Levelling the playing field?

Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness is concerned that the Bundesliga has become too easy for his club, and hopes their rivals can catch up quickly.

The champions elect have sealed their 23rd title with six games to spare and are now just one win away from matching the record number of points for a season, set by fellow Champions League semi-finalists Borussia Dortmund last year.

Unlike many clubs in their position Bayern believe this is more a cause for concern than celebration, and Hoeness admits he is worried by the prospect of a duopoly emerging in German football, similar to the one enjoyed by Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain.

“There has been a huge dip in the competitiveness of the league and we can’t be happy with that,” he told Kicker. “We’ve got to analyse why that is the case.”

Bayern’s recent 9-1 thrashing of Hamburg and second-placed Dortmund, who put six past Greuther Furth on Saturday appear to be in a league of their own this year.

Hoeness hopes his side will be tested more seriously next season.

“We see the need for action,” he said. “It is not on that we see such results.”

Back to the future

If the British press is to be believed, the outbreaks of trouble at Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley and also during Sunday’s North East derby match between Newcastle and Sunderland, have ‘plunged football back into the dark ages’.

At Wembley, viewers were subjected to the bizarre, though not unprecedented sight of several drunken Millwall fans throwing punches at each other. The scale of the fighting was relatively small, involving a mere handful of supporters, but given the iconic venue, the prestigious occasion, not to mention Millwall fans’ longstanding reputation as the bad boys of English football, then Saturday’s events have attracted more coverage than such a scuffle would ordinarily merit.

Nevertheless, the scenes made for uncomfortable viewing and no doubt those who had the misfortune of being seated within the proximity of the feuding fans, will have left the stadium with a sour taste in the mouth.

Naturally, in the light of the Wembley trouble, the last thing English football needed was the riotous scenes that followed Newcastle’s 3-0 home defeat to Sunderland. That result was the catalyst for hundreds of Newcastle supporters to attack the police in a vain attempt to confront the visiting supporters.

Again, one is reluctant to make light of the deplorable scenes of unrest, but the sight of one particularly demented supporter trying to punch a police horse brought to mind less football’s dark ages, more a typically lively stag night in the city’s Bigg Market.

World Cup worries

To put the events of the weekend in England into some kind of perspective, it is worth noting that two fans were shot dead on their way to a match at the Arena Castelao World Cup stadium in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza on Sunday.

The  Globo network’s website cited police sources in their report that the two young men, fans of visiting team Ceara, were shot in the head from a passing vehicle allegedly carrying two Fortaleza supporters.

The Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper said Ceara fans started a fight by throwing stones at Fortaleza supporters, which sparked the shooting.

They said an unidentified man had been arrested in connection with the incident which occurred about five kilometers from the Arena Castelao.

The venue is to be used in this year’s Confederations Cup, itself a dress rehearsal for the World Cup finals a year later in Brazil.

”We lament what happened,” said Tiago Paes, a local World Cup organizing committee member who was at the test event in Fortaleza. ”But there is work being done by the police and the army in many areas of security, so we are not concerned with that for the Confederations Cup.”

Police said more than 180 people were detained for vandalism and disorderly conduct before Sunday’s match at the Arena Castelao, which was the first World Cup stadium to be delivered by Brazilian organizers.

Greek tragedy

Further gloom comes with the news that AEK Athens president Andreas Dimitrelos has been admitted to hospital with chest pains a day after the club’s fans caused the abandonment of a Greek Super League match.

He had left the club’s Olympic Stadium on Sunday with other officials, before a pitch invasion during the match against Panthrakikos.

Players from both teams were chased off the pitch by angry AEK fans after the hosts conceded an 87th-minute goal in the relegation match.

After a 90-minute delay, referee Stavros Tritsonis announced that the match was being abandoned.

Panthrakikos goalkeeper Spiros Vrontaras and team manager Haris Mavromatis suffered facial injuries as they escaped to the dressing rooms.

“Both Spiros and Haris received blows to the face and generally had very bad knocks, I was afraid when I saw them,” Panthrakikos president Dimitris Tzelepis told Sentra 103,3 radio.

“There was fear among everyone, including myself, when I went to the locker room. The behaviour of the AEK squad and team officials was excellent before and after, there were no problems from them.”

Tzelepis said his club had spoken to AEK’s coaching team and had agreed to finish the game despite the fact the pitch resembled a building site.

