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Winter wonderland

FIFA President Sepp Blatter plans to ask the governing body’s executive committee to consider moving the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to the winter.

”If this World Cup is to become a party for the people, you can’t play football in the summer,” Blatter said Wednesday. ”You can cool down the stadiums but you can’t cool down the whole country.”

Listening to some of the bolder claims coming out of Qatar in the last few years, and being a gullible type, this comes as a shock. The decision to award the tournament to one of the hottest regions on earth was predicated on the ability to manipulate the conditions. However, it turns out, that like much of the bidding process, that was all baloney.

The head of the local organizing committee, Hassan Al-Thawadi, said Qatar bid for a summer tournament. However, he left open the option of a switch to another time of the year.

”It there is a wish from the football community to move the World Cup to the winter, we are open for it,” said Al-Thawadi, who spoke to the conference through a live video connection

In May, Blatter said in an interview with a French newspaper it would be ”not rational and reasonable” to stage the first World Cup in the Middle East in the summer. He was supported by UEFA president Michel Platini – another, incidentally, who voted for Qatar.

Moving the tournament to the winter would have a major impact on the schedule of European leagues, which would have to change things for at least one season, though estimates suggest it could affect up to three.

”There is still enough time,” Blatter said. ”I will bring this up to the executive committee.”

”We have to protect our partners, our commercial partners, our TV partners. We have to be tough on this,” said Blatter, who spoke during a two-day conference on sports, media and economy set up by Franz Beckenbauer in Austria.

Dazed and confused

Wayne Rooney looks destined to be at the epicentre of this summer’s biggest transfer saga after Manchester United turned down Chelsea’s initial offer for the striker.

Rooney was said to have been ‘angry’ and ‘confused’ after being informed by new manager, David Moyes, that he would have to play second fiddle to Robin van Persie next season. That remark seemed calculated to elicit a strong reaction from Rooney, although if Moyes hoped to flush a out a transfer request from the striker, he will thus far have been disappointed.

At the moment we seemed to have reached an impasse. United want the striker to leave and Rooney wants to leave, but neither party can admit this for obvious reasons: United, because it would weaken their bargaining position in any transaction; Rooney, because by formally submitting a transfer request, he would automatically forego his ‘loyalty’ bonus. And heaven knows he’s earned that.

Whatever their respective motivations one thing seems clear: after 9 highly successful season at Old Trafford, Rooney will be leaving United this season.

Incidentally, Chelsea were forced to issue a statement clarifying the details of their transfer request, after early reports claimed that Juan Mata and David Luiz were being offered in part exchange for the England forward.

“Chelsea can confirm that yesterday it made a written offer to Manchester United for the transfer of Wayne Rooney,” read the statement.

“Although the terms of that offer are confidential, for the avoidance of doubt and contrary to what is apparently being briefed to the press in Sydney, the proposed purchase does not include the transfer or loan of any players from Chelsea to Manchester United.”

It really doesn’t look good when you’re seen hawking around senior internationals as mere makeweights in a deal to bring in Britain’s chief pie eater.

Principled stance

Papiss Cisse’s future at Newcastle is in doubt after he withdrew from the club’s pre-season tour to Portugal over his objection to the clubs’ shirt sponsor.

The Senegal striker is refusing to wear Newcastle’s shirt on religious grounds after the club agreed a sponsorship deal with the short-term money-lending company Wonga and has now been sent home.

The devout Muslim reportedly offered to wear an unbranded shirt or one bearing the logo of a charity, but neither option was deemed acceptable by Newcastle.

Cisse’s Newcastle team-mates Cheick Tiote and Moussa Sissoko are also Muslim, but have told the club they have no issue with wearing the sponsor’s logo.

Cisse will continue to train on his own as he attempts to catch up on his fitness after returning later than the majority of the squad following international duty with Senegal.

The 28-year-old and his representatives have been in negotiations with the Professional Footballer’s Association in an attempt to resolve the dispute, but so far without luck.

One wonders whether Cisse could set a precedent here: there must be a number of players who would object to wearing shirts promoting gambling or alcohol on religious or ethical grounds. Clubs may have to tread carefully in their future dealings.

Eurozone crisis

Delays in salary payments by clubs in Portugal have forced dozens of players to ask their union for money for rent and food, said the head of the country’s players’ association.
Joaquim Evangelista, head of the Portuguese Association of Professional Footballers, warned the heart of the country’s national sport is under threat due to poor management at smaller teams.

“The vast majority of professional clubs in Portugal had salary delays last season, with six-month delays in the most extreme cases,” Evangelista, told Reuters in an interview.

“This has led to Portuguese and foreign players being unable to pay their rent and food, surviving thanks to our union,” Evangelista said. “The situation is getting worse. I alert you that delays will happen again next season.”

Filipe Falardo, a midfielder who was at Benfica and won nine caps for Portugal’s youth teams but later dropped to second division clubs, said the problem was a recurring one.

“I’ve suffered it (salary delays) first hand. I’ve had to go to court because clubs don’t fulfil their deals. It happens every year,” said the 29-year-old.

Evangelista, also a board member of world players’ union FIFPro, blames blind ambition and poor management for disrupting the lives of players and their families.

“Most Portuguese clubs live far beyond their means and don’t make an effort to adjust,” he said.

“On the contrary, they think: ‘If I’m successful, I’ll collect revenues later so I’ll take that risk’.”

Portuguese clubs such as Olhanense, Naval, Vitoria de Setubal and Vitoria de Guimaraes were some of those hit by financial problems.

