French pair in hot water

French international pair Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema are to be called before a judge over allegations that they solicited an underage prostitute.

The pair were put under investigation two years ago, but they both deny the claims and the girl involved, Zahia Dehar, has said neither player knew she was 16 at the time. Which is convenient for them.

An investigating magistrate has ruled that they should testify but has not yet set a date.

Magistrate Andre Dandot’s decision contradicts the recommendation of Paris prosecutors who said in November 2011 that the case should be dropped because neither player knew the girl was under-age.

Soliciting sex with an under-age prostitute is punishable in France by up to three years in prison and a maximum fine of €45,000. The money won’t be a problem for either player, but three years locked inside will play havoc with Ribery’s ongoing feud with Arjen Robben.

Both players received support from their respective clubs.

Matthias Sammer, director of Bayern Munich, told German sports news agency SID that they were aware of the case.

“We will tell him that we stand by him and that he will get our best support,” he said.

Representing Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, lawyer Sylvain Cormier said his client was innocent and he would “give his explanation before the tribunal”.

Broken promises

Igor Stimac has criticised Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy, accusing him of breaking promises to midfielder Luka Modric over a possible move to Real Madrid.

Play(trouble)maker Modric is currently training alone after missing Tottenham’s pre-season tour of America.

Speaking ahead of Croatia’s friendly international against Switzerland in Split on Wednesday night, Stimac told AS: “Daniel Levy promised a year ago that, if an offer from Madrid arrived, he would let him go. And when the offer arrived he changed his opinion.

“I think that this guy tries to make himself famous in the world of football, but this isn’t the way to do it. When you promise something you always need to fulfil it. It was the same with Berbatov before he signed for Manchester United. He went there on August 31.

“It’s the only thing he wants, to go to Madrid. He is very keen to play at Real Madrid and, as well as that, he has the promise of Levy. I only hope that this promise ends up being fulfilled.”

Slow boat to China

Diego Maradona has underlined his desire to coach in China after arriving in the country for an eight-day charity trip.

The 51-year-old was sacked by UAE club Al Wasl last month, thus continuing his record of failure as a manager and confirming the suspicion that great players do not make great managers and often, Johan Cruyff notwithstanding, the better the player the worse the manager. Undeterred, the Argentinian appears keen on a job in the Far East.

“I would like to coach in China,” Maradona told a news conference in Beijing. “I wish to contribute to the development of China’s youth football.”

One of Maradona’s agents had sounded out the Chinese earlier this year with a view to one day leading the national team. Looking at his managerial CV and considering the number of washed up footballers currently plying their trade in the country, there’s probably more chance of him playing in China than managing there.

Spot the ball

World Cup football manufacturer Adidas is asking football fans across the world to vote for the name of the ball that will be used during the 2014 tournament in Brazil.

The three choices to choose from are Carnavalesca, a word for carnival-goers, Bossa nova, after the samba-jazz music, and Brazuca, a slang word for native Brazilians.

The three names have all been put forward in their feminine form with the ‘a’ rather than ‘o’ male endings because of the Brazilian stereotype that a football is like a woman, and should be treated with care. Which will come as a revelation to the playing staff of Stoke City.

Fans can vote for their favourite name here.

There is a long, but not altogether glorious tradition of naming the World Cup football. In Mexico in 1970 and the following tournament in West Germany the ball was named Telstar, before Argentina went with Tango for 1978.

In Spain in 1982 they named the ball the Tango España, and the name has changed every four years since, with the last World Cup in South Africa featured the Jabulani.

Regardless of the name, there are three things we can predict with a degree of certainty: the pre-tournament build-up will be dominated by talk of how much the new ball moves in the air; retired rentaquote goalkeepers will warn about the unprecedented number of long range goals that we can expect to see; players will blame the new ball for their appalling long range shooting.

The naming of the ball has raised eyebrows in Brazil, as a campaign had been launched to name the ball Gorduchinha.

The word – which means ‘little chubby’ – is a nickname for a football coined by legendary commentator and political figure Osmar Santos, who came up with the phrase ‘Pimba Na Gorduchinha!’ – loosely translated – ‘Bang in the Chubby!’ when a particularly spectacular goal has been scored, referring to the roundness of the ball.

Santos was left brain-damaged after being hit by a drunk-driver, and many Brazilian fans felt that officially calling the match ball the Gorduchinha, would be a fitting way to honour the commentator’s contribution to the sport,


Mohamed bin Hammam said claims he enriched his family and supporters while president of the Asian football federation are politically motivated and that he plans to fight to clear his name.

In a letter to 20 Asian associations, bin Hammam confirmed he made payments to officials and others but said they came out of his own bank accounts and were driven by a desire to help those in need – including Zhang Jilong, the current AFC president who ordered the PriceWaterhouseCoopers audit that instigated the investigation by FIFA’s ethics committee.

