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Serbia on the offensive

In the wake of the unsavoury scenes that followed the European Championship play-off second leg between Serbia and England, the Serbian FA have issued a feisty statement denying there was any racism in the ground, blamed Danny Rose for provoking the crowd, and suggested UEFA support them.

If nothing else, you have to admire their chutzpah.

The statement read: “The FA of Serbia absolutely refuses and denies that there were any occurrences of racism before and during the match at the stadium in Kruševac. Making connection between the seen incident – a fight between members of the two teams – and racism has absolutely no ground and we consider it to be a total malevolence.

“In support of our statement, there are preliminary reports of the match officials at the match Serbia-England. None of them in any moment did mention racist situation and we expect that human and sports culture of our football friends from England will win over misinformation spread.”

To paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies, well, they would say that wouldn’t they?

A more nuanced Serb response came from Bosko Jaksic, a columnist for the Politika, who told Reuters Television: “This country hasn’t solved the problem of hooliganism at any scale at all and hence some Serbian fans think it’s legitimate to voice racist slogans because they think it’s no worse than booing or jeering their team’s opponents.

“They don’t understand the difference, they don’t realise the real dangers of racism and we will have to face the consequences as well as learn some very tough lessons.”

UEFA has charged the Football Associations of both Serbia and England in the wake of Tuesday’s trouble.

The Serbian FA has been charged with alleged racist chanting by fans and both associations over the behaviour of players at the end of the game.

Terry apologises

Chelsea captain John Terry has decided not to appeal his four-game ban and £220,000 fine for racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.

Terry had until 6pm today to contest the punishment handed out by an independent FA regulatory commission.

But in a statement issued by his representatives Elite Management, Terry confirm that though he is unhappy with the FA judgement, has decided to serve his suspension.

“After careful consideration, I have decided not to appeal against the FA judgment,” he said.

“I want to take this opportunity to apologise to everyone for the language I used in the game against Queens Park Rangers last October.

“Although I’m disappointed with the FA judgment, I accept that the language I used, regardless of the context, is not acceptable on the football field or indeed in any walk of life.”

Unless, that is, you happen to be attending a football match in Serbia, where it appears to be compulsory to use that kind of language.

“As I stated in the criminal case, with the benefit of hindsight my language was clearly not an appropriate reaction to the situation for someone in my position.

“My response was below the level expected by Chelsea Football Club, and by me, and it will not happen again.

“Looking forward, I will continue to do my part in assisting the club to remove all types of discriminatory behaviour from football.

“I am extremely grateful for the consistent support of Chelsea FC, the fans and my family.”

So, Terry is forever tainted, although Chelsea continue to stand by their skipper and appear unwilling to consider the deeper ramifications of the FA judgment. Loyalty is admirable, but blind loyalty merely stupid.

Change of direction

Barcelona goalkeeper Jose Pinto has revealed that he has signed a contract to produce Spanish rap band Delahoja.

The former Celta Vigo player has signed a deal with Sony Music Spain to help promote the group he has been working with for nearly two decades.

“Contract signing (after 22 years in the shadows as a producer) with Sony Music Spain,” he wrote to his 168,000 Twitter followers.

Pinto, 36, has played second fiddle to Victor Valdes at Barca, making just 11 appearances in four years since moving from Celta. It’s fair to say that in the twilight of his career, football might not be the priority it once was.

He added: “Just one example that work, humility, perseverance, enthusiasm…your dreams, whatever [they are], can be met.

“No matter what, no matter how small or large it may be, no matter what they say, what matters is that you enjoy it and be happy.”

Sleeping on the job

In what will no doubt go down as one of the great excuses for poor England displays, there are claims that the team’s lacklustre performance against Poland in Wednesday’s rain-delayed World Cup qualifier, was caused by some of the players taking sleeping pills the night before.

I’m not sure about the night before, but one or two of them played as if they’d been ingesting Mogadon moments before kick off, so pedestrian were their efforts.

With the squad having rested and eaten on Tuesday in anticipation of playing, the unexpected abandonment of the match had left some with excess energy and unable to sleep until the early hours of Wednesday. It also emerged that a number of the squad had taken caffeine-filled energy tablets on Tuesday.

“I had the impression earlier in the week that the players were looking sharp and lively,” said coach Roy Hodgson after the match.

“I didn’t have that impression today.

“I don’t know if that’s due to the extra night, the sodden pitch or that we didn’t play well on the day.”

Oddly, neither the extra night nor the sodden pitch, seemed to concern Poland unduly.

Goal of the day

Neymar adds to his growing list of spectacular solo goals – this time with an absolute stunner for Santos against Atletico Mineiro.

Skill of the day

The Brazilian has made it clear that he will be the one who decides if and when he laves Santos.

Investment group DIS own part of his playing rights and are free to negotiate on his behalf should another club be interested in buying him.