Portugal’s credit crunch and the deepest recession since the 1970s have made it even harder.

However, a Vitoria de Setubal spokesman said Evangelista’s comments on salary delays only hurt clubs and the sport in Portugal.

“I’m surprised by Mr Evangelista’s comments… Setubal likes to solve its matters internally, we explained our reasons and I regret that he made such a public statement,” the spokesman said.

“We consider the matter over. We work with maximum discretion to solve the problems that unfortunately we have. It’s not easy in any sector in Portugal these days.”

In one of the most extreme cases, Uniao Leiria in 2012 fielded eight players for a top flight-match after 16 players resigned over unpaid wages. The club has since been declared insolvent.

Around 30 out-of-contract players are taking part in a training camp organised by the union at the Estadio Nacional, just outside Lisbon.

“Football players are often labelled as millionaires but at the end of the day that doesn’t really happen,” said former Benfica hopeful Falardo. “Maybe the bigger clubs do pay big salaries but the others don’t.”

Outside of Benfica, Porto, Sporting and Braga, footballers in Portugal earn, on average, between 2,000 and 3,000 euros a month.

Evangelista said that by the end of 2012 his union had distributed over 350,000 euros in support to hard-up players.

“Is this the professional football that UEFA promotes and that the Portuguese League wants? Enough is enough,” he said.

Portuguese clubs have a summer deadline to show they have paid all salaries to be able to play next season. They can submit pay slips or have players sign a declaration saying everything is in order.

Evangelista said many players had no choice but to sign the declaration even if they had not received all due salaries. The alternative was the threat of redundancy.

“Players want to keep their jobs, to play, to get the money they are owed. They sign off because there is no other choice, otherwise they will be punished.” he said.

Goal of the day

Dubbed, somewhat unoriginally, as the Cuban Lionel Messi, Ariel Martínez weaved a bit of Messiesque magic agains Belize.

Quote of the day

“Cavani did not chose Paris for the money, believe me 100 percent. He believes in the project, he believes that, with us, he will be able to win many titles.”

PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi claims that Edinson Cavani was won over by the ‘project’. He must be the only person in the world who believes that.

Incredible Hulk deal

According to reports from Radio Monte Carlo in France, Brazil forward Hulk has agreed terms with Monaco and will complete the transfer later on Wednesday.

Hulk has had a troubled season in Russia, with some racist fans demanded foreign players be barred from the club, while his form also dipped on the pitch.

Hulk’s agent refused to comment on the the reports.

“It is up to the club to communicate this information,” Teodoro Fonseca told RMC.

Hulk first came to prominence while at Porto, where he formed a prolific partnership with Radamel Falcao, who earlier this summer, joined newly-promoted Monaco in a deal reported to be worth 50 million euros.

Financial Fair Play, you say?

No hard feelings?

Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski has said he was surprised at the club’s decision to block his move to Bayern Munich this summer, but he respects their decision.

Lewandowski, 24, had reportedly signed an agreement with Bayern, but Dortmund refused to sell the player having already lost Mario Gotze to their Bundesliga rivals.

“Like always, I gave it my all for BVB during the second part of last season. I played and scored, thinking I was allowed the switch in the summer” Lewandowski told Sport Bild.

“After the talks we held I was convinced I’d be allowed a free decision about my transfer. Then everything changed. Sadly the situation now is I have to stay here. I am surprised about their dealings, but if BVB wants to give up on a lot of money for me, I have to respect that.”

Upon hearing that Lewandowski had accepted Dortmund’s decision and was prepared to focus on his football, the club’s CEO, Hans-Joachim Watzke, said: “That’s good. But we never doubted his character.”

Dortmund were placed in an invidious position by Lewandowski desire to move in the same transfer window that they had already lost Gotze. To lose one big name player to your biggest rivals was tolerable but two? That smacks of feeder club status.

Don’t give up the day job

Luis Suarez has tried to rehabilitate his reputation by appearing in an advert which mocks some of his less agreeable tendencies.

It’s a tough ask, right up there with Hannibal Lecter trying to persuade the Vegetarian Society that they should accept him as a member.

The 26-year-old is shown throwing paper at work mates, losing his temper at both a coffee machine and a photocopier and then diving when someone taps him on the shoulder. Only the absence of racist abuse and an attempt to bite a colleague convinces one that this is not a documentary.

Colour blind

Glasgow Celtic football fans have been urged not to wear club colours in Belfast city centre on Wednesday, amid fears that they might come under attack from loyalists.

The advice has come from officials of Cliftonville FC, who play the Scottish side in a UEFA Champions League qualifier.

Cliftonville director David Begley said: “Belfast city centre is a very welcoming place.

“But people are very sensitive about colours, not just this week. As a result, it’s probably best to avoid wearing colours into the city centre.”

So, it’s a welcoming place, provided you don’t wear the shirts of a particular football team. OK,if you insist.

Hundreds of Celtic fans are expected to travel to Northern Ireland for the game, although surprisingly, the well-supported club returned 500 unsold tickets to Cliftonville.

Mr Begley added: “This has nothing to do with politics, it’s the same sort of advice Manchester United fans would be given about walking about Liverpool on a match day.”

The advice comes at a particularly sensitive time for the city of Belfast; July marks the annual marching season which traditionally involves thousand of angry people filling empty milk bottles with petrol, lighting them, and throwing them at the police. This year, the marchers have been particularly livid.

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