“But the referee decided that the match would not be re-started,” he said. “AEK were not interested in playing to try and level the score, more just to give themselves a chance in the final match of the season.

“Unfortunately we were not able to enjoy the victory. It is not good to be a witness to something like that, and the fact that such a big club like AEK might be relegated as a result of what happened. ..it was tough to see their players in tears.”

Turkeys vote for Christmas

Attempts to restructure Scotland’s League system have failed on Monday after the current 12 clubs in the Premier League were unable to secure the 11 votes needed to proceed with the proposals.

St Mirren and Ross County voted against the plan to restructure the current four division setup with three new divisions and it now seems likely the current structure will continue.

The new plan involved three leagues comprising two top divisions of 12 clubs and one lower division of 18 clubs with an end of season play-off competition in which the top two divisions would split into three divisions of eight teams.

Aberdeen chairman Stewart Milne told reporters: “It’s a no vote I am afraid and you need to ask one club in particular – St Mirren – exactly what their agenda is.

“Two clubs rejected the restructuring plans and no one else can see the logic behind that. This will have major implications for Scottish football and it is seriously going to damage the game in the long-term.”

Hearts chief executive David Southern accused St Mirren of not being frank in public over their reasons for opposing the plan.

“I wouldn’t like to talk about agendas, but it was very clear today, despite what was said in the last seven days about 11-1 being the reason to not see this through – the actual concession made during the meeting changed the vote from 11-1 to 9-3 – when it got down to the bit, that particular club decided to step back from it,” said Southern.

“We go back to our day jobs. We go back to a 12-team SPL, one team relegated, one team up from the SFL and it’s business as usual but with an even tougher economic climate for clubs.

“We were very close today and it would’ve moved the game on tremendously.

“It would’ve refreshed things for the supporters, broadcasters and commercial partners.

“We had a chance for progress, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to do that.

Ross County chairman Roy McGregor and his St Mirren counterpart Stewart Gilmour refused to answer reporters’ questions.

In a statement the Scottish Premier League expressed its unhappiness at the outcome of the vote.

Premier League chairman Ralph Topping said: “An overwhelming majority of SPL clubs voted for these proposals to go through.

“The proposals foundered on the opposition of two clubs. The package involved concessions from all clubs and was for the betterment of Scottish football as a whole.

“Scottish football needs to change. I had previously announced my intention to step down once a successor had been identified. I have today advised the Board that I will not be seeking re-election at the SPL’s AGM this July.”

Goal of the day

Esbjerg’s Youssef Toutouh tees up the ball before unleashing a wonderful volley against Randers.

(Spot) kick of the day

America Sao Paulo Pilo earns his place in the football hall of infamy with this penalty effort against Votuporanguense

Quote of the day

“I fear his arse will end up in the club’s museum at some point. It might have been better if he had bet his hair. He could transplant that. It will get difficult with his arse.” 

Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge  responds to Borussia Dortmund coach, Jurgen Klopp, offer to “bet my arse that [Bayern general manager] Mr [Matthias] Sammer and Mr Guardiola will chat…” prior to Bayern’s forthcoming Champions League semi-final against Barcelona.

Finishing on a high

Veteran striker Alex Frei was given an emotional send-off by Basel on Sunday to mark the conclusion of an illustrious career which started and ended with the club.

The 33-year-old Swiss forward is retiring to become the new sports director of FC Lucerne and played just over an hour for Basel against Zurich.

With Basel trailing 1-0 coming up to the hour mark, it was not going according to plan for the former Swiss international. But then providence struck, in the shape of a free-kick awarded to the home side. Up stepped Frei to sign off his career on a memorable high.


Barcelona defender Eric Abidal has revealed that he “never thought of dying” during his long battle to overcome withcancer.

The Frenchman was first diagnosed with the disease back in 2011 and has been out of action for a year after undergoing a liver transplant in April 2012.

“I never thought of death because I know that it is God who decides,” the 33-year-old told TF1.

“I have suffered. I remember one Sunday when I could not bear the pain. I asked the doctors if they could put me into coma.

“We talked about a transplant, but in fact, I had four or five operations in a very short time. I’ve lost 19 kilograms.

“After the fourth operation, the doctors told me I had a lot of fluid in my stomach and wondered how I could stand the pain.”