Merkel encourages gay players to come out

The German chancellor Angela Merkel has encouraged gay players to come out after a Bundeliga player, in an anonymous interview, said he believed homosexuals would never feel at home in the predominantly heterosexual game of football.

In his interview with Fluter, the anonymous gay player said: “The price I pay for living my dream as a Bundesliga player is high. I have to be an actor every day and go into self-denial.

“Unlike other celebrities, football players have to follow the footballer stereotype. They have to love sports, fight aggressively and be a role model at the same time. And gays don’t follow that formula. I would not be safe any more if my sexuality was made public.

“I know of other Bundesliga players who are gay as well,” he said. “We don’t meet – it would just be too noticeable. It is a difficult parallel universe which continues inside the team.

“We don’t talk about it much, nevertheless everyone knows about it. They sometimes ask me about my partner. I know all their stories from the papers, but they have to ask me to find out.

“It might be easier to get over if several players outed themselves at once, but I don’t have a lot of hope this would help. We’d still be a minority to harp on about.”

Merkel, speaking at a press conference in Berlin, to say: “You need not fear. I am of the opinion that everyone who has the strength and courage [to come out] should know that we live in a state where he essentially does not have to be fearful. That is my political statement.”

Admirable and indeed enlightened sentiments, but perhaps a little optimistic in a culture where homophobia remains rife.

Merkel acknowledged that football, unlike more open-minded spheres of life, was less welcoming when it came to diversity.

“We have to acknowledge there are still fears when it comes to the social environment [in football]. We can only give a signal: You need not fear.”

Thailand in trouble

Thailand’s Football Association could be forced to disband following allegations of corruption, a government spokesperson investigating the association said.

The Football Association of Thailand (FAT) is under investigation by a corruption committee for tax-evasion and for setting up the Thai Premier League as a profit-making arm of the group, said Supachai Chaisamut, a spokesperson for a house anti-corruption committee investigating the group.

FAT chairman Worawi Makudi appeared before the committee to give his explanation for the financial transactions under investigation.

“If FAT is found to have deliberately set up Thai Premier League for profit-making purposes the Thai Revenue Department will follow up the case. The FAT will then have a duty to withdraw the name of the football association, disband and set-up again,” Supachai Chaisamut, spokesperson for the House committee on corruption, told Reuters.

Inevitably, such a course of action would place Thailand on collision course with FIFA, which forbids outside intervention in the running of a country’s football association – a policy which, it must be said, has done little to rid the sport of corruption, and indeed may have fostered it.

Worawi is no stranger to allegations of impropriety and this is not the first time he has been accused of corruption.

In 2011, FIFA launched a formal investigation against Worawi after he was accused of spending $860,000 in football development grants for projects on land he personally owns. Football’s governing body eventually cleared him of any wrong doing.

Trench warfare

The Northern Mariana Islands will compete in the AFC Challenge Cup, the first tournament for the tiny Pacific Ocean country.

The team are one of 20 emerging Asian sides that will go into the qualifying draw for the eight team finals in 2014, with the victors earning the right to qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia.

The Northern Mariana Islands are not one of the 209 member associations of world governing body FIFA and given that the country enjoys a similar status to Puerto Rico as insular area Commonwealths of the United States of America, it’s unclear whether they will ever gain full membership to the football family.

The islands arise as a result of the western edge of the Pacific Plate moving westward and plunging downward below the Mariana Plate, a region which is the most volcanically active convergent plate boundary on Earth. It is the same geological phenomenon that formed the Mariana Trench, the ocean’s deepest point.

The other 19 entrants in the tournament designed for the lower ranked nations in the AFC are Afghanistan, Brunei, Cambodia, Taiwan, Guam, India, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Macau, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

The Northern Mariana Islands, with a population of just 53,000, most of whom are obsessed with baseball, look unlikely to challenge any of these countries any time soon.

Young Turk

I know times are hard at Liverpool but I didn’t realise they’d abandoned their scouting network and gone for an X-Factor style recruting policy.

The signing of 16-year-old Turkish midfielder Emin Altunay appears to confirm that the scouting handbook, the bootroom and the 180-page dossier have been thrown out of the Anfield window and in their place, comes a good old fashioned reality show.

Altunay said: “I’ve been playing football since I was four years old. I’ve always wanted to play football, I want to thank everyone who has given me this opportunity, I won’t let them down.”

Altunay, who played against a selected squad of Liverpool youth players during the Futbol Prensi show, is now being given his chance with the Merseyside outfit. If nothing else he comes cheap: £20 million less than Jordan Henderson and so long as he makes it to training on time, he’ll make a comparable impact.

Not for sale

Liverpool owner John Henry has denied reports that he is looking to sell his other major sporting franchise, the Boston Red Sox.

Reports in America indicate that Henry and Fenway Sports Group are looking to offload the baseball team and concentrate their attention on Liverpool.

However, before Liverpool fans get their hopes up and start dreaming wistfully of a recruitment policy that does not involve reality TV, Henry issued an emphatic denial.

“A sale of any kind is so far from our thinking it hasn’t even come up apart from technical planning issues involving death or disability,” he told the Boston Globe.

“This report is completely without foundation. The Sox and any of the other components of FSG are not for sale and will not be for the foreseeable future.


The reports also suggest that executives at FSG questioned whether they have the financial capacity to support both the Red Sox and Liverpool, but Henry said these claims were untrue.

