Getting out of jail

Steaua Bucharest owner Gigi Becali has been handed a suspended three-year prison sentence for illegally detaining three people.

In the early hours of Jan. 27, 2009, police were called to an incident when witnesses saw a group of people shove three people into the trunk of a car.

According to the police report, the three were driven to a house on the outskirts of Bucharest, were held captive for three hours and accused of taking a black Mercedes owned by Becali.

Becali, who if one were extremely charitable would be called an entrepreneur , is a controversial figure in Romania, renowned for espousing ultra nationalist views laced with anti-semitism and underpinned by a strong and nasty streak of homophobia. An all-round nice guy, as you can imagine.

He won a seat in parliament for the Social Liberal Union (USL) in a December election, but it is unclear if he would retain his seat after the conviction.

The 54-year-old, who also served in the European Parliament from 2009 before resigning to take his seat in the national assembly, said he might move from Romania with his family. At least he can do that: not so long ago, such was his reputation that he was barred form leaving the country.

“Romania is no longer a safe place,” Becali, on a holiday in Dubai, told local tv channel RTV. “I do not want to see my family crying.”

Romania’s gain will be another country’s loss.

The Bucharest-based Steaua lead the Romanian standings with 47 points from 19 points, 10 points ahead of second-placed FC Astra.

Large pinch of salt

Confederation of African Football President Issa Hayatou says if that if he is re-elected in March it will be his last term. Now where have we heard that kind of talk before? Oh, that’s right: every time a longstanding football figure is up for re-election.

Hayatou, like Blatter before him and Havelange before him, plays not so much a long game as an eternal game where people eventually grow old or weary or forget that he once vowed to step down. So long as he has breath in his lungs, he, like Blatter, will be shoring up his power base.

“If I’m elected, this will be my last term,” Hayatou said in comments, published to the ACON2013 web site.

Hayatou, who is now 66, has been the head of CAF for over 26 years and is currently the only candidate for the presidential election to be held in Marrakech in March at the CAF Congress. His chances of re-election were strengthened by a subtle tweaking of the CAF statutes which effectively barred his most dangerous rival, Jacques Anouma of the Ivory Cast, from running against him in Marrakech later this month.

Power corrupts and absolute power…

Goal of the day

Possibly not the most spectacular strike of the weekend but arguably the most memorable, was the appropriately named Sunday Mba’s for Nigeria in their African Cup of National final victory over Burkina Faso.

Quote of the day

“Juventus can train in my back garden, it would make no difference. If they want to prepare at a Division Three training ground let them get on with it.”

Twenty four hours before his side’s Champions League clash with Juventus, Celtic’s Kris Commons responds to the news that Rangers had offered their training facilities to the Italian side.

Friendly fire

A ‘friendly match between Ukraine’s Dnipro Dnepropetrovsk and Russia’s FC Krasnodar degenerated into an ugly rugby-style brawl, which left Dnipro’s Brazilian midfielder Giuliano unconscious.

The scuffle started after Dnipro and Ukraine international Ruslan Rotan committed two violent tackles on two of the Russian club’s players in the space of just a few seconds. Players form both sides piled in and the person to come off worst was the unfortunate Giuliano who swallowed his tongue after being struck in the chest.

“When it all started, the players from both benches rushed onto the pitch,” Giuliano told

“Naturally, I couldn’t remain uninvolved. At one point, I saw that one of the opposing team’s players swung his foot at my friend Matheus. I tried to help him and was hit in the chest. I lost my breath at that moment. I remained standing for 10 or 15 seconds and then lost consciousness. I do not remember anything else.”

The brawl ended as soon as the Brazilain went down with the Krasnodar players shouting: “Stop fighting! Save your guy!”

From Russia with love

Liverpool have issued guidelines to their travelling supporters head of Thursday’s Europa League encounter against Zenit St Petersburg.

It reads: “Security at the stadium will be strict and uncompromising – refrain from antagonising the police even if you believe you are in the right.

“Access to the stadium can be slow. There will be body searches at the entrance to the ground and then ticket checks at the entrance to the stand. To avoid a last-minute queues please try to get to the stadium early.

“No bottles and cans are allowed to be brought into the ground. Rules on alcohol at the stadium are strict. Drinking alcohol inside the stadium is prohibited. Stadium security will not allow entry to anyone they consider to have been drinking heavily.”

What they omitted to mention was that fans should also refrain from entering the field of play. The price of such misbehaviour, as one Zenit fan has just discovered, might be a costly one.

A magistrate court in Saint Petersburg has upheld an action brought by Zenit football club against the fan at the Petrovsky stadium.

The man got onto the pitch during a Russian Premier League against Terek Grozny on September 14, 2012.

