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Winter, spring, summer or fall…

The head of the Asian football Confederation has underlined his support for Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup after suggestions emanating in England suggesting the event should be moved elsewhere.

Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said Qatar would “make Asia proud” with the tournament, despite continuing concerns over playing it in the searing hear of a Gulf summer.

“The AFC is confident that Qatar will host a magnificent World Cup, under the guidance of FIFA, and with it only being the second time that Asia plays host to a FIFA World Cup,” Shaikh Salman said in a statement. “We are sure that Qatar will make Asia proud.”

The timing of the event has become a huge bone of contention with FIFA and UEFA, the world and European governing bodies, and footballers’ union FIFPro all calling for it to be held during the winter. Against that, the Premier League have led calls for the tournament to be moved away from Qatar altogether arguing that it was not within FIFA’s remit to change the timing of the finals.

Shaikh Salman, a member of the royal family in Bahrain, which neighbours Qatar, also raised the prospect of an Asian winner for the Qatar tournament.

“Based on the performance and achievements of Asian nations in all FIFA competitions and the recent Olympics in both the male and female categories… we are now world-beaters and worthy contenders for any competition, and why not winning it in 2022 in Asia?” he said.

Well, having pulled off the unlikely coup of securing the right to stage the World Cup, then actually winning it should be a piece of cake by comparison.

Family man

Jose Mourinho is an unlikely peacemaker, but the Portuguese, now in his second stint with Chelsea, says he intends to unite the club’s fans after last season’s turmoil.

The Portuguese, who led the Blues to successive Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006, has returned to the club after the departure of Rafa Benitez, the former Liverpool boss who was marginally less popular among Chelsea fans than Tom Henning Ovrebo, the referee who continues to receive death threats following a poor performance in the 2009 Champions League semi-final.

“I want them to be with us as a Blue family – a Blue family that last year, at certain moments, looked like it was broken,” Mourinho said.

“I just want to put the family back together so I want them to support us all. I want the players to be supported, I want them to support Chelsea.

“I want them to be with us in good moments and bad moments, in cold weather and sunny weather, at home and away, when we are winning and losing.”

Iker Casillas will be choking on his goalkeeping gloves when he reads that.

Having enjoyed great success in his first spell at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho has much to live up to in his second spell but says he is not risking his reputation by returning.

“I don’t think I’m risking my legacy here,” he said. “What you did, you did. No one can delete it, no one can take away my history at Chelsea.

“And I know the Chelsea mentality. They will never forget what I did before. They will never forget that I gave everything to this club.”

He does, however, want to look to the future rather than the past.

“I want to be seen as the new manager of Chelsea. I want to be analysed for what I do now,” he said.

“I want to work here and be loved for what I do now.”

Precious Metalist

Metalist Kharkiv’s request to be provisionally reinstated to the Champions League pending an appeal against the Ukraine club’s 2013-14 European ban has been turned down, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said on Friday.

CAS said it had considered written submissions from UEFA and PAOK along with “the urgent request for provisional measures filed by FC Metalist Kharkiv.”

“After having considered the parties’ submissions, the deputy president of the appeals arbitration division decided to dismiss FC Metalist’s request,” said CAS.

“Consequently, the UEFA decision remains in force, which means that FC Metalist Kharkiv is excluded from the 2013/2014 UEFA competitions.

Metalist, last season’s Ukrainian league runners-up, were barred by UEFA on Tuesday over their involvement in a domestic match-fixing case in 2008.

“UEFA has welcomed the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision to reject the application for provisional measures made by FC Metalist Kharkiv after the club were banned from UEFA competitions,” said UEFA in a statement.

The decision means Greek team PAOK Salonika, who Metalist beat in the previous qualifying round, will face Germany’s Schalke in the two-legged play-off tie later this month as ruled by European governing body UEFA earlier this week.

Quote of the day

“I like the way Sam’s teams play. I just feel it suits my game better.”

New West Ham signing Stewart Downing, one of the more primitive and uncomplicated players in English football, recognises a kindred spirit in Sam Allardyce.

Back in from the cold

Luis Suarez is once again persona grata at Liverpool after he apologised to his teammates and was allowed to train with the senior squad for the first time since accusing the club and manager Brendan Rodgers of breaking promises over his future.

Rodgers ordered the Uruguay international to train on his own after his interview in the Guardian last Tuesday, when he stated his desire to join Arsenal and criticised Liverpool’s stance over a £40m clause in his contract. The Liverpool manager opted to play hardball and banished Suárez until he apologised for what he called his “total disrespect of the club”. Apparently, the Uruguayan has now done so, although whether he still wants to leave Liverpool remains unclear.

Suárez denied midweek reports in Uruguay that he had decided to remain at Anfield, but given that the anticipated stampede to sign him has thus far not materialised, the striker really is confronted with a dilemma: stay with a club he wishes to leave or, pray that a wealthy suitor stumps up the cash in the next two weeks.

Given that the only club to have attempted to sign him this summer are Arsenal, Suarez really is left with a choice that Sophie would have struggled with.

Meanwhile, a bubbly Jordan Henderson could barely contain his excitement at the return of the prodigal one.

“Of course we still want him to stay,” the Liverpool midfielder told reporters. “There will be no problems with the lads.

“We know he has been brilliant for us for the last few years, and I’m sure if he stays he will carry on doing that and it will not affect his football one little bit.

“We all know how good he is as a player. To achieve what you want to achieve, you’ve got to keep your best players.

“If he stays and we can keep him, that would be brilliant news. His overall game is unbelievable, really.”

If Paul Whitehouse ever requires a name for his Brilliant Kd character, he could do worse than Jordan.