Neymar signed a new long-term deal with Santos last year, but there remains persistent speculation over a possible move to Barcelona or Real Madrid.

“DIS might own a percentage of my rights, as you all know, but they don’t decide about my life,” Neymar told Lancenet.

“My father and I decide about that. When you hear me or my father saying I’ll leave, then you can believe that will happen.

“There are always rumours and I always say that I’ll stay. And you keep saying that I’ll leave. So, please, at least for once believe my word.”

With moments of skill like this, it’s easy to see why the 20-year-old is in such demand.

Quote of the day

“Everyone wants him, but that changes nothing. Money doesn’t buy everything. It could be a lot of money, but if the player is smart and has ambition like Paulinho does, then money will not be enough.”

Corinthians coach Tite suggests that there is more to life than money, and that prized asset Paulinho would be better off ignoring overtures from Chelsea and staying in Brazil.

Value for money?

The annual BBC Sport Price of Football survey into the cost of watching football in Britain reveals that the average cost of the cheapest adult ticket in the top four divisions of English football has risen by 11.7% – more than five times the rate of inflation.

The most expensive adult matchday ticket is at Arsenal and will cost a scarcely believable £126, while the cheapest is £6 at Montrose.

A trip to the Emirates Stadium to watch Arsenal can cost as much as £134.40 with tickets going for £126, a £26 rise on last year’s figure and a programme (£3), pie (£3.30) and cup of tea (£2) adding to the cost. Factor in travel costs and you can see why football in England, certainly in London, can no longer claim to be a game for the working man – unless he works as an investment banker

The full breakdown of the figures, detailing the price of tickets, pies, and even a cup of tea at each football ground, can be found here.

The high cost of watching English football compared to its continental counterparts is hardly groundbreaking news, but you may be surprised to see how expensive it is relative to the comparably vibrant football culture of Germany. Not just at the highest levels either.

The BBC survey helpfully provides some information on the cost of watching current Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund. It’s quite an eye opener, with the cheapest ticket costing £12.30 and the cheapest season ticket (which includes 3 Champions League matches this season) £150.27.

It will be no surprise to learn that this represents fantastic value for money when compared to the average Premier League experience, but you will be amazed to see how much of a bargain it is when compared to the lower leagues.

Take Luton Town for instance, a team that dropped out of the Football League three seasons ago and now operates in the non-league Blue Square Bet Premier. Despite performing on the fifth rung of the English ladder you will pay more to watch Luton (£15 per match, £270 per season ticket) than the current champions of Germany.

I’m tempted to say that nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the English footballing public. Except in Luton’s case they did, which is one of the reasons they find themselves outside the Football League.

Political football

Acting Asian Football Confederation president Zhang Jilong has accused his suspended predecessor Mohammed bin Hammam of intimidation to cover up wrongdoing during his tenure as chief.

Jilong has written to AFC member associations dismissing claims made by bin Hammam in an October 8 letter – issued by his lawyer Eugene Gulland – which said Jilong had a “conflict of interest in the ongoing AFC Disciplinary Committee action against bin Hammam” and that “he personally benefited from his support”.

“The accusations in Mr. Gulland’s letter are total fabrications designed to tear apart the Asian Football Confederation, divide this family and paralyze our institution. Mr. Gulland’s allegations are aimed at confusing and delaying the Disciplinary Action against his client,” Jilong said in a statement.

“Mr. bin Hammam and Mr. Gulland do not want the Asian Football Confederation to consider the evidence that now exists and for which Mr. bin Hammam must answer. Their plan is to intimidate and create technical legal issues and objections in the hope that the more serious allegations of secret commissions, bribery, corruption and other wrong-doings are never exposed to the light of day.

“They seem willing to use any means to accomplish their goal. It is my belief that Mr. Gulland has lost sight of the boundaries of permissible professional conduct as a lawyer.”

Strong words there. This promises to get very messy.

Finally…

Five players from Rusumo Football Club in Tanzania were killed when the Land Rover they were travelling in overturned.

An eye witness said the accident happened at around 8 p.m. on Sunday night. He said the players were heading to Rusumo after playing in a league match against Kabanga FC.

The eye witness identified the deceased as Jonathan Richard (22) from Mwivuza village, Paul Kagoma (23) from Nyakiziba village, Jimmy Rutaihwa (26) from Rusumo, Eric Archard (24) and Rwekaza Philip (22) both from Kamachumu village, in Muleba district.

He said 22 players sustained injuries and were admitted to Murugwanza district hospital, four among them were in serious condition, he said.

The Tanzanian Football Federation issued statement which read: “The death of the players is a huge blow to not only to the Rusumo club members but also to the entire football fraternity.

 As a result of the tragedy, all five Mainland premiership matches played yesterday were preceded by a minute of silence. 

TFF has sent condolences to the Kagera Region Football Association as well as to the Ngara District Football Association.

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