Zenit were handed a fine of 20,000 roubles (around £423) in accordance with the League’s regulations. But, in a novel development that should serve as a warning to any would-be hooligan, the club managed to convince the court that the fine should be paid by the perpetrator.

“This is the first of a kind case in the Russian legal practice,” Zenit’s press-service stressed. “Previously, in our country all penalty payments for the fans making their way to the pitch would solely lie on the shoulders of the football clubs.”

Russian roulette

With the country due to host the World Cup in five years time, Russia, which has a lingering hooligan problem, is determined to clean up its act. To that end, the Russian Premier League has passed legislation requiring fans to provide personal identification if they wish to buy tickets to Russian Premier League matches when the football season restarts on March 8.

“There have been proposals to change some regulations and we decided to legalize the purchase of tickets with an identity card,” Sergey Cheban, Premier League’s chief executive, told RIA-Novosti. “I think, at first it’ll be difficult, but after a couple of matches the club’s will work it out and thing will get back to normal.”

The official added that the ruling was unanimously backed by all of the 16 clubs of the Russian top flight.

“A united fan database will also be created, which will make ticket purchase easier as all the needed info on each fan will be present on his card,” Chaban added.

The clashes between the supporters of Torpedo Moscow and city rivals from Dynamo, prompted the referee to stop the Russian Cup encounter in September.

And in November, Zenit were ordered to play three matches behind closed doors after a flare thrown from the St Petersburg side’s stands, struck the Dyanmo Moscow keeper, Anton Shunin.

From winning cups to baking cupcakes

Not much has been going right for Fernando Torres on the pitch, but the Chelsea striker is not entirely without his uses.

Here the Spaniard shows us how to make a perfect cupcake.

Only joking

Never a dull moment at Milan in recent days with those wisecracking Berlusconis regaling us all with their finely crafted comedy routines.

First there was owner Silvio dismissing Mario Balotelli as a “rotten apple”, only for brother Paolo to outdo him by describing the same player in racially offensive terms. For Paolo, though, it was all a joke, distorted by the media, though presumably not that sizeable chunk of the Italian media owned and controlled by the Berlusconi family.

Now, it’s Silvio’s turn to put his foot in his mouth, by claiming that Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri did not “understand anything”.

Naturally, when you’re a member of the Berlusconi family caught speaking out of line, the default response is to laugh it all off and claim it was a joke.

“I was just joking with someone who was sitting next to me,” the former prime minister told Uno Mattina. “He was saying a phrase in Veneto after the mention of anybody’s name, then Allegri’s name popped up and I repeated that saying too.

“Then the newspapers did what they usually do …”

Ah, those pesky newspapers again.

Meanwhile, Allegri has refused to comment on the remark, insisting that he was only concerned by team issues.

“I never comment on the president’s words, I never have done and I want to talk about the game,” the 45-year-old told reporters, whilst no doubt re-checking the terms his redundancy package.

Bayern for blood

It wouldn’t be Bayern Munich if their ex-players weren’t feuding, and even though the side sits astride the Bundesliga with a seemingly unassailable 15-point lead, the former stars can still find plenty to bicker about.

Bayern president Uli Hoeness has ridiculed former Bayern player Lothar Matthaus after he claimed a deal to sign Robert Lewandowski from Borussia Dortmund had already been completed.

Matthaus told Sky the only question remaining was whether the Poland international joined Bayern in the summer or when his deal expires in 2014.

“I have heard that Lewandowski and his management have already reached an agreement with Bayern,” Matthaus said.

“His contract runs out in 2014. Dortmund could cash in on him in 2013. They would get a high fee – I have overheard something like €25 million to €30 million – or he could join Bayern on a free in 2014.”

But Hoeness laughed off the claims and told Abendzeitung: “If Lothar confirms this, then soon he will be the general manager at Bayern.”

Speaking to Sport 1 soon afterwards, he said: “Matthaus has become active again in recent months. It was always with women – but now he’s suddenly discussing new players at Bayern.”

Matthaus, however, defended his claims and told Sky: “Uli Hoeness also knows I have been in the business for 30 years now. I have good contacts, not only domestically but also internationally. A reliable source – one who would know – told me that Lewandowski will join Bayern.

“If you have such information – and in this case I am no coach, but a pundit – I have the duty to pass this information on. If I am wrong, I will apologise to Uli Hoeness.”

Matthaus also claimed Germany international Mario Gomez would have no future at Bayern under Pep Guardiola, who takes over in the summer.

“He [Lewandowski] is a player who, I believe, fits into the Guardiola system more than Gomez,” he said. “Against Leverkusen last week, he showed Guardiola how you not only play up front but also open the game from midfield.”

After the serenity and stability he enjoyed at Barcelona, Guardiola may be in for something of a culture shock when he joins Bayern.