Crisis? What crisis?

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, sporting the hangdog expression that appears each year in June and evaporates sometime around the end of August when the transfer window closes, continues to insist that the Gunners will strengthen their squad.

Undeterred by the fact that the club has once again missed out on a reported target on Friday, when midfielder Luiz Gustavo swapped Bayern Munich for mid-table German side Wolfsburg, Wenger remains optimistic of some new arrivals. To date, 20-year-old Yaya Sanogo, not even a household name within his own home, remains his only summer signing.

“I don’t want to come out on any specific name because that would not be alright,” he told reporters when asked about Suarez.

When questioned on Rooney he then replied: “I can just repeat the same sentence. We look for quality.

“Usually in the press you are well informed. I don’t disagree that we are a bit light at the moment. We are looking to strengthen our squad.

“We’re looking more for quality than for numbers. We would like two or three players, if possible more.

“[But] it’s not a question of spending money, it’s a question of buying the right players.”

Though surely that would involve spending some money.

Wenger was more concerned about the club’s injury issues ahead of Saturday’s clash with Aston Villa, with a number of first-team players likely to be missing from the matchday squad.

“Vermaelen is out. Monreal is out. Arteta will be out,” the Frenchman continued. “Monreal will return soon – the others are a bit longer.”

When quizzed on Arteta’s likely return, following reports that he could miss more than a month, Wenger admitted: “I don’t know.”

FIFA fine

FIFA says it has fined the Brazilian football federation for failing to provide information relating to a doping case.

Football’s governing body said on that it fined the federation 10 000 Swiss francs for “not complying with the request from the FIFA Disciplinary Committee.”

FIFA said documents and information related to the case were not submitted “within the deadline.”

FIFA did not disclose the name of the player, but Brazilian media have reported that it was related to former Vasco da Gama playmaker Carlos Alberto, who was cleared of doping charges after a test came back positive for a banned diuretic.

Back in May Alberto was acquitted of doping and claimed the result proves that he is innocent.

“All these years as an athlete – serving the sport, never even got a warning from the Commission for Doping – I always respected all that was passed,” he said in a statement at a press conference.

“Any professional must have an ethos and I have mine as a competitor. I have never needed or used substances to enhance my performance. My career speaks for itself.”

As did Lance Armstrong’s

Back in the fold

Afghanistan will host their first international match for 10 years when they play Pakistan in a friendly next Tuesday, FIFA has confirmed.

The match will take place on an artificial pitch at the AFF (Afghanistan Football Federation) stadium, FIFA said.

“The fact that we are hosting our first international game in 10 years, and the first against Pakistan in Kabul since 1977, represents a major highlight for football in our country,” AFF secretary general Sayed Aghazada, told FIFA.com.

“It shows that after a very difficult period we are returning to normality.

“Afghan football has improved in terms of organization and infrastructure, and we now believe that football can play an even bigger role in our country. Of course we expect a sell-out crowd.”

The last team to play in Afghanistan was Turkmenistan in 2003.

Afghanistan have played matches outside the country and are unbeaten in three outings this year, having defeated Sri Lanka and Mongolia and drawn with Laos.

“This is a very symbolic game for the whole football community in south Asia which confirms that our sport can contribute to promote a positive relationship between neighbor countries,” said Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary general Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi.

FIFA said that next week would also see the start of the eight-team Afghan Premier League, which will be played for the second time.

The tournament features teams from the whole country who are selected from a scouting process implemented by the AFF. All matches are played in Kabul at the AFF stadium and are televised live.

Fire sale

The exodus at Anzhi Makhachkala has begun with three Russian internationals in the form of Igor Denisov, Alexandr Kokorin and Yuri Zhirkov being sold in order to cut costs at the club.

Other stars such as Cameroon international Samuel Eto’o and Brazilian playmaker Willian are also available for sale as club owner Suleiman Kerimov implements cost-cutting effect.

The Russian trio that have left Dagestan have moved to Dinamo Moscow for an undisclosed fee.

The Dagestan fire sale appears to mark the end of one of football’s more unusual experiments.

In January 2011, Russian billionaire Suleyman Kerimov bought newly promoted Anzhi, a club in his native Republic of Dagestan. He announced plans to build a new stadium and made Samuel Eto’o the highest paid footballer on the planet. This, though the team had to live and train in Moscow and travel 1,250 miles for their home matches due to Dagestan being a war zone.

Two years later, just eight months after paying a club record transfer fee of €35 million to Shakhtar Donetsk for Brazilian winger Willian, Kerimov is looking to cut costs drastically. He’s also sacked new manager, former Manchester United assistant, Rene Meulensteen, after just 16 days on the job.

Kerimov, who is Russia’s 19th richest person with more than $7 billion to his name, has taken what the stock markets call a ‘haircut’ in recent weeks. The poor soul is down to his last few billion.

On July 31, Suleiman Kerimov’s Uralkali company – the world’s largest manufacturer of mineral fertilizer – was devalued by almost 30 percent, losing $5.5 billion. shares on the stock exchange.

Amid rumours that Monaco may have to sell star striker Radamel Falcao just three months after signing him from Atletico Madrid, could these moves mark the beginning of the end of the oligarch era? Probably not, but it does show that though the pit might be deep, it is not actually bottomless.

There have been disagreements between Monaco’s Russian owner Dmitry Rybolovlev and the president of the French League , Frederic Thiriez, with the Principality club luring players with the promise of them not having to pay any income tax.

However, the club’s owner now faces punishment of an £85million fine, as it is deemed unfair that Monaco can continue to have this advantage over other members of the French league who adhere to regular tax laws.

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