Porto shocked by racism claim

Porto say they are shocked by Manchester City’s complaint that striker Mario Balotelli suffered racist abuse during their Europa League match, claiming nothing abnormal had happened during the game.

“What we can basically say is that nothing abnormal happened, no one noticed anything strange, not even the UEFA delegates that worked closely with Porto during the match,” Porto spokesman Rui Cerqueira said.

Cerqueira went on to describe two chants from Porto and City fans in honour of Hulk and Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero which he claims could have been misconstrued.

“Kun, Kun, Kun; Hulk, Hulk, Hulk,” he said, demonstrating the chants. “(Those chants) can be easily confused with racist chants.”

Perhaps, but there can there really be ay confusion when supporters start making monkey noises every time a black player touches the ball.

Balotelli’s team-mate Yaya Toure was unconvinced by Porto’s explanation.

“I heard something,” he said. “That’s why we like the Premier League, it never happens there.”

Maybe not from the supporters but, as we have discovered in recent months, the language of some of the players leaves a lot to be desired.

Pensions boost

At an age when most people are considering retirement, Dutch coach Guus Hiddink is set to receive a huge pension boost by becoming the next manager of Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala.

Sport Express said the 65-year-old manager will sign a deal with billionaire, Suleyman Kerimov’s club, after joining them in Belek, Turkey, where Anzhi are currently training.

Voetbal International said Hiddink’s annual salary may reach €10 million, and just to sugar the pill of working in Dagestan, the club will also pay his taxes.

Makhachkala, which is the capital of Dagestan, is scene of a low-level Islamic insurgency which spilled over from neighbouring Chechnya. Fortunately, for Hiddink and any players he might lure to the region, the team lives and trains in Moscow, travelling some 1,250 miles to Makhachkala for home matches.

Missing millions

The administrators running Rangers have confirmed that they do not know the whereabouts of £24m which was lent to the club.

The money was lent to the club by Ticketus, a firm which hoped to profit from future season ticket sales.

Speaking about the “invisible” £24m, administrator David Whitehouse of Duff and Phelps, said he believed the funds went through a parent company account rather than the account of the company now in administration.

He said the Ticketus debt was not secured against the assets of the football club. It means the ticket firm is unlikely to be repaid in full should Rangers exit the administration process.

Meanwhile, former Rangers chairman Alastair Johnston has asked for Craig Whyte’s acquisition of the club to be investigated.

He said: “I have today written to the Crown office asking for an investigation into the background surrounding the acquisition of Rangers Football Club by Craig Whyte, and in particular whether there is evidence of fraud.”

Goal of the day

Andre Santos curling effort with the outside of his boot earned Sporting a draw in their Europa League last-32 game at Legia Warsaw.

What’s the Italian for irony?

Juventus have issued a statement demanding fair treatment from referees after claiming they have been denied three stonewall penalties in their last two matches.

The final straw for the Turin side occurred when Andrea Pirlo tumbled late on Wednesday’s 0-0 draw at Parma, but the referee waved play on.

“Juventus hope that equal treatment – a fundamental purpose pursued by the club – always applies in accordance with football rules and with both sports and ordinary law,” the club, relegated in 2006 for trying to procure favourable referees, said in a statement.

Unsurprisingly, given their prominent role in the Calciopoli scandal, sympathy for Juve’s ‘plight’ was in short supply among rival clubs.

Parma director Pietro Leonardi hit out at Juventus for their criticism of the referee.

“Juventus have reacted very badly in all this. A while ago we all agreed to calm down and stop the outbursts toward referees,” Leonardi said to Corriere dello Sport.

“They have not painted a pretty picture of themselves here. We all make mistakes during matches, but we have to show class and style after the final whistle. Juventus lacked exactly this. It’s always the same story.”

Elsewhere, Catania boss, Vincenzo Montella, whose side face Juventus on Saturday, has rejected the theory that there is a conspiracy to stop Juventus from winning.

“The referees are doing a good job and I don’t think there is a design to damage Juventus’ progress,” he said.

“There needs to be a change in culture, this needs to be the first step. Errors are part of the game and they always have been.”

Cunning plan backfires

Uzbekistan will start the fourth round of the Asian World Cup qualifying competition without five players after their ruse to use a “dead rubber” to wipe out yellow cards back-fired.

