Act in haste

AEK Athens midfielder Giorgos Katidis has been handed a life ban from all national teams by Greece’s football federation EPO after he appeared to give a Nazi salute to supporters during a match.

In doing so the EPO has shown the kind of strong and decisive leadership Katidis would no doubt admire.

The 20-year-old, a former captain of Greece’s Under-19 team, made the salute in celebrating his winning goal in a 2-1 Super League victory over Veria on Saturday.

“The player’s action to salute to spectators in a Nazi manner is a severe provocation, insults all the victims of Nazi bestiality and injures the deeply pacifist and human character of the game,” EPO said in a statement.

If Katidis gesture was bad, his timing was appalling, with it  coming on the 70th anniversary of Greek Jew deportations in Nazi concentration camps in the Second World War.

AEK have asked Katidis to explain himself and will then decide his future at a board meeting next week.

Katidis denied he gave a Nazi salute. “I am not a fascist and would not have done it if I had known what it meant,” Katidis said on his Twitter account.

The player said he was simply pointing at Michalis Pavlis in the stands to dedicate the goal to his team-mate as he continues to fight health problems.

AEK’s German coach, Ewald Lienen, backed Katidis.

“He is a young kid who does not have any political ideas. He most likely saw such a salute on the internet or somewhere else and did it without knowing what it means,” he said.

If he saw such a salute on the internet one has to wonder what he’s been watching and in what context. Either way, it’s seems utterly implausible that would be unaware of the offence he might cause.

Self fulfilling prophecies

Hands up those of you who didn’t see this one coming. As foretold by the Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, defender Rio Ferdinand has withdrawn from England’s squad to face San Marino and Montenegro.

The 34-year-old met with England manager Roy Hodgson in London on Sunday evening with both parties reaching an agreement that the the player’s specific training and medical requirements could not be fulfilled during the international break.

Despite being unavailable for the World Cup 2014 qualifying fixtures against San Marino on Friday and against Montenegro next Tuesday, Ferdinand wants to continue playing for England.

“I’m disappointed Rio will not be available, but due to the detailed pre-planned training and medical program he must follow it’s not possible,” Hodgson told the FA’s website.

“However, I was pleased that Rio called and asked to meet with me. It was important to hear from him personally about the way he must manage his body between games.

“This is not to say he cannot play back-to-back games – he can and has proven so. He’s out this time due to particular pre-planned details already in place for his program. I must place on record how I was impressed with his commitment to playing for England and I look forward to hopefully selecting him for squads in the future.”

This is a peculiar state of affairs. If Ferdinand is involved in a meticulous, pre-planned training programme, why did it take him four days to inform Hodgson of his unavailability?

Goal of the day

Two great touches followed by a stunning long range strike from Anderlecht’s Milan Jovanović against Gent.

Quote of the day

“Remember it’s Callum’s full debut in the Premier League. I haven’t seen the replay, I believe that he touches the ball and then it’s a bad challenge, but it’s nothing malicious, he’s not that sort of boy.” 

Wigan Athletic’s Roberto Martinez, normally one of English football’s more erudite managers, opts for the Tony Pulis ‘he’s not that sort of boy’ defence while explaining Callum McManaman’s reckless challenge on Newcastle’s Massadio. Haidara.

You don’t have to be mad…

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis says Edinson Cavani will be allowed to leave the club this summer – but only if a club is mad enough to match his €70 million buy-out clause.

It was generally assumed that the buyout figure for the striker was much lower, but now it would appear that only an extraordinary bid will be enough to prise him away from the club.

“We included a very high buy-out clause in his contract because we want him to stay at Napoli,” De Laurentiis told reporters.

“The clause exists, though, and if some nutter is willing to pay €70 million for him, which would mean a net fee of €63 million for Napoli, we are ready to listen to the offer.”

Step forward Roman Abramovich. That’s assuming he hasn’t been hit  too badly by the Cypriot government’s raid on the country’s savings accounts. Allegedly, €24 billion of the money stored in struggling Cypriot banks belongs to tax evading Russian oligarchs.

Races apart

Inter have been charged over the “racist behaviour” of their supporters in last week’s Europa League tie against Tottenham Hotspur.

European governing body UEFA also accused the Italians of “insufficient organisation” and “throwing of missiles and/or fireworks”.

Monkey chants were reported during last Thursday’s tie in Milan, which Spurs won on away goals, and an inflatable banana was also seen in the crowd.

Inter are racking up quite a charge sheet this season, having already been fined €50,000 after their fans were found guilty of racially abusing former Inter players Mario Balotelli and Sulley Muntari, who now play for Milan, in the Milan derby last month.

Just to confirm that those kind of incidents are not confined to mainland Europe, two fans have been arrested for racially-aggravated public order offences at the Chelsea v West Ham United Premier League match at the weekend.

Lampard, who joined Chelsea from West Ham in 2001 and whose opening goal was his 200th for the club, was greeted with abuse from the away fans who threw coins and hot dogs – presumably a reference to his ‘Fat Frank’ nickname.

Russian roulette

Chechen side Terek Grozny could be in trouble after officials insulted the referee following Sunday’s 0-0 draw against Rubin Kazan, with the stadium announcer labelling him a “donkey”.

The FA’s disciplinary committee has scheduled a hearing on Wednesday to discuss the events in Grozny.

Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who serves as Terek’s honorary president, called FIFA referee Mikhail Vilkov a “sellout” after he sent off Rizvan Utsyev late in the game and continued the criticism in what was meant to be an apology.

“I want to apologise to the entire football world for my remarks but not to the referee,” Kadyrov said.

“It was a terrible game because the referee was biased. He did everything possible to change the outcome of the match – didn’t award a (clear) penalty and gave Utsyev a second yellow.”

Many Russian pundits think Terek will get off lightly because the Kremlin does not want to destabilise the situation in the volatile North Caucasus region.

“It’s a total disgrace to our game. If people at his (Kadyrov) level make such outrageous comments, then what we should expect from ordinary fans?” former player Valery Reingold told the Sport-Express.


Who’s in charge here?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has admitted telling the referee in Paris Saint Germain’s 2-2 draw with Saint-Etienne to “be quiet”.

The striker was involved in an angry confrontation with match officials after his side threw away a two-goal lead at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard and after the game he admitted to chastising referee Antony Gautier.

“We all make mistakes. Even the referee made mistakes. We are all human,” the 31-year-old told Eurosport.

“At the end, it was a simple dialogue. The referee asked me to be quiet, and I told him to be quiet too.”

The biggest shock of the exchange is not that Ibrahimovic told the referee to be quiet, but that the Swede admitted to making mistakes.


Galatasaray striker  says financial complications prevented him moving to Marseille in January.

The 35-year-old moved to the Turkish side from Shanghai Shenhua instead, though he admitted that at one stage a return to his former club was discussed.

“It was not possible this winter,” Drogba told Canal+. “Financially, there are ways to find solutions that make everyone happy, but it was complicated.

“There are supporters who still say that I went to China when I had said I would come back [to Marseille].

“It’s a matter of what is feasible. And it was not feasible.

“So, what do I do? Waiting instead of continuing my career? Obviously, I continued, keeping my heart blue and white. It’s simple.”

Drogba played for Marseille for just a single season, during the 2003-2004 campaign, but helped the club to reach a UEFA Cup final. That season obviously left a lasting impression on the Ivorian, though not so that he would take a pay cut to return.