”Jilong was one of those who came to me for financial support and I helped him with a significant amount from my personal account,” bin Hammam wrote. ”I will leave him to explain the circumstances of this to you if he wishes.”

Bin Hammam is currently serving a 90-day ban imposed by the AFC, although he believes that ultimately, the organisation is merely acting at the behest of FIFA.

”This, of course, is yet another attempt by Zurich through the infinite tools and power of FIFA to diminish and insult Asia’s name by attacking me directly following the annulment of my previous FIFA ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” he wrote.

Quote of the day

“We are 100 percent confident in him. We have no doubt because he is a competent coach.”

Daming with faint praise? Sami Khedira offers his qualified backing to Germany coach Joachim Low.

Playing the race card

Leading anti-racism campaigner Piara Powar has branded England manager Roy Hodgson’s intervention in the John Terry case as “foolish”.

Ahead of tonight’s friendly with Italy in Berne, Hodgson expressed support for Terry, who is currently the subject of an FA charge over comments made to Anton Ferdinand at Loftus Road last October.

“John, hopefully, will be freed as he was freed in a court of law, and will carry on playing for England,” said Hodgson.

“That’s my hope. What will happen, I have no idea.”

Powar believes that Hodgson should have kept his counsel until the case had been heard.

“Hodgson’s comments on Terry are foolish. It is not helpful to the process the (English) FA has undertaken in any way. The England manager is employed by the FA, who have a dual role in running the national team and being the governing body.

“Whatever support Roy Hodgson wants to give to a member of his squad, he also has to remember the FA’s wider role: for the England coach to go public with his view like this calls into question that dual function.”

Powar is probably correct in suggesting that Hodgson should have steered clear of the controversy. To be fair to the England coach, he did try to do just that.

“I’m not prepared to discuss John,” he said, when initially quizzed about the Terry case.

“It’s a matter which is really, as far as I am concerned, working for the FA, sub judice.

“Everything I say can be misinterpreted – as far as I am concerned he has a case to answer with the FA and I’ll wait and see what happens.”

Strict regime

Fiorentina boss Vincenzo Montella has reportedly introduced a new code of conduct at the club as he looks to curb the behaviour of some of his players.

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Montella has banned earrings as well as hairbands during training sessions, as well as demanding players do not roll up their shorts.

He has also introduced a 8pm curfew on his players during their pre-season training camp, which also applies during days off.

Day release

Russian footballer Maksim Molokoedov, who is serving a three year prison sentence in Chile for attempting to smuggle six kilos of cocaine inside children’s books, has been granted permission to play for Chilean second-division club Santiago Morning during the final year of his jail term.

The 24-year-old Molokoedov plays with his teammates during the day and returns to his cell at night. Prior to his arrest, he played for Pskov-74 in the Russian second division.

The day release is part of an enlightened experiment in prisoner rehabilitation, which was pioneered by Franklin Lobos, a former Chilean professional player who volunteers at prisons and who vouched for the Russian.

Molokoedov has even turned down the chance to complete his sentence in his native Russian, preferring instead to continue his career with Santiago Morning. His transfer from Pskov-74 has now been finalised and on his debut for his new club, he scored two goals against first-division club CD Palestino.


Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba has retired from playing professional football on health grounds, the English club have confirmed.

The 24-year-old collapsed during an FA Cup tie away to Tottenham Hotspur in March and his heart then stopped beating for 78 minutes.

Although Muamba’s recovery was hailed as miraculous, there were always doubts as to whether he could play again.

“While the news is devastating, I have much to be thankful for,” said Muamba. “I thank God that I am alive and I pay tribute once again to the members of the medical team who never gave up on me.”

“I would also like to thank everyone who has supported me throughout my career and the Bolton fans who have been incredible. I am blessed to have the support of my family and friends at this time.”

“Since suffering my heart attack and being discharged from hospital, I have remained utterly positive in the belief I could one day resume my playing career and play for Bolton Wanderers once again,” Muamba said.

“As part of my on-going recovery, last week I travelled to Belgium to seek further medical advice from a leading cardiologist.

“But the news I received was obviously not what I had hoped it would be and it means I am now announcing my retirement from professional football.

“Football has been my life since I was a teenage boy and it has given me so many opportunities.

“Above all else, I love the game and count myself very lucky to have been able to play at the highest level.”

Bolton chairman Phil Gartside added: “To have Fabrice here and with us is truly amazing and we are all very thankful for that.

“We are all hugely disappointed that Fabrice will be unable to return to his playing career but we have to be guided by the medical recommendations and the best interests of Fabrice.

“The most important thing is that Fabrice and his family have the rest of their lives ahead of them.”