The five players were all booked for time-wasting in the last 20 minutes of November’s World Cup qualifier against Tajikistan, resultingin them being suspended for the meaningless final group qualifier against North Korea.

However, FIFA have confirmed that the players had been handed an extra one-match ban, meaning they will miss the opening match of the fourth stage of qualifying as well.

Suarez to Paris?

Liverpool forward Patrice Suarez would be welcomed with open arms in Paris, claims fellow Uruguayan and PSG captain Diego Lugano.

Paris wouldn’t be the worst possible destination for the Uruguayan whose feud with Manchester United’s, Patrice Evra, has led to some asking whether he has a future at Anfield. Verbally abusing Evra, the man who led the French World Cup mutiny in 2010, is unlikely to make him any new enemies in France.

Lugano is a rarity within the football world, in that he is actually prepared to condone Suarez’s refusal to shake hands with a man he was found guilty of racially abusing.

Lugano said: “He has gone through a few months that he did not deserve. Everyone in football knows that it is a big circus.

“Take into account that England is historically a colonial country and racism is a sensitive subject but we all know it has nothing to do with what happened between Luis and Evra.

“It’s a football argument and many false moralists and hypocrites have profited. Luis is the only innocent party in this situation. You have to have balls to do what Luis did on Saturday.

“He followed his principles. We live in a democracy and if you do not want to greet someone, you do not do it. And less so if that person has made you experience some bad moments.”

One thing’s for sure, even if his compatriot does not join PSG, with an attitude like that, Lugano would always be welcome in Liverpool.

Spotlight focuses on Warner

Former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner is coming under increasing pressure to explain what happened to aid that never arrived in Haiti after being donated following the earthquake in 2010.

Around £440,000 of emergency aid money has gone missing since it was donated two years ago and FIFA has frozen funding to the Trinidad & Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) until it explains what has happened.

It is claimed the TTFF “surrendered their authority” to Warner, who resigned from football last year after being accused of bribery and he has refused to explain what happened to the money.

A TTFF statement said: “The TTFF acknowledges it is aware of funds made available by both FIFA and the Korean football federation for the football victims of Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010.

“However, we are unable to confirm the quantum of funds received, as these monies did not go into the account used by the TTFF administration for its day-to-day operations, but instead to the TTFF’s LOC (local organising committee) account as was requested by Mr Jack Warner, the former vice-president of FIFA and special adviser to the TTFF.

“The current executive is unaware of how these funds were disbursed or utilised and is awaiting the promised audited accounts from Mr Warner.

“We never questioned his authority or actions and are now in a position of despair as we are starved of funds by FIFA until full disclosure, which we are unable to provide without Mr Warner’s input. Sadly Mr Warner seems disinclined to comply with our repeated requests.”

Oh dear.

FIFA security man quits

FIFA security director Chris Eaton is quitting his post just weeks after he launched a global campaign to fight match-fixing.

FIFA said that Eaton is to join the Qatar-based International Center for Sport Security in May as its Director of Sport Integrity.

“Needless to say, FIFA remains fully committed to the fight against match-fixing, an area where it has undertaken pioneering work,” the governing body said in a statement. “FIFA will appoint in the coming weeks a replacement for Chris Eaton, who will work together with his successor over the next few months to ensure a seamless transition and hand over the various ongoing investigations.”

Eaton was regarded as a key appointment in football’s battle to combat corruption. He had spearheaded FIFA investigations since he joined from Interpol ahead of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

“I am sad to be leaving FIFA, but I am pleased to take with me an experience and knowledge that only FIFA within the current environment can provide,” Eaton said in a statement.


Michael Ballack’s days at Bayer Leverkusen seem to be numbered after the club’s CEO Wolfgang Holzhauser inviting the former Germany captain to terminate his contract.

The 35-year-old has been dropped from Robin Dutt’s first team in recent weeks and was also criticised by Holzhauser for his below-par performances, since he returned to the BayArena in 2010.

Although Ballack’s contract does not expire until the summer of 2012, Holzhauser hinted that the player was free to leave earlier if he wanted to do so.

“Our contract with Ballack runs until June 30. If he wants to get out early, we can certainly discuss that,” Holzhauser told Focus.