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Tevez fails to toe the party line

Manchester City forward Carlos Tevez says he will not apologise for his “RIP Fergie” banner during City’s open-top bus parade to celebrate their title win.

Tevez was criticised by his club after he brandished a ‘RIP Fergie’ poster during City’s open-top bus ride around Manchester to celebrate a first league title in 44 years. Immediately after the incident, City issued an apology and Tevez himself expressed regret, saying he got “carried away in the excitement of the moment” and did not mean any disrespect to his former United manager.

Not so. Now, in comments reported by the Argentinian website ole.com.ar, Tevez said: “It seems like Ferguson is the president of England. Every time he speaks badly about a player or says terrible things about me, nobody says that he has to apologise. [But] when someone comes out with a joke or banter, you have to say sorry – but I don’t say sorry.”

It’s tempting to regard Tezez’s words as a refreshing antidote to the anodyne PR speak that characterises almost all statements issued by professional footballers these days. However, you just know, that by tomorrow, he will have been forced to issue a tail-between-the-legs apology in which he will explain how his quotes were taken out of context or mistranslated or were never made.

UAE cannot be serious

Nothing succeeds like failure, and nowhere is that more evident than in the world of football management. Proof positive comes with the news that Diego Maradona, a conspicuous failure at the coaching game, is on the shortlist for the post of UAE national football team manager.

One could only really imagine Maradona being a viable candidate if the sole alternative was a Bryan Robson-Mick McCarthy dream ticket, but there is a viable contender, more or less in situ.

“The senior and Olympic teams are my priorities,” newly-elected president of the FA, Yousuf Al Serkal said, before adding that Maradona, the Al Wasl manager, and Mahdi Ali, the Olympics team coach, are candidates for the top job.

Al Serkal praised Maradona, saying the Argentinian has settled in well since taking over the reins at Pro League side Al Wasl last year.

“He has a very big influence in football,” he said about the former Argentina manager. “He has spent one full season and why not. He will be considered as well.”

Ali became the first football coach to lead the UAE to the Olympics with a majority of that team expected to form the core of the senior national team, he should be considered favourite to get the national team job. If he doesn’t get the job, then it would be fair to conclude that the decision will have had little to do with footballing reasons.

One step forward two steps back

The World Cup law has been passed, FIFA and the Brazilian organising committee are talking to one another again, with the finals only two years away, what could possibly go wrong in the planning of the 2014 World Cup? Quite a lot actually.

FIFA is concerned that six of 12 Brazilian stadiums that are to host the 2014 World Cup may not be ready in time, according to a report in Folha de Sao Paulo.

The paper cited a study by a FIFA consultant on the stadium construction programme highlighting various degrees “of risk” for venues in Manaus, Cuiaba, Porto Alegre, Curitiba and Sao Paulo.

But the biggest concern is for the stadium in the north-eastern city of Natal because of a “tight schedule” that left no “margin for problems”, it added.

“The outlook for the 2013 Confederations Cup is even more critical. FIFA reports delays in three of the four venues for the competition,” Folha said.

FIFA claims the report was merely an internal document intended for the eyes of stadium experts only.

“This document is for the stadium experts and can be easily misinterpreted without the respective background information on the various evaluation criteria and parameters,” it noted.

We shall see.

Goal of the day

A stunning volley from Eric Hassli for Vancouver Whitecaps against Toronto FC, came in the 91st minute of the Canadian Championship final first leg.

Quote of the day

“The club have great supporters, but the place is a morgue, a desolate place, without heart, all I can say is what a shame for their supporters. The club needs a management structure, it needs a boardroom filled with the people running the club. When we went there, there was Alan Hansen welcoming people, it was a bit embarrassing to be honest, although he was doing his best.” 

Dave Whelan, chairman of Wigan Athletic, whose manager Roberto Martinez has been linked with the Liverpool vacancy, remains resolutely unimpressed by the fabled Anfield experience.

Stories we couldn’t make up

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner has been appointed Trinidad and Tobago’s acting prime minister.

Warner, 68, who was CONCACAF president for 21 years, resigned from his football positions in June last year after he was suspended by FIFA in a cash-for-votes scandal that rocked the sport’s governing body.

Unsurprisingly, his appointment as prime minister in the temporary absence of Kamla Persad-Bissessar, has not gone down well with everyone on the islands.

