman Dick Advocaat as Russia coach in 2010 after deciding against extending a contract of fellow-Dutchman Guus Hiddink.

Fursenko’s resignation was greeted with mixed reviews within Russian football community.

Former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, who now acts as chairman of Dynamo Moscow’s advisory board, said: “Fursenko’s exit was justified taking into account our result at Euro 2012.”

However, honorary RFU chief Vyacheslav Koloskov criticized Fursenko for abandoning “the sinking ship”.

“I have a feeling there is more to his resignation,” long-time RFU boss and former FIFA vice-president Koloskov said.

“Just three or four days ago Fursenko said he was looking for a new coach, meaning he had no plans to resign. Something must have happened that made him change his mind,” Koloskov said, clearly unaware of the face-to-face with Putin.

“I’m not going to condemn him – I was in his position myself a few years ago (after Russia were eliminated from Euro 2004) – but I think it’s not right for him to abandon the sinking ship.”

French farce

A case of deja vu in the French camp as there is talk of disciplinary action being taken against some of the players returning from Euro 2012.

Another unhappy campaign, another fractured camp, it’s 2010 all over again, only this time minus the vuvuzela.

According to L’Equipe, who have had more than their fair share of run-ins with him, midfielder Samir Nasri faces potentially a lengthy ban from the national side. His behaviour, along with that of several of his colleagues, is why the French Football Federation (FFF) is currently withholding a €100,000 bonus payment to the squad.

As well as tainting the image of French football, Nasri’s outburst towards a journalist has also endangered some of the sponsorship revenue upon which the FFF depends, and in these straitened times, that’s never going to go down too well.

L’Equipe said that Nasri, along with Hatem Ben Arfa, Jeremy Menez and Yann M’Vila, were likely to be charged next Tuesday, when former Marseille president Jean-Michel Roussier is confirmed as the FFF’s new director-general.

Nasri is at greater risk of a heavy punishment because he was a repeat offender.

“You can do what you want when you play for Manchester City but not when you wear the France team shirt,” FFF president Noel Le Graet is reported to have told him.

I think even Manchester City might find that kind of behaviour beyond the pale.

Quote of the day

“Today, many French people will ask why we pay so much out to people who respect the public so little. When the French are suffering from things such as a fall in their purchasing power and yet see players pocketing €100,000 at the end of this competition before then showing contempt for their public it is very painful.”

French politician Olivier Faure tells Europe 1 radio that the players don’t deserve their bonus.

Fit for nothing

England manager Roy Hodgson has denied suggestions that Wayne Rooney’s subdued performances for England at Euro 2012, were due to him being unfit.

Rooney, who missed the opening two games through suspension, looked a shadow of his normal self when he finally did appear.

Hodgson said: “We haven’t noticed any problems with Wayne’s fitness levels. We’ve monitored it in training and he’s looked very fit.

“In the first game against Ukraine he didn’t show any particular signs of lacking fitness. He played 120 minutes [against Italy].

“What you might be saying is that you are a bit disappointed with his performance and maybe thought he could have played better.”

Question marks have been raised over the wisdom of Rooney’s post-season trip to Las Vegas, where he was pictured in a casino with former United team-mate Wes Brown. It wouldn’t have been my choice of destination for a pre-tournament ‘break’, but what do I know.

But Hodgson, clearly an adherent to the ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ code of omertà, insisted fitness was never an issue with Rooney.

“His running stats in the training sessions and in the game were actually very good.

“Of course we put a lot of expectations on him. When he missed the first two games there was a suggestion we all believed that all we need to do is get to the third game and Wayne Rooney will win us the championship. That was maybe too much to ask of him. He certainly tried very hard.

“He didn’t have his best game – I’m sure he will admit that.

“That could be down to a number of factors but I don’t think the fitness itself was a particular factor.”

Referee anger

Portuguese newspapers claim that the country’s football federation is unhappy with the choice of Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir for the semi-final tie against Spain.

“Portugal outraged: the appointment of Turkey’s Cakir rings alarm bells,” said A Bola on its front page.

The newspaper pointed out that the president of UEFA’s refereeing committee, Angel Villar, was also the head of the Spanish football federation and his vice-president Senes Erzik is Turkish and a “friend of Barcelona and Unicef”.

A Bola claimed that as he still worked for Unicef he would have been involved in sponsorship negotiations between the UN child rights agency and Barcelona.

The Record added that the Portuguese football association was “not happy about the appointment of the Turkish referee”, adding that the Selecao “feared behind-the-scenes shenanigans and the major influence of Angel Villar”.

In reality, by merely hinting at a conspiracy, the Portuguese press have ensured that the referee will now go out of his way to demonstrate his impartiality. That, one hopes, was the point.

Set in stone

Diego Maradona believes that Portugal have Cristiano Ronaldo to thank for their progress to the Euro 2012 semi-final, and the Real Madrid star deserves a monument in his honour in Lisbon. That will do wonders for his fragile ego.

“Cristiano Ronaldo had been struggling with performance at a national level for years,” Maradona wrote in his column for Times of India.

“After a superb couple of games, Ronaldo started playing – scoring three goals and bringing Portugal to an unexpected semi-final. It is always great to see the best in a superstar.

“He has shown his countrymen that he does deserve a monument in Lisbon.”

Maradona, the shrewd master tactician, then explained how to beat Spain.

“Stay only in defence and the Spanish will kill you,” he stated. “Attack them like the Italians did in their first game, and you may get an upset.”

That must have been the advice he gave to his Argentina players when they faced Germany two years ago. ‘Don’t worry about defending lads, just go for it’.

Week is a long time in politics

The highly principled boycott of Ukraine carried out by Spain and Portugal (among others) in response to the treatment of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, looks set to crumble if either side reaches the final.

Boycotts, lest we forget, have limited value to a domestic audience not simply uninterested in the fate of Tymoshenko, but largely ignorant of her existence. Major European finals, though, now they represent a huge photo opportunity, a wonderful opportunity to be associated with a successful national brand, and what kind of politician is going to turn down that kind of free publicity? One with integrity, I hear you shout in unison. Precisely!

Meanwhile, back in the real world and as the final looms for one of Spain or Portugal, the art of realpolitik is on display.

“The (Spanish) prime minister was at the first game and will be at the last,” Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said. Spain’s opening Euro 2012 game against Italy was played in Gdansk, Poland.

“The Portuguese have told us they will also be there,” Garcia-Margallo said, adding jokingly, “which means they will go with us and they’ll be very welcome”.

Garcia-Margallo said Spain had already sent a powerful message by not sending representatives to the Spain-France quarter-final in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk.

“It’s a sufficiently clear and significant political signal of what we think,” he said.

Obviously, a more powerful message would be sent by boycotting the final. Perhaps they could attend and look really sullen throughout, like they’d rather be anywhere else in the world at that moment.

Foot in mouth

Phil Brown, who led Hull City to the pinnacle  of the Premier League, and then led them back down again, has become the subject of ridicule after he suggested that the reason Andrea Pirlo had never played in England was because he was “homophobic”.

Clearly a ludicrous thing for him to say, as we all know that there are no gay footballers in England, although one or two have been known to read the Guardian, so it would actually be the perfect place for a homophobe to play.

“I think the Premier League is the best league in the world,” Brown said assessing England’s failed Euro 2012. I presume the p

“I think that’s why we’re attracting the better foreign players. Why … for the life of me … hasn’t Pirlo played in England?

“Is he just homophobic? Is he Italian through and through and doesn’t want to leave them?”

I assume he meant xenophobic, but with Brown, who knows.