French farce

Japan has reacted angrily to a French television host who showed a composite picture of national team goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima with four arms and made a joke about the “Fukushima effect”.

Laurent Ruquier was actually praising the performance of Kawashima, but the joke – a reference to last year’s nuclear crisis in Fukushima – was described as “inappropriate” by Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura.

He added that the Japanese Embassy in France had sent a letter of protest to the television station France 2.

The letter said the remark “hurts the feelings of people affected by the disaster and hinders efforts for reconstruction,” Fujimura added.

Japan’s education minister Makiko Tanaka was similarly unamused.

“If it’s true (he said it) it is behavior which lacks sensitivity,” she said. “Many people were hurt in the nuclear crisis. I don’t know how people can make fun of it.”

More than 15,000 people died in the earthquake and resulting tsunami, and almost 3,000 are still unaccounted for.

Match fixing

Nicaragua defender Armando Collado’s life ban for match-fixing, initially imposed by his own federation, has been extended worldwide by FIFA.

Collado, 26, had been banned by the Nicaragua Football Federation (Fenifut) “in relation to the friendly match between Nicaragua and Guatemala on 4 September 2010”, FIFA said in a statement. Guatemala won the game in Florida 5-0.

Fenifut originally banned Collado in January last year, although at the time it gave no details of his offence.

Collado, born in El Salvador, complained to Nicaraguan media that he had been given no explanation as to why he had been banned. However, further details have emerged which shed light on his punishment.

In July last year, Salvadoran newspaper El Grafico named Collado as one of four members of a Singapore-based gang who tried to bribe players to fix matches in the CONCACAF Champions League.

These included a match between Real Salt Lake City and Arabe Unido in August 2010, when approaches were allegedly made to the players of the Panamanian side. Salt Lake won the game 2-1.

Central America is seen as vulnerable to match-fixing as many clubs struggle financially, salaries are low and players sometimes do not get paid on time.

Last month, Guatemalan internationals Guillermo Ramirez, Gustavo Cabrera and Yony Flores were banned for life by their country’s federation for trying to persuade team mates to manipulate friendly internationals.

The case was denounced by other players to coach Ever Almeida, who took it to the Guatemalan federation.

Collado was a Nicaraguan international between 2008-10.

Cutting the slack

Lazio President Claudio Lotito has called for Serie A and Serie B to be reduced to just 18 teams each.

The Italian top-flight currently comprises 20 teams, while there are 22 sides playing in the second division.

“The championships need to be made up of 18 clubs,” argued Lotito. “The Lega Pro should then have a maximum of 54-60 sides.

“There should also only be one relegation from A and one promotion from B.

“The team that comes second in Serie B should then play-off against the team that comes second from bottom in Serie A.”

Lotito has called for reforms in a bid to save cash-strapped clubs money in these difficult economic times. He thinks €60m could be saved by cutting the size of the two leagues.

“The reduction of teams is necessary because there are not the necessary resources in the present system,” he argued.

“This leads to some critical economical situations that we need to avoid. With these changes, you would put an end to the economical conflicts and you would have more financial certainties.”

It’s a novel approach to the financial predicament; traditionally, the argument against cutting the size of a league derives from a fear of lost revenue caused by the reduced fixture list.

Enough is enough

Barcelona have indicated that they are prepared to make a stance about the increasingly fractured football calendar, by opposing a preliminary agreement between the Spain’s football federation (RFEF) and a Chinese promoter, to play next year’s Spanish Super Cup in Beijing.

The federation announced in June it had sealed a preliminary accord with Chinese promoter United Vansen International Sport for the two-legged, curtain raiser to be played in Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium.

Spanish media reported that the deal, which has a seven-year duration, would net the RFEF around €40 million.

“We are not talking about the way the money is shared out, but everything seems to suggest that if we go to China we will lose money, but that’s not the reason,” Barca spokesman Toni Freixa told a news conference.

“We don’t want the Super Cup to be played far away from the club members, but we understand that the federation wants to do business in an attractive market,” he added.