“We do not believe that this appointment sends a positive message about the standards of behavior and integrity that we expect from our leaders,” the Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute stated.

“We call on the government to demonstrate its commitment to the highest standards of governance by ensuring that the conduct and behavior of those who are given leadership responsibilities are beyond reproach.”

Mercifully, Warner’s only in charge for seven days; what could possibly go wrong in seven days?

Hotel vacancies

Things are looking up in Ukraine. Just weeks after being accused of profiteering from the shortage of hotel rooms in the country, the country has tried to make good on a pledge to ease the burden on fans’ stretched finances.

“We’ve seen that there is now more on offer, so prices have gone down,” UEFA spokesman Thomas Giordano told AFP. “It’s clear that there is still overpriced accommodation out there but nobody’s going to book it.”

Concerns about fans being deterred from travelling to Ukraine by the high cost of accommodation, were stoked by the relatively small number of fans travelling from England. According to Markian Lubkivsky, head of Ukraine’s organising committee, the situation has improved with a total of 25,000 tickets remain unsold for matches there, against 50,000 three weeks ago. Although in the wake of Roy Hodgson’s naming his England squad, mass cancellations can’t be ruled out at this stage.

Organisers say they have mustered an extra 23,000 hotel rooms in Ukraine’s four host cities, plus 15,000 camping beds.

“The situation is now adequate,” Lubkivsky told AFP. However, prices in Ukraine remain higher than in co-hosts Poland.

According to figures from UEFA, the average price for a night in a Ukrainian three-star hotel during the tournament is 191 euros, compared with 155 in Poland and, in a four-star, 263 euros against 205 euros.

In the western host city of Lviv, there is nothing available for less than 430 euros, apart from youth hostels, one anonymous travel agent said.

The expectation is that many fans will travel from Poland on the day of a match, returning across the border after the game. An inconvenience for the fans, but also a real shame for Ukraine which will not get to enjoy the experience of staging a well-attended sporting event.

Hertha appeal

Hertha Berlin have lodged an official appeal against their relegation from the German Bundesliga at the hands of Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Otto Rehhagel’s side lost their play-off tie to Fortuna 4-3 on aggregate following Tuesday’s 2-2 draw in the second leg.

But, as reported yesterday, Hertha are appealing against the outcome of the game due to the fact that the visitors’ fans stormed the pitch shortly before the final whistle, which saw play halted for 20 minutes.

“After analysing the situation, we have reached a clear decision that a regular procedure of the game was no longer possible in these conditions,” Hertha’s director of sport Michael Preetz said.

“We have therefore appointed our solicitor Christoph Schickhardt to officially appeal the result within the necessary deadline.”

Schickhardt believes Hertha could be granted a replay, telling the club’s official website: “In the DFB regulations, it clearly states that a game which takes place in such circumstances must not be given an official result.

“That necessarily leads to this result being annulled.”

Fallen idol

Paul Gascoigne is the latest former England player to take the FA’s tennis ball keepy-uppy challenge.

One of the most skilful players of his generation, starring for England in the 1990 World Cup and Euro 96, Gascoigne has endured more than his fair share of – largely self-inflicted – setbacks in recent years and sadly his coordination is not quite what it used to be.

Here he is struggling to keep the tennis ball under control.

To put that effort into some kind of context, below you can see one of his peers, Jamie Redknapp, a player of modest talents compared to Gascoigne, easily exceed his former England team-mate.

And if that’s not bad enough, here’s Paul Merson, another contemporary and someone who shared many of the same ruinous addictive traits, performing in a way that really does highlight Gascoigne’s decline.

Finally…

Divergent, but equally interesting opinions on the prospects for Liverpool, following the dismissal of Kenny Dalglish.

Firstly, occasional World Soccer contributor Patrick Barclay, argues that Dalglish may, like his predecessor Roy Hodgson, be better off out of there. Barclay suggests that the problem lies not with successive sacked managers, but with the owners who have not delivered what they originally promised.

Meanwhile, regular World Soccer columnist David Conn, wonders whether there is any light at the end of the tunnel given the amount of investment – financial, practical and personal – required for Liverpool to regain their place among Europe’s elite.

For Liverpool fans, the latter piece will make sombre reading. It could be argued that a club which still enjoys huge global support and matching reputation, should not be written off quite so easily. But, one wonders, for how much longer can it be judged a big player based solely on the number of replica shirts it manages to shift?

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