”We have separate budgets for each entity, so they really aren’t interrelated,” Henry added.

“The budgets of the Red Sox are based on Red Sox revenues and the budgets for Liverpool are based on Liverpool revenues.”

Quote of the day

“He didn’t do much. Maybe he was scared, I don’t know. They complained about everything. They are little girls. Higuain tried to provoke me the entire match but I didn’t get sucked in. They tried to unsettle me with insults but when they were tackled they complained and went to ground. They think they are untouchable but football is a game for men.”

It’s fair to say that Peru defender Carlos Zambrano was a little underwhelmed by sharing the pitch with Lionel Messi.

Bad week at the office

It’s not been the best of weeks for Ecuadorian winger, Antonio Valencia.

Sent off in his country’s World Cup qualifier against Uruguay and afterwards branding the referee  Carlos Amarilla ‘a clown’, Valencia has now accused baggage handlers in his homeland of stealing a camera from his suitcase.

He wrote via Twitter: “Yes, they rob you in your own country! They won’t rob you anywhere else, these a******* that check your baggage in the airport robbed my camera.”

He continued: “I hope they use it well, these f****ng fools. What a disgrace. What indignation.

“These fools checked my suitcase. They had already robbed me, they didn’t want to check the other. They wanted me out of there quickly. How awful.”

Spilling the beans

Pep Guardiola is expected to deliver a lecture on football at the Emirates. The former Barcelona coach will speak to young players and budding coaches in the one-day event. The former Spain international quit as coach of the Catalan outfit after the end of last season, citing the growing stress and pressure of his high-profile post.

“I reached a point where I could have carried on as a coach but not in the way that a Barcelona coach should.  I feel profoundly sorry, from the very deepest part of me, that I no longer have that energy that I once did. I have too much consideration for my players to carry on without that enthusiasm. I am so grateful to them: it has been a privilege to train them. They have turned ideas into reality on the pitch many times and there is no greater joy for a coach than that,” Guardiola said at the time.

Guardiola currently lives in New York, but his return to Europe, to speak on the subject of football, will lead to speculation about his return to management. Chelsea were favourites to appoint him, but fellow Premier League clubs Manchester Arsenal, would appear more likely suitors. Indeed, Guardiola and United manager Sir Alex Ferguson were seen together at last week’s U.S. Open, while he and Wenger are known to share a similar coaching philosophy – albeit one which diverges when it comes to securing results.

Don’t worry, be happy

Real Madrid skipper Iker Casillas has dismissed suggestions that Cristiano Ronaldo is unhappy and wants to leave the club.

“For Madrid, both as a player and a fan, it is a real pleasure to have Cristiano. And for Cristiano, it is a luxury to wear the shirt of the best club in the world.

“Everyone is better off. Cristiano is happy to stay in Madrid and the fans are happy to have Cristiano. Madrid’s fans are demanding, but they are with everyone.

“Now we have to think of Saturday because we have a very difficult match in Seville. We have to get the three points. If we don’t do the right things it will endanger our chances in the league.”

Casillas also denied reports of a showdown meeting between Ronaldo and Mourinho this week, adding: “I saw Ronaldo (on Wednesday) and he was happy. We were discussing the results of the international teams.

“I arrived at training at 4.15pm and there was no meeting, there was nothing out of the ordinary. Cristiano was normal. We have to be focused on the Sevilla match, we cannot drop more points, we have to win.”

Judging from this footage taken from Real’s training session on Thursday, all seems well with Ronaldo.

Meanwhile, former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon says the club should sell the Portuguese if he is unhappy.

“If a player is unhappy, they must go,” he told Eurosport magazine.

“It happened to me with Robinho; it was a dramatic saga, but he was bought for €28 million and sold for €48 million, so it was a good deal.”

It is worth noting, though, that other than their names beginning and ending with the same letter, there appears little else Robinho and Ronaldo have in common.

Robinhos’s record at Madrid: 101 appearances, 25 goals. Ronaldo’s record at Madrid: 149 appearances, 150 goals.

As is always the way in Spain, a former president couldn’t resist the temptation to land a few blows on the current boss.

Of influential Portuguese agent, Jorge Mendes, whose clients include both Ronaldo and Jose Mourino, Calderon said he had too much power.

“Jorge Mendes [Ronaldo’s agent] is now the club president, without having been elected by the board, they left the club in his and Mourinho`s hands,” he said.

With regard to Kaka, an expensive signing the club look keen to offload, Calderon took some glee in the predicament of current Real president Florentino Perez.

“We tried to sign him [Kaka] in the first year, but we couldn’t and in the second year we could have, but the scouting reports we unfavourable for various reasons,” he said.

“Florentino decided to sign him, and now he has to find a way to solve the problem with the club.”

Money to burn

Still, despite the burden of having to pay astronomical salaries to the likes of Kaka to warm the bench, Real Madrid are doing alright for themselves.

The Spanish champions have posted record revenue of more than a half a billion euros in the 2011-12 season, an increase of seven percent.

The world’s richest club says it earned €514 million, up from a previous record €480 million, bringing in a profit of €34 million in the season it won the Spanish league.

Madrid says its debt load dropped from €169.7 million to €124.7 million as it falls into line with UEFA’s financial fair play requirements.

Madrid, who lead  Spanish rival Barcelona and Manchester United in the rich list, says the revenue figures are “the biggest sum of any sporting institution in the world.”