“Barca does not want to play the Super Cup in China for social and sporting reasons, because the technical staff don’t want it.”

Spanish media reported that Real Madrid are also opposed to playing the Super Cup in China should they qualify.

Quote of the day

“I don’t know why I haven’t been selected but I remain hopeful that I’ll be considered all the way up to the World Cup. I feel a bit annoyed that journalists know five days before I did that I wasn’t going to be picked. I hope to go to to the World Cup but if it doesn’t happen it’s not a tragedy.”

Antonio Cassano is bemused by his continued omission from Cesare Prandelli’s Italy squad.

Mind your language

Witness the look of intense concentration on the face of England captain, Steven Gerrard, as he tries to make sense of a question posed in English, while he listens to a translated version in Polish. This must be what it feels like for US viewers trying to decipher Jamie Carragher on Being: Liverpool.

Lost in translation

Such a problem should not befall Neymar should he leave his club, Santos, for pastures new in the next few years.

The Brazil wonderkid has been linked with moves to both Spain and England, and to cover all his transfer bases he is planning to learn English and Spanish.

“I want to learn a worldwide language like English,” said the 20-year-old.

“Now I would love to learn English and also Spanish, but between travelling with football, my family and my child I have not time to do so. I hope that I can organise things and do a course.”

Which is bad news for Paris Saint-Germanin, who harbour hopes of signing the striker.

The prospect of Neymar moving to Europe has divided opinion among the great and good of Brazilian football. On Monday we heard from coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo who said that such a switch was unnecessary. Last week, it was the turn of former World Cup winners Ronaldo and Rivaldo, who both suggested a move to Europe was imperative if the forward was to fulfil his potential.

Now we hear from the daddy of them all, Pele, who in keeping with most of the pronouncements he’s made in recent years, chose to sit on the fence.

“I disagree that Neymar should leave for Europe now,” he said. “Last year Neymar’s agent spoke to his father, because he had an offer to go to England.

“When I found out, I went to see them and told them it wasn’t the right time to make the leap into English football, because it’s very tough and Neymar, who is an excellent player, isn’t physically up to it.”

Goal of the day

Brazil playmaker Kaka has enjoyed more playing time with his country than he has with his club in recent weeks. Here he skips past a defender before lashing a shot past the keeper in Brazil’s 4-0 friendly win over Japan.

Match fixing reprise

A judicial inquiry into allegations of corruption and match-fixing in Zimbabwean football says 93 players and officials implicated in the Asia scandal will be banned from the game.

Judge Ahmed Ebrahim says the investigation has recommended to the Zimbabwe Football Association that 13 players and officials be banned for life and others face six-month to 10-year bans.

They were accused of accepting money from a gambling syndicate to manipulate matches in Asia in 2009.

“Some officials and players will undoubtedly have their football futures ruined by these greedy, despicable, ruthless and unfeeling miscreants,” the judge said.

“There is little doubt that these young players were carefully selected due to their inexperience, youth and immaturity.”

Ebrahim was unsympathetic to the argument that the needy and vulnerable were being exploited.

“I don’t subscribe to the view that the root cause of it is one of economic hardship,” the former judge said.

“I believe the motivating factor is greed and the pursuit of making a quick buck.”

Former ZIFA chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya was named as the mastermind. She appeared in court in February on corruption and fraud charges that are still pending.

Zimbabwe lost to Jordan 2-0, to Thailand 3-0 and to Syria 6-0 in Malaysia in tours arranged by Rushwaya.

ZIFA chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze said 80 players were involved in the scam. Some of the players including national team players Ovidy Karuru and Khama Billiat were cleared during the course of the probe.


Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld is facing disciplinary action from FIFA after making an insulting gesture to the referee after his side’s World Cup qualifier against Norway.

The former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich coach was captured on television sticking his middle finger – known in German as the “Stinkefinger” – at the referee David Fernandez at the end of Friday’s 1-1 draw.

Hitzfeld only raised his finger momentarily and the referee did not appear to see the incident.

The veteran coach has 10 days to present